Featured Stories

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.

Natural Interiors® Designers' Forum spotlights new look for old furniture from Sterling Interiors By now, everyone has seen artwork and other creations made from trash, or worn out objects that were about to become trash. But when was the last time you saw one and seriously considered it useful? Can’t remember? Then it’s time to take a closer look at a growing interior design trend called “upcycling.” It’s not quite the same thing as “restoring,” or “refinishing” as upcycling usually gives a worn out piece of furniture a different look than it had before, along with a whole new, useful life. While this helps the planet by reducing waste, concern for the planet is not the top force driving demand for upcycled products.

Studies that show what “fringe,” green proponents warned of all along are an overdue validation of the environmental products industry I distinctly remember a small group of co-workers who voiced concerns that the windows did not open while everyone else was extolling the beauty of the newly constructed newsroom we worked in, complete with new cubicles, new computers, carpeting, paint, ceiling tiles and everything else that makes up a building’s interior. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) had not been created yet. Employees who raised questions about indoor-air quality were “strange,” possibly unbalanced.  You could have heard a pin drop when one of them asked what I now know was a very natural question: “Does the ventilation system bring fresh air into our work area?” Natural or not, the managers responded as though the question bordered on insubordination. Accordingly, it would have been beyond insane had the employee suggested that toxins in the indoor air be scientifically measured or a control group of employees be selected to have blood tests to determine what chemicals they were being exposed to.

Requirements for damp basements might challenge use of all natural, chemical free carpet pads Q. I want to put carpet that has low chemical emissions in my basement. I also had planned on using a natural fiber carpet pad. I have not ever had water leak into the basement, but there is some moisture, due simply to the fact that it is a room below ground level. Do natural fiber carpet pads hold up to moisture and would it be better to use a sheet of plastic as a vapor barrier under the carpet pad? A. Installing carpet in the basement you describe requires a moisture- and mildew-resistant carpet pad, which will be glued in some spots to the basement’s cement floor. Putting a vapor barrier under the carpet pad would allow the pad to move and bunch up in spots under your carpet, which is not desirable. If the basement does not leak, my usual recommendation would be a ½-inch rebond or rubber pad that is water-resistant and treated with an antimicrobial agent to prevent mold and mildew. If you were looking to install laminate or any hard surface floating floor, a vapor barrier would be needed.

Competition in strand bamboo means quality products and competitive pricing from many manufacturers Not long ago, we would have told you that there were just a few reliable brands and several hard-and-fast rules to follow when choosing a strand bamboo floor. But as sales of strand, stained and hand-scraped styles have soared and now dominate in the bamboo flooring category, it’s difficult for any manufacturer to claim leadership.  A number of companies now supply strand products that in some markets have become more visible than those introduced about a decade ago by industry pioneers.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This article was accurate as of the date it was published, and was signed off on by all of the manufacturer sources quoted. That said, manufacturers frequently change their formulations and ingredients, so this article, given its age, becomes background. DO NOT rely on this article for purchasing these manufacturers’ current products. The questions are relatively simple, but if you would like help in getting guaranteed answers about certifications on a current product, sign up at: https://www.naturalinteriors.com/consumer-subscription/ “Green” certifications that test chemical emissions don’t require compliance until long after the paint is dry GREENGUARD®, Green Seal and SCS Indoor Advantage Gold. They’re all top third-party certifications designed to help us choose paint that will not make the air in our homes dangerous to breathe. But while these labels mean chemical emissions have been measured -- or in the case of Green Seal dangerous ingredients have been prohibited -- none of them tells us what we are breathing at the time the paint is being applied. And certifications that test chemical emissions don’t require compliance with safety limits until 14 days after the paint is dry. “When it comes to verifying sustainable claims, it may be wiser to start by being a ‘doubting Thomas’ instead of a ‘gullible Pollyanna’ …,” says Michael Mauch, AIA, LEED AP and principal of RWA Architects in Cincinnati, OH. “Third-party verification is supposed to work like Politifact -- an organization to sort out the truth. But third-party verification is not a perfect system. In theory, it works, but in reality, there are many influences that can sway the outcome.”