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Shades of Green

By Christopher Wynn (Dallas Morning News, October 2006)
Photography by Terri Glanger
E-mail: cwynn@dallasnews.com

ECO-SENSITIVITY COMES IN MANY COLORS IN THE GREENWAY PARKS TUDOR OWNED BY ANNA SOVA LUXURY ORGANICS FOUNDER ANNA WALKER
(click photos to enlarge)


An antique gold-leafed mirror sparkles above the home's original carved mantel. The fireplace settee was a find from The Mews near downtown.
Whitney "Anna" Walker repaints rooms as casually as some women swap out handbags. "Miyoga Ginger" is the blue-purple shade du jour coating the walls of her Greenway Parks living room on this particular afternoon.

Just days earlier, her mood was a bit more "Hyssop," with the space steeped in a deep, earthy green and the nearby dining room washed in bright "Pistachio." By the time you're reading this, the rooms inside Walker's storybook Tudor will no doubt be on their way toward their next hue, perhaps a chocolatey "Vosges Truffle."

If the paint colors sound good enough to eat, they nearly are.

The rear guest room, through windows framed inorganic silk drapery. The platform bed and Tibetan trunks are from Art of Old India on Dragon Street. Two Chinese Palace traveling lanterns from Shanghai make Old-World night lights. Above the bed, dragon tapestries were originally wedding bed hangings, which Walker purchased in a Bangkok market. Snuggling is easy beneath the organic raspberry silk duvet. The walls are painted in Anna Sova's "Zucchini Flower."

Walker uses the food-grade Healthy Wall Finish developed by her Dallas-based company, Anna Sova Luxury Organics. The paints have no plastic volatile organic compounds and are made primarily from milk products.

Walker says a fresh coat smells vaguely like a vanilla milkshake.

Clearly, owning your own organic paint and furnishings company has its perks.

"My home is my workshop; explains Walker, clad in a coat made from antique saris and sitting in one of her beloved carved wolf-head armchairs. "I would never sell a product that I have not used myself. I feel very strongly about that"

A foyer shrine is decorated with Russian icons from Turkey and Kazakhstan.

Whitney "Anna" Walker

A guest room painted Hot Fudge gets a turn-of-the-20th-century Anglo-Indian bed from Calcutta dressed in 600-thread-count organic Italian-made linens. A Moroccan painting above the bed was picked up at the Saint Ouen flea market north of Paris. On the wall, carved-wood Chinese temple guard dogs stand watch.

Walker founded ecology-focused Anna Sova (Sova was her revered Austrian grandmother's last name) two years ago as a spinoff of her Antique Drapery Rod Co. business on Glass Street. After a devastating warehouse fire in June, the store will reopen this fall, offering the label's full complement of wall finishes, bedding, draperies, towels, candles and accessories. The company continues to sell its wares online and through local merchants.

"The fire was heartbreaking, it was crushing, and, strangely, it became inspirational," says Walker. "We had 170 hardworking and positive people on site the next morning helping to pick up the pieces."

Walker was right there among them in the rubble. The statuesque blonde (her mother and grandmother were both models) has an eye for detail and a daily to-do list that could bring Martha Stewart to tears.

She has long been an advocate for green living (she gave up her hair dryer, calling it environmentally irresponsible), but she stresses that Earth-friendly needn't preclude luxury or beauty.

To that end, Walker's gothic-minimalist cottage is a living showcase for her company's ecocentric creations. She deftly mixes green basics with antique finds from her travels abroad.

The rear guest room, through windows framed inorganic silk drapery. The platform bed and Tibetan trunks are from Art of Old India on Dragon Street. Two Chinese Palace traveling lanterns from Shanghai make Old-World night lights. Above the bed, dragon tapestries were originally wedding bed hangings, which Walker purchased in a Bangkok market. Snuggling is easy beneath the organic raspberry silk duvet. The walls are painted in Anna Sova's "Zucchini Flower."

