We all love to give our homes a makeover from time to time. Repainting and rearranging brings new life and purpose to our living spaces. Nowadays, Portland homeowners are interested in not only reinventing their interior spaces, but implementing it while employing environmentally friendly, ″green″ methods and materials. It’s a hot topic these days, so I thought I’d share a few easy things we suggest to our clients who are interested in sustainable design. Some of the ideas include:
• Sustainable Upholstery Fabrics
• Re-purposing Old Furniture
• Recycling Old House Parts
• Reprocessing Paint
• Recycled/Sustainable Flooring, Tile & Countertops
When choosing upholstery for pillows and furniture, we can seek out organic cottons and fabrics that are eco-friendly. New drapes can even be made from fabrics that have not taken a toll on the environment. Examples of these fabrics include ones made from bamboo or organic hemp, which have gained popularity as of late and promise to become even more mainstream in the near future. Innovators are constantly seeking new textile solutions for a healthier planet and these are just a few.
Re-purposing Old Furniture
Recycling is one of the easiest and most popular ways of redecorating with little environmental impact. Recycling can mean a lot more than reprocessing your old junk mail, pop cans, and plastic milk jugs. One fun way to accomplish this is to take used furniture and refinish or reupholster it to your taste. One of our favorite local fabric stores called The Whole Nine Yards has actually created a niche market out of this very concept. They are constantly creating new additions to their line called “Amy Chairs”, named for the owner, Amy Estrin, who started the idea. They take old, tired, worn out chairs and use fabrics from the wonderful array available in their store, and transform them in to art pieces as seen in these two examples.
Recycling Old House Parts
If you’re looking for new and interesting accent pieces, spend some time perusing rebuilding stores that carry reclaimed items from old homes and buildings. Here in Portland, we are lucky to have places such as the Habitat For Humanity Re-Stores and Rejuvenation that sell salvaged building materials, fixtures and appliances. Spend a day perusing these places for ideas, you’ll never know what you’ll find. On the flip side, during our kitchen and bath remodeling projects our contractor partners make sure that items such as cabinets, vanities, and plumbing fixtures being removed from clients’ homes find their way to places such as Habitat for Humanity for the very same reason. As the old adage goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
When redecorating, serious attention must be paid to the paint you use. The tint of the walls and ceiling are vital to the overall look of a room. Luckily, there is a vast array of sustainable paints available for use. They emit little, if any, fumes and they all look fantastic. After the painting is done, an environmentally friendly paint will not continue to emit toxins into your home. When you shop for house paint, look at the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) number on the can. Note that even ″zero-VOC″ paint will still contain some toxins, but you will be far better off using that than any alternative. These paints are also great for clients who have lots of environmental sensitivities.
Got a bunch of old cans full of paint sitting in your garage? Or are you looking to make an eco-friendly decision regarding the new paint you need to buy? One of the best resources here in Oregon is the PaintCare program which makes dropping off old paint cans easy. Many local paint stores are now drop-off sites for this program, which you can find on their website. And on the flip side, old paint can be recycled and reprocessed in to new paint, as created by MetroPaint, and sold for you to use in your home. What a great idea.
Recycled Content/Sustainable Flooring, Tile & Countertops
If you’re thinking about new floors for your interior design project, there are many options available to you. When considering eco-friendly flooring options, bamboo often comes to mind. It is considered eco-friendly due to its fast growing time and low impact on the environment. Another great option is cork flooring. Cork floors are inherently sustainable, as the material is constantly regrown on the trees from which it’s harvested. Plus, cork looks amazing and comes in more than just brown colors.
You can also purchase beautiful tiles made from recycled content of varying percentages. One of my favorite tile companies in this regard is Oceanside Glasstile. Their Blue line of glass tile is made from up to 82% recycled content and comes in a number of gorgeous solid and mixed colors.
One of the most prominent areas of kitchen and bath design materials known for recycled content are countertops, more specifically, man-made quartz solid slabs. While there are a handful of manufacturers who create this product, my favorite is PentalQuartz. I love to use it because of the largely neutral color palette they offer. It goes with just about any design style and color theme you can imagine.
Beware Of Greenwashing!
One thing to keep in mind, however, when deciding to use ‘green’ materials is a concept called ‘greenwashing’. This occurs when products are advertised to lead people to believe that they are green or natural, when in fact they may not be completely. Take man-made quartz countertops again as an example. While they all contain post-consumer recycled content in their makeup, there is only one who manufactures here in the States. The rest are created in foreign countries and shipped around the globe. This, in turn, uses a number of environmentally depleting resources like fossil fuels in order to get it to market. So when you decide that you want a green product, consider exactly what the priority is for you. Is it the material content, a smaller number of resources used to create and distribute, the post-manufacturing waste handling process, the ability to recycle the product itself after it has served its purpose, , or the earth-friendly business practices implemented by the company and its employees? If you build a $22.9 million mansion that is LEED-H certified, how green is it really? Food for thought. Green means something different to everyone, so decide ahead of time which aspects are most important to you.