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Healthy Stuff with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

Home ~ Health ~ Humanity



A recent column by Nicholas Kristof entitled Are You a Toxic Waste Disposal Site? raised some disturbing issues. None of it, sadly, was news to me. The United States has delayed appropriate testing of industrial chemicals over and over again, largely due to the influence of lobbying groups. Mr. Kristof’s column said that “Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals–from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel–as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet.”


Tractor spraying soybean field at spring

Tractor spraying soybean field


As the pioneer of the sustainable design movement, I have spoken out for years in favor of non-toxic, chemical-free built environments to support our health, and the well-being of our families. I believe that your home, your health, and the future of humanity depends upon it. My clients know that whenever I can use a “green” alternative in fabric, upholstery, paints and floor finishes, wood furniture and cabinetry, that’s what I choose. I created the phrase “eco-elegant (TM)” to demonstrate to people that homes can be beautiful, sophisticated, and serene, and still maintain their health through clean air and furnishings that do not off-gas potentially dangerous fumes.




My philosophy is simple: to live in a way that shows respect for all life on earth, we must be open to questioning the impact of our choices. One of my environmental heroes, Chief Oren Lyons of the Iroquois Confederacy, described to me the tradition of tribal leaders in making decisions: Not only do they consider the impact on the next generation, they also examine the consequences all the way to the seventh generation.




I wrote my book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, to show a healthier way of living. I urge anyone who cares about their health and a holistic approach to lifestyle and the earth to read it. On pages 232-233, you’ll find an easy-to-reference listing of green products that is the culmination of my lifetime of work selecting the most eco-friendly products. It includes everything from bedding and carpeting, to duct work and adhesives, to vacuum cleaners and products for your pets.


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I promise you, there’s a healthier way to live, and the changes are not difficult to make. Ready to protect yourself and your family, friends, and companion animals from a poorly regulated industry? I want to help. Click here to take the first step toward the Eco-Elegant Life.


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Design Futures Council: Senior Fellow

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This has been an especially gratifying year for me. In the past twelve months, I’ve published my design book (Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior), I’ve been named to the College of Fellows for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and I have just received word that the Design Futures Council has named me a Senior Fellow.


Ed Mazria reporting on the climate, 2014

The Design Futures Council (DFC) is an interdisciplinary network of leaders in design confronting global challenges. I’ve been a longtime member and contributor, happy to join with my friend and respected colleague James P. Cramer, who became the DFC’s primary founder and facilitator of information and inspiration throughout the organization.


To be named as a Senior Fellow by this highly esteemed group of professionals is recognition for “significant contributions toward the understanding of changing trends, new research, and applied knowledge that improve the built environment and the human condition.”

Jim Cramer says, “The leadership role of design is of critical importance toward the creation of a healthier and happier planet. The new Senior Fellows of the DFC have been selected for the tremendous impact they have had on our world.”

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A happier, healthier planet is what I’ve worked for throughout my career. I’m proud to join the other Senior Fellows in that endeavor.


Make a Fresh Start!

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From time to time, people ask me what it’s like to work with an interior designer. I can’t answer that for anyone but myself, although certainly there are industry standards that a properly credentialed interior designer adheres to. In January of this year I wrote about the inspiration for a house, and some of the design process in Every Room Has a Beginning.

work 1That post was about a very specific house, and the kinds of decisions we made with the homeowners to redesign a beloved home after it was moved cross-island to save it from eroding bluffs. Here are a few more things you should know about the design process:

Clients often say that working with Dujardin makes the design process fun again. What can become quickly overwhelming–the details, schedules, plans, and coordination, with architects, contractors, craftsmen and landscapers–are handled seamlessly, resulting in elegant and sophisticated interiors that immediately feel like home. We can incorporate varying degrees of sustainability or design a completely holistic “deep green” residence, always honoring classic tradition while achieving 21st century style.


Whether you’re building a new home, renovating an existing building, or just designing interiors, it takes a village to create a house.  You may need contractors, architects, carpenters, painters, artists, landscapers, energy system installers, plumbers, tilers, electricians and more.


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Having the requisite training in a home’s structure, design and function is what makes me a full and welcome partner in team meetings that include any or all of those participants.


Architects and Designers Working in the Office

Architects and Designers Working in the Office

I’ve devoted my life to the study and practice of interior design. I’m a professional member of ASID, and a member of their very select College of Fellows. (That’s what FASID means when you see it after my name.) I’ve just been elected a Senior Fellow for the Design Futures Council, which recognizes my contributions to the sustainable design movement.

ASID Fellows Award

I am a LEED Accredited Professional, with a specialty in Interior Design and Construction. (That’s the LEED AP + ID + C after my name). I belong to a number of professional organizations, have spoken widely about interior design, am an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, and am a professionally trained artist myself. I have a published full-color book of my design work that outlines many of the design principles I believe in.

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Once we’ve decided to work together, the planning begins. We start with measurements, and a study of your home’s traffic flow, light sources, assessment of what the room will be used for, and by whom. We talk to you about what you love, and how you envision your home. The goal is to make your home an elegant reflection of your very unique lifestyle and family.  To help you “see” the finished product, we create a beautiful binder showing you what we suggest. Here’s an example of a page showing window treatment and lamp options.

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Let’s look at one specific room together. First, we show you a layout with all the furniture we suggest, and where it will be placed.

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Next, our in-house artist creates a watercolor rendering to give you a feeling for the colors and furniture we think will be perfect.

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We present several different styles of breakfronts. You choose which you like best.

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And then we look at different chair styles.

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Other pieces to be included in the room are next.

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Finally, it’s time to look at fabrics.

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There are thousands of choices to be made in designing a home, and mistakes can be expensive. By breaking every decision down to carefully selected options, our clients quickly feel in control of the process. They have a partner who cares as much about their home as they do, and we have a great time shopping together, talking together, and making decisions together. After several discussions about what our client likes and prefers, orders are placed. Here’s a look at the finished dining room following this process.

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My education, training and credentials, as well as my professional team members, are all important in creating the home of your dreams. But I also believe that creating a beautiful, healthy, comfortable home should be FUN! My clients often refer to me as the “funmaker,” because I love designing homes, and we want the entire project, start to finish, to be something you enjoy. We take care of the hard work for you.


Believe it or not, we’re still having fun! We love our work.






Time Travel: Antiques in Design

Using antiques to create distinctive interiors for my clients is a longtime signature of Dujardin Design Associates, Inc. Striking, original looks can be achieved by blending old and new, traveling across time to access the most beautiful furniture, accessories, objets d’art, paintings and rugs.I believe that every room has space for something old, a one-of-a-kind treasure that speaks of our shared past. Above, we used a wall hanging composed of 18th century Tibetan Buddhist prayers written on bamboo to bring Far Eastern calm to a contemporary space.

My favorite thing about using antiquesin my interiors? They’re the ultimate in green! Repeatedly recycled over decades, these pieces have been made from old-growth wood, protecting today’s forests, have long ago completed any off-gassing from the finishing process, and slow the resource intensive cycle of new production. Above, contemporary lamps, sconces and tables blend elegantly with an antique German Beidermeier armoire and mirror over the mantle.

There is beauty in contrasts. Rather than trying to achieve a single, monotone look, give your living spaces the dash and dazzle of opposites. In this Nantucket home, we paired a 19th century gilt mirror with 21st century whale art in hand-blown glass by Raven Skyriver.

Just as you might add a fabulous piece of vintage jewelry to complete an outfit, your room can use some jewelry too. The room above is bejeweled with the Tang Dynasty horse on the shelf near the window and the 18th century Chinese cocktail table, along with other priceless Asian artifacts.

I love the look of this marine-encrusted, glazed stoneware storage jar, dating from the 15th-17th centuries and found in the South China Sea.

One way to showcase old pieces is to use them in unusual ways . Here we took an antique rug and hung it on the wall as a stylish piece of art.

Juxtaposing a sleek white bedside table with an elaborately carved antique bed from the West Indies is a beautifully soothing contrast.

Don’t be afraid to use color to enliven an old piece. Unless it’s a priceless treasure, go ahead and paint it, refinish it, change the drawer pulls, and make it your own. Or let it keep its timeworn patina. Either way, it’s a fascinating addition to your living space.

Let your antique collections add fun and a little surprise. These small articulated artists’ models are the whimsical touch that brings this space to unexpected life. Another wonderful thing about antiques is that they add a completely unique look to your home. You won’t find these models available in catalogs or at mass market retail stores.

Ready to go shopping? Don’t miss the The Nantucket Historical Association’s annual Antiques and Design Show, this year from July 29th to August 3rd. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Every Room Has a Beginning

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Have you ever walked into a room and wondered where to begin? Interior designers face this question all the time. There’s always a starting point, a moment of inspiration. It may be the window with the stunning view and the way the sunlight slants into the room, or a family heirloom or painting that helps define colors and style.


In this case, the entire house we’d first designed and completed in 1995 was picked up and moved across Nantucket Island. Erosion on Sconset Bluff had caused the home to be moved from its precarious position first in 2008, and again only a few years later.

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When the house was carefully set down again in its new location facing Nantucket Harbor, it was time to take a new look at the Edwardian-era home. The owners still loved what we created almost 20 years earlier, but wanted an updated version, while still retaining their favorite pieces from the original design. As part of the design process, my team and I began with detailed scaled drawings that showed our concept of the space.

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In the living room, the owners loved the custom rug in their favorite colors, with a floral pattern reminiscent of their beloved gardens. The decision to keep the rug I designed in 1994 set the stage for everything that followed. Besides the “green” ideal of re-using existing pieces, it is so rewarding when a client loves what you created so much that they want to keep the feel of the original design from years ago.

