Can This Home Be Greened? Simply Grand

Natural Home helps PBS television host Wanda Urbanska green her mid-century ranch house by focusing on energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

| July/August 2008

When Wanda Urbanska, host of the nationally syndicated public television series Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska, called to see if I could help “greenovate” her home, I said, “Sure.” Wanda had just purchased an “Anywhere, USA” 1956 brick ranch house in Mount Airy, North Carolina. Recently remodeled, the home had a new (if uninspired) kitchen, new hardwood floors and a fresh coat of paint. An east-facing sunroom had low-quality windows, which I knew would let in heat during summer and cold in winter. 

Simple Living is a fascinating series about enjoying life more fully, which naturally includes eco-friendly tips. Wanda wanted to use her home’s retrofit as an example of how to make a conventional house more energy-efficient and healthy. She was committed to buying as many materials as possible from local suppliers.

Natural Home editor-in-chief Robyn Griggs Lawrence joined me at Wanda’s house to help determine likely and logical steps in greening the home. For me, the energy conservation retrofit was Priority No. 1. Lawrence focused on eco-decorating and finishes.

Once her eco-remodel was complete, Wanda furnished her home with finds from local consignment, thrift and used furniture stores. She also added Magnolia Lane’s hemp window treatments in the living and dining areas and hemp bedding in the bedrooms. “My house is transformed,” she says. “I now live in a green home, a healing environment. I’ve never been happier with a house.”

1. Improve Energy Efficiency

Problems: The biggest problem was an attic stairway that provided a perfect thermal chimney to draft heat up and out through
the uninsulated rafters and attic vents. In addition, poorly made, double-glazed windows had about ¼ inch of space between the glass panes; glass should have a ½-inch air space to reduce heat loss.

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