Ethical meets aesthetic
Eco Home Center opens its doors

A trio of Frantzen carpet samples rests atop a larger section of carpet at the Eco Home Center./Photo by Todd Newcomer

by Jules Masterjohn

Fine art and commercial design are fraternal twins, born of the same aesthetics, describing and promoting a visually interesting experience through the use of line, color, shape, texture, and balance. Each exists in the world to fulfill a different purpose. Simplistically speaking, art’s role is broad: to express through visual means the qualities of beauty, truth, harmony, chaos, and fantasy as well as to document, reflect, and comment on the times in which we live. Design’s role is also vast, encompassing the realms of architecture, graphic, industrial and interior design and incorporating a specific function into its visual embodiment.

In the best functional objects, the art aspects - an object’s lines, form, and shape - cannot be separated from its purpose, to serve with ease of function and pleasure of use. ‘Good’ (and ‘bad’) design is integrated into every aspect of our lives, from the buildings we inhabit to the mug that serves our morning joe. I recently had a ‘good’ design experience at the Walker Art Center’s museum shop in Minneapolis, where I discovered ‘The Slice,’ a felted seat cushion made from swirls of colored wool, created by the award winning Danish designer Lene Frantzen. A most interesting ‘tush cush,’ both aesthetically and functionally, Frantzen has devised a fabrication process that creates cross-sections of felted fiber, thick and luscious, to be used as cushions. The $220 price translates to mere pennies a day over a lifetime, which this item would certainly weather, for the comfort of one’s bottom side. This may seem like a high price to pay but consider that any pair of hiking boots worth their steel shank, costs nearly this much and provides two, maybe three years of service for hard trekking feet. For the active derriere, like one possessed by a writer, the beauty and comfort of “The Slice” could aid in many literary ass-pirations!

“The Slice” has not yet appeared in Durango, however its aesthetically related kin, a similarly designed carpet tile by Frantzen, is on display at the new Eco Home Center, recently opened on north Main Ave. Its relationship to “The Slice” is obvious the minute one lays eyes upon the luscious olive green pattern of densely clustered miniature spirals. Not only were my eyes drawn to it, I witnessed a woman walk into Eco Home and move directly to this piece of carpet, preferring it to the dozen or so other carpet samples on display. ‘Good’ design calls to us and invokes pleasure in its use.

In addition to its appealing appearance, the carpet is also environmentally friendly. This kinder carpet, FLOR, is produced by one of the largest commercial carpet companies in the world, Interface, Inc., a corporation whose CEO had an epiphany about the “mess” that it was creating, both in the air and the water, from manufacturing carpeting. Since then, Interface, Inc. has been an inspiration and a model for other businesses that want to clean up their act.

A stool made of recycled cardboard adorns the entryway to the Eco Home Center./Photo by Todd Newcomer

It was an epiphany of sorts that led Durango-based photographer, writer and self-taught designer, Laurie Dickson, to open the Eco Home Center. A co-mingling of circumstances and realizations led her to establish the retail design and resource center, which supplies the area with environmentally friendly building materials and home décor. When her profession as a photographer is not engaging her, Dickson spends time researching and familiarizing herself with the growing numbers of artistic and ethical products and systems available for consumer use, as well as educating clients about their merits. No one walking into Eco Home will need a fact sheet on the visual qualities of her products to appreciate them-they speak for themselves.

For me, Eco Home is like a creative stimulation zone filled with textures, colors, patterns, and pleasing forms that sets my hand to touching and sends my mind to imagining simple and artsy spaces in which to live. Dickson’s bold sense for all things visual has manifest into a dynamic showroom displaying locally hand-crafted sink basins, recycled glass dinnerware and functional cardboard furniture, linoleum, bamboo and cork flooring, natural paints and plasters, and a selection of books promoting sustainability in building And, of course, everything is sensibly and beautifully displayed.

It was around the year 1850 when American sculptor Horatio Greenough first used the phrase, “form follows function.” Today, over 150 years later, for a growing number the concept has deepened to embrace an ethical imperative calling designers to not only introduce luscious colors and stimulating textures into their a well-designed forms, but also that the products and process that they use be ‘sustainable’ and ‘green.’ Dickson prefers these terms over the popular description, ‘eco-friendly,’ which she says can be a deceiving label. “Many things can be eco-friendly on the surface, like wood, for example. One needs to consider where the wood came from, how it was harvested, how far it traveled to get to the sales location, and is it endangered?” With an abundance of information at her fingertips, Dickson quoted for me some definitions from the World Watch Institute. “Green is the use of materials or constructions that meet at least 2 specific requirements for energy efficiency, is made from renewable or recycled materials, and conserves resources and emits little or no toxins. Sustainability is the ability to meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.” For Dickson, this marriage of the ethical and the aesthetic that underscore Eco Home’s mission provides a deep sense of satisfaction that motivates her to continue to diligently investigate the sometimes controversial terrain of environmentally friendly products and processes.

Dickson has been a creative force in Durango for years. From her strong sense of volunteerism, she founded the Main Avenue Arts Festival 11 years ago. In keeping with her spirit of community service, Eco Home will host a silent auction to benefit the Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College and the San Juan Citizens Alliance during the Grand Opening on Sat., Oct. 1 serving hors d’ oeuvres and libations from 5-8 p.m. •



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