A Vietnam vet and his wife sleep easily on fair-trade Vietnamese silks.
Shortly after they relocated from Seattle to Charleston, South Carolina, Richard and Jennifer Lennon spent a sunny afternoon exploring their new city. While strolling around downtown, the couple stumbled across Lulan Artisans in a moment of serendipity. The home décor retailer sells contemporary textiles that are handmade in Southeast Asia. Its holistic approach to textile design honors the centuries-old traditions of its weavers-many of them located in Vietnam-who use nontoxic, natural dyes and are paid a fair wage.
The company's emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility was a new concept to the Lennons, but it struck a personal chord for Richard, a Vietnam War veteran. "This was something brand new to us, but we really got into the philosophy," Richard says. "Having been to Vietnam three times and having an affinity with the Vietnamese, it rang a bell with us."
As the couple began decorating their new Charleston Colonial home, an Asian theme emerged. In their master bedroom, the Lennons chose a duvet cover, pillows and a throw made from handwoven, hand-dyed silk. These perfectly complement their other decorative choices, including a bamboo chaise; a pair of Korean nightstands; a framed, hand-painted, Japanese scarf; and a collection of Vietnamese water puppets, an 800-year-old folk art form.
Socially responsible decorating may be a new concept to the Lennons, but it's not a fleeting one. "I got emotionally attached to the sisterhood of Vietnamese women who are doing this," Jennifer says. "These people are survivors, and I think it's really important to support that."
After climbing the corporate ladder in the mergers-and-acquisitions field for a decade, Ann and David Knight reached a tipping point in 1994. Despite wildly successful careers, the couple felt something was missing. "We took the summer off and thought about what is really important to us," Ann says. "The environmental movement was just gathering steam, and we wanted to help promote that."
That year, the couple founded Teragren, which manufactures flooring, panels and veneer made of bamboo, a rapidly renewable resource. The Knights also began making changes in their personal lives by recycling and buying earth-friendly products.
When the Knights decided to redecorate their small bedroom a few years ago-after living for 14 years in their 1970s home on Bainbridge Island, Washington-they made environmental friendliness a priority. They replaced the room's wall-to-wall carpet with Teragren vertical-grain bamboo flooring, and nontoxic Devine Color paints wash the room in a light mustard color called, naturally, bamboo. When it came time to furnish the space, Ann relied heavily on heirlooms and antiques rather than purchasing new items. She finished the space with a combination of hand-me-down and new artwork.
Ann describes her personal style as eclectic and minimalist. That translated into a peaceful bedroom where she and David love to relax. "I think a bedroom should be warm and inviting and express your personal style," she says. "This room is a quiet retreat. It's a great place to relax, read a book or just sleep."
The tiny, 10-by-11-foot master bedroom in Allison O'Neall and Scott Allen's 1955 Boulder, Colorado, home was stuffed to the gills. A king-size bed monopolized the space, making the bedroom usable "pretty much only for sleeping," Allison says. The room was so small that half their furniture (his half, of course) had been relegated to another room. The couple needed a change. The solution to their cramped quarters was a 12-by-14-foot addition with a vaulted ceiling and large windows.
An eco-designer by trade, Allison made sure the new space was green from start to finish. She used only recycled building materials, and the room's 4-by-5-foot low-E Milgard windows provide natural light and fresh air. The new oak floors are covered with less toxic water-based polyurethane, and the walls are colored with AFM Safecoat no-VOC paint.
Allison chose natural and recycled linens and rugs without latex backs to minimize her exposure to formaldehyde and toxic chemicals. "I have quite a reaction to paints and solvents, so for me that was the priority," she says.
Allison called on her passion for gardening as decorating inspiration. The room is loaded with shades of blue and green, bringing the outdoors in. "When you're in the room, you feel like you're in nature," Allison says.
Sitting in the master bedroom is something Allison, Scott and their two young children do a lot these days. The new suite is no longer just for rest; it's now a room for yoga, meditation and reading with the kids. "It feels very healing to be in my bedroom, and I'm so happy about that," Allison says. "Before, we didn't spend time in here. Now, I love to be in this room."