An Interview with Linda O’Keeffe, the Director of Design and Architecture at Metropolitan Home

April 10, 2008

Linda O’Keeffe, Director of Design and Architecture at Metropolitan Home magazine.On March 18th, I posted the article, “Metropolitan Home Goes Green,” discussing the magazine’s feature story on a Seattle penthouse.  Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Linda O’Keeffe, the Director of Design and Architecture at Metropolitan Home. Since Ms. O’Keeffe sees design trends as they happen, I asked her a few questions regarding what kind of changes she sees the green movement bringing to our homes.

Green Building Elements: Do you see a significant number of people opting for smaller homes?

Linda O’Keeffe: I do. Even people who can afford more are choosing to live in smaller spaces, sometimes because they are young or because they are empty nesters, but in general, just because it makes more sense now.

GBE: As people scale down, which rooms are they prioritizing, and which ones are they eliminating?

LO: I’m seeing fewer home offices and dining rooms. We were fooled into thinking we’d need a home office. But our offices are paperless now, so there is less to store. And there has been a change in technology, too; people are doing a lot of their work on a BlackBerry while they wait at the airport. Sometimes people with kids want a home office so that they can have a separate space, but even then, often everyone is in the kitchen. The kids can work on a laptop in there, and [parents] can see what they are doing.

Overall, people feel now that rooms should be adaptable: cozy enough for one person to read in, but able to accommodate 30 guests. Also, formal rooms are becoming less popular. They seem almost Victorian. Now we want every square inch of our homes to be usable.

GBE: With the surge of interest in recycled materials, are new types of finish materials becoming popular? (New kinds of countertops and cabinets, for example, or flooring?)

LO: Bamboo flooring is ubiquitous. And I am seeing a lot of recycled countertops; even Lowe’s has launched one of these products. I wouldn’t say that there is one particular material that is becoming popular, although I’m seeing a lot of concrete used for interiors. But it’s not industrial looking concrete; it has a patina and it’s touchable — it’s a sexier kind of concrete.

GBE: In general, what patterns do you see emerging as green design principles are applied to more and more homes?

LO: We’re at an interesting point in time. Everyone is talking about green. However, ‘sound bites’ have a shock value, while the truth is very complicated. The New Yorker had an article recently that focused on some of these complexities: they were saying that buying locally may not always be best, because so many factors need to be considered when calculating an item’s carbon footprint. [The New York Times online has a good analysis of this issue, as well, in an article by Andrew Martin.]

As for Metropolitan Home, with every project we cover, now one of the first questions we ask is, “What about it is green?” We’ll continue to talk green; we won’t let it go away. It’s not a fad.

In one of our recent issues, we covered a renovation in which the owners re-used materials, and kept the original footprint of the house. These are green things. There is a lot of self-righteousness out there about being green; at Metropolitan Home, our attitude is, “Whatever you can do, do it.” It’s just a fundamental, sensible way of looking at the world.

Thanks very much to Linda O’Keeffe for taking the time to share her insights with Green Building Elements. Look for future issues of Metropolitan Home to offer more great advice on going green; in the May issue, check out “*word”, which provides data on how long it will take to recoup your investment on some popular green products.

Photo Credit: Mikkel Vang

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