K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Archive for Green

Mar 19 2018

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Uniting Built and Natural Environments

By Julie Schuster

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the country’s leading governmental infrastructure initiative. It correctly asserts that: “Decisions about how and where we build our communities have significant impacts on the natural environment and on human health. Cities, regions, states and the private sector need information about the environmental effects of their land use and transportation decisions to mitigate growth-related environmental impacts and to improve community quality of life and human health.”

This philosophy doesn’t just apply to building developers and urban planners. As interior designers, we too have a professional responsibility to find ways to best unite built and natural environments – for our clients and for Mother Nature herself.

Some of my favorite practical interior design strategies for integrating built and natural environments include:

Following Nature’s Lead. Interiors should be designed with humans in mind. It is a Biophilic Design principle that people feel most comfortable in spaces that follow nature’s lead rather than monochromatic bubbles. Our common desire for hardwood floors is a subconscious human yearning for replication of the forest floor. Hence, the ground should be darkest, like a path; mid-range eye-level colors should be neutral and the ceiling should be light like the sky.

               Schuster suggests reflecting a forest in the colors of a room.

Using Renewable Materials. It goes without saying that using renewable materials in your interior design is beneficial for the environment. But did you know that building materials that have been harvested from the earth are also extremely durable and cost effective? Cork and granite are two of my favorite renewable materials to work with. Cork, which is made from the bark of cork trees, is very springy and resistant to damage. Granite is the hardest and most dense natural stone which helps maintain luster and resist staining.

Furnishing Thoughtfully. Furniture made from natural materials like rattan, wicker and hemp channel the outdoor world and are easy on the environment. Another eco-friendly idea is to purchase vintage furniture which lends itself to a beautiful, eclectic feel.

                                 Donna Dotan Photography Inc.

Layering in Greenery. Indoor plants are a fantastic representation of Feng Shui wood energy – instantly bringing interiors to life while simultaneously purifying the air we breathe. Consider clustering small plants in groups at staggered levels to give a sense of natural depth and balance.

                                Plants naturally clean the air in a home.

Prioritizing Natural Colors. Once your home is filled with renewable materials, natural fabrics and greenery, it’s important to ensure a natural color palette is used for the remainder of the space. Neutral colors with subtle variations work a charm and allow greater flexibility for accent colors later down the track. Remember, Mother Nature never goes out of style!

Implementing Considered Lighting Design. Sunlight is a crucial and all too often forgotten component of natural design. It’s also my favorite energetic disinfectant. In addition to letting the light shine in whenever possible, consider natural fiber window treatments, soft/warm light bulbs, unobtrusive fixtures and recessed lighting.

By viewing the outdoors as an extension of the home, you too can find design inspiration in the natural world and bring that powerful, organic inspiration indoors.

Julie Schuster is an active member of the New York City Design Community. In 2014 she helped establish the Interior Design Society’s (IDS) New York City Chapter, spearheading the group’s formation as the chapter’s president. Julie also works closely, and engages enthusiastically as a member of International Furnishings & Design Association (IFDA) and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). Schuster is also a proud member of the Kitchen and Bath Business Advisory Board and the Robern (Bathroom) Brand Ambassadors.

Mar 02 2018

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The Future Kitchen

We’ve heard a lot about new appliances, tech and gadgets for the kitchen. But will the kitchen of the future really use all of these? KBB magazine tuned into the NKBA Future Kitchen webinar to find out, and we were surprised what trends we discovered.

1. Changing Demographics. The baby boom generation is getting older and making up a good portion of the population, but that doesn’t mean they are any less active. The kitchen will help them thrive in their own homes longer with smart, universal design.

2. Individualization. Innovations in manufacturing technology mean that more products can be customized on a large scale. This will continue to evolve as homeowners demand more personalization at home.

3. Connected/Disconnected Lifestyle. Homeowners want to be connected, but they don’t want to be distracted by technology, either. Manufacturers will have to hide their new connected technology well to sell.

The GroBox from Cloudponics is an automatic grow box for growing plants at home. Select what you want to grow, plant the seed and the system will nurture the plant from seed to harvest without any maintenance from you.

4. Gathering Events. Staying in is the new going out. Homeowners want more entertaining space, more ways to cook easily and access to recipes for groups.

5. Healthy Lifestyle. Awareness of nutrition and health makes the future client look for ways to preserve fresh produce longer and cook cleaner. Bringing greenery and potted herbs into the kitchen will trend as well.

