Designing a home aligned with my vision—and my values—took focus, intuition, and much trial and error. It was an endeavor of true co-creation: Getting granular with my interior designer, Matthew Tenzin of True Home Design in Boulder, Colo., asking the advice of friends with great taste, and trusting my own experience of beauty.
But piece by piece, fixture by fixture, the home took shape. It’s been a steadying and comforting force in these uncertain times. Here’s a look at how it all came together—and the sustainable products that now fill the space.
Tenzin, who is also a shamanic practitioner and former Buddhist monk, advises that any space be designed from the ground up, with the colors of the rug setting the tone. My living room’s centerpiece is Benchmade Modern’s L-shaped Skinny Fat sectional, with its clean, elegant silhouette, deep seats, and relaxed feel. Benchmade Modern’s line of furniture, crafted by hand in the U.S., embodies the slow, sustainable furniture model. “Particularly when it comes to larger pieces, such as sofas and sectionals, you want your furniture to last, rather than a cheaply made item that quickly wears out and ends up in a landfill,” says founder Edgar Blazona.
The company uses low-VOD glues and offers trillium, a type of polyester that’s more eco-friendly than down, as an option for the cushions. The frame of each piece also comes with a lifetime warranty. And best of all, the company’s ingenious sizing protocol—you can order a full-scale printout of the sofa’s footprint so you can see how it works in your space—reduces returns, and thus carbon emissions.
For the dining room table, Tenzin suggested a lighter wood to contrast with the dark floor. I knew I wanted a table that was sturdy—and one that I didn’t need to worry about scratches or watermarks. Research led me to Studio Moe, a Portland-based furniture studio that uses responsibly sourced American native hardwoods and bomber varnish to provide a durable finish.
To set a sustainable table, I chose Fable Home pasta bowls. I was first drawn to their organic shape, but the company’s carbon neutral status and dedication to becoming zero waste sealed the deal. The glassware by August Sage is made from Moroccan recycled glass; the flatware from Snow Home is made from a high-gauge stainless steel crafted from energy-efficient processes; and the Suay LA napkins are repurposed out of fabric waste from the fashion industry. The Newly Shibusa cutting board was made using 900 recycled chopsticks; and the Jones and Co. decanter features a decorative ball made of mango wood, one of the world’s most sustainably farmed woods.
This Sabai sectional uses recycled, natural, and FSC-certified materials, and the company offers ethical domestic production and plastic-free shipping. The throw on the far left is from Alicia Adams Alpaca, a company that specializes in cruelty-free, fair-trade textiles and clothing utilizing alpaca wool, which is sustainably sourced, easy on the environment, hypoallergenic, and more pill resistant than cashmere.
The primary bedroom’s symmetry and pleasing neutrals, interspersed with pops of color, make for exquisite rest. The Coyuchi bedding, a duvet cover with subtle variations, paired with undyed organic percale sheets, turns the bed into a cloud of comfort. The Blacksaw Siempre throw is made primarily from Alpaca, using recycled factory off-cuts that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
The intricate Dounia Aria Metal Hamsa Pendant light fixture, crafted ethically by Moroccan artisans in Marrakech, is eminently durable, and the brass, silver, and copper used are 100 percent recyclable. On the nightstand is Humanscale’s Infinity Light, an ergonomic, adjustable LED light that makes reading in bed even more delightful. And bonus: the company aims for a Net Positive environmental impact, an ethos that seeks to do more good than harm.
Since we spend about a third of our lives in bed, comfort is king. But so is sustainability (50,000 mattresses end up in landfills every day). Avocado Green, a B Corp, handcrafts each mattress with nontoxic and 100 percent certified organic materials, harvested from domestic and international sources, including their own farms in India and Guatemala. They have committed to becoming the first zero waste-certified mattress factory, and they are the world’s only Climate Neutral Certified mattress and bedding brand.
The Tuft & Needle Wood Frame is Greenguard Gold Certified, built from sustainably sourced oak, free of laminates (full of toxic chemicals), and comes with a 10-year warranty. The bed is flanked by Room & Board’s Hudson nightstands, which were crafted by artisans in West Virginia from locally sourced wood. A tala alumina light showcases the company’s innovative approach to LED lighting. It’s dim to warm technology makes cold, blue-tinged LED lighting a thing of the past.
