Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Green Design’

HIGH POINT — The American Home Furnishings Alliance is launching a program called Eco3Home that will allow consumers to research information on AHFA members and their products regarding safety, health and environmental stewardship.

It will be anchored by a consumer website, www.eco3home.com, where shoppers will be able to find out about AHFA manufacturer or importer members participating in the program, and also can research a particular piece of furniture in detail.

=================================

So far, very few manufacturers have signed on to this program, but perhaps more will with time, as it becomes known.  The idea is certainly an excellent one, and I hope this program really takes off.

I sure hope that the high end companies like Dessin Fournir, Holly Hunt, and others that I am accustomed to using most frequently will get onto this sort of bandwagon.  There is progress happening in the industry, with more and more attractive furniture being made in green ways, so that environmental responsibility need not mean sacrificing style, but it still hasn’t hit the really top quality goods.

Read Full Post »

WOOL FOR ALL SEASONS

by Wools of New Zealand (photo credits as indicated)

Summertime - and Wool! Photo credit: Wools of New Zealand

What’s the very first thing that comes to mind when you think about wool? I bet it’s not the summer! Wool is known for protecting people from freezing temperatures, yet for over 12,000 years wool has also played an important role in protecting people from heat.

The natural qualities of wool make it more suitable for carpet in climatic extremes than synthetic fibers. In Florida and other regions with both high humidity and temperatures, the

Photo credit: Toxy's Jamstation

advantages of wool’s complex physical structure work as an atmospheric buffer. At times of high humidity, wool fiber can absorb up to 30 percent of its weight in moisture—without feeling damp—then release this moisture when the atmosphere becomes dry again. And when wool fibers are easily spread, as in carpets, they can respond in minutes to changes in ambient humidity. In this way, wool acts as a buffer to reduce peak humidity levels and make those hot summer months more comfortable.

Summer is meant to be enjoyed. It’s the time of year we throw open our windows, fill our vases with fresh flowers, and walk around barefoot. And why shouldn’t we?  There’s nothing like the beauty of the great outdoors. And one of the best ways to capture that “outdoor” feeling is with furnishings and floorcoverings made from natural materials, like wool.

Few floorcoverings are associated as closely with the land as wool. The wool from New Zealand is an environmentally friendly, sustainable fiber that is grown naturally.

Photo credit: joe-ks.com

Because wool is produced from a totally renewable resource—grass—the earth’s natural resources, which are becoming more precious every day, are preserved; unlike synthetics which require energy, and in many cases petroleum, for production.

Photo credit: Canada-photos.com

Another environmental benefit of wool is that it is biodegradable. In soil, wool readily biodegrades to produce nitrogen, sulfur, carbon dioxide and

Photo credit: Brookside Woolen Mill

water, which support the growth of plants and flowers.

Thoughts of blooming flowers also bring to mind the topic of allergies. Wool can help allergy sufferers by absorbing common contaminants and eliminating them from the air. Wool also reacts with harmful gases such as formaldehyde (a common pollutant emitted by building materials), nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide by neutralizing and binding the gases irreversibly in its structure, so everyone…even people with asthma…can breathe a little easier.

Photo credit: Carpet and Rug Institute

In addition to livin’ well, wool makes livin’ easy.  Wool is naturally superior because it has built-in stain resistant features. The scaly structure of the wool fibers holds dirt high on the pile where it can be easily vacuumed. Wet spills can be blotted up quickly as well, leaving more time to enjoy summer activities.

Wool is a fiber for all reasons and all seasons. The many benefits of this amazing fiber help make your world healthier, comfortable, beautiful and more relaxing…all months of the year.

Read Full Post »

Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

For those of you who may live in modular or manufactured (mobile) homes, or are in the market for one, you can now get them all with universal/visitable design features such as level entries, wider hallways, lever handles, larger doorways, varying height kitchen counters, curbless showers, knee spaces at vanities, anti-scald controls, handheld showers, grab bars and blocking for them,  extra space to maneuver in kitchens and baths, task lighting for various task including cooking, and easy to reach thermostats.

Who knew?

South Okangan Modular Homes

It doesn’t look as if they offer knee space for  a wheelchair in the kitchen, 48″ electric outlets and light switches, adjustable height cooktops and sinks, pull-down upper shelves, etc., all of which are important for accessible design for someone in a wheelchair, or particularly short, but perhaps they can be added, or are on the drawing board for the future.  This is certainly an excellent start, though, and some of these elements could probably be retrofitted after purchase, if need be.

And yes, the cute little cottage above is actually a mobile home, believe it or not – a double-wide.  The kitchen below is also in one, although it clearly doesn’t show all of the universal design features.  Click on the images to go to their photo gallery if you want to see more examples, or images of their modular homes.

Some  manufacturers also offer high end finishes such as granite and marble, so you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice luxury just because you buy a home at this price point.  I was  in some mobile homes in my paramedic days that were nicer than many regular homes I’ve seen.  Some also offer triple-wide homes, although I have no idea what universal design elements might be available.

Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

Note:  This is not an endorsement for this manufacturer, as I know nothing else about them.  I’m just very interested that universal design features are now available for this kind of housing, and it’s likely that other manufacturers will follow suit, if they haven’t already.

