January 30, 2023

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Home living innovation

Well being and basic safety drove layout of this doctor’s magnificent Houston house

Dr. Maria Cabanillas spends her times contemplating about her most cancers clients, the lead to of their thyroid cancer and cure.

So when the Houston oncologic endocrinologist and her associate, Kris Griffith, 45, a health and fitness treatment administrator in the Texas Health-related Heart, made a decision to build a new house for by themselves, they place into follow the exact same principals they focus on in their jobs.

A health and fitness-1st tactic in house design and design and style sounds effortless — after all, no one particular actually is an advocate for working with harmful products. But using a deep dive into the globe of lumber, masonry, upholstery and tile can be intricate.

As a thyroid cancer expert, Cabanillas, 48, understands that there is investigate concentrating on the hyperlink concerning thyroid most cancers and elevated exposure to hearth retardants, which are frequent in a lot of commercial and residential merchandise. They’re employed to make textiles and other components safer, and they assistance electronics and constructing resources fulfill fire-safety criteria.

But at some stage, for some persons, they could trigger health challenges, in accordance to research.


In an arduous lookup for an inside designer who could support them obtain items manufactured with less severe glues and fireplace retardants and far more pure products, Cabanillas and Griffith observed Laura Britt of Britt Design Group in Austin.

Britt has endured from upper respiratory difficulties because childhood, connecting the dots in between her own health and fitness and her atmosphere, dwelling or normally. She’s not a chemist — while recently she’s wishing she ended up — but will work hard to discover or build goods with less contaminants these kinds of as flame retardants or the glues and substances that would make things final lengthier.

She introduced Cabanillas and Griffith to new, eco-acutely aware factors she learned when she made use of to make her have healthful present day household furniture in Austin.

Paints with low VOC, unstable organic and natural compounds, have gotten simpler to come across. Other elements can be trickier to investigation. For illustration, in a chair or sofa, you have to look at its body, cushion and upholstery and the way it was built or dealt with at just about every move in the procedure, like glues and chemical compounds in stain-resistance remedies.

“I treat thyroid cancer pretty much exclusively, and there have been publications all-around the time we ended up building (with healthcare research) that confirmed there ended up contaminants — fire retardants — in homes in the U.S. Some have been phased out, but they are changed with new chemical compounds,” Cabanillas claimed. “We realized it would be a obstacle to come across home furniture without formaldehyde and devoid of fire retardants — they are all over the place, they’re ubiquitous. You can not reduce them absolutely, but you can at the very least decrease them.”

Britt helped them find furnishings with safer resources, as properly as some that would off-gas much more quickly.

Cabanillas, a native of Puerto Rico who has lived in Houston for several many years, bought the authentic household on this great deal near the Med Heart in 2002. It was designed in 1938 and had a yard lose that dated that significantly back again, much too. Eventually, the home’s partitions and ceiling begun to buckle from harm induced by a pair of trees planted much too shut by.

In 2018, Cabanillas and Griffith hired studioMET Architects to layout and create the 4,000-square-foot residence they moved into a small more than a yr back.

Sustainability and treatment for the ecosystem drove Cabanillas’ and Griffith’s aspiration for the put. The ReUse People today and RePurpose Depot both equally salvaged building supplies from the previous household to assist keep them out of landfills. First shiplap was utilized in many spots in the new dwelling, which includes in a headboard in the guest area and as paneling in a window-seat nook.

The most important living-eating location has an open notion. Sliding doors supply an indoor-out of doors practical experience straight from the kitchen area. As they get ready food stuff, they can look onto their patio and vegetable gardens outside of.

There’s a guest room for when Cabanillas’ mothers and fathers check out and a different bedroom for when Griffith’s two daughters — 15-yr-old Josephine and 14-calendar year-previous Katherine — take a look at on weekends. Cabanillas’ son, Raul Ramos, is 25 and lives in Austin.

Sprinkled through is art by a variety of Puerto Rican artists — numerous of them buddies of Cabanillas and her loved ones — which includes Nick Quijano, Augusto Marin, Jorge Acevedo, Rafael “Rafi” Trelles and Lorenzo Homar.

There are lifted beds in which red, white and yellow onions grow, moreover flourishing beds of sweet peas, tomatoes, lettuces, garlic and herbs. Fruit-bearing trees contain citrus, fig, olive and avocado.

And two 500-gallon metal rain barrels are hooked up to a sprinkler method to irrigate the vegetable yard. The rest of the landscaping makes use of heat- and drought-resistant vegetation.

A smaller indoor storage place — they phone it the “Harry Potter Closet” — has shelves and improve lights for seedlings acquiring started off, as well as a Hungry Bin worm composter to make their possess fertilizer employing food scraps. (No, it doesn’t stink.)

Solar panels on west- and south-struggling with roofs electric power nearly almost everything Griffith stated their electric bill is typically about $60 a thirty day period.

Cabanillas is effective at a desk in their modest analyze off of the most important bed room — her Peloton is there, too.

Their garage condominium is wherever Griffith has been doing work from household full time. Right before the pandemic, it was a absolutely contained condominium with a tiny kitchen area, residing area and bed room. The few imagined it would be handy for any good friends or family members who want a spot to keep in the course of health-related visits. 1 of their good friends who lives in Dallas drives down as soon as a 7 days for cancer treatment and stays in the garage apartment.

Each Cabanillas and Griffith have tackled some new hobbies not long ago, which includes breadmaking — he is hooked on “The Excellent British Bake Off” — and cheesemaking.

Griffith is a beermaking fanatic and constantly has something brewing. The primary shed in the backyard was reworked into a brewery — they contact it Griffith’s “Brewshedda” — where by he keeps his house brew on faucet. The bar is produced of resources salvaged from the first dwelling, the handiwork of woodworker/artist Pleasure Fucci of Pleasure Reimagined.

It quickly will have its possess solar panels, and some seating inside will be reupholstered with extra environmentally welcoming elements.

A fire pit surrounded by comfy seating and plenty of coated patio place permit for sitting down outdoors with a buddy or two. The two Cabanillas and Griffith have had COVID-19 vaccinations, but they even now consider social distancing and mask-sporting significantly.

“We operate in the region of cancer, and (overall health) is always on our minds. I’m happy we did all of this due to the fact now we’re below all of the time,” Cabanillas said.

diane.cowen@chron.com