While you’re blissfully sleeping, your body is working hard to purge toxins you’ve been exposed to during waking hours, says Trudy Dujardin, a New England interior designer who specializes in creating beautiful and healthful environments. "We want to keep the bedroom really pristine and give your body a fighting chance."
Trudy, a member of the Traditional Home Green Advisory Panel, created a health-minded environment for Connecticut homeowner Jill Jordon by using natural furnishings and finishes free of formaldehyde, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and petroleum-based products.
Jill sleeps on an innerspring mattress made with natural latex foam, wool, and organic cotton. Natural latex comes from the sap of rubber trees, is fire-resistant, and resists moisture buildup, mold, and dust. The latex is topped with a 3-inch layer of wool wrapped in organic cotton and hand-tufted.
Trudy special-orders the mattresses from a company in California, but she finds transporting them is worth the resources expended by shipping. "The Vivètique is one people do very well with," Trudy says. "You buy it because when you sleep at night, you won’t be breathing in anything harmful. It’s the most luxurious bed in the world."
Conventional innerspring and foam mattresses are made with petroleum-based polyester and polyurethane foam and treated with flame retardants. Many of the flame-retardant chemicals, as well as the foam itself, emit VOCs and fumes that migrate into the environment and cause health problems, Trudy explains.
Pillows also should be carefully chosen. Trudy recommends wool-filled pillows covered in organic cotton. She particularly favors PureGrow wool, an American product that is pesticide- and chemical-free, not chemically cleaned, and from humanely raised sheep.
Avoid synthetic pillows or those made with petroleum-based foams, which are "like breathing formaldehyde all night," Trudy advises.
Choose sheets, pillowcases, and other bed linens made from organic cotton, she adds. Traditional cotton is loaded with pesticides and insecticides, often processed with chemical softeners, bleached or dyed, and treated with formaldehyde finishes. Avoid cotton-polyester blends, which are usually treated with formaldehyde or other finishes to prevent wrinkling.
Organic cotton must meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which include using no chemical pesticides, defoliants, or insecticides; only natural fertilizers, beneficial insects, and crop rotation are permitted, and chemical treatments and finishes are not allowed when the cotton is processed.
Always wash new bed linens at least once before you put them on the bed, particularly if they are not organic cotton, Trudy says. "I wash them in pretty hot water and throw in a handful of baking soda with the soap. If the fabric is not organic and was sprayed, you want to wash out any residual pesticides so you’re not sleeping on that."
The upholstered headboard, bed skirt, and window treatments in Jill’s bedroom are made with 100 percent cotton fabric that has not been treated with chemical finishes. A table skirt is made of 100 percent bamboo fiber produced in a sustainable manner.
A decorative painter created a strié pattern on the walls, combining several colors of a low-VOC paint. "I prefer using a paint finish rather than covering the walls in paper or fabric, which can accumulate dust," Trudy says.
An antique coffee table was refurbished and given new life. Bamboo fabric was used to cover a vintage settee and sidechair. Because bamboo is a fast-growing grass, it is a highly renewable source.
Wood shutters in an adjoining sitting room provide privacy and are easy to keep dust-free. Twin chaises are covered in cotton (henrycalvin.com).
Carpets can harbor dust mites, so she also prefers hardwood floors (with a water-borne finish) and natural-fiber area rugs, which can be removed and steam cleaned. "A lot of people are really staunch and don’t put any floor covering in a bedroom," she says. "I like to have something soft underfoot, so I often put a 3x5-foot rug on either side of the bed."
Jill wanted the luxury of a wall-to-wall carpet, however, so Trudy ordered a wool carpet with a natural-fiber backing. No moth-proofing or other finishes were applied to the carpet.
To ensure clean air, install a central filtration system or equip the bedroom with a stand-alone model that filters both particulates (pollen, dander, and mold spores) and vapors (formaldehyde). "My favorite unit is the Austin HealthMate Plus," Trudy notes.
Before you tuck yourself in at night, take a bath to wash away any toxins that may have latched onto your body during the day, slip into an organic cotton nightie, and then rest easy.
