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Local color expert has designs on being 'green'

For designer and certified color expert Jen Guerin, "green" isn't just a color.

It's a viewpoint toward environmentally friendly design that colors her way of seeing the world. She learned firsthand of the toxic fumes that can be present in products while running her own decorative painting company, Ox & Olive.

Guerin, who runs JG Color Studios in Banker's Hill, received national attention earlier this year when she was one of 10 contestants on the fourth season of "HGTV Design Star," the network's most popular series. Although she didn't win the coveted prize of hosting a series on the network, she has been able to parlay her success into a platform to promote green products such as American Clay, a natural Earth plaster.

"American Clay has many benefits that I haven't been able to find in any other paint product besides sharing the fact that it has zero VOCs," or volatile organic compounds, she said. "Since it is almost completely made up of clay material from the earth, it harbors such benefits such as 'breathability' and permeability. That means it allows moisture to pass through the wall surface and lowers the propensity for mold or mildew."

Jen Guerin

Guerin also points out that the natural components of American Clay help it repel dust and pet hair as well as technical ion charges "that aren't so good for us.

"Studies also show that clay plasters on walls can actually lessen heat or cold coming through the walls. How about that? It saves on your energy bill," she said.

Although some people assume that going green means resigning one's self to earth tones, Guerin insists that belief is incorrect.

"It's only a myth," she said. "I have a client who has fuchsia in the kitchen and cobalt blue in the dining room, but has solar panels, and uses only green energy."

Guerin also like to "go green" by reusing old items in fun new ways. She has been shopping at Architectural Salvage on Kettner Boulevard for 12 years and enjoys finding new uses for the beautiful old objects she gets there.

"I recently found some vintage crystal door handles and I'm installing them in my bathroom walls as a towel rack," she said. "Also, I am currently working on turning U-31 in North Park from a nightclub to an eatery in the early evening hours before the D.J. arrives.

"Instead of throwing away the gorgeous circular tops of the tall tables, we are cutting them off the stems and installing them on the wall with backlighting to create a stunning three-dimensional wall.

"For me, reusing items such as salvage items as this is better than recycling; you have a little piece of history in your home."

While it may be easier than ever for a designer to go green, Guerin suggests people decide how deep they want to go before they start a project, because it's a lot "like deciding whether you're a vegetarian or a vegan.

"Using green paints and plasters is a good start, but it's important to do research because that Italian couch made out of hemp may be environmentally friendly at its point of origin, but its carbon footprint gets bigger the further away it's shipped from the factory," she said.

Moye is media relations manager at Alternative Strategies.

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