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Renderings are particularly helpful with long-distance clients. A board was sent to the owners detailing the fabrics, the carpet runners and the faux paint wall treatments. The colors were updated. Celestial blue and white blended with soft touches of buttery yellow would make the home as inviting as a summer sky. The designs, though traditional, were clean lined and reflected the simpler tastes of the 21st century.

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Fabrics for the living room were sent for approval, along with the design for window treatment. An up-to-date tailored valance with panels replaced the floral English country house look. Both panels and valance were accented with a custom trim we created from a striped fabric.

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We also retained most of the original furnishings, which were reupholstered with new fabrics. The chairs were redone in indoor/outdoor fabric, with cording and tape trim for a touch of detail.

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Options for additional pieces of furniture were proposed for the living room. From the pieces submitted, the clients chose two conversation groups and a game table area to be placed by the windows.

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An artist created the unique wall treatment, with stenciled shells accenting important architectural features. The shell pattern related the home to the harbor and the sea beyond. The Blue Willow patterned fabric on the sofa pillows recalled Nantucket history and the days when sea captains brought back gifts of Chinese Export porcelain.

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In just ten months, we managed a comprehensive house redesign, incorporating favorite pieces from the original home and seamlessly blending them into a sophisticated, 21st century style for an expanding family of parents, grown children, new in-laws, and grandchildren. From a two- to three-month planning and selection phase to a six- to seven-month ordering and implementation phase, we completely redesigned a house with four floors and seven bedrooms.

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It was an amazing amount of work in a short time frame, but the clients were happy with every single detail of their new home, and so were we.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


Bring Summer and the Seaside In

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It’s May, and many people are heading for their summer homes, ready for long, lazy days in sun and sand. You don’t need a vacation home to make your house summer-ready, though. Try some of these ideas for bringing summer and the seaside in!

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Use light-colored, indoor/outdoor fabrics and wicker or rattan furniture to add a summery feel to your rooms. Indoor/outdoor fabrics also make for a more relaxed environment, as clean up is a breeze.

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An artfully placed starfish or shell says you love the beach! Painted white furniture and light colored fabrics are another warm-weather touch.

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Nautical prints or paintings of boats, water and ocean beaches are a window to the world you love.

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Slip into the garden early in the morning when the grass is still cool beneath your feet, and cut a few fresh flowers for a small vase on your bedside table. You’ll love falling asleep with the light fragrance of blossoms to scent your dreams.

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A light, bright room always feels summery. Change your bedding to an all-white coverlet, toss a brightly colored throw onto the end of the bed, and stack clean white birch logs in the fireplace.

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Add texture and interest with natural rugs underfoot, such as sisal, hemp, jute or seagrass. Plant fiber rugs are sustainably harvested, renewable, and biodegradable, an added bonus to their beauty!

Redhead Ducks; Hen; Ducklings

Photo by Neil Mishler U.S. FWS.

Finally, celebrate summer’s beauty by making a pledge to help protect America’s waterways and all the creatures who depend on them for their lives. Visit the Natural Wildlife Federation to learn how you can help. 

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“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” –John Lubbock, The Use of Life 


Naturally Romantic Bedrooms

Union Street Inn Nantucket; Photo Credit Jeff Allen

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. That’s why recreating bedrooms is one of my favorite design projects.


A Dujardin-designed bedroom includes custom bedding and headboard. Photo credit Michael Partenio

Why is a healthy room 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.  I’ve studied to become a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in Interior Design and Construction (LEED AP + ID + C) so that I can create healthy sanctuaries for my clients.

Here’s how I design a pristine retreat:

  • Choose No VOC paints for walls and wood trim


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.  The VOCs last far longer than the odor, however. The air you breathe while you rest is so important.


Another custom Dujardin Design Associates bedroom, with one-of-a-kind bedding and headboard especially created for this client. Photo credit Marco Ricco

Low or No-VOC products use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, reducing the levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde. Even low VOC paints can contain fungicides and biocides, used to prevent mildew growth and extend shelf life. Working with a LEED-accredited interior designer can make choosing paints and finishes easier–there’s so much to learn!


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


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I choose non-toxic floor finishes for my clients’ bedrooms, so they can rest easy at night.  All upholstery and bedding custom-designed and fabricated in DDA’s workroom.       Photo credit Terry Pommett

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 can be hazardous to both humans and pets.


  • Sleep on an organic mattress.


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All bedding custom-designed and fabricated by DDA’s workroom. Photo credit Terry Pommett

Your healthiest option is an organic mattress, made with natural latex, wool or organic cotton. Be sure your pillows are all natural as well.  Make your home a holistic house!


  • Mix old materials with new: antiques are the ultimate in renewing resources.


Dujardin-designed custom bedding and window treatments, fabricated and installed by DDA’s workroom. Photo credit Jeff Allen

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.


At Dujardin Design Associates, creating custom looks with beautiful fabrics is only part of the wide array of services we offer. Photo credit Jeff Allen

Even in a contemporary home, the gentle lines of antique furniture can add eye-catching details to your bedroom.  I love to find the perfect antique pieces that will become family heirlooms, and blend beautifully with a modern lifestyle.


  • Make Your Bed with Natural, Organic Textiles


Choosing Dujardin Design Associates for your custom bedding, throw pillows, and window treatments allows you to have a wider range of choices in colors, fabrics, and textures. Photo credit Terry Pommett

You can find organic cotton sheets, blankets, pillows, duvet covers, shams and more, all made with natural fibers and produced using a nontoxic process. Or ask Dujardin Design Associates to create them for you!

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.


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A signature of my work is to include a pair of chairs where a couple can begin their day together with a cup of coffee or end it with a glass of wine. Photo credit Thibeaut Jensen

This is your private place where you go to get away from the world for awhile. A signature of my design work is to 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 is a wonderful comfort-touch.


I love adding final touches! All custom-designed and installed by DDA. Photo credit Terry Pommett

Part of the mystery of keeping love alive is providing a space where you can truly spend time together.


Union Street Inn, Nantucket; Photo Credit Jeff Allen

Valentine’s Day is a great time to create the bedroom of your dreams together. Choosing new furnishings, bedding, colors, and textiles can be a challenge for a couple with dissimilar tastes, however.  Over the course of my career, I’ve helped many couples reach agreement on the perfect bedroom for them.

I’d love to help you!

Call me for a consultation in Connecticut at 201-855-8100,

or on Nantucket at 508-228-1120. 



A Comfortable Place to Sit

One of the most important considerations in designing a home is the comfort of those who live there.  I believe that a home should be beautiful, as beauty lifts the spirits; it should be a sanctuary for health and well-being with clean air and non-toxic surroundings; and it should be be a place of comfort.  A house is not a home without a space to curl up with a good book, put your feet up at the end of a long day, and enjoy a snuggle with pets or people you love.

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When I designed my home in Madaket, one of my husband’s requests was that our living room be a place where he could truly relax.  He wanted to be able to come in, put his feet on the cocktail table, and have a beer with friends.  Nothing in this room is too precious.  The sofas were slip covered in crisp navy and white so that they could be cleaned easily, and a comfortable wicker chair lets our guests know that this is a summer home, where relaxation is encouraged!  (The white canvas is indoor/outdoor fabric, and completely washable!)

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I love to read, and I find window seats to be irresistible for hiding away with a book.  The light from the window, changing as the day goes by, the view into the garden, and the scent of a summer breeze takes reading in the middle of the day from a guilty pleasure to a perfect respite.

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A window seat in a bedroom is always a delight! A space devoted to intimate comforts should have a place to take a little nap in the middle of the day when your schedule allows.


Creating a comfortable home requires planning; there should be welcoming chairs everywhere, with lots of daylight streaming through the windows, and a sense of order so you can really rest.  Ottomans let you put your feet up, and a little chairside table will hold both your book and a cool drink.

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If you are fortunate enough to have a beautiful view, then a comfortable place to relax and watch the sea and sky is always appreciated.  It’s the perfect place to enjoy your morning cup of coffee as you slowly wake to the day.

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When you sit down with a good book or to watch a movie with your family, you may not realize that your upholstered furniture too often brings chemicals such as formaldehyde, brominated flame retardants (PBDE’s) and dioxin into your home through off-gassing.  Fortunately, today we have the option of choosing soy-based versus foam cushions, recycled filling for pillows, and organic upholstery fabrics.  Some of the world’s healthiest fabrics are also the most luxurious, including organic cotton, hemp, linen and wool.

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Firelight and the smell of burning wood brings its own kind of relaxation, especially when you’re enveloped in a cozy chair close to its warm glow.

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A porch, veranda or deck can be another living area, serving as a quiet library during sunlit hours, and the perfect spot to watch evening fall with candlelight and a glass of wine to toast the end of day.


Most of us live busy lives, sometimes too busy, and it’s good to take a moment to sit down occasionally, and enjoy what we’ve accomplished. As A.A. Milne said (as Winnie the Pooh), “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

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Your Sacred Space: Part Two of an Interview with Trudy and Women on Fire Founder Debbie Phillips

Debbie Phillips

This is part two of my interview with Debbie Phillips for Women on Fire, the group she founded to bring an amazing circle of fabulous women together for inspiration, strategies and support.  The following is a transcript of part two of our talk on Your Sacred Space:  How to Create an Inspired, Healthy Living Environment. Read Part One here


Trudy:  What I’m striving for is indoor air quality–whatever we put in that space.  And the only space you can really control is your own environment, your home, so that everything in there supports your health and wellbeing.

