Green Lessons From the 'House of the Year'

Like Dorothy's place in "The Wizard of Oz," another house has landed in an unlikely spot. The country abode this time has come to the big city, drawing crowds eager to see what Country Living magazine calls "The House of the Year."

Betty Lyn Walters-Eller, a consultant on the project, said visitors to downtown Manhattan come armed with smart questions about how much "green" thinking went into this blue-gray structure. The 1,600-square-foot cottage, on view at at the World Financial Center through June 17, arrived at the plaza on May 18 and then was turned over to experts like Walters-Eller for decoration.

Walters-Eller stood on the cottage porch last Friday afternoon and chatted about her work it. She said she gets quizzed as to why there's no solar paneling, which she insists starts to degrade the day it's installed. She likes the eco-sensitive siding and trim done by James Hardie.

Walters-Eller says there are other tips for homeowners in the home. And Americans seem ready to hear the suggestions. "Green," the House of the Year's project consultant said, "has gone mainstream."

So who built this place and what lessons does it hold for the rest of us?
The house is the creation of a company called New World Home, which focuses on the construction of environmentally-sensitive residences. The company's co-founder, Mark Jupiter, gave tours on opening day, emphasizing that "this house was built in a factory" and that it rose speedily on the plaza.

Jupiter, a charming tour guide, said durability was key. "For example, the siding on this house will last 50 years," he said. His company plans to build homes like this model, which is named "Hudson" and, according to a project press release, "will be built on the shores of the Hudson River." The home features a wraparound porch of 1,100 square feet. Also impressive: the lovely landscaping by Jon Carloftis, which reminds us that one great green addition to a home is ... greenery. A simple but valuable reminder.

There are lessons inside, too, for homeowners eager to make smaller moves toward a greener existence on the home front. Among the suggestions that Walters-Eller says the house manages to highlight: replace windows, install foam insulation, choose a metal roof that will reflect light, and even do something as simple as adding a ceiling fan on the porch to circulate air. Walters-Eller also pointed to soy-based foam used in the kitchen.

All the emphasis on "renew and re-use" need not mean tremendous expense, she said. "It doesn't have to be precious price-point antiques," she argued, adding that affordable alternatives have become the new status quo. "The building products industry has made great advances," Walters-Eller said.

Natalie Warady, the style and market director at Country Living, hit similar themes in an interview this week. She said that in her work covering the changing market, it's been fun "just to see the extent and the number of manufacturers embracing eco-green-sustainable."

She agrees the House of the Year will yield plenty of ideas. "You can definitely take some of the tips from the home," she said. Among the suggestions she highlights: recovering classic chairs, updating style with vintage pillows, redecorating and (our favorite old standby) painting. Warady said that expert Carol Kemery taught the Country Living team how to paint over items that have a patina, the kinds of objects that might otherwise inspire doubt about whether they can be successfully redone.

Those who cannot make it to downtown Manhattan for a look at the house can see it in Country Living's November issue. In the meantime, experts like Warady are excited that green choices no longer have to be either stark or minimalist. She's seeing more environmentally-sensitive creations on the market that have a traditional or country bent. Her verdict: "It's exciting."
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