Traditionally, eco-friendly characteristics have not been the focus of luxury interior design, however that is changing. Homeowners — and designers — are taking environmental concerns more seriously, incorporating eco-friendly elements in remodeling projects as well as new construction. Even if you’re just looking to refresh your living space, there are ways that you can add these more sustainable components to your home for even greater luxury. From swapping out lightbulbs to choosing textiles and materials with care, it’s possible to go green with ease. Here are the main ways you can embrace eco-friendly elements in any style of decor.
Lay the Foundation with Stone or Wood Flooring
It’s certainly not pleasant like that “new car smell,” new carpeting made of synthetic materials has its own odor and generally that’s not a good thing. Wall to wall carpeting and other synthetic floor coverings can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and release them into the air of your home. VOCs can include toxic chemicals that have health risks. Many types of vinyl flooring are made from plastic that can also contain these troublesome chemicals. While manufacturers work to eliminate these compounds, you can install wood or stone flooring, which is healthier in a number of respects. Not only do they not release any VOCs, they is also easier to clean and maintain and are the best choice for households with allergy concerns or pets. Although these cost more to purchase and install, in the long run they have a lifespan that is much longer than carpet.
Choose Recycled and Repurposed Materials
The repurposed and recycled trend shows no signs of waning and is likely here to stay. It’s a great way to be eco-friendly — reusing what exists and and not requiring new natural resources to produce furniture, decor or other products. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to make things yourself. Plenty of manufacturers have turned to recycled materials for everything from building materials to furnishings. This grouping from UMA has a few examples of both recycled wood as well as the use of sustainable sources materials such as the new wood in the console and table.
Incorporate Green Plants
Bringing the outdoors in is always a great idea, and houseplants can filter the air, keeping the environment in your home cleaner and more pleasant. They also have a mood-lifting power that while not necessarily quantifiable, is of great daily benefit. Plants are the easiest thing to incorporate into a luxury design. Whether you choose to add a collection of green herbs in the kitchen, large potted plants in the living room, or a range of sizes in the bedroom, they are an easy eco-boost for the home.
Install a Green Roof or Wall
An even bigger green element is a green wall in your home. These are sometimes called vertical gardens or living walls and consist of an entire wall of houseplants. A big dose of nature, these have some considerations with regard to watering systems and weight of the installation, however the benefits will outweigh the initial investment. These can transform a room, along with entire space, into a pleasing area that feels like a breath of fresh air. Aside from the aesthetic benefits, the air filtering properties of a wall full plants are orders of magnitude greater than just a few potted palms. While walls of preserved greenery are available and generally require no care, they do not provide the same air quality benefits.
A green roof, on the other hand, involves planting vegetation on the roof of your house. The plantings can be herbs, drought-tolerant plants or other vegetation. Typically, they are installed in a growing medium that has a waterproof membrane underneath. The concept, which comes from Germany, has a host of benefits for your home, including reduced heating and cooling costs, flood risk reduction and reduced noise pollution. Companies and residential products are incorporating this technique more often, especially in cities.
Let in Lots of Natural Light
Natural light is an important element in any home and letting in the maximum amount can help cut down on heating and lighting costs. Natural light is also a mood-booster, which is good for everyone living in the home. Of course, if the sun comes through the windows strongly during warmer seasons, it’s important to install window coverings that allow you to control the light entering the space. The sunlight that makes you warm and cozy in the winter will also heat things up in the summer, which is not what you want.
Use Organic and Natural Textiles
Just as with synthetic floor coverings, textiles made from synthetics are neither eco-friendly to produce nor good for health. Wool, cotton and silk are excellent materials for upholstery, rugs, bedspreads and cushions. Pillows and upholstery can be stuffed with wool, cotton or feathers. These are superior to synthetic stuffing, which can include petroleum-based substances and is likely full of flame retardants containing VOCs. Soft, cozy and healthy, natural choices are the materials of true luxury.
Install Energy Efficient Lighting
Energy efficiency is a prime way to help the environment, as well as your budget. Even luxury interior designs can benefit from today’s energy efficient lighting. Most of the latest lighting designs take advantage of the versatility of LEDs for creative and stunning light fixtures. Brighter, finely targeted lights with a more pleasing ambiance are perfect for luxury interiors. Replacing current bulbs with LEDs can also help. Even compact fluorescent bulbs are better choices than incandescent bulbs, which create a great deal of heat.
Decorate with Plenty of Natural Wood
Choosing furnishings is another opportunity to avoid plastic by choosing pieces made of natural wood that has been sustainably sources. Many artisans choose this type of wood as do an increasing number of brands. Solid wood is always the best choice for furnishings and wall panels, avoiding materials like particleboard and fiberboard that contain formaldehyde, a potential problem for people and pets. Antiques, used pieces and repurposed items — made from wood — are also ecologically responsible choices because no new wood is being harvested to make them. More and more products are also being made from bamboo, which is a sustainably raised wood. When looking to refresh your space, choose luxury items that don’t include plastics or engineered materials for the most eco-friendly interior.
Use Low or No VOC Products
Paints, products and decor pieces that contain low levels or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are critical to an eco-friendly home. These are organic chemicals that are easily released into the air and contribute to a varied list of health problems, ranging from headaches, nausea and liver damage to cancer. VOCs can be found in paints, glues, furniture and carpeting. When used indoors, the VOCs released into the air are more concentrated: Up to five times higher than when outdoors.
Stick to solid woods without formaldehyde when choosing furniture and pick paints that are labeled as having low VOC content. Check the same things when choosing flooring…or anything for your home. An increasing number of brands are making a name for themselves by advertising their eco-friendly characteristics, such as Farrow and Ball, which makes a variety of water-based paints that are environmentally benign.
The most eco-friendly furniture in the world won’t be if you have to ship it across the globe for your living room. That’s why more and more homeowners are choosing to purchase hand-crafted furnishings and decor from local artisans who create luxurious, one-of-a-kind pieces. Sourcing materials and decor that is manufactured close to home is good for the environment, reducing pollution for transport.
Going green with luxury is becoming easier every day. Manufacturers are responding to the call for more sustainable products that aren’t harmful. Consumers at all levels want to create comfortable, healthy homes for their families. Why wouldn’t we all want that? Good health is the ultimate luxury.