Debbie:  Right.  Well, I love that notion, and I’m sure that people listening are thinking, “Well, how can I control other environments?”  But like you said, we can control our homes.  We can also control our cars, and some of us can control our offices.  Is there any way, Trudy, to control other environments–short of wearing a mask?

Trudy:  I think a lot of it is education, and you know I’m big on that.  I’m always trying to promote how to support yourself at home through my blog and also in the lectures I do on The Holistic House.  People ask, “Where should I begin?”  Begin in the nursery because your baby is sleeping in there 20-24 hours a day and breathing in that air.  But your own bedroom needs to be almost like a bell jar–really clean and free of dust and dust mites.  Don’t have a lot of wall-to-wall carpeting because there is so much that gets trapped underneath there.

Debbie:  Really?

Trudy:  Oh, yes, microbial growth.  At least area rugs can be sent out and steam cleaned.

Debbie:  Interesting.  So choose hardwood floors and rugs over wall-to-wall carpet.

Trudy: Hardwood floors, tile floors, stone floors–those are the cleanest.  They are the easiest to keep clean and dust-free.  When people who are really allergic or who have asthmatic children come to me, I tell them to damp mop their floors–as if we have enough free time to do all this.  But try to damp mop floors twice a week.  It is believed that our livers detox somewhere between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m.  Your liver and your kidneys are really hard at work, so you want to sleep in a really clean environment so you’re not still taxing your system and your organs.

Debbie:  Trudy, I’ve seen those air filters that often can be bought at specialty stores.  is there any kind or a particular air filter that you would recommend?

Trudy:  As you know, I had such a struggle with chemical sensitivity.  I had to go through a two-year detox program, which was almost like being on chemotherapy.  It was really rough.  So I don’t want to see other people go through that.  The one filter that the environmental physicians–there are only 400 in the whole world; it is a very specialized group–like is the Austin HealthMate Plus.  And the reason for that, Deb, is that it has a HEPA filter in there to filter out particulates–dust, mold spores, animal dander, pollen in the spring.  But it also has zeolite in the carbon filtration, which filters out vapors such as car fumes.  If you have a garage that’s part of your house, car fumes can infiltrate and go right through all the little perforations into the house.  The Austin HealthMate Plus filters out all of that.  It will filter out and lower the VOCs from your furniture because all furniture finishes have VOCs.  So that’s the filter I swear by.

Debbie:  That’s great.  Is there a particular kind of mattress or pillow or bedding?  I know it should be from organic cotton, but is there any particular brand or style that you think is best?

Trudy:  There are so many out there, so I want to tell everybody:  Buyer beware.  Make sure you really go to someone who can say that a mattress is truly organic cotton or it’s truly organic wool because it has been certified.  I personally like a wool mattress that’s been tufted, and then I have it encased in organic cotton.  I get my physician to write me a prescription slip, so to speak, to give to the people making the mattresses, saying that i refuse to have it sprayed with fire retardant.  By law, they have to add fire retardant in case there is a smoker in bed and a cigarette is dropped.  But it’s a problem because the rest of us have to pay the price by sleeping on a bed immersed in that chemical, and you really don’t want that.

Debbie:  Wow.

Trudy:  The other thing you want to do–because dust mites and the little things they leave behind are what a lot of people are allergic to, especially asthmatic children–is to get an encasement, a completely zip-around mattress protector.  It’s not just a pad on the top, and it’s made out of barrier cloth.  That keeps out dust mites, bed bugs, all those things that can happen, and you are much safer.  Your pillow really shouldn’t be foam or anything made of a chemical.  it should be organic cotton or organic wool, again, in an organic-cotton encasement protector.

Debbie:  Is there anything around the waterproofing of a mattress pad?  Would that necessarily have chemicals in it?

Trudy: It could.  Until I look at the label, I wouldn’t know.  You have to be careful of chemicals, especially where you are sleeping at night.  That’s the one room to change.  People say, “I can’t afford to go through and change my whole house.”  And I completely relate to that. But try to make your bedroom as clean, organic and chemical-free as possible.  That’s the goal.

Debbie:  This is so helpful because one of the things Rob and I have done is to create a couple’s sanctuary, but we have not gone to this level. This is very inspiring.  I want to talk about something else that would potentially be a tip, Trudy, and that is because we are talking about an inspired environment with a strong emphasis on creating a healthy environment.  I want to tell you a quick little story.  When I met Rob, who is now my husband, he had this rule that one way to create a sacred environment was that all shoes were to be removed before entering the house.  it took me a little while to get used to that, but I have adopted his ways and I have to say that I love it.  And, Trudy, you are the only other person I’ve met who has a porch full of shoes. I wondered if that’s a rule at your house–a shoeless house–and is there a good reason for not wearing shoes in the house?

Trudy: Absolutely.  I think it’s sacred.  It’s respectful to remove your shoes, to not bring in all that stuff from the street.  Asians do that a lot.  But there is also a very scientific reason for it:  When we are walking around on the street, we are actually walking through viruses, bacteria, chemicals sprayed on the streets to melt ice, and all of that.  We walk through that, and we definitely don’t want to track it into the house.  People I’ve studied with have said that if you could make pesticides iridescent and if you used a black light on them, they would glow.  And if you had somebody walk through his yard after it was sprayed for ticks or mosquitoes or whatever and then you tracked him as he walked through the house, there would be footprints everywhere he went in the house.  So that’s your practical reason.  Let’s not bring all this inside.  My biggest pet peeve is pesticides, chemicals, insecticides, mildewcides, and all of that.  I understand the purpose of it and I know what people are trying to do, but I think the public doesn’t always know the horrible side effects of it.

Debbie:  Right.  It’s funny, but I wonder if you have had this experience:  both of our homes on Martha’s Vineyard and Naples are shoeless, but I still feel a little embarrassed asking people to remove their shoes. 

Trudy:  You know what I do?

Debbie:  What do you do?

Trudy:  I go to Rite Aid and buy the little cotton socklets in all sizes, and I leave them right there at the door because sometimes people don’t want to slip on slippers if they feel that somebody else’s feet have been in there.  I relate to that.

Debbie:  I do too.

Trudy:  So get a fresh, sealed bag of little socklets, and you can get the ones that the men don’t mind wearing.  They’re almost like the little things they give you in the hospital when you’re walking up and down the halls.  And that just covers it when they’re in your home, and they can choose their colors.  Then it becomes sort of fun.

Debbie:  What a great idea.  Thank you, Trudy.  That solves that problem.  What are some other ways to detox our homes or space?  And, by the way, I hear a lot about that.  People will talk about, “I’m going to clear or detox my space.”  Is there an appropriate way to clear and detox a home?

Trudy: The biggest thing is what you put in it.  Let’s say you’re painting.  There was some wonderful person who sent me an email this morning, “How do you choose your paint?” I wasn’t sure if she was asking about color or if she wanted to know how to choose a safe paint.  For the latter, the biggest thing you can do, if you know you have oil-based paint and you’r’e going to repaint, is to go to a low-or no-VOC–again, Volatile Organic Compound–water-based latex paint.  Oil paint is a petroleum product.  People say, “Oh, my house doesn’t smell anymore.  I painted it three months ago.”  If you could dye those VOCs purple, you would see that they go on forever.  It’s truly deleterious to your health.  It’s truly injurious.  It’s not good for your lungs.  It’s just not good for a lot of reasons.

Debbie:  Do the major paint companies make those or do you have to find a special company?

Trudy: They do.  And so you don’t have to spend a fortune for that.  If you don’t have a chemical sensitivity, you probably don’t have to go as far as I do with it for my own health.

Debbie:  You were referring to a question from Jill Dulitsky, from Vernon, Connecticut.  She asked, ‘We are redoing our house and making a much more open floor plan.  How do you choose paint?”

Trudy: I emailed her back so we will continue that discussion, for sure.

Debbie:  I don’t know whether she did mean color.  Melissa McClain from Seattle, Washington, is very into color, and we should just bring up the color issue since I’m not sure what Jill meant.  Melissa asks, “What is your philosophy on finding the perfect color for your home or room?”

Trudy:  It’s really client-driven.  After I sit and talk with clients, I get a feel for what they like.  I also give them a client questionnaire.  It’s long.  I ask them, “What are your favorite colors?  What colors do you hate?” I tell them to get five of the current shelter magazines and tear out pages and write on them, saying, “Trudy, I love this.  I hate that.” By the time we’ve spoken and they’ve filled that out and I look at their tear sheets, I have a good sense of what they would thrive in.  There has been a lot of research done on people who have thyroid issues, which I do.  They thrive with the color blue.  Well, it’s no surprise that I have a lot of blue in my houses.  That’s my house in Connecticut.  Debbie would love it.  It’s more taupe and white and the sandy colors.  And say people with stomach issues really resonate to the color orange.  So, basically, what I do is interview everybody and I find out what they love.  Sometimes they don’t even really know what they’re gravitating to, but I can see it.  I can see it formulating.  Then we get a little report back to them, and we sit down and start with color swatches.  Then I see what they respond to.

Debbie:  I love it.

Trudy:  They always reach out with their hand for the things they love.

Debbie:  Really?

Trudy:  Oh, yes.  If they don’t like anything, the hand doesn’t come forward.  When they see a color they love, the hand goes out and they start rubbing it.  I say, “Oh, that’s it!  That’s the one.  That one likes Sea Glass.  She likes that color.”

Debbie:  This is why you are the genius you are.  That is really great to know.  I know you love blue. All those blues are so beautiful on your site.  What color don’t you like?

Trudy:  You know, it used to be orange, but I’m in love with that color now.  When I was going to art school, I took a course at Yale.  It was a color study course.  It forced us to become neutral about color.  Most people don’t know this–I think you might, Deb–but I was a fine arts major, and I was a painter first.