The SmartSlab Table can warm plates, cool a drink and even cook a meal using discreet digital devices embedded in a razor-thin, ceramic table-top.

6. Alternative Cooking. It might sound gross to our culture, but insects are eaten in 80 percent of the world’s nations and are a healthy, sustainable source of protein. Look out for ways to incorporate cooking them in our future kitchens.

7. Zero Waste Movement. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about how much they throw away daily. Grocery stores (and therefore kitchens) will start helping them out with more unpackaged, bulk sources and innovative storage options.

The Ground Fridge from Weltevree is an innovative version of the traditional root cellar, making use of the insulating effect of the ground and the cooling effect of the groundwater. The temperature in the fridge remains stable throughout the year and is ideal for the storage of fruit, vegetables, wine and cheese.

8. Slowing Down. The future consumer will be moving through their day even faster than today’s society and will crave slower practices. Fermentation processes, slow cooking and preserving are expected to rise in popularity, and special storage will need to exist in the kitchen.

What do you think the future kitchen will be like? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter @kbbconnect.

Oct 09 2017

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Living Big in Small Spaces

The Decatur Tiny House Festival – a celebration of living small – took place last week in Decatur, Ga. Organized by Tiny House Atlanta and City of Decatur, the festival offers three days of thought-provoking speakers and more than 20 innovative tiny houses to tour.

KBB spoke with downsizing experts Claudia Morris Barclay and Catherine Lee, who presented “How to Downsize and Organize Your Way to Happiness” during the festival, to find out more about this trend.


KBB: Why do you think the tiny house movement is growing?
Lee: I think people are realizing that keeping up with the Joneses isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A bigger house not only means a bigger house payment, it means more upkeep, astronomical utility bills and rooms that go completely unused. With a tiny house you can’t have any of that extra stuff that isn’t bringing you happiness.

There’s also the environmentally friendly aspect of the tiny house movement. People are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment. Tiny houses require less than a medium-to-large single-family home, and that’s incredibly appealing.

Morris-Barclay: Many people also now work remotely, and tiny houses on wheels in particular give them the option to live a more nomadic lifestyle if it suits them. They can continue the work they love, from home, in any location in the world. For retirees or people with different ability levels, who may not want to live a nomadic lifestyle, a tiny house on a foundation can be a great option. The tiny house movement, ultimately, creates options. Everyone, no matter your lifestyle, has a place within the movement and are not restricted by income, location, lifestyle, age or ability level.”


KBB: What can the average homeowner do to minimize their belongings?
Lee: Homeowners who live on their own can probably be more ruthless and quick about minimizing, whereas households with kids might have to take a step-by-step approach. One technique that is less intimidating than a giant purge is the one-in-one-out policy. If you purchase a pair of shoes, you have to get rid of a pair you currently own. Another way to ease into minimalizing is keeping a laundry basket in a closet that you fill with items to give away. When the basket gets full, it’s time to make a trip to a donation center.


Morris-Barclay: Pull everything out where you can see it. You will soon realize that you have duplicates of items because the original was buried so deep in a storage area that you forgot it existed. Ditch the duplicates. Take note of the things that you actually use every day. If you haven’t seen it or touched it in six months or more, get rid of it. Move into a smaller space. It’s easier to find the motivation to let go of unnecessary things if you are tripping over them constantly because you have no assigned place to keep them. Clutter is much more distressing in a smaller space.”


KBB: Why do you believe less can make you happier?
Lee: Having less is incredibly freeing. A lot of times you don’t realize how stressed out you are by all of your stuff until you start getting rid of things. I think so many people are overwhelmed by their possessions and know they’re unhappy about them but are also equally scared to get rid of them. Once you get over the hump of letting go, minimalizing becomes much easier.



Morris-Barclay: A lot of stress is created by the presence of ‘stuff,’ especially the pretense of things that lack a specific purpose. When you do have the urge to de-clutter, there is often a feeling of guilt associated with getting rid of things that have monetary or sentimental value. The less you have, the fewer restrictions there are on where you can go and what you can do – translating to fewer decisions an individual has to make on a daily basis.

Catherine Lee started her blog, AsianCajuns, with her twin sister in 2007. After writing about fashion and style for eight years, they realized their interests had moved away from trendy clothes and fast fashion to simplifying their style and minimizing their lives. They revamped AsianCajuns to focus on their journey of living with less – posting weekly regarding minimalizing your wardrobe, organizing your closet and applying the KonMari method – a de-cluttering technique – to your entire home. She is the downtown development manager for the City of Decatur.

