Trudy Dujardin on interior decorating | Home Front

Oct 09, 2014

Trudy Dujardin is an interior designer based in Westport, Conn. and Nantucket, Mass. She is a LEED accredited professional and an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, as well as author of the new book "Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior."

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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This morning we are going to focus on elegant eco-friendly design, the specialty of designer Trudy Dujardin. She is an expert in the sustainable design movement and has lots of great ideas to share with us from tips on non-toxic paints to green furniture. Her new book Comfort Zone (Pointed Leaf Press; $75) is all about creating the eco-elegant interior. Let's go.

Jura and Margaret, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your chat today. I'm excited to answer everyone's questions! For anything that I might not cover, please refer to my blog for my monthly columns called Gently Green. I'm so honored to be here!

Are any paints really NO VOC? Which brands do you recommend?

Yes, there are several brands that have NO VOC (volatile organic compounds).  Personally, I prefer EnviroSafe NO VOC paints - water borne, latex with NO chemical preservatives or mildewcides or fungicides.  This is available on line but shipped from Texas so that expense could be an issue. 

Benjamin Moore has Natura ~ which is also a wonderful paint with no odor.  Easy to be around while applying.

I have seen information about LEED houses in cold and temperate climates, but very little about them in hot climates - such as Florida where I hope to live. Can you recommend some resources? I am also interested in PassivHaus and zero-energy houses.

I'm very happy to see your interest in LEED houses.  What's different in hot climates usually has to do with the glazing or the windows, to keep the houses cooler when the sun is at its height in that space. Energy conservation is just as important in hot climates as in cold climates.  I would recommend contacting USGBC, the US Green Building Council in Washington for their recommendations. They can easily be found online. By the way, I think PassivHaus in Germany is at the pinnacle. 

Hi there. My daughter has asthma and my pediatrician recommended we remove all of our carpeting. Our hardwood floors are ok, but I like softer surfaces, especially in bedrooms. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.

Your pediatrician is absolutely right. The reason they ask you to remove carpeting, especially wall to wall, is that there is an accumalation of a lot of dust, dust mites and debris between teh carpet and padding. This is not removed with normal vacuuming. Most asthmatics have a strong reaction to dust mites and they proliferate in wall to wall carpeting. Spaces need to be kept dust free. I suggest damp mopping hardwood floors at least twice a week. You can use small area rugs to soften rooms, but they would need to be sent out to be steam cleaned with no chemicals at least twice a year. 

Hello - we are repainting our dining room and I was wondering if you could provide a few suggestions for possible colors? Our table is cherry wood and the chairs are Eames molded plastic in wafer... thanks

Farrow & Ball Dorset Cream, Martha Stewart for Home Depot Cappuccino or Behr Plantation White.

I am updating a small, windowless family bathroom and would love a bit of advice from Trudy and the chatters. 1 - I'm removing one of those wall toothbrush and cup holders. But what do I replace it with to serve this function? The pedestal sink has very limited counterspace and I have a large medicine cabinet so adding a shelf seems like a lot..... Do people just put this stuff inside the medicine cabinet now? 2 - Any new trends that could inform my paint color choice? It will be white tile floors, white subway tile bath so very much a blank slate. No natural light at all......

You are so right - space is always limited in a small bathroom. I like to have spaces devoid of the look of clutter, so yes, I store tooth brushes and the like in my medicine cabinet. New trends for color: lavender is coming on strong, and it would look well with your white tile floors and subway tile bath.

What is an eco-elegant interior?

I'm glad you asked! Our favorte saying at Dujardin Design is "A healthy home is the ultimate luxury." All of us spend most of our time in containers - a house, an office, a school, a bus, a car, a museum, a restaurant. We feel strongly that all of these spaces/containers should support one's health and well-being. They can be beautifully designed, but if they are not also eco, meaning having excellent indoor air quality, to me it's a contradiction in terms. Most people feel that to be environmentally-friendly, the house would have to have a hippie look. That's not true, and that's why we have created the phrase, 'Eco-Elegant Design.' With every project we do, we strive to show that you can have a beautiful home that is also healthful for you, your family and the planet.

