Leeann and Rich Chang are professional photographers, specializing in weddings and family portraits. They met while working jobs for mutual friends when their paths crossed while one of them was leaving a job location, and the other was arriving for a different client. A first date was set, then eventually they set a wedding date. The Changs had lived in Inverness until recently, when building a healthier home seemed a necessity.
“We loved Inverness with its open yards, no fences, and being close to family,” Leeann said of her Mid-Century style home of eight years. But as the two began their family, with a son and daughter, health issues in both children and Leeann led to the decision to reconsider their existing home and how it might be a contributing factor. Leeann explains that they were doing everything possible to minimize their son’s sensory processing disorder, their daughter’s severe asthma, and Leeann’s discovery that her low energy following childbirth was due to hypothyroidism. Despite working with medical specialists, trying natural alternatives, and eating right, these efforts weren’t enough.
The couple purchased land in the Highlands neighborhood in Barrington to build a new home. Having known Victoria and Anthony Di Iorio through their church for many years—she a healthy home expert, and he a custom home builder—they hired them to design and build a modern style home to use materials that minimized or removed chemical off-gassing and other toxicity issues.
Every aspect of the Chang’s new home—from the foundation to the food they eat and the kitchen it’s prepared in—has been reviewed and modified to create a safer health environment for the entire family. The driveway is cement, not asphalt, which could aggravate their daughters asthma. The garage wood-grain siding is cement board, not vinyl. Bathroom countertops are remnant pieces of stone or quartzite which is cost-effective and sustainable. The non-toxic paint by AFM Safecoat in Wisconsin used throughout the home is from the Green Design Center. The couple says they were wonderful to work with in matching colors and offering samples. And the family takes off and stashes all shoes at the door.
Since March 1, things have improved dramatically for everyone health-wise, thanks to their new healthy home. Now, the family can better focus on their children’s education, including the bi-lingual Mandarin program that was one of their reasons to stay in Barrington. Recently, they vacationed at the beach in North Carolina and noticed positive changes in their children’s well-being and level of play, seaside. They believe their healthy home environment has brought progress and positive improvement in their lives.
To learn more about the couple’s photography work, visit chang2studios.com.
Find the Healthy Home Barrington 2021 Product and Materials details online at qbarrington.com.
My mom taught me to eat REAL food—unprocessed, no chemical additives, rich in nutrients—just as nature intended. She led by example, growing a few vegetables in her garden, making homemade yogurt and ice-cream, and baking everything from scratch. She even made raisins a couple of times just to show me how. She would also whip up homemade toothpaste and cleaning solutions.
After more than three years of research and interviewing some of the top experts in “green” building, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and children’s environmental health, it became clear that building a safer, less toxic home was not only possible, but necessary. I worked with my husband’s company to change their product specifications and replace standard building products with certified and “low-emitting” materials to build the nation’s first Health House™ certified by the American Lung Association (2009).
Building on the success of that project and partnering with an interior designer who manufactured sustainable, non-toxic furniture, Healthy Home Initiative was founded with the purpose of educating architects, builders, interior designers, and the public on how to create a healthy home…from foundation to food™. The consulting business grew organically as builders and individual homeowners sought guidance and specifications to build and live in a more sustainable and healthier home.
All of those things are paramount to a healthy home. I would be remiss not to mention Radon specifically. One in every three homes in Illinois has unsafe levels of Radon and it is the number one cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking. It is very important to have your home tested. I highly recommend purchasing a Radon Test Kit directly from the American Lung Association @lung.org (search Radon Testing Kits and go to store).
The Healthy Home Initiative (HHI) champions the power of education and values the critical importance of product transparency. We continue to raise the bar and reach new distinctions in the build/design industry by working closely with industry partners and prioritizing human health in all aspects of the built environment. We go beyond the notion of what is sustainable and perceived to be healthy, building real-life educational models to inspire others to create and maintain a healthier home from foundation to food™. After a decade of case studies and research, HHI is currently developing a Healthy IAQ program for the residential building industry in collaboration with leaders and experts in Building Science, Indoor Air Quality, Environmental Health, and Wellness.
Thirteen years ago, it was extremely difficult to source less-toxic and certified building products; basics such as caulk, paint supplies, and insulation had to be sourced from different states, 11 to be exact. In 2018, we were able to reduce that number to just five states. Today, more manufacturers are choosing to have their products tested and labeled using third-party certifications such as UL GREENGUARD Gold, making it much easier for homeowners, designers, and builders to find low-emitting products at their local hardware store or big box stores such as Menards, which has a large selection of certified products.
