Natural Body Spa and Shop Founder Cici Coffee shares her green-sanctuary secrets
Atlanta’s green-spa maven, Cici Coffee, doesn’t just talk the talk—she walks the walk. Unlike many businesses and people who have jumped on the green bandwagon because it is the “thing to do,” the Natural Body Spa and Shop founder—now with 10 spa locations in Atlanta—has been singing to the green tune for the last 25 years. Her spas and nail bars, especially the newest LEED Platinum-certified Brookhaven location, are a reflection of her profoundly deep belief in conservation and health, in consciously taking care of your body and the Earth alike. And taking a cue from her business, her beautifully crafted eco-friendly home in Decatur feels like a destination spa in itself. Here, she shares details about how the green sanctuary was created and take-home tips from the Brookhaven spa, which illustrate how to achieve energy efficiency and lead a greener lifestyle.
When Coffee and her partner, Celia Tully, bought their home 9 years ago, it was literally a square cinder block with dark, low-ceilinged rooms painted in outdated colors. The couple’s main goals in remodeling the home were to honor the solid feeling of the original structure and to reuse as many materials as possible while expanding it and opening it up to add more natural light. The home was transformed from a 1-story, 1,600-square-foot residence to a 3,000-square-foot, 2-story space. They also wanted to bring in more of a Tuscan-Mission style while incorporating reclaimed, sustainable and easy-maintenance materials wherever possible. Now, the home feels like a permanent vacation retreat.
Coffee and Tully remodeled this home in 2001—just after 9/11—when the economy took a dip. In support of local craftsmen, they decided to hire local artists to come in and design several features in the home, including the kitchen cabinets and fireplace in the upstairs master bedroom. These features were hand-sculpted and made onsite. “It was so much fun working with these artists who were just so fantastically creative and took great pleasure in their work,” Coffee says.
A portion of the furniture items and fixtures in the home are being reused, whether they are from local antique shops, artisan craftspeople using recycled metal or the Coffee and Tully families. “This saves these items from landfills and allows us to retain the inherent history of the reused furniture and decorative objects,” Coffee explains.
Because the house is filled with natural light from the large windows and open spaces throughout, there is often very little need for ambient light. “Some of our light bulbs have been in place since we bought and remodeled our place because we rarely turn lights on during the day,” Coffee says. “We replace old bulbs with energy-efficient ones when it is their time to go.”
The slate floors bring nature inside the dining room and were installed without gloss. Many products in manufacturing—glues, sealers and paints—give off VOCs (volatile organic compounds), microscopic pollutants that contribute to poor air quality, and which can aggravate respiratory-health issues. “We tried to select materials without these compounds,” Coffee says. To shine and clean the floor, Coffee uses a natural-stone enhancer and citrus solvent.
Bamboo flooring was installed throughout the living room, hallways and guest area. Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, and yields a timber harder than maple.
The mismatched doors throughout the house add a vintage feel to each room. The large door that separates the “main” part of the house from the guestrooms was a gift from Coffee’s sister when she remodeled her home.
The access panels are covered with window shutters found in yard sales and at No Mas Cantina (www.nomascantina.com) in Castleberry Hill.
The walls are covered with no-VOC paint, and because they are due for a fresh coat, Coffee plans to use American Clay plaster (www.americanclay.com), which is leftover from the Brookhaven spa build.
The wine rack attached to the outer side of the kitchen was inspired by how cool in temperature the clay downspouts were when they were found in the shed during summer construction.
With it’s large picture window, the bathroom rarely needs ambient light. The columns are made of Canterra Stone and the vanity countertop is made of recycled glass and fly ash from Dex Industries (www.dexindustries.com).
The bedroom of this Decatur home features Kennebec tile flooring, which is made up of cross-section hemlock scraps from a skateboard manufacturer (www.kennebecwood.com)
Take Home Tips
Use these keywords as guidelines when buying cleaning products: nontoxic, biodegradable, chlorine-free, phosphate-free, non-petroleum based, vegetable-oil based, fragrance-free, no dyes.
When it’s time to replace or upgrade home appliances or features, choose Energy Star-rated options.
As your traditional bulbs burn out, make the switch to CFL (compact fluorescent) or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs; the latter last for 10,000 hours. Also, install motion sensors to turn lights on and off depending on a room’s occupancy.
Choose personal and household products that use solar chargers, sustainable materials like bamboo and environmentally healthier items like organic cotton. Purchasing these technologies assist in their becoming lower in price, more widely accessible and able to eventually replace previous inefficient or unhealthy versions.
Recycled-content countertops, tile and flooring are just a few of the materials you can incorporate into your home design.
Furniture and decor
Support local craftspeople and industry by frequenting artists’ festivals and showrooms. When renovating, shop salvage yards, consignment sales and antique stores for your project. If you can’t buy used wood furniture, look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label or bamboo items.