Great Green Solutions to 5 Common Design Mistakes

At the height of our consumer binge (not so long ago), marble and granite seemed to be on every homeowner’s wish list. Ubiquitous in high-end housing, marble and granite require a lot of energy to produce and transport and require constant maintenance. And, according to the designers and contractors who participated in this week’s eLocal Blog-off, they’ve lost their luster. Marble and granite are the top two design mistakes cited in “5 Design Mistakes to Avoid Making in Your Home,” a compilation of answers to this week’s blog-off.

The experts say: Don’t use marble; it chips and stains and isn’t as durable as people think. Granite, which must be imported from far away, often needs to be resealed annually.

May we suggest: Check out Natural Home & Garden’s Resource Guide for environmentally friendly countertops made from recycled, reclaimed or natural materials. My personal favorite is Icestone, a composite made from 100 percent recycled glass.

Photo courtesy of Icestone

The experts say: People are afraid of using color, and they fall into a “safe” dull color palette that can become oppressive. Take a risk with some brights and whites.

May we suggest: Check out the deep, rich no-VOC turquoise hues from Olympic Paint that former Natural Home & Garden associate editor Kim Wallace chose for her living room. Healthy paint comes in every color! If that leaves you confused, check out Rebecca Taksel’s excellent article, “5 Steps to a Perfect Pallette.”

Olympic offers a wide array of rich colors. Photo by Kim Wallace

Former Natural Home & Garden associate editor Kim Wallace narrowed her choices to these four turquoise hues. Photo by Kim Wallace

The experts say: Many people disregard their home’s style and period when they decorate. Unless it’s done very carefully, ignoring your home’s style will destroy the original design’s integrity.

May we suggest: At Natural Home & Garden, we’ve always believed that your personal instincts are more important than anything—even designers’ edicts about period, style and appropriate furnishings. Definitely pay attention to your home’s style when you choose furniture and colors, but your home will be most satisfying if you listen to your own instincts. Rebecca Taksel helps you ask your home what it needs in “Natural Home Design: Conversations with Your Home.”

Get quiet and let your home tell you what it needs.

The experts say: Water features can quickly get out of hand. Pools, waterfalls and jetted tubs are often underused, difficult to maintain and a bad return on investment.

May we suggest: If you really want a water feature, go natural! Build a pond following these excellent directions in Mother Earth News.

A natural pond is a healthier way to bring water into your backyard. Photo by Tim Matson

Not feeling quite so ambitious? This sweet tabletop fountain is a simple DIY project that anyone can make, and you can change its contents to reflect your mood of the moment, from energetic in the morning to calmer in the evening. Use this fountain as the focal point for a meditation or self-reflection space—a place where you can be alone, calm and in the moment.

You can change the contents of this tabletop fountain to fit your mood. Photo by Joe Coca


Vanessa S.
Vanessa S6 years ago

great ideas, thanks for the advice

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago


Marina Whitney
Marina Whitney6 years ago

@Heather G: It is just heartbreaking, as you say, to see perfectly beautiful and irreplaceable materials being lost this way. Such unnecessary waste. Sort of like war. I believe Ignorance must be the Root of all Evil. It betrays itself every time. My sympathies.

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago


Darla G.
Darla G.6 years ago

looking at some updates and thanks for the green tips...
of course reducing is better than replacing completely...

Lupe G.
Guadalupe G6 years ago

I cannot afford to make any of these changes even with the green tax reimbursement because it is still way beyond my budget. I will live with what I got!

Chris Ray
Chris R6 years ago

Thanks Robyn!~

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

I've always loved marble - I love it's timeless good taste. It makes me think of the exquite Italian villas and their beauty which lasts for generations.
A few years ago I rented an apartment in West Vancouver. Originally the buildings were very up-market with doormen but with the passing of the years, things changed.
I still physically feel shock and pain at what some up-start designer did to the foyer. They hired demolishers to remove the marble and being ignorant, they chopped it up and dumped it - not even realizing its worth and the possibility of recycling. I was so distraught, I established the current value of the marble at some $30,000 for the materials. That only upset me more, because the current day replacement would be inferior.
Some people have no understanding of value, good taste and the timelessness of marble. The bright upstart - no doubt with a 2-week interior design certificate - replaced the marble with tiny, cheap-looking glass tiles that are normally used for tiling in bathrooms. They kept chipping and their glass edges scratched people - more fell off and the colours were dreadful and dreary. There were endless complaints by residents and an array of unflatering comparisons.
All of us have different cultural values - my despair was further affected when the designer told me that "marble is out of fashion!" Elegant Italian designers would shed tears of despair.

ANA MARIJA R6 years ago

Thank you!

Laure H.
Laure H6 years ago

Love the info on Icestone. I'll keep that in mind if we ever have to build again.

We have a synthetic solid surface in the kitchen - in cheerful white - and since it isn't something that recycles well, I'll stay green by keeping it forever, and if the cabinets beneath them collapse, I'll re-purpose it. I always thought it would useful as window sill material, table tops, back splash material, coasters, workbench tops, etc.

I'm trying to convince dh that we should change from a toxic regular bed for sleeping to fair-trade, cotton Mayan hammocks. They really cradle the body, preventing hot spots, are wonderful in hot weather especially (just add a quilt for winter), are super portable, lovely.

So many healthier paint choices - perfect for living minimally in a joyfully colored space.