Monday, July 23, 2007

Coloring a Kitchen Green

I've started showing the finished house and I seem to get the same question, "what makes this kitchen green?" I decided to highlight the features here as it may help guide others as they choose which elements to incorporate in their renovation projects.

In short, creating a green kitchen is all about: energy efficiency, non-toxicity/healthy environment, responsibility, and livability.

This renovated kitchen incorporates all of those features in the following ways:

Energy Efficiency

All appliances are top energy-star rated. The environment makes best use of HVAC efficiency and insulation that is present throughout the house. It was tested for leakage and great care was given to reduce waste.

Windows are Marvin’s Integrity, energy efficient line.

Non-Toxicity and Healthy Living

All paints, finishes and adhesives were mostly non-toxic. That includes the paints (Yolo, Benjamin Moore Aura, and American Pride). The Alder cabinetry was stained with non-toxic water-based stain from Unaxol (see last post).


That comes from having a size-appropriate space where the concept of “smaller is more beautiful,” comes to life.

All of the wood is FSC compliant, which means that it was harvested in an ecologically responsible manner. The white maple floors are pre-engineered from EcoTimber.

The glass backsplash is from Artistic Tiles which prides itself on being socially and ecologically responsible in the production of its materials.

The countertops are French limestone and were “reject material” from another job. Part of being responsible is to reuse, recycle and re-craft current materials whenever possible. The breakfast countertop is a “reuse” of tabletop that was re-fabricated and now has a new purpose as a small desk and breakfast countertop.

Separating the open kitchen floorplan from the great room is a glass material that again is considered ecologically friendly, from 3-Form, The product is called pineapple weave and is recycled glass and natural materials sandwiched together in an usual and appealing way.

The pantry countertop, from Eurostone (, is a composite material that is made up of the fragments of granite that fall to the floor and are thrown away. This product collects that refuse and crafts it into a luxurious “granite-like” material.

Water demand is met by a Nortiz tankless water heater and an on-demand hot water generator at the faucets from Both save water and cost the homeowner less to operate.


Being green does not mean giving up livability. This kitchen and baker’s pantry were designed to meet all the needs of cooking, entertaining, and living. Great care was given to mapping out all of the various functions and then providing the necessary space and materials to fulfill on those expectations. In doing so, use of space was carefully considered and only materials were used that would have minimum impact on our environment.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Finishing Touches

I realize that I’ve been away from my “green house journal” for a while. I’ll blame it on wanting to unpack fully. As well, I had the first of many houseguests who are staying with me over the summer. I wanted to make sure the place “showed” well.

I do have many observations that come with living in the space and I’ll try to capture them here for my new few blogs.

Today’s topic: water-based stain and lacquer.

I remember early on in the project, I had a wood finisher who gave me an estimate on some furniture repair. She was very interested in my green project and asked for a tour. As we went though the plans and ideas, she asked about cabinet finishes. What followed was a very interesting discussion between her and my contractor, whose first love is cabinetry. As it turns out, they both agreed that this was the one area that the products are disappointing. While it is true that some of the most harmful and toxic elements that one encounters in a home is what they use to seal wood, there’s a reason for the products. Wood floors, cabinets have to stand up to wear and as such, the process for doing so seems to require caustic products. Any alternative, to date, as been outrageously labor intensive and therefore cost prohibitive.

Well, I was determined to find a solution and I trusted that Cemil’s cabinetry perfectionism wouldn’t let me trade off too much in aesthetics or performance. We settled on Unaxol, distributed in the U.S. by And while the aesthetics are initially acceptable….. even, dare I say natural, there are some cautionary notes.

First, I noticed that during installation there was evidence of more dings than there should have been. Cemil was very careful, but this eco-friendly product requires more care than non-eco finishes. While it’s only been a month since I’ve been living in my new environment, I can already tell that the wood cabinets won’t hold up as well to scrubbing as the toxic alternatives. It means, that I will have to take a bit more care when cleaning up the cabinets. I will also keep a can of the stain handy in order to touch up any worn spots.