7 Tips for Eco Friendly Design Makeover

1. Use plants as decorations

This is a no-brainer. Plants provide oxygen, and filter out harmful chemicals from the air. Plus, they offer a natural beauty, ambience and freshness, bringing a little of the outside into your home. Think: mint or pine’s refreshing scent, or any number of flowers’ lovely fragrances. Lilies, bamboo palm or gerbera daisies especially do wonders in improving air quality.

2. Let the light in

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Even if you don’t have huge windows, you can bring some extra light into your home with more lamps and lighting It’s important to have a variety of lighting sources. For example, in addition to having floor or table lamps, hang some beautiful pendant lamps beside chairs and sofas some gentle, flattering light. We love this one, made from eco-friendly bamboo.

The right lighting can make all the difference in space. If you live in a cold climate, always try to maximise the  natural sunlight in your space by freeing windows of heavy curtains and blinds. For privacy purposes, roller blinds are more versatile than curtains, and let more light in. Just ensure that if you don’t have curtains, your windows are completely secure in terms of insulation so no heat escapes and no unwanted cold enters in. 

Double glazing and proper window accoutrements  like caulking and weather-stripping help reduce air leakage. Another tip is to make spaces as bright as they can be.

If you live in a colder climate, walls painted in darker colours will absorb a tiny bit more heat (white reflects it) and if possible, arrange rooms so that bedrooms and bathrooms face north (with less sun) and kitchens and living rooms face the sunnier south.

3. Avoid decorating products with VOC content

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Farrow and Ball make a wonderful selection of richly pigmented, water based paints that ensure your whole family stays safe and healthy.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are organic chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. They can be found in many common household products including paints, adhesives, household cleaning products, air fresheners, even furniture and carpets.

In the enclosed spaces of your home, VOC concentrations can be tow ot five times higher than they are outdoors. This is bad for homeowners, as VOC’s contribute to many health problems, such as eye and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, liver damage, nervous system disturbances and even cancer.

One way to minimize the VOC content in your home is to use Green Seal Certified paints, paint thinners, adhesives and other products. Otherwise, use those labeled “low odour.” Also, try to buy furniture and wood products made from wood that contains no added formaldehyde (used normally to preserve it), as well as those that employ low - VOC, water-based stains and finishes.

Other notorious sources of VOCs include carpets made from artificial fibres, and home scents, such as candles and diffusers, that aren’t 100% natural. Ensure you’re only using wool, cotton, or silk rugs, and scents that are based on essential – not artificial – oils.

4. Use furniture made from natural materials

Forget chairs and tables made from plastic moulding. To make your home’s interior eco-friendly, you need furniture made from natual wood and other organic or sustainable materials. But not all woods are sustainable: look for wood with the Forest Stewardship Council certification stamp to ensure you’re not using an endangered species for your furniture.  Bamboo is another suitable option, but better yet: buy antiques and used furniture whenever possible.

Additionally, keep in mind that particleboard and medium-density fibreboard (which is made from compressed shaving and sawdust) are bonded together with synthetic glues and resins that often contain formaldehyde, which is a potential allergen to humans and carcinogenic to animals. By contrast, good quality wood furniture is held together by wood joinery, which minimizes the need for VOC-laced adhesives. Tables and countertops should also be made of organic materials such as marble and other stone.

Take a good look around your home. If you see any plastic, polyester, nylon, particleboard, chromed metal, any non-organic or synthetically engineered material, get rid of it and replace it with natural materials.

5. Choose natural textiles & finishings

The list of household items that ought to be crafted from natural materials goes beyond furniture. Fashioning pillows, mattresses, upholstery and beddings from natural materials, for example, cuts down on the production of synthetic materials that ultimately end up languishing in landfills.

It also means upholstery isn’t made from petroleum-based materials and soaked in VOC - laced flame retardants, which can lead to serious health problems like infertility and IQ and developmental impairments in children.

Wool and hemp by the way, are great materials. They are hypoallergenic, biodegradable and recyclable, odour- and dust-mite-resistant, moisture-absorbent and anti-bacterial. Urban Re-leaf Home only uses eco- friendly fabrics on thier pillow covers. Linen, hemp and mud cloth are all eco-friendly fabrics that are made in small batches.  These are also considered the most fire resistant textile fibre. Another good upholstery material is natural latex made from the collected sap of rubber trees – it’s also fire-resistant and doesn’t emit VOCs.

Carpets and rugs should be created from natural fibres (e.g., wool, cotton, jute) rather than VOC-filled synthetics, which are the norm. Any wall finishings should be in wood, ceramic or cork (as in pic 3, below). It may cost a bit more, but it’s better for both you and the environment.

7. Other Considerations

Beyond these immediate and perhaps obvious strategies, other considerations also can help you create a sustainable interior for your home:

  • Flooring should be made of stone or wood. Instead of vinyl flooring, for example, use wood, cement, cork or Limestone tiles. Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) is made of toxic plastic.
  • Cut down on the cookie-cutter, mass-produced look of your home’s interior by using recycled and recyclable materials (e.g., reclaimed wood, repurposed items) for furniture and decorations. For example, my father turned an old anaesthesia machine into a lamp. It may cost more money and/or time, but it’s creative, classy and unique. A quick visit to second-hand shops and recycling centres will show you what’s useful and available.
  • Where possible, use local materials to cut down on transportation costs and emissions.
  • Ensure you’re not cleaning your home with toxic cleaners, or all this hard work will be undone! Use old-school formulae that you can easily make at home or try an eco friendly brand like Ecover.

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