The design/build community is beginning to recognize the importance of human health and wellness in the built environment. For example, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has put more emphasis on low-emitting materials. The WELL Building Standard does a great job of illustrating the relationship between building materials and the effects specific to each system of the human body which is very cool. The downside is that these standards negate important criteria by leaving critical steps as optional vs. required for certification. Both standards are mostly focused on commercial projects, so they are not helpful when building single family homes.
ASID Illinois Chapter President, Susan El-Naggar, has made health and wellness education a priority this year. Anthony and I were honored that ASID’s Healthy Home 2021 Tour sponsored by Delta/Brizo Faucet Company was the first in-person event to kick-off their event season!
There has been some progress in this category. For building products, paints, electronics, and home furnishings, look for the UL GREENGUARD Gold label. Products that have achieved this certification are proven to help reduce indoor air pollution and the risk of chemical exposure. You’ll find this label on furniture from major manufactures from Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Ashley Furniture, and a slew of children’s furniture brands.
When shopping sheets, towels, and other textiles, look for the OEKO-Tex 100 certification for fabric certified to be free from more than 100 substances known to be harmful to human health. You’ll find this label almost everywhere these days: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohls, and Pottery Barn.
For the best in textiles from bedding to fashion, look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) the global standard for transparency for organic fibers including ecological and social criteria. Avoid home furnishings that carry the California Prop 65 Warning label which may expose you to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm.
Our first Healthy House was in Long Grove in 2009. Our Designer Showcase Homes are open for public tours. Other HHI homes have been built and or renovated, including two dental offices. They are in Palatine (2010), Lincoln Park (2012), Inverness (2018), and Barrington (2021). Upcoming locations include Tucson, Arizona, and the Big Island, Hawaii.
Mariel and I met at the first Healthy Home Designer Showcase & Tour in 2010 and it was like we had known each other forever. We’ve been friends ever since. Her passion for health and wellness at all levels is awe-inspiring. I am so grateful for her support to amplify the mission of the Healthy Home Initiative. Two kindred spirits, we have fun together, learn from each other, and support each other’s efforts to inspire people to create a healthier home and a healthier life. Truly authentic, she is just an awesome human.
Leave your shoes at the door. 85% of the contaminants that enter your home are brought in from the bottom of our shoes. Opening your windows for just a few minutes at least 2-3 times a week will greatly improve your air quality. Your indoor air can be up to 500 times more contaminated than outdoor air. If you’ve just cleaned up using a traditional chemical cleaning product it can be up to 1,000 times more polluted than the outdoor air. Make the switch to a non-toxic cleaning product. Vacuum two times a week with a HEPA Vacuum to reduce allergens, chemicals, and dust in the air. Airborne particles are the major cause of many allergies and respiratory illnesses and can serve as a carrier for airborne disease.
Mariel Hemingway visited Barrington and Inverness in June. Her schedule was busy with television production meetings via zoom, Quintessential Barrington’s photo shoot and interview, and her appearance at the healthy home event with the Chang family. We sat down for an hour to talk about her journey and the projects she is working on.
You know, I love how you phrased the question, because I don’t think you can do anything without doing everything. My advocacy comes from living in a family that I loved very much, but they were completely dysfunctional. My advocacy comes from trying to survive that and coming through varying degrees of survival and to get to a place of thriving. I would say now that my life is just so full, it’s great, but it’s been a journey to get to a place where you can have balance and understanding.
And it is everything you do. It’s being an actress, being a mom, you know, as women, we share in the common experience of life, of relationships, of how we’re taking care of ourselves. All part of the bigger picture.
I am creating an organization that we have yet to name. We want it to be a resource for people. We want to say to people that ‘you are not alone’. What happens with depression and suicide—which is so daunting and overwhelming—is that there’s a sense of isolation and separation that really doesn’t exist. But you don’t know that until you are pulled away from it and can look back on it. All of that comes through a lifestyle of trying to run away—which is why I called my movie “Running from Crazy”—to run away from where I came from, to a certain degree.
As much as I loved them, I learned from them I wanted to break the cycle of addiction and all that stuff—those are all choices to get out of pain. Once we understand that, it is about making new choices, so that we pass on different things to our kids and not the things that have been carried for many generations.
