Eight Green Interior Design Tips That Reduce Your Footprint

by Nicola Temple on January 16, 2012

Green interior design means creating a healthy and comfortable living space while keeping the environment in mind.

The basic goals and principles of green design in terms of the construction of your home, also apply to the design of your interior.

Essentially, the goal is always to reduce the footprint we leave on the environment.

Increasing energy efficiency of the home by reducing heat loss and heat gain helps reduce your carbon footprint.

While giving consideration to the materials you use in your design, will help minimize your impact on the environment.

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

Increasing energy efficiency:

Obviously the type of energy you use and the design of the home will have the biggest impact on the efficiency of your home. However, there are also things that can be done as part of the interior design to improve energy efficiency even further.

  • Choose energy and water efficient appliances – If your remodelling or new design involves appliances, be sure to choose ones that use as few resources as possible.
  • Using energy saving lighting –Replacing your light bulbs with energy saving bulbs can go a long way to reducing your energy bill. If you want to warm up the light from these bulbs a little, use oversized lampshades with dark (rather than white) interiors to warm up the light that is reflected into the room.
  • Maximize the natural lighting in a room – Paint your windowsills with light colours to help reflect natural light into the room and use light-coloured, eco-friendly paints to draw the light into naturally darker corners. Mirrors can also be used to help reflect light in the room.
  • Use quality window treatments – Most energy in the home is lost through the windows, so energy efficient blinds or curtains can go a long way toward reducing your heating and cooling costs as well as adding flare to a room.

Choosing the right materials:

When you are choosing products and materials for the interior of your home, think about the entire life cycle of the product. Consider the source of the material and how it is processed as well as how it will be disposed of at the end of its life.

Basically, the best materials (in order) will be:

  1. Used – after all someone else’s old coffee table, may be the new centre piece for your living room
  2. Repurposed/reclaimed/recycled – these are items that are made from recycled products but energy had to go into repurposing them. For example, recycled glass countertops for a kitchen or reclaimed wood furniture.
  3. New from renewable resources – if you can’t find something used or from recycled materials, then turn to materials that are infinitely renewable, such as bamboo flooring or cork tiles.
green interior design

This is taking green interior design quite literally. However, living walls, with the proper supporting infrastructure, can liven up a room as well as improve air quality. CC image courtesy of mannewaar on Flickr.

So, with this in mind, as well as the desire to create a healthy, functional and beautiful space in your home, here are some more green interior design tips that leave a smaller footprint:

  • Use materials that are toxin free – Some paints contain volatile organic compounds that will off-gas and introduce unpleasant and potentially harmful gases into your living space. Luckily, there are some eco-friendly paint choices out there to add colour without adding unpleasant fumes.
  • Use natural materials where possible – Incorporating natural materials into your interior design helps create a warm and healthy environment. Bamboo or reclaimed wood flooring accented with natural fibre rugs, for example, can help reduce dust in the home and are better choices for people with allergies or sensitivities.
  • Choose classics and then accent – there is nothing worse for the environment than replacing your sofa with every new passing trend. Choosing classic, well-made quality furnishings that will stand the test of time and trends. It is much easier on the budget and the environment to add some flare with new cushions or a throw, than to replace an entire sofa!
  • Improve air quality by using live plants – Living walls are becoming a popular choice for the interior, helping to create separate spaces within a room, simply by mounting plants vertically. The greenery adds life to a room as well as improves air quality. Hanging terrariums are another popular choice for adding chic greenery into a room.

It’s important to remember that to update your interior, you don’t need to go completely wild. Our first thoughts are often to the expensive things, new floors, new kitchen counters etc. However, a room can be revitalized without such dramatic and expensive changes.

My friends refinished their kitchen a few years ago. They had quality cupboards, but they were slightly outdated. So, instead of replacing them completely, they pulled the doors off and repainted them. Then, to add their own bit of west-coast flare, they made their own handles out of segments of an arbutus branch that had come down in their back yard. The look was incredible! Granted, it required some handyman experience, but the finished product was unique, warm and beautiful.

Oliver Heath has a bit more to say about green interior design in this video. He mainly discusses the bedroom, but it’s good advice for any room. Happy designing!

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