Kitchen Supplier Arrives in the U.S. Mixing Style and Green Design

Did you know that October is National Kitchen and Bath Month?

It is, and although we didn’t get them a thing, Italian kitchen designer  Ernestomeda last week gave Chicagoans a new kitchen store/showplace to celebrate.

We’re the first in the country to host Ernestomeda, currently nestled snug in our Merchandise Mart, which opened in 1930 and has since become the world’s largest commercial building and largest wholesale design center.

More than 60 percent of the Mart is showrooms. It was Kennedy-owned (they sold it in 1998) and sees more than 3 million visitors a year.

Some of them stop off at the Mart’s 29 LuxeHome boutiques, more than 100,000 square feet of space featuring the finest kitchen and bath products for luxury home building and renovation. It’s open to the public, builders, architects — just about everybody.

As such, many kitchen designers are debuting renovated showrooms or new products this month at the Mart, and likewise, the  Ernestomeda showroom is debuting the company’s Barrique and Elektra designs (shown, left), which DuPont Building Innovations, Public Relations and Media
Relations Manager (Europe, Middle East, Africa)
Greco says
is one of
Ernestomeda’s most exciting lines.

Barrique is a wine-lover’s dream: a designed homage to the tradition of Italian
winemaking, its Chicago display features some of
Italy¹s finest vintages (which is enough to make me want to buy it, but I think I’m what is considered an "easy sell.").

But what’s interesting is Ernestomeda’s designs aren’t just sleek — they’re sustainable, too.

Take, for example, its Corian surface material, which has a number of green qualities (and is pictured in the Elektra-style kitchen featured above):

  • It’s good for the air (even if you burn dinner). DuPont(tm) Corian(r) solid surface has been designated by the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute (GEI) as GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified. (And so have the sealants and adhesives used to install it.)
  • It’s made close to home — wherever home is. Corian designs and installations are manufactured locally by a network of 4,000 DuPont Certified Fabricators/Installers, thereby reducing environmental impact from transporting finished products long distances.
  • It’s environmentally independent. Corian doesn’t react readily with other chemicals, so it has a low impact on both indoor and outdoor environments, including ground, vegetation and water resources.
  • Corian
    can be reused.
    Unlike natural stone, homeowners can buff out stains or
    scratches easily, minimizing the need to replace or toss it. It can
    also be removed, re-sized and installed elsewhere or as part of a new

In addition, using  Corian for a number of specific installations can help construction projects earn LEED points in several categories, including Materials & Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality.

 Chicago has some green building suppliers — Greenmaker, for one, which offers recycled glass countertops to cork flooring. We also have a mayor who fully supports green building and has said he wants Chicago to be the greenest city in the nation. (Ever since Men’s Fitness named us the Fattest City in America in 2006, we’ve just gotten so competitive!)

But we’re not crawling with them — and the truth is, working with a supplier who understands LEED certification, if that’s your goal, or even just one who knows the different sustainable material options  makes building green a whole lot easier.

The industry wants more green material options, more water and heat
conservation methods, more ways to reduce construction site waste. As green building continues to catch on, we’re seeing a lot of personal innovations in residential design — wind turbines added to roofs; unlikely materials given a second life as flooring. That’s part of the excitement of this field — no idea seems impossible, and a little trial-and-error may lead any homeowner to discover the Next Big Green Building Thing.

But that process takes time. That’s why we’re welcoming outlets like Ernestomeda — as our citizens test out new ways to tap solar energy, our retailers are creating new indoor fixtures that offer style and sustainability.

Hopefully Los Angeles feels the same way: Ernestomeda’s
second U.S. location will open in LA in late 2007. And if that makes them greener than Chicago well, we already lost the Fattest City title this year to Las Vegas. (We didn’t even make the top 10. Shameful.)