1. Let nature guide you to Eco Living
Get inspiration from your natural surroundings while choosing your eco living color palette, advises Erin Langan, a Senior Interior Designer at Callison, the firm that did interiors for the the Silver Chill Spa at the Hotel Terra Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Find vibrant and rich colors in nature. “When working on a project, I will use actual rocks, leaves, and water from the area to match colors for paint, fabric, and textures for a project.” This is also easy to do in your own living space, she says. “Even in cities as dense as New York, you can find magnificent trees and stones to draw inspiration from.” Langan advises bringing a vividly colored leaf to a paint store where they can scan it with the color matching technology for you to then use in your decorating.
2. Engage all of the senses.
When creating a soothing space, sound, smell, taste, and touch are just as important as sight, believes Langan. “I personally love citrus and sage, so I often keep a scent machine, such as Scent Air, on a low setting with a white tea and citrus scent combination in addition to scented candles. I also love the sound of wind, so I use fans and wind chimes indoors.” Those are just two examples of how you can easily engage your other senses in your home.
3. Dim the lights.
One of the easiest ways to create a serene environment is to change the lighting in a room, says Jim Kattman, founder and president of J. Kattman Associates, a full-service interior design firm and one of the interior designers of the award-winning eco-friendly Spa at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York. “Instead of overhead lights, try using floor and tabletop lamps with dimmers to create a softer ambience,” he says. “You’ll save energy, too!”
4. Don’t ignore the floor.
Natural flooring helps create a calm environment, states Kattman. “Use of materials like stone or wood help set the stage. Or, try adding a bamboo matt or a rug made of other natural fibers.”
5. Avoid clutter at all costs.
Keep accessories to a minimum and make sure the pieces you choose aren’t too large for the room. “A calm space is an open space,” says Kattman.
6. Apply aromatherapy.
This is a simple step that spas employ to help create a sense of well being, explains Alisa Spirit of the Wind, a LEED accredited interior designer with Sacred Space Designs. “The essential oils of plants contain highly vibrating energies that stimulate and invigorate us. This is no surprise, as evolutionarily, humans evolved by living in very natural, earthy environments. It is only in the last few hundred years that we have become more separated from our natural world. So there is a great nurturing quality that can be brought into your home by adding soothing, natural scents into your home.” Make sure you purchase organic essential oils.
7. Harbor healthy air.
VOC is an acronym for “Volatile Organic Compounds.” Explains Wind, “These are the aspects of paint, furniture, and materials that ‘off-gas.’ Breathing in these toxins is detrimental to the health of your home and environment.” There are many low-VOC paint choices available today in a full spectrum of colors, simply ask at your local paint store.
8. Choose nurturing colors.
“Color has been noted for millennia as a healing agent,” says Wind. “Blues tend to cool a place and offer a sense of deeper trust and serenity. Reds are stimulating, both to nerves and to the appetite. With this information, consider your space.” In your kitchen, she says, you might want to look at the warmer tones of the color spectrum, because these will stimulate appetite and support a feeling of togetherness, perfect for eating together as a family. If you’re painting your office of study, consider your needs. Do you want to be creative and innovative? If so, consider a blue tone.
9. Balance your color scheme.
As far as color goes, keep in mind a few handy tips, says Wind. “Any large surface is going to carry a lot of weight in a room. These larger surfaces include walls, floors, and countertops. Ideally these surfaces should be the backdrop upon which more one-of-a-kind design elements can be emphasized.” As an example, Wind advises keeping your flooring and wall surfaces to more muted tones, and punching up the color in your lighting fixtures and accessories.
10. Let the sun shine in.
People who are exposed to high levels of artificial light tend to produce stressful levels of the growth and hormone-producing hormone of ACTH, says Wind, who adds that “This has been linked with higher levels of agitation and stress in these people. Increasing natural sunlight, and decreasing exposure to artificial light, can lessen stress. As an additional benefit, sunlight is free, so there are the additional benefits of energy savings and fossil fuel use reduction.”
11. Reuse and re-purpose materials.
“Reusing something for a different use than originally intended is another innovative way to be sustainable,” shares Wind. Why not go through your things and determine those that no longer serve their original purpose? “As you are looking at things to get rid of, consider reusing aspects of these items for a new use. For example if you have an old, run-down shed with the door falling off its hinges, you may choose to replace the shed with a newer one. At this point, instead of sending the shed to the landfill, consider salvaging the old wood and use this to put in a recycled wood floor in your sunroom.”