Mother Earth Living

Three Fabulous, Green Bathrooms

They look distinctly different, but these private spaces have something in common—they're all as environmentally friendly as they are beautiful.
By Becky Mollenkamp
September/October 2005
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Designer Annette Stelmack, transformed this master bathroom into a peaceful, luxurious haven.
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Modern Marvel: Gorgeous and green in Boulder, Colorado

When Annette Stelmack, a senior designer with Associates III in Denver, Colorado, was hired to help make an awkward, disjointed 1950s home more functional, she wasn’t asked to take on the master bathroom. She quickly realized, however, that the poorly designed space had to be improved.

Stelmack made the room feel larger by tearing down walls to create an open space and installing frosted-glass doors that allow natural light to flood the room. The liberal use of mirrors and glass, including the homeowner’s collection of beautiful perfume bottles, reflect light and expand the room.

“From a design standpoint, the inspiration was their artwork and glass,” Stelmack says. “It’s a luxurious space, but it’s also a quiet space. Although this home is contemporary, it has a softness—it’s not hard-edged.”

In addition to being more visually pleasing, the new space is also filled with practical improvements. His-and-hers closets on either side of the bathroom provide abundant storage. Hidden behind the mirror, which includes a defogging device, are six-inch-deep medicine cabinets that create room to hide small appliances and toiletries.

All of this, and the room is environmentally friendly. From the undyed hemp rug to the efficient fixtures, the designers paid attention to every detail. Longtime environmentalists, the Boulder homeowners eagerly agreed with Associates III’s commitment to sustainability. Stelmack says not everyone is so quick to jump on the bandwagon because many people have outdated perceptions about what earth-friendly design looks like. “People still say, ‘You mean it’s not granola and Birkenstocks anymore?’” she laughs. “The misconception is it has to look earthy. Really beautiful things can be sustainable and create a healthy environment.”

What makes this bathroom green?

• Radiant-floor heat
• Dual-flush, water-saving toilet
•Water-efficient fixtures
• Integral-color plaster walls
• Nontoxic sealers and low-VOC adhesive used on all tile
• Sustainable English sycamore cabinetry with natural finish and water-based sealer
• Undyed hemp rug
• Original doors, cabinetry, and fixtures were donated to a local recycling center.

Classic & Comfy: Discovering the beauty of sustainability in Portland, Oregon

Beth and Tom Gregory loved their 1922 Dutch Colonial home in Portland, Oregon, but as their family grew, the home seemed to shrink. So last year they decided to upgrade by gutting the kitchen and adding a master bathroom.

The couple knew they wanted to make changes in an earth-friendly way, so they hired Neil Kelly Designers/Remodelers, a firm known for its focus on the environment. “It seemed like the right thing to do,” Beth says. “It’s such a luxury to be able to remodel your home with little environmental impact.”

Before this project, the Gregorys knew almost nothing about sustainable products and design. That, they say, was a benefit. Without preconceived notions, they were more open to the materials presented to them. “I thought eco-friendly materials would either be exorbitantly expensive or wouldn’t appeal to us,” Beth admits. “Fortunately, we were able to find materials we liked.”

Their choices were sometimes more limited than if they had chosen traditional materials, but they never felt disappointed by their options. Instead of a half-dozen choices for cabinetry, they had just three. It wasn’t a problem, however, because they were thrilled to discover tree-free wheatboard. Plus, they had unlimited selections for stain.

The couple was also pleasantly surprised by the costs. Throughout the project they asked, “Is there a more sustainable option we can afford?” Very often, the answer was yes. The recycled tile was dirt cheap, Beth says, and using sustainable framing wood was within their budget.

The bathroom was added to a space previously occupied by an underutilized second-story deck. The couple’s only requirements were a glass shower, preserving the four windows, and creating an open, warm space with added storage. Beth says the finished room offers all that and much more.

“It’s so comfortable; it’s a great place for our four-year-old daughter to come and talk with us,” Beth says. “We love the window seat; it’s a great fingernail-painting place.”

What makes this bathroom green?

• FSC-certified lumber
• Energy-efficient windows
• Low-flow showerheads
• Coroma dual-flush toilet
• Formaldehyde-free Neil Kelly Green lyptus and wheatboard cabinets
• Recycled-glass tiles on floor and in shower
• Countertops from SlateScape (fiber cement-based product that looks and feels like stone)
• Tankless hot water heater

Moroccan Masterpiece: Bohemian chic in Santa Fe

Reduce, reuse, recycle is a way of life in Daniel Nadelbach and Gilda Meyer-Niehof’s Sante Fe home. Nearly every structural and design feature in this colorful, stylish bathroom has an eye toward sustainability.

Daniel and Gilda bought their twenty-five-year-old home three years ago because it gave the do-it-yourselfers a solid foundation with plenty of room for improvement. The home is constructed of sixteen-inch pumice blocks and features a solar hot water system. Inside, though, the rooms were inefficient and not particularly eco-friendly. The master bathroom was chopped up by multiple walls, had two sinks, a separate shower and bath, and water-guzzling toilets. So Daniel tore down walls and installed slate tile floors and more efficient fixtures.

“It was closed up and bottled in, so we opened the whole thing up,” says Daniel, a photographer. “Instead of being just a place to shower and brush your teeth, we wanted to create an environment where you’d want to hang out.”

The master bathroom looks like a piece of Morocco in the middle of the desert, proving the homeowners’ mantra: “You don’t have to live in a hippie shack to be environmentally friendly.”

Though their eclectic style has a Pier One or World Market feel, this couple rarely sets foot in retail stores. Ninety percent of the home’s furnishings and accessories are secondhand items they’ve collected. Gilda, an interior designer specializing in Middle Eastern and East Indian décor and owner of Jadu Designs, gets up with the sun nearly every Saturday morning and scurries from garage sale to estate sale; she decorated the bathroom using items found during these scavenger hunts. The pillows are made from garage-sale fabrics, the hand-carved mirror frame was found at a flea market, and the ceiling beams are reclaimed wood from an area home that was torn down. Gilda gets a great price and the knowledge that she’s saved an item from the landfill.

“Nearly everything in our home is recycled,” Daniel says. “There’s so much stuff out there that people don’t use anymore. We get good use out of it without putting more strain on the environment.”

What makes this bathroom green?

• Solar-heated water
• Skylight for natural lighting
• Low-flush toilet
• Natural plaster walls
• Chinese slate floor tiles and Mexican Talavera accent tile
• Sink frame made from a recycled Moroccan grain trunk
• Reclaimed-wood ceiling beams
• Recycled mirror frame
• Secondhand Moroccan rugs


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