Q & A: Getting Started with a Green Remodel


Genevieve Gorder, celebrity designer, shares tips on do-it-yourself green remodeling.

Floor & Decor Outlets of America

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Mother Earth Living recently spoke with Genevieve Gorder, celebrity designer from television's Trading Spaces, Town Haul. Genevieve grew up remodeling homes with her family and has been preserving homes and using salvaged materials ever since. Her fun-loving approach to interior design and working barefoot are her trademarks. Floor & Decor Outlets of America, specializing in hard flooring products, recently chose Genevieve as spokesperson as the company expands nationwide. Here's what she had to say about do-it-yourself green remodeling.

What is it about DIY that makes it fun and rewarding?

I think that it can feel like a laborious process, but the reward is that you have an environment that is designed by you for you. That's precious. That is absolutely what it should be. Your personality should be tangible in a space and only you can do that. Once you're educated and become knowledgeable enough, it's baby steps. It's going to stores like Floor & D?cor and other stores that partner with you that make the process less daunting. And I always recommend scouting out what you want to do online before you go anywhere?so you know your stuff. Be smart about it. Then you can have fun.

What would you say to people who don't think they have the right skills or personality for DIY projects?

All of that is really based around fear: the fear of the unknown and making the wrong decision with materials and design products. People often think of all these things as having so much permanence that they're stuck if they make the wrong decision. The Internet makes it a lot easier to find products. You can check out different prices or what not. I think that the Internet is the greatest DIY tool there is.

What are the best first steps for a DIYer or home owner to take if they'd like to 'go green'?

Don't be scared. All of these products have been around for centuries if you look at some of the really classic things. The natural products?wood, stone, even tiling?never go out of style. Go for things that aren't trendy, but are classic and will stand the test of time. It will save the environment a lot of mess and you'll save yourself a lot of work and a lot of money.

Where would you encourage home owners to 'splurge' when building green?

The first thing and probably most important, just in the quality of your life, would be the windows; energy efficiency is something you may have to splurge on initially, but will end up saving you money in the end. I would start there, but I would encourage urban beasts as well as country peeps to really look into solar options because they're getting more affordable.

What is your favorite green building material or technique? Why?

Materials that are made locally. Reclaimed wood is a great source to use on the outside or the inside of your house. It has such soul.

Also, I can't say enough about bamboo. It's a material that's been around for centuries and used in other parts of the world very regularly from scaffolding to flooring to exteriors of homes. It's just now gaining more popularity in America and it's one of the densest and strongest woods you can buy. And you can get, in some states, a tax incentive when you use it in your home or business, because it's a green product.

What's green about your home?

My primary residence is about 200 years old, so it's been used a lot. We just did some major, major renovations. We got all of our doors, our hardware and a lot of our stone from architectural salvage yards. It's very eclectic and very much us, but it has the substantial qualities of that time: thicker doors that aren't hollow vinyl and doorknobs that are wrought iron and have been antiqued by 120 years of little hands in the New York public schools.

Which project has been the most challenging/the most rewarding?

We have a really old farmhouse in the Catskills of New York, and we bought it with land that we wanted to save from subdivisions and keep really open. We're building a new house on the property as well because the farmhouse was in such bad shape. It was almost beyond our pocket book to salvage. Instead of making it bigger and more grandiose with more materials, we're making it a lot smaller, using a lot of recycled goods, and working with Floor and D?cor and using a lot of their products.

What's your next big project?

I just switched networks and I will be appearing in my own show on HGTV next year. I'm going to have a new design show. It will explain a lot of the design logic and science behind what we do. It's important to explain to people the meat of design?it takes a lot of that fear out of being your own personal designer or DIY/construction person. That's my goal: to really eliminate that fear so we can all graduate to the next level and start getting more creative.

What's up with working without shoes?

It's nothing to do with any movement at all. My feet aren't even cute; I played soccer for way too many years. The only reason I don't wear shoes is that I didn't want to wreak my shoes with all of the materials that I'm using: paint, varnish, poly, all of that stuff. I really like my shoes?I live in New York. That's the way we are. I do buy nice shoes, and I would like to keep them for a while. And I'm very comfortable barefoot.

Why do you find DIY fun and rewarding? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.