Fresh Start: Eco-minded couple moves to customized green condo

For seventeen years, Donna and Reginald Destree lived in a 1880s Victorian in La Crosse. But a few years ago, they began to think about moving to Madison. They had gone to college here, they love the city’s food scene and their daughters and grandchildren live nearby.

The move, which took place in the summer of 2008, also gave the pair a chance to put a passion into practice. She is a nurse educator and he is a retired farmer who now consults other farmers on growing and marketing organic products–and living green is important to both of them.

The Destrees chose the Weston Place Condominiums on the city’s west side as their new residence, partly because construction wasn’t done yet. They bought a “blank shell” unit and built it out themselves with help from an architect–their daughter, Melissa Destree of Destree Design.Keeping sustainability in mind, they choose wool carpeting, cork flooring in the kitchen and recycled vinyl in the bathrooms. All the trim, casing, cabinetry and doors in the condo came from suppliers with Forest Stewardship Council certification, and they installed window treatments to reduce energy costs.Fresh Start: Eco-minded couple moves to customized green condo

The couple opted for low-VOC adhesives, sealants, primers and paints, as Donna has asthma. And because Reginald is hard of hearing, they insulated walls with recycled denim to keep the home as quiet as possible. “We do not hear any neighbors,” he says.

Additionally, the Destrees planned their rooms to make use of furniture they enjoyed in their former house. They purchased a few items, such as a couch, and achieved a modern-eclectic look by mixing old and new. “I’m not committed to any style,” Donna says, adding that her taste tends toward “traditional with some bling.”

Indeed, there are touches of fun, from the sparkly chandelier in the master bathroom to decorative plastic resin panels and glass tile fireplace surround–both of which are made from recycled materials–in the living room. An abundance of natural light sets off these elements and also makes the condo feel larger than its 1,600 square feet.

Yet the best place to enjoy natural light and fresh air is the building’s twelfth-floor patio. Here, the Destrees can see treetops and lakes, as well as restaurants, a bookstore, a grocery store and other amenities within walking distance of their new home.

Says Donna, “We can see the Capitol–and Macy’s.”