Green Interiors

Home decorating on a budget
by Pamela Portwood

When it comes to refurbishing their homes, most people cannot afford to use the greenest products available for every element in their home. Yet there are ways to update home interiors on a budget.

Here are seven inexpensive ways to green your home and give it a new look.

Move it all around: Before you buy new furniture, shift what you have around. Float the sofa grouping in the room on an angle. Bring that small chest out of the bedroom to use as a television stand. Swap rugs and accent pillows from different rooms. Combine lamps from several areas so that the lamps in the rooms don't match. Everything doesn't have to be symmetrical or match!

Choose a healthy paint: One of the simplest and least expensive ways to create a new look is by painting. Even adding one or two accent walls to a room will make a big difference. Be sure to choose a no-VOC paint. VOCs or volatile organic compounds are toxic chemicals that off gas and generate that "new paint" smell. (Some of the toxins persist even after the smell goes away.)

Change the accessories: The little things do make a difference. Reduce your accessories and clutter for a cleaner look. If moving your existing accessories around doesn't make a difference, visit thrift stores and yard sales for inexpensive pillows, lamps, rugs, dishes, artwork and other accessories. Add plants to animate the space and help purify the air.

Don't toss it, update it: Durable furniture is inherently green. Yet if you've had something for years, the piece can become dated or you may just get tired of looking at it. You can slipcover upholstered furniture to change your style and color scheme. The seats on upholstered dining chairs can be easily reupholstered. Existing wood furniture and cabinetry can be refinished and re-stained with water-based finishes or painted with no- VOC paint.

Use used furniture: Selecting used furniture is a great way to decorate since it keeps furniture out of the landfill. Be careful not to fill your entire house with used furniture, especially antiques, since the older the furniture is, the more likely it is to contain toxins. Pre-1985 mattresses and foam upholstery cushions probably contain PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ether), a toxic fire retardant. If your used or new furniture has exposed plywood or particle board, seal it with a zero-VOC furniture sealant to reduce the off gassing of urea formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

Replace that shower curtain: If you have a plastic shower curtain or shower curtain liner, you should to replace it immediately. That "new shower curtain" smell is caused by off gassing VOCs, and the dangers don't end when the smell stops. Select a polyester shower curtain liner or a plastic one made of PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) rather than the standard, toxic PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Choose a shower curtain made of PEVA, hemp or cotton.

Make it new: Even if you want to use new furnishings, you don't have to buy everything at once. The important thing is to have a plan. Develop a furniture floor plan, a color palette and a style for your home, and then select individual, new pieces that fit your plan. If you just buy one piece that you like at a time, you can end up with a hodgepodge rather than a coherent or stylishly eclectic look.

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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).


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