Design for Life: My Sensuous Home: Adorning My Home's Walls With Natural Materials

Filling my home with natural materials is like being embraced by the earth.

| March/April 2010

  • Carol's pre-remodel living room had laminate flooring, beige walls and badly painted fireplace bricks.
    Photo By Carol Venolia
  • The new natural palette: cork flooring and three colors of custom-mixed clay.
    Photo By Barbara Bourne
  • "Now I can breathe deeply, relax and feel cozily earthy in my living room," Carol says.
    Photo By Barbara Bourne

A sense of magic welled up as I raked my fingers through the orange Nevada City soil. As I sieved the clay through a screen, I felt the earth through my fingers, eyes and nose. 

I was sitting on an oak-studded hillside, sifting clay that would be turned into plaster and troweled onto my living room wall. My friend Janine Björnson had dug the clay in the Sierra Nevada. Her sweat, my toil, her experience and our friendship were weaving together to transform my home.

In the beginning

This story started with a tree branch crashing through my roof, leaving me temporarily homeless, and ends in the most comforting home I’ve ever had. I’d been planning to “naturalize” my house since I moved in more than three years ago. I wanted to replace the plastic laminate flooring, cover the white walls with earth-toned clay plasters and turn my office into a studio. I don’t recommend disaster as a spur to remodeling, but in my case, it worked.

All of my flooring is connected, so although only some was damaged, I had to replace it all. For a bit more than the insurance-covered cost, I got the cork floor I wanted. I chose Natural Cork Roca—a warm, woodlike pattern. But what about the laminate? I didn’t want to send piles of plastic to the landfill.

I posted it on SonoMax, a regional material-reuse website, and a couple responded. Both were unemployed, and their house needed new flooring because (get this) their old cork floor had been damaged by a leaky roof. They were ecstatic about getting my used flooring for free.

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