Design Hints

Naturally Beautiful

Read up on five earth-minded ways to work eco-friendly local materials into your home and landscaping.

As a doctoral student in plant science and an avid blogger on gardening with native plants, Newark, Delaware, homeowner Susan Foster finds that eco-friendly landscaping, decorating and remodeling are second nature. Here are five earth-minded tips she uses in her own home:

Gone Native: Design your landscape with native plants and with an eye on having color and texture for every season. Indigenous plants are hardier and more likely than tender imports to thrive without specialized care. For more information and helpful resources, visit Susan s blog, 

Walk the Walkway:
Choose natural stone original to your area when installing a new sidewalk or patio. The front sidewalk of Susan's home features rectangles of Pennsylvania bluestone carefully laid in an eye-pleasing pattern.

Brick by Brick:
Use old bricks from demolished local buildings for remodeling projects. Susan's new fireplace is made partially from 150- to 200-year-old bricks salvaged from torn-down Delaware houses.

Stone Bold: Consider putting in soapstone countertops as an alternative to granite. Soapstone, which is gray when first installed, requires monthly applications of mineral oil for the first year -- those applications blacken and seal the stone. After that, the counters are maintenance-free (no more mineral oil) and more durable than granite, which requires yearly sealing with chemical-based products. "You can put hot stuff on soapstone and sand nicks out -- it's gorgeous, heavy, natural, durable, and it's real stone," Susan enthuses. "It's not highly polished, but I don't like shiny surfaces."

Speaking in Tung:
Finish your wood floors with tung oil instead of chemical sealers such as polyurethane. Every year, Susan applies a fresh coat of tung oil to her Southern Georgia heart-pine floors, which were installed in 1988, and the natural, mellow patina it gives the wood works perfectly with her country aesthetic.

Written by Nancy Anderson Hedberg
Photographed and Styled by Franklin & Esther Schmidt