For me, it’s a great legacy to have come from. It’s still Ernest Hemingway. He’s still amazing, still affects the world with his writing. He had so much insight and so much connection to everything, to nature.
When I really dig into the way that he wrote, the way that he described, and the way he created a world of well—whatever world it was in the time he was living in—he was so profoundly connected. You could really understand human nature through the way that he wrote.
For me, it’s about moving forward in the world, sharing my experiences, my genetic experiences, and my history so that I can say, “Look we’re all the same.” Yes, I come from a famous family, but of course when you’re a kid, you think this is normal.
It’s so interesting, the documentary that recently came out on him, and people would ask, “Why would you do something on Ernest Hemingway now?” The truth is of course now. He lived in a different generation, so if you want to call him a misogynist and male chauvinist, well he lived in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s. It was a different time, but if you read his writing and the way that he wrote about women and relationships, it was incredibly modern and advanced. He loved women. So, my feeling is that to understand the artist, you have to understand the human, and that’s why now.
I am advocating for solutions. I believe there are solutions to mental health problems. Whether it’s 12-step programs for addiction or another path, it’s about taking responsibility—even when you have a mental health problem, you feel isolated, and you feel like you’re in a hole and you can’t see your way out. There is a way out. And we need to get you help. We don’t know what that help is exactly, because everyone is an individual.
It’s about looking at the bigger picture and seeing that there are different things you can do. It’s about asking the question, “What journey is going to get you there the most quickly?” That’s what I want our organization to be about. About giving lots of options, different solutions, and pointing towards other foundations that are making a difference.
We want to be a resource. Eventually we’d like to see clinics pop up around the country where people can go in and have a dialogue. At least to start that conversation. I do believe it’s about having a conversation first. And sometimes we have to tell our story because when you get to it, that story has less power on you.
Once you put words—the minute you put words to it—it lessens the ability to reign terror in your mind. The mind is a horrible place to get lost in without a release. What I like to think, too, is that it’s not just about the brain. It’s the body. It’s a connection to the earth. It’s how we do our everyday. Do you wake up, do you breathe, do you take time to meditate or pray—no belief system needs to be attached—but do you take time to be in stillness, time to be in nature, do you move your body, do you take walks?
Whatever it is, all those things matter and all of that is self-responsibility. And that’s when you can unravel the story that you come from and create a solution that works for you. You go through a journey with it, with some dedication.
It was so funny. I didn’t think I’d be an advocate for mental health, it just happened. I was asked to do a lot of speaking on mental illness and I was reluctant because I was scared of it. I didn’t necessarily want to be the voice of this until I started to share the story publicly. Each time I shared it, it had less and less of an effect on me. It was enlightening, because each time I told my story, I learned something new about myself. Or it would make me laugh, instead of cry. Or it would just make me realize how connected we all are, because when you share your story, the first couple of times, people would come up from the audience and say they have a similar story. And they would tell me stories that were worse than mine. But what they were relating to is the emotional response, the trauma that lies dormant in the brain. And when you don’t shake that and let that out, it creates havoc. I realized that there was tremendous power in storytelling.
One of the most powerful things that one person can do for another person is to listen to them. It was one of the great quotes of my grandfather: “When people talk, listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen.” This quote is from “Across the River and into the Trees”.
And most people don’t listen. We’re wrapped up in our own stories. For me, that is the key for mental health—to have someone to listen to you. When you feel heard, then it’s not so bad; you’re not alone.
To a certain degree, I knew. My mother got cancer. My father had heart disease. There were some weird things going on. I started to realize that there was a lot of unhappiness. A lot of sadness. My mother was sad. I never knew why. I found out that she’d been married before, and he’d been shot out of the sky, as he was a fighter pilot in the war. They had been married for nine months. He was her Prince Charming. Her sadness was so deep, maybe that’s why the cancer came. I never knew about this until I was 16.
I grew up in the generation where nobody talked about anything. I knew when my sister started having issues. I really loved my older sister. She was 11 years older than me. She was like an angel, a goddess to me. She was so pretty and smart. But she was also using drugs and having psychotic breakdowns. I didn’t know that was happening, but there were weird incidents, like when I’d be out late at night, in the middle of winter, with my mom and dad who were driving down the road trying to find her. She was hallucinating or something like that. We’d take her to a hospital. But I was so little, so young. I knew that something was off and yet, at the same time, I thought that my sister was so cool. I’m thinking, why is she out there in the cold?
