Eco-Friendly Interior Design

I have a favorite client to thank for my eco-friendly awareness.

During a meeting a few years back, I shared selections I’d chosen for the home (rug samples, fabric samples, furnishings, the works) with my clients. Again and again, they asked “Are there more sustainable options?”

That got me doing a deep dive into eco-awareness. How do our design choices affect the environment? It also inspired me to incorporate eco-friendly interior design whenever possible.

These clients were amazing, and they pushed us to be more eco-friendly and to have a smaller carbon footprint with every single thing that we brought into their home. Could this be more efficient? Could that be having a second life? Could this be recycled? Could that be a better material that is more eco-friendly and efficient? Can we donate or make sure our old furnishings are being recycled?

After doing some research, I found it became second nature for me to pull together eco-friendly interior design selections. Some would say the project was even more beautiful because it didn’t leave a large carbon footprint. A win-win for everyone.

The laundry room doors and hardware are both vintage. They were found in architectural salvage yards; proof that you don’t need new materials to make a major statement.

Reclaimed doors and hardware. Photography by Agnieszka Korbica

A vintage potting table adds tons of character to the sunroom addition.

During this project, the kitchen became one of the most “green” rooms in the entire home.

The heating grates throughout were found at an architectural salvage yard. The bell jar pendants above the kitchen island are antiques. And the chairs and crystal knobs on the kitchen island are vintage. Soapstone on the surrounding countertops is a green choice because the material was sourced locally on the East Coast.

It’s not easy getting stone out of the earth, so when sourcing materials, find ones that are sourced close to you as that leaves a smaller carbon footprint. All flooring throughout the kitchen is reclaimed old oak.

In the powder room, Stone Plus added a stone remnant counter to the vintage washstand, and we tied everything together with Farrow & Ball wallpaper, which is made with water-based paint and paper sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) accredited suppliers.

This vintage washstand was converted with a bowl sink. Photography by Agnieszka Korbica

Recently, I decided to further hone my skills in eco-friendly interior design, and completed the Sustainable Furnishings Council GREENleader course. It was an intensive course in sustainability, and I received my certification as an Accredited Professional. It provided a ton of detailed information on the environmental issues affecting choices and the wide range of product solutions, most of which don’t cost any more than ordinary ones. It’s simply a matter of knowing the right places to look and the right questions to ask.


Tip #1: Go for natural air purifiers such as indoor plants
Not only will real greenery literally freshen up your space, but that pop of color looks gorgeous in any room. When buying indoor plants, think outside of the usual fiddle-leaf fig (though I love them) or fern options. Aloe Vera is great in the kitchen as it can clear formaldehyde and benzene, which are often byproducts of chemical-based cleaners or paint. Do you bring home a heavy amount of dry cleaning?  Keep a Gerbera Daisy in your room as it helps remove trichloroethylene, which might be coming home with your clothes (note: daisies require a lot of direct sunlight so skip this plant if your room is dark and cozy). The Peace Lily is flowering triple threat. It doesn’t require sunlight, is easy to care for, and is known to remove all three of the most common VOCs:  formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene.

Tip #2: Use UV film on windows
Clear window film helps to keep your home cool during hot summer months and to retain heat during the winter. It also saves your furniture, rugs, and floors from sun damage! An energy efficient solution that saves your bottom line? Yes, please! You’ll still want window treatments for privacy and to set the tone of the space, but UV films are a great place to start.

Tip #3: Opt for low-VOC carpets, rugs, and paints
With the myriad of eco-friendly products available today, there’s no reason to choose ones that off-put gas. Paint stores always carry low- or no-VOC options and you’ll want to ventilate any area that’s being worked on for a few hours. When selecting rugs and carpets, seek out more eco-friendly materials like sisal, wool, or organic cotton.

Tip #4: Swap in compact fluorescent bulbs and LEDs
LED lights are more efficient than traditional lighting, have a longer life span, and don’t have any toxic elements. They’re one of the easiest and most affordable design swaps you can do to go green at home.

Tip #5: Clean with natural products
Ridding your home of unwanted chemicals is easier than it sounds. The internet is full of DIY home cleaners, including some of our favorites, many of which don’t take long to make and last for months.

Tip #6: Reuse antiques
Antique pieces are rich with soul, grit, and age. Plus, accessories and furniture with a past always have a story, and that’s one of my favorite ways to tell a home’s current narrative. The age-old concept of mixing old with new is a fun way to go green at home. First Dibs and Chairish are excellent sites for vintage décor, furniture, and art. Pro tip: Move quickly because items sell out fast.

Sandra Funk is the founder and principal designer of House of Funk, a full-service and online interior design service with offices in New York and New Jersey. This blog originally appeared on her website in August of 2017.