The Green Scheme
Social Responsibility Meets Sophisticated Style in Environmentally Minded Home Designs
It's the ultimate in thinking globally and acting locally. Using environmentally responsible materials, products and techniques in home design is a healthy choice for your family and for the planet. And now you don't have to sacrifice aesthetics for the greater good. There are visionary architects, interior designers and home furnishings manufacturers who are committed to the green principle, creating beautiful buildings and divine decor that leave the lightest footprint possible on this place we all call home.
Nathan Kipnis, Nathan Kipnis Architects, Inc.
Easy being green: Nathan Kipnis was a revolutionary force right from the start. He emphasized energy conscious design while receiving his Masters of Architecture from the University of Arizona in 1985. "Unfortunately, energy design was hardly on anyone's radar screen when I graduated," says Kipnis. "So, I realized that I would have to hone my design skills and wait for the inevitable demand for energy-efficient design to come. When it did, I was one of the architects selected to have my design built for the Green Homes for Chicago International Design Competition in 2000." Now Kipnis is recognized as one of the nation's leading green designers.
Eco-chic: Balancing exact design standards with green materials and energy efficiency techniques, Kipnis is able to create environmentally responsible structures for each project. "Environmental design is the only logical way to design in response to the global and local situation," Kipnis asserts. "The reasons range from doing the right thing for the planet and
wanting to have a healthy interior environment, to being in control of your own utilities or national security. I think all of these are important."
Look of the future: Kipnis predicts that green community design, with towns that have a viable business district and mostly local resources, will become more vital. He also takes the somewhat radical stance that homes will become smaller. "McMansions will become much less desirable as everyone gets a better understanding of their carbon footprint and the ecological impact of their lifestyle," he says.
(Nathan Kipnis Architects, Inc., 1642 Payne St., Evanston, 847.864.9650)
Karen Kaplan, New Leaf Interiors
Easy being green: Karen Kaplan incorporated environmental awareness into her design aesthetic early on in her career. While working for various design firms and furnishings companies, she came into contact with furniture from around the world. "My knowledge of how furniture is made got me thinking about the origins of the pieces," she says. "So, when I started my own design business, I wanted to make sure I was recommending items for my clients homes and businesses that were made responsibly."
Eco-chic: "I think people have a misconception that all green design looks the same," Kaplan says. "It doesn't have to mean beige. Color is very important to me." Kaplan works with a variety of vendors who are at the forefront of sourcing natural materials. She is also an advocate of refurbishing older pieces, another environmentally friendly design technique. "Older furniture was made better," she says. "Harmful chemicals weren't widely used until the 1950s or '60s."
Look of the future: Kaplan states that companies that recognize their responsibility to the planet will ultimately save money and eventually make the green movement mainstream. She advises homeowners to educate themselves about vendors who are going the extra mile, especially locally. "We need to find and support responsible manufacturers," Kaplan says. "We need to level the playing field."
(New Leaf Interiors, 8305 Keystone Ave., Skokie, 847.675.7887)
Jill Salisbury, EL: Environmental Language Furniture
Easy being green: Jill Salisbury parlayed a background in interior design into her furnishings company, EL: Environmental Language, when she learned about the importance of sustainability. "I had a responsibility for what I was putting into my clients' homes and offices," Salisbury remembers. "But it was really difficult to find high-end eco-friendly alternatives." She worked with an environmental consultant to develop her furniture collection, which utilizes natural and non-toxic materials in classic, heirloom-quality pieces.
Eco-chic: "I hope to prove that style and environmental integrity can coexist," Salisbury says. Her award-winning designs, including chairs, sofas, tables, desks and kitchen cabinets, all have a refined elegance that can work in a variety of design schemes. Salisbury uses either locally reclaimed or sustainable woods, non-toxic finishes and natural upholstery in her stunning collections.
Look of the future: Salisbury maintains that sustainable design is a shift of lifestyle, not a passing trend, and that the demand is growing. "Green design will become the definition of good design," Salisbury says.
(El Furniture is available through Modern at Design Atelier, 1848 Merchandise Mart, 312.822.0440)
Elizabeth Marusin, Asparagus Interiors
Easy being green: "I think we have a choice to be environmentally responsible," Elizabeth Marusin says. Her company, Asparagus Interiors, offers design services and consultations with a decidedly green slant. "Because the products and techniques we recommend aren't always mainstream, we're often educating people about the unknown," she says.
Eco-chic: Marusin suggests paint and flooring as two things to consider when going green in your own home. "Basic things like low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and natural, reclaimed or sustainable flooring options make a big difference," she asserts. "Think about longevity through both the durability of the materials and classic design. And always set project goals up front."
Look of the future: "I'm hoping we see green building supplies become more mainstream and more stores start to carry these products readily," Marusin says. "We need to make it worthwhile."
(Asparagus Interiors, 630.670.4955)
Chuck Blumenthal, Bean Products
Easy being green: Bean Products was born with the popular Sleeping Bean body pillow back in 1987. Using sustainable resources such as organic cotton, hemp, kapok and buckwheat hulls long before they were fashionable, founder Chuck Blumenthal began making more bedding, home furnishings and yoga and meditation items, eventually moving into organic upholstered furniture. "Creating products that are environmentally sustainable and socially conscious aligned with what I always wanted to do with my life," says Blumenthal, a former contractor of solar homes.
Eco-chic: Bean Organics' line of upholstered furniture incorporates locally reclaimed lumber, organic cotton batting, wool and hemp fabrics and natural, non-toxic finishes, creating truly healthy pieces for your home. Timeless design and skilled craftsmanship ensure that the furniture will last. "Our pieces are much more durable thanks to the high-quality materials, such as natural latex foam rubber made from rubber trees,"
Blumenthal explains. The furniture line includes club chairs, loveseats, sofas, dining chairs, bed frames and benches. Bean Products also creates custom orders.
Look of the future: Bean Products has been featured on CBS and HGTV, as well as in several publications. The company was also recently commissioned to design furniture pieces for the Lied Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas, effectively introducing green design to the next generation. "We love getting cool projects," Blumenthal says. "And we're always interested in trying new things."
(Bean Products, 1500 S. Western Ave., 312.666.3600)
Tim Zyto, Montauk Sofa
Easy being green: Montauk Sofa, a popular line of custom-crafted seating options, has instituted several company policies that cement its dedication to the green lifestyle. Most recently, Montauk was able to neutralize its carbon emissions through tree-planting programs and capturing methane in coal mines. Natural materials are also used in Montauk Sofa's furniture, and the company has instituted an employee-driven green living program. "We are part of an important initiative and a growing trend to pay attention to our planet. Montauk is committed to continuously reducing our footprint by improving our showrooms' energy efficiency and procuring our materials from sustainable sources," says Tim Zyto, Montauk Sofa's president and CEO.
Eco-chic: The most recognized and unique piece from Montauk Sofa's extensive green collection is the Merrick. The beautifully hand-crafted, mod-inspired Merrick tub sofa is made
from the lumber of sustained forests and upholstered in fine, white wool, which is naturally non-flammable without the use of chemical finishes.
Look of the future: Montauk Sofa's commitment to becoming a completely carbon-neutral company has helped to further the development of international carbon offset projects aimed at climate stabilization.
(Montauk Sofa, 401 N. Wells St., 312.951.5688)