Eco Chic Interiors
When one thinks of hip, elegantly designed interiors, rarely does the word Ã�Â¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½sustainabilityÃ�Â¢Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã¯Â¿Â½ come to mind. Thankfully, with advances in materials and availability homeowners now have a bevy of green and fashion-forward options with which to adorn their abodes.
Words By Denaye Hinds.
This mindful materialism, due to heightened awareness of limited resources and the potential cost to the planet and personal health, has made homeowners conscious of incorporating sustainability into every aspect of living, including decorating the home environment.
In its truest form a home serves as a sanctuary, a safe haven, a place of ease and relaxation, a place where aesthetics and personal style reign supreme. With ecosensitive décor solutions entering the market at an unprecedented pace, homes can serve as stylish shelters as well as provide peace of mind to those within their walls that they have positively impacted the world without sacrificing aesthetics. This intricate balance of interior luxury and sustainability is typically best achieved by embracing the natural character of a region, and for those of us fortunate enough to reside in the Caribbean, this means design with historical influences that begin with the local economy. Island life brings limited resources, energy restraints and transportation costs that play a significant role in increasing the carbon footprint, but in celebrating a home’s native setting and working within the confines of an island’s resources, an interior space can co-exist with the environment, as well as the culture and heritage of the Caribbean landscape. The criteria when selecting materials should consist of elements that are recyclable, durable, repurposed, energy efficient and low emitting. The industry has dramatically enhanced the choices of sustainable materials over the last few years, from reclaimed wood flooring to new organic fibres, and increasing one’s the ability to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimise waste and improve the health of a home’s occupants. These beliefs are the very pillars of sustainability, and serve to bring regions back to their roots in an eco-friendly fashion.
Wood floors create a sophisticated and classic feel, and are an ideal option when assembled using FSCcertified formaldehyde-free wood. Likewise, bamboo flooring is non-toxic and energy-efficient to grow and manufacture, not to mention it creates an amazing aesthetic impact for any residence. Another option is rapidly renewable cork flooring, which is both recyclable and biodegradable, and can be derived from reclaimed, salvaged and recycled sources. Similarly, repurposed stone floors are a smart alternative, provide a custom, loft-luxury feel, and this material can be sourced just about anywhere.
Humidity is a natural factor to consider in a tropical environment, making recycled tile another fitting option. Tile that is locally produced from reused materials saves natural resources, including transportation and manufacturing. Tile options include recycled ceramic, porcelain or glass, and a multitude of manmade options from companies like Crossville that contain an impressive percentage of recycled content. An inherent benefit of these sources is that they require little care and maintenance, while minimally impacting air quality and health.
For those wanting the warmth of rugs, there is an embarrassment of riches available. Whether desiring area rugs to disperse throughout the home for a surprising splash of colour or plush wall-to-wall carpeting upon which to rest one’s weary feet, there is a vast array to choose from. Made from natural fibers such as jute, wool, sisal, organic cotton, seagrass and bamboo they are produced with natural dyes that can stand the test of time. Available in contemporary styles and colours, they provide a wealth of choice with which to add texture and warmth to one’s home.
Lighting illuminates an interior and is a key design focus that helps defines a space. Chandeliers and other light fixtures are often viewed as art forms and can add an element of finesse to an area, but they can also further the sustainable mindset. Available in recycled glass or metal and other natural materials like wood and clay, they should be powered by LED lighting to ensure a small environmental footprint. LED lighting can also be incorporated into lighting under kitchen cabinetry and pantry areas. To reduce energy consumption, dimmers throughout a home can be installed to ensure the proper amount of lighting is being utilised, while also serving as a mood setter. Outdoors, solar or compact fluorescent lighting with timers or motion sensors can reduce energy bills while adding ambiance.
WALLS & WINDOWS
Open spaces and passive solar design combined with large windows and ceiling fans can contribute to temperature control, allowing natural cooling and lighting that can lower energy use in a home. They also Photograph by Elizabeth Malpass Photograph by OBMi RL provide an opportunity to add personal panache while maintaining a small environmental footprint.
One avenue to keep an interior cool is windows equipped with roller shade systems and curtains made from ecofriendly materials and natural fibres. Window treatment options abound from materials that rapidly renew themselves like woven bamboo to knitted grasses, to sustainably grown silk and jute, all which can add a handmade couture quality to one’s home. Similarly, linen is another excellent option to ensure privacy while simultaneously providing an efficient method for cooling and fostering a healthy environment.
When it comes to interior walls the eco-sensitive selection is plentiful. Ranging from paints to wallpaper, to contemporary claddings and applications, the choices are wideranging and span a multitude of styles. Choosing low or no-VOC paint reduces the release of harmful chemical vapours into one’s home without compromising on final style, and there is an array of suppliers to consider. There are the more popular brands such as Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams, however, there is also Yolo Colorhouse – whose water-based paint are Green Seal Certified, or Green Planet Paints – whose soy-based products with clay formations are made from plants and minerals. Failing that, there is always good Old-Fashioned Milk Paint who has been providing multihued help since the mid-1970s. When it comes to wallpaper, the market is flush with companies providing a depth of horizontal help in every imaginable style, colour and texture. Most major design houses produce or carry a fine selection of wares from which to choose.
In terms of green wall claddings and applications, one need look no further than Omarno’s Palm Panels made from coconut shells, Rex Ceramiche – whose many products contain recycled content and can contribute towards LEED certification, or CaesarStone’s über hip Motivo line which is 97% quartz and definitely pushes the design envelope.
When it comes to sustainable furniture the options are infinite, with many design companies specialising in eco-design, while others continue expand their green offerings. Choosing natural, eco-friendly fixtures is a conscious decision to maintain consistency in sustainability at each stage of the design process. Besides selecting one’s furnishings, there are also chemical-free, hypoallergenic and organic materials for cushioning to add flair to the interior in a sustainable fashion. Alternatively, why source new furniture when the option of reconstruction is available and provides a one-off bespoke appeal? Furniture handcrafted from old wood, antiques or refaced designs can be high-end and provide one-of-a-kind elegance to your interior. Considering responsibly-designed and -crafted furniture has the added benefit of ensuring your health by eliminating potentially dangerous glues, toxins and synthetic materials – encountered when off-gases are released from furniture and into your home – from becoming a part of your living environment.
Energy Star rated appliances ensure high efficiencies, producing savings from 10-50% on energy bills and use significantly less water. Often comprised of recycled stainless steel and available in every imaginable style and colourway, they are the wise choice for the informed style maven. General Electric’s Ecomagination appliances provide elegance and efficiency while Electrolux – an Energy Star Partner of the Year for Product Manufacturing – has a stunning line that provides comforts without compromising your conservation goals.
A luxurious interior does not have to negatively impact the environment, its occupants’ health or compromise on style and comfort. Investing in the creation of an eco-chic abode pay dividends not only by keeping your impact on the environment to a minimum and providing a healthy home, but creates a one-of-a-kind sumptuous space that can be enjoyed with peace of mind.
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