Debbie:  I did know that.

Trudy:  I approach color in a whole different way.  I had a studio in Rowayton, Connecticut, on the water.  I’m always by the water, whether it’s a river, a lake, Long Island Sound, Nantucket Sound, whatever.  I did commission paintings, and I loved it.  I taught art for a while in Rowayton, and I taught at New Canaan High School.  I loved working with the high-school students.  I just loved that.  But it was too solitary for me when I was working in the studio.  I’d come home at night and I’d think, “I didn’t talk to anybody all day.”  So I found myself gravitating toward doing rooms, and I thought, “OK, now I have to get more information about this.”  So I went back to school at Parsons in New York.  I also did a lot of on-the-job training.  I had some wonderful mentors and teachers.  You can shift course midstream.

Debbie:  Yes, you can.

Trudy:  It’s OK to do a mid-course correction.

Debbie:  Well, as I always say, we’re stomping our perimeter.  We’re building on what our interests are.  Like the fact that you were two years old and you were sketching, and then you just continued to build on that to be the person you are and create the amazing environments that you do now.

Trudy: You know, Deb, I really thought when I was younger that I was just going to grow up and be an artist.  I didn’t know I was going to go into interior design.  It just evolved.  It was an evolutionary process.

Debbie:  Melissa McClain also asked the question, “Was there a defining moment where you knew you wanted to be a designer?”

Trudy: Yes.  It was in that studio.  I said, “You know what?  I want to work with people.  I want to make rooms that they feel good in.  I want to work with fabric.”  I just jumped in and started.  I didn’t have enough training yet, so I went back and got the training that I felt I needed.  But the best training I had, Deb, was on the job, watching other designers that I really admired.

Debbie:  Oh, I’m sure.  Trudy, believe it or not, our chats just go so quickly.  In the ten minutes or so that we have left, I want to give our women some other tips for creating an inspired environment.  Are there other things, in addition to the advice that if you start with any place start with your bedroom?  Did we answer the question about what’s he right way to go about detoxing a room?

Trudy:  There are different ways to detox a room.  From a spiritual level, I like using sage.  When I first had a house in Monomoy on the water on Nantucket, I knew a wonderful woman who was a minister.  I had her come over, and she brought some other people.  We said prayers to the north, the east, the south and the west.  We asked blessings from every direction, and that was a truly blessed house.  Wonderful.  That’s one way to detox–mentally, spiritually and emotionally.  The other detox method concerns the materials you are using.  Say you bought a piece of furniture from a place where they use a lot of particleboards in the middle, and the formaldehyde levels are off the wall.  You can even smell it.  It has that kind of stinky smell.  I would get that piece of furniture right out of the room immediately.  I would stick it down in the basement until it offgasses enough.  That’s one way to detox.

Now the truth is that formaldehyde probably never offgasses enough that it’s truly safe.  But to detox a room, you have to minimize whatever is toxic in it.  So if it’s the furniture, that’s one thing that goes.  If it’s an old chemical-sprayed rug, one that you’ve used a lot of retardants for stain and stuff on, you just have to get rid of that.  It’s time to roll it up.  What people forget is that, even with area rugs, the pad underneath is disintegrating over time.  We have a friend in New York who is being treated for leukemia.  He had a stem cell transplant, and they’re calling me for a lot of advice on how to detox the home.  The big thing they talked about was that they had all of the Oriental rugs taken to be steam cleaned.  No chemicals, just steam cleaned.  But it was the pads underneath that needed to be changed.  There was too much microbial growth.

Debbie:  Interesting.

Trudy: Get a new pad for under your rug.  There are a lot of simple things you can do.  You can put a coat of nontoxic paint on the walls.

Debbie:  You’re inspiring me.  There are some really simple things like that I need to do.  I think we’ve had the pads under our rugs for ten years.

Trudy:  There’s always time for a change!  We vacuum the rugs all the time and even have them shampooed from the surface.  But it’s best to roll them up and send them out to be steam cleaned.  And we never check that pad.  I’m guilty too.

Debbie:  Hey, Trudy, I always hear about mold and how that is really dangerous in a home.  Is there anything we can do about mold?

Trudy: The minute you have heat and moisture and darkness, you have a breeding ground for mold.  Mold needs all three.  You don’t see mold growing in bright sunlight.  You don’t see mold growing where there is no moisture, and you don’t see it growing where there is no heat.  So, if it’s freezing outside, you don’t see mold growing on the rocks or anything.  Mold and pesticides–those two are my pet peeves.  It is deleterious to your health.  They affect respiratory systems. Stachybotrys atra is one.  There were some fatalities in Long Island of infants who were in basement rooms that had been paneled, and there was stachybotrys atra growing on the sheetrock behind the paneling.

Debbie:  How do you test for mold?

Trudy: You can get kits.  You can order them online.  You put these little plates out, and then you collect them and send them off to a lab.  They will tell you if you have it or not.  You can also use a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).  They are wonderful.  These guys are like doctors.  They are just amazing.  They have so much information, and they can come and check for you.  It’s truly like having people with doctoral degrees in all these chemicals and the molds.  They are very valuable.  I have one I use all the time:  Microecologies in New York.  I’ve known them for about 15 to 20 years, and I have a lot of trust and faith in them.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, Deb, but when I walk into a moldy house, it smells sweet to me.  Have you ever noticed that?  I can smell the mold or the mildew.

Debbie:  Well, you’re such a pro, Trudy.

Trudy: I don’t know if it’s being a pro or that I have such heightened smells from being chemically sensitive.  That’s one of the downfalls of being chemically sensitive.

Debbie:  And I’m just so glad that you’ve been able to recover.  One of the reasons is because you live in this holistic house.

Trudy:  Deb, there’s one last thing I wanted to say.  We’re probably getting close to the end.

Debbie:  We are.

Trudy:  I was so torn between just talking about how to make your home pretty and beautiful and talking about it being green and healthy.  Then I realized that I want the two to go together, hand in hand.  And that’s why I talk about “eco-elegant.”  I want the two to not be separate, but to be all one.

We focused on the “green” now, because let’s start with everybody’s health.  Their environment, their built-in environment, their home, or just their bedroom, if they can do only one room in the home, is truly supporting.  It’s their underpinning.

Debbie:  Yes.

Trudy:  It’s got their back, so to speak, and their heart, as (Woman on Fire) Agapi Stassinopoulos (author of Unbinding the Heart) would say.

Debbie:  That is a very beautiful way to put that.  And, you know, Trudy, you are such a part of Women on Fire, and I’m grateful for Women on Fire to have access to your wonderful work.  I could go on and on.  I’m grateful to have a woman like you.

Trudy: Thank you.  I am so honored to be a part of this interview.

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Decorating with Antiques: a Deeper Shade of Green

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The Nantucket Historical Association hosts its annual Antiques & Design Show from August 1 to August 5 this year.  Dujardin Design Associates, Inc. will present a Designer’s Room Vignette with beautiful examples of treasured antiques and a display that shows them artfully placed in a room.  If you’re on Nantucket, come visit us at Bartlett’s Farm, 33 Bartlett Farm Road.  Here are all the details.   

In celebration of the timeless beauty of long-cherished objects and our desire to live lightly on the earth, it’s time we think about antiques in a new way.  Antiques are a part of a sustainable lifestyle, as well as a link to the past.  Let’s take a look at how these enduring parts of history can elevate both your life and your home’s design!

I have always been an ardent collector of antiques, and the addition of carefully selected pieces to sophisticated interiors is a recognizable signature of my design style.  Sharing my love for classic pieces comes naturally to me.  I find that my clients quickly embrace the elegance of antique furniture, and often become collectors themselves.  Homes are brought to life when old paintings, pieces of porcelain, or folk art add their charming artistry.

As we learn more about how to assess the health of our built environments, and steps we can take to keep our homes clean and pristine, it’s important to recognize the ways that antiques can be an integral part of a green lifestyle.

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 This is a fabulous collection of treenware, dating from the 19th to the 20th Century.  Note the darning egg, and the antique stereoscope–the earliest form of television!  The book displayed is by British treenware expert Burt Marsh. Photo:  Durstan Saylor

No Chemical Vapors Are Brought into your Home

Your home’s interior should be a place of fresh air and health.  Yet any new piece of furniture, cabinetry, flooring or finished wood has some chemical overtones.  Many fine finishes release vapors in a process called off-gassing.  In a closed environment, such as an energy efficient, airtight home, off-gassing can increase indoor air pollution to levels several times higher than those detected outside.  Antiques are a healthier choice than modern furnishings because they were created with less toxic products years ago, and any off-gassing has long been complete.

antique ships model

This living room is a showcase for beautiful antique accessories, including a 19th Century ship’s model behind the sofa, and a pair of lamps made from 18th Century Chinese Export porcelain.  A pair of 19th Century British hand carved candlesticks and a 19th Century ship’s captain’s lap desk are on the cocktail table.  Photo:  Durstan Saylor

No New Resources Are Used

Every beautiful piece of wooden furniture originated from a tree.  Whenever we purchase new wood furniture, unless we choose products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), we are contributing to the deforestation of our planet.  In contrast, wooden antiques are products of trees culled long ago from old-growth forests. Old pieces add a soothing mix of periods to a room, and since no new resources were used in their construction, their restoration and re-use is a green endeavor. 


 This study reflects the long seafaring history of the coast, with a 19th Century ship’s telescope, and a 19th Century ship’s barometer hanging to the right of the window.  Framed antique prints are on the wall, and the mantle holds part of a collection of sea captain doorstops.  