Claudia Morris-Barclay is the entertainment and lifestyle consultant for ClaudiaMB Consulting and is known as a dynamic problem solver who offers her clients resourceful, inventive and attainable solutions for modifying their spaces. Claudia has been working in conjunction with the Container Store for more than seven years, is a tiny house enthusiast and is an original member of Tiny House Atlanta.

Aug 07 2017

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The Hands that Make Our Products

  © U. Roberto Romano, Courtesy of GoodWeave International 

Last year a friend and I toured the Museum of Civil Rights in downtown Atlanta, where upstairs they had an entire exhibit dedicated to ongoing civil rights cases. Many of these had to do with fair trade obstructions, which included many products we all use on a daily basis: cocoa, tea, oils, clothing – the list was overwhelming.

One organization we ran across is working to change the trade around one of these products: GoodWeave, a non-profit that certifies rugs free of child labor. We spoke with Cara Hagan, business development associate, to find out how the interior design industry can help.

KBB: How did this organization get started?

C.H.: Our story starts with an Indian activist named Kailash Satyarthi, who rescued children working in carpet factories. The raids were dangerous, and for every child he rescued, another one soon took his or her place at the loom. Kailash realized that to make a lasting difference, he needed to change the whole system and get rug companies and consumers on board.

When Kailash founded GoodWeave (then known as RugMark) in 1994, there were one million children working in South Asia’s carpet industry. Now thanks in part to our efforts, this number has dropped by an estimated 75 percent. GoodWeave has directly rescued more than 3,800 children and provided life-changing education for many thousands more. We work to continue Kailash’s vision of a world without child labor in any global supply chain – starting with carpets and now expanding to new sectors.

KBB: How has Goodweave helped end illegal labor?

C.H.: GoodWeave works through a holistic approach to ending forced, bonded and child labor. When a company is licensed with GoodWeave, our team conducts random, unannounced inspections in that company’s supply chain to ensure that labor conditions are fair and that no children are laboring at the factories and loom-sheds. Companies that comply with our Standards receive GoodWeave certification labels that show consumers that no children worked to make that rug. If children are found, they are immediately removed from work. GoodWeave then supports these rescued children as long as is necessary; they are reunited with their families if conditions allow or brought into rehabilitation and education programs.

GoodWeave also works beyond rescues with community-wide education programs and facilities to help adult weavers find fair wages and working conditions. With this approach, GoodWeave unravels the system that forces children into work in the first place.

KBB: How does a rug company receive Goodweave certification?

C.H.: While the impact of becoming GoodWeave licensed is profound and far-reaching, the process is straightforward. The importer would first need to sign a few agreements governing the relationship between GoodWeave International and an importer that sells GoodWeave certified carpets. These agreements outline a variety of issues regarding the relationship, balancing clear guidelines with a mutual commitment to ending the use of child labor in carpet production and to improving the lives of children and families in the weaving communities.

Once the importer has signed these agreements, GoodWeave country teams can begin licensing the exporter. Each exporter goes through an application process and initial inspection. Given that they successfully become licensed, GoodWeave then provides the exporter with labels to begin issuing certified rugs. GoodWeave makes regular, unannounced inspections of all production facilities to verify compliance with the GoodWeave Standard. The Standard is based on three Certification Principles covering child labor, forced labor, and bonded labor, and the transparency needed to verify compliance. The Standard also includes four Progress Principles which are designed to address a broader set of labor rights and environmental issues. The exporter license is valid as long as the company continues to work toward a higher standard and addresses any issues that arise.

KBB: How can interior designers help to join this effort?

C.H.: GoodWeave’s approach to ending child labor is twofold: it works in the factories of India, Nepal and Afghanistan and in the retail stores and design studios in the U.S. and Europe. Each is essential in ending forced, bonded and child labor around the world. Interior designers can help by guiding consumers toward ethically produced rugs and becoming socially responsible consumers themselves. Through public outreach, media coverage and the active participation of socially responsible importers, designers and retailers, GoodWeave raises awareness of the child labor epidemic in the handmade rug industry and inspires consumers to take action.

When consumers become aware of their ability to purchase products that are not made by children and thereby create a market demand for such products, they can be a part of the solution.

For more information about Goodweave and to find a list of certified companies, visit https://goodweave.org/.