Like something out of a TV sitcom, mixed signals and name confusions led a real estate agent to show the wrong house to a Los Angeles couple: Monica Rosenthal, who co-starred in the Emmy award-winning TV series Everybody Loves Raymond, and her husband, Philip, creator, writer, and executive producer of the show. Even though the 1920s house was in the midst of a renovation and not for sale, the Rosenthals made an offer to the owner, interior designer Timothy Corrigan. “They liked the house so much that they contacted me to see if I would be willing to sell it on the condition that I complete it for them,” Corrigan recalls. The designer agreed, and the Rosenthals bought the property in 2005.
“When we first saw the house, it was completely gutted,” Monica says. “But when I walked into the kitchen area, I was struck with how open it was. From both sides of the room you looked to beautiful views outdoors. I knew we could live here. I could envision this as a space where we could all hang out.”
The couple and their two children, Ben and Lily, had just returned from a vacation in Italy, and the family was looking to create a casual Italian-style farmhouse. “We entertain a lot and have a lot of events here,” Monica says.
Owning a large home raised issues, however. “I was concerned about our carbon footprint,” she says. “I’m still conflicted about being a resource hog.” Those concerns prompted Monica and Corrigan to incorporate as many green products as possible. And because the house was being renovated, they could add many sustainable and eco-kind materials from the ground up.
Monica requested insulation made with recycled cotton denim rather than fiberglass. She also spearheaded the installation of two types of solar panels. Inconspicuous low-profile “solar shingles” blend with regular roof shingles while collecting energy from the sun. And highly efficient silicon panels are mounted on wood awnings that project over bedroom balconies.
Corrigan recommended using recycled steel for structural support. “It doesn’t cost any more and is just as durable,” he says.
The designer tapped a California-based company that specializes in locating and selling reclaimed lumber that he used to fabricate into ceiling beams, floors, and wall paneling in the Rosenthals’ library.
When a stone terrace was torn out during the renovation, Philip suggested installing the stone on the dining room walls. “I was reticent at first. I thought it might be too much,” Monica says. “But it’s one of the best rooms in the house. It feels like a wine cellar.”
New wood floors and wood furnishings are built with lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as grown and harvested using sustainable practices. Cork floors were laid in a few rooms, including a laundry room. Cork is harvested from the bark of the oak cork tree without harming the tree. It is considered a quickly renewable material because the bark grows back in five to seven years.
Corrigan chose green furnishings, too, including many antiques. “They are the ultimate in green because no new resources are used to create them.”
Drapery and furniture fabrics are cotton, linen, and other natural fibers, says Corrigan, who avoided fabrics treated with toxic, high-metal dyes. Pillows and furniture cushions are made with natural latex foam wrapped in down. Man-made, petroleum-based foams can give off toxic fumes.
Corrigan began researching green design several years ago when he became aware of indoor air pollution. He was initially appalled at the lack of attractive green options, so he lobbied furniture, fabric, and other suppliers to offer beautiful and Earth-friendly products. The result is what Corrigan calls eco-luxury—design that doesn’t require a homeowner to choose between elegance and being environmentally responsible. It’s an approach that resonates with Monica. “Tim’s main focus was aesthetics. The house is elegant, but also warm and homey.”
Photography: Joe Schmelzer
Interior design: Timothy Corrigan, Timothy Corrigan Inc., 5818 West Third St., Los Angeles, CA 90036; 323/525-1802, timothy-corrigan.com.