Excerpts from “Fashionably Green – Furnishings and fabrics can be beautiful, stylish and nontoxic”

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Excerpts from “Fashionably Green – Furnishings and fabrics can be beautiful, stylish and nontoxic”
By: PJ Bremier, Marin Independent Journal, March 22, 2003

Michael Black in showroom

DOES BEING SENSITIVE to environmental or health issues have to mean living in an ugly, boring home? Not according to Victoria Schomer, A.S.I.D., owner of Interior Concerns, a design and consulting business in San Rafael. She’s been designing commercial and residential projects throughout the Bay Area since the 1970s, but has focused on sustainable and healthful interiors since the late 1980s.

In the 1990s Schomer published the first national newsletter and a products guide, and founded the nonprofit organization Building Concerns, which features a national program of regional directories of professionals, services, local incentives and educational offerings for sustainable design, building and development. On top of that, in 2000 Schomer was honored in New York with the prestigious Design for Humanity Award from the American Society of Interior Designers, in recognition of her contribution to the environment through design-related activities…

Design conversion
It was in the late 1980s, however, when Schomer read of the tropical rain forest destruction and its attendant loss of habitat that she was stirred to action. “That was too much for me,” she says today, “the trees and the animals being destroyed. And it dawned on me that my own design recommendations had a direct connection to that destruction. At the same time I read about some of Europe’s ecological products and their better health impacts. I realized I just couldn’t continue to do design work in the same way anymore. So I opened Pandora’s ecological box, and have never specified tropical wood since.”

Thanks to smart suppliers, it’s not at all necessary these days, either. Take Michael Black. He started Black’s Farmwood five years ago after selling the wood from his family’s blown-down 150-year old tobacco barn in Ohio to a homeowner in Novato’s Black Point neighborhood. When builders and architects found out about it, his business mushroomed.

Out with the new
Today, he obtains wood from dismantled warehouses, lumber mills and barns, along with other old buildings, and has clients all over the country asking for his reclaimed timbers of redwood, Douglas fir, Western red cedar, oak, elm, ash, hemlock and pine.

“There’s no new wood here. These are the finest virgin old-growth timbers,” he explains. “They have a tight grain structure and density that new wood doesn’t, with very few defects or knots.” And, he adds, “it takes the pressure off the forests.”

Black also carries nine or 10 types of wide plank flooring of antique oak, tobacco bark oak and beech, prompting him to remark, “Every floor has its own story.”