Photo: Peter Krumhardt
Put Your Mind at Rest
Pillows made with synthetic fillings and fabric covers are usually treated with chemical finishing agents, which can emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), says Reneé Loux, host of the Fine Living TV show "It’s Easy Being Green," and a Traditional Home Green Advisory Panel member. Down-filled pillows raise questions about the humane treatment of the birds from whom the feathers are taken. Down pillows also can become breeding grounds for dust mites, mold, and mildew.
Instead, Reneé suggests trying pillows filled with kapok, a natural fiber from the seed pods of a rain-forest fruit tree. Wool, natural latex foam, shredded natural latex foam, and buckwheat hulls are other possibilities. Reneé outlines the options in Easy Green Living (Rodale, 2008; $25).
Photo: Michael McCafrey
Inspired by and designed to respect nature, the Crescendo bed is made entirely with sustainable materials, says Jill Salisbury, founder of the Chicago eco-design business el: Environmental Language and a Traditional Home Green Advisory Panel member. Walnut veneers accent the bed’s curves and the head- and foot-board are bamboo, a readily renewable resource. Woods are Forest Stewardship Council-certified, and the finish is a non-toxic natural lacquer derived from tree sap (el-furniture.com).
Design: Trudy Dujardin, F. Price Connors, Dujardin Design Associates, P.O. Box 5202, Westport, CT 06881; 203/838-8100 and 508/228-1120; dujardindesign.com.
Photography: Michael Luppino
Produced by Stacy Kunstel
Bed (Gustavian king-size headboard): Country Swedish, 888/807-9333, countryswedish.com, trade only.
Mattress ("Aurora’’): The Natural Bedroom by Vivètique, vivetique.com.
Headboard, bed skirt, underskirt on table, and drapery fabric ("Country Leaf’’/Green #J235F-01, by Jane Churchill): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, cowtan.com, trade only.
Trim ("Annecy Cord’’/Mint, Light Blue #981-31058-169): Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, trade only.
Sheers ("Delphi’’/White #1562-01): Summer Hill, 650/462-9600, trade only.
Sheets and pillowcases; pillow shams; duvet; throw: Dujardin Design Assoc., 203/838-8100.
Silver table lamps ("Column Table Lamp with Bead’’ #RL11106PS): Ralph Lauren Home, 888/475-7674, ralphlaurenhome.com.
Paint (custom-mixed color): Aura by Benjamin Moore, myaurapaint.com.
Table topper ("Kuma’’/Whisper #H223-101, bamboo): Designtex, 800/221-1540, dtex.com.
Freen Floral vase on bedside table: Scott Potter Designs, 207/775-3630.
Botanicals; Chinese figurine; slipper chair; coffee table (vintage, Kittinger): owner’s collection.
Slipper-chair fabric (discontinued): Cowtan & Tout, 212/647-6900, trade only.
Settee ("Garbo’’ #2100-01940): J. Robert Scott, 800/651-4354, jrobertscott.com.
Settee fabric ("Kuma’’/Whisper #H223-101): Designtex, 800/221-1540.
Carpet ("Wicker II’’ #7601): Stark Carpet Corp., 212/752-9000, starkcarpet.com, trade only.
Fire screen; Delft vases: Dujardin Design Assoc., 203/838-8100.
Television: Sony USA, sony.com.
Chaise longues; round table; tray table; box: owner’s collection.
Floral pottery on table: Scott Potter Designs, 207/775-3630.
Chaise fabric ("Dallas Sailcloth’’/White #8480): Calvin Fabrics, 888/732-1996, henrycalvin.com, trade only.
Chaise trim ("French Piping’’/Emerald #981-26621-069): Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, trade only.
Bolsters: Dujardin Custom Pillow Collection, 203/838-8100.
Lamp ("Stacked Glass Ball Table Lamp’’ #RL11158PS): Ralph Lauren Home, 888/475-7674, ralphlaurenhome.com.
Valance over shutters ("Kuma’’/Whisper #H223-101): Designtex, 800/221-1540, dtex.com.
Trim ("Annecy Cord’’/Dark Taupe, Brown #981-31058-169): Samuel & Sons, 212/704-8000, trade only.
Shutters: Dujardin Design Assoc., 203/838-8100.