Interior Design for the Eco-Conscious Client

    For a long time, the primary focus of the interior design was to enhance the aesthetic feel of the house/office. In fact, many critics of traditional interior design have often cited its wastefulness, excessive energy consumption and huge carbon print. Additionally, traditional interior design tends to ignore or overlook the effects it has on the natural environment as well as the mental and physical health of homeowners.

    In response to this criticism, the practice of interior design has undergone several evolutions and paradigm shifts. Ultimately, the contemporary interior design now focuses on more than just aesthetics. It also factors in need to promote good health, clean green energy like solar-generated power (see Solar Generator Guide), sustainable material, and create a habitable environment. This new approach towards interior design is known as eco-friendly interior design or environmentally sustainable design. 

    This eco-conscious type of design aims at designing interiors that are safe, healthy, reduce carbon footprint, and at the same time beautiful. Additionally, more consumers have an increased sense of concern and responsibility for the environment. This means that the demand for "renewable or green energy" and "sustainable" interior design products and services are on the rise. People want goods and services that benefit their health, safety, and welfare as well as that of the world.

     

    GREEN ENERGY IN ECO-FRIENDLY INTERIOR DESIGN

    GREEN ENERGY IN ECO-FRIENDLY INTERIOR DESIGN

    Any eco-friendly initiative depends on a great deal on the responsible use of energy. Electricity, for example, is important for interior design concepts such as lighting. Studies indicate that the cost of electricity rises on an annual basis. The U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that residential electricity rates across the nation have increased at up to 4% p.a. for the last decade.

    This calls for a shift to greener sources of energy such as solar power. Many homeowners are installing solar panels and making the big switch from the national grid to solar power. Although installing solar power is costly in the beginning, it is worth the investment. Alternatively, other homeowners choose to stick with the national grid but opt for solar generators over the conventional fuel generators. These come in two main categories; home and portable generators. Homeowners who opt for solar generators benefit in many ways including;

    1. The solar generator does not use any fuel meaning there are no emissions.
    2. Ease of maintenance

    However, solar generators are also relatively more expensive than conventional fuel generators. Still, eco-friendly homeowners will find them worth the investment.

    GIVING THE HOME A GREEN AND SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGN

    Although the eco-friendly interior design is a relatively new idea, old homes, as well as new homes, can make use of it. Most people think that switching to a green and sustainable lifestyle is hard. The truth is that it all depends on the execution of some things; most of them simple.

    1. Hiring an Interior Designer with a Background in Sustainability

    For homeowners who intend on outsourcing the interior design work, it all starts with hiring the right person. In this case, the right person is one who has a history and background in designing eco-friendly interiors and coming up with green solutions.

    People with a strong background in sustainable interior design will often have valuable knowledge on current trends and practices. Most importantly, hiring an eco-friendly interior designer ensures that the objectives of the homeowner and the designer are aligned.

    2. Embracing Minimalism

    Minimalism is a style of living that is synonymous with simplicity and living with less. In interior design, minimalism entails the use of minimum furniture, emphasis on space and a disregard for the superfluous. Minimalism is in line with one of the most basic principles of sustainability; the need to reduce wastage. A simple act such as de-cluttering the house and even putting things in order can go a long way in improving one's health and well-being.

    Many interior designers agree that minimalism yields sleekness and simple sophistication. Indeed, even the French, world-renowned for their effortless style and elegance, place great emphasis on simplicity and minimalism. Minimalism is not a new concept in interior design though. Interior design experts have always advocated for the use of negative/space in the interior design.

    3. Re-use and Recycle

    Some studies have suggested that Americans love throwing away things. Despite constituting just about 5% of the global population, Americans generate at least 30% of the global garbage. Some have estimated that this translates to about 63,000 trucks of garbage on a daily basis.

    According to researchers, this waste includes 5.7 million tons of carpet and up to 9.8 million tons of furniture per year. In addition to that, Americans spend millions of dollars every year to purchase new home furnishings. The eco-friendly interior design focuses on minimizing this wastefulness through the two main concepts of re-using and recycling.

    Eco-friendly interior design values antique pieces; whether it is old furniture, an old mirror or an old vase. Not only do these old pieces have great stories, but they are also soulful and can greatly enhance the personality of any interior.

    Instead of throwing away the old, homeowners can mix it up with the new and contemporary. Alternatively one can transform old pieces into even more creative looks through the use of art and other creative techniques. For example, instead of throwing away an old sofa, homeowners can opt to reupholster it with an exciting new fabric. On the same note, one could opt to re-paint an old drawer or re-stain an old dressing table. Even an old hanging mirror could find a new home in the living room or somewhere along a corridor.

    Both old and new homeowners need to adopt a re-use and recycle strategy. New homeowners could consider purchasing second-hand furnishings from antique shops and other vintage specialty shops. Second-hand furniture is in most cases, relatively more affordable than new furniture. To add to that, nothing beats the joy of chancing upon a unique, quality and stylish antique from back in the day.

    4. Use of Natural Cleaning Products

    Cleaning is an essential part of interior design. For example, when re-furbishing a new home, owners often start with a clean-up of the home including detoxification. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for homeowners to use products that are equally as harmful when cleaning out their homes.

    Many pesticides and cleaning agents contain hidden toxins such as chlorine, ammonia, and phthalates all of which pose a risk to human health and well-being. Instead, experts advise using natural cleaning agents and natural remedies for pests and other nuisances in the house. White vinegar, natural salt, and even baking soda are all examples of eco-friendly cleaning options.

