Begin by purchasing sustainable furniture, say our experts.

By Rima Suqi
March 16, 2021
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white living room with fireplace and natural wood beams
Credit: Greg Premru

In addition to its foundation, walls, and beams, your home is built on the decisions you make. Some are big ones—replacing the roof or the water heater—while others are smaller, daily choices that arise every time you step in the shower, flick on the lights, or do the laundry. But all of them affect the environment. How you design, fill, and utilize your living room has impact, too.

Take the above space, for example. In this 1897 Massachusetts farmhouse-turned-LEED-home by Green Phoenix Development, the walls are covered in Benjamin Moore Aura paint in White Dove (price dependent on quantity, benjaminmoore.com); the no-VOC formula cut the family's exposure to toxins like benzene. As for the space's other eco-friendly updates? The Pella Architect Series double-paned, double-glazed windows closely match the 19th-century originals they replaced; heart pine salvaged from an old mill was used for the beams and mantel; and live-sawn solid white-oak floors sport a low-VOC matte polyurethane finish. Looking for even more ways to take a sustainable approach to designing and utilizing a living room? Ahead, experts share their best recommendations.

Buy Kinder Furniture

Look for the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) seal. Its top-rated makers include Lee Industries, Cisco Home, Gat Creek, and Room & Board; find more picks at sustainablefurnishings.org. Also consider well-made vintage items, like Knoll tables and Chesterfield sofas, says SFC ambassador and New York City interior designer John Douglas Eason.

Power Down

A surge protector you can turn off with a single switch defangs vampire energy suckers like TVs and audio equipment. No-frills ones cost $20 or less, but for a device you'll want to display, we love Conway Electric's retro-cool designs ($199, rejuvenation.com). They even come in Martha Blue.

Roll Out Eco Rugs

Swap a rubber doormat for sisal or jute. To cover (and insulate) larger areas, lay down a pad made of wool, felt, or plant-based materials (like soybean oil) with Green Label Plus or Greenguard low-chemical-emissions certification. Top it with a 100 percent-wool rug without stain- or waterproofing. Need cleaning tips? We have those ready to go.

Add a Breeze

Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, say the experts at Energy Star. So never run one in an empty space. That said, do use your fans year-round. Just swap the direction they spin with the seasons: counter-clockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. The latter direction produces a gentle updraft, forcing warm air down.

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