Keep Earth and ethics in mind to create a beautiful, healthy living environmentBy Donna Kato
In an era where we care deeply about our vegetables being locally grown, investigate the mining conditions of our diamond engagement ring and seek out organic cotton onesies for baby, we often aren’t as diligent about the source of our home design choices. Buying tiles, flooring, bedding or carpets with the Earth and ethics in mind has not been as intuitive as walking into a store to choose hormone-free milk. But once we decide to create a home that is ecological and socially responsible, there are a growing number of sources that provide products and materials that can help us attain living environments that are beautiful, comfortable and healthy.
“I’ve seen this trend coming for quite a while, and it’s especially big in California,” says Carol Spence Carr, president of the Peninsula chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.
With more than 40 members who specialize in designing interiors that make sustainability and fair trade high priorities, the chapter hosted an industry event earlier this year at longtime family-owned mattress maker McRoskey’s Palo Alto store, a local business they support.
The seminar explored what it means to design with soul and how to guide those of us who want to practice responsible consumption in our homes as part of our overall commitment to good living.
“The choices we make have a ripple effect,” says Lisa Staprans of Staprans Design in Menlo Park, who believes in questioning where products come from and buying local or from companies that support fair trade.
But, Staprans adds, it doesn’t have to be all serious considerations that zap the fun and frivolity out of design. She says we’re doing our part if we buy glassware in Murano or a sculpture in Paris, as long as we know we’re patronizing local artists or helping to keep a culture alive.
People who design their homes with sustainability in mind tend to choose elements that don’t rely on styles or colors that go in and out of fashion, says Carol Woodward, a Saratoga interior designer. So for those who aim for a timeless look to their décor, she says, sustainability is good because it “ will maintain its look and design longer.”
Lisa Staprans says there are two questions to ask about the origin of an item or materials you’re considering:
Dana Greason, who represents Odegard, a carpet and furniture company in San Francisco, says the carpet-weaving industry in Asia and Africa is among the worst offenders when it comes to child labor. Odegard’s mission is to be “socially responsible and environmentally sensitive” and guarantee that all the carpets come to them under fair-trade practices and that even the sheep and sheep shearers are treated with dignity. Other carpet importers should be able to do the same in being able to assure customers that the weavers make a decent living and are treated humanely while making the rugs and carpets.
Kathleen Redmond of Magnolia Lane in South San Francisco wants doubters who don’t believe beautiful design can be achieved with repurposed, organic or green products to give the notion a second chance. At her home furnishings store, she’s used vintage lace on hemp pillows and made custom window treatments and bedding from “eco-fabrics” such as organic cotton, wool, silk, recycled poly and soy linen that are environmentally safe and manufactured under healthy working conditions.
Taja Dileonardi, co-owner with Nina Boeddeker of Ecohome Improvement in Berkeley, says most people walk into the store already green-minded. Her goal is to discover the scope of the project they have in mind so that she can steer them toward the right paint, flooring, countertops and other products the store offers. Her top three tips:
Top, Ecohome Improvement tile made of recycled materials. Bottom, a Lisa Staprans kitchen with ash and claro walnut cabinets, sandblasted glass backsplash, and concrete countertops.
Odegard ensures that the carpets, rugs and other furnishings it sells are from sources and countries that don’t mistreat animals or workers. The company is extra vigilant and proactive about child labor abuses.
At Magnolia Lane, vintage lace is repurposed into a pillow. Organic cotton bedding is often made from organic hemp that come from closely monitored co-ops in China.
Going green, sustainable and using recycled materials are all possible in the paints, tiles and flooring available at Ecohome Improvement in Berkeley.
Category: Home & Design