    5. The Importance of Indoor Plants

    (Source: Modern Furniture)

    The eco-friendly interior design places a lot of emphasis on going natural. In line with this, many interior design enthusiasts advocate for the use of indoor plants as a form of decoration. But with indoor plants, it is not just about aesthetics either;

    . Indoor plants are a budget-friendly way for homeowners to decorate their homes. One good about plants is they can stay alive for years with the right care and attention.

    . Indoor plants can have noticeable effects on the aesthetics of a room. For example, plants can add height to a table, divide a room and even make a room look fresher and more natural.

    . According to scientists, some plants help in freshening up and purifying interiors. Perhaps the best examples of such plants are orchids, ferns and peace lilies. One could also place a Gerbera Daisy in a room with a lot of sunlight to remove harmful toxins such as trichloroethylene (TCE) which is a carcinogen. TCE is often found on clothes and other garments particularly those that are regularly taken to the dry-cleaners. Aloe Vera is useful in getting rid of chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde both of which are by-products of chemical based cleaners. Common indoor herbs such as lemongrass, mint, and basil are also edible.

    Homeowners can decorate their houses with indoor plants using some ways. For example, one could use macramé plant hangers, geometric pots or even a bench to show off their indoor plants.

    6. Sunlight and Lighting

    One of the simplest ways for homeowners to transform their homes into eco-friendly homes is to let in more natural light. Eco-friendly interior designers love natural light because of its aesthetic benefits, health and well-being benefits and the impact on energy savings.

    The U.S Department of Energy estimates that buildings consume more than 15% of the Nation's electricity supply. Using natural light can reduce dependence on electric lighting especially during the day. According to research, natural light also has health and wellbeing benefits such as increased productivity, improved sleep, improved vision and improved moods.

    In addition to natural light, the sustainable interior design also stresses on the need to adopt energy efficient lighting options in the house. One of the best ways for homeowners to do this is to replace traditional bulbs with LED lights and compact fluorescent lamps/bulbs (CFL).

    Homeowners are bound to save on energy costs and reduce their emissions with these lighting options. One study suggests that if every American replaced one traditional light bulb with an energy efficient option the energy saved could light up to 2.5 million homes.

    Lighting solutions such as motion-sensing lights and dimmers can also help homeowners reduce energy wastage. Of importance for homeowners to remember is the role of green energy solutions such as solar generators.

    7. Using Environmental-friendly Material for Interior Design

    Materials are of absolute importance to the interior design profession. Designers and homeowners are regularly involved in the process of choosing furnishings and finishes all of which utilize different materials. These can have tremendous effects on the environmental footprint of the respective furnishings. For example, some materials may pollute the environment with toxic chemicals.

    Choosing sustainable materials for interior design, therefore, goes a long way in reducing risks to homeowners and the natural environment. Unfortunately, research suggests that many designers and homeowners alike tend to ignore the sustainability criterion when choosing materials.

    What follows is a category based highlight of the various eco-friendly materials available to homeowners and designers.

    FABRICS

     

    FABRICS

    Interior designers use fabrics for some purposes including decoration and also in window treatments such as curtains. Issues to consider when choosing fabrics include whether or not the fabric is biodegradable, and whether it is free of toxic chemicals. For example, although rayon makes for a good window treatment, it is often treated with chemicals such as ammonia, acetone and sulphuric acid.

    On the other hand, materials such as acrylic contain chemicals such as polyacrylonitrile. As such, the Environmental Protection Agency asserts that acrylic can cause cancer.

    Eco-friendly fabrics for use in the interior design include those made from plant fibers animal fibers and even some synthetic fibers.

    Sustainable plant fiber fabrics:

    • Organic cotton
    • Hemp, seacell
    • Barkcloth
    • Soy fiber
    • Bamboo fabric

    Sustainable animal fiber fabrics:

    • Wool
    • Leather
    • Silk
    • Camel hair
    • Cashmere wool

    Green designers also consider synthetic fibers such as recycled content fabrics as green solutions.

    WINDOW TREATMENTS

    Window treatments play an essential role in environmental friendly interior design. Window treatments help to provide much-needed privacy, enhance energy efficiency, improve cooling and enhance aesthetics. In most cases, homeowners use fabrics as the main window treatment material. Aside from that, however, homeowners can also use other green materials such as;

    • Anti-microbial bamboo (mold resistant)
    • Natural grasses such as flax and hemp
    • Wood
    • Composites that are based on materials that homeowners can renew and recycle 100%

    FLOORING MATERIAL

    The material that homeowners choose for flooring can also say a lot about their eco-friendliness. Experts recommend the following sustainable materials:

    • Natural wood, FSC certified wood and reclaimed wood.
    • Bamboo and other fast-growing materials such as cork
    • Renewable materials such as linoleum and recycled rubber
    • Natural stone
    • Tiles

    Turning ones home into an environmentally friendly home takes time, effort and determination. Most importantly, it requires a change in the way homeowners perform tasks such as shopping for interior design products and materials. Homeowners should seek to buy and shop locally. This helps to reduce the negative environmental imprint left in processes such as transportation and storage.

    Health and safety officials claim that this is a positive trend with many noting that eco-friendly interior design will improve the quality of living. Indeed, experts claim that homes sometimes have between two and five times higher concentrations of pollutants than those found outdoors.

    With research indicating that Americans spend 87% of their time indoors, there is enough reason to worry. It means millions of Americans are exposed to potential health risks and hazards in their homes.

    To add on that, homeowners should focus on buying materials from companies and brands that have a reputation for sustainability and environmental friendliness. Lastly, homeowners should strive to purchase products and materials that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC). This includes opting for low or no-VOC carpets, paints, rugs and other household products.

     

     

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