Since March is the time of year when we start thinking green, whether four leaf clovers or the advent of spring, this month’s focus is on embracing your inner (as in interior) green. Most of us can agree that greening our indoor spaces is a good idea—for the earth, for future generations and for own health and well-being. Therefore our interior design team is continually looking for green design strategies and product options that are readily available, cost-competitive and perhaps most importantly, do not require compromises regarding style, comfort or durability. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s no “one size fits all” option, but instead a balance of pros and cons to determine the best solution for each space. The myriad of opportunities for greening your interiors are far too many to cover here, so for this month’s topic we’ve focused on wall coverings and flooring.
Wall Coverings: Paints and Wallpaper
Today, most of us recognize that the smells of new vinyl, carpets and fresh paint are actually chemicals “off-gassing” or evaporating from the products we’ve applied or installed in our buildings. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, furniture, paint, adhesives, composite woods, carpet and cleaning supplies contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can result in a number of negative health effects. The good news is that low or no VOC products are now readily available and competitively priced. When selecting a paint or adhesive product it’s important to look beyond terms like eco or green in the name and specifically review the VOC level. The lower the VOCs, the better. Generally, a low-VOC paint contains less than 50 g/L before tinting; zero-VOC paint has less than 5 g/L before tinting.
And did you know that latex paint is a recyclable item? Latex paint can be turned in to collection facilities which ship it to paint-recycling facilities such as Amazon Environmental. Similarly, Global Paint for Charity, a nonprofit organization based in Georgia, collects leftover paint from residents and businesses nationwide and uses it for global rehabilitation projects including homes, schools, hospitals, jails and churches for families in developing countries.
Wallpaper is enjoying a return to its former glory, not only for its decorative value but also for its acoustic properties and durability. Digitally-customized wallcoverings are especially popular for today’s commercial applications. Like paints, wallpaper options include products with low VOCs, recycled content and equally important, 100 percent recyclability after use. Many of today’s products are also 100 percent vinyl (PVC)-free. To help make the selection of sustainable wallcoverings easier, the Wallcoverings Association developed Standard NSF/ANSI 342, a third-party certification program which measures the environmental impact of both the manufacturing and distribution of a product, from raw material extraction through disposal.
Other available wall covering options include reclaimed wood or rapidly renewable cork and natural fiber wallcoverings, such as grass cloths which degrade naturally when removed from the wall and thrown away. Arguably the “greenest” option is a green wall, also known as a living wall system. A green wall is comprised of hydroponic plants grown on screen structures attached to the wall. A great example of regenerative design, green walls go beyond sustainable design strategies to limit VOC emissions and instead create a positive impact by actually improving indoor air quality as the plants go through photosynthesis and cleanse the air as they grow.
Flooring: Carpeting and Beyond
Flooring materials, and particularly carpeting, are another potential source of VOCs in our interior spaces. Not too long ago, there were few alternatives to carpeting made from petroleum-based synthetic fibers containing VOCs. Fortunately today there are better options for carpeting as well as other types of flooring. Wool is a natural, beautiful and renewable carpet option that also works well for rug pads, as it reduces noise, inhibits mold and provides insulation. These benefits do come at a price however, since wool is typically more expensive than synthetic alternatives. Other natural options, such as sisal, coir and sea grass, tend to be rougher and less durable than other alternatives to manmade carpet materials.
Polyester (P.E.T) Berber is a durable, spill resistant and economical product that is made of recycled plastic bottles and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. However, it’s important to note that berber can be easily snagged causing it to unravel if not repaired promptly; and it is not as soft to walk on as conventional carpet options. There are a number of carpet tile product options made with renewable, recycled and recyclable content. One of the most appealing benefits of carpet tiles is the ability to easily replace small sections when stains or other problems occur. Carpet tiles still include some synthetic materials, but look for options that meet or exceed the Carpet and Rug Institute’s “Green Label Plus” standards for low VOCs. One carpet company, Bolyu Contract, has also developed Puralex®, a self-renewing, non-toxic fragrance-free odor reducer made from a salt compound which contains no harmful chemical ingredients. According to the company’s website, Puralex reduces odors and room VOCs by breaking down most organic molecules in the air into inert material.
