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Green Living Room Design on Any Budget

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Green Living Room Design on Any Budget

By John Brown, Slow Home Studio founder and Hometalk contributor

I recently received an email from a young woman who was very frustrated by the lack of affordable green options for living room design. She has a modest lifestyle and resides with her husband in a small rental apartment in a big city. From what she told me about their life it sounds like they are already doing a lot of things to reduce their environmental footprint. For example, the couple has no car and either walk or use mass transit. They rarely eat out, preferring instead to cook at home with fresh ingredients from the local market. They also work for socially responsible companies, choosing to make a difference instead of a big salary. Admirably this couple wants to do still more and right now their focus is on how they can make their living spaces more sustainable.

A quick read of the glossy design magazines and blogs offers little help. They tell us that the answer lies in reclaimed 18th Century floors, FSC certified wood tables, CFC free polyurethane chairs, and artisanal, handmade, free trade everything else. While these are certainly important initiatives to consider, their high cost and associated exclusivity, certainly begs the question of relevancy for this couple, as well as the majority of other people, who simply cannot afford these high design culture options no matter how beautiful or green they may be.††

Look at the Big Picture

My suggestion is to step back and consider the bigger picture about living spaces. Green design, at its core, neednít be about the pedigree of the fixtures and finishes. The simple truth is that a living space that is efficient and a joy to be in is inherently sustainable because it will be effectively and highly used throughout its long life. A dark, poorly proportioned space that is awkward to use and depressing to spend time in is a waste of materials and energy, no matter how green the furniture pieces are that fill it up.

Natural Light and Ventilation

The first design issue to consider is the orientation of the room to the exterior. The couple should try to make sure that their living room has good access to natural light and ventilation. At its simplest, this means having an operable window (or windows) close by. They should be oriented to let an appropriate amount of light into the room without overheating the space and they should be large enough to illuminate the room throughout most of the day without the need for electric lights.† Ideally, there should also be another window in close enough proximity to generate sufficient natural ventilation in order to avoid the need for mechanical air conditioning.

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Read more: Conservation, Crafts & Design, Feng Shui & Organizing, Green Home Decor, Home, Household Hints, Materials & Architecture,

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40 comments

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4:58PM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

Thank you

12:57PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

I love mirrors.

4:18AM PDT on Jun 5, 2011

Thanks Chaya

1:49AM PDT on Jun 4, 2011

cute!

10:00AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

thanks

9:30AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

Mirrors work wonder in any home it makes it look lighter and bigger!

11:09AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

thank you!

9:14AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

I should mention that the room looked smaller because the woodwork throughout the house was dark. The client wanted to keep it as such. So when you can't white out, work up!

9:11AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

I often get frustrated clients who ask me the same question? How can I afford to be green if green items are so costly? As mentioned, refurbishing or reusing furnishings is recycling & you can personalize them to your needs (paint, cut, reshape, place in different function, etc.). Decluttering is esential to feel clean both mentally & physically, while painting your walls is where the drama occurs. I have to gauge the client's idea of "green"-open/airy concept, along with their personal taste, temperament, etc. to select the right colors. I have been lucky so far. Although I personally hate mirrors, I often use them in smaller spaces either to balance or open up a space. For example, my last client's bedroom was so small that only the bed fit in it. One wall housed 2 windows & it's opposite wall was where the doorway was. In order to give the illusion of space & balance, I placed 2 simillar-sized mirrors opposite of the windows & chose a super pale blue (oops paint from Home Depot for $5- I know it wasn't a green brand but it was returned paint that would go wasted otherwise) & carried this color up to the ceiling to give the illusion of height & "sky". Because they wanted a more natural feel in their bedroom, I chose a second-hand store bamboo bed frame & made sure the mirror frames matched. They got white linen curtains & used cheap silver-colored IKEA curtain rods & I tied the curtains with burlap ropes. The only art work in the tin

9:07AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

thanks for sharing.

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