Healthy Home Rises Out of the Ashes

While the business of kitchen and bath design can be complex and multifaceted, it remains a universal truth that consumers prefer to patronize companies that care about more than just the bottom line. Dealers, designers and manufacturers that are active in giving back tend to build stronger bonds with their community, and set an example for others.

As such, Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Charitable Endeavors department spotlights companies’ efforts to give back to the community. This month’s Charitable Endeavors looks at the work of several designers and many charitable companies that helped build a safe, eco-friendly dream bungalow for a family that had lost its home after a disastrous fire destroyed their original home on Christmas day.

When fire burned through the walls and smoke smoldered in the ceiling of Steven Ambers’ home on Christmas day, he never imagined it could be the beginning of a new, healthy way of life for him and his family. But two years later, the Ambers family became the first on the West Coast to live in a bungalow built from the ground up to be safe from fire, high-energy costs and toxic pollutants.

The Eco Bungalow was built mostly with donations and discounts from builders, architects, designers and other tradesmen with eco-friendly materials and sustainable design. They pitched in to help at the request of family friend, New York-based designer Robin Wilson.

When Wilson heard the news, she asked her colleagues in the eco-friendly building and design industry to be donors and the Sustainable Furnishings Council to be the charitable partner for the Eco Bungalow Project. The businesses wanted to help because it was a chance to “rebuild it the right way” – from the foundation to the furniture – combining a high design look with affordable features for budget-conscious consumers.

“I had to help. I needed to make sure they had a happy home and could put their lives back together,” Wilson, owner of Robin Wilson Home, said. “We should all pay it forward because this was an accident that could happen to anyone.”

Among other things, Robin Wilson Home designed a multi-generational house that includes wider doorways and a first-floor living space for a grandparent. Robin Wilson Home also donated hypoallergenic bedding.

All countertops for the kitchen and baths were donated by Cosentino in a total of seven different locations throughout the home. Kohler donated all of the fixtures, with a kitchen light donated by Hinkley.

All of the water features throughout the kitchen and bath spaces are Water Sense-rated. The faucets have sensors that turn them on and off, and the toilets have dual flush features to conserve water. The showers include pre-programmable thermostats to eliminate the “warm up” period.

There is a floating vanity in the guest suite that provides access for the grandmother, who is in a wheelchair. The children share a Hollywood-style bath connected to their bedrooms, equipped with an LED light in the mirror donated by Robern that serves as a nightlight from 8pm-6am. Mirrors also have a built-in radio with iPod adapter.

Other donations and discounts included:

  • Kohler provided all of the tubs and sinks, as well as the faucets and toilets, which are WaterSense certified to ensure that less water is used in the daily routine of the busy family.
  • Cosentino provided Silestone natural quartz surfaces that fight bacteria, mold and mildew growth, for the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams provided the furniture, which was created in America with respect for the environment.
  • FLOR Carpet Design offered the flooring for the children’s bedrooms.
  • gave an all-natural, latex foam mattress for the grandmother.
  • First Alert issued all of the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as security cameras.
  • Aronel provided the wall covering for the stairwell.
  • Salamander Design offered the nightstands in the master bedroom.
  • Verengo Sola installed a solar power system on the family’s new home to help save money on electric costs, while providing clean, affordable, renewable energy from the sun.