While carpeting in one form or another is definitely the softest “underfoot” option, there are a number of alternatives to consider. Cork, a relatively new flooring option, is an easily-maintainable, fire retardant material that’s warmer and softer than wood, has anti-microbial properties and acts as a natural insect repellent. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, without having to cut down the tree, and grows back every three years. Like wood, cork can be finished in a variety of paints or stains (preferably low or no VOC options) and can last up to 30 years.
When people hear the term linoleum, synthetic vinyl made of chlorinated petrochemicals often comes to mind, but the two are actually very different. Linoleum is made from linseed oil, cork dust, tree resins, recycled wood flour, pigments and ground limestone and is naturally anti-bacterial and biodegradable. Like cork, it is fire retardant and water resistant. Linoleum fell out of favor with the introduction of vinyl in the 1940s, but has reemerged with new vibrant and natural color options and is valued for its easy maintainability and durability. For a really unique option, rubber flooring made from recycled tires is making its way from gymnasiums and playgrounds into kitchens, sunrooms and bathrooms. This versatile, water-resistant option comes in many colors and patterns and provides a comfortable walking surface.
Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas for embracing your inner green. The good news is new products and design concepts are constantly being developed to help make the various indoor spaces where we live, work and play better for us and for generations to come.
An RLPS employees since 1997, Deb Kimmet, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, focuses on commercial interiors. Sustainable design has been her passion for many years and she loves to share her ideas for greening interior spaces.
February is a good time to explore the power and possibilities for going red. Not only is this the time of year for ruby roses and Cupid’s arrows, it’s also the month to “go red for heart health.” Even the experts at the Pantone Color Institute have selected Marsala, “a naturally robust and earthy wine red,” as their 2015 color of the year.
To state the obvious, red is a bold color that draws attention to itself—think fire hydrants or stop signs. Despite its energy and intensity, red can work with almost any color scheme, adding drama, spicing up a neutral palette or drawing attention to features that may have gone unnoticed otherwise. Many designers feel red raises the energy level in a room. According to Better Homes and Gardens, red has been shown to raise blood pressure, speed respiration and increase heart rate. Red is also credited with stimulating the appetite which is why you’ll often find this vibrant color option selected for restaurant interiors.
Red can create the “wow” factor for your rooms in a way that no other color can. However, many people are reluctant to introduce this attention-grabber into their home. Although it’s unlikely to ever be described as a wallflower, the color red can be used in a myriad of ways without overpowering. There’s no need to fear red if you follow a few simple guidelines for utilizing this commanding color with confidence.
- A little red goes a long way. Red accessories and lighting selections are a great choice to perk up any room. Pops of bright red for an accent wall, pillow or throw rug work well for contemporary designs while the same features in a rich burgundy provide a more traditional aesthetic. A bold red accent can also be used to draw attention to specific elements in the room, like painting the inside back of a bookshelf or china cabinet.
- Red is a statement color, so choose carefully. Reds that lean toward orange tones generate energy; while more purplish shades like burgundy or maroon can make a room feel cozy. When combined with other colors, red offers even more versatility. Red with light gray (the new beige) and a few pink accents fosters a soft, feminine style. Red with a touch of brown or purple works well with natural wood tones and will feel warmer than primary red with hints of pink.
- Red can influence the perceived size of your room: Painting your walls red will typically make a room feel more enclosed and intimate. Conversely, limiting this powerhouse to selected areas will highlight features without being overwhelming. Using red on one wall of a long, narrow room can visually minimize the perceived length. Particularly when using red as a bold statement on every wall, balance the richness of the red with soft neutral shades for floors and furnishings. Deep reds often absorb light, making a room feel more enclosed, while brighter reds allow light to bounce off walls for more of an open feeling.
This versatile color can feel contemporary, traditional, rustic, timeless or romantic, depending on the shade and context. Red is a great complement to black or white, a sophisticated, classic combination. However there is no need to limit yourself to this palette. Red highlights can warm up a cool blue and white room, or a combination of neutral beiges and whites with softly patterned burgundy accents can create a relaxing color scheme. A vivacious mix of spicy reds, deep oranges, bright yellows and lime green work well with deep neutral flooring and walls for a lively gathering space like a family room, kitchen or sunroom. Similarly, brick reds work well when used in combination with soft yellows for a country French color scheme. If you want to include a mix of rustic antiques with contemporary elements consider a color scheme of crimson red, deep, rich browns and light tan or beige neutrals to successfully integrate the traditional with the modern.
