A Green Apartment Remodel: Accidental Environmentalists

A New York City apartment gets a spectacular ecological makeover—and converting to earth-friendly materials happens organically.

| November/December 2006

  • Artist Lan Nguyen helped Amy and Oscar dress up the bedroom with an eggplant-colored radiator cover. Amy chose the silk curtains and brilliant-orange Benjamin Moore Eco-Spec paint because the bright colors 'just make me happy.'
    Stephen Ang
  • The Schachters' Fire & Light recycled-glass dishes are a perfect complement for the recycled-glass tile backsplash.
    Stephen Ang
  • The apartment's original kitchen was gutted, and two walls were removed to bring in natural light and marry it with the living space. The wheatboard cabinets were handcrafted by Amish cabinetmakers from Pennsylvania. The Stave Stools by Witt Design are available from http://www.Vivavi.com.
    Stephen Ang

Considering their ambivalence about eco-friendly remodeling, Amy and Oscar Schachter ended up with an amazingly green apartment.

When they contracted architect David Bergman to remodel 600 square feet of their 950-square-foot 1960s-era apartment in Manhattan, the couple wasn’t particularly committed to green building and décor. When they handed him their wish list—lots of color; a fabulous, open kitchen; and a home office connected to but also separate from the living space—Bergman handed them his. “He emphasized early on that he wanted the project to be green,” Amy says.

“We knew nothing about eco-design, but we told him as long as we liked the look and could afford it, that would be fine. We just didn’t want to pay a premium for something we weren’t looking for in the first place.”

“Green design wasn’t on their radar,” says Bergman, who is LEED accredited (the U.S Green Building Council’s designation for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). “So at different points, I showed them several material choices and didn’t tell them whether they were eco-friendly. More often than not, they liked the green materials.”

The Schachters ended up with a vibrant, comfortable home that boasts cork floors; locally sourced, recycled-glass countertops; recycled-glass tile backsplashes; wheatboard (composite “wood” made of agricultural byproducts) cabinets; and natural linoleum desktops—all cutting-edge materials they chose for their durability and aesthetic qualities.

“The green factor added an extra layer of excitement for Amy and Oscar,” Bergman says. “They love the apartment’s new layout and the colors most of all—it’s being green was just an added benefit. I like to call this ‘transparent green.’ It’s there if you’re looking for it, but this apartment doesn’t shout ‘green design.’”

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