In the Northeast our long awaited spring heralds rejuvenation of life and energy after a long, long winter. April 22nd we joined voices with the International chorus singing loudly like the peepers now filling our wetlands and riverbanks. On this special day, not only do we give thanks for the beauty and magnificence of our earthly home, we also reflected upon ways of improving the care of our Mother Earth. Whether constructing a new family home or renovating a small bathroom, your projects can stay thoughtfully green with a few of these simple ideas that are easily interpreted as good green design choices. All of our staff here at AHI wish you a joyous Earth Day, one of sun and song in which we can lift our hands in praise and work, recommitting ourselves to preserving the beauty of this amazing planet that we share with all creation.
Water-based, non-toxic paints used to be non-existent with chemicals such as lead and volatile oils being main ingredients in surface treatments. With the advent of the environmentally friendly water-based paints, poor performance quality and lack of interest in political intervention prevented these paints from thriving in the marketplace. Due to better legislation around lowering our consumption of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and to a huge push by the painting industry to develop better products, there are now many more choices for high performance latex (water-based) paint.
Ben Moore now produces the Natura® line of paint that is a water- based, zero VOC product offering very high quality coverage and finish while providing an unlimited range of colors. Farrow & Ball has created a really beautiful, high end water-based product which performs just like oil paint, with finishes and colors that are second to none. Ecos paints offer a beautiful range of colors in zero VOC, odorless, 100% organic paint. Their entire line, including their stains and varnishes, is 100% environmentally friendly.
In purchasing paint you will be paying a premium for some of the research that has gone into creating these new products but consider the adage “there is nothing more expensive than cheap paint”. I often use this expression to illustrate that the labor of painting is where the true cost is so don’t skimp on poor quality paint. This is also very apropos to environmental considerations, which would ask us to restrict the number of applications or re-applications as well as the obvious toxins released into our air and water during paint application. The painting industry generated over 30 billion in sales last year alone and for many of us that translates into only 10 dollars more a gallon to use good quality paint that is eco friendly. It is a small percentage for each of us that needs to become a higher percentage of overall sales.
Giving old pieces a new life is always a clever way to reinvent things you have inherited or found. When I was a young bride I took my grandmother’s sideboard, a very traditional Queen Anne piece, and I painted it a high gloss orange/red lacquer. I got to keep my grandmother’s solid hardwood piece with great storage, but it was much more lively and updated.
Traditional pieces can be found everywhere these days as styles and tastes are rapidly changing and good quality furniture can quickly seem outdated. In fact basic furniture forms have changed very little over time so consider adding new life with paint, paper, leather or anything else your imagination dreams up. Sink bases or kitchen cupboards can be created from old chests, cabinets or corner cabinets. Often a unique piece breaks up the functional character of cabinetry and adds visual interest to any room.
Buying the best quality furniture is always a better idea in terms of long-term economic and environmental investment. There is so much out there on the market, all literally available at our fingertips and so enticing in fun design elements and colors. Unfortunately we cannot see the inner construction nor do we know the true provenance of these pieces. Just as we want to know the source of our food, it is important to know where and how our furniture is manufactured.
For a good primer on the quality of upholstered pieces please read further at Hadley Court. The traditionally made hardwood frames and 8 way hand tied springs will last for generations. Choosing styles that can adapt to both large and small spaces will also make your pieces more flexible as you navigate life’s changes.
There is still a great deal of beautiful furniture being made in the United States. For more information please read High Point Market Made in America Furnishings where you will find a full listing of vendors who were featured at the American Pavilion, Fall Market 2013.
We believe that buying the best quality furniture that you can will be one of the most important green choices you will make.
In considering building materials, always try to think how you might recycle pieces from a tear down. Carlisle Flooring has beautiful antique and salvaged flooring in a wide array of styles and finishes. Often antique shops are a treasure trove of old sinks, dry sinks, beautiful sconces, chandeliers and merchant cases which can easily be adapted to any room and any style. Vermont Salvage and Old New England Salvage are great resources for the unexpected, beautiful finds from the past. In considering any purchase for Interior fixtures always remember buying something in a shop or in a salvage company means you are keeping the item in use and limiting freight and wasteful packaging to the job site.
If you have an idea, something amazingly clever you have seen or Pinterest or Houzz, consider taking the photo and your sketch to a local cabinetmaker. Give him a chance to bid on the piece competitive with the manufacturer’s prices. Even if it is 25% more it may be worth it because with the manufacturer you are most likely going to have to pay shipping and any multitude of up charges to get the piece exactly to your liking. You thus have more control, probably waste less time with production and have a much lower carbon footprint manufacturing and in end use delivery. If you want only eco-friendly stains and/or paints you can work with your local cabinetmaker very easily on these details as well. My favorite local cabinetmaker, Curtis Mead, can make everything from a Restoration Hardware style desk to a federal high style gaming table with intricate inlay. He is a gift and a gentleman to work with. It is very satisfying being a part of the process and knowing the person whose hands created your furniture.
New technology and the public interest in recycling have created some amazing new products recently- beautiful carpets made out of recycled soda bottles, gorgeous vinyl’s that you have to smell to know they are not leather, recycled leather products like the recent ones from Stout brothers to name a few. There are peel and stick wallcovering from Tempaper®’s many collections which can go with you when you leave a rental. Hardware like the recycled glass knobs from TE-MA is at home in both traditional and modern settings. The world is vast in its man-made, beautiful products, which are helping recycle waste and control overuse of limited resources.
Looking for more Environmentally Friendly Inspiration?
Take a look at some of our suggestions on our new Pinterest board.
At AHI we are committed to great products that are well made from every perspective. Environmentally well made should be synonymous with beauty and desirability. We are happy to share these resources and help you design “beautifully green”. Please share your thoughts and projects on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. We would love to see how your Earth Day becomes an Earth Year of fantastically beautiful and creative design choices remind you each day how you and your Mother Earth live in harmony.