I was at about age 7 or 8 when I started to clean up in the middle of the night. When I’d hear that everyone had left from the dinner party or whatever, and my parents had quit fighting, I’d go downstairs and would clean it all up by myself. I would sweep up the glass and clean up the dishes, thinking in my mind that I was going to be the person who was going to fix us all. We all play a role. I thought, this is great—I have something I can do. And I would think that if I did that clean up, if I did it really well, that we could start anew the following morning. That when my parents woke up, and there was no mess, no wine, no blood, that we could all pretend like we were normal and everything was OK. Nothing wrong here.
No, not often. I thought well, maybe if I do this really well, my Mom will praise me. But nobody notices when you’re the clean-up person, because if they address it, they have acknowledged that something went wrong.
Well first of all, if you make the acknowledgment that you are indeed suffering in a real way, that you can’t quite get a handle on, it’s very important to reach out and find somebody you can talk to who you are safe with. Whether that’s a doctor, or a friend, whomever it is, tell them, ‘Hey I’m in trouble; I think I need help and I don’t know where to go’.
Everybody has their own path towards what they need that will help them make different, better choices. So, you can start that journey about, ‘what is my life like, and where I am, and what am I responsible for?’ What’s really hard for people with mental health issues is that they may feel as though something has been done to them.
If you were talking with my grandfather back in the time, nobody would have known that the reason why he was drinking, in my opinion, was that he was trying to get out of pain. There was a tremendous amount of internal—not to mention the physical—trauma that he’d been through which contributes to depression. I’m sure there were physical traumas from the war, hits to the head, and all the different things that had happened to him.
Then there’s the trauma of having a mom who was intense. She was a little crazy. And I think his father was depressed. His father took his own life, too. So, there were all those influences without being dealt with—except through the writing—that were traumatic and unresolved.
Our number one goal is to be a resource and to create physical locations where people can talk with people and look into different modalities that help mental health and mental balance. There will be clinics, but not necessarily medicinal. We are going to give holistic options and have resources to refer people to help in their area. It’s necessary, especially after the pandemic, and the fear of getting through this particular time. I think fear is a big problem. It affects your immune system.
Yes, I have so many cool projects. Ones you’ll think are great because you live in the land of Ernest Hemingway. I’m producing “A Moveable Feast”, which is my grandfather’s book of the same name, into a limited series. It’s going to take place in the ‘20s in Paris, so it will not only be Ernest Hemingway, but all the different artists of that time. Really amazing. I’m producing that. I’ve owned the rights for many years. I helped find the director, am helping pull the project together, and will be a creative consultant for my family. We are pitching right now, so we don’t have our streaming partner yet, but I know it’s going to go well.
I’m also producing a suicide prevention series that I’m hosting. It’s going to be about the prevention of suicide for teens, because it’s so prevalent. I’m producing two other limited series. One is on the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, about my sisters and me, based on that time. The other is under wraps.
I come from a famous family, and I’ve always been a Hemingway. I grew up in a Hemingway sort of town. It was a small town. I think I had a few moments of thinking I was hot stuff, when I was a kid, but I got over it pretty quickly. I don’t think fame has been very impressive to me. It’s a wonderful calling card. It enables you to make a difference in the world if you want to. And for that I’m super grateful.
I’m very into my lifestyle. My life partner, Bobby Williams, and I believe it’s the everyday things that make up the whole of you. I approach every day with an intention. I meditate and pray every morning. We watch a sunrise practically every day unless its foggy. And I still go outside on foggy days, knowing there is the sun behind the fog. And with the intention of God, whatever you believe in, to bring you greater understanding to manifest what is desired, or whatever is the best for me that day. What do I need to learn? What is the best for me, and for those I love?
The breath work that I’m super obsessed with. I’d always done breath work through yoga, so I thought, oh yes I know about breath. But it wasn’t until I read James Nestor’s book, “Breath”. It’s a fantastic book. And I realized the incredible impact that breathing correctly has on everything. I didn’t realize that the nose was an organ. I started studying it and practicing nasal breathing. I now sleep so well. The deep nasal breathing calms you down and when you start sleeping while nasally breathing, you don’t snore. I can sleep eight hours without getting up.
Watching the sunrise or sunset is good for you. You can look at the sun first thing in the morning for an hour after it rises, and for an hour as the sun sets. You can look into the sun at those times; it’s very healing and a good time to be silent.
