As you probably know by now, I recently upgraded my home office.  

As you may also know, if you follow this blog regularly, I’m a big advocate for protecting the environment and the health of my clients.

My motto is “Healthy Home, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind.”

That means low-VOC paints, eco-friendly fabrics, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) woods, and water-based finishes – in other words, zero toxins wherever possible.

This remodel was no exception.

For this very reason, I took the extra step of ordering ‘green’ cabinetry – manufactured to my specifications, to ensure a non-toxic environment.


Standard cabinets are made from formaldehyde-containing particle board that typically will off-gas formaldehyde for up to five years.

Needless to say, this can contribute to significant health problems.

(In today’s market, there are a wide variety of sustainable options for cabinetry manufactured with water-based glues and adhesives, and particleboard that does not contain formaldehyde).

Which brings me to the countertop.

Since I was remodeling a home office, most products – such as natural stone (think granite, limestone or marble) – didn’t seem practical.

Yes, I could have used wood, but settled instead on laminate as a reasonable alternative, even though it is a material I hardly ever use in clients’ homes.

The cabinet designer I had hired was also not a huge fan of laminate.

So neither one of us had given much thought to the installation process, which, it turns out, uses really, really toxic glues.

We were both caught off guard.

Here’s what happened next.

I balked.

What to do?

It was another D.O. D. in the making. (Designer’s Own Dilemna*)

Well – I rose up to my full, towering height (5’2” in my stocking feet) and said “No”

Feeling like my own worst client, I insisted on water-based glues.

I was fully prepared to pay more, yet wouldn’t accept less.

Since I had gone the extra step of ordering green, eco-friendly cabinetry, why would I do otherwise?

The installer – an old-timer who ONLY uses the powerful, stinky stuff that he swears by – backed down and agreed to use a water-based adhesive.

The saving grace, as it turns out, was not having a source of water close by. In other words, water-based glues do not hold up well in kitchens or baths.

This is fine by me. Typically, I would specify natural, or manufactured stones, or environmentally friendly products like Paperstone , or Richlite.

So this, my friend, is the TRUE price of laminate.

Not the physical cost, mind you – but rather, the long-term effects, health & otherwise, that are often the result of less-than-smart choices.

If you’d been in my shoes, what would you have done?