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Award Winning Home Makeover Reflects One Family’s Taste for Healthy Living

Cassandra Nordell has long been passionate about eco-friendly design. “Growing up, I suffered from a lot of allergies,” she says, “and when I was 14, my parents built a new house and I got a first-hand look at a lot of building materials. They hired an interior designer and that was my inspiration to pursue design all those years ago.”

These days, as CEO of the design firm William Standen Co. in Sarnia, Ont., Nordell gets up close with building and design materials on a regular basis. But whatever product she’s working with, it’s usually planet-friendly. “I’m a big believer in green design, so the majority of the products we carry at William Standen are eco-friendly,” she explains. “My philosophy is to design not only to improve lifestyle, but also to improve the quality of life through not using products that off-gas toxins into the air and contribute to illness.”

That philosophy was put to the test last year when a client approached Nordell for a design that would make their home reflective of their healthy lifestyle—including their love of cooking and their enjoyment of the outdoors on their large property. The four-month renovation was challenging, but the result not only delighted the client; it also was awarded North America’s greenest space by the National Kitchen-Bath Association (NKBA). Here’s how Nordell brought the outside in—beautifully.

A kitchen that’s comfy and connected

Nordell’s clients loved to cook and enjoy the company of their family, but their existing kitchen was small and closed off from the rest of the house. Opening things up was tricky: the load point and duct work was in the existing wall.

The workaround? Nordell had the wall removed, but left a small portion to carry the load point, and enlarged a doorway to open the area up. She then created multiple seating areas, including a striking artisan-made raised bar that can accommodate five people. The former living room is now a dining area with a new, modern fireplace, a view of the property and a custom table that extends to seat 12. Finally, the newly designed cooking zone allows the chef to whip up tasty meals without being cut off from the conversation.

Stylish and green

When it comes to finishes, Nordell has her own distinctive style—something she brings to every project. “One thing that’s consistent in most of my work is the mixing of materials and colours and pallets,” she explains. “So one example would be cabinet hardware. And in one kitchen project or one bathroom, I might have five different types of hardware, two to four different colours of cabinetry, different materials mixed with metal.”

In this case, Nordell mixed dove white and sage cabinetry in the kitchen to blend with the “bring nature inside” theme, while the live-edge walnut bar top provides a striking focal point in the raised eating area. She also carried the wide-plank, engineered hardwood floor up onto a kitchen wall to create a nature-inspired focal point. Sage-coloured floating shelves finish off the look.

Because keeping things green was a priority for both Nordell and her clients, all adhesives were soy-based, the cabinetry had a low VOC finish and featured MDF, a recycled wood product. The wood flooring is non-endangered oak, the countertop is radon-free and all appliances surpass federally established energy-efficient standards. Even the cast-iron sink is made from 83 per cent recycled material.

Sleek new en suite

The clients’ en suite posed a few challenges of its own—it had to function as both a relaxing retreat for the homeowners and as a guest bathroom for company, all while incorporating contemporary style and as many eco-friendly elements as possible. So in her re-do, Nordell looked to add storage space to keep the clients’ items organized and stowed, while making the space feel open and bright.

Nordell opened the space by removing a wall between the tub and vanity and shifting the wall between the walk-in closet and the bathroom. Adding to both space and storage were recessed medicine cabinets and a new linen tower. A new 60-inch shower and large soaker tub helped bring a clean, modern vibe to the space, along with his-and-hers sinks and a pocket door with a custom mirror.

To enhance the light, open feeling, Nordell finished the shower with a glass door that provides access on the left or right. She tied it all together by combining the floor tile texture with sleek glass throughout and using neutral, calming colours.

Winning style

The finished product wowed the clients and got international attention for its high-end, eco-friendly style. True to Nordell’s style, however, the space has a comfortable, modern elegance, rather than a hard-core, tree-hugging look. Says Nordell: “I like the words ‘green in disguise’ to describe my work.” 

-by Jacqueline Kovacs