Can This Home Be Greened? Purifying a West Village Apartment

Manhattan resident Julie Genser wants to rid her West Village apartment of environmental toxins and irritants.

| July/August 2004

  • Julie Genser wants to make her West Village home greener.
    Photo Courtesy Julie Genser
  • A Manhattanite dreams of creating a safe, sacred space.
    Photo Courtesy Julie Genser

If you think it’s hard living in New York City, try living in “the greatest city in the world” with chemical sensitivities. After September 11, Manhattan resident Julie Genser discovered she was more susceptible to environmental toxins and irritants and decided that she needed to purify her 250-square-foot West Village studio apartment. Julie had already acquired a HEPA air filter, drinking-water filtration, organic bedding, and natural-spectrum lighting when she contacted Natural Home to help complete her nontoxic home.

As a green interior design consultant, I always start with a lifestyle analysis, which includes a review of basic health issues such as air and water quality and allergy sensitivity. Equally, I like to address aesthetic issues that are often overlooked once an interior has been turned into a functional living environment. For Julie, those questions centered around being a city dweller in a tiny apartment. Specifically, the challenge was to achieve a “Zen den” oasis in a chaotic city environment.

Making space

The way a space is perceived when you enter it and how it feels the longer you stay in it affects the psyche, which in turn affects overall health. This concept—often referred to as feng shui, vastu, or energy movement—is key to creating a healthful home. I advise clients like Julie who live in small spaces to work with scale and create positive aesthetic impact by having one large item—either oversize paintings or large mirrors as “visual expanders”—in a smaller room. This helps create a vista and acts as a second window.

You can also give a small space more depth through creative use of light. For example, use different sources of illumination such as accent lights in bookcases or canisters on the floor that wash walls with light. Working with furniture on different planes—placing the bed high, or table and chairs on bar-height level—makes a minimal space seem multi-layered. Furniture with legs as opposed to skirts is another expansive technique.

Personalizing your surroundings through the use of images, objects, and artifacts helps you tap your creative power and bring unique purpose to your environment. Because she was seeking a romantic relationship, Julie made an altar out of a simple shelf with candles and images of people and animals in pairs—things that represent partnership.

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