A Peek Inside My Library

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One of the pleasures of winter is the warmth of our homes when the cold winds are blowing. Dusk falls early, making a simple dinner of hot soup and crusty bread, a roaring fire, and a stack of books to while away the dark hours all cold weather pleasures. I’m a constant reader, and am always asking people what books they’re enjoying. I thought I’d share with you the pile of books beside my favorite reading chair, the stack of books on my cocktail table, and the tower of books at my bedside. I hope you find something you enjoy here.

Books That Replenish My Spirit:

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After a long holiday season and a whirlwind of parties, presents and merry-making, the (relative) quiet of January is just what I need.  Here are the books that are helping me push the “reset” button for my mind and spirit:

The Four Doors: A Guide to Joy, Freedom and a Meaningful Life, by Richard Paul Evans.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Eben Alexander, M.D.

A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, by Wayne Muller

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, by Wayne Muller

How Then Shall We Live? Four Simple Questions That Reveal the Beauty and Meaning of Our Lives, by Wayne Muller

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, by Rick Hanson

Books on Travel:

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My husband, Frank, and I are planning our tenth anniversary trip to Italy. It’s where we honeymooned.  The planning and anticipation is part of the pleasure!

Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo, by Tim Parks

The Grand Tour: Travelling the World with an Architect’s Eye, by Harry Seidler

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sicily

Italy Bed & Breakfasts, by Nicole Franchini and Clare Brown

Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History, by Sandra Benjamin

Italy of my Dreams, by Matthew White

Fabulous Fiction: 

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Reading fiction is pure pleasure.  A good novel takes me away to another place and time, filled with people I feel I know by the time I shut the cover. Here are a few on my nightstand:

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry

The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy

Design for a New World : 

I’m a continual student of the latest thoughts and ideas in my industry, and about our impact on the earth. I’m intrigued by the concept of living “off the grid,” and creating the smallest possible footprint on the planet. Here are two books I’m reading now.

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Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, by Sheri Koones and Robert Redford

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150 Best Eco House Ideas, by Marta Serrats

I’m never sure if I buy too many books, or not enough. What I am sure of is that books are the warmest path through winter. Let’s all let books light a fire within us!

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“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”–John Green

 

 

Naturally Romantic Bedrooms

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If you’re half of a couple, your bedroom is more than just your sanctuary. It’s an intimate, shared space where romance takes center stage. Your bedroom should be not only your passionate playground, but also the healthiest room in your house.

Why is that important? As you sleep, your liver works to detox the body from all the pollutants and toxins you were exposed to during the day. A clean night’s rest helps to promote health, energy and happiness, and that may be the most loving thing you can do for your life partner.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Choose No VOC paints for Walls and Wood Trim

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Paints can emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) over a long period of time, so just airing out the room may not be sufficient. That “just-painted” smell is actually the off-gassing of chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and zylene.  The VOCs last far longer than the odor, however, as can vapors from floor stains, finishes, sealants and caulks.

Low or No-VOC products use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, reducing the levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde. Look for paints with the Green Seal Standard, which certifies that they meet certain industry standards for VOCs.

Even low VOC paints can contain fungicides and biocides, used to prevent mildew growth and extend shelf life. A product I use and recommend is EnviroSafe Paints, which uses no fungicides or biocides at all.

  • Choose the natural beauty of hardwood, tile or stone floors. 

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Finish your floors with a water-based sealant, then add softness underfoot with organic cotton or wool rugs.  As luxurious as it seems, carpet can harbor mold, dander and allergens.  Chemicals used in the manufacturing process, as well as stain retardants and fireproofing, can be hazardous to both humans and pets.

  • Sleep on an organic mattress.

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Your healthiest option is an organic mattress, made with natural latex, wool or organic cotton. Be sure your pillows are all natural as well. Non-organic cotton is grown in fields soaked in insecticides; dyes and color fixers use heavy metals such as chromium, copper and zinc. You can request “no fire-retardant chemicals” be used on your mattress; this requires a prescription from a doctor.

  • Mix old materials with new: antiques are the ultimate in renewal and reverence for history.

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Antique wooden furniture was created from old-growth forests long ago. No new resources are used in its construction, making its restoration and re-use a loving part of caring for the earth. Manufacturing plants, even the very greenest, distribute impurities into our air, waste systems and water. New furniture requires the production of finishes, dyes and sealants; they arrive in retail stores via large fossil-fuel burning vehicles. Carefully chosen antiques say “I love you” to the earth.

