A Green Interior in the Woods

What green initiatives are directed at Interiors? Positive indoor air quality, durable materials, local materials and production, upcycled products, and the aesthetically pleasing arrangement of these items to encourage a healthy lifestyle. A plan that responds directly to each site is important for the Interior Design as it relates to natural light, comfort, distinctively framed views, and overall wellness of the inhabitant with the land and surrounding community.

While being in the daydreaming stages of a proposed new job, I developed a presentation and directed the above new statement to the beginning of my cause; and that was to develop a design for the interior of a home that met with the strict rules of a Net Zero Home. The project goes on without me but is still alive in my thoughts. I am encompassed with the ideas that floated in and out of my mind as new clients, programs and experiences tend to, so, I decided to share them in writing.  The setting for the new home is within a forest community. The site has a tall canopy of existing trees through which natural paths have formed. A grown-over right-of-way allows easy access to the nature of the site.

I have a philosophy of what a house is for.  That is to eat, clean, sleep, work and play. In this project and others, I want to promote this in a sustainable, healthy, growing way. I pulled together inspirational images from my files.  These images have a lot of character, they show the importance of texture varieties and together assemble a pallet that is right for each place.
I began to think of natural materials in relation to specific functions of a home and how these materials may change in relation to where the house resides. The materials should speak with the site, pull together and define places so that the inhabitants are aware of themselves and their activities.

Light and view became a common theme as I critiqued what drew me to each image. Therefore, Light and View developed into a category.


The limits of light and view shape spaces, they define a material arrangement around the opportunities of each room. A space may be open to allow light deep within the room, making the function of the room more versatile. Designs to incorporate natural light have high windows, and a specific percentage of floor area dedicated to translucent material.

Mirrors and light shelves are used to bounce the light through the interior. Natural light is important for work. Specific to a project in the mountains and woods would be particular attention to framing the views from inside and not forgetting the opportunity to frame a view of the interior from a path in the forest.

Lighting fixtures may be used to light spaces of course, but also may define spaces as well depending on their arrangement and size. Unique alteration of traditional things are playful such as the crystal chandelier in a modern shape.

Another focus on the images became the apparent ability of the place, the site, the home, to sustain oneself. Light and stone materials merged into this category together.  Stone became the focus of sustaining comfort.

There are beautiful radiant floors with unique concrete stains made to look like majestic stone. Concrete holds heat well, and if they are installed to orient toward direct sun in the winter time, the chill of the cold is offset by warm feet. The sparse, open nature of some of these stoned places were very restful to me. I realized what materials should be in the sleeping rooms by studying these restful relaxing spaces. Linen and wood played a large role in these rooms. The colors were varied, light and dark, cool and warm. I found out that I had a soft spot for white attic bedrooms. These looked like they belonged at a beach more than a mountain forest though.

A lot of images I pulled began to fit into a playful and fun category.  Along with being efficient for the function they served the bathrooms were colorful, thrown off-balance and surprising with the introduction of purple sinks and oversized mirrors. The background tiles matched colorful memories of my own youth and inner desires of comfort and glee.  Imagine writing on these chalk board walls, organizing in glass shelves and feeling a breeze by an invisible fan.

Melissa Warner is a designer I admire. She uses forgotten furniture and blends color with function and repurposed house-hold times to create a place that is invigorating as well as inviting.

A project in the forest, a lodge, a vacation home for guests in the mountains assumes that you use earthy products in versatile spaces. In this home that appears to be made of wooden framed views, one can study how wood spans and the introduction of high windows, helps to arrange a continuity of rooms scattered in a West Virginia site. The house forms its own community, giving visitors and the hosts a vacation together.

Another take on timber framing is this room set to the south side of this house that is used for heat storage. A trombe wall is set up behind the glass, and is the vertical transgression through the house.

Another interesting design concept is a ‘stack house.’ This is a house that uses the passive strategy of natural ventilation. An open stairwell with open treads can do this simply in any two or more story home.

Architects can use the program of a home to come up with a completely different design tailored to the use of a client. This is seen in the barn structure extension of wood supports as it is used for a cover that is still careful to incorporate natural light from above. This focused design effort leads into the categories of intricate, deep and made-for-the-place.

Spaces that fit in and respond to a site take more time as the incorporation of a new use is fit into an existing place.  Take for instance this parquet floor, stained and painted areas are used to define a grouping. Simple treatments of an overhead bulkhead give interest and depth to areas that may otherwise go unnoticed. Curved windows, courtyards with large table settings and built-in bookshelves make use of what a room has to offer in its’ arrangement.

Two entire buildings that respond to the site are Alvarao Leite Siza Viera’s Casa Tolo project and Legorreta & Legorreta’s Hotel La Purificadora in Puebla, Mexico.
With Siza Viera’s house, the stair house, reacts to a sloping site.  The transgression through a cemented step in the forest is imitated in floating treads to the interior. The definition between room to room is made naturally by following the grade.  You keep stepping down and down into the next room.


At Hotel La Purificadora, natural stone spaces from a 16th century building are brought to life with the modern use materials of glass, purple cushioned furniture and cantilevered metal balconies.

Reclaimed wood is used to encase columns, a space left between the top of these and the second floor makes the second story seem weightless.  Other rooms are divided by deep shelves, an organized grid that serves the purpose to separate and contain.

In these two projects, aesthetics and the acute realization of place make the effect of space better than if materials were assigned to only fulfill the program and build the job.

What about spaces for entertaining? I found the ones I most preferred to have many different materials in some instances with off kilter patterns and mixed up uses, and some to have flat, simple wood floors with an overfilled, simple lined chair. The quality of light was important in all of these cases. A soft light preferred.

Last but not least of course is returning to nature and going back outside. The land supports the house. The house should allow a positive impact on this place where one did not exist.  The site allows visitors to enter and entertains their first impression.

Before I began this analysis I had a predisposed desire to assign materials to spaces.  What made sense was the following guideline:

o    Stone – How Can we sustain ourselves every day?
o    Light – Eat and heat, Natural light, glass allows view
o    Wood – Sleep
o    Metal – Clean
o    Wood & Metal – Work
o    Wool & Silk – Play
o    Plaster – Surface and definition of space

This could only be carried out with sustainable, local, well made, durable, healthy products. So went my research into certain systems and a product checklist particular for this project.  I used the outline below:

Systems and Products Checklist

o    Flooring
o    Trim
o    Wall Coverings, Finishes, & Interior Partitions / Bulkheads (including the use of 4 x 8 sheets of sustainable goods that could replace gwb.)
o    Casework
o    Work Surfaces
o    Doors, Frames and Hardware
o    Ceiling
o    Furniture & Artwork
o    Plumbing Equipment & Energy Star Appliances with Smart Metering
o    Fabric, Curtains & Shades
o    Lighting Fixtures / Solar Tube
o    Caulk & Material Finishes (waxes, paints)
o    Windows
o    Linens, Dishware, Toiletries, Cleansers, & other Household necessities

So, for now, I can draw, learn more about sustainable products that are local, and look forward to the next opportunity where I may be able to apply materials to a real place!

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2 thoughts on “A Green Interior in the Woods

  1. Having read this I thought it was really informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending
    way too much time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

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