In the front guest room, a turn-of-the-20th-century Anglo-Indian bed from Calcutta gets luxury hotel treatment with 600-thread-count Indian-made linens. The bedding is crafted from organically certified cotton that has been grown without pesticides and never dyed with heavy metal dyes.

The rear guest room features a low-slung Indian platform bed and two Tibetan trunks from Art of Old India on Dragon Street. Suspended above the trunks are two 1880's Chinese palace traveling lanterns from Shanghai. The raspberry silk duvet and pillow shams were finished with a 2,000-year-old process using natural Indian soap nut instead of the current industry standard of formaldehyde and silicone.

"As Americans, we consume more than 60 percent of the world's resources," says Walker, a yoga enthusiast who was raised on a North Texas horse farm. "If we choose eco-responsible products, we can change the world."

Even an environmental entrepreneur needs a place to live. It took Walker six years to find the right house.

"I wanted a home that was all original with it period details intact," she says.

Walker found it in a 1931 Tudor rich with angles and arches, nestled into the Greenway Parks neighborhood that Texas architect David Williams designed in the l920s. The home still wears it original slate tile roof imperial from England.

Like her attitude toward nature, Walker tries to live gently here. For example, the oak hardwood floors are hand-oiled, which gives them as want natural glow that's different from the high-gloss chemical varnish most of us are used to. The resulting look is handsome and honest.

A shrine in the foyer decorated with Russian icons from Turkey and Kazakhstan welcomes guests. Organic upholstery in neutral colors softens the 100-year-old, dark wood British and Italian furnishings in the living room. Espresso silk drapes framing the homes original mullioned windows add height and drama.

In the corner stands an Italianate bar that Walker purchased from a friend and antiques dealer in Florence. The silver barware belonged to her grandmother.

In front of the mantel, a recovered fireplace settee makes an impromptu perch for sipping cocktails.

A table from a Texas farmer's market was chopped down (slightly) from its 18-foot length, perfect for Walker's large dinner parties. The chairs are antique Portuguese hand-tooled leather and wood. Hanging from the wall (right) is an Ottoman Empire pillowcase made from panne velvet with gold thread, which Walker found in Istanbul.

Before and after: Walkers high-drama dining room was previously a green dream in "Pistachio." Currently (above), the walls are steeped in a pink-red "Lychee Fruit."

Dinner parties in the home are anything but small affairs. A sprawling dining room table reclaimed from a Texas farmers market was chopped down only slightly from its original 18-foot length. Surrounding the table is a fleet of fourteen 100-year-old Portuguese hand-tooled leather and wood chairs.

"I don't entertain in small groups," Walker says. "lt's basically the same amount of work, and more fun, to just invite everyone over." She has finally conceded in one area, though, "'I now own my first-ever set of dishwasher-safe china." In this case, Italian china from Neiman Marcus.

On crisp fall evenings, Walker likes to leave open the French-style doors leading from the dining room into the gracious, stone-paved rear courtyard. "I've had the patio regraded twice so it won't catch high heels," she says.

Dessert is served al fresco, followed by after-dinner drinks and sometimes even cigars on a bar tray. Friends often take the liberty of moving back furniture and rolling up the living room's sisal carpet for Latin dancing, from cumbia to salsa. "It's not a party if there's not dancing," Walker insists.

"My home is everyone else's home. It's come and enjoy."

Even the scent of fresh paint.

FIVE TIPS FOR A GREENER HOME

  • Use hard flooring such as reclaimed woods, tile, concrete, marble or stone to reduce allergens.
  • Choose rugs made from 100 percent wool or natural fibers
  • Use low VOC (volatile organic compounds) or natural paints and finishes for walls, floors and cabinetry.
  • Consider finishing wood floors with natural oils instead of urethane or varnish.
  • Choose linens, drapery and upholstery made from organic cotton or other Earth-friendly fabrics.
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