Designing With Nantucket In Mind -June 2008

by: Lisa Clair

Trudy Dujardin has two signature trademarks of her work in interior design: one is a passion for green products, paints and finishes, to ensure the health of the home and the family that lives there; the other is her strong sense of place. 

She has achieved both in her house in Norwalk, Connecticut, where a pristine, green environment has been carefully created in a home that also tells the story of Trudy’s love affair with Nantucket. In this beautifully-reconstructed home on Long Island Sound, elegance and warmth belie painstaking attention to sustainable building and design. Here Trudy lives contentedly with her husband Frank Fasanella and Bichon Frise puppy G.G., and everywhere you look, ships and the sea, whales and waves provide the perfect backdrop for a woman enchanted by the ocean at her door.

Her Connecticut home looks out to Long Island Sound, clearly a requirement for happy living for Trudy, whose previous homes included an on-the-water green home on Nantucket. She is currently contemplating another beach cottage on the island. Filled with sea-faring art and artifacts, this place feels like a summer house, and indeed, life here has a warmth matched by the June sun. White drifts through this space like a cloud, creating tranquility and room to breathe.

Natural light is key to the ambiance. Awash in sunlight, the house makes minimal energy demands. Low-wattage fiber-optic bulbs light the staircase and niches for displaying art, while interior windows allow sunlight to stream from room to room. Trudy has created a home not only healthy for its inhabitants, but healthy for the planet as well.

“Long before I was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity (a condition where small amounts of common chemicals create adverse reactions), I was determined to live in an ecologically-responsible manner,” says Trudy. Her third Nantucket home on the harbor was built with low-toxic, sustainable materials, fueling her passion for the many green home projects to come. Fully recovered now, she credits her healthy homes with giving her space to heal.

When she moved back to Connecticut, she chose an existing house that she renovated from bottom to top. The result is a home that is a love letter to Nantucket, and proof that living “green” need not feel restrained.

Entering this special home, you are first met by a staircase anchored with a lighthouse-topped newel post. Its twins are found at the top of the stairs. A nearby umbrella stand holds a collection of walking sticks, including wonderful examples of whalebone and ivory art. A view into the white and deep taupe living room entrances. A painting by world-renowned marine artist Michael Keane draws you further in. On the mantel is an ivory cane, another cherished Nantucket piece. The beauty of life on sand and sea surrounds you, and it’s an exquisite feeling.

Comfortable upholstered pieces that invite relaxation were custom-made with 100-percent natural materials, and filled with organic cotton and wool. Trudy selected rock maple, a wood that contains no natural turpenes, for solid-wood pieces like the fireplace mantel. Cabinets that were original to the house were stripped and repainted with no VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints, as were all the painted wood and walls. 

The breakfast room is framed with multiple Bastille Day menus from Nantucket’s famed Chanticleer restaurant. The ship model next to the table is the Flying Cloud, an historic ship that launched from Nantucket. 

Floors are an important component of a home devoted to clean air. Carpeting can host dust mites and toxins unknowingly brought in from outdoors. In the dining room, a hand-painted floor in a stunning harlequin pattern was created by a Nantucket artist, and negates the need for rugs. On the tabletop are a pair of Chinese Export underglaze blue large moon flasks with figures, circa 1860-1880, a tribute to the China trade that once drove Nantucket’s economy. 

Upstairs, the floor on the landing is made of glass tiles, inset into the wood to mimic the color and texture of a carpet. Where Trudy does use rugs, they are 100 percent organic. When allergens are a problem, there are many solutions that can create a colorful, warm alternative that is still healthy for lungs and life.

Throughout the house, Trudy has juxtaposed antiques with the most cutting-edge sustainable construction, yet the effect is gentle and highly livable. The library, with its grass cloth walls, is a perfect example of a traditional look with a modern interpretation: because grass cloth often is created with pesticide-laden materials, Trudy had an artist create a trompe l’oeil effect of painted grass cloth. 

The cocktail table here is a French 18th century campaign chest. As Trudy notes, antiques are a perfect green addition to a home. Not only has any off-gassing of toxic finishes taken place years ago, it is a way to honor the past and recycle beloved furniture instead of discarding it.

One of Trudy’s many old-time collectibles is found here in the library: treenware, a generic name for small, handmade functional objects. On the shelf in the library, a visitor will find a mortar and pestle, an old bobbin-holder for thread, and little oval cases for displaying insects, a favorite pastime of the Victorians.

Overnight guests invited upstairs will find what Trudy considers the most important rooms in the house: the bedrooms. While we sleep, the liver works to detoxify the body of the many allergens, toxins and chemicals the body encounters throughout the day – and because up to 80,000 new chemicals have been introduced into our environment since World War II – the bed, bedding and air in the bedroom have more reason than any other space to be pristine. Trudy sleeps on a mattress made of all-natural organic cotton and wool, free from any chemical contamination, including fire retardants. The two paintings in her room are by American Impressionist George Muendel, who lived in Rowayton, Connecticut in the 1800s. The motion, movement and mantra of the earth’s water is pictured in the two local scenes, one of the nearby Five Mile River, and one of Long Island Sound. 

The house has the natural palette and feel of a beach home, done in white and sand and cream and taupe and pale blue, and filled with island art. Ishmael and Moby-Dick themselves would feel at home here, where the life of the sea and scrimshaw abounds. In this home that whispers of waves and whalebones, cherished pieces that acknowledge the island she loves are juxtaposed with up-to-the-minute green materials to create Trudy Dujardin’s holistic home. And there’s nothing more beautiful than that.

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