From crimson, ruby and scarlet to auburn, chestnut and vermilion, there are endless ways to use this warm shade. And if you’re not quite ready to go red, consider pinks, corals or mauves. These alternatives, incorporating a touch of red, offer many of the same opportunities for enlivening and adding dramatic flair to your interiors.
One last bit of trivia about red: According to Benjamin Moore’s Facebook fans, the most popular rooms for red are bedrooms and bath/powder rooms! Some favorite reds are caliente (AF-290), moroccan red (1309), crimson (1299), and confederate red (2080-20).
Abby Stewart, IIDA, has more than 10 years of experience as a commercial interior designer. Her top tip for using red is to keep in mind that small doses are often more effective than large amounts of this strong color.
Adding a bit of sparkle should not be limited to the holidays. The dark and dull days of winter are a great time to consider adding some bling to your interiors. Shiny, reflective, sparkly or shimmery elements can transform a bland or dated space into an exciting and unique environment. Reflective metals, colored glass and shimmery window treatments can add life to interior spaces every day of the year.
For some people, the mere mention of bling conjures images of Liberace and over-the-top theatrical ornamentation. While it is true that a little bit of bling goes a long way, it’s equally true that sparkling and reflective elements offer sophisticated brilliance when used appropriately. Here are some considerations for reinventing a “ho-hum” space by adding bling in a way that expresses your personality and style.
- A great start is adding a few shiny or glowing accessories. Some easy and relatively inexpensive options include replacing old cabinet knobs with glass, mirrored or crystal alternatives, hanging a sparkling, gem-encrusted mirror on a blank wall or simply adding some new throw pillows with metallic threads or colored gemstone detailing.
- Brass is slowly making its way back into the modern design realm – however it’s resurfacing in new forms such as aged bronze or antique brass. To avoid a dated look, we recommend limiting shinier versions of this metal to accessories, decorative lighting elements, mirror frames or curtain rods which typically reflect a new interpretation of the vintage gold look.
- Opportunities for incorporating bling also extend to window treatments where metallic threads are sometimes woven into the fabric or colored gems and metallic studs are added as decorative elements. Introducing a bit of bling is a great option for adding an unexpected, noteworthy element to an otherwise traditional, tailored application. Accessories that sparkle and shine can also be used with tiebacks or as decorative studs on a window valence or the headboard for a bed.
- The recent prevalence of grays in interior design (see our earlier blog) has corresponded with a myriad of new metallic variations of the palette for light fixtures, kitchen backsplashes, decorative accessories and even furniture. Nickel gray provides a chic, neutral look, while attention-grabbing silver supplies more sparkle. You can even mix the types of metals you use to add depth and visual appeal for a variety of design styles and color palettes. Metallic elements can blend seamlessly with natural materials like wood and weathered brick or equally well with sleek, contemporary elements like glass and polished stone.
Bringing on the bling, even if you start with just one item, will help create the “wow” factor for your space. Just keep in mind that these shiny, sparkly attention-getters should be carefully selected to complement and enhance your individual design style. Always start with a foundation of classic pieces and then mix in a few statement items. Limit particularly “trendy” pieces to features that can be changed out fairly easily and inexpensively.
Charlotte Stoudt, IIDA, LEED AP, has 16 years of experience as a commercial interior designer. She believes that a bit of bling helps to create a lasting impression in the spaces she designs. You can see some of her latest inspirations, like those below, on Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/fitnessndesign/.
The center of attention and activity, the Christmas tree embodies the unique combination of nostalgia, good will and hope associated with the holidays. Many of the same ideas that apply to decorating your home are also important to keep in mind for a beautiful tree that expresses your style while fostering holiday spirit for everyone who sees it.
Let there be light
Let your tree truly shine by getting this up-front detail right. The lights are the first thing that should go on your tree – then the garland and finally the ornaments. While there is some debate whether it’s better to start from the top or the bottom of the tree, the most important factor is to make sure you add enough lights to make the tree—and ultimately your ornaments—sparkle. According to Better Homes & Gardens’ website, a general rule of thumb is 100 lights for every foot and a half tree. And depending on the fullness of your tree, double or even triple that amount might be appropriate. When hanging the lights, it’s a good idea to step away and look back at the tree from time to time to make sure they are spaced evenly and that the tree is glowing. Gently push light strands into the branches a bit so the lights can do their job without becoming the center of attention. With the advent of energy-efficient LED lighting, the variety of colors, bulb shapes and sizes has expanded exponentially. Avoid flashing and color changing lights, and stick to a color, shape and size that works with your overall design theme. For example, updated versions of the C7 bulbs many of us grew up with are now readily available to provide a nostalgic twist. Smaller, white or off-white lights are always a safe choice, especially if you want to vary your theme from year to year.
