Sitting Pretty

Whoever said “ignorance is bliss” surely wasn’t talking about environmentally friendly home design and furnishings.  When you curl up on your sofa with your family around you, or snuggle into a comfortable chair with a good book, chances are you didn’t intend to invite a long list of toxic chemicals to join you.  But invited or not, unless you’re decorating with sustainable upholstered furniture, they’re there.

Along with your friends, you may be sitting down with substances like formaldehyde, polyurethane, brominated flame retardants (PBDE’s), and dioxin.  Other unwanted guests may join you via wood finishes and paints.  All of these toxins infiltrate your home and the air you breathe through “offgassing,” the release of chemicals into the air through evaporation.  Not only a concern with new furniture, offgassing can continue for years, impacting your health with symptoms like eye, nose and throat irritation, fatigue, asthma, and eventually, may even weaken your immune system.

In my work as an interior designer, I am pleased to find that every year, the list of eco-friendly furniture manufacturers grows larger.  As we learn more about the importance of a pristine indoor environment, we don’t need to sacrifice an ounce of beauty or elegance.  My joy and my passion lies in creating interiors that combine sophisticated, stylish living with the very latest in sustainable design. And each year, to my delight, more and more people are opting for healthy, eco-sensitive products in their homes.

The products used to make your upholstered and wood furniture are important.  Today, we have the option of choosing soy-based versus foam cushions, recycled filling for pillows, water based stains and organic upholstery fabric.  In addition, we can choose wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), ensuring that the products are derived from forests that are managed to specific environmental standards.

Some of the organic materials that are available are among the world’s most luxurious, including organic cotton, hemp, linen, and wool.  For our best health, the textiles should be colored with low-impact dyes.  Non-organic cotton, by the way, is a heavily toxin-laden fabric.  As a non-food plant, cotton is grown in fields soaked in insecticides, and the manufacturing process creates both air and water pollution from the process of turning picked cotton into yarn and thread.

As important as the right materials, however, is the quality of your new pieces.  They must be comfortable, beautiful, and long-lasting.  Poorly designed furniture, no matter what is used in its construction, is destined to end up in a landfill before long.  The longer your furniture lasts, the smaller the environmental footprint it leaves behind.  Your furniture then should be chosen for its strong frame and springs, carefully manufactured fillings, and premium fabrics.  The good news is, with a little research and guidance, your home can be healthier than ever before, and as exquisitely decorated as you dreamed it would be.

 

Walk This Way on May 12th

“I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something.
Then I realized I was somebody.”—Lily Tomlin

The opportunities to be of service to our communities are boundless.  There are so many good people and organizations doing heartfelt work in the world, yet they have difficulties sometimes getting noticed in the general busyness that makes up our day to day lives.  I’d like to highlight an organization that Dujardin Design Associates has sponsored for several years, and one of their events that we wholeheartedly support.

The Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital will hold its annual Walk This Way and Sally’s Run on Saturday, May 12, 2012 at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, CT. The event proceeds support patient care initiatives, research, clinical trials and extensive support services.  Last year’s event drew more than 2,500 participants and raised a record $415,000.  To date, $1.6 million has been raised to support the Cancer Center.

The 3K Walk and 5K run starts and ends at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk.  Registration begins at 9 a.m., with the walk/run starting at 11 a.m.  There will be a great day of prize drawings, kids activities and entertainment by DNR—Fairfield County’s (Almost) All Physician Band, featuring Dr. Richard Frank, the director of cancer research at Norwalk Hospital.

You can register, build a team and donate online at www.norwalkhospitalfoundation.org, or call 203-852-2216.  Registration is $30 per person and includes a free t-shirt.  If you go, watch for Dujardin Design’s tribute signs along the way.

 

The Nantucket Wine Festival: May 16-20, 2012

 

Over the past 15 years the Nantucket Wine Festival has blossomed into one of the nation’s most celebrated wine and food events. With the help of Nantucket landmark hotel, The White Elephant, most of this year’s festival will be staged entirely in the heart of downtown Nantucket.

More than 200 wineries converge on Nantucket for the Grand Tastings:  this year promises to be one of the most exceptional with a fabulous collection of wineries, chefs and food purveyors.  The Harbor Gala takes place on Thursday May 17th at 6 p.m., where both special guest celebrity chefs and some of Nantucket’s great restaurants combine to serve great food and delicious wines.

A Luncheon Symposia offers a series of three great wine symposia at some of Nantucket’s most special addresses.  In the intimacy of a lovely home, a distinguished winemaker will lead a discussion of their wines with the guests.  The marquee event of this year’s festival is the Celebrity Chef and Winemaker Auction Dinner on Saturday, May 19th at 7 p.m.

Various charities are beneficiaries of these wonderful events, including Nantucket Combined Charities, Inc., and the Nantucket Historical Association.  My husband, Frank, and I have attended for years.  Please join us!

For more information, visit the festival website at http://www.nantucketwinefestival.com/

 

 

The Power of Social Networks

 

I’m finding that there are so many upsides to our engagement with each other via the internet.  My website, blog, and Facebook page do take time to create and update, it’s true, but it is unprecedented in the history of the world to have platforms like these, where we can to share our most heartfelt passions, and our inspirations for beauty and health in life.   One of my favorite bloggers and someone I turn to in my personal life for healthful guidance and advice is Mark Hyman, MD.  Dr. Hyman has created a groundbreaking medical approach called Functional Medicine.  A physician in private practice, he is also a bestselling author and a fervent proponent of helping people worldwide achieve their best lives through good health.   Two of his recent blogs covered a fascinating topic:  Can Social Networks Cure Disease?  I encourage you to take the time to read them:  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Can Social Networks Cure Disease Part One
Can Social Networks Cure Disease Part Two

Edward O. Wilson Has a New Book!


One of my favorite authors and environmental advocates is Edward O. Wilson, an American biologist, conservationist and Pulitzer Prize winning writer.  In a previous blog post I highlighted his novel, Ant Hill; on April 2nd, he released his latest book, The Social Conquest of Earth.   Here he addresses the three fundamental questions of religion, philosophy and science:  Where did we come from?  What are we?  And where are we going?  Refashioning the story of human evolution, Wilson offers us his carefully thought out explanation as to the origin of the human condition and why it resulted in our domination of Earth’s biosphere.

Dr. Hyman describes Wilson’s latest book this way:  “E.O. Wilson in his new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, says that it is our drive to join a group that makes us human.  It is the longing to belong – and the power of peer pressure can be force for both good and evil – It can drive war and violence, but it can also be a force for healing.”

I’m reading it.  I hope you’ll read it, too!