This Cape Cod kitchen’s redesign combines traditional quality with innovative green features

Photo by Dan Cutrona

Fabricated in Monroe, Washington by Canyon Creek Cabinet Company, the redesigned cabinetry was the keystone of the plan. “For Kitty, it was all about the cabinets and getting that finish just right,” says Goldman. She is quick to note that the search for the right sustainable vendor is a balancing act. “It can be all over the spectrum,” she says. “Yes, we paid a little bit more in the carbon footprint for shipping from Washington, but the product is super-sustainable, and the company itself is also very environmentally conscious in their production—they reuse their water, their wood, and their energy.”

When people think “green” they might sometimes only consider the extreme, but, says Goldman, “It is not just one thing, like ‘Did we cut the wood from our local forests and then make the cabinets?’”

Green materials are defined by their use of non-toxic, healthy and sustainable ingredients—namely, a lack of chemicals. Most importantly, green building materials do not contain urea-formaldehyde, also known as urea-methanal, a resin that is found in just about everything, from plywood and particleboard to paints, textiles, and carpeting. “It is a known carcinogen,” explains Goldman. “It definitely contributes to all sorts of issues relating to breathing, allergies, asthma—it can cause all sorts of reactions and it’s in absolutely everything!”

What many people may not realize is that going green often means going back to the basics of construction materials: making quality products as they were made before the introduction of chemicals in the 1950s and 60s. “What we did in the 20th century is we put chemicals into absolutely everything—as a stabilizer, as a conditioner, as a preservative—thinking that was a solution,” explains Goldman. “Now, we’re spending the 21st century taking it all back out again!” In the realm of house construction and remodeling, that means reevaluating all the products used down to the paints and adhesives.

Once the cabinets were just right, the next big choices were floors and counters. To maintain continuity with the wood floors throughout the rest of the house, Brown chose red oak flooring, made from sustainably harvested wood from Quebec and northern New England. Stained a warm reddish-brown to match, it is NAUF (No Added Urea Formaldehyde), just like the cabinets, and comes with a 26-year warranty. “Kitty’s never replacing this floor,” says Goldman. “Not only is the floor beautiful, sustainable, and healthy, but it is also durable and low maintenance. She doesn’t have to think about it again.”