LOW IMPACT DESIGN WITH HIGH IMPACT STYLE
Some years ago, as I began a demolition on a kitchen for a client, I began to wonder where all the materials that were being ripped out would go. I saw them go into a dumpster, but where was that going? The answer I got was “AWAY”…. And to me, “AWAY” wasn’t so much a state of mind, but a place. A real place, called the LANDFILL, where these materials would languish for years, perhaps even centuries. So quite simply, that’s where my quest began to search for materials that were going to be kinder to the planet and make less of an impact.
“Low Impact” to me means many things: It could mean buying things locally to cut down on carbon emissions from transport over long distances. Or using lumber that’s from a protected source. Energy-efficient appliances, WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures, or materials that can be recycled after their usefulness is over. I think we all know about most of these things at this stage of the game, and it’s becoming pretty easy to find materials that are green, even at the local home store.
As an interior designer, it’s also becoming easier to find furniture and finish materials that are low-impact. It wasn’t the case a few years ago. Everything that was “natural” or “green” usually had an organic or “hippie”-type look to it. I really wanted to get away from that and deliver a sleek, sophisticated interior with no compromise. Nowadays there are a number of really great furniture companies that practice sustainability. Sometimes these things come with a higher price tag, and that can be a deal breaker for someone who’s on a budget.
When I was designing the interiors of this year’s ReVision House in Orlando, I really wanted to make a statement about the “RE” in ReVision. After all, this house was a RE-model of an existing home. Remodeling existing housing stock is the greenest thing you can do, and I wanted to try to find materials and finishes for the house that would ultimately carry the RE theme throughout the house. I decided to use existing or second-hand furniture. Reupholstering existing sofas and chairs that were mismatched in a unifying fabric would work, so I began looking around for some used ones. I found some at a garage sale, and at a local thrift store, and got some amazing fabric from ENVIRO TEXTILES in a natural organic hemp fabric, which retails for around $25 a yard. I covered virtually everything in this fabric, to give it a cohesive look, even though the pieces were all a little different. I also found a cool coffee table made from reclaimed lumber, and an outdoor table and stools that I re-purposed as a wine-tasting table. The ceramic tile I used throughout the main areas of the house from Ragno boasts a whopping 40% pre-consumer recycled content. Pretty impressive!
There’s a company in Wyoming called Centennial Woods that reclaims wood from snow fences across the state and sells the sustainable harvested wood for both interior and exterior applications. Unlike other reclaimed wood (barns and other structures), this snow fence has never been painted or chemically treated, and is a more reliable source for lead- and arsenic-free reclaimed wood. They have repurposed more than 5 million ft. of wood, saving snow fence owners more than $9 million and avoiding more than 9,000 tons of CO2 emissions. The wood can be used for flooring, furniture, and exterior siding. Here’s a beautiful floor made of the reclaimed snow fence. Gorgeous!
So here’s what I’m getting at: Think about what you want or need before you buy it. I mean really THINK. If you can’t afford the latest and the greatest, can you do with what you have? Can you RE-use or RE-purpose things you already own? It can be made to be fresh, beautiful and RE-usable if you give it a chance. If you do need to buy things like wood flooring or ceramic tile, check out what’s available with a RE-cycled content, or made from RE-cycled wood. It’s all here already. And that’s its own RE-ward!