Hi Jura, I asked this question last week, but, I think your guest thought I was asking about counter top material.....I'm actually looking for paint recommendations. Hi. Building a new kitchen. Wall cabinets are natural cherry with mocha glaze. Island cabinets are a light gray with same glaze. Planning on stainless backsplash, have not selected granite yet. Can you give me a few color ideas in lighter hued blues/teal/gray? One north facing window and one skylight. Open to a family room so it's a big space. I'm hoping for a nice color I can use in a 50% that would be in the kitchen, while I use it at 100% in the adjoining entry way. Thanks!

As always, Benjamin Moore's Palladian Blue comes to mind as its an every changing color and seems to go with grays, teals, blues and greens. Also perhaps Borrowed Light by Farrow & Ball.

Hi Trudy, I can't wait to get my copy of Comfort Zone! My home is probably the opposite of eco-friendly, but I want to change that. What are some easy things I can do, where should I start? Thanks.

Here are my top 5 suggestions to make your home eco-friendly: 1. try to eliminate as many chemicals, insecticides, pesticides, etc as possible. When chemicals are used on your lawn, they are tracked in on your shoes into your living space. 2. Energy conservation: we can all begin to switch to LED lights over time. Caution: if you are now using compact fluorescents, which is what we have all been told to do foe energy conservation, please dispose of them with extreme care. They need to be separated and sent to the dump as hazardous waste. 3. use water based latex, no-VOC paints and floor finishes, such as Benjamin Moore Natura and Basic Coatings Street Shoes floor finish. Even though, it's waterborne, it is highly durable and is used on basketball courts. 4. Recycling! 5. Check on your insulation - to reduce fuel consumption in the winter months.  

I will be redoing the insulation in part of my home soon, and want something that is energy efficient but also healthy for my family. Do you recommend a particular product? Thank you.

We always recommend Bonded Logic, which is made of recycle shredded blue jeans, impregnated with a  borate solution to protect against insects and microbial growth. Fiberglass is the new asbestos.  

Super glad to see this topic/guest -- Trudy, love that you have this focus and I can't wait to read and follow your blog (and get your book?!). Love the focus on eco-friendly designing! If you had to give one piece of advice to someone looking to follow this direction, what would you say?

I'm so glad that you are sensitive to the environment! My pet peeve is chemicals, insecticides, and pesticides - keep these out of your homes, away from your family, children and pets, and off of your property!  

I have redecorated my living room to make it look nearly Architectural Digest perfect. But my friends aren't comfortable sitting there because the colors are very light and the fabrics are very delicate. I made it look gorgeous, but it's not comfortable. I've spent a lot of money to get this look so I can't start over. How can I make it less stuffy and more inviting?

Have you considered adding some beautiful throw pillows in various colors and textures and possibly even antique brocade pillows, which might soften the look?  Also, I find that accessories, such as wonderful framed family photographs can make a room feel more personal. 

Trudy, in a previous answer you mention Basic Coatings Street Shoes floor finish. I haven't heard of a product like this--is it for hardwood floors? Do you use it instead of polyurethane? Thanks!

Yes Basic Coatings Street Shoes is a waterborne urethane, and I use it for hardwood floors as well as finishing cabinetry and even furniture. 

Although I'm not the OP, I had another question on this. Apparently our house has no insulation in the walls. Is this normal? The house was built in the 50s. How expensive would it be to have this installed? And would it really make a difference?

Do you have a general contractor that you like to work with? Without seeing the house, it's difficult to answer, but generally, it makes a difference because you use less energy. 

Any ideas on how to keep the crickets out of my basement without using pesticides? I'd love to not use them, but I'd love no crickets even more.

