Monday, March 24, 2014

Conservation Monday #7: Living Green for any Design Aesthetic

Although "green living" or sustainability are not design choices themselves, it seems that they have become identifiable with certain decor styles. Sustainable decor conjurers up ideas of hippie or bohemian style, while the idea of living waste free seems like it would only apply to minimalist, modern design.

I love reading Bea Johnson's blog Zero Waste Home, and she has inspired many of my own efforts to consume less. But while I admire her minimalist, white home, it is not my chosen style. I love color, and prefer a cozier feel. I like extra blankets on the couch to curl up with the cat (as Fleck tries to add her own thoughts to this blog by crawling onto the laptop keyboard). And I will admit to still having some inexplicable emotional attachments to otherwise useless things. But that's ok! Today I want to discuss how living an eco-friendly lifestyle is adaptable to any decor style you wish for your home!

Let's start with furniture. The most sustainable furniture choice is one that already exists. Yep, this means used! But used doesn't need to mean grimy thrift store finds that scream 80's.

For instance, my dining table was my grandparents' table. It is a simple, elegant and fairly timeless style. They chose a high quality wood which still looks great. And it has multiple removable leaves so that it can accommodate more people should we ever host a seated dinner party. (The physical constraints of our dining room don't allow for much expansion, but it's a flexible option for later down the line.)

(Please forgive the odd light balance of this picture - it's from sometime last year as I was beginning this blog. Time to take an updated picture of the dining room!)

While we're looking at this picture of the dining room, let's talk about the rest of the furniture there. The chairs were an amazing hand-me-down: my college roommate and awesome friend was given these chairs for free by a neighbor when we first moved into off-campus housing. When we graduated, she was moving back home so gave me the chairs. I'm currently in the process of refinishing them (thesis before painting! thesis before painting!) since they do show their age, but they're still strong and in good condition.

That bookcase holding my cookbooks and serving pieces was Sean's when he was a kid. It actually was bought to match his bed set when we was in high school, but by chance it's a fairly close match to the dining table and it works quite well in here.

And what is on the bookshelf? Mostly hand-me-down cookbooks! We've been given a lot of cookbooks as gifts, some new and some old. It can be fun to go through the old ones, especially the 1970's era "Cooking for Two" books that were passed to us from both sets of parents!

Oh, and the art in the dining room used to belong to my aunt! I actually hadn't realized before typing all of this just how many pieces in this room came to us from other people. Wow! And you can see that my decor is not minimalist at all -- I have many cookbooks that I enjoy going through, and I have beautiful serving pieces that are decor most of the time but handy when I need to use them.

Of course, there are some areas of the home where newer choices are more eco-friendly. One item that I've been reading about lately is the mattress. Many typical mattresses use unsustainable materials as fill, and then use cheap chemical flame retardants. These chemicals offgas as we sleep -- with our faces only a thin layer of fabric away. Organic mattresses may use natural latex or wool, and no chemical flame retardants. Unfortunately, they are considerably more expensive and often require a bed with slats to prevent moisture build up and mold. Since our bed is a platform, but we need the storage it provides and aren't ready to buy a new bed frame and organic mattress, this is something that is just on my wish-list for now!

At the risk of writing a huge essay, I'll end this post now. Hopefully I've given you some ideas on how to translate sustainability and waste-free living into your own design aesthetic. Since there are so many more aspects to talk about (not to mention looking at other decor styles besides my own) I think my Conservation Monday posts for the next few weeks may focus on eco-friendly design. Stay tuned!

And of course, if you have any ideas for green design, please share them in the comments! Have pictures that showcase green living joined with your own design style? Direct me to a blog post of yours and I'd love to feature it!

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