Create a theme
Creating a theme does not mean all your ornaments must match. Just like decorating a room, your tree will look its best with a deliberate effort to limit items to those that complement one another. If there are traditional “must haves” on the tree, structure your theme around those favorites. And if you have too many favorites to narrow down to a cohesive theme, consider varying your theme from year to year. And keep in mind that your tree will truly look its best if your color scheme and design style are consistent with the area where the tree is located.
Your theme can be a unifying color scheme, a design style or simply highlighting a collection of ornaments—whether angels, snowflakes, animals or even sports-themed items. For a traditional theme, focus on simple ornaments, understated garlands and classic reds and greens. Using color combinations like violet and bronze or ice blue and silver work well for a more contemporary aesthetic. For maximum impact, consider limiting your palette to white and silver decorations, shades of red or some another unified combination. However, if a minimalist approach is definitely not your style, you can also use a single color—silver or gold are good options – for base ornaments and garlands to serve as a backdrop that helps tie together a mix of colors and unique ornaments.
Just like when decorating a room, it’s the final touches that can make the difference between mediocre and magical. The first step in creating the “wow” factor is making sure you have enough ornaments. A variety of textures, shapes and scales is also important. Don’t be afraid to mix in some larger items, particularly for basic “filler” ornaments. Not only will these larger ornaments add interest and depth, they can also help reinforce your theme. Also avoid the temptation to hang all ornaments on the tips of the branches. Be sure to place some closer to the trunk to once again add depth and interest. Finally, no matter what your theme is, be sure to include some unique items that have special meaning to you and express your personality. Mix these distinctive ornaments between your thematic elements for a beautiful result that is unique to your holiday celebration.
Derek Perini is a senior designer who has been with RLPS Interiors for 18 years. Take a look at our Facebook page in upcoming weeks to see sample photos of the holiday décor by our interior design group on display at our offices and at several local healthcare facilities.
Not so long ago, beige was the neutral of choice. Today, gray is the “go to” color for fashion, cars, industrial design (like stainless steel appliances), and of course, interiors! This subtle hue has undergone a radical makeover in recent years, eschewing its former dreary and washed-out image to assume an aura of elegance that’s both soothing and chic.
Going gray–whether slate, steel, smoke, silver, stone, the list goes on—is anything but bland. This versatile color option works in just about any setting, whether traditional spaces with dark wood tones or ultra-modern environments with steel and glass accents. Gray can make a space feel warm and cozy or sleek and cool; either way it’s a great choice for a sophisticated, contemporary look. There’s nothing to fear about “going gray” if you keep these tips in mind:
- Gray “plays nicely” with white or black accents, helping to make an elegant statement without clamoring for attention—think quiet class.
- The ultimate neutral, gray looks good with almost any other color—providing depth to subtle hues and making bold tones pop. Use it as a neutral to let a bright color shine or allow shades of gray to take the lead for a calming retreat.
- Gray is a great understated complement in a room where you want to use shades of pink, aqua, peach, lavender and navy. Likewise, gray pairs well with bright hues like yellow green, fuchsia or turquoise or even Pantone’s 2014 color of the year, radiant orchid!
- Warm grays are the best option if you have a lot of polished wood or finishes and accessories with gold or brown tones. Cooler shades of gray may fade away or appear flat next to these tones.
- A deep, saturated gray is a great choice for an accent color, even when used in conjunction with a lighter gray. Just treat dark grays as you would black or navy blue and be careful not to overdo it.
- The undertones that make the various shades of gray interesting can also shift the overall color tone when interacting with your space, and particularly the lighting, so be sure to view as large a sample as possible in the space or at least an area with similar lighting conditions.
Want to hear more about going gray? Give us a call today!
Derek Perini, IIDA is a senior designer who has been with RLPS Interiors for 18 years. His favorite color is yellow–so stay tuned for a future blog!
Not too bland, not too bold, but just the right amount of color will enliven spaces without overwhelming the senses. Our designers can help you master the fundamentals of color theory including the effects of color in different spaces, color layering techniques, the impacts of light and shadow on color and using color as an economical means to define spaces, inspire a theme, calm or excite, support way-finding and enhance safety.