Photographs by Terry Pommett
Written by Amy Elbert
Eco-Friendly Summer Home
Big houses sometimes own you rather than you owning them, says New England designer Trudy Dujardin. “They’re hard to heat, they’re hard to keep clean, and they end up taking a lot of your time.”
So when Trudy Dujardin and her husband, Frank Fasanella, toured a 2,600-square-foot cottage on the western tip of Nantucket Island, they knew they’d found their summer home. “The main thing my husband fell in love with was the scale of this house. It’s very manageable,” Trudy says. “Most of the time it’s just the two of us here with our three little dogs. It’s perfect for us at this stage of our lives.”
Trudy and Frank were captivated by the scenic location, sandwiched between Madaket Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean—the beach for watching sunsets, according to Nantucket travel guides. While the size and location were right—and the 1965 house had been well cared for—it wasn’t quite in move-in condition for Trudy.
“I have chemical sensitivities, so I wanted to be careful,” explains the designer, who has practiced environmentally sensitive design since 1987. Trudy currently teaches sustainable design at Fairfield University in Connecticut and is a member of the Traditional Home Green Advisory Panel.
Her first step was to ask an industrial hygienist at Mircroecologies Environmental Services in New York to test the house for toxins lingering in building materials. Built-in shelves around the fireplace in the living room and in the library tested high in formaldehyde, a chemical often used in plywood. To replace them, Trudy designed built-ins, which were made by an island carpenter using solid woods with no formaldehyde and finished with nontoxic paints.
Frank wanted to keep the energy-efficient wood-burning fireplace, so Trudy updated it with a charcoal Lagos Azul limestone surround and hearth. Above the fireplace, she added a lintel hand-carved by a Nantucket artist, the late Jack Flandreau. The lintel’s mother and baby whale were carved into a pine beam salvaged from an old Nantucket building.
In keeping with her “buy local” philosophy, Trudy worked with Nantucket artisans and tradespeople throughout the project, including cabinetmakers, painters, and masons. “You need to support the community you’re in,” she says.
Trudy stayed with the house’s original floor plan but lightened and brightened the main living spaces by whitewashing knotty pine walls and ceilings with water-based, nontoxic paints.
The living room was furnished for comfort-—both for people and the three resident Bichons—with easy-care fabrics and a crisp navy-and-white color scheme. “We wanted a casual beach look so we could come in with sand on our shoes or sit on the living room sofa with a wet bathing suit and not worry about it,” Trudy says.
A linen-wrapped cocktail table adds a sophisticated attitude to the living room. Trudy had the table custom-made, using nontoxic glues and paints, after admiring a similar Karl Springer design. The redesigned table exemplifies one of Trudy’s passions: working with manufacturers to develop sustainable and nontoxic furniture.
French doors in the living room open to a new screened porch, built where there had been a deck.
“It was too hot and bright during the day to sit on the deck,” Trudy relates. “Now we sleep, work, and read on the porch. It’s like we doubled the size of our house just by adding the porch.”
The master bedroom is serene with white painted walls and ceilings (once knotty pine) and accents in tones of sea glass—pale blue and sea-foam green. French doors open to a small balcony with impressive views of the harbor.
The kitchen also needed a lighter touch. Solid cherry cabinets were in good condition but made the room feel “dreary.” Trudy couldn’t bear to tear out good cabinets, so she had them sanded and painted white. “That exploded the space visually,” she says.
The dark granite countertops, however, had to go. They were replaced with a honed Danby marble from a New England supplier. Happily, before the old granite was unloaded at the island’s recycling site, the slabs were snapped up by another renovator.
Less visible—but no less important in creating a healthful environment—were updated mechanicals, such as a ventilation system that exchanges inside air every 20 minutes to lower the level of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). “My highest priority is health, so I start with that when I design,” Trudy says. “I feel whatever cubicle you’re in—whether it’s a factory, office, store, or especially your home—it needs to support your health, your sense of well-being, and your life.”
Architect/interior designer: Trudy Dujardin, Dujardin Design Assoc. Inc., P.O. Box 5202, Westport, CT 06881; 203/838-8100, dujardindesign.com.
Flowers throughout: Flowers on Chestnut, 508/228-6007.