As the bedroom came together, a dear friend suggested the bedroom was longing for a plant. I turned to Bloomscape, an online houseplant delivery website. I was impressed by how carefully packaged my ZZ plant arrived, how resilient it is, and how plants raise the vibration in just about any space. The Prayer Mat hamper, sold by Madetrade, a woman-owned, carbon neutral company that specializes in vegan, fair trade, BIPOC-owned, and handcrafted products made of sustainable and recycled/upcycled materials. Hand-woven by the Wolof women of Senegal, each basket is made with natural cattails and reeds, accented by colorful strips of plastic from used prayer mats.
The bathroom, heavy on the white and grays, needed some natural warmth. Coyuchi specializes in undyed textiles, as seen in the creamy shag bathmat, as well as the darker brown towels above. The word coyuchi, which is derived from the Aztec language, actually means naturally colored brown cotton, or the color of coyote fur. The July Table is from Nikari, a Finnish company that only uses tree species that have been cultivated in accordance with the sustainable development policy. The table was designed by Nao Tamura as part of a series called “Project 2012 Designs for Nature,” in which designers created a product as a response to Nikari’s design philosophy.
My 11-year-old daughter wanted a modern, grown-up space that felt comfortable, but sophisticated. Since the room is small, Tenzin suggested we go with white furniture to create an airy feel. The bed, nightstand and desk are all by Pottery Barn Teen and GreenGuard Gold certified (low emissions), and the nightstand is made in a Fair Trade certified factory. The linens are by Coyuchi.
The bed features the Avila Organic Matelasse Blanket and shams, with the inspiration for its pattern coming from the irregular lines of regenerative agriculture fields. On the bed is the Jones & Co. Momos wool blanket in undyed ivory, made on a traditional standing loom in Guatemala. The move desk chair is by noho, a B Corp company, whose chairs, designed to flex and move, are made from plastic sourced from reclaimed fishing nets and end-of-use carpets. And noho’s packaging, another potential huge landfill problem, was made of corn starch bags and completely recyclable.
The Berkeley desk by Room & Board is made in the U.S. by American Woods, a company that draws on Midwestern practicality to reduce its carbon footprint, such as storing wood dust throughout the year to use for heat in the winter. The Herman Miller Aeron Onyx Chair, made from ocean-bound, mismanaged plastic, contains up to 2.5 pounds (1.13 kg) of plastic waste per chair. Completing the trifecta of optimal working conditions is the Dyson Lightcycle Morph, an LED lamp designed to maintain the same quality of light for a remarkable 60 years. The epic longevity is due in part to Dyson’s self-developed heat pipe tech, which keeps the LEDs cool instead of overheating.
Since the office faces east, a shade was mandatory for blocking Colorado’s brutal summer glare. With some research I came across Earthshade, a company that offers the lowest-emitting roller shades. As the finishing touch, I searched for eco-friendly desk blotters and found Grovemade. The desk pad is made from natural linoleum, a sustainable-sourced material comprised of linseed oil, pine rosin, wood flour, and calcium carbonate.
The bookshelves are the crowning glory of my office (plus they make a great background for Zoom calls). I love the cozy lamplight effect from this ceramic lamp by Virginia Sin. It’s called the Boulder Table Lamp, and was designed after the Flatirons rock formation in Boulder, Colorado, near where I live. Ceramic not only exudes life force, but also demonstrates staying power. “Once the product survives its second firing, the permanence of the piece will hold up in hopes that we use less and reuse more rather than purchasing products made out of plastic or paper which doesn’t necessarily hold up to the test of time,” says Sin.
Nobody makes the case for clean cookware better than Caraway Home. Their cookware set is non-toxic and nonstick, and comes equipped with thoughtful pan and lid storage units to keep your pots organized and contained. The yucca tea towel from Little Korboose is made from organic unbleached flour sack cotton and printed with low impact non-toxic ink. It’s reminiscent of my local flora and fauna, reinforcing my sense of place and belonging.
When I discovered Lettuce Grow, creators of hydroponic garden towers, I was slightly dubious. But once I got the mechanics up and running, the product was totally self-sufficient. I’d go into my laundry room empty-handed and come out with greens for sautéeing, enough lettuce for a salad, chives for an omelet, and the occasional miraculous strawberry. It was a true privilege to have fresh produce on hand, especially in the winter. The garden towers are made in the U.S. from ocean-bound plastic recovered from coastal communities. And they have the capacity to allow people to grow 20 percent of their own food at home, without pesticides and with 95 percent less water than traditional agriculture.