I also don’t know if they offer formaldehyde-free homes, or if any manufacturer does.  Formaldehyde at least used to be a major component in manufactured homes, so this very ungreen element could be an issue for a lot of people, both for those who are chemically sensitive, as well as those for whom green construction is a priority.  Whether or not it would offset the advantages of the more universal design, if this chemical is still prevalent, would have to be an individual decision, although I certainly hope that these manufacturers are moving in this direction, as it’s the environmentally responsible thing to do.

Photo source: South Okanagan Modular Homes

Read Full Post »

Image from Sparkly Like a Holiday

OK, I admit it.  I’m stealing this topic from Paul Anater, over at Kitchen and Residential Design.  But I’m not going to say the same things.

Yes, I quite agree that chalkboard paint is overdone – and way overdone in several of the images he shows.  It’s old.  It’s boring.  It’s dated.  There are clearly limits to its usefulness, safety, and definitely to its appearance.  Not only can it be toxic when it gets into your food as Paul mentions, but chalk dust can also be a major problem for people who have allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities, so it would not foster an accessible design for people who suffer from such afflictions.  It would also violate universal and visitability design principles, as it could create a similar hazard for other users of the space, particularly visitors whose sensitivities might be unknown.  Chalk dust doesn’t do anything for overall air quality, either, so that lowers the green design reusability quotient of the paint, never mind what the VOC content of it might be.

Now that we’ve looked at the potential health hazards, let’s focus more on the visual elements.

Looking at the images Paul posted, the ones that really offend me the most are the refrigerator fully covered in the dreadful green version of the paint, that huge, frightening expanse of black wall and door, and yes, that hideous kitchen. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Canned Foods (Consumer Reports)

Image courtesy of Consumer Reports

Almost everyone knows by now that many of the refillable water bottles we love are lined with an epoxy-based material that contains carcinogenic chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). Public outcry has resulted in several manufacturers now offering bottles with alternative, non-epoxy-based linings.

What is not quite so well known, however, is that the linings of most food and beverage cans are also this same type of epoxy resin that also contain BPA. This is the chemical that is responsible for the vastly longer shelf lives of canned foods in this day and age, which is why it’s become so ubiquitous.

Consumer Reports recently tested a variety of canned foods for its presence, and found that even organic foods, and those made by manufacturers who make a concerted effort to avoid the epoxy resins still have significant levels of BPA in the food samples tested. Only one manufacturer, Eden, has so far managed to find a source of cans that was even willing to address the problem and attempt to make cans without BPA.

Despite being packed in cans made by the Ball Corp. with the oleo-based material previously known as “corn enamel”, which was common in food can linings prior to the 60s, testing still found measurable levels of BPA in Eden’s foods (although vastly below those found in other brands), suggesting that there may be multiple sources of exposure to the chemical in the food chain, not just in the cans.

You can read the rest of the whole article about this, and learn about the FDA’s new assessments of what a safe level of BPA exposure may be on the Consumer Reports blog.

So should you clean out your kitchen cabinets, throw away all of your canned foods, and never buy any more? In the ideal world, perhaps yes, but we all know that we don’t live in one. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals in the world, though, even found in dust and water samples from all over the world, so at this point, it’s completely unavoidable in the environment, and it would be a reasonable assumption that this is one of the additional sources Consumer Reports speculates about. Eliminating BPA from food can linings may help, but until that happens, you can at least dramatically decrease your exposure to it by avoiding canned food wherever possible.

So what does this have to do with interior design?

Kitchen Storage

Kristi Stratton, CountryLiving.com

Well, clearly kitchens are where food is stored and prepared, and most are now designed with as much storage space as possible for both housewares and packaged foods. You may find, however, that as you reduce your reliance on canned goods and other processed foods, that you may need different types of storage, and it may need to be configured somewhat differently. Many things can be packaged in glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic or cans, but both glass and ceramics tend to be a lot heavier and bulkier than cans and plastic containers, and of course will break if dropped, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to how your storage is laid out so that they are easily – and safely – accessible. Increased refrigeration space may be required as well, in order to accomm0date a wider range of fresh produce and other foods.

It may be that you won’t actually even need as much space, though, because the shorter shelf lives of fresh foods and those that come in jars instead of cans means you’ll probably be shopping more often, but for smaller quantities. Or perhaps you’ll start buying in bulk and doing your own canning and preserving.

Well Stocked Pantry with Preserved Foods

Library of Congress via TheSustainableKitchen.com

You’ll be chopping up more things, so ensuring adequate preparation space that suits your needs and ideally allows you to work while seated as well as standing will be useful.

You may need or want additional cooktop burners or additional and innovative cooking sources like the marvelous new steam or combination steam/convection ovens. Steaming is one of the best possible ways to prepare food, locking in both nutrients and moisture, and these ovens make it so incredibly convenient that you wouldn’t believe it.

