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Niche Interiors talks about eco-friendly interior design

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Niche Interiors in San Francisco is a very unusual interior design company. They specialize in “contemporary, eco-friendly design.” We often talk about green, or sustainable, building, but the products and materials you use for the interior design of your home are just as important.

Niche has been featured in magazines like Domaine and Lonny, and they have an awesome blog that you should check out after reading this. We were lucky that Niche’s Jennifer Jones, LEED AP, USGBC, agreed to sit down and answer a few of our questions…

You are experts in eco-friendly interior design. Can you talk about how your philosophy differs from your average interior design firm?

I think what differentiates us is our consideration for the health of our clients and the environment when making design choices. We believe that design can be stylish, functional, and green.

How do you combine your green principles with the need to please your clients? Has there ever been a conflict there?

Each of our projects are tailored to the needs of our clients — some are more concerned with eco-friendly finishes than others. For the clients who want non-toxic upholstery with no chemicals, we design custom upholstery with natural latex foam wrapped in organic wool. We use zero-VOC [Volatile Organic Compounds] paints in all of our projects, and try to source locally as much as possible.

Are you seeing any trends in eco-friendly interior design?

I think the general awareness about eco-friendly design is increasing, which is fantastic! People care more about VOCs and want to know what their furniture is made of and where it comes from. Organic fabrics are popping up everywhere, from showrooms to retailers — another encouraging sign!

There are a lot of homeowners interested in greening their home. But they might not have access to a design firm like yours. Are there some simple steps they can take to make their next interior design purchases more eco-friendly?

Definitely! Paint is the easiest way to go green – Opt for zero VOC paints for an odorless application. Choose wool rugs rather than synthetics, which are often made from nylon, acetate, or polyester. These man-made fibers are highly flammable and are often treated with synthetic chemicals to reduce flammability.  If you’re sensitive to chemicals or odors, off-gassing from newly installed synthetic rugs and carpets may cause headaches, dizziness or nausea.

Opt for furniture made from solid wood such as walnut, teak, oak or maple. Wood furniture is typically held together by basic wood joinery techniques, ensuring a stronger bond and requiring less adhesives, which are the main culprits in harmful VOC emissions. By investing in pieces that will stay with you for many years, you’ll prevent adding to our rapidly growing landfills, and will also avoid using additional resources to replace your original purchase.

Skip the flame retardants! The recently updated California flammability law no longer requires harmful flame retardant chemicals to be added to the foam in upholstered furniture. Be sure to ask retailers if the foam in their furniture contains flame retardants. We are thrilled that many large retailers are starting to make the switch.

As interior designers, when you look at a room, how do you take into account the windows and doors? Does that affect your design recommendations?

The style and size of windows and doors has a direct impact on our choice of window treatments and helps determine furniture placement in a space.

Thanks to Jennifer and Niche Interiors! Tell us, how have you used interior design to make your home more eco-friendly?