A local expert provides a no-nonsense roadmap to design a healthier (and more beautiful) interior. – By Somer Flaherty
Thankfully, as the idea of eco-friendly living increases in popularity, making a greener design choice is getting easier. Until recently, it was rare to find an eco-friendly home décor option that was as attractive as its non-eco counterpart (think limited colors and a lack of any real design). But that has improved decidedly, as manufacturers and retailers have responded to increased eco-demand.
With more available options, going green has never been easier. “By switching to non-toxic cleaners, purchasing only quality items made from sustainable sources and making sure you allow as much fresh air into your home as possible, you can do well by yourself and the planet,” says local interior designer Rachel Hulan of Hulan Design, who is currently working on a designed-to-be LEED Platinum home in Corona del Mar. LEED Platinum is the highest level of a third-party verification that the home was designed and built to achieve high performance in human and environmental health.
Even if you aren’t striving for platinum status, take note: Some of the design pieces you’re already incorporating in your home may be a lot greener than you realize—a couch that uses natural dye in its fabric and a dining room table that forgoes a toxic chemical varnish. But if your home’s interior needs a green-makeover, Rachel, a U.S. Green Building Council Certified Green Building Professional who has her own sustainable interior design blog (theinteriorevolution.com), says simple design choices can have a big impact. Wall paint should always be no-VOC (no toxic chemicals found in traditional paints that can be released for years after the paint has dried). Appliances should have an Energy Star label, which means it meets specific requirements for energy efficiency, and hard flooring is better than carpet for indoor air quality.
Ready for a green makeover?
Here are Rachel’s five tips for going green:
1 Convert to hard flooring wherever possible. Carpeting holds an astonishing amount of dirt, pesticides (tracked in from outside), dust mites and other things you really don’t want to think about. None of it is good for people with allergies or asthma.
2 Use natural fibers for bedding, linens, upholstery and curtains if you can. Synthetic fibers are not only non-biodegradable, they can actually leach toxins into the groundwater once they are in a landfill. However, make sure that if you use cotton, it is organic cotton. Conventional cotton uses so many pesticides during cultivation; it would be difficult to call it “natural.”
3 Not purchasing new can also be green. Remember that family heirlooms give a house character and really make it a home. Don’t get caught up in the idea that your home should look as coordinated as a hotel lobby. Things that are a little out of place are what give a space character.
4 Make sure you use no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. The quality is worth the price, as is the lack of obnoxious odor and toxic compounds.
5 Resist the urge to purchase cheap furniture. If you hold off and save your money for a quality piece, it will last longer, and that makes it better for you and the environment. Buying something from a local artisan is even better.
Local design choices make for smart and stylish living.
From the fixtures to the heating and cooling systems to the furniture materials you choose and even the interior finishes, the options for green design are staggering. And nearly every homeowner will have a different view of just how green they are willing to make each and every design choice. The only constant in the wide world of green design is the need to customize the solutions to your particular home and lifestyle. LBM
Mrs. Meyers natural household cleaner, available at Whole Foods Market (283 Broadway St.; 949-376-7888; wholefoodsmarket.com)
All natural, chemical-free California Redwood deck, available at Windsor Decks and Gardens in Corona del Mar (949-322-8616, windsordecksandgardens.com)