No Negative Environmental Impact is Created

Beyond the health issues in our homes, we should consider the costs to our planet.  Even the very greenest furniture manufacturers distribute impurities into our air, waste systems and water.  New furniture requires the production of finishes, dyes and sealants.  Shipping them demands the creation of packing materials, and they arrive in retail stores via large vehicles powered by fossil fuel.  The EPA estimates that three million tons of furniture are taken to landfills every year, only to be replaced with brand new pieces that can carry a large environmental cost.


An extremely rare 19th Century English scrimshaw tortoiseshell is displayed above the fireplace; on the mantle are several antique lighting devices:  a corkscrew pigtail candlestick complete with hook for hanging over a chair, a rush light holder and antique binoculars. Photo: Terry Pommett

Antiques Are Recycled Treasures

Beloved family pieces, original wooden floorboards and the softly faded colors of aged Oriental rugs do not belong in a landfill.  Treasures from another time can be loved and used again.  A federal mirror that has been passed from home to home and hand to hand brings history to life, and honors the work of long-ago artisans.

Dujardin Madaket british woolie

This is a mint condition 18th Century British Woolie, The Ship of Bengal, unusual for the ship’s identification as part of the design, and for its display of the British flag. Photo: Terry Pommett

Antiques Respect the Work of Long-ago Craftsmen 

Rather than purchasing a mass-produced item, treat yourself to something created in a small workshop by a craftsman who made good use of few resources.  In previous centuries, home furnishings were made by hand before machine-assembled items flooded the marketplace.  Artisans from years gone by had knowledge that largely disappeared during the Industrial Revolution.  Old joining techniques were abandoned in favor of more rapid assembly using staples and nails.  Fiber board was created and the beauty of the wood itself was lost.  Take the time to consider the difference between a finely hand-wrought piece and one processed in a factory.  Even contemporary rooms can be striking when modern pieces are blended with well-placed antiques. 

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This Ionic columned fireplace, in the Captain Parker house on Nantucket which I painstakingly restored, still retains its Sandwich glass clothesline knobs; string was wound between them so clothes could be hung to dry. Not all antiques are furniture.

Antiques Have Stood the Test of Time

Classic pieces are sturdy and well-made, which is why they have lasted.  The quality of their wood is usually stronger, created from timber with tighter growth rings, making repair a simple task when necessary.  Furniture that is unworthy of a craftsman’s repair time adds to our cycle of wasteful consumption.  Instead, your rooms can be accented with vintage furniture that has been lavished with love and care, and that honors history and tradition. 

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An old set of nesting baskets, handmade by 19th Century basket weavers. Photo: Erik Rank

Antique Collections Are a Personal Expression

I often find that a simple gesture, such as placing an antique tea caddy on a mantel, can inspire my clients to begin collections. There is tremendous beauty in items preserved throughout the years, particularly if they illuminate another time and way of life.  Learning about the subtle differences among artisans, the period when an item was created, or the materials that were used to make it, gives us a greater appreciation for life.  

My personal collections include treenware (handcarved wooden items used in the home long ago), old hotel silver, blue and white porcelain, and things that speak to me of lives lived on the ocean, including whaling artifacts, scrimshaw carvings and sailor whirligigs.

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The foyer of the lovingly restored Captain Parker House on Nantucket, circa 1700’s.

Not All Antiques Are Furniture

You can find antique cabinetry, flooring, doors, beams, posts, mantels and other architectural pieces.  Consider a gorgeous 18th Century door to add punch and personality to your entry, or how about antique doorknobs and a doorknocker?  An old mantel delivers instant charm; remilled old timbers bring panache to the pantry.  Add the incredible details that your home may be missing.


This Victorian milk glass doorknob was added to an old door to restore it to its 19th Century charm.

Antiques Add Beauty and Joy to Life

There is a thrill when you spot the perfect 19th Century French farm table, Georgian stand or double pedestal dining table.  You feel an immediate connection to the Italian walnut commode or a beautiful pair of small paintings.  Antique collectors know that old things have a soul, based on their authenticity.  Whether you fall in love with hand-embroidered vintage textiles or white ironstone pitchers, each well-chosen piece adds to the unique style that is yours alone.  

eye catching blend

Photo:  Durstan Saylor

Blending newly designed furnishings with antique collectibles is a wonderful way to express yourself.  Concrete work surfaces and stainless steel works beautifully when paired with your antique dining table and old wooden doors.  Don’t be afraid to mix periods and textures.  Contrast can be the spice of life, and add spice to your home as well!

Your Sacred Space: Part One of an Interview with Trudy and Women on Fire Founder Debbie Phillips

trudy dujardin and debbie phillips

I recently had the honor of being interviewed by my good friend Debbie Phillips for Women on Fire, the group she founded to bring an amazing circle of fabulous women together for inspiration, strategies and support.  The following is a transcript of part one of our talk on Your Sacred Space:  How to Create an Inspired, Healthy Living Environment. 

Debbie:  Hello, Woman on Fire!  Women on Fire is one of the most dynamic communities of women you will find anywhere.  And my guest today highlights the bonanza of talent and expertise we have inside our organization.  Today’s interview is part of our series on exploring Your Life.  Each month for a year, we are presenting a life topic with strategies on living your best, healthiest and most inspired life.  Last month we looked at Your Health and Wellbeing, and today we are discussing Your Sacred Space.  Our guest expert, Trudy Dujardin, is a pioneer and a leader in green design and eco-conscious living.  She is a nationally recognized interior designer who will share her valuable tips with us today for creating your own healthy, sacred environments.  And she will tell us why it’s essential to your good health and your family’s health to live this way.  

A little about Trudy before I bring her on:  Trudy Dujardin is the president of Dujardin Design Associates based in Westport, Connecticut, and on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.  For more than 25 years, she has designed some of the most elegant homes on Nantucket, in Connecticut, and throughout the country.  Her interior design firm is nationally recognized by industry experts, the media nad her clients for her distinctive eco-elegant desings.  She is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers, and she is a LEED Accredited Professional, recognized for her expertise in sustainable design and construction.  Trudy was one of the early pioneers to use non-toxic materials to create interiors rich in beauty and full of health.  Her personal journey includes a struggle with multiple chemical sensitivities, yet today she is fully recovered and passionately carries her message that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury to her friends and clients, and the audience of her widely read blog,  

Trudy is someone I know well, and I love and respect her personally and professionally.  She has influenced my taste and my style and my thinking for more than a dozen years.  Trudy is married to handsome Frank, and they have three amazing Bichon Frises, the cutest little white dogs you’ve ever seen.  Plus, I am so proud that Trudy is one of our Women on Fire members.  When I want to take a vacation, I go to Trudy’s website and blog; I’m not kidding, her work is so extraordinary that to luxuriate in her website for a while is just like going on vacation.  Welcome, Trudy Dujardin!

Trudy:  Hello! Thank you so much.  I’m thrilled to be here.

Debbie:  Aww, I’m happy to share you with Women on Fire.  I know a lot of women who have attended tea parties (Women on Fire signature gatherings) know you and you know them.  I just want to introduce you to everyone else who hasn’t had that pleasure yet.  And our first question always is–and you know this, Trudy, because you get the membership packet–our tradition:  What’s your day been like so far?

Trudy:  My day was pretty interesting so far.  I usually get up sometime between 3:30 and 5:00 every morning because I have, as we talked about, my three Bichons, and they’re the loves of my life.  They make me laugh out loud every day.  But two of them are almost 11, and they can’t make it through the night.  So when I wake up in the middle of the night, I worry about them.  I tiptoe downstairs, trying not to wake anybody else up, let them out, bring them in, and give them a little rice cracker.  Then I sneak back upstairs to try to catch another 40 winks.  If I have a heavy workload, I lie there and think about my day.  But I always start my day with prayers.  I have two that I say every morning, and it helps me focus on my day.  But I have another favorite, Debbie.  Do you remember Shakti Gawain?

Debbie:  Of course I do.

Trudy:  I love her, and I have an old tape of hers.  It’s not even a DVD/CD.  It’s an old audiotape, and it’s a visualization technique.  So I visualized this morning how our interview would go and our wonderful day.  Next–I don’t get a lot of points for this because I haven’t been doing this for long–but at 7:30 I got in the car and headed to the gym, where I worked out with a trainer from 8:00 to 9:00.  And so that everybody knows, I’m not a saint.  I don’t do that all the time.  I had fallen off the exercise wagon for a long time because of my business travels, and I decided on the first of the year that I needed to get going again.  So last week I began, and I’m thrilled to be back.  It just feels good.  It sets my day on the right path.  And then finally, I came back, ate breakfast, showered, and here I am with you!  And I love having you all to myself!

Debbie:  Excellent!  Well, good for you!

Trudy:  Later on, I’ll be working with a new project.  Debbie, I’ve been asked to sit on the board of a new organization called Her Haven. It’s the creation of Carey Dougherty (founder and executive director) and she is an amazing woman.  I just want to tell you about it, as I’m brand new to it.  But what Her Haven does–it’s right up your alley–is to create environments for women in need.  They get applications, and it’s kind of like makeovers, but they find out what they woman might need to do.  It could be somebody who really wants to be a writer, but she has so many kids and works, and so they create a little haven in her home.  And that’s why it’s called Her Haven.

Debbie:  I love that.

Trudy:  For the project we’re working on now, Carey has been interviewing the PTA at Sand Hook, Connecticut.  We all know what’s going on there and what a tragedy it was.  But we are trying to see if maybe they need something in the teachers’ lounge that will help comfort the teachers, a respite where they can go.  Or if there is a particular person in that town who may need Her Haven.  So that’s our mission and that’s to be continued.  I’ll fill you in on that more later.

