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Sustainable style: Rachel Martin's eco-home improvement 

Rachel Martin has taken the concept of "going green" far beyond her day job. In addition to running an environmentally savvy graphic design firm — Rachel Martin Design ( — she owns a spacious eco-friendly condo in Wesley Heights. The modern three-story, 2,000-square-foot rectangular structure with a white institutionalized-like exterior is situated in Celadon, an LEED (Leadership, Energy and Environmental Design)-certified community by the greenway.

When Martin moved to the Queen City from New York with her husband four years ago, she wanted a home that fit her criteria of being both environmentally-sound as well as modern.

"The new U.S. Green Council Building [USGBC] certification is for multi-family homes, and this community is one of the first in the Southeast," Martin says.

Upon entering her tidy house reminiscent of the future — anchored in clean whites with colorful complements, like orange — you'll encounter a long hallway with slate flooring and white walls. True to the green aspect of the home, the walls are insulated with recycled newsprint and splashed with nontoxic paint. Her chic office space is at the end of this hall, boasting sky blue walls, which give off an airy, serene vibe. Shelves are neatly lined with organizing boxes from The Container Store, and two orange vintage chairs sit in the middle of the room. Above them is a pendant lamp made out of synthetic paper by Danish designer Tord Boontje. Martin's own recycled art, including collages and shredded paper canvasses, don the walls next to other posters.

"Throughout the house, a lot of the art is actually mine. When we first moved in, we had just bought our home, so we couldn't afford to buy art," she says. "I figured this college degree [in fine arts and graphic design] has to go somewhere."

On the second floor of the house, another work of Martin's, a much larger texturized abstract painting, hangs in the living room against a bright orange strip of wall that runs into the dining area. The replica of a metallic arco floor lamp perches above a gray micro suede couch. "We like mid-century modern classics, so we either get replicas or the licensed pieces if we can," Martin says.

A recently purchased bench, made by industrial designer Dario Antonioni, is stationed by the room's outdoor balcony. It's part of his Los Angeles design lab Orange22's "Botanist" series and was acquired through Martin says she's concerned about where her products come from, how they impact the environment, who makes them and how they are treated. Kickstarter lets her track the making of a particular piece and closely follow its journey to their quarters.

"We use Kickstarter quite often because they have products that you can't really find. We're very picky on what we get," Martin says. "We want something that is usually modern but also very sustainable, eco-friendly and within a certain budget."

Contemporary with no crumbs in sight, the kitchen has a homey feel with antique hand-me-down pieces. "I like very modern and very vintage and antique, so it's kind of mixed in," she says.

An unusual collage of wood tiles from dye pattern cuts used at textile factories in India hangs on the wall nearby. "They were broken up and framed," Martin says. "I like them because they are recycled, vintage and part of the textile industry."

More designer pieces, such as White Eames Eiffel Tower chairs and a Le Kint pendant lamp, add to the kitchen's sleek vibe. Dotting the strip of orange wall are 30 framed black-and-white photos taken by the couple over the years. New York landmarks, vintage signs around Charlotte, and scenery from past trips make it a photo story wall.

Martin, who isn't fond of mismatched frames, keeps a tray on the living room table filled with photos of weddings, babies and other memorable times. "Sometimes I feel bad, because people will give us a picture frame with something, and just to keep it streamlined and within the look and aesthetic, I'll pull the pictures out and put them all in this bowl," Martin says.

Her mantra on keeping items and clutter minimal is enlightening. "We do buy stuff, but we are very conscious. If we have less, we don't have to worry about it and it's not weighing down on our life. With less junk, you can focus on the good things in life."

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