Green interior design trends are ever increasing in popularity. Sustainable materials and new design alternatives are making our home interiors safer while reducing harmful effects on the environment. If you are building a new home, adding an addition, remodeling a room or revamping and redecorating your existing interior, consider going green. Many of the design options below are the standard in creating a green living environment.
From bamboo flooring to recycled glass sinks, you are sure to find a few eco-friendly products that meet your needs and your design aesthetic. Incorporate some of these alternative products into your home.
Jump To These "GREEN" Sections
Using low or zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints is one of the easiest ways to be eco-friendly when it comes to green interior design. These paints eliminate many hazardous toxins, some which have been linked to cancer. They also strive to meet low odor guidelines, enabling them to be certified as asthma and allergy friendly. Good air quality is a fundamental requirement of green interior design and using these types of paints allows you to achieve and maintain it.
Some to consider are:
Check your local paint centers as many other
eco-friendly paints and products may be available.
And don't forget wood stains. Safe options such as those by Lifetime Wood
are available at ACE® and True-Value® hardware stores.
Flooring is a big industry and the options are endless, however only a few can really be considered "green".
Bamboo has set the standard as one of the most eco-friendly flooring products available. This is due to ability to renew and regenerate itself so quickly; key factors with sustainable products. Bamboo has a unique, recognizable "graining" which lends itself well to clean, contemporary design styles. It also is available in a myriad of stain colors to accommodate your specific design requirements. This comprehensive article on bamboo flooring will give you a better understanding.
Bamboo not your thing? That's fine. There are many other flooring options available. Seeing as bamboo is really a grass, not a true wood, perhaps you want real wood. Consider reclaimed wood. Many companies specialize in reclaimed timber from old structures that may be refinished, stained and resold to the public. These wood products may even have been flooring in their past lives. Reclaimed woods have sought after character that is hard to replicate in new wood finishes.
Sustainable woods are also available. Many of these hard or soft woods are harvested under strict guidelines which eliminates depletion of resources and minimizes environmental damage and waste. Regardless of efforts toward sustainability, this option is probably the least "green" of the green choices mentioned, only due to the duration of the material's renewal.
Cork is just plain cool but really hasn't caught on with the masses despite its early history as flooring. Cork, like bamboo has a unique look, but numerous, unique patterns will keep your guests guessing. Comfortable and durable with excellent sound absorption qualities, cork may be a good option for your home.
Linoleum, believe it or not, is an eco-friendly product. This flooring, not to be confused with petroleum-based vinyl flooring, is primarily made from recyclable, natural materials (linseed), is biodegradable and would be suitable for green interior design. Marmoleum® is on the forefront of this earthwise product.
Want something more cozy, eco-friendly carpeting is available. Fibers made from post-consumer, recycled and natural materials are long-wearing and durable. Another neat product is modular carpet tiles such as those by FLOR; a company focused on reducing energy and waste.
Looking for something truly unique?
Consider recycled glass flooring!
When it comes to countertops, your best "green" bets are those made from composite recycled materials.
One of my favorites, although a bit pricey are those made from recycled glass. These countertops come in an array of colors and add incredible interest, unmatched by any other material currently available.
Other recycled composite materials may be used other than glass. What about recycled paper? This sleek surface speaks of sophistication and class.
How about a mix of both recycled paper and recycled glass. These ultra-chic "stone" countertops may provide the modern, minimal or industrial look you crave for your green interior design. An "eco" concrete binds it all together.
Wood or butcherblock countertops are an excellent choice. Wood Countertops supply a rich, inviting look that encompasses many design styles and is one of my favorites to incorporate. It can have a raw, natural look appropriate for a contemporary setting or have a deep color with a highly polished finish, resembling a piece of furniture for a traditional-styled kitchen or bath.
Wood countertops, like wood flooring, can be from either properly harvested forests or from reclaimed wood. If choosing new over reclaimed, pick companies that are affiliated with the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). In both cases you want countertops that have been sealed with low-VOC, water-based products.
You can also get Bamboo Countertops. Talk about ECO-COOL! Teragren is a supplier of bamboo countertops, flooring and veneer panels for cabinetry. Bamboo screams "green interior design" so add a little (or a lot) to your home.
Tile countertops are another consideration, especially if using reclaimed tiles. New tiles can also be made of recycled materials. Glass tiles are a great example of this. Ceramic and porcelain tiles consist largely of natural materials such as clays and sands but energy is used to extract and manufacture the end product. Their impact on the environment is much less than that of extracting and shipping large slabs of granite, quartz or marble.
Look for reclaimed tiles at architectural warehouses. Consider purchasing used granite or quartz countertops instead of new and have them fitted to meet your specific application. Going this route is an "eco" option since you are essentially recycling. Use these recycled options for your backsplash too!
CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs = GOOD
LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs = BEST
Lighting is of major importance in green interior design. Fixtures and shades made from recycled, natural or sustainable materials are key, but the energy requirements of the light are most important.
Trendy track-lighting has always been popular in kitchens. However, most of those systems use halogen bulbs. On average, track systems require (5) 50-watt Halogen bulbs (MR16/GU10 base). When this light system is on, you are using 250-watts of electricity. Besides the wasted energy, in the form of excess heat expenditure, halogens produce a rather harsh, narrow stream of light, best suited to high-light accents rather than light a room efficiently. Depite the negatives, their appeal was the ablility to produce a more intense or brighter light than incandescent bulbs of the same wattage.
Instead, look for track systems that use CFL bulbs. Typical CFL R30 bulbs, which are mini-floodlight shaped, come in 15-watts with an output equivalent to 65-watts. A five light system of this nature uses 75-watts compared to the 250-watts of the halogen lighting system.
Luckily for those of us with halogen track lighting, LED Bulbs are now available with a GU10 base and can replace the MR16/GU10 halogen bulbs. They are more expensive initially but last longer (50,000 hours compared to 2,000 for the halogen) and remain cool to the touch.
Note: Not all CFL and LED bulbs are dimmable.
Be certain to read the bulb specifications
carefully if you require a dimmable bulb.
Dimmers developed for CFL and LED applications now exist. Although standard dimmers work with these bulbs, improvements have been made to better work with the limited dimming capabilities of these types of bulbs. Visit Lutron to learn more about dimmers and how they can save you money.
By now you should have a basic understanding of the types of products used in green interior design. Essentially you are looking for products that meet certain green standards and certifications, are low or non-toxic, were manufactured from post-consumer, sustainable, recycled or natural materials and have been developed by efficient means, focusing on reduced energy and waste. Hopefully you have a better understanding of how these products have less impact on the environment and create healthier living conditions.
Besides using some of these options, one of the most efficient ways to "be green" is to shop at architectural warehouses, or by other means where you are purchasing previously used products. Going this route enables you to quickly obtain pieces you may need and allows for a distinctive, one-of-a-kind look. Consider this when sourcing items before purchasing new.
Always keep in mind the location of the items for your project. Must they be transported a far distance or are they locally manufactured and available? Stay local when able.
Remember: Many of these products save you money long term
but provide healthful benefits immediately.
Water and energy conservation are vital components of green interior design. Choosing "smart water" faucets and ENERGY-STAR rated appliances is a MUST!