Drinking water. Bobby and I are very into water. We try not to drink out of plastic as much as possible.
Exercise is a huge part of my life. Eating good food. I’m not going to tell anyone to eat a certain way, except to eat real food. Unprocessed. Not abused animals if you eat meat. Make it an ethical choice.
I have to say, as much as I love living in Southern California, whenever I’m in Ketchum, I call it Idahome. That’s my happy place. All my friends are sending me Instagram pictures of all the wildflowers coming up. I just love the mountains.
We used to have a house there and we’ll have one again. We’re creating a wellness center in Sun Valley, Idaho. That’s in process.
As much as my childhood was dysfunctional, well, you always love your parents. My father was a great outdoorsman. He may have suffered as he did, but he taught me about nature. His church was being outside. He loved it. He probably fly- fished most days of his life. He spent hours walking through the hills with his dogs. He was a great conservationist. I learned a lot about plants, and the geography of where I grew up from my father. And from walking with him for hours, without saying a word. He did his best thinking outside, and he gave me that.
My mother was a native Idahoan. She was spicy, and she could be tough. But if she loved you, she was loyal and unrelenting in her love. She was a great woman. My father sent her to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to learn how to cook. He was convinced she didn’t know how to cook because she was from Idaho. She went to Cordon Bleu with Julia Child in 1949. My parents were married in 1950, and Julia Child was their maid of honor. Crazy. My parents were very tall. But she was taller!
I remember the day that I figured out I was from a famous family. Sun Valley/Ketchum, where we moved when I was 4, was small. A tiny little ski town. I was on the ski lift and somebody asked, “What’s your name?” I said Mariel. And they asked. “What is your last name?” I said Hemingway. They flipped out. I was 7.
My parents, my dad, didn’t really talk about his dad at all. Eventually, he sort of explained things. And then I started to get wind that, ‘Oh that’s why my school is named after us’. I wondered why there was a big picture of my grandfather in the hallway. People used to think that I owned the school. They picked on me.
It was always an honor to be Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter, always has been, and it always will be. He was an extraordinary man. As soon as I was of reading age and could comprehend things, I was blown away by his narrative, by his simplicity, and his raw, lean writing. What he wrote just resonated with me, it made sense to me. I felt like he was such a scholar of the world, relationships, and nature. So, I always thought it was the greatest thing to be part of the Hemingway family, even though there were hardships that came with it.
“A Moveable Feast” is one of my favorites, because it takes place in Paris when my father was born, when my grandparents were first together, and they moved to Paris when they were nobodies. Ernest was a struggling writer and journalist. Nobody knew who he was. There was something so pure and honest about that time. And I love the fact that towards the end of his life, he was looking back with such clarity at that time in his life. “The Sun Also Rises” is an extraordinary book. “The Old Man and the Sea” is an incredible piece of poetry. It’s like the heroic poem, so beautiful. Back then, he was very modern in his thinking.
At the 2010 Inaugural Healthy Home event in Chicago.
It goes back to our lifestyle choice. We spend so much in our homes, and we have no idea how toxic they are. When your kids are younger you start thinking about this. When I first met Victoria, her knowledge about this whole space was so profound. She is the best “doctor” to know about homes; she is the doctor who keeps going back to get reeducated and she’s updated on everything. I’m a huge fan of hers and how hard she works to know the latest and greatest on what makes homes nontoxic, sustainable, and green.
There are so many things that make an individual’s life healthy. It’s up to them to figure out what that is. But the basic tenants of health are like religion. Love thy neighbor, love thyself. Be kind. I feel that health is very similar. The basic tenants of all health journeys are the same. Eat well, drink water, be connected in nature, move your body. The body is a gift. Everybody has the right to be healthy, well, vibrant, and successful. It’s just a matter of finding your best path towards that. It’s a journey. Sometimes it’s longer than you’d like it to be. It’s not always easy. But everybody has the right to their unique path to healthy. We’re our best teachers. Inside you is all the knowledge and experience you need to create the best you. Nobody knows you like you do.
My grandfather! I’d like to sit down and have a good ‘ol talk with him!
I have to say my life partner Bobby Williams. I admire him so much.
“Breath” is such a good book. Also, “The Book of Longings” by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s beautiful and brilliant. I read some of the classics during COVID, including “The Fountainhead”, and “Atlas Shrugged”.
Avocado. Salad. I eat a lot of salad.
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