Book Review – EcoChi

In the world of green design, everybody brings something to the table.  Some people arrive with a primary concern about chemicals and other pollutants in our homes and workplaces.  Others are motivated by a love of the natural world and a desire to preserve it.  Still others hope to find a spiritual and life changing aspect to sustainability, which is where the book “EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience” fits in.

Guided by changes in her own life, Debra Duneier has created a business – and now a book – around her idea of EcoChi, a marriage of sustainable design and Feng Shui principles.  Starting with how she found herself in business as a Feng Shui consultant, and began integrating aspects of an eco-friendly lifestyle in her design, Duneier then takes us through a series of illustrative examples of clients and how she arrived at beneficial solutions to their design problems, using her trademarked EcoChi system.  Chock full of information on things as varied as tips to make your hotel room feel more like home, and how to use EcoChi to improve your family and romantic relationships, this book attempts to illustrate the correlation between Feng Shui, sustainable living, and environmental psychology.

This slim, but information packed volume is the perfect fit for those looking to combine an interest in sustainable living with Feng Shui.  Although this book does not contain images of the design work described, I’ve heard there will be a follow-up book, and I’m hoping that they will be included there.  It would definitely be an added benefit to see a spacial representation of the solutions described in the text.

Since I am not a practitioner of Feng Shui, I can’t attest to the authenticity of the advice she gives, but she does make many good points about sustainable design that could prove useful.  I’ve had several clients over the years that have been concerned with finding a balance between their desire for a “good flow of energy” in their homes, and the wish for environmentally friendly design.  I wish I had had this book to loan them at the time.

Visit the EcoChi website to find out more about the book, including how to purchase either the hardcover version, or the eBook.

Book Review – “Undecorate”

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting Christiane Lemieux, founder of DwellStudio, at a signing for her new book Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design.

I’ve been meaning to write a review ever since, but I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes off the pages long enough to write something. This book is chock full of amazing and inspiring photographs. The locations run the gamut from a wonderfully cluttered farmhouse in New York State, to a sleekly modern “country house” in Northern California, but all share the unifying factor of being unfussy. These are homes that are truly lived in, in the most wonderfully human sense of the phrase. The people who have invited us into their homes on these pages, have “decorated” for their own enjoyment, not ours, and that’s what makes the spaces so appealing. Whether you call the style “undecorated”, wabi sabi, or simply eclectic, it speaks volumes about the lives of the people who dwell there. Read the rest of this entry »

The Scent of an Old Book

Old book - Basking Ridge Historical Society (1)

Forced to slow way, WAY down by my recent illness, I have rediscovered the joy of curling up with a good book.  Although I can see the benefits of downloading electronic files to tablet style readers, for me the soft, crinkly whooshing noise as a page is turned is too romantic to give up yet.  Even more than the sound though, I cannot imagine enjoying reading without that wonderful musty scent of age, bookbinder’s glue, and ink.  Yes, I am one of those crazy people who like to sniff books.  If they invented a cologne for men that smelled like antiquarian books, and my husband put it on, he would have to take out a restraining order on me.  I lust.

I was also raised to RESPECT books.  Unless it was a cookbook, there was no writing within allowed, other than a quick “this book belongs to…”.  Likewise, you never dogeared, stood on, tossed, or otherwise maimed a book.  They were SACRED.   So imagine my horror when I discovered that books donated to libraries are often simply tossed in the recycling bin!  Turns out, there are so many books that no one really wants (think “The Joy of Algebra”, ed. 1975), that there is nothing else to be done with them.  Imagine all that delicious scent going to waste.  Unless…

image via Inhabitat

we used all those unwanted books to make things with!  Like this enterprising library, which used books recovered from a fire to build their new checkout desk.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are We All “Living Downstream”?

I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Sandra Steingraber speak last Thursday at The Ecology Center, in San Juan Capistrano.

Dr. Steingraber’s story is one of crisis, survival, realization and action.  A story that revolves around cancer.  Her cancer.  A story that involves her taking her knowledge of science and using it to enlighten us as to why so many – so very many – of us are getting it. Read the rest of this entry »

Giveaway! – “Just Green It”


To celebrate the publication of their brand new book, “Just Green It!”, healthy living advocates Ron and Lisa Beres have offered me two autographed copies to giveaway to you, dear readers.

Filled with tips on how to save the environment and your wallet at the same time, this book is designed to make it easier to navigate through the sea of conflicting information and green-washing we all run up against on our journey to sustainability. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review & Giveaway- “The Green Home”

Giveaway details follow are at the end of the post, but we suggest you read the review first!

When I first started to focus strictly on sustainable design five years ago, the pickings were thin when it came to green interior design books..  As in, there were exactly two books, only one of which was really any use.

Even as I watched the list of available books grow, I still considered writing one of my own, because I didn’t find anyone addressing the subject of green residential interior design the way I thought it should be.  Luckily, I never got around to it because Sunset Design Guides has just released the book I probably would have written (if I had the talent!).

Taking full advantage of Sunset Magazine’s wealth of images, author Bridget Biscotti Bradley has created an inspiring collection of sustainable design ideas and arranged them in her easy to understand book, The Green Home.  Assisted by a “design panel” made up of such green design luminaries as Eric Corey Freed, Kelly LaPlante, and Michelle Kaufman, Bradley makes a compelling case for the ease with which green design principles can be woven into any remodeling project. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review – “Downtown Chic”

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Ben Franklin

Peppered throughout with quotes like that above, “Downtown Chic”, from Sixx Design, is equal parts inspiration, design philosophy treatise, and how-to book.


Robert and Cortney Novogratz began their path into the design world as passionate amateurs, seeking to convert a dilapidated brownstone in Chelsea into a warm and eclectic home in time to welcome their first child into the world.  Now, many projects (and six kids) later they have developed a thriving design business in New York City and environs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review – Eco House Book

eco house book

I have always had a love for Terence Conran.  Perhaps it’s the simple, natural look of his company’s interiors and furnishings, or maybe it’s just the dreamy, spare quality of the photographs that populate the pages of his “House” book series.  Whatever the reason, I was delighted to find his latest design tome, “Eco House Book”, is focused on what I love best – sustainable homes.

Read the rest of this entry »

If You Read Just One Book… OK, Maybe Two

I am often asked what books I would recommend for a designer trying to “go green”.  For a long time that was a tough question.  It seemed everything out there with “Green” in the title was long on pretty pictures, but short on substance.  It’s understandable that the first books to market were a bit rushed, considering how eager people were for information.  However, once you got past the parts about using no-VOC paints, and reclaimed wood floors, there really wasn’t much to go on.  Most particularly for the commercial interior designer.

Happily, ASID, in conjunction with Wiley, decided to publish two books on the subject.

“Sustainable Commercial Interiors”, by Penny Bonda and Katie Sosnowchik, was the first to hit shelves, followed closely by

“Sustainable Residential Interiors”, by Associates III.  Both books are a treasure trove of useful information, including comprehensive coverage of subjects such as: certification systems, life cycle assessment, materials use and re-use, daylighting, and ventilation.

As each book is aimed squarely at the needs of the respective branch of interior design it’s written for,  a residential designer is not likely to get much out of the commercial book, and vice versa. One other thing to keep in mind is that a few things have changed since these books were first published in 2007, most especially the USGBC’s LEED system, which figures prominently in the commercial volume.  As of now I know of no plans to revise “Sustainable Commercial Interiors”, but I will let you know if that changes.

All things aside, whether you are just starting out in green design, or just want to expand your knowledge base, these books are must haves for your library.  You will find yourself referring to them again and again!