Debbie:  Oh, I love it, and you’re such a perfect person to be on that board.

Trudy:  I’m bringing in the “green” element.

Debbie:  Well, I love it.  That’s fantastic.  So let’s talk a little bit, Trudy, about how old you were when you first knew you wanted to be a designer.

Trudy:  I’m not sure of the exact age, but what my parents told me is that I wasn’t even two and I was already sketching.  The interesting thing is I was always sketching rooms, environments.  They were almost like stage sets.

Debbie:  I just wondered, you said you were two years old and you were sketching?  Were you sketching with crayons?

Trudy:  Pencils.

Debbie:  Pencils.  Wow!

Trudy:  And then crayons.

Debbie:  Do you have any of those sketches?  Did your parents save them?

Trudy:  Oh, I’m sure there’s a box in the attic somewhere.

Debbie:  Well, tell us more about what inspired you to work in the field of design.  So you grew up loving to sketch, but then was there anything in particular?

Trudy: My uncle–my father’s brother–was a furniture designer.  So, of course, that was a direct lead in.  He had gone to the New York School of Interior Design, and back in the 1950s and 60s, when I was a tiny little kid, they used to take me to his studio in Greenwich Village.  I was so fascinated by it.  I would see these huge, thick slabs of marble and walnut.  He had a very elite clientele.  he was making racetrack-oval dining tables long before that was the fashion.  He was really ahead of his time.  We still have some of his furniture now.  It’s classic and timeless.  it should be in the Museum of Modern Art.  Just wonderful.  He was the inspiration for the art side of it.  My first present from him was his own wooden briefcase full of all his oil paints.  I carried that with me every day when I went to graduate school at New York University.  Now, for the flip side of the family, we go scientific, medical and then artistic.  My father worked for NASA.  He was in the space program, and he was a design engineer.  He designed thins such as the tile dial, as it was called for the space shuttle.  You know how the nose cone is all covered in tile for re-entry?

Debbie:  Oh, I’m quite familiar.  My brother Scott worked on the space shuttle from its inception to its last day.

Trudy:  My father designed the equipment for measuring how each tile should be slightly different.  It’s just amazing.  He also designed the Polaris Missile way back in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Debbie:  Oh, my goodness. 

Trudy:  My mother and I never knew what he was working on because he worked in a think tank with no windows.  he said if he had his life to do over again, he would get a job where he worked outside.

Debbie:  And now he can.

Trudy:  And now he can.  Right.

Debbie:  I know your father is still alive and well.

Trudy:  He is still alive and well.  He was my exercise buddy last week.  I thought, “I need someone to make me accountable.”  So, at 89 years old, he was getting up in the morning and going to the gym with me, just to keep me honest.

Debbie:  All right, Dad!  Well, Trudy, I love your motto: “A healthy home is the ultimate luxury.” Tell us a little more about that.  How did you come up with that?  What does that mean exactly? 

Trudy:  As you know, we have a lot of very high-end clients on Nantucket.  I was thinking that they have all these beautiful things, but to really make a house pay off and serve them well, it needs to support their health, which means that the indoor air quality has to be just sterling.  It has to be perfect for them, and they can afford it.  I’ve been at this since 1987.  I was very early in on it, and a lot of the builders on Nantucket thought it was a little loopy.  They’d ask, “What do you mean the paint is going to hurt you?” It’s hard for people to change.  So I had to educate my clients.  They would say, “I don’t have allergies, so that’s not important to me.” And I would say that it’s important for your long-term health.  Every item on the face of the earth emits vapors of fumes.  They’re called VOCs–Volatile Organic Compounds.  All of these things chip away at your armor.  So even if you are perfectly health, why start chipping away at it?  And then we have to think about our children and our pets and the elderly.  If we’re going to spend a lot of money, and have this luxurious home, let’s make it healthy too.  Why not?

Debbie:  Right.  And for our women, it doesn’t matter how luxurious it is.  We want to talk today about how anybody an make their home healthy.  I’d like to go back, Trudy.  How did your passion for “green” begin?  You were an interior designer, and you came upon these healthier materials and began to use them. 

Trudy:  It’s complex.  Just the other day I listened to your interview with Agapi Stassinopoulos and I was just so inspired by her and her feelings about her mother.  It jarred my memory.  But I used to think that the origin was that my former husband and I bought this beautiful piece of property on the harbor in Nantucket, and I was so in love with the island that I wanted to do this project right.  I thought it was a really healthy island, so let’s not have things silting off of the property and contaminating the water supply, hurting the scallop population  I thought that was the origin of my “greenness,” but then listening to Agapi’s wonderful message the other day, I realized that my mother was terminally ill with breast cancer.  She lived only to 51.  I helped her through those almost four years, and I realized that I just started questioning everything we were doing, having been raised on a farm in South Carolina with all the crop dusting and pesticides and insecticides.  i think I told you that I was the first-born, long-awaited grandchild, and they just cherished me.  So they would put me in a cot on a sleeping porch along a whole bank of windows to keep me cool at night.  It was nothing for it to be 105 degrees in South Carolina.  Then they sprayed my cot with DDT to keep the mosquitoes away.  That was probably the origin of the liver issues that caused my chemical sensitivity.  Am I answering your question?

Debbie:  Yes, you are.  And I want to just clarify because a lot of Women on Fire do know Agapi Stassinopoulos, and you are referring to the CD with her on it.  It’s quite inspiring.

Trudy:  But I want to backtrack a little bit.  I think “luxury” means when we luxuriate in something.  It doesn’t have to be a half-million-dollar home.  It doesn’t have to be anything.  The luxury of it is that you’re supporting your health.  To me, that’s the ultimate luxury.  I talk about how, every day, we’re in containers.  We get up in the morning, and we’re in our house.  We get in our car, and drive to work.  Then we’re in an office building.  We put the kids on a school bus and they go to a school.  We pick the kids up from school in a car and take them to the music teacher’s house or to the doctor’s office.  it’s endless.  We’re in a phone booth.  We’re in an airport.  What I’m striving for is indoor air quality–whatever we put in that space.  And the only space you can really control is your own environment, your home, so that everything in there supports your health and wellbeing.

To be continued:  in our next segment in July, I talk about my struggle with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and how I recovered, plus tips on how to make your home healthy and holistic!


Tales from the Crib: Tips for a Green Baby


When talking about creating a healthy home, I’ve often said the first place to begin is in the bedroom.  For families with children, especially babies, the first place to start is in the nursery.  We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, in close contact with bedding, mattresses and the often closed-air environment of a modern bedroom; for babies, their contact with nursery materials is multiplied as they can spend many more hours in sleep.

During sleep, your body works to remove any toxins you were exposed to during the day, and to restore energy and health. Babies, with their rapidly growing minds and bodies, need a pristine environment with clean air and minimal contaminants. According to the EPA, one of the top five hazards to human health is indoor air.  Here are some simple steps you can take to keep your baby happy and healthy:

  • When painting the nursery and refinishing floors, use no VOC paints and finishes.  VOCs are Volatile Organic Compounds, chemicals (such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, and zylene) that “off-gas” for extended periods of time into the air we breathe. Non-toxic, no-VOC paints use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, reducing the levels of heavy metals. Look for products with the Green Seal Standard, which certifies that they meet certain industry standards for VOCs.  (One of my favorite products is Envirosafe, a company which which uses no fungicides or biocides at all)


  • Choose hardwood, stone or tile floors that can be easily cleaned, and cover them with an organic wool or cotton rug.

coyuchi organic baby

  • Select an organic mattress for the crib, made with natural latex, wool or organic cotton. Be sure all the baby bedding is organic as well.  Babies snuggle into their blankets and put their mouths on everything; non-organic cotton is grown in fields soaked in insecticides.  Dyes and color fixers use heavy metals such as chromium, copper and zinc.  A good source for organic baby bedding and bath items is Coyuchi.  Their products are made from 100% certified organic cotton and are produced using fair labor practices.


baby organic cribs

  • Choose eco-friendly wood furniture that is FSC certified, a designation from the Forest Stewardship Council ensuring that the wood was grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term. Chemicals such as formaldehyde and polyisocyanurate can also be emitted from plywood and manufactured wood products.The Organic Mattress Store offers maple, oak, ash or cherry cribs made without plywood or particleboard; it comes unfinished or with a Green Seal Tung Oil organic finish.  It’s also the place to get organic baby mattresses, made with natural rubber and organic wool, a natural fire deterrent.


  • Invest in a good air-filtration system. Clear the nursery air by adding a room purifier, or go one step further and install a central filtration system. Models are available that clear particulates that can’t be seen by the naked eye, such as dust and pet dander, along with mold spores, pollen and chemical gases such as sulfuric acid, ammonia and formaldehyde.


  • Be clean and green with non-toxic cleaners.  Many conventional cleaning products actually can pollute baby’s room with a toxic mixture of petrochemicals.  Seventh Generation has created a line of safe, natural baby products, as part of their “Campaign for a Toxin-Free Generation.”  You can purchase everything from  safe nursery and household cleaning products to diapers, baby laundry detergent and gentle skin care.


baby 2

Other important Green Baby Tips:

  • Be sure to use glass baby bottles, never plastic.  When plastic is heated, it can leach a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) into baby formula at forty times the safe limit, potentially disrupting baby’s endocrine system.  


  • Dress baby in non-toxic sleepwear.  There are options which use acrylics and natural materials with tight weaves that can pass flame retardancy standards without the use of polybrominatd diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a chemical which is now found worldwide in dust, indoor and outdoor air, and waterways.