Miele Steam Oven

Miele Steam Oven

And because it’s healthier for both you and the environment, avoiding canned foods and learning to make your own fresh, more healthful meals from scratch, you’ll also be being much more green. True sustainable design doesn’t end with the cabinets and other finishes used; it translates through to how the space is used, how waste is removed, and much, much more.

So, if you’re designing a new kitchen, you’ll need to take these changing food preparation habits into account, and communicate your desires to your designer, so that the space can be optimized for food preparation patterns that are less common today than they used to be, and with which you yourself may not yet be as familiar with the requirements of and ways to optimize.

Read Full Post »

9119_B52_rgb

(ARA) – When you think of the colors associated with fall, green doesn’t necessarily come to mind. Environmentally speaking, however, it should. There’s no better time than now to lessen your home’s impact on the environment and change the way you decorate and live. So, why not go green this fall? It’s not nearly as difficult to become earth-friendly as you might think.

“From products that contribute to good indoor air quality to ones that truly reflect the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra, the number of affordable green interior decorating products has literally exploded within the past five years,” says Donna Schroeder, Dutch Boy color marketing and design manager.9119_B53_rgb

These days, you can find stylish, eco-friendly design elements for every room in the house. And, contrary to popular belief, going green doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style for sustainability. The two can coexist quite effortlessly.

You can start simple by dressing your bed in luxurious sheets, throws and comforters made from fabrics such as rich, renewable bamboo or soft, organic cotton. Cover your floors with formaldehyde-free carpets constructed of recycled fibers or select a natural material, like stone, slate or even concrete. Then, hang energy-efficient window treatments with high insulation and shading properties.

Don’t stop there. Spice up your tired sofa with a design-forward slipcover and throw pillows crafted from 100 percent recycled materials. Add bright recycled glass plates and serving pieces to your china cabinet. Buy furniture made from sustainably harvested wood or, better yet, visit local secondhand shops and repurpose. Or, look around your own home and see what you already have that can be adapted for a new use. You’d be surprised what a little creativity and some good old-fashioned elbow grease can do.

If you’re looking to add bold, fun color, paint fits perfectly into this overall green scheme. It’s an inexpensive, effective and, most importantly, environmentally-minded way to change the look and feel of an entire room. Many paint manufacturers now offer coatings that contain few, if any, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or vapors that are released from paint as it dries.

Using paints formulated without VOCs, such as Dutch Boy’s new Refresh interior paint with exclusive odor-eliminating Arm & Hammer technology, takes your home one step closer to reducing your environmental impact while leaving your interior looking fresh, modern and filled with personality.

Many home improvement products, including Refresh, are also Indoor Air Quality certified by The GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, a nonprofit, industry-independent organization that certifies indoor products that meet satisfactory indoor air emissions standards.

Keep in mind that greening your home, inside or out, doesn’t happen in a matter of minutes or even overnight. It’s an ongoing process. The limit to how green your home can be is up to how willing you are to adjust your lifestyle. The choice is yours. “It doesn’t take any grand gestures to start going green,” Schroeder says. “Tiny changes add up to make a big overall impact on the environment.”

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Read Full Post »

Tax incentives proposed for home furnishings purchases

Bill would give deductions, credits to consumers, retailers

Larry Thomas — Furniture Today, July 31, 2009

WASHINGTON — Two Georgia congressmen have filed a bill that would give a variety of income tax deductions and credits to consumers and retailers who purchase home furnishings and building products.

Known as the Home Improvements Revitalize the Economy (Hire) Act of 2009, the bill is designed to stimulate two industries the congressmen say have $67 billion in economic value.

“Not only would this bill help stimulate the manufacturing market for home furnishings and building products, it would save and create retail jobs, generate billions in revenue and increase home values at a time when we really need a boost,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat who is co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Rep. Nathan Deal.

The bill would provide a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for families with household income of $300,000 or less who purchase qualifying home furnishings or building products through Dec.31, 2011.

The deduction could be taken even if the taxpayer doesn’t itemize other deductions.

For lower income families, the bill allows a tax credit of up to $500 for qualifying purchases. The income ceiling for the credit was not immediately clear.

In addition, retailers and contractors who purchase home furnishings and building products for resale to consumers are eligible for a tax credit of 10% of the wholesale purchase price. The credit would be capped at $10,000 annually.

The applicable deduction or credit would be doubled if the products meet recognized environmental standards such as Energy Star or LEED, according to the bill.

The bill defines qualified building products and home furnishings as those which are used in the taxpayer’s principal residence and installed within six months of the purchase date. Electronics, appliances, housewares, artwork, photographs and “other home decorations” are not eligible for any of the proposed deductions or credits.

The measure has been endorsed by the International Sleep Products Assn., the American Home Furnishings Alliance and the National Home Furnishings Assn.

The three groups are among 14 trade associations that make up the American Home Furnishings and Building Products Coalition, which was formed last December.

=======================================================================================

Even without tax incentives, and even if you don’t live in Georgia, this is a great time to invest in at least some of the wonderful new things for your home that you know you’ve been dreaming of!  Not only will prices never be lower (and in some cases, may already be discounted), but it would still help stimulate the economy, which can only benefit us all.  Plus, you’d then get all that enjoyment of your newly redesigned home for years to come!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: