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Bringing the Outdoors In

by Linda Hayes | Aspen magazine | September 26, 2012

When it comes to sustainable design, Yvonne Jacobs sees herself on the front lines. “It’s our job as designers to let people in the community, and around the world, know about green design,” says Jacobs, who took the helm at Slifer Designs last January, following founder Beth Slifer’s retirement. “Most of our clients are second-home owners, with kids and grandkids. We assess their lifestyles, get into their psyche about what they want to get out of their homes, and suggest ways to make them healthy places to live in and feel good in.” Accomplishing all that is the responsibility of Slifer’s Green Team, which includes a half-dozen designers with LEED certification, an internationally recognized green building credential. “It used to be that you couldn’t even picture what a green house would look like,” Jacobs says. Now the designers work with a massive library of resources for environmentally friendly products, such as tile, wood, and recycled glass. Typically, the interior design process begins at a home’s planning stages. Design schemes take cues from everything from architectural styles to environmental considerations. From there, the designers choose materials and fabrics and plan furniture layouts.In addition to fostering sustainability in clients’ homes, Jacobs is also promoting it in Slifer’s public building projects. For the Gore Range Natural Science School in Avon, now under construction, design details like local wood and stone aim for LEED certification.And then there's the company's traditional community efforts. For Bright Future, an Eagle County domestic violence shelter, Slifer designers are doing everything from collecting truckloads of furniture to laying carpet and pulling weeds. “It’s a good extension of the company,” Jacobs says. For the future? “We’re always aspiring to learn more, to set the stage for being green,” she says. “We want to be on board with clients, developers, and builders. If we’re going to move forward with a project, let’s do it the right way. Let’s try to get LEED-certified, get it green and make it healthy.”

SLIFER TIP: De Rigeur organics: An emerging trend for both residential and commercial projects is the use of organic materials—oversized wood slabs for tables, wallpaper that resembles bark—for what Jacobs calls 'organic modern' design. "It's not modern like you'd find in a city," she says. "It's cleaner, softer, more livable." Other organic products include natural hemp rugs by Niba and fossil stone countertops by Green River Stone Company.