  • Make health and wellness as natural a choice in your daily life as the love and attention you so effortlessly give your precious children.  A healthy child is raised in a healthy home, and a healthy home is the ultimate luxury.


Health Begins in the Kitchen

“The cure for what ails us both in our bodies and in our nation can be found in the kitchen. It is a place to rebuild community and connection, strengthen bonds with family and friends, teach life-giving skills to our children, enrich and nourish our bodies and our souls. Yet, in the twenty-first century, our kitchens (and our taste buds) have been hijacked by the food industry. In 1900 only 2 percent of meals were eaten outside of the home; today that number is over 50 percent.”

That quote comes from a brand new book, The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook, by Mark Hyman, MD.  Dr. Hyman is a family physician, a four time New York Times bestselling author, and is a recognized leader in the field of Functional Medicine:  a way to empower people to stop managing symptoms and instead treat the underlying causes of illness.  He is responsible for coining the phrase “diabesity,” to describe an American population beset by weight gain, diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook

The right diet is not the same for everyone; for instance, I feel best when I follow a sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free diet, as espoused by Dr. Hyman in his new cookbook.  Although the regimen you follow may differ, what is clear is that we must give up on dependence on fat, sugar and salt pumped into factory-made foods.  Dr. Hyman encourages us to take back our kitchens, and our food, and start cooking real meals, made from real ingredients.  His cookbook, just released, offers wonderful recipes to help us do just that.

He tells us:  “We are brainwashed into thinking that cooking real food costs too much, is too hard, and takes too long. Hence, we rely on inexpensive convenience foods. But these aren’t so convenient when we become dependent on hundreds of dollars of medication a month, when we can’t work because we are sick and fat and sluggish, or when we feel so bad we can’t enjoy life anymore.”

Preparing a meal from scratch, by contrast, can be a chance to reconnect with our spouse, children or aged parents.  Sharing that meal can be a ceremony, a ritual, a mindful observance of what matters most in the midst of a hectic life.  That is what a kitchen is designed for, and is its ultimate and most meaningful purpose.

Another book I have found useful on my way to more healthful eating is Forks Over Knives, edited by Gene Stone, which proposes that most, if not all, degenerative diseases can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.  Forks Over Knives:  The Plant-Based Way to Health is a book, a cookbook, and a film available on DVD or Blu-ray.  You can learn more from the website and blog found at 
There are other books, other cookbooks and other ways to preserve health, but there has been an overwhelming concensus from the nutrition and diet industry that fruits and vegetables are woefully lacking in our diets, and that increasing the amount we eat is the optimal path back to health.  Choosing organically-grown foods makes sense, as does eating animal protein as a condiment, not an entree, if you choose to retain meat in your diet.
An excellent source of organically-grown vegetables, if you live on Nantucket, is Pumpkin Pond Farm. This  9.5 acre farm and nursery located at 25 Millbrook Road owned by Marty McGowan is Eden-like oasis of color and flavor, offering a wide variety of delicious vegetables and greens.

My passion is helping my clients create beautiful and healthy homes, so I am often called upon to design extraordinary kitchens.  This is the place where nutritious, organic meals are prepared and enjoyed by family and friends, and so it is, truly,  the very heart of the home.

As Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma said, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  That’s good advice.  I intend to follow it.  I hope you do, too.

The Power of One


I often speak about my belief in the Power of One, the power each of us has to make a difference in this world.  Sometimes the problems we face as human beings can seem insurmountable, but they are not.  Together we can create a better world and a kinder planet, but someone has to take the first step.  The second step is easier, the third step easier still.  That’s when you find other people following you.

Here are a few of the things that inspire me to take a step:  Earth HourLight It Up Blue for Autism Speaks;  Her Haven, a new organization I’ve joined as a board member; and sharing what I know about eco-conscious living.



Dare the World to Save the Planet.  Switch off your lights on Saturday, March 23rd at 8:30 p.m. your local time, and show the world what you’re willing to do.  The world is using the equivalent of one and a half planets to support life on earth today.  Earth Hour is the single, largest, symbolic mass participation event in the world.  Born our of a hope that it could mobilize people to take action on climate change, Earth Hour now inspires a global community of millions of people in 7,001 cities and towns across 152 countries and territories to switch lights off as a massive show of concern for the environment.

There is no doubt that the world is facing some of the most critical environmental challenges in history.  That may make a sustainable future seem difficult to imagine, but it is possible.  Change this big needs you.  It needs every one of us. Join the global community at Earth Hour to see where change is already underway.





Light It Up Blue, annually observed on April 2,  is dedicated to raising awareness of Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. This initiative is intended to raise international awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis in support of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month in the United States.

Iconic landmarks around the globe – including the Empire State Building in New York City and Willis Tower in Chicago along with the CN Tower in Toronto and Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia – as well as airports, bridges, museums, concert halls, restaurants, hospitals, and retail stores, are among more than 100 structures in over 16 U.S. cities and nine countries around the world lthat lit up in bright blue on the evening of April 1, 2010 – the first night of Autism Awareness Month in the United States and the eve of World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD).

Here are a few ways you can help in 2013:

  • Wear your Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin every day throughout the month of April, and tell people about autism if they ask about it. To purchase your pin and other Light It Up Blue items, visit the shop at
  • Wear blue clothing and ask your friends, co-workers and schools to wear blue too.
  • Take a group photo and upload it to
  • Purchase blue light bulbs and lanterns from Home Depot and replace your outdoor lighting with these blue bulbs, or you can buy blue lighting filters to cover existing lighting.
  • Buy a Light It Up Blue yard sign to show your support throughout your community
  • Visit and download the free Light It Up Blue iPhone application so you can add your photos to the Light It Up Blue website.  Visit the website for lots more ideas!




I recently was invited to join the board of a wonderful charitable organization called Her Haven, dedicated to giving women in need a serene and comfortable space for themselves, Her Haven aims to honor women who are inspiring, deserving and giving by redesigning a room in their home or work environment. I’ll be providing information on sustainable design and keeping it “green” for the clients helped by Her Haven.  Visit their website here to find out ways that you can help us in our mission to design a difference.  


Debbie Phillips, founder of the fabulous organization Women on Fire, a membership organization of women dedicated to making a difference in the world,  interviewed me on Monday, February 18th.  She wanted me to share my passionate belief that A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury with her 3,000+  dynamic followers.  We talked about the fact that when we begin to embrace the idea of change and holistic living, we must first start in our own homes. 

My website, blog, Facebook page and personal outreach efforts are all dedicated to helping people understand the importance of sustainable design and healthy lifestyles.  I hope if I’ve been able to help you learn more, that you’ll pay it forward by sharing my social networking sites with your friends and family.

It all begins with education.  I’ve also been asked to work with a Sustainable Design class at Keane University, and will be skyping with them on March 27th.  I’m excited by the opportunities I’ve been given to share the knowledge I have gained in my years of living an eco-elegant life, and sharing it with my clients, friends and followers.

Theodore Roosevelt said to “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  That’s what I’m doing.  I hope you’ll do it, too. 




Fabulous Floors

Artistry.  It’s what turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.   Making imaginative choices that are both healthful and stunning in their impact.  The floor above is a compilation of glass tiles, designed in a holistic home (mine) to support air quality and still add beauty and grace to the landing.  When you want to add pattern and punch to your room, the floor beneath your feet may be the very first place to look.

A painted wood floor is the elegant end note in this dining room.  The geometric design softly introduces an architectural element into a surface that is too often overlooked.

Wood floors are durable, beautiful, and never need to be boring!  For a healthy, holistic home, be sure to use eco-friendly wood with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) designation, promoting responsible wood harvesting, or choose recycled wood that can be repurposed with non-VOC water-based finishes.

A compass rose graces the floor of this island home, an homage to its sea-faring history.  The compass rose is thought to have been coincidentally designed in a fashion that resembled the rose flower.  For old-time mariners, it helped to orient a map in the proper reading direction and gave relative directions for certain points on the chart.

Dujardin Madaket 022Dujardin Madaket 032

This cherry floor simply glows.  It’s been hand-rubbed with fourteen coats of tea stain and coated with a non-toxic water-based urethane.  It’s as healthful as it is beautiful.

A product that I believe in is SafeCoat paints, stains, wood finishes, sealers and other green building products.  They use only high quality, very refined resins and raw materials to avoid residual chemicals that offgas and cause problems for people with allergies or sensitivities. The Center for Green Building, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has a wonderful website with a listing of SafeCoat products as well as other products that are safe for the people manufacturing them, safe for the people exposed to them, and safe for the environment.

Everyone deserves to live in a home without chemical offgassing, not just people who are allergic or sensitive.  People with chemical sensitivities are like the canaries in the mine shaft:  they react to smaller amounts of chemicals that are harmful to everyone.  It’s important to do the research.  The fact that a product has no Volatile Organic Compounds doesn’t necessarily mean it is free of toxic ingredients, such as formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is present in many products because it is very inexpensive and it works well as a preservative. SafeCoat’s standards preclude the use of formaldehyde in any form, which makes it safer for everyone.

For a complete set of instructions on transitioning to water-base from oil-base paints and finishes, visit their website tips pages. 

Once you know your wood floors meet the highest environmental standards, you can add softness underfoot with area rugs and runners.  Stars proclaim a love of all things nautical, and add casual comfort and a burst of color to this entry hall and staircase.

Organic wool carpets in charming designs pull all the elements of seaside colors together in this living room.  Sand, sea and sky were the inspiration for this delightful space.



