‘Green’ Education Defines Designer’s Mission

LITTLE FALLS, NJ— ‘Going green’ gets a lot of buzz these days, but few people embrace the concept as fully as Patricia Gaylor. ‘Green’ is not just dinner conversation for Gaylor, a renowned green expert and speaker who has built her design business around the idea.
Patricia Gaylor Interiors is located in Little Falls, NJ, just a short commute from New York City. It may seem like an unlikely place for the environmentally conscious entrepreneur to set up shop. But New Jersey has been home to Gaylor all of her life, and she believes her vision of ‘green and clean’ can work anywhere.

Interestingly, Gaylor started out her career as a photo stylist. “I worked in a studio that created room sets for catalogues and magazines,” she says. “This sparked my interest in design, and I decided to focus on that and open my own business. I have had my own design business for over 25 years.”

As a new designer working on several home renovations, Gaylor began to consider all of the waste hauled away from work sites. She wondered what happened to all of the garbage that was being removed during demolitions, thrown in a dumpster and hauled away. “I wondered where it was going and how long it would be there,” remembers Gaylor.

It was from this simple train of thought that Gaylor began to wrap her mind around other possibilities.

“Designing and creating beautiful, sustainable interiors for my customers is not only my desire for them, but also for the planet,” she explains. “Specifying materials that are enduring and gentle on the environment has a two-fold outcome – happy customers and a healthy planet.”

The idea has been a work-in-progress for Gaylor, who gradually educated herself about ecological issues and how the environment is impacted by remodeling or new home design. She often found the information she wanted in obscure “hippie publications,” she jokes. “People would look at me like I had two heads,” she says, reminiscing about the early days of her journey before environmentally friendly design was in vogue.

“Little by little, I realized that I wanted to focus on the environment in my business,” Gaylor adds.

Today, Gaylor is a champion of the green philosophy and incorporates its ideas into her work every day. In fact, she used to introduce the concept to her clients but now about 80% of her clients seek her out – largely because of her eco-based philosophy, she notes.

Green and Luxurious

Working with Gaylor, clients learn they can still have beautiful homes and fabulous kitchens and baths without hurting the environment. “You can still have luxury but be much more socially conscious and kinder to the planet,” explains Gaylor.

When planning a new design or renovation, she takes into consideration whether or not the materials used will end up in a landfill and, if so, if they will eventually degrade. She tries to minimize or eliminate products that contain VOCs – volatile organic compounds – that can pollute air quality in a home. She recommends including energy-efficient appliances, and searches out regional materials to further minimize wasted resources. Whenever possible, the goal is to use energy-efficient and sustainable products, produce a healthy interior and design a building envelope that will also be energy efficient, she says.

According to Gaylor, the cost of eco-friendly materials runs about 15% more than other products. She finds, however, that her customers are willing to make the investment. It helps that her clients recoup some of that investment in energy savings by choosing greener products. For example, products such as energy-efficient lighting, low-flow showers and high-efficiency or dual-flush toilets can improve the bottom line of a client’s household budget. Building products such as insulated concrete forms are also considered, which can significantly reduce the amount of energy used to heat and cool a home.

In the greater scope of things, one client’s commitment to building green may seem small, but Gaylor believes that as the movement gains momentum, a very real impact can be made. “A lot of hunting and discovering” goes into finding sustainable materials for her projects, she notes. During the process, however, she discovers green or sustainable products that are healthier and more energy efficient, which help to make her a better designer.

One example of a sustainable product Gaylor likes to use is IceStone, a durable surface made of recycled glass and concrete. IceStone can be used as a countertop surface, a backsplash, shower walls and even flooring. Gaylor speaks excitedly about its beauty, and the fact that it is manufactured locally, in Brooklyn, NY. “I try to specify materials within a 500-mile radius of where the client lives,” says Gaylor. “That way we cut down on the embodied energy used to deliver the product.”

The Future of Green

Gaylor says that builders used to resist working with a green design, but they are starting to come around.

“Builders are finding that some of their customers are seeking environmentally friendly products. They are going to have to change, go back to school and adapt,” she comments.

Gaylor juggles four or five big jobs at once, completing about 10 projects annually. The majority of her business is in the New Jersey area, where does a lot of remodeling. However, her work has occasionally taken her as far as Nevada, California and Nebraska.

When it comes to design, she is passionate about doing kitchens and baths. Additionally, she’s become a popular speaker on the subject of eco-friendly design and has often been featured in magazines and on television.

While Gaylor has found her niche within the design community, she says she keeps her focus on her clients. To that end, she believes that making a connection with clients and really hearing what they have to say about their wants and needs is critical to designing successful spaces.

As she explains, “Listening to the needs and wants of my customer is really the most important tool I can use. I find that 80% of a good design is listening and talking, and 20% is execution.”

Gaylor is currently working on becoming a certified LEED designer (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and she maintains that other designers should consider entering the field of green design. She’s convinced this is the way of the future and an increasing number of potential clients will be interested in jumping on board. Gaylor also contends that designers have a moral obligation to become environmentally responsible.

While some designers shy away from eco-conscious design because they find it overwhelming, “It’s important to stress that green design doesn’t have to be perfect,” Gaylor explains. “Do two or three things in the kitchen or bath that are green or energy efficient. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t do everything right away. But do think about the consequences of your purchases.”

“I feel positive about what is happening,” says Gaylor about the green movement. “It’s not just a trend or fad. It’s here to stay. And I believe that some day green design will just be known as design.”

In Gaylor’s world, it already is.