Susan Drawdy wanted her new kitchen to be stylish, eco-friendly, and functional for her and her two children. Thanks to Interior Designer Laura Birns, who specializes in green design, that's exactly what she got. The focal point of the kitchen is the painter's palette-shape countertop attached to an internally illuminated electric blue island.
Recessed ceiling fixtures with dimmer switches, low-voltage halogen pendants, and fluorescent lighting above and below the cabinets light the area at night and on cloudy days. During the day, two skylights conserve energy and capture the California sun.
Made from recycled glass, the island countertop adds to the green features in this kitchen. Blue flecks in the countertop echo the glass backsplash across the room. The L-shape island houses two sinks, including this two-basin model, which makes meal preparation a breeze. To cut down on water use, there are two dishwashers -- a pair of energy-efficient drawers for everyday loads and a full-size unit reserved for large dinner parties.
The island's lighted front panels are made of recyclable colored resin produced with no off-gassing (a release of volatile chemicals in the air). The paints used throughout the kitchen are low in -- or free of-- volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Tip: Using paint that is low in VOCs releases fewer pollutants and creates less odor.
Instead of using classic stainless-steel appliances, Susan wanted to add color to the kitchen. That's exactly what the burgundy range, hood, and wall oven do. To cut down on energy use, Birns installed mini-appliances. Refrigerator and freezer drawers supplement the main refrigerator. Now, instead of repeatedly opening the main refrigerator, the boys use the smaller, more energy-efficient options.
Tip: Purchase appliances bearing the Energy Star label. This certification means they use less water and energy than standard models.
Burgundy appliances set off the blue tones of the cabinetry and backsplash. The cabinetry is made of wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This means it was harvested from managed, sustainable forests. The backsplash is made from recycled glass.
Eco-friendly wood was also used in the pantry. The flooring is carved from striated aspen tree wood that grew in a managed forest. This process uses about 85 percent of the tree, as compared to only 30 percent with other woods.
Even the furniture in the kitchen is environmentally friendly. The upholstered bench for the eating area uses a sustainable material made without polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Tip: Throw out kitchen cleaning supplies that contain toxic chemicals and switch to natural products, which are safer and often just as effective.
For more eco-friendly spaces, check out the Eco-Friendly Home.