Lou Stewart: Sustainable interior design

Sustainable interior design

By Lou Stewart on 03/06/2012

Bob and Joanne Turner were excited to move into their new energy-efficient solar home. As they progressed through the design process, they decided to consider furnishing choices as much as the many other building decisions. This led them to discover the value of sustainable furniture, bedding and finishes. Here is some of what I shared with them.

Natural beds, natural sleep 
Since we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, it makes sense to choose the best bed and bedding available. There are some great all-natural bed choices out there now, using rubber latex, wool and organic cotton.

If you are ready to update your mattress, shop around. Experiment with different styles. Here’s a guiding rule: Be sure to take your time and don’t purchase on your first trip to the store. You need to lie on the bed for a while (at least 20 minutes). Forget that you’re in a store and practice turning over, lying in different positions, especially the one you sleep in. Closing your eyes takes away the distractions of the store. This will help you form a clearer opinion of each bed.

If you aren’t ready to replace your bed, consider a wool topper. These affordable wool pads wick moisture away from your body, keeping you cooler on warm nights. On cool nights, the air pockets between the wool fibers trap your body heat, keeping you warmer and cozier.

When choosing an all-natural bed, look for these materials:

  • Organic cotton offers firm support with natural fibers.
  • Wool is resilient and wicks away moisture to help maintain a comfortable body temperature. It is naturally flame retardant, mold resistant and doesn’t harbor dust mites or bacteria. 
  • Organic hemp is extremely durable and mold and bacteria resistant.
  • Natural latex resists mold, bacteria and dust mites, and provides efficient air circulation and moisture regulation.

What to put on your organic bed? 
A lot of chemicals go into the cultivation and production of cotton fabric. Fortunately, many conscious manufacturers are producing all-organic cotton fabric for the home, as well as other organic natural fiber bedding.

  • Organic Egyptian cotton is durable, soft and sustainable.
  • Bamboo provides superior ventilation and is soft, silky and antimicrobial.
  • Organic linen, while extremely durable, gets softer with use.
  • Organic silk is, simply put, soft and luxurious.

Even though a natural-fiber sheet can wrinkle, it is a better choice than a “permanent press” sheet that use added chemicals to prevent those wrinkles.

Lay your head … on the best pillow 
Neck and shoulder comfort is crucial to a good night’s sleep. The multitude of pillow choices can be overwhelming, so here are a few guidelines and options to help you in your decision.  
Determine which position you sleep in during the majority of the night. Then ask a sales person at a home store to show you the pillows recommended for your style of sleeping. And, most importantly, try them out at the store. Take your time; this is a big decision and you need to really feel each pillow. Be sure to close your eyes when doing this and get into your natural sleep position.

For natural pillows look for ones that are made with any of these materials:

  • Natural latex: hypoallergenic, resilient, conforms to your contours.
  • Wool, also hypoallergenic, is springy, cool and wicks away moisture.
  • Organic cotton: hypoallergenic, cool breathable, will compact over time
  • Buckwheat hulls: hypoallergenic, lightweight and conform to your contours.

Q. What to sit on? A. Eco furniture 
Unfortunately over 90 percent of furniture is made with materials known to cause global warming, respiratory problems, breast cancer and even leukemia over extended periods of time. But times are changing. You can now get sofas and furniture with eco features. Here are a few materials and furniture choices that will keep your interior healthy and earth-friendly:Antiques or vintage pieces are a natural choice as they have passed the sustainability test and can add warmth and elegance to a space.

  • Reclaimed wood or recycled parts.
  • FSC certified wood frames for sofas and chairs.
  • Natural latex or soy foam cushions.
  • Water-based finishes (low-VOC).
  • Organic upholstery fabrics.
  • Look for manufacturers who use “fair-trade” suppliers.
  • Check for a “Greengaurd” certification that ensures furniture is low in toxicity.

As you can see, there are many ways to make your bedroom and home even more sustainable from the inside out. Getting sleepy yet?

When Lou is not sleeping on her fabulous organic latex and wool bed, she is designing sustainable interiors that look terrific and meet her clients’ eco-conscious criteria. For more information visit LouStewart.com or call 450-1320.