From Model-T to Model S

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Imagine if it was possible to drive a car without worrying about polluting the atmosphere, and what you were contributing to climate change. Imagine a country without gas stations, and without dependence on fossil fuels. Imagine more American jobs.

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Anyone who has made a commitment to living in an environmentally responsible manner has confronted the difficulty of everyday choices. As one of the first design professionals to embrace green design in the 1980s, I’ve seen huge changes in the building industry, and in the marketplace for sustainable goods and services. As a passionate environmentalist, I’m heartened by the number of manufacturers who are responding to the demands of their customers by making better, greener products available.

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I first wrote about electric cars in October, 2012. After highlighting a number of cars available at that time (the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i-MIEV), I ended with a promise: that my next car would be an electric one.

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I’ve kept that promise. I’m now the owner of a new Tesla Model S. I made that choice for a few good reasons, most of them outlined in the first paragraph of this post. Like other writers on this topic have said, I never would have spent this much for a car without Tesla’s advanced technology. I’ve driven a Toyota Prius for some time, and appreciate that hybrid car for what it offers. My new Tesla takes electric technology to the next level.

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Here are a few things I considered in making my decision:

1. Zero Emissions and no fossil fuels: This car is 100% free of pollutants, and frees us from dependence on foreign oil sources.

2. Quick recharging capability: A Tesla can be 50% recharged in 20 minutes, and 80% recharged in 40 minutes. If you’re driving a long distance, you can recharge at a supercharger station in the amount of time it takes to grab a cup of coffee and take a comfort break. And with its extensive range (up to 300 miles), most recharging happens overnight. Other electric cars can take hours to charge.

3. It’s Extremely Safe: With all the weight in the floor where the batteries are, the car’s center of gravity is very low, making it safer than many other vehicles.

4. It’s Recyclable: The car’s battery and motor use no rare earth minerals, and the car frame and body are recyclable aluminum. The battery pack is recyclable, too: One of the criticisms of electric vehicles  is that a battery pack, once exhausted, becomes waste. But there is a growing aftermarket for these batteries in static energy storage application. That will only grow in the months and years to come.

5. It’s Made in America: The Tesla Model S is made in Fremont, California, at a defunct plant once operated as a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors. At the time of my first post on electric cars, Tesla had 3,000 employees. Today, that number has grown to almost 6,000. I like knowing I’m supporting American jobs.

Other Options:

Other than the Tesla, you might consider the Chevrolet Volt, the Smart ForTwo Electric, the Nissan Leaf, or the Mitsubishi i-MIEV.

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It’s true that charging your car on the electric grid means that the environmental cost is transferred to the utility company. But battery powered cars are more efficient at converting energy into transportation. My Model S can travel almost 300 miles on a single charge of its battery, which equates to less than three gallons of gas.

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We may not have perfect solutions to all our automobile-based problems yet, but supporting new technology is one way to ensure that someone is working on the issues.

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My Whirlwind Book Tour

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It’s hard to pick the best part of the experience of writing and launching a book, but the chance to meet so many wonderful people, see my many dear friends, and share my message of sustainable design and green living has been very rewarding! Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior was first introduced on Nantucket, and then we were off to Boston and New York!  Join me for a look back at the friends who opened their doors to me and have helped to make Comfort Zone a success!

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First stop: 26 Main Street, Nantucket, at Quidley and Co.!  A beautiful summer evening brought friends, visitors, wine, and hors d’ouevres together for a festive introduction for Comfort Zone!

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A big thank you to Chris Quidley for hosting our first party. Here he is with Dujardin Design’s Sondy Rexford and Price Connors.

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Next stop: 54 Main Street, Nantucket, and Mitchell’s Book Corner! This is where I gave  my very first talk about what it was like to write Comfort Zone, and all the information inside!

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I explained to my guests at Mitchell’s that Comfort Zone could just be read as a beautiful design book, with more than 350 color photographs, or readers could drill down deeper and really learn about sustainable design.

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Then it was on to One Chestnut Street, Nantucket, and the beautiful Flowers on Chestnut.

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Comfort Zone and I were warmly welcomed by shop owner Michael Molinar.

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My longtime friend, renowned marine artist Michael Keane stopped by to see us. Here we are with my dad, (and my biggest fan), Robert Stefanov. For a look at Michael Keane’s incredible talent, see my blog post The Sea-Worthy Artwork of Michael Keane.

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We couldn’t launch a book without a stop to see our friends Ken and Deborah Withrow at the Union Street Inn. We’ve been entrusted with designing the inn’s historic common areas and guest rooms twice. It was a beautiful day to enjoy the inn’s back patio. Here I am with Ken!

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Before we knew it, it was September, and I was scheduled to appear at What’s New, What’s Next? at the New York Design Center, 200 Lex. This time I was welcomed at Calger Lighting, where Carmella Califano had arranged wine and hors d’ouevres (and some amazing brownies!) for all our guests that day.

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My husband, Frank Fasanella, is always there to support me (even taking care of business from our book tour!) Here I am with Calger’s Carmella Califano.

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Up for the drive to Boston, anyone? Come along for my panel discussion at the Boston Design Center!

