For her, environmentally friendly and healthy definitely don’t translate as granola and hippie. Her style can be summed up as chic – think minimalist, cool, modern.
To find the perfect balance between the aesthete and the healthful, Kantelberg and her colleagues at the west-end Toronto studio research for hours upon hours (a recent project took 1,000 research hours) to find products that can meet all her design and environmental goals.
One example was a fibreboard completely free of formaldehyde – the odourous gas emitted by new furnishings and glues that is irritating to people with asthma and environmental sensitivities. Other finds have been wall coverings that use a non-toxic, water-based glue. Kantelberg employs elements you’d find in other modern interiors, but just makes them better for you.
While she has noticed some improvement among mainstream suppliers, she still finds far too few sustainable products widely available to consumers. And this infuriates Kantelberg. “If I am buying food and there are more than five ingredients and words I don’t understand, I’m not going to buy it. Why aren’t there ingredients on furniture? Or on a kitchen?”
She knows not everyone can hire a designer like her to green their homes, but she believes that consumers as a group have the clout to change the renovating industry. “When you go to Home Depot, ask: ‘Are there chemicals in this kitchen?’ The more people who ask these questions, the faster the companies will come up with chemical-free ones.”
Once a critical mass is achieved, says Kantelberg, more products will become available and the costs of producing them will lessen, bringing prices down and making this kind of building and design available to everyone.
She points to a recent project in a new development located in Toronto’s trendy Queen West. A business partnership forged between two of her suppliers has allowed her to create what she considers the healthiest kitchen ever made in Canada. The cabinets, the counters, the flooring – none of them off-gasses chemicals.
At a recent meeting, the two companies were talking seriously about making this healthy kitchen available to the public at large, she relates with enthusiasm. “I think it’s possible to be innovative and produce things with fewer chemicals,” Kantelberg says. “It just takes a little more work.”
First published in Allergic Living magazine, Fall 2008.
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