I understand! I have one chirping away in my basement right now. I use a paper towel and scoop them up and put them outside, because the deleterious effects of chemicals on our bodies over time is a much more serious issue, to me. Since World War II,, there have been more than 80,000 chemicals introduced into our environment. Many of them have not been tested. So I am a great proponent of not having chemicals anywhere in my living spaces. The half life of many chemicals that are sprayed on lawns can be more than 500 years! So pesticides can continue to poison our water supply for many years to come. So back to your question, I vote for the paper towel method and put them outside. 

I have had several friends and family members tout the benefits of tackling and finishing one entire room before moving on to any other home projects. The theory is that it gives one a sense of accomplishment, and that way half-done projects don't abound. While this seems nice in theory, I can't resist continuing to tinker with rooms after they're done, and I can always think of wish lists for any space I finish, so I actually think is may be less satisfied than if say I tackled one layer in the house (examples: electrical, lighting, carpets, artwork...) instead. What do you think - do you like the one-room approach?

This is so individual. I've often found that budget is a factor. Sometimes we have to do one room at a time, because that is all the budget will allow. Other people like to have a master plan, in other words, an overview, and tackle things as they can afford it. But at least they know what the goal is and have a vision for what the end product should look like. 

Any suggestions for candles? I feel like the market is awash with vanilla and lavender scents, but not much else. What scents do you like, and what brands?

I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, which means that I am highly sensitized to fragrances and odors, so scented products are out for me. I still use candles for the ambience though, but they are unscented. Pottery Barn has a wonderful selection. 

I am allergic to many things, including chemicals, dust, grass. What are some things I can do to help my allergies? What kind of things should I buy that reduce off-gassing?

First of all, are you working with a good allergist?  It would be good to know what specific things you are reacting to. It could be dust, but it could also be dust mites. And have you been tested for food allergies? For most allergic people, reducing clutter reduces the amount of dust. Make your bedroom like a bell jar - remove all clutter, no stacks of books or magazines in the corner, do a thorough dusting at least once a week, damp mop the floors at least twice a week, and there should be no carpeting.  If possible, use all organic bedding. Your mattress should be wrapped in a barrier cloth sack, and so should your sleeping pillows, which reduces the amount of dust mites. The reason I focus on the bedroom so much is that during your sleep, usually between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., your liver and kidneys detox your body. So your bedroom needs to be as pristine as possible, so that you're not overloading your system and your body can do its job.

If my house had any, it's decades gone. I hear it would be wildly expensive to put in, not to mention ruin the walls. Is it possible? How?

These would be good questions for a general contractor - someone needs to inspect your particular home. 

Trudy, how and why did you get interested in the eco-friendly approach to decorating? What does it mean to be LEED certified--i.e. what training did you have to go through to achieve this? Are there many LEED certified designers out there? (are they the only ones who can be LEED certified, or can we look for this designation in other professions, too?)

I actually developed an interest in eco-friendly design in 1987, when I purchased a property on the harbor on Nantucket Island. Sitting there on that property, staring out at the harbor, I realized what a fragile ecosystem Nantucket has. Everything done on that property in the construction projects would impact rapidly on the quality of the water in the harbor. I studied to become a LEED-accredited professional, with a specialty in interior design and construction.  I studied for 5 weeks, 16 hours a day.  A group of architects and certified industrial hygienists, we purchased all of the materials from LEED and used their study guides and then sat for the exam.

In transitioning your home to the winter months, what are the 3-5 top things you should do to create a healthy home?

Thank you so much Jura, this has been a wonderful hour. I'm sorry that I didn't get to answer every question, but please check out my new book, Comfort Zone, which has a a great green resource guide in the back.  Thanks everyone, looking forward to chatting again soon!

Great chat! Lots of great ground covered. See you all next time.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Trudy Dujardin
Trudy Dujardin is an interior designer based in Westport, Conn. and Nantucket, Mass. She is a LEED accredited professional and an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, as well as author of the new book "Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior."
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