Green Building Home Tour

A slideshow of a Northern California green home

A California Green Design

When newlyweds Lia and John Ray Fernandez decided to remodel their midcentury hillside ranch house in Northern California, they got more than a new home—the process was a crash course in green design.

The couple had spent a cozy three years in the house before collaborating with green designer Kimberly Rider, who is known for pairing sustainable materials with comfy, sophisticated style.

The centerpiece of the remodeled living room is the fireplace mantel, built with formaldehyde-free MDF (medium-density fiberboard), which is made out of wood waste fibers. The mantel is painted a semigloss linen white. The wood-plank ceiling has a similar semigloss finish to highlight the architectural detail.

Green Tips:

-- Refinish an existing wood floor with a water-base urethane.
-- Choose safe wood. Formaldehyde-free MDF (medium-density fiberboard) that doesn't emit toxins was used for the mantel.

Architectural Salvage

Salvage pieces are a great way to add character to a space and a green element to your remodeling project. Here, a salvaged screen is dressed up using nontoxic, water-base paints and finishes.

Revamped Kitchen

Lia's wish list included revamping the kitchen cabinets, refinishing the hardwood floors, and giving the main level a sophisticated French look. For Rider, the challenge was to present Lia with eco-friendly products that were elegant and affordable. Lia chose low-voltage halogen lighting and appliances with a government Energy Star designation for using less energy. For the walls, Lia agreed with Rider's choice of low-VOC paint in neutral colors.

Low-VOC Paint

Paint from Benjamin Moore is a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) formula, which means less odor and fewer negative effects on the environment. VOCs are carbon-containing chemicals that evaporate into the atmosphere.

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Earth Friendly Fabric

Soft-touch fabrics in the Canopy collection—woven with bamboo and linen fibers and colored with nontoxic dyes—are suited for upholstery, draperies, and bedding.

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Interior Design Bedroom Ideas

Decorative pillows are made with recycled vintage fabrics and new natural and untreated materials. Rider encourages homeowners to use organic hemp, linen, and cotton fabrics that are dyed with soy-base inks. And for a more healthful and peaceful slumber, look for upholstery and mattresses with natural rubber, wool, and cotton fillings, she says.

In the master bedroom, the walls shimmer with a seductive pewter-hue faux finish. Lia wanted a damask effect, so Rider collaborated with Caroline Lizarraga, who worked her magic by creating a textured metallic surface with water-base glazing.

Locally made glass table lamps cast a warm glow in the master bedroom. Endlessly recyclable, glass is a green choice, Rider says, as is buying from local artisans.

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Decorative Painting

Decorative painting is an earth-kind alternative to many vinyl wallcoverings—particularly when water-base and low-VOC paints and glazes are used. California artist Caroline Lizarraga created the living room screen in the Fernandez home and decorated the bedroom walls with a subtle, tone-on-tone textured stencil in metallic pewter shades—all with water-base products.

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Stone Countertops

The adjoining master bathroom sparkles with eco-friendly touches such as the onyx countertop (a remnant). Stone yards often have large leftovers suitable for small projects like this. The en suite shower is covered in marbleized, partially recycled glass tiles.

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