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Gently green conversations with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

Fall in Love with Your Bedroom

Trudy Dujardin

“When I woke up this morning, my girlfriend asked me, ‘Did you sleep good?’ I said, ‘No, I made a few mistakes.'”–Stephen Wright, American Comic

It’s hard to seriously imagine making mistakes while you’re sleeping, but if you’re designing a bedroom, there are good and better choices for your lifelong health. During sleep, your body works to remove any toxins that you were exposed to during the day.  A beautiful, serene environment that soothes you at the end of your day is best when it also supports your health.

Sleep is the time for cellular repair, for rejuvenation, for restoration of energy and health for both body and mind.That’s why, more than any other room in the house, you want your bedroom to be a pristine environment. You may be surprised to learn that your bedroom can be a repository of potentially harmful chemicals. Conventional mattresses, for example, are made with petroleum-based polyester and polyurethane foam, then treated with flame retardants. Those chemicals can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that become part of the air you breathe.

Pillows are also often made of synthetic materials that are treated with chemical finishing agents. Other sources of possible chemical contamination: Carpets, wall paint, wood furniture, even your cotton pajamas. With everything else you have on your mind, you don’t need worries about the health of your bedroom to keep you up at night.

Fortunately, there are products available to ensure your rest is undisturbed by allergens, toxins, or chemical vapors. For my interior design clients, I recommend using natural furnishings and finishes free of formaldehyde, VOCs, and petroleum-based products. Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure a healthful night’s sleep:

Choose low or no-VOC paints for your walls and wood trim. Paints can emit VOCs over a long period of time, so just airing out the room may not be sufficient.

Choose hardwood floors (easiest to clean), finish them with water-based sealants (one of my favorites is Basic Coatings), and finally, cover them with organic wool or cotton area rugs.

Select an organic mattress, made with natural latex, wool or organic cotton. Be sure your pillows are natural as well. You can find pillows filled with organic wool or natural latex foam, and covered with organic cotton. Non-organic cotton is a heavily-toxin laden fabric. Cotton is grown in fields soaked in insecticides; dyes and color fixers use heavy metals such as chromium, copper, and zinc.

When choosing wood furniture, consider eco-friendly wood products that are 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. Antique furniture is beautiful, and has the added benefit of no longer emitting harmful gases from wood or finishes.

Clear the air by adding a room air-purifier, or go one step further and install a central filtration system. Models are available that filter particulates (pollen, dander, and mold) and vapors (formaldehyde).

Remember that a good night’s sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you follow even one of these suggestions, you’ll be taking a step forward in improving the health of yourself, your family, and the earth. After many years of devoting my work to sustainable design, my clients tell me they sleep easy. I want that for you as well.

Naturally Romantic Bedrooms

Dujardin Madaket 025

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

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

Here’s how you do it:

  • Choose No VOC paints for Walls and Wood Trim

Dujardin Urban Oasis 012 compressed

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

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

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

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

master bedroom

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

  • Sleep on an organic mattress.

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

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

Captain's Quarters Master Bedroom

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

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

  • Make Your Bed with Natural, Organic Textiles


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

  • Less is More


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

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

  • Make Your Bedroom Your Retreat

Monomoy  Master Bedroom

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

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

  • Reconsider the Television

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

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

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