Dwell on Design: Tips for Sustainable Interiors

Dwell on Design: Tips for Sustainable Interiors

Laure Joliet
Jun 3, 2008

Have you signed up for your free pass to Dwell on Design yet? Not only will there be loads of design to check out, but there is a ton of focus on sustainable and green living. One of our very own smallest coolest entrants, Rachel (from Rachel's Marina Vintage Studio) is giving a lecture on sustainable interiors this friday. Check out a preview of her tips for staying green during a renovation, getting adhesive off a concrete floor and her favorite resources right here:


Rachel runs eTTa Designs an LA based interior Design firm. In her own home (pictured up top) she's stayed green largely due to using vintage pieces instead of buying new. For larger projects here's how she stays green:

The term 'sustainable interiors' can be misleading because it describes only part of the picture. Claiming that a project or renovation is green, sustainable or eco-friendly, may seem like a wonderful thing to boast but it alone doesn't define a space.

1) Renovations
One of the first things to do when starting a renovation project is to plan for the proper disposal of whatever will be removed. This means: recycling demolition debris through a service like Looney Bins or in some cases a better solution is to hire someone like The ReUse People to deconstruct your project and take away all materials intact to be sold at their warehouse. Your tax deductions for the donation of those materials may offset the cost of deconstruction which takes a little longer than demolition, but shouldn't be a problem with proper planning.

The The ReUse People's warehouse is a terrific place to buy building materials at a fraction of the cost of new. For commercial projects, check with the city to find out who they require you to use. (For the eco-friendly nail salon we completed recently, we were instructed to use Consolidated Disposal Services.)

2) Planning the Design: Use what's already there.
It's important to embrace the existing conditions and make as few structural changes as possible (as long as it makes sense to the project). This creates less waste and can also decrease the cost and energy usage. For the nail salon, we kept the existing window and door openings and added new metal frames to give it a fresh and clean look, added clerestory windows for cross-ventilation with clerestory windows in the back), and added fluted glass for privacy. We re-used an existing exterior light fixture which was cleaned up and re-installed with a flourescent bulb. To remove existing paint and stains from a fixture you wish to re-use, try SoyClean's Paint Stripper .

We also discovered a wonderful concrete floor hiding underneath the wall-to-wall carpet. To remove remaining carpet adhesive, use something like Franmar's BEAN-e-doo and enhance the concrete finish with a product from EcoProcote.

3) New Materials
When selecting new materials and finishes, consider not only the manufacturer's 'green' claim, but also the product's life cycle and who manufactures it and where. For example, recyclable glass tile from Sandhill Industries is not only made of 100% recycled glass, the energy used to make it is less than 1/2 that required to make ceramic tile and 1/4 that of cast glass tile.

Choosing the right green product usually requires weighing the pros and cons just like with any product. For example, at $29/SF, the Sandhill glass tile may sound expensive, but consider covering a smaller area with this special tile or use it more generously and hold back on something else. Also consider the associated savings with benefits of 'green' products, like health, durability, sustainability and curb appeal.

Thanks Rachel!

For more tips on how to create a more sustainable, beautiful and effective interior, attend the panel discussion on sustainable interiors Fri June 6th at noon, part of Dwell on Design's conference and exhibit June 4-8.

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