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Green House Effect
Chris Kelly | Photo: Phoebe Rourke-Ghabriel | June 5, 2014
Eco-entreprener Jeff Kaplan’s home store is on the grow.
“I want to change the way people live,” says the tall, fit entrepreneur Jeff Kaplan, 35, as he looks around his 5-year-old store, which is expanding this month. New Living showcases organic furniture with a cozy mod feel, handcrafted by local artisans from sustainable raw materials such as fallen timber and reclaimed wood. All of the finishes are non-toxic, and Kaplan views each as a unique work of art.
New Living (6111 Kirby Dr., 713.521.1921) opened in 2009, and due to high demand, this month is expanding its in-house artisans’ workshop area—and launching a catalog-sales operation called Made @ New Living.
And then there are his organic mattresses. These are a big deal to Kaplan, who says there’s a shocking amount of toxins in a typical mattress. “Nearly 20 percent of my customers are scientists or medical professionals who work for chemical and petro-chemical companies,” he says. “They come here to buy their mattresses because they know what’s in a standard mattress.”
Kaplan’s devotion to healthy furnishings started at a young age, watching his mom suffer from an illness, the specifics of which he opts not to discuss. “I did research on how buildings can heal,” he says, noting that many of his customers arrive at New Living with medical problems. “They come back to tell me that they’ve felt a big improvement.”
The entrepreneur, who grew up in Bellaire, also came by his business-savvy early on. “I didn’t just have a lemonade stand,” he says. “I had a chain of lemonade stands!” Kaplan went on to graduate from Southwestern University and, at 21, he founded the Urban Land Institute’s national Young Leaders Program. He’s been donating his time to a variety of green organizations ever since.
He finds little time for a personal life; it’s all about New Living. Good thing that his girlfriend, Melissa Eason, is a New Living artisan. Soon, the two will move into “an 1890s bungalow” that Kaplan purchased in the arty EaDo neighborhood.
Kaplan has already made his mark in that part of town, having made the furniture for the acclaimed Oxheart restaurant nearby. Perhaps not surprisingly, he draws a parallel between healthy, locally sourced cuisine and New Living. “People are very aware about eating organic and what they put into their bodies,” he says, “and it’s time to think that way about home furnishings.”