Today we have a special treat, guest blogger Jennifer Sergent.  You may know Jennifer from her former positions as senior editor at Washington Spaces and HGTV Magazine.  Currently she is the Marketing Director of the  Washington DC Design Center and was kind enough to invite me to speak on Green Interior Design and lead a tour through DC’s finest green showrooms.

Take it away Jennifer:

We had the most fun last week when Los Angeles designer Lori Dennis, who has become nationally known for her expertise in green interior design, came for a visit. Her new book, Green Interior Design, will be out later this month:

I knew Lori back when I edited a publication for HGTV, so when she called to say she’d be in town, I invited her to lunch with a few green experts, gathered through builder Mark Turner of Greenspur, who built the CharityWorks GreenHouse in McLean last year.

Left to right: Architect Ernesto Santalla of Studio Santalla, who designed the meditation/spa room in the Green House; Theresa Norton; Mary Anne Duffus, founder of the ultra-green Brooksfield preschool in McLean; Marcia Twomey, president of the McLean Chamber of Commerce; Lori Dennis; Designer Barbara Hawthorn, who designed the outdoor space at the Green House; (me) Jennifer Sergent, Director of Marketing for the WDC; Designer Skip Sroka, one of the design chairmen of the Green House; and Annie O’Connell, manager of the Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman showroom, where the photo was taken

We toured through showrooms with products that Lori writes about in her book, which will be out on Nov. 16. We started at Donghia, where showroom manager Liz Allner welcomed us with coffee and pastries.

Liz had laid out many different fabric lines that are totally green, including Brentano and Pollack. But the coolest show-and-tell examples were the dazzling samples of Maya Romanoff wallpaper:

During the tour, Lori and the showroom managers talked about products that were not only green in and of themselves (Maya Romanoff uses recycled glass for its beads), but also the companies who make them, which practice green standards. Overseas, child labor, too, is a big problem — and these companies try to stay away from factories that are caught using school-age children on their lines.

Next, we went to Farrow & Ball, which is now totally green in all its varieties of paint. They have stopped offering oil-based paint, as well.

Showroom manager Eve Fay describes the green characteristics of Farrow & Ball.

The greatest thing about green products for the home these days (if we haven’t already learned from the stunning CharityWorks GreenHouse), is that going green does not mean sacrificing quality. In Farrow & Ball’s case, it means that their pigmentation is still the best around.

Here’s an example of Rectory Red, on the right, which Eve had “matched” at two other paint companies. Not possible, as you can clearly see.

Moving right along, we went to see the ever-charming and charismatic Brian Benavides at Robert Allen | Beacon Hill, which has an impressive line of green fabrics, from sturdy contract quality to top-of-the-line residential.

Here’s Brian and Lori. Even in a still photo, Brian’s infectious personality comes across.

Jaunty pillows with Robert Allen’s eco-friendly fabric

Robert Allen has an entire green section in the showroom, which Brian pointed out that designers can use to demonstrate to their clients — once again — that the quality of the fabric is never sacrificed just because harmful chemicals aren’t used in the production or milling.

The texture of this fabric is so yummy! The green leaf on the label is a symbol that the fabric is green.

Next, we went to Edelman Leather, where showroom manager Emily Payne not only welcomed us with open arms, but sat us down in the sumptuous (all-leather) sitting area in the front of the showroom.

Emily Payne of Edelman Leather

How is leather green, you ask? Well, for one thing, Edelman uses only leathers produced in Europe, which actually has more stringent green standards than the United States when it comes to using non-toxic chemicals, clean factories, etc.

In addition, no animal is ever killed just for its hide. Emily pointed out that all leather comes from animals in the food industry, where hides are a by-product. So talk about reuse and recycle…

Can you believe this wood-grain pattern on Edelman’s newest leather product? Like, on a wing chair? Amazing. The surface of the cocktail table beneath it, by the way, is also an intricately textured leather.

Emily sent us away with the cutest gifts: small holders for change, credit cards, or business cards. I have already put mine to use!

But probably no one was as thrilled as Mary Anne Duffus, who runs the green Brooksfield School in McLean — Emily gave her a big bag of discontinued leather samples for the toddlers in her preschool to use in their art class. Mary Anne pointed out that no material in their art classes is ever bought new — it’s always reused from something else.

The final stop before our luncheon was Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman, where manager Annie O’Connell told us about her company’s “Pure” line of furniture.

Annie O’Connell

Because this was the last stop on our tour, everyone wanted to take some time to sit down and really “try out” the furniture. Not only are the fabrics, but the frames and even springs in the furniture is green: the wood frames are cut from sustainable forests, and the metal in the springs is recycled.

Theresa Norton sits on one of the “Pure” chairs, which was designed so a lady could sit on it, cross her legs, and look sexy. Mission accomplished, right?

Ernesto Santalla’s purple jacket blends wonderfully with the green silk of this sofa — green in color and concept, that is.

Theresa Norton, Mary Anne Duffus (with her art-class samples from Edelman), and Marcia Twomey also try out the sofa.

Two of my favorite designers came along on the tour with us — and they could have helped Lori quote chapter and verse on green interior design: Skip Sroka, whose new house is a poster child for green building, down to the recycled rubber tiles on his roof (see a story and photos of it here), and Barbara Hawthorn, who’s been doing green probably longer than Lori.

Skip Sroka and Barbara Hawthorn

Skip and Barbara have known each other a long time, and their mutual affection is adorable — I love this candid shot:

There are so many green products in our showrooms that we did not have enough time to see them all, but I’ve been talking to Lori about coming back and expanding our little tour to a larger event during our Capital Design Days in the spring. I was so impressed not only with Lori’s command of the subject, but also of our showroom managers’ knowledge, and our guests’ own experience with the green movement. It was an inspiring day, and I can’t wait to read Lori’s book.