Zem Joaquin had a furniture dilemma.

In 2005, the interior designer was trying to make her Marin County house a healthy environment for her two toddlers. But virtually all the couches on the market, she learned, contain foam with toxic flame retardants, the unintended result of a 1970s California law.

So with a furniture maker’s help, Joaquin designed her own sofa. Yellow and big enough to seat seven, it is made of sustainably harvested wood, natural latex foam, organic wool – and no flame retardants.

“I ended up actually designing my own furniture because there wasn’t an alternative out there yet,” said Joaquin, 42. “Things have changed dramatically since.” …

Stephanie M. Lee