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THE 2008 HC&G IDEA HOUSE

June 15, 2008

Green is Good
By Samuel T. Clover

IDEA HOUSE DESIGNERS SHOW THAT ECO-FRIENDLY DESIGN COMES IN MANY SHADES OF GREEN

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There once was a time—say, back when President Carter, wearing a cardigan, told us to save energy by turning down the thermostat—when words like "conservation" and "recycling" struck fear into the hearts of the fashion forward. Comfort and style, it seemed, had to be sacrificed to reduce our carbon footprint. But like wide ties and the leisure suit, those days are gone. Today, new technologies and smart design are causing a revolution in environmentally friendly living. A primary goal of the 2008 HC&G Idea House is to showcase some of these new design concepts and demonstrate that luxury and beauty can indeed go hand-in-hand in our designers' quest to go green.

But what, exactly, is green design? "We often refer to 'shades of green,'" says architect and designer David Bergman, who designed the master bathroom and dressing room. Bergman, who teaches sustainable design at Parsons The New School for Design, says plainly: "The only perfect green product is nothing at all. Now obviously, we can't do 'nothing at all.' Therefore, we're trying to do things that are as close to heavily green as we can."

In the master bathroom, Bergman is covering the walls with eco-friendly ceramic tiles and non-toxic paint from Mythic. In a dramatic stroke, recycled glass mosaic tiles lining the glass-box shower floor spill over the bathroom's eco-cement floor and encircle a freestanding tub. "It looks like a river of pebbles," Bergman says. Overhead, a pendant light fashioned from a salvaged bicycle wheel—made by Bergman's lighting company, Fire & Water—features color-changing LED lighting, which lasts 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs while burning up to 10 times brighter.

To allow light into the formerly enclosed master dressing room, Bergman inserted stationary glass panels into his Hulsta closet design to allow natural light to enter the room from the exterior wall's second-story clerestory windows. The room boasts another LED pendant (supplemented with compact fluorescent lighting) and a vanity by DucDuc, an eco-friendly children's furniture company now branching into adult lines. In a nod to recycling and reuse, a two-bin hamper isn't for colors and whites but "dirty and donate."

Adjacent to the master bathroom/dressing area, architect S. Russell Groves is designing a master bedroom that he describes as "a serene, relaxed and comfortable retreat that reflects nature and the beach setting." No stranger to eco-friendly design—his firm just completed The Lucida, the first LEED-certified luxury residential building on the Upper East Side—Groves is mixing vintage furniture reupholstered in eco-friendly fabric with new pieces of his own design, made with FSC-certified wood frames and cushions of natural down and latex filling. "Most of our furniture is handmade, avoiding high factory consumption," Groves says. "It's also very high quality, intended to last forever, so it helps reduce waste in the landfill." A patchwork Hakimian rug made from antique kilims adds an exotic touch.

To architect Campion Platt, who is designing the family room, "green design is 'cradle to cradle,'" as outlined in William McDonough's revolutionary 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, which advocates zero-waste manufacturing through the use of endlessly recyclable and/or biodegradable materials. Currently working on a green development at the Greenbrier Sporting Club in West Virginia, Platt admits his family room is "light green, because not all the material we want is out there yet," including biodegradable upholstery. However, he is using products of his own design, including a patchwork daybed made from scraps of leftover material.

According to Idea House design director Kyle Timothy Blood, part of the green philosophy is sharing knowledge, too—of vendors, products, techniques and technology. "In many ways, putting this house together, both logistically and aesthetically, has been what an 18th-century barn-raising would have been like," Blood says. "Everyone in the community has come out to help create one of the most forward-thinking houses on the East End with the shared goal to show how 'green' and 'luxury' can exist symbiotically."


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