Interior design today encompasses far more than choosing themes and decoration. “It’s not about just making something look good — it’s about making it feel good,” says Burns Century of Burns Century Design in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Today designers and manufacturers are motivated by a more enlightened and sophisticated clientele to generate materials, products, and design ideas which feature enduring quality, durability, and beauty.
But is it possible to make our interiors healthier spaces using environmentally responsible means of production without compromising these attributes? Interior designers across the country believe we can have the best of both worlds. Here’s how.
Out: Wall-to-wall carpet
In: Eco-friendly flooring
Growing concerns for establishing a healthy environment within the home have led to a revival in solid surface flooring. Stone, tile, bamboo, cork and hardwoods are appealing design elements because they can be accented with everything from jute rugs to elegant Tibetan wool carpets. “Many of us are negatively affected by the allergens trapped in wall to wall carpeting,” says Rowena Finegan, a design consultant and biologist with Eco-Terric in Bozeman, Montana. “As an alternative, we emphasize the beneficial health factors of using cork and reclaimed hardwood flooring.”
Out: Unused patios
In: Outdoor kitchens as entertainment centers
Another popular trend with custom wood home designers, the outdoor kitchen experience can be like a luxurious tailgate party in the woods. A few basic guidelines can help you can build an outdoor kitchen suitable to your site as well as your lifestyle.
- Be sure there’s an open flow pattern between your home and the exterior kitchen. There is always a reason to go back in the house.
- Make sure you have more than one entrance/exit to the cooking space. Outdoor kitchens attract multiple cooks.
- Choose a focal point, typically a wood burning oven or central grill unit. Then build your theme around it.
- Allow for additional seating for larger gatherings by making counter spaces interchangeable as eating spaces.
- Small refrigerators, a sink, and icemaker are also valued additions.
Out: Lackluster kitchen surfaces
In: Artful, natural surfaces that enhance décor and endure just about everything
Hard-wearing and beautiful are two common denominators of today’s latest counter surfaces. Classic favorites such as granite and stainless steel remain in high demand, but there is also a growing market for recycled and environmentally sustainable materials.
Vetrazzo and IceStone are specially engineered products made in part from recycled glass. Not only are these surfaces striking in appearance with their endless color options, but also they are made to endure for decades.
Concrete is well-liked for its streamlined appearance, unlimited design options and earth-friendly manufacturing process. Yet people sometimes shy away from it due to its inherent nature to stain and crack. Manufacturers are developing concrete based products designed to endure like stone.
Out: Chemically-doctored fabrics, rugs, and formal window treatments
In: Organic materials in warm, natural colors
Window treatments are becoming simpler both in style and material. Shades are popular because they can be easily adjusted and many are designed to subtly subdue light without completely darkening a room. Raw materials have appeal because their natural warm hues blend well with wood and stone.
Rugs are definitely in style. Sisals, coir (coconut), sea grass, jute, and mountain grass rugs add flare with their sleek textured appearance. These rugs can endure heavy traffic and debris removal is relatively simple. Kilims, wool, and cotton rugs provide warmth and comfort underfoot while adding brilliant color and decorative accents to any room.
Organic and chemical-free textiles in furnishings and fabrics are desired attributes in today’s custom wood home.
Out: Incandescent bulbs
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) have been around in our VCR and electronic devices for years because they never seem to wear out. New breakthroughs in technology, lower prices and greater availability are now bringing LEDs into our homes for more practical applications, such as lighting for cabinets, floors, and even down lights.
If you are wondering whether or not to take this trend seriously, consider the fact that LEDs last up to 50 times longer than incandescent lights making them extremely energy efficient.
Out: Small rooms with lots of walls
In: Moveable wall and door systems
Companies such as Jeld-Wen, Kolbe, Lanai Doors, and NanaWall have created the ideal solution to bringing the outdoors inside with their innovative folding door systems. Made from either wood or vinyl, these doors offer flexibility for homeowners.
When closed, the doors become a weather-tight wall of windows built to withstand the elements while filling your home with natural light. When open, the doors fold toward the exterior for an unobstructed flow.
Another innovative feature is the interior moveable wall panel. As open areas are expanded, there are still times when a few walls would be a welcome addition. Companies such as 3-Form are creating environmentally friendly partitions using resin-based materials, bamboo, and even water features.
Out: Flat, painted surfaces in every room
In: Wall coverings or natural wood in a myriad of textures with no chemical emissions
Convert your bathroom into a tranquil retreat — cover the walls in exotic weaves of natural grasses found in East Asia.
In larger rooms, enhance the look with the same timeless appeal created on the exterior of the home: log, timber, and stone are all becoming more popular as interior wall options as availability and product lines have expanded. Stone veneers and reclaimed wood are readily available as wall coverings, ceilings, and accent features.
Out: Wires, endless wires
In: Wireless technology and automation
Who needs cumbersome wires when the wireless tidal wave is almost here? Research from the Boston-based IT consultancy Strategy Analytics indicates that homeowners worldwide are going to purchase nearly 950 million wireless home devices, including game consoles, wireless MP3 players, and connected TVs by 2012.
With the touch of a remote you have the ability to control lighting, alarms, music and much more. Research firms near you and find out how you can build a home using the latest in wireless technologies.
Out: Impractical kitchens with continuous cabinets, cluttered countertops and monotone materials
In: Workstations, appliance garages, mixing materials and furniture-styled cabinetry
There is a growing trend toward designing uncluttered kitchens to personally meet the needs and demands of multitasking families. Workstations are redefining kitchen spaces as a greater emphasis is placed on functionality.
Overhead cabinets are obsolete in efficient kitchens. Why have storage space if you can’t access it? Pantries are becoming popular again, but this time with a twist. Instead of vast cluttered closets, people are incorporating working pantries and appliance garages for specific tasks. (Wet bars, offices, and baking stations are a few of the more popular options.)
This story ran longer and with pictures in the Fall issue of Custom Wood Homes, a quarterly magazine.