What is Ecological Interior Design?


Does being an ecological interior designer mean you use bamboo?  Not quite.  I actually have never specified bamboo in any project.

There are many terms that mean the same thing and are often interchangeable: eco, green and sustainable interior design. 

Ecological design takes a whole systems approach, integrating environmental, social and economic principals.  It takes into account the effect that the design has on an immediate place and the world around it - emphasizing on the micro with an interdependence of the macro. 

By definition, ecological interior design focuses on the quality of life of the inhabitants and the effects of on our greater planet. 

While aesthetics are a natural element to green design, many of the benefits are not even seen, but rather felt.  Improved indoor air quality, toxin elimination and prevention, addressing waste, as well as, water and energy conservation are just a few of the critical elements that spearhead a green project.  Among that, life-cycle analysis of products and materials are critical, while taking into consideration the scale of the project in relation to the client’s needs.  Designing an over-scaled green home is intrinsically counter-intuitive.   Same could be applied for materials that have been shipped long distances.

Designing a green project considers the local economy and the environment, while offering the client exquisite materials to choose from.  The notion that one must live in a straw bale home to have a green space, is a myth of the past.  These days material and product selection for all things green, is on the forefront.  Manufacturers have heeded the call of consumers and are now offering products that are far superior than their counterparts. 

Ecological design takes into account the life-cycle of the products used, where they were sourced, what they were made of, etc.    One of the major facets of ecological interior design is optimal indoor air quality (IAQ).  According to the EPA, indoor air quality is a greater health hazard than outdoor air pollution, with pollutants being up to 100 times higher indoors.  How you may ask?  Your probably familiar with the smell of new carpets, what you are smelling is actually the off-gassing of chemicals.  What people clean their homes with, is usually an arsenal or chemicals, that not only wreak havoc on your and your family's health but also on the environment. Most of our homes contain formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOC's), fragrances and mold, just to name a few contaminants.  Improving indoor air quality, as well as reducing the impact that furniture,  electronics, materials, energy and water have on the environment and our personal health, are just the beginning to having an ecologically sound home.

Somehow over the several decades, since the term "eco" has been coined, it still contains the stigma of being "granola" or being "crunchy", despite magazines like Dwell, working to change that stereotype.  The reality is that there isn't a stereotype for what a green home is,  because, it can be designed in any style.   A sustainable home can be modern, transitional, rustic, electric or even hand-made.

Having a green home may still cost more, initially, yet what you will reap is truly beyond measure.  More and more attention is arriving in the mainstream about the rise in cancer and other diseases, but there is only a marginal amount of media covering the correlation between the toxins in our homes, beauty products, food and clothing that could be the culprit.

In our homes, everything from soft furnishings (think mattresses, pillows, sofas and drapery) to flooring, building materials, paint, electronics and furniture are toxic and affecting our health and the planet's.

So what can we do?  You have already started, by educating yourself.  Having the insight of what to purchase, will only make you a more educated consumer. You already do the research and read reviews, why not take it a step further and research if it is toxic for your family or not. There are amazing online resources and mobile apps that within seconds can provide you with the information you need to make educated decisions.

With our dwelling being our most sacred space, it is imperative to be aware of what we bring home with us.  Common practice use a variety of chemicals in our soft furnishings, carpeting, electronics and fabrics, information that should encourage us to be as discerning as possible when making a purchase.  With a rise in awareness around green living, comes green design – the next step in harmonious living.

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Green design is at the mere inception of this movement and is gaining traction.     Living in a space that is harmonious and free of toxins, no longer resides for people of a certain genre or age group – green design is for the masses!  Despite budget constraints, one can get crafty and eliminate most of the toxins in their space while integrating water and energy tactics. 

These days with so much information at our disposal, there is no excuse to continue to contaminate our health and that of our loved ones in our homes.