I’ve been getting this question a lot lately.  “What is Green Interior Design?  What do you mean by “Sustainable Design”?” I don’t think people are asking for a technical definition of green design – they can google that.  

I think people want to know what it means from a practical point of view.  “What does it mean to me?  How does Green Design affect me?”   Isn’t that always what we want to know?

Generally green design is about using energy efficient lighting, non-toxic materials (from low- or no-voc paints to adhesives to materials used in producing furniture & accessories), sustainably sourced rugs & textiles, renewable wood products, and carefully choosing vendors with a clear commitment to environmentally responsible practices.

That’s the technical stuff.

Here’s my version of Green/Sustainable Design in home decor:

When people decide to go green, there are 3 words that immediately come to mind – the 3 R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle.  Those are also important in Green Design but there is 1 more “R” that is crucial to my Green Design philosophy & to how I approach every project I work on, including my own.  RE-IMAGINE!

One of the 1st steps I take in any given project, after getting an idea of the vision for the space, is to assess the current situation.  What’s already there, what pieces can be reused, what items have history, a special meaning, or hold a special place in your heart.

Green design means re-purposing existing items – whether you already own them or purchase from a thrift store, flea market, or garage sale – to fit into a design plan.  It means building (preferably out of reclaimed materials) instead of buying new.  It means looking for salvaged materials, thinking of & using them in unique ways.

Silver teapots as decor

Sometimes going green means reusing items in different ways.

This is why you will find me “shopping” around the house (mine, your’s, a client’s) & moving things around.

That sofa or chair that seems useless, outdated, or sagging may just need some new fabric, pillows, or a little extra stuffing.

Maybe the style is off for 1 room but is perfect for another.  Or maybe it can be altered to fit into your new design.  Say the arms on a sofa or chair aren’t a fit in your new room – they can be cut and reshaped just the way you want them, then recovered.  And just like that you have custom furniture, held on to your hard earned dollars for something greater, AND kept that big bulky item out of the landfill.

Sometimes Green Design means refinishing, painting, reupholstering, or revamping like in these makeovers…

Other times it means storing items with a future project in mind.

Story time.

2 years ago my grandmother wanted me to “fix” the upholstery on this chair that was in her living room.  She’d had this chair for as long as I can remember and it has been reupholstered twice, if I recall correctly.

Bergère Style Chair with Channel Back & Nailhead Trim
Bergère Style Chair with Channel Back & Nailhead Trim

Well, I was willing to take on the project but the timing was just bad.  So I bought her a new chair until I could get around to fixing her’s.

Fast forward 2 years and the furthest I’ve gotten on that chair is to strip it down to the frame & order supplies.  Why didn’t I just “fix” the seat like she asked?  Because it wan’t salvageable and sometimes it’s just better to  start fresh.

I’ve since recycled the horsehair stuffing & some of the fabric & webbing that was falling apart.  I also sanded down the finish on the frame.

Still to do, find the perfect fabric & actually put this chair back together again.  It. Will. Get. Done.

But here’s the most interesting part (beyond the fact that I refuse to get rid of it)…

This “deconstructed” chair is sitting in a corner in my home & people comment on it every time they see it. BTW, I would have just called it a chair frame, but apparently deconstructed is chic and worth paying loads of $$ for.  Check out Restoration Hardware for proof.  There are some gorgeous pieces to be had for the right consumer.

Last, Green Design can involve disposing of items responsibly.

Donate items to friends, family, neighbors, college kids, shelters, your local thrift shop, or even art schools.  Or sell it.  The options are pretty endless so throwing something in the trash really is a last resort unless it’s broken or completely unusable.  Even then, it’s better to break large items down into it’s smallest possible parts – that way it can be recycled, everything from wood & fabric to metal (including nails, screws, & such).

Great design combines the things you love to live with & the things you need to live in a way that looks & feels beautiful & functional.  Green design & sustainable living fit right in to that philosophy.

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