Design green right into your decor
By GERI PARLIN / La Crosse Tribune
The hot new color in home decorating this season is green. No, you don’t have to paint your kitchen green or buy a green couch. But if you want to be hip to the latest trends, you may want to consider a kitchen countertop made of recycled car windshields or think about installing a programmable thermostat.
Interior designer and lifestyle enthusiast Libby Langdon said she is learning to incorporate “green” into her design work. She has joined Better Homes and Gardens and Green Works on The Living Green Tour and Exhibit that is traveling nationwide to educate consumers on how they can make the interior design of their homes better for the environment.
Even though she is new to green design, Langdon said she has discovered some smart solutions for consumers who want to live in a beautiful home that also is eco-friendly.
“What is so exciting about this pro-ject is that before this, I was aware of the green movement but hadn’t incorporated a lot of those elements into my designs. It has been so thrilling to work on this initiative and discover how many beautiful products have been created with the planet in mind to incorporate into interior design.”
Though the tour is not stopping in La Crosse, Langdon was happy to share some of the new products and ideas she has discovered for green living:
n The biggest notion is about repurposing, Langdon said. And the most obvious way of repurposing is to take something you already own and use it in a new way. For her, that meant taking her pine French country furniture and painting it glossy black. It totally changed her space “from French Country to Uber Mod,” Langdon said.
n If you don’t already own a piece for repurposing, then head to the flea market or your favorite thrift shop.
“You take old furniture from flea markets and thrift shops and use them in a completely new way. You’re using something already existing on the planet so trees don’t have to be cut down.”
To demonstrate that for the exhibit, she showed how baby furniture, such as a changing table, can be transformed when your baby grows up. By refacing the changing table and adding new knobs and a mirror, Langdon said, “Then it can be used as a console under a television.”
Or turn a dresser into a vanity.
Your only limit, Langdon said, is your imagination.
“And flea markets are the hip thing. You can take a bunch of different mismatched flea market items, paint with low-toxin paint, and create your own look and make your own style. If you paint a bunch of different items all white or high gloss black,” she said, you have an entirely different but unified look.
— Think beyond the obvious. It’s easy to see how painting a dresser could give it a fresh, new look, Langdon said. Now look around you and start using your imagination. “It’s the notion of taking items that are already on the planet and using them in different ways. Use towel bars as racks in hallways. You have to look at it with an open mind.”
— Turn down the thermostat.
“I have to tell you, I used to be one of those people who would keep my thermostat up. Now, with everything so expensive, I’ve lowered my thermostat and I wear an extra sweater. And I have saved so much money,” Langdon said. “I have a house in Sag Harbor that costs a fortune to heat. It’s kind of nice right now because it’s March and all the great cashmere sweaters are on sale,” she said, so buy yourself a beautiful sweater and wear as it you save money with your lowered thermostat.
And to make it really easy, install a programmable thermostat which can be programmed for a lower temperature while you sleep and while you’re gone from the house. “That’s definitely the way to go.”
— Invest in a good cloth bag and then take it with you to the grocery store. You can use it again and again and it will hold more and not be in danger of ripping like paper and plastic bags. “I have these reusable bags from IKEA. You save so much plastic. I have been doing that for a while. I hate the exercise of bringing in 900 bags from the grocery store. It’s so much easier if you have a few strong, sturdy bags.”
— Instead of a note pad for leaving family members notes, use a ceramic tile and a dry erase marker. That’s less paper to toss and it’s a fun way to leave messages. “People love writing on tiles.”
— Pay bills online and cut down on the amount of mail you receive. “It’s so frustrating how much paper you get in your mailbox.”
— Use a little bit less water. Don’t leave the water running when you’re brushing your teeth and don’t let the shower warm up for five minutes before climbing in.
— Think about green products when you are remodeling or building your house.
“There are a lot of really neat products. I’m crazy about EnviroGLAS in Plano, Texas. He takes tinted car windshields and beer bottles and old toilets and bathtubs and he grinds it up and makes the most beautiful countertops. In the kitchen, I did a countertop with chips of green, brown and clear glass. It costs less than granite and it’s very hip. It is so neat.”
— Readjust your thinking about green building and design. Artists have gotten in on the green movement, Langdon said, and green products are just as beautiful as other home decor products.
“I’m meeting a bunch of different people who are passionate about recycling, passionate about beautiful design. It has to be as beautiful or more beautiful than what’s out there,” she said. “This is not a mud hut with a thatched roof. It’s beautiful, chic and stylish. We had to get the artists into the green movement. They had to care about the aesthetic.”
It’s also becoming more affordable, Langdon said. “We can’t promote this if it is more expensive” than traditional design products.
— One of her favorite new products is a glass mosaic tile made by Susan Jablon Mosaics. “She takes car windshields, grinds them up, and turns them into glass mosaic tile. They’re to die for, in any color you want.”
— Cork and bamboo flooring. “The flooring is beautiful. And the cork is a byproduct of the bottle stopper industry,” she said, so the flooring is making good use of a byproduct. As for bamboo, that’s not even wood. It’s a renewable grass that grows quickly.
— Make it a point to look for green products because they’re more available now than ever. “There are all kinds of things online,” Langdon said. “You can discover things online that your local home improvement store might not think of. You don’t have to look too far to find lots of tips on green building.”
— Don’t be intimidated. Even doing one green thing is better than doing none, Langdon said.
“If everybody starts doing it, it will make a difference. For kids now, when they grow up it’s going to be a way of life. Green is not going away. It went from being a trend to being a lifestyle. This is here to stay. This is going to be normal.”
Geri Parlin can be reached at email@example.com or (608) 791-8225.
Check it out
For more green products and tips, visit these Web sites:
www.enviroglasproducts.com to read more about EnviroGLAS, the Plano, Texas, company that uses waste glass aggregate to make countertops, terrazzo flooring and landscape mulch.
www.ecofriendlyflooring.com to find out about cork, bamboo and other eco-friendly flooring alternatives. The company is woman-owned and is headquartered in Madison, Wis.
www.corkdirect.com for information on cork flooring.
www.plyboo.com for information on plyboo flooring, bamboo flooring and other flooring alternatives.
www.ecofriendly.com for information on recycled metal tiles and recycled glass tiles.
www.susanjablonmosaics.com to check out Jablon’s line of recycled glass mosaics called Organiks. It can be used for countertops, back-splashes, showers, floors, pools and spas. It is water- and fire-resistant.
www.bhg.com for information on how to join Better Homes and Gardens’ Living Green project. You sign up on the Web site and then get tips on how to live green. Yes, they’ll offer you a chance to buy their magazine, but you don’t have to subscribe in order to participate.
About Libby Langdon
She’s an interior designer and expert commentator on HGTV’s “Small Space, Big Style.” She founded Libby Interiors in 2003 and has completed commercial and residential design projects all around the country. She has designed private residences in New York’s Sagaponack and Southampton as well as apartments in New York City and the Rhode Island home of golfer Brad Faxon