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Kyle Hoepner of New England Home Magazine moderated a panel on sustainable architecture and design. I was joined by John R. DaSilva, AIA, of Polhemus Savery DaSilva, and Susan Brisk, a kitchen and bath designer and a faculty member at Boston Architectural College. The morning was sponsored by EcoModern Design and Cosentino. Eco-Modern’s David Sanborn and Cosentino’s Merry Leclerc joined us in this photo.

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A book signing followed at EcoModern Design’s showroom. They put out a delicious spread of appetizers to welcome our guests. A big thank you to David Sanborne and the staff at EcoModern!

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Then it was back to Connecticut, and a visit to Fairfield University’s bookstore on Post Road in Fairfield.

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Many of the university’s design students attended and we had a lively discussion on sustainable design.

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My thanks to Elizabeth Hastings for arranging such a lovely evening. Here I am with Rob Hardy, the director of Interior Design programs at Fairfield University.

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No time to rest yet! Next on the schedule: a panel discussion on why antiques are the ultimate in green. Hosted by de Le Cuona during Fall Market at the Decoration and Design Building in New York, Creating an Eco-Elegant Interior was the topic for moderator Kerry Howard, who led the discussion. My co-panelist was The Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines. I wish you all could have been there!

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Finally, the fabulous New York launch of Comfort Zone! Hosted by the gracious Stark family at Stark Carpet, we threw ourselves a wonderful fete, with Prosecco and wine, delicious bites and sparkling conversation. It was truly the celebration of the year!

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Our hosts for the evening: John and Chad Stark. My deepest appreciation for their warm support and beautiful showroom!

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Lots of books…

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and lots of signing!

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The party in full swing!

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It was truly an elegant and very special evening.

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And on October 20, here we are at Currey and Co. in High Point, North Carolina. On the right is company owner Bob Currey with his poodle companion, Reeves. My deepest thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this tour possible!

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Creating Comfort Zone

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Why write a book?

Writing Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, the book that capsulizes my design work over the past decades and that shares my message on the importance of sustainable design and living, has been one of the most rewarding periods in my career. It has also been one of the most demanding, when combined with a busy professional and personal life!

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At an installation on Nantucket with Senior Designer Price Connors

Here’s why I did it: I have a story to tell. Part of my story is about the importance of creating a home that is a place where we can rest and restore ourselves, a place of comfort. Part of my story is about the importance of surrounding ourselves with beauty, because beauty elevates our hearts and minds. Beautiful, high-style design is intended to both soothe and inspire.

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Rooms in a home are not merely functional. When properly appointed, our home’s interiors provide a true background for all the important moments of our lives. How an interior designer assembles a room, piece by piece, is always unique to the individual, and combines the best training, background and experience, our own vision and feeling for a home, and the client’s dreams.

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Comfort Zone is a peek behind the curtain: a look at the process, and the results!

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And part of my story, a very large part, is about my belief that having the best means doing the best, for our homes, our health, and the environment.

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As a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in Interior Design and Construction, a public speaker at environmental forums, as well as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, a large part of my career has been devoted to educating clients, students and friends about the importance of living “green.” I agree with the wisdom of author Rita Mae Brown, who said, “I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.”

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Comfort Zone shares my knowledge about how to create a healthy home, knowledge I’ve accumulated over a lifetime. There is a wealth of information, including step by step plans for renovating your own home sustainably. You can read it to find out more about why antique furniture is a surprisingly eco-friendly addition to your home, or why you should consider No-VOC paints, organic wool carpets and FSC-certified woods. You can learn how to make a home lightly green, moderately green, or deeply green. You can read it simply as a beautiful design book, but all the information is there to help you live more healthfully.

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Perhaps the most valuable page or two is a directory of green products and services, my carefully vetted list of sustainable resources.  An up-to-the-minute feature is an app called Layar, interactive print technology that adds a touch of magic. By downloading the Layar app to your smart phone or tablet, you can hover above any of six pages in the book and Layar will take you to additional on-line information. That information that will be updated regularly so that you will always have access to the latest ideas, products and thoughts on eco-elegant living.

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Of course Comfort Zone was created using acid -free, FSC-certified cotton cloth covers and interior vellums, and printed with vegetable-based ink from renewable sources. Next month’s posts will describe more about my trip to Venice to oversee the latest in eco-responsible printing processes there.

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Last, the book itself was designed to be a lovely piece of art. Book designer Stafford Cliff, part of the wonderful team at Pointed Leaf Press, publishers of Comfort Zone, brought my ideas to life with his intuitive understanding of my work, and my passion for the earth.

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He and the very talented Dominick Santise produced the stunning end papers, vellums, and details that make Comfort Zone the treasure that it is. I will always be grateful for the way their hearts and hands contributed to this work.

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A famous American architect, Daniel Burnham, said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” I have aimed high in hope and work with Comfort Zone. I want you to aim high in hope and work in making your home a healthy sanctuary for yourselves, your families, your pets and your friends.

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Because A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury. (TM)

Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior is available online at Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, or through Pointed Leaf Press. You can also find it at your own local book store, or ask to have it ordered there.

Happy reading!