Redecorate Naturally!By Marisa Miller
You’ve been watching all the popular home makeover shows, and you’ve decided your own home could use some sprucing up. You follow a natural style of living, and you want to conquer the task in such a way that uses the least amount of resources and the most earth-friendly materials. Thanks to architectural salvage centers, environmentally friendly building products and recycled goods, it’s not difficult to do.
Families who tread lightly on the earth can make substantial impact by reducing consumption. Resist the urge to purchase home decor, furniture and materials from your local big-box retailers. Besides, reusing materials, buying second hand and furnishing a home with loved pieces of art and sentimental objects creates a more interesting and individual look. Decorating a home should be a creative effort that reflects your family's personality.
Start at the very beginning
So, where should you begin an earth-friendly decorating project? Start the way they do on the decorating shows. Clear the room out. Re-evaluate what you want to keep and what can be donated to charity or recycled -- or trade and barter with friends or neighbors for objects you like better.
Select a color palette. You might look at an “inspiration piece,” a piece of art or fabric you love. Colors derived from nature can offer the most soothing, sophisticated interiors. Focusing on only a few colors narrows your scope and makes shopping easier. (This is also a great tip for building and maintaining a clothing wardrobe. Pick those colors that make you look best and carry them through each new piece you purchase, making mixing and matching easier!) Assuming you aren't starting from scratch, you already have gathered some possessions over time. Is there a recurring color scheme?
Build a foundation
A well designed room needs a good backdrop. A room might never look quite “right” without good walls and windows. Choose a no-VOC or low-VOC paint, milk paint or natural clay plaster to color your walls in a unifying neutral. VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are petrochemical-derived substances that become breathable gas, contaminating indoor air. Milk paint is free of petrochemical solvents and is made from milk products, natural minerals and pigments. (See the resources listed below for more information.) Unless you are doing an all-neutral, monochromatic color scheme (whites, browns, grays, etc.), white is usually not the most satisfying choice for tying together your color palette -- it actually makes any other color that does not belong jump out!
Window coverings are an important part of the foundation of your room. Vinyl or plastic window coverings contribute to off-gassing as the material becomes heated by the sun. Blinds and shades in natural materials like bamboo and reed offer clean lines and simplicity. Organic cotton, hemp or linen can be fashioned into simple curtain panels. Coverings that are easy to clean and care for will simplify maintenance.
Flooring can make or break an environmentally friendly design. Synthetic wall-to-wall carpeting harbors dust and mites, mold and mildew and decreases indoor air quality. Wood floors with a non-toxic finish, cork, bamboo or natural linoleum are good choices. For softness and warmth, use wool or woven cotton rugs, or use jute or coir mat.
Furnishing your room
Buying suites or room packages of furniture results in lifeless arrangements lacking a sense of identity. The furniture itself is usually poorly constructed of particle board, petroleum-based foams and all kinds of other earth-unfriendly materials.
Flea markets and antique stores are a great way to start your décor shopping. If thrift stores and garage sales aren’t appealing to you, there are plenty of high-end consignment shops and antique galleries that cater to the more refined palate. Buying second-hand is preferable to purchasing new goods; the materials usually have off-gassed, and re-using furnishings reduces consumption. Look for solid wood pieces and signs of quality craftsmanship such as sturdy joints and strong construction. Most vintage and antique pieces are classics that can stand the test of time, whether it be a Chippendale chair or a sleek mid-century modern sofa.
Try the unexpected when it comes to selecting wall art and accessories. An amateur oil painting might be more interesting than a poster print of an old master’s work of art. Shabby frames add character, but if that isn’t your style, have your art reframed or hang the canvas without one. Old paint-by-numbers from the 1940s through 1960s have become highly collectible and can be found inexpensively on auction. Support small villages by using folk art or pottery made by local artisans. Old books can be dismantled and the best illustrations can be framed for a great graphic statement.
When it has to be new
For goods that must be purchased new, try locating small or home businesses to supply your needs. By searching the Internet or browsing the ads in the back of natural living magazines, you are sure to find plenty of ecologically sound products for your home. Use what you love, surround yourself with art and beauty and minimize the cycle of consumption in your family.
Resources for creating a unique home
Your Natural Hom, Janet Marinelli and Paul Bierman-Lytle
Conscious Style Home, Danny Seo
Natural Home Magazine
Mary Englebreit Home Companion
Easy Living, Terence Conran
Organic Style magazine
The Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company
© Marisa Miller
Marisa Miller is a childbirth educator, distributor of natural baby products and decorating enthusiast. Visit Instinctive Birth or call (682) 551-3362 for more information.