As a mother of three children, living and working in one of the most frenetic cities in the world, I have always been searching for ways to help my family of five stay healthy, calm and innovative. We'd been integrating alternative medicines and organic foods into our lives way before it became chic. And as the former senior producer of Good Morning America, overseeing all of the medical news that went out to millions of viewers every day, making healthy choices has been a top priority. We're always willing to look into new paths to wellness from integrative medicine to heart-centered yoga and chemical-free baby wipes. After doing extensive research on every health topic you can imagine during my days at the office, I would often announce to my husband Paul, "We're only eating organic!" or "We're trying Reiki!" Paul, an ever-supportive and very hardworking architect with his own practice in Manhattan, usually goes along for the ride. And we've discovered that our lifestyle changes have only made our lives better.
A few years ago, when green building was still very much on the fringes, and certainly so in the Big Apple, we closed on a real eyesore of an 1885 brownstone on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After a chance meeting with a couple at an environmental fundraiser for Healthy Child Healthy World, the organization they founded after losing a child to a nonhereditary cancer, and learning about their totally green house in California, Paul and I decided we should expand our own green initiatives and renovate the broken-down house green, top to bottom. Now, finding contractors, suppliers, materials, finishes, paints, flooring, furniture, appliances, and fabrics that fit our stringent requirements wasn't easy. We wanted our house to be free of dangerous chemicals, as energy efficient as possible, and filled with only with sustainable or recycled materials.
We spent many late nights searching online and hours on the phone that led us to beautiful fabrics, comfortable and glamorous furniture, and recycled materials all of which were easy on the earth. We were so lucky that our research led us to so many wonderful people who told us what worked, what didn't, and where to find environmentally friendly companies and products. And we turned that eyesore of a building into the most beautiful house on the block!
What we could have really used at the time was this book! When we started out, we looked for a coffee table book that would inspire us with pictures of gorgeous green homes, tales of the road to living green, and resources for eco-companies. It didn't exist. So we decided to write our own book to share what we've learned and showcase other stunning houses across the country. It's been an incredible journey and we've been thrilled to find such an awe-inspiring variety of homes and homeowners from Seattle to Fort Lauderdale. We found that green homes do come in every size, shape, and imaginable style. There's cutting-edge design, like the ultra-sleek house overlooking the Pacific made entirely out of refrigeration panels by eco-superstar architect David Hertz. But we also found plenty of homes to suit more classic tastes, like environmental activist Laura Seydel's grand and elegant, antiques-filled house in Georgia.
There's certainly no specific type of person who lives in a green house; the homeowners we met include young couples living in their first place, single fathers, and retirees who finally built their dream house. While some homeowners were ardent environmentalists who dry their laundry outside, ride their bikes to work, and grow their own produce, there were others who purchased their home for its industrial chic style, but were inspired to outfit it with furniture and accessories made out of recycled materials. We also met several other architects who designed their own homes green to push the envelope and explore new eco-technologies. Pioneering eco-architect Michael McDonough even built an experimental house that's a livable lab, where he tests out the feasibility of hundreds of eco-ideas to inspire other architects, builders, and homeowners.
While there's a common misconception that it costs more to live green, we found houses that fit a range of budgets. What the 17 families have in common is that they are incredible pioneers. They didn't go the easy route by building green. It would have been a much faster, simpler, and less trying process for them to just pick out whatever cabinets or flooring or insulation was available. Because of their hard work, their passion, and their drive, you will have an easier time going green.
We hope that you'll be as moved and inspired by these stories and these beautiful homes as we were. We hope that even if you make just a small change in your life, it will be a green one. We believe green feels great, looks great, and makes a difference.
We hope our book, Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire (Clarkson Potter, Nov. 18, 2008), will help pave a new path down the green brick road!
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