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spacer In "The Healing Home," author Gina Lazenby proposes solutions to stress caused by environmental factors around the house. Photo
Northwest Living
Hearth Healthy
To find well-being at home, experts advise
keeping things simple and natural

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Color theory can help drive paint selections. Dark pink and red walls in this hallway create a dramatic space designed more for moving through than spending time in.
FENG SHUI. Ergonomics. Bau-Biologie. Geobiology. Vaastu Shastra. Environmentalism. In architecture, construction, furnishings, finishes and décor, modern home design is drawing from a growing palette of international resources.

"Our homes are really just extensions of ourselves," writes by Gina Lazenby in "The Healing Home," a new book that encompasses some of those alternatives. "The way our homes look and are managed becomes a barometer for not only our physical health but also our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being."

Lazenby outlines seven aspects of life and environment that can cause stress: lifestyle, unhealthful diet, clutter and disorder, chemical pollution, a disconnect with our environments, and both natural and man-made electromagnetic fields.

In addition to the more obvious — eating better and getting more sleep, exercise and relaxation — Lazenby's stress-busting strategies include incorporating nature, increasing sunlight, dealing with magnetism and creating harmony in our homes. Her vision is "to make our homes healthy centers of calm to support and regenerate us."

Founder and managing director of the Feng Shui Network in London, Lazenby draws in part from Feng Shui, a Chinese system that studies the interactions of people, places and things, and from Bau-Biologie, a German movement that considers the relationship between buildings, their environment and health.

Other approaches can include common Western ergonomics, which studies the interactions of humans and their environments; geomancy, an exploration of the subtle forces of Earth; Vaastu Shastra, an East Indian system of architecture and design; and Sthapatya-Veda, a Hindu method of placement.

Natural detergents and natural fabrics such as cotton and linen help add to a healthful environment, even in the laundry room. Lazenby suggests using vinegar for fabric softener; add bicarbonate of soda or oil of lemon for pleasant fragrance.
"Having a cleaner and more organized home helps to support a healthier state of mind," says Lazenby. Wood floors can be helpful for people with breathing difficulties or allergies.
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To lessen the chance of developing respiratory problems caused by by-products of gas central heating and cooking, open a window or door after cooking to bring in fresh air.
The Pacific Northwest has become a hub for interweaving such approaches with modern environmentalism's concern for the toll our surroundings take on Earth and ourselves. The National Green Building Conference was held in Seattle last spring. Seattle has an official Sustainable Building Policy and was the first city in the country to adopt LEED, a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, an industry group promoting not only profitable but also environmentally responsible and healthy places to live and work.

With her Seattle company Environmental Interiors, Sandy Campbell is one interior designer blending the West with the East, consulting on building materials, paints, finishes, furnishings and other products that are environmentally friendly.

"Feng shui, to me, just goes hand in hand with really good design," Campbell says.

"Most of the people that come to me are just interested in a healthy home and doing something safe, or they have small children and want to make sure they don't have toxic things around."

In that regard, because children spend so much time on the ground, flooring can be a key issue. Between concerns about dust mites, mildew, mold and possible gasses from synthetic fibers, petroleum-based backings and adhesives, "I try to stay away from wall-to-wall carpet altogether" and stick with natural area rugs, Campbell says.

To reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields from television screens, Lazenby recommends unplugging the TV and other electrical equipment in bedrooms before going to sleep. This TV also can be hidden by closing the cupboard drawers, reducing visual clutter.
Children as well as adults need space and time to wind down and relax.
She likes linoleum as an alternative to vinyl flooring. "The process of making vinyl is very toxic for the people at the manufacturing facility and the environment, and a lot of people are very sensitive to vinyl, and it doesn't recycle well — it sits in a landfill forever. Generally speaking, I try to stay away from anything that has PVC" (polyvinylchloride).

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To counter the increasing amount of time we spend indoors, it's important to find places to enjoy natural light, to improve psychological well-being and also help the body's internal clock run smoothly.
"Linoleum is a great, resilient flooring. It does have a very, very long life, but it's made with linseed oil and will eventually degrade."

Wood may seem to be an obvious choice for natural flooring, "but sometimes people are sensitive to different kinds of woods because of the saps in them." Campbell looks for reclaimed wood or new wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to be grown and managed sustainably. She checks stains and finishes for off-gassing — she likes Safecoat, made by a Ballard company, AFM — and recommends consumers ask for a product's "materials safety and data" sheet. "Every manufacturer has that available on every single product," she says. "It'll list if there's formaldehyde in it, for example. The more and more people that start asking for that, the more manufacturers are going to start watching what they put in their products."

For flooring between linoleum and wood in price, Campbell likes cork, which comes from bark harvested off trees in Europe. "Bamboo is another great product. It is actually 25 percent harder than red oak and is wonderful for durability and longevity. Plus, you're not taking down the plant, just cutting it back."

The growing volume of healthy-home resources notwithstanding, many of us already have a most critical one, Lazenby says.

"We already know deep inside us when we feel comfortable and secure, when a place feels healthy or not, but many of us have forgotten how to recognize and work with these feelings."

Green homes

Some resources for building healthy and healthful homes:

Excerpts of Gina Lazenby's book "The Healing Home" ($19.95, The Lyons Press) are posted at

U.S. Green Building Council: 202-828-7422 or

The City of Seattle Web site for sustainable building:

Built Green, an environmental building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish counties, developed in partnership with county and other government agencies: 425-451-7920, 800-522-2209 or

Environmental Home Center, 1724 Fourth Avenue S., Seattle: 206-682-7332, 800-281-9785,

Sandy Campbell's company, Environmental Interiors: 888-270-7005 or

National Feng Shui Guild, with links to local chapters, schools and practitioners: Some local resources can be found under Feng Shui in the Yellow Pages.

Molly Martin is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine.

Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Northwest Living Taste Now & Then Sunday Punch

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