As a former interior designer, I can confirm that beauty and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. Here are five eco-chic design ideas to cultivate a healthier home. I hope this Earth Day serves as a catalyst for positive change — both in your home decor and in your daily actions.
5 Design-Forward Eco Home Decor Ideas
1. Open the Salvaged Barn Doors
When it comes to today’s home interiors, say goodbye to couture and hello to trendy indie. While the devil wears Prada, Salvaged Soul is sporting overalls and a hacksaw. Salvaged sliding barn doors made from reclaimed wood and repurposed materials are all the rage right now, but a do-it-yourself wife and mom of two in Southern California was making them long before the farmhouse phenomenon.
Christa Paarni — aka Mom the Builder — founded Salvaged Soul, a brand that creates handmade designs for everyone from celebs and business execs to hot housewives and eating establishments. What started as a passion project helping a friend has turned into a thriving career. Christa herself is as one-of-a-kind as her doors. She makes no apologies for being true to herself and admits she’s far from perfect. Just like her salvaged furniture creations, every piece expresses its own personality, honoring the nicks and dents that tell an imperfect story. And these rustic creations aren’t limited to barn doors. You can find furniture, accessories, beds, flooring, storage items or even request your own unique design.
I’m somewhat obsessed with this wanderluster woodworker’s barn doors. She’s crafted for clients including yuppie yogis, production studios, private residences and hair salons. You really have to see them — or in this case, slide them — to believe them. Watch now:
2. Remodel with Mushrooms
Mushrooms are delicious, so most of us think of eating them, not decorating with them. Turns out, a new and innovative company called Ecovative is leading the charge by using the power of mycelium (mushroom materials) to grow products that are healthy, safe, certified sustainable and toxin-free. That’s right, you can actually have furniture, insulation, work surfaces and interior acoustic wall tiles (MycoFoam and MycoBoard) that are, well, almost safe enough to eat! This biomaterial has been used to create MushLume Lighting by Danielle Trofe that’s pretty incredible. The items are as functional as they are sustainable.
It’s time to say goodbye to toxic formaldehyde resins commonly used in composite building materials. This carcinogen can be replaced with mushroom materials the company calls “nature’s glue.” Mycelium is VOC-free, rapidly renewable and naturally fire resistant. Learn more about how it all works and take a peek at some of the fully grown furniture as well. Company co-founders Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre are paving the way for a new generation of design. Instead of form following function, form follows fungus.
3. Invest in a Bigger Rack
No, not that kind of rack. I’m referring to boots, not your brassiere. A study conducted by the University of Arizona found that 60 percent of household dust is actually tracked into our homes from the bottom of our shoes. The study was quite shocking considering the toxic chemicals they found included DDT, which has been banned in the U.S. for more than 40 years. In addition, researchers found lead and arsenic in this dust. A 2016 study from George Washington University also revealed that conventional dust found in the average American home is laced with 45 toxic chemicals, including one known to cause cancer.
While I’m all for the power of earthing and going barefoot (in the park or at the beach), I’m certainly not advising you to sell your shoes. Rather, set up a shoe rack inside the front door of your house. Get your entire family on board and into a new, healthy habit of dropping shoes off upon entering the home. Since dust accumulates in carpets and upholstery where it can be recirculated back into the air you breathe, your floors, your health and your pets will thank you.
4. Use Natural Lighting
Any good designer knows that lighting sets the mood of an interior. I revel in scattering candles throughout a space that can be ready to spark at a moment’s notice, inviting warmth and creating coziness. But many candles on the market today are chock-full of dangerous toxins like petroleum-derived paraffin wax, phthalates and synthetic fragrances.
Meet Bright Endeavors, a social enterprise that’s letting love light the way by creating a pathway out of poverty for adolescent mothers in Chicago. Through their candle making, they provide hands-on job training crafting nontoxic candles that are produced using non-genetically modified soy wax, phthalate-free fragrances, cotton cores and paraffin-free wicks, all inside recycled glass containers. From Lavender Sprig to Black Currant Orchid, each candle is personally signed on the back by the woman who made it. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to participants, who are not only learning valuable job skills and gaining confidence but understanding their place in the world.
Interested participants can enter through their nonprofit partner, New Moms, where they embark on a five-week training course. Next, they move to Bright Endeavors for eight weeks of paid, hands-on training. Today, Bright Endeavors has successfully put 300 moms through the program, serving more than 500 children. Their internal Job Lab prepares these women to create their cover letters and résumés while dressing for success. Watch now:
Bright Endeavors also rents out single-use candles for venues and events, such as local restaurants and weddings. When finished, they collect the glasses, then clean and reuse them, preventing thousands of glasses from entering landfills every year. Now that’s what I call a pathway to a brighter future.
5. Hang Temporary (Toxic-Free) Wallpaper
I can remember my mother painstakingly applying wallpaper paste as sheets plummeted over her head in an effort to line the edges up. She finally resorted to hiring a professional, but that expense meant we were stuck with that wall pattern forever.
When I discovered the uber-cool product called Tempaper, a temporary, removable, repositionable, self-adhesive wallpaper, I was all ears. When I found out it was also zero-VOC (volatile organic compound), plus lead- and phthalate-free, I was also all nose. NYC set designers came up with the idea because they wanted homeowners and renters to enjoy the flexibility of good design without the expense, hassle and permanence of traditional wallpaper. From stripes and bricks to tropical and chinoiserie, the options come in every color and pattern to express yourself — as often as you like. I used the Honeycomb pattern in my home office and it truly transformed the space into a place I love. Shop all designs here.
I hope you’ve had a flash of green inspiration to not just design better, but smarter. Let us know your favorite tip below.
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