Connecting the Dots

There’s so much information about health risks bombarding us every day, warning us to avoid things or add things, do this and don’t do that.  It can make your head spin.  Scientists and environmental physicians agree that exposure to chemicals can be dangerous for your long term health.  The problem is that illnesses, including cancer and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, can take decades to develop.  We’re all exposed to thousands of toxins both inside and outside our homes:  how do we connect the dots and protect ourselves and our families from harmful chemicals?

You wouldn’t take a bath in paint thinner or breathe gas fumes for fun, as Mehmet Oz, M.D., and Michael Roizen, M.D. said in a recent article they wrote for Real Age.  But little risks, such as breathing paint fumes one day and cleaning with ammonia another, may add up.  Melanie Haiken wrote a wonderful informative piece on how to cancer proof your home, including how to replace seven carcinogens you may not have recognized for Yahoo Health.

To keep it simple, here are my top five things I believe everyone should do.  Remember that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury!

1. Make your bedroom the cleanest room in the house.

During sleep, your body works to remove any toxins you were exposed to during the day, and to restore energy and health for body and mind.  Replace your mattress and bedding with 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 zink.  You can request “no fire retardant chemicals” be used on your mattress; this requires a prescription from your doctor.

2. Keep the air in your house pure.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America rates indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks.  Clear and purify your air by adding a room air-purifier, or go further and install a central filtration system.  Models are available that can remove particulates such as dust and pet dander, along with molds, spores, pollen and chemical gases such as sulfuric acid, ammonia and formaldehyde.  Commercial cleansers are often overlooked culprits in polluting indoor air; some of their ingredients are carcinogenic and toxic to the lungs, liver and kidneys.

3.  Reduce or Eliminate VOCs with Water-Based Paints.

That just-painted smell is actually the off-gassing of chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and zylene.  The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from paints last far longer than the odor does, as can vapors from floor stains, finishes, sealants and caulks. According to the EPA, some of these VOCs are known to cause cancer.  Low- or No-VOC products use water as a carrier instead of petroleum-based solvents, reducing the levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde. Even low VOC paints, though, 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.

4. Be Clean and Green with Non-Toxic Cleansers
Many conventional cleaning products, rather than cleaning your home, actually pollute it with a toxic mixture of petrochemicals. Experts say chemicals inside our homes may have concentrations of up to 100 times higher than outdoor air. Synthetic fragrances are added to mask the odor of chemical vapors, implicated in headaches, dizziness, skin rashes and respiratory problems, as well as deadly diseases.  There are many good green cleaning products on the market made from natural ingredients, such as Seventh Generation:  look for products containing citrus oils and enzymes.  You can also make your own from items you have in your pantryI’ve given instructions on an earlier post.  Read it here.

5.  Protect your lawn and garden from contaminants.

Once you’ve made your home a safe-haven from fumes and toxic chemicals, you won’t want to live surrounded by pesticides and harsh fertilizers.  Lawn and garden chemicals are poisons to things that live, including you and your pets.  The residue from these products are too easily tracked into your house, polluting your pristine space.  A study from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested.  Many of these chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, and liver or kidney damage.  Learn to tolerate a few weeds, or get the family outside in the fresh air to dig them out by hand.  Healthy soil is “alive,” so boost your soil’s health by spreading organic compost or alfa meal.

To do even more for your health, be vigilant about BPA in plastic bottles and pitchers, and in canned goods.  Cook with glass, cast iron or porcelain or ceramic-coated pans rather than old nonstick cookware.  And choose skincare products made from natural and organic ingredients.  Doing just these few things will help to minimize the effects of unavoidable exposure to toxic chemicals and fumes.

Finally, believe, like I do, in the Power of One:  the power each of us has to make an impact, create change, and help heal the earth.






Living Brightly on the Earth

Few things affect our moods and the beauty of our surroundings more than light.  Especially in the winter months, the lights we choose to vanquish the shadows of the early evening darkness are critical to living well, and for many of us, feeling happy. Luckily, LED lights, the most efficient lighting available, are getting better and better.

We’re used to the warm golden glow of incandescent bulbs, but they’ve been described as little heaters that happen to put out light. Incandescent bulbs burn out quickly and are inefficient energy users when compared to newer sources of lighting.  LED lights (Light Emitting Diodes) were first introduced six years ago, providing a greener option than compact flourescent lights (CFLs), which contain mercury.

The first generation of LEDS, though, cast a cool, bluish light, which was a problem for some consumers.  Thanks to recent developments in LED technology, the new bulbs produce a much warmer light, closer to the warmth of traditional incandescent bulbs. Lest you believe that LED lights can’t be beautiful, take a look at the glorious holiday light display at the famous Longwood Gardens in Delaware.  The Gardens converted to 100% LED lighting this year, and their Christmas event is more spectacular than ever.

Although LED lights are more expensive initially to purchase, they last significantly longer, in some cases, for as long as 20 years.  This makes them invaluable when placing them in hard to reach ceiling and recessed fixtures, and for commercial buildings and skyscrapers.  LED lights reach 80 % efficiency, which means 80% of the electrical energy is converted to light energy, with only 20% lost as heat energy.  Compare that with the incandescent bulb, which converts only 20% of the electrical energy to light energy, and loses 80% as heat energy.

Incandescent lights, contrary to rumors, will still be available, but the old 100 watt bulb is being replaced by 72 watt bulbs with the same light output and a longer life.  Whatever kind of lighting you prefer, energy efficiency has become a driving force in the industry. That’s good news for your home, your office, and the earth.


image source incandescent light bulb:

image source LED light bulb:





Find us in New England Home’s Summer Cape and Islands Issue!

Creating beautiful, gently green interiors is both my work and my passion, but there’s a special pleasure involved when I work in a home of architectural significance.  New England Home Magazine’s Summer Cape and Islands Issue features Dujardin Design interiors in just such a place:  a home designed by architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen in Sconset, on Nantucket Island.


Photography:  Michael Partenio

Designed by Mr. Jacobsen in 1990 and untouched since it was built, it is a prime example of the Jacobsen style:  a large center pavilion flanked by “outbuildings” recalling the barns, detached kitchens and smokehouses of rural America.  The house fits perfectly into the Nantucket landscape, with gray exterior and minimal trim.


Photography:  Michael Partenio

The interiors we created preserved all the original details of the house, and celebrated Mr. Jacobsen’s vision, while fitting the home to the new owners’ lifestyle, and resulting in more healthful surroundings.


Photography:  Michael Partenio

It was our pleasure to carefully select striking furniture and fixtures to mirror the clean lines of the house, while infusing the home with quiet luxury.


Photography:  Michael Partenio

Be sure to pick up a copy of the Cape and Islands Issue, and enjoy a visit to a bright, sun-filled, truly American home!



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.


Painting the Town Green!

EnviroSafe paints used on these interior walls set off the vintage tin sand toys, a whimsical touch.

Your health isn’t bordered by your body.” —Michael Pollan

  According to the EPA, one of the top five hazards to human health is indoor air. Research teams there have found that pollutants can be two to five times higher inside your home than outside, regardless of whether you live in a rural or highly industrial area.  After an activity like paint stripping, toxic chemicals can test 1,000 times higher indoors than outdoors.

If that surprises you, consider the hundreds of gallons of paints and finishes used over the lifetime of your home, from floor to ceiling, and from wall to wall. As those paints and finishes  “off-gas, ” they may be releasing a variety of chemicals and toxic by-products, and the air in your home suffers.  Your health may suffer as well.

Paints with high concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have been used for years.  That just-painted smell in a new or renovated house is actually the off-gassing of chemicals like benzene, formaldehyde, toluene and zylene.  The fumes from these paints last far longer than the odor, however, as can fumes from floor stains and finishes, sealants and caulks.  Harmful fumes can even leak from closed containers, which is why it is recommended that you only buy the amount of product you’re going to use, and never store leftover products inside your home.

As a designer, I’ve spent my life creating homes for my clients that are as healthy as they are beautiful. I believe that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury.  I’m also concerned for the health of the workers who are exposed on a daily basis to chemicals that leave them with headaches, fatigue and asthma.  My commitment to environmental awareness, both personally and professionally, has led me to find highly effective products that protect the health of humans and homes alike.

In renovating my new home on Nantucket Island, I used No VOC paints from EnviroSafe on all interior surfaces, as they are specially formulated for clean air and healthy interior environments.  That’s more important than ever in today’s airtight, energy-efficient homes.

I’m delighted that consumer demand has led to the development of many new, healthier products, including Low Odor or Low VOC paint, Zero VOC paint, and non-toxic or natural paints.  Low 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.

Green Seal is an independent, non-profit group that sets standards for environmentally responsible, or “green” products.  Do be aware, however, that even low VOC paints can contain toxins like fungicides and biocides, chemicals that are used to prevent mildew growth and extend the shelf life of the product.  What sets EnviroSafe apart is that they have no fungicides or biocides at all. They were one of the very first companies to create a line of No VOC paints for their chemically sensitive customers.  Since municipal tap water has been found to contain VOCs in just about every major metropolitan area throughout America, the water EnviroSafe uses in their paints is pure, filtered water pumped from a private well located in a rural area.

Their paints are available in a wide spectrum of colors, but since it’s made in small batches, you may need to plan ahead when ordering.  You can reach EnviroSafe at 830-232-6467.

EnviroSafe interior paints are available in flat, satin and semi-gloss, just like the nationally known brands you may know better. Chemically sensitive clients rely on products like these.

We can’t make toxins vanish into thin air, but we can do a lot to improve the air we breathe when we’re home with family and friends.  Visit my website at to see luxurious examples of eco-elegance.  A healthy, beautiful home is possible for all of us.