Mother Earth Living

Resting Pose: A Zen Bedroom Makeover

Pioneering green designers strike the perfect balance between Zen simplicity and luxury for our second annual Bedroom Makeover Contest winner, a Boulder yoga teacher.
By Vivienne Jannatpour
November/December 2005
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Simple lines and sumptuous textures make for a serene sleeping space. The tea tray, made from hand-cut paper, is from Atmosphere in Boulder, Colorado, AtmosphereBoulder.com.
Photo By Povy Kendal Atchison
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At his CorePower Yoga studio in Boulder, Colorado, Brandon Cox teaches Vinyasa, a type of yoga based on the flowing together of movement and breath. Unfortunately, his bedroom, with severe angles, varied elevations, and inconsistent wall finishes, did anything but flow. Annette Stelmack, Rachael Giudice, and Cassandra Coombe from Associates III in Denver agreed to take on the challenge of remaking the room for Brandon, the winner of Natural Home & Garden’s second annual Bedroom Makeover Contest. “It was so severe, it just didn’t feel like one should be sleeping there,” says Giudice.

The designers gave the room a Zen austerity complemented by beautiful accent pieces that soften the edges. “The goal was to bring continuity to the space and create the peaceful, simplistic environment Brandon was looking for,” says Stelmack. Coombe got to work assembling products donated by Natural Home & Garden advertisers and friends.

Down to earth 

The biggest challenge was unifying the room. Every wall had a different elevation, ranging from 47 to 144 inches, with severe angles rising to the ceiling. The inconsistently trimmed window, a square topped by a triangle, added more sharp angles and was difficult to dress because of its odd shape. The wall finishes were inconsistent, with one wall done in wood and the rest in drywall. The popcorn ceiling, traditionally made of toxic fiberglass, was dated and flaking.

Associates III refinished the walls in beautiful earthen clay plaster and upholstered the popcorn ceiling with natural hemp fabric. Next, they covered the window with a custom-made, handwoven bamboo shade. By giving the walls, ceiling, and window neutral colors and earthy textures, they softened and warmed the room.

Next, the team pulled up the old, worn carpet and installed a richly colored cork floor. Because cork has millions of air pockets, it’s sound absorbent and softer to walk on than hardwood. “This floor is the grounding force of the room,” says Stelmack. Brandon agrees, “It’s so inviting. It doesn’t echo like other hard floors, which is really nice for the bedroom.”

Simple yet elegant 

To furnish this tiny room—less than 120 square feet of floor space and even less head room—Associates III found pieces that were streamlined and simple but elegant and functional. “You have to be really careful not to over-design, because it can make or break the room,” says Giudice. She and Stelmack replaced large wooden bookshelves with reclaimed railroad-tie shelves tucked into a wall nook, freeing up considerable floor space. These Indonesian vintage shelves have a soft, deep patina earned through countless seasons of exposure to wind, rain, and sun. Next, Associates III brought in a Tucker Robbins headboard made from a fallen kumbuk log from Sri Lanka. The low-profile headboard with cantilevered shelves that serve as nightstands is a perfect fit for the shortest wall. “The headboard is so dramatic and beautiful,” says Brandon. An organic mattress and box spring from Earthsake complete the bed.

Associates III covered the bed in luxurious spice-colored linens made from silky Egyptian cotton fabrics. “The colors are a great mixture for waking as well as sleeping,” says Brandon. “I want to feel the tranquility in my bedroom, but I also want to feel the energy.”

Om… 

To add to the quiet stillness, Associates III created a meditation space for Brandon. “We wanted him to have a place to come home and recharge,” says Coombe. The organic, raw-cotton meditation mat and buckwheat-filled cushion can be moved out of the way if Brandon needs the floor space. Beeswax candles and a sacred sculpture complete the space. “To have a space that’s natural and organic to clear your mind is wonderful. I feel fortunate,” says Brandon.

For the finishing touches, Associates III assembled a collection of exquisite Zen-inspired pieces. “The accessories bring in color and texture to draw your eye around the room and create a sort of movement throughout,” says Giudice.

