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When Nancy and Michael Lomont started building their dream home on Long Island, New York, 2 1/2 years ago, they had one guiding principle: Everything had to be as green as possible and within their budget—but still be stylish and comfortable. "We wanted a house that's great for our kids," says Nancy, a lawyer, and mom to Marielle, 4, and Laina, 6.
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Michael, a senior architect with Stelle Architects in Bridgehampton, New York, designed the two-story structure to be in harmony with the surrounding landscape of fields, farmhouses, and barns, working on plans for hours every night after the kids were in bed. Set on a wooded lot to maximize southern light, the house gets cooling shade in summer and lots of sunshine in winter. Concrete floors hold the warmth well into the evening and a wall of windows and sliding glass doors channel lots of light into the living area.
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The house, essentially two untreated cedar-sided rectangular shapes with soaring gabled roofs set perpendicular to each other, features an open central living, dining, and kitchen area. "It's not a very large house, but we wanted a big family space even if it meant smaller bedrooms," Nancy says. "When I'm cooking I don't feel exiled; I can see the kids in the TV room or when they're doing puzzles in the living room."
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A dining area next to the kitchen makes mealtime, as well as entertaining, a cinch. Many of the Lomonts' mid-century modern furnishings, including this Danish rosewood table and the chairs, were bought secondhand through eBay, a nod to their interest in recycling and reusing. The pared-down furnishings throughout the house complement the interior's clean lines and natural palette.
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In the Zone
The master bedroom and the children's room—as well as a study—are on an upstairs floor. "From our room I can hear what the girls are up to," Nancy says. In keeping with the couple's eco-modern thinking, all interior paint is no- or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) to keep indoor toxic emissions to a minimum, and the wood flooring boasts a nontoxic oil rub finish that shows off its natural beauty. Clad aluminum window frames maximize natural light and are ultimately recyclable, and a zinc-coated aluminum roof helps reflect heat in summer. Michael created a layout of "zones" with thermostats connected to timers that operate solely when rooms are in use. "We need to heat the upstairs only at night," he says. "Why burn energy when you don't have to?"
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The girls share both a bathroom and a bedroom, which are filled with hits of color and personal touches. The Lomonts like natural surfaces such as wood and stone that are simple to maintain and never go out of style. "It's a quality-of-life issue," says Michael. "The idea is to use honest materials that won't become dated so we don't have to constantly redo and replace." They justified the cost of more advanced green features such as solar panels and an environmentally responsible heating system with the promise of cheaper electric bills over time (by some estimates solar panels can yield savings of as much as 25 percent annually). "There's always a balance between budget and what you really want," Michael says. "You have to prioritize where you put your money and think about how to get some of it back."
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Outside, native and drought-tolerant plantings, and no front lawn—just a patch of grass in the back for the kids to play on—not only save money on water and energy but also reduce the need for toxic fertilizers. The covered porch, complete with fireplace, teak furniture, and a deck of sustainably harvested wood, enhances the relationship between inside and outside.
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Michael designed built-in cabinets for the study, TV room, and throughout the house to control clutter and minimize the need for furniture. "We didn't want to buy a lot of furniture, and we don't like clutter," says Nancy.
The project may sound like a reality-TV challenge, but the Lomonts say they merely wanted the house to reflect their values. "We try to do as much as we can to be green," Nancy says. "We belong to an organic farm cooperative and drive a hybrid car, but when I'm at the shopping center with the kids, it's hard to search out green products. Still, I try my best."
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the January 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.