Even in a contemporary home, the gentle lines of antique furniture can add eye-catching details to your bedroom. Rather than a mass-produced item, your antique dresser, bed or oriental rug was likely made in a small workshop by a crafstman who made good use of few resources, making your home and bedroom truly unique to you.

  • Make Your Bed with Natural, Organic Textiles

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One of my favorite resources for organic bedding is Coyuchi. You can find organic cotton sheets, blankets, pillows, duvet covers, shams and more, all made with natural fibers and produced using a nontoxic process.

  • Less is More

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There’s nothing restful or romantic about clutter. If your bedroom is to be a true sanctuary, it needs to be a sacred space for you, where you find tranquility, not a stack of things you need to deal with. It should also be the cleanest room in your house, since you spend 1/3 of your life breathing its air.

Many conventional cleaning products, rather than cleaning your bedroom, will actually pollute it with a toxic mixture of petrochemicals. Synthetic fragrances are added to mask the odor of chemical vapors, implicated in headaches, dizziness, skin rashes and respiratory problems. Good commercial products are made by Seventh Generation. Or you can make your own cleaning products from items you have in your pantry, such as baking soda, kosher salt, lemon and olive oil. You’ll find instructions here.

  • Make Your Bedroom Your Retreat

Monomoy  Master Bedroom

This is your private place where you go to get away from the world for awhile. It needs to have privacy and sensuality to serve as a haven for time spent either alone or with your beloved. Add the things that will help to recharge your soul by satisfying your senses.  A comfortable chair where you can sit and read a well-loved book, lit by sunlight streaming in through a window, is a wonderful comfort-touch. Add a cashmere throw and a soft pillow, and let yourself be lulled to sleep on a quiet afternoon.

A vase of fresh flowers adds both beauty and fragrance, soothing colors allow your mind and body to truly relax, paintings you love, photographs you cherish, a quilt made by your grandmother–all add to the feeling of pleasure. You can be sentimental here. It’s your safe place.

  • Reconsider the Television

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Part of the mystery of keeping love alive is providing a space where you can truly spend time together. It’s tempting to watch tv as you fall asleep, or to catch up on the news and weather when you wake up in the morning, but technology has a way of intruding and changing the mood of a moment. Your private life together requires a commitment. Think about whether a television will add or detract from the  way you want your bedroom to feel.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  If you start now, you can create the bedroom of your dreams, or at least the first stage of the bedroom of your dreams, in time to celebrate–together.

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“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”–A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

 

LEED Accredited: Why It Matters

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There are few people who haven’t heard the term LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) at this point, whether it is applied to a building project (LEED certified)  or an individual (LEED accredited). When a project receives a LEED rating, it signifies that the building saves energy, reduces pollution, uses fewer resources, and contributes to healthier environments.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) oversees the LEED certification and accreditation process,  They maintain an immense infrastructure to offer support to industry leaders to create innovative and cutting edge homes and buildings. I’m a longterm member of the Council.  My commitment to green building and design dates back to 1987, long before “green” or “sustainable” was a part of industry vernacular.

I’ve built, renovated, designed and lived in a number of “green” homes, and have been privileged to educate my clients and friends about the importance of sustainability. Not all Dujardin Design projects are green, but I try to incorporate green elements wherever there is an opportunity. We happily do every thing from deep green to “gently green” and everything in between.

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I’ve studied to become accredited, and am proud to have the designation LEED AP +ID + C behind my name.  Specifically, that means that I am a LEED Accredited Professional, with a further designation in Interior Design + Construction. The LEED exam I passed measured my ability to support green design, construction and operations. (The exam is a four and a half hour, two part, two hundred question assessment of the candidate’s understanding of LEED , and requires work on a LEED registered project within the past three years.)

Why is this important?  It’s a measurement of knowledge and ability.  It reinforces a commitment to green building. And it emphasizes skills in areas such as energy conservation, reduction in water consumption, improving indoor air quality, and making better building material choices. It’s about environmental stewardship and social responsibility. The USGBC community shares a common goal: everyone learns, works and lives in a green building within this generation.

That’s a goal I’m proud to support.  I hope you’ll do your part to support LEED building projects, too.

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