How Nontoxic Construction Helped Make This Decorator’s Life and Home Healthier


It was a few hours after the arrival of the container—40 feet long, straight from Hong Kong and dense with the McCullough family’s earthly possessions—that the sneezing fits returned. So instead of reveling in unpacking and arranging in the way only a decorator amid a trans-global relocation could, Lucie McCullough embarked down a rabbit hole to find some answers about why her body seemed at odds with her environment. Here in the States, months after not feeling well in Hong Kong, McCullough grew convinced it was her furniture that was making her sick.

After a decade in Asia, this peripatetic British former fashion designer and her husband, Ronan, a financier, had planned to settle their family into their home in the leafy Boston suburb of Concord. “I was convinced we’d move into a traditional New England clapboard or saltbox,” says McCullough. But no, they fell for a 1940s stucco that looks as if it had been plucked straight from Kent. It was “the most English house in the area,” as McCullough calls it, and seemed especially so during the viewing, when the two open fireplaces were roaring—catnip for a Brit, she claims. “Plus, there was a vintage Bordeaux Jag in the driveway… They really put it on for us!” But for the time being, the family hauled all that crated furniture out to the property’s stables. Mold tests came back positive: The family’s own picturesque moment would have to wait.

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