Featured Stories

Cork, sustainable hardwood, oil and low-VOC finishes top list in homeowner’s meticulous selections Cork flooring upstairs. Hardwood with an oil finish downstairs. Stained Red Oak, from Indiana forests considered sustainable by Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association, reaches from the spacious foyer and into the dining room. It changes to a basket weave pattern in the family room. Lorinn Williams of Indian Hill, OH, began planning this home two years ago. Her 12-year-old daughter encouraged her to select as many “green” products as she could.

Some are born with Natural knowledge, but most of us have learned from mistakes Sixteen years ago, I let my infant sleep on a plastic mattress filled with foam rubber. I had read the baby books and collaborated with pregnant friends. But nothing and no one pointed out that standard mattresses contain petrochemicals or that these chemicals off-gas for us to breathe and absorb. Even when the baby developed sleep apnea -- and had to sleep wearing a halter monitor and alarm because of a family history of crib death -- I did not question the standard crib mattress I had purchased from my local baby supply store. Truthfully, if someone had told me to raise this question, I probably would have laughed and, privately, considered that person to be a little crazy. Everyone in the United States buys and sleeps on traditional mattresses every day.  If there were something wrong with that, we would all know, right?

The story of rugs from Mekizodesigns “Most of the blogs I find become more of an information regurgitation, and I am guilty of that myself,” Melanie Munden, founder of Mekizodesigns, tells me from the start. “We are selling flooring, after all,” she says. “But for me, I am interested in the story of how something began. What inspired me, and who or what is the latest trend in color for fashion trends and textiles for the home.” It only took about 30 seconds for me to figure out that Melanie is an artist, and that this touches everything she does. Her new silk and wool rugs have standalone appeal. But I now want to know the story of how this began.

Linoleum appeal has moved beyond health benefits to include one-of-a-kind designs Vinyl lovers take note: Green-minded Portland residents remodeling kitchens and bathrooms are resoundingly choosing Marmoleum floors. Unlike vinyl, this is all-natural linoleum made primarily from linseed oil. While it traditionally has been sought by the chemically sensitive or those concerned about indoor-air quality, it is now also being sought for its fashion statement, says Sam Snow, owner of EcoFloors in Portland, OR. “It’s an excellent choice for high-use areas because of its durability, lower maintenance and its style options are almost endless,” he says. “In addition, it’s 100-percent natural, antistatic, antibacterial and comfortable underfoot.”

Why do you harp on Indoor Air Quality Certifications? Q. If cork flooring is a natural material, why do you put so much emphasis on whether the manufacturer has gotten the flooring certified through chemical emissions testing? A. There are many natural flooring products on the market. But very few of them are made without chemicals and additives. Cork flooring is beautifully natural and sustainable. But it cannot be made without some extra ingredients – like adhesive. After wine bottle stoppers are punched out of the bark of the Cork Oak Trees in and around Portugal, cork that will be made into flooring is ground up, mixed with pigments, and adhesive. Fortunately, cork producers in the Mediterranean region are known for their attention to environmentally sound adhesives and additives. Once the sheets of cork are produced, more materials are introduced. If the cork will be used for engineered flooring, which is made in layers, the core of the floor with be HDF (High Density Fiber Board). And if the flooring – engineered or solid – will be prefinished, anything from a simple water-based polyurethane to a proprietary aluminum oxide or ceramic finish, to a high-tech nano finish, will be applied to the surface.

New looks, including stone, wood and textiles, expand uses for cork flooring What is that? Just when we thought we had seen every style and color of cork flooring available today, Wicanders has thrown us a curve. Some of it looks like stone. Some of it looks like marble, granite, wood and textiles. But it is an illusion, enabled by the latest digital optic technology that embosses these patterns directly onto the cork. “You cannot tell its cork until you touch it,” says Tim Tompkins, national marketing director for Wicanders. “We are able to print these patterns directly on our cork veneers. The texture of the cork veneer beneath it adds more texture and realism to the finished product, and each floor is a fingerprint of itself as no two planks, panels or tiles are identical.  It’s very amazing technology.”

Anderson Township, OH, family completes new home with natural oil hardwood finish and cork When the original plan for putting strand bamboo flooring in the new home they were building in Anderson Township, OH, went awry, Jennifer and Carlton Monroe reviewed their priorities. “I wanted something natural,” Jennifer recalls. “But it also occurred to me that on the first floor, I wanted something that was spot-repairable.” This was the beginning of a selection process that ended with the Monroes putting hardwood – finished on site with a natural, hard-wax oil -- on the first floor, and cork flooring upstairs in the bedrooms and hallway.

The power of the people must come into play for carpet recycling effort to bump to the next level, outgoing director says Listen up people: The next time you tear out old carpet, think before you put it out for the trash collector and send it to a landfill where it will pollute the planet until the end of time. There are now more than 100 carpet recycling collection companies in the United States, and it’s easy to find out if there’s one near you. Just ask Georgina Sikorski.  At the time she took charge of the Carpet America Recycling Effort (CARE) in 2009, CARE had diverted 1 billion pounds of carpet from landfills. Today, that number is more than 2 billion, and although Sikorski is leaving her post in April, she says that number will keep going up – if you do your part. “People can quickly determine if there is a collector in their region by going to the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) map, which has contact information for the over  100 Certified CARE Collectors,”  Sikorski, says.

Natural Interiors® Designers’ Forum sees increase in “green” cabinet suppliers In the beginning, there was one visible “green” cabinet company.  In 1998, we called them, in Portland, OR, if we wanted wood kitchen cabinets that emitted fewer chemicals in our homes. But many of us had to settle for traditional cabinets. Shipping costs to the Midwest or east drove the cost of these cabinets beyond our reach. Today, a handful of companies are trying to fill the void, and Midwestern kitchen designers who are trending natural have more choices.

Greater Cincinnati’s Annual Home & Garden show proves “green” products are here to stay, but knowledge of trends and environmental attributes is still playing catch up There was a time not too long ago when we had to search to find “green” products and companies at the annual Greater Cincinnati Home & Garden Show. But these days, you have to search hard to find exhibiting companies that don't have some claim to being “green.” Even when I was sure I had found one on opening day, I was wrong. There is nothing, I was sure, of environmental note about the slot machines on display by Gambler's Oasis. But then I learned that this business buys machines that are about to be discarded, refurbishes them, and sells them for use in home game rooms.