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Eco-Friendly Interior Design Materials: Decorating With Green, Sustainable Furniture Choices

Updated on May 7, 2011
Bamboo is considered a renewable resource and is used in making eco-friendly furniture.  Photo distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bamboo_Richelieu.jpg
Bamboo is considered a renewable resource and is used in making eco-friendly furniture. Photo distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bamboo_Richelieu.jpg

Who isn't going green these days? We all want to preserve our natural resources and save, both on materials and on money. Our household furnishings are a great area to apply some of that eco-friendly awareness, especially when we're revamping the interiors.

The good news is that bedroom, living room, kitchen and bath furnishings present many different avenues for eco-friendly consumerism, from fair trade options to renewable materials. Eco-friendly interior design materials are getting easier to find and no longer follow only one style of fashion choices.

They're also getting more affordable. As consumers opt for the recyled, the natural, the organic, the low-impact, and the sustainable, they encourage both a pleasant living environment and an environmentally friendly mode of consumerism.

Here are some tips for making sure your interior design choices remain eco-friendly, from foam-free natural bedroom furnishings to daytime living spaces furnished with sustainable materials.

Bamboo, used in flooring and furniture, is a grass, not a wood.  Photo in the Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cut_Bamboo.jpg
Bamboo, used in flooring and furniture, is a grass, not a wood. Photo in the Public Domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cut_Bamboo.jpg

Tips for Eco-Friendly Home Design

  • When choosing wood furniture, choose wood derived from sustainable resources, such as bamboo or recycled or recovered wood. Steer clear of new wood furniture, both hard woods and soft woods. New wood adds to deforestation. Respect bamboo. Bamboo is actually a grass, though it can be worked like wood, and it grows swiftly, without the use of pesticides.
  • Use recycled furniture whenever possible. Recycled furniture generally goes by the name "antique furniture"--because that's essentially what it is. When considering that 25-year-old sofa you find on the curbside, be wary. But if you find an antique that's mold-free, bug free, available and affordable, and it fits your lifestyle, buy it. What more tried and true way is there to opt for eco-friendly interior design than used furniture?
  • Choose furnishings constructed of sustainable materials made in an environmentally low-impact fashion. Try the weird and bizarre materials--hemp, wheat and sunflower all offer interesting options - and hemp provides more than two times the twine and fabric than cotton and trees do, for the same acreage.
  • Consider wrought iron, recycled plastic and recovered metal for indoor-outdoor furniture. These are eco-friendly and durable.
  • Reject foam whenever possible in furniture that requires cushioning. Foam off-gases--less over time, but still. Opt for beds, futons, sofas and loveseats padded with cotton padding, latex, or kapok -- or designed ergonomically, with curves and contours that banish the necessity of using a plush polyester filler.
  • Inquire of the furniture manufacturer or retailer as to whether the furniture production processes is eco-friendly. Furniture manufactured in a nontoxic way is more likely to be, well, non-toxic. Avoid buying furnishings assembled with toxic epoxies, stains, paints and varnishes.
  • Be practical, not whimsical. Beautiful eco-friendly furniture is still a waste, unless it's functional. And if it's a really functional item, like a dresser or a desk, make sure its design fits with your workflow and personal ergonomics. A desk that you can't work comfortably at for hours is also, ultimately, destined for the waste pile.
  • Select classic styles that you won't want to replace in three years. Low environmental impact means low levels of extravagant consumerism.
  • Look for furniture that's easy to disassemble and repair and from which you can reclaim its parts when it's past its prime.
  • No need to break the bank, but do get quality eco-friendly interior design products. Recall what the Depression-era folk did - they bought furniture that lasted and scorned the habit of frequently replacing disposable furniture. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were eco-friendly before the word even existed.

See the author's disclosure statement regarding compensation for this article.

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