Brandon is thrilled with the results. “The room really reflects the energy of my flow yoga classes. They’ve brought in a natural quality, and it’s beautiful,” he says. The designers credit Brandon’s openness and trusting nature. “When that alignment clicks between us and a client, it’s amazing what that allows us to do as designers,” says Stelmack.

From Cluttered and Angular to Streamlined and Peaceful 

Before:  The room’s awkward shape, with sharp angles and varied elevations, was exacerbated by the inconsistent wall treatments of wood and drywall.
After: Earthen plaster unifies the room with warm hues and a consistent texture.

Before: The popcorn ceiling was dated and flaking.
After: Natural hemp textile blends with the natural clay walls, provides a unified look, and encapsulates the old ceiling material.

Before: The odd-shaped window was hard to dress and had inconsistent trim detail.
After: A custom handwoven grass shade covers from edge to edge and helps insulate the room.

Before: The old, worn wall-to-wall carpet looked drab and likely harbored mites, dust and germs.
After: Cork flooring, with its warm, soft surface and sound-absorbing qualities, is the room’s grounding force.

Before: Furniture was cluttered and disconnected. The large shelf was too big for the room.
After: Simple pieces create spaciousness. Recycled-wood shelves in a wall nook eliminate freestanding units, and a bed with cantilevered shelves for nightstands leaves lots of free floor space.

Tips from the Floor Guy 

Do you want the warm elegance of a cork floor in your home? Paul Greenhalgh of Green Renovation in Boulder, Colorado—who installed Brandon’s floor—has these tips.

Choose your installer carefully. Cork has unique characteristics, so find an experienced installer.

Plan ahead. Plan out the corners and door jams first. Leave a 1/4-inch gap between walls and corkfloor edges to allow for expansion.

Check the subfloor. Cork flooring is flexible and will contour to slightly uneven floors. If the floor is very uneven, a thin cork pad will absorb inconsistencies. For large deviations in areas such as corners, you can fill in low spots with a section of cork pad.

No glue necessary. Floating-floor systems don’t require an adhesive. The tiles are laid and snapped together by a locking system, which is easier to install and repair than glue-down floors.

Follow manufacturer's recommendations. These are specific to the product and must be followed to maintain warranties.

Floor care is simple. Wipe up spills immediately and sweep or vacuum regularly to remove abrasive debris. For heavily soiled areas, use only cleaners formulated for prefinished hardwood floors.

Repairs. Cork is easily reparable. You can buff light scuffs or replace individual tiles if there’s heavy damage.

For information, contact Green Renovation, (720) 581-9101.

Featured Products 

Bear Creek Candle Company
Handpoured Pure Beeswax Pillars & Votives 

Bear Creek Candle Company, a family-owned business in Evergreen, Colorado, offers fine handcrafted beeswax candles at affordable prices.

What Makes These Products Green: Beeswax is a clean and renewable natural resource. Bear Creek Candle Company’s handpoured pillars and votives are made with pure, unrefined beeswax and 100 percent cotton wicks. The beeswax aromatherapy candles are made with pure essential oils.

Why We Choose Them: “Beeswax candles burn with a warm glow and the scent of sweet honey. They are also beautiful, extremely long burning, and virtually smoke free,” says Stelmack.

VivaTerra 
Reclaimed Railroad Tie Shelves • Emperor Gong • Pedestal Servers • Veggie Parchment Bowl • Twig Flower Holders • Nest Tea-Light Holders • Recycled-Glass Tumblers • Silk Wall Hanging

VivaTerra products, made from organic and sustainable materials, reflect the company’s commitment to ecology and elegance. VivaTerra works with partners and suppliers who ensure craftspeople are paid a fair wage and materials are earth friendly. Products are made by passionate designers and artisans who honor cultural traditions from around the world.

What Makes These Products Green: Most are crafted from recycled materials. The veggie parchment bowl is made from thinly sliced dried produce, the glass tumblers are bottles saved from the landfill, and the tea-light holders are hand-shaped from recycled wire. The silk wall hanging is made in Cambodia for a group dedicated to supporting local village artisans and improving the welfare of children in need.

Why We Choose Them: “These are beautiful, organic, sophisticated, and timeless pieces,” says Giudice. “Their organic nature and soft lines perfectly complement the room’s Zen aesthetic.”

Anna Sova Luxury Organics 
Baby Alpaca Quilt

Anna Sova provides pure, luxurious home products, including elegant wall finishes, sensuous silk bedding and draperies, handfinished bamboo hardware, vibrant hand-printed cottons, Italian jacquard sheets, and sumptuous cotton towels—all of them organic, eco-safe, and earth- and body-friendly.

What Makes This Products Green: Anna Sova’s natural alpaca fibers come from Peru, where the animals graze in pristine, highaltitude pastures.

Why We Choose It: Alpaca fiber is almost seven times warmer than sheep wool and is much softer and silkier. “We were impressed with the level of luxury Anna Sova has attained while staying environmentally responsible,” says Giudice.

Natural Cork 
EcoCork Flooring

Natural Cork, the foremost supplier of cork flooring in North America, is committed to design excellence and innovative product development. Cork floors create a warm, comfortable surface under foot that’s sound absorbent, much like carpet. Unlike carpet, however, it’s inherently resistant to molds, mildews, and pests and is hypoallergenic. EcoCork is available in eight colors and patterns and is harvested following Natural Cork’s strict ecological standards.

What Makes This Products Green: Cork is made from oak-tree bark, which is harvested without harming either the trees or their habitat. Cork flooring is created from the byproducts of the winecork industry. From harvest to production to installation, cork is environmentally sustainable and nontoxic.

Why We Choose It: “Cork flooring is a beautiful, natural product,” says Stelmack. “The color is rich, and we love its acoustic value. It’s easy to walk on, biodegradable, and renewable.”

SDH 
Traviata Collection Hawaii Blanket and Sateen Bed Skirt • The Purists Wool-Filled Mattress Pad • Darius Collection Pillow Shams

SDH’s goal is to promote environmental friendliness while making exquisitely crafted, allnatural products. The Traviata is a vibrant collection reminiscent of an aged Italian estate. Six distinct colors are woven together into rich jacquard fabrics, resulting in gorgeous spice tones. A diamond pattern is meticulously sewn into the Far East Mattress Cover’s soft, pillowy cover fabric.

What Makes These Products Green: SDH offers all-natural, luxury fabrics using lowimpact, fiber-reactive dyes.

Why We Choose Them: “These luxurious bed textiles offer quality and comfort in delicious colors, patterns, and textures,” says Stelmack.

Tucker Robbins 
Headboard and Nightstands (Cantilevered Shelves)

Tucker Robbins supports traditional cultures that survive by protecting and utilizing ancient forests. He transforms the well-worn tools of agrarian cultures into beautiful home furnishings with just a touch of modern aesthetic. “The design remains minimal to honor the remarkable material and the soul of the precious trees,” says Robbins.

What Makes This Product Green: Tucker Robbins uses only recycled wood, often more than 100 years old. This headboard with cantilevered shelves is made from a kumbuk log that fell during Sri Lanka’s monsoons. Robbins bought the log from a community that uses elephants to drag fallen timber from the forest. Workers in another community—one recovering from the tsunami—cut the log to Robbins’s specifications.

Why We Choose It: “The organic nature of Robbins’s pieces combined with his cutting-edge design results in incredibly beautiful furniture,” says Stelmack. The bed’s scale also works well within a challenging space. Its simple design makes the room feel larger.

Chöpa
Stone Buddha Face

Chöpa offers more than 500 products pertaining to Japanese home décor and meditation. Named for the Tibetan Buddhist word for “offering,” Chöpa aspires to improve society and culture through gifts and tools that beautify, enhance, and enrich homes and lives.

What Makes These Products Green: Chöpa uses recycled boxes and packing material whenever possible and buys only biodegradable peanuts and unbleached craft paper.

Why We Choose Them: “The Buddha sculpture adds an important Zen element and complements the peaceful design of the room,” says Giudice.

Ten Thousand Villages 
Smoked-Bamboo Coffee Table • Coiled Rattan Lidded Basket *Coiled Bamboo Pot • Mahogany Leaf Mirror

Ten Thousand Villages provides sustainable income through fair trade for artisans in developing countries who would otherwise be unemployed. These beautiful pieces were handcrafted in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Bangladesh from natural materials.

What Makes These Products Green: Ten Thousand Villages brings income to developing communities and strives to buy products made from materials and processes that don’t threaten the environment.

Why We Choose Them: “These diverse handcrafted pieces warm the room with their earthy qualities and add texture and form to the scheme,” says Coombe.

American Clay 
Custom-tinted American Clay Earth Plaster

American Clay’s mission is to bring awareness to the value of environmentally conscious products for indoor living spaces. Its finishes create interior walls with a timeless beauty—textures and colors reminiscent of classical Mediterranean villas. Earth plaster provides a nontoxic, creative solution for beautiful interior finishes almost anywhere.

What Makes This Product Green: American Clay Earth Plaster is a blend of pure clays and aggregates with coloring agents from natural, nontoxic oxides and ochre mineral pigments. It’s a practical, environmentally friendly alternative to cement, gypsum, acrylic, and lime plasters.

Why We Choose It: “This earthen-based plaster unifies the room and softens the dramatic architectural angles,” says Coombe. “It’s a peaceful, natural, exquisite wall finish that can be applied over existing conditions.” American Clay plasters also have a far longer working time than other plasters—up to several days if needed— so the designers could take their time, knowing the surface wouldn’t “set” before they achievedjust the finish they wanted.

Loop
Ivory Organic Sateen Sheets and Pillowcases

Loop produces high-quality bed and bath linens that are healthy for people and gentle on the environment. These soft, luxurious 250- thread-count sateen sheets have a rich, modern look. Fabric swatches are available.

What Makes These Products Green: Loop, a member of the Organic Trade Association, uses only organic cotton and low-impact dyes, and it finishes fabrics without using harsh chemicals. All products in the line are sweatshop free, and their natural fiber content ensures they can be recycled at the end of their lifecycle.

Why We Choose Them: “The sateen sheets are beautifully constructed with deep hems and single-line embroidery stitching, and they’re available in modern colors that suit the Zen aesthetic we’re striving for,” says Stelmack.

Ecolution and Textile Techniques 
Hemp Ceiling Upholstery

Ecolution, a hemp-products manufacturer based in Romania, believes well-made, long-lasting products contribute to environmental health. Ecolution grows, finishes, and processes its hemp products in a socially, economically, and environmentally responsible manner. Textile Techniques, a custom wall- and ceilingupholstery company, has earned a national reputation for creative design solutions and exquisite results. The company’s unique expertise in this centuries-old craft has enhanced luxury residences and commercial sites in the United States and Mexico.

What Makes This Product Green: Wall upholstery can be installed with staples rather than chemical adhesives. Ecolution’s hemp fabrics are free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and toxic manufacturing chemicals.

Why We Choose It: Ceiling upholstery softens the architectural angles, unifies the color palette with the wall plaster, and camouflages the dated popcorn ceiling. “The organic character of the hemp fabric and the simple elegance of the ceiling upholstery integrate beautifully with our green approach to interior design,” says Stelmack.

Organic Cotton Alternatives 
Organic Kapok Bed Pillows • Zabuton Mat • Crescent Meditation Cushion

Organic Cotton Alternatives provides organic, nontoxic tools for sleep, yoga, and meditation. The kapok (from trees) bed pillow is a non-allergenic substitute for down. The crescent meditation cushion is filled with buckwheat hulls and covered with medium-weight, organic-cotton canvas. The zabuton mat, designed to cushion the knees and ankles during meditation, is constructed with an organiccotton canvas cover and batting.

What Makes These Products Green: All Organic Cotton Alternatives products—fabrics, cotton batting, kapok, buckwheat hulls, even the lavender filling in the eye pillows—are made from certified-organic raw materials.

Why We Choose Them: “Brandon’s business, Corepower Yoga, inspired us to provide a peaceful space where he could renew and realign using these elegant meditation tools,” says Coombe.

Suite Sleep 
Obasan Pillow Protectors • Coyuchi Natural Sleeping Blanket

Suite Sleep offers healthy, environmentally friendly bedding products, including all-natural and organic mattresses, duvets, pillows, and bedframes from Obasan, Coyuchi, and Green Sleep.

What Makes These Products Green: Suite Sleep buys only products made from handpicked, chemical-free cotton. Handpicking ensures that the cotton fiber is the cleanest, purest, most resilient available. The wood used in Green Sleep beds is sustainably harvested and never treated with synthetic glues, dyes, or finishing sprays. Only the finest natural waxes and nontoxic oils are used.

Why We Choose Them: A healthy bed means no harsh or harmful chemicals. “The nontoxic, organic Obasan Nahanni pillow cover and Coyuchi blanket are healthy and luxurious,” says Coombe.

Earthshade 
Bamboo Window Shade

Earthshade offers an exotic collection of handwoven shades custom crafted from nontoxic and environmentally sustainable natural fibers. These artisanquality window treatments are manufactured by a third-generation, family-run workshop with locations in Mexico and the United States. The shades are available in ten versatile operating styles at an average cost savings of 12 percent when compared to similar treatments.

What Makes This Product Green: These natural window shades are made of nontoxic, rapidly renewable reeds, bamboo, grasses, and other plant fibers gathered in Central and South America. Materials are sun dried and handwoven into delightful patterns without the use of chemicals, dyes, or other harsh processing. They’re also fair trade.

Why We Choose It: This exquisite window shade unifies the room and beautifully masks inconsistent trim details of Brandon’s odd-shaped window. “The natural fibers offer color and texture that support our clean, simple design focus,” says Giudice. The shade also helps save energy, reducing heat gain from the west-facing window by about 80 percent.

Earthsake 
The Cloud Mattress and Box Spring

Earthsake provides natural, healthy products that contribute to comfort, relaxation, and revitalization. Temperedsteel innersprings are layered in organic cotton, wrapped in PureGrow wool, and hand-tufted to a cover of organic cotton ticking. PureGrow wool resists mold, mildew, and dust mites. The completely chemical- and silicate-free mattress exceeds all open-flame tests required by state and federal agencies.

What Makes These Products Green: The mattress and box spring are created with PureGrow wool and 100 percent organic cotton without bleaches, dyes, or other unnatural treatments.

Why We Choose Them: Wool insulates the body and wicks away moisture to provide a deeper, drier sleep in hot or cold weather. “Its natural strength and resilience will provide comfort for many seasons,” says Coombe. As an added bonus, Earthsake uses twice as much natural fiber filling as most mattress manufacturers.

Associates III Interior Design 

For more than thirty years, Associates III has provided interior design services to custom homeowners, private residential developers, and boutique hotel properties. The company’s professionals specialize in creating sophisticated yet earth- and human-friendly interiors.

While its design focus has always been earth-based, Associates III turned truly green after design director Annette Stelmack attended the EnvironDesign conference in 1998. “We saw we needed to transform the market, primarily residential manufacturers of furnishings, finishes, and products,” says Stelmack. A well-known speaker and lobbyist for green design, she has made it her personal and professional goal to enact change in the building industry.

Rachael Giudice, assistant designer and a student in Colorado State University’s interior design program, is following closely in Stelmack’s footsteps. Purchasing agent Cassandra Coombe, an integral part of Associates III since 1998, assists with design and is dedicated to promoting sustainable design issues within the industry.

Associates III is a team of creative, professional designers who are passionate about what they do. The firm actively seeks projects in which they’re able to integrate healthy, sustaining designs for clients who value and believe in environmentally conscious interiors. In 2003, Associates III wrote Turning Green: a Guide to Becoming a Green Design Firm, a publication sponsored by the American Society of Interior Designers about creating green standards for the residential industry. They’re currently working on a book on eco-residential design to be published by John Wiley & Sons, scheduled for release in 2006. (303) 534-4444; Associates3.com 

Other Resources 

Bud's Warehouse 
(303) 296-3990
home improvement thrift store

Ecobuild 
(303) 545-6255
green-building consultants and suppliers

Planetary Solutions 
(303) 442-6228
sustainable building materials and supplies

Plycon Van Lines 
(310) 419-1200
fine furniture transporters

Precision Wallcoverings
(303) 499-6114
interior wall covering services

Student Movers 
(303) 296-0600
furniture installation

Tatterdemalion
(303) 629-1200
window-covering installation


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