Eco-Friendly Makeover for a Living Room

A down-to-earth young family set a lofty goal: remodel and decorate their living room in the most eco-friendly way possible, without giving up comfort or blowing the budget.


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Going Green
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Going Green

    When this family decided to take its dated living room from stiff and standoffish to warm and welcoming, green became a guiding principle for an environmentally -friendly upgrade. They made the most eco-conscious choices on the room's prominent elements -- the floor, walls, furniture -- and came out with a room the whole family could enjoy.

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Before: Ready for a Revamp

    Instead of ripping out the existing bookshelves and sending them to a landfill, the built-ins stayed in place. However, the old doors were given to a Habitat for Humanity Restore, which collects cast-off building materials and resells them at a discount to fund its building projects.

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After: Making Arrangements

    With the old doors gone, the built-in got a facelift with new glass-front doors on the upper shelves and solid doors on the bottom cabinets. A pair of armchairs and an upholstered ottoman were clustered for reading or relaxing. To save money, the room was decorated with existing furniture, like the pair of leather armchairs, relocated from other rooms.

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Eco-Friendly Furniture

    New pieces of furniture, like the ottoman, were selected for their versatility and eco-friendly materials. The ottoman's frame is made from certified-sustainable wood and recycled metal springs.

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Paint Choices

    The homeowners felt passionately about air quality, so they chose a paint that contained zero VOCs -- volatile organic compounds, chemicals that give paint an odor and can contribute to poor indoor air quality.

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Style Updates

    In addition to getting a green makeover, new style elements were incorporated to give the room a fresh look. New doors, hardware, and a denim blue paint job took the look of the built-ins from 1960s faux French to sophisticated country.

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Smart Wall Choices

    Instead of simply painting the walls, textural interest was added with plaster made from clay and natural pigments. It costs about the same as wallpaper to install, plus the plaster produces negative ions that repel dust and pollen for cleaner indoor air. A console table made from reclaimed timber also fits with the room's eco-friendly philosophy.

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Think It Through

    When you put in light fixtures, keep in mind how you might rearrange your furniture. Before installing a chandelier in this cozy seating area, the homeowners made sure a table could fit underneath in case they decided to switch things up.

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Give Old Wood New Life

    Salvaged wood touches give the room rustic character that keeps with the eco-friendly theme. Here, reclaimed timber, the same material that was used on the console table, is put to use as an art display shelf.

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Space Configuration

    The long, narrow shape of the living room made arranging furniture a challenge. To combat the cave-like feel of the space, the furniture was arranged in two distinct zones: a reading area around the bookcase (previous slides) and a sitting area next to the fireplace.

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After: Furniture Finesse

    Like the leather armchairs, the old sofa was reused, but was spruced up with a new slipcover. Repurposing furniture not only cuts costs, but also cuts waste. The sofa is positioned in the middle of the room to create boundaries for the two zones on opposite ends of the living room.

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Go Natural

    Simple panels diffuse but don't block natural light. These curtains were sewn from two colors of 100 percent linen, but ready-made options using organic fabrics are available at retail stores or online.

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Accent Wall

    To give the fireplace wall presence, it was clad in salvaged wood, which gives the room rustic character, a trait that is followed through in the accessories and furnishings.

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Reconsider Carpet

    The homeowners wanted a soft spot for the kids to play but knew that most carpeting uses petroleum-based ingredients. They kept looking until they found one made from renewable resources (this carpeting is made from corn sugars), and had it bound into an area rug.

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Light It Up

    The homeowners weren't wild about the light that CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulbs gave until they found the right lampshades. Opaque, cream-colored shades warm up the light and conceal the shape of the bulb.

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Buy Locally

    The reclaimed wood floor the homeowners dreamed off was too pricey, so they invested in U.S.-grown cherry wood, which was certified harvested in an Earth-friendly way. Plus, it had lower transportation costs and a lighter carbon footprint than more exotic rainforest woods.

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