Walk into the design showroom at Terrene in South Yarmouth, and you’d be surprised that the building materials on display are environmentally friendly from top to bottom. Colorful, recycled glass tiles glisten on countertops and backsplashes. Renewable hardwoods add warmth to cabinets and floors. And nontoxic wall finishes in natural hues create a soothing surrounding. The eye-catching array opens a new dimension to sustainable remodeling projects.
“The bottom line for setting up my store was I wanted something that’s beautiful and it’s green,” says Richard McLaughlin, Terrene of Cape Cod principal. “Everyone likes something that’s attractive; and as a secondary benefit, it’s green and healthy for their family.”
Terrene’s Yarmouth showroom opened in June 2009, joining Acton and Newton in the Brockton-based company’s franchises.
Chester Bartels, Terrene’s CEO and an architectural designer, says the company was founded by a builder who was frustrated by his inability to find products and information about green building. Bartels sees Terrene’s mission being as much about education as being a source for eco-friendly countertops, flooring, wall finishes, and the like. “It’s our job to work with our clients to help them identify what sustainability means to them,” Bartels says. For some, it’s indoor air quality. For others, it’s products made in an environmentally responsible way. Others might be most concerned about energy efficiency. “We try to provide the guidance and education to fully understand the choices,” he says.
“It’s hard to decipher what’s what with green products. There’s a lot of disinformation out there,” says Michael Minihane, Terrene’s director of sales and training. He cites, for example, some paints that have low or no off-gassing from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), but are loaded with carcinogens. “Look for nontoxic,” Minihane says. Similarly, using recycled plastic products helps reduce solid waste, but it still promotes demand for virgin plastic, which uses petroleum and contains toxins.
McLaughlin offers a check list of things people should consider in their indoor environment: “Think about the impact of the air quality in your home; think about the fact that longer-lasting products will take longer to go to the landfill; consider using recycled or reclaimed materials; use nontoxic cleaners and sealants that won’t harm plants, pets, or children; select rapidly renewable or properly forested wood.”
McLaughlin adds that you have to use common sense about green-labeled products, too. Wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), for instance, has a clear record of where it was grown, all the way to the lumberyard and its end use.
But you might consider whether the wood came from a place that it shouldn’t have, like a tropical rainforest.
Ann Richards, a fitness trainer in West Tisbury, contacted Terrene for nontoxic, no-VOC Safecoat paint by AFM, when she embarked on renovating her parents’ former house. She selected FSC-certified Holiday cabinets, with no added urea formaldehyde. “It’s really my philosophy to not only have a healthy body but a healthy home,” Richards says. “The inside of a home is even more polluted than the outside (with chemicals from carpets, cleaning agents, and formaldehyde finishes), and we absorb all that through our skin.” Richards also found that the Soy Gel paint remover she got at Terrene, which captures the surface coating to which it’s applied, made it easy to scrape off and remove old polyurethane finishes on built-in cabinets without dust or flakes.
For South Yarmouth homeowner Jacqueline Walsh, working with a local business and exploring ideas about green concepts were important for her kitchen-remodeling project. She says, “I like the friendliness at Terrene. I didn’t have to wait in a long line for help and they showed me all the options as per cost and material quickly, and with my vision understood.”
After discussing lifestyle and priorities with clients, Terrene staff have a continually expanding range of products to suggest. “I find that many times our clients will land on a product that has a tremendous story. The home – and these products’ stories – is a terrific place to begin the conversation about sustainability,” Bartels says.
Recycling is a big story in sustainability, and Terrene carries a wide selection of artistically recycled products with a past. Echo tile by Crossville uses 70 percent recycled glass from a factory that made prized game marbles, with the iridescent swirl evident in many styles. Fireclay’s Debris series features glazed ceramic tiles and accent details with 60 percent recycled pre- and post-consumer waste materials. And PaperStone solid-surface countertops and panels are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, with petroleum-free resin.
Another notion that Terrene is trying to educate consumers about is that green building no longer means more expensive building. While this used to be the case when it was a niche market, McLaughlin says, “It’s the same price point as standard building. We can meet price points for three-season cottages and rental properties as well as waterfront homes.”
As an example of competitively priced sustainable products, he points to Trend’s Feel tiles, made of 80 percent recycled glass, which run $5.50 per square foot. Earth Stone, which makes pavers cut from leftover countertop material from other fabricators, offers a six-foot, circular patterned granite inlay for $495. And natural linseed oil Marmoleum by Forbo, an updated version of old-fashioned linoleum, has vibrant, durable flooring options at budget prices.
Sustainable building professionals emphasize that it’s not just the purchase price of a product that needs to be considered, but also the labor required for application, the long-term durability, and how a product might reduce energy expenditures. Bart Bettencourt, who distributes American Clay earth plaster to Terrene, says, “It’s easy for contractors to use. It’s more forgiving than regular plaster.” He highlights the benefits that the clay plaster provides to indoor air quality: “It naturally pulls moisture out of the air and keeps mold and mildew down; and it releases moisture into the air in dry environments. It has zero VOCs and some say that the negative ions it gives off actually makes a room feel better, like turning off all the electronics.”
American Clay doesn’t use a lot of energy or environmentally harmful resources in production, either. It’s dug from the ground in New Mexico, and comes in 43 standard, natural mineral pigments ranging from Sugarloaf white to Lake Tahoe blue, to Fairfield green. The company can mix 4,000 custom colors.
At Terrene, sustainability is about building community, too. Last spring, Terrene set up a green-building wish list for the nonprofit CHAMP Homes in Hyannis, so shoppers can contribute toward renovating living space for homeless adults. Feather Lodge Flooring, a Terrene vendor, donated fossilized bamboo flooring for CHAMP Homes’ new Eden Café.
“There’s always been a very strong social conscience with being green,” Bartels says. “Now we need to have the facts to prove it.” With innovative products and a focus on educated approaches to green design, Terrene shows that sustainability has both beauty and brains. -cha
Photography courtesy of Terrene of New England, terreneofne.com
Written By Susan Spencer
Susan Spencer is an award-winning writer and photographer who lives in Brewster and Whitinsville, MA. She contributes frequently to CHA Magazine on energy, environment and health issues. You can reach Susan at email@example.com