5 Savvy Tips for Implementing Sustainable Décor in Your Home


Use Paint Well

The easiest way to make a big splash with color is to paint the walls. Paint is also a very inexpensive method of redecorating a room. You don’t need much of it. A can or two can make a big difference.

The important point here is to get low-VOC paint. VOCs are volatile organic compounds, organic materials that evaporate easily at room temperature. Unfortunately, organic does not mean safe in this case. Paint can contain formaldehyde, toluene, acetone and other VOCs that irritate eyes and skin and, worse, cause respiratory distress. Luckily, there are a number of low-VOC paints on the market. Get a water-based, low-VOC paint and cleaning up will also be nontoxic.

Try painting one wall. Make it a focal point for the room. Arrange prints, vintage magazine ads, album covers or pages of pressed flowers in interesting combinations. Add a stand of potted plants. Having live plants indoors helps cleanse the air.

Repurpose Your Furniture

Keep your redecorating sustainable by reusing what you already have. An armoire in the bedroom can be refinished or repainted to provide a cabinet for your entertainment center in the living room. Keep the low-VOC rule in mind. Paint removers and varnishes that smell strongly are releasing VOCs. Read the labels to get a safe product. Use with the windows open, always.

Another idea is to reupholster a sofa. Choose a fabric made with natural fibers and dyed with safe, organic dyes. There are many companies that make sustainable fabrics.

Some companies work with indigenous peoples around the world to market their traditional designs woven of wool, cotton and linen. These make great throws or can be made into throw pillows.

Collect Nature

Do you have a habit of picking up shells as you walk on the beach? Perhaps you pocket smooth river stones when you’re hiking. Whatever you collect, show it off. Display the stones in a wicker basket to make a side-table arrangement in your dining room. Add a wicker hamper for linen napkins. Arrange a centerpiece of greenery, which can be collected at any time of year. Holly branches, with their berries, are perfect for the holidays. This provides a fragrant, sustainable and natural touch to your entertaining.

Accent With Natural Fibers

Carpeting is one of the worst VOC offenders. The smell of new carpeting will go away eventually, but until it does, it’s irritating and potentially harmful to breathe. Go for a cotton, wool or silk area rug that has been dyed with sustainable colorants.

Fair trade companies will give you ethical options from around the world. Peruvian weavers, for example, still use natural yarns and dyes in their work. These artisans continue a tradition thousands of years old.

Another option is to look for accent rugs made of recycled materials. They look good, wear well and can be quite pleasant underfoot.

Do With Less

It’s fun to scavenge for used furnishings at thrift shops or on Craigslist and eBay. Institute an in-and-out policy to keep your home sustainable. Don’t collect more than you give away. Declutter now by going through your objets d’art and letting go of the things that no longer suit you. Someone else will make good use of them.

You can give away your unwanted items to community organizations. You can sell them on eBay. In many communities, you can leave them on the curb on pickup days and let passersby take what they will.

It’s pleasant and freeing to make your home sustainable. Surround yourself with an artfully arranged, uncluttered space full of natural materials. Give nature her due.


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