Green Decorating Basics From Linda Woodrum

HGTV Dream Home designer Linda Woodrum shares environmentally friendly decorating tips.


Design by Linda Woodrum

The first thing designer Linda Woodrum wants to make clear is that you can use environmentally friendly decorating, whatever your personal style.

"If you're French country, if you're minimalist, if you're traditional, it doesn't impact your home at all," she says. "You don't have to throw out everything you own and start with a new look. We're going to help you sustain the environment with your own personal style."

Woodrum, who has created the interior designs of all the HGTV Dream Homes, says just doing a little research can help you make a difference in your home. "There are so many magazines now; everything you pick up has information on green homes, and you can read and read and read on the Internet."

Here are some of her suggestions for going green in your home.

Green Design Idea: Kitchens That Care

Woodrum says look for natural materials, such as natural stone countertops. "Think about things that won't end up in landfills and they're probably green. You don't see people pulling out granite counters and throwing them in the local landfills."

Look for cabinets made with sustainable woods such as eucalyptus or bamboo, or find cabinets made from salvaged or recycled wood. You can also save wood by just updating the fronts of your cabinets, instead of replacing everything. Shop for recycled hardware at flea markets or second-hand shops. There are also many manufacturers making tiles now using recycled glass. And make sure all the appliances carry Energy Star ratings.

Green Design Idea: Earth-Friendly Bathrooms

Woodrum says to follow the same guidelines used in the kitchen when choosing cabinetry, counters and tiles for your bath. Look for water-saving showerheads and toilets, and replace or repair any leaking faucets immediately. And look for energy efficient water heaters. Woodrum recommends an instant, tankless hot water heater rather than one large tank serving an entire house. Even if you're not home and no one's using a drop of hot water, a typical water heater can burn through $50 in electricity in one month just keeping the water in the tank hot.

Green Design Idea: Shop Locally

If you're choosing products to put in your home, try to stay local and buy products manufactured within 500 miles or less. "If it has to come from China, you're using a lot more energy getting it to your house than if you chose something made just down the road, or 100 miles down the road."

Green Design Idea: Pay Attention to Indoor Air Quality

"There are a lot of things we bring into our homes that we're not aware of. Some things are obvious, but start questioning all the things that come into your home." Woodrum says look for natural alternatives to items such as cleaning products, paints, furniture materials and pesticides.

Green Design Idea: Keep Landscaping Natural

"Using plants that are native to your area — thus sustainable in your area — are easier to grow," she says. "Choose plants that work within the natural climate and soil conditions to your area." She also says to avoid having a lot of grass. "We don't want to be watering lawns all the time. It's a huge waste of water."

Green Design Idea: Don't Cut Down an Oak Tree to Make a Banister

"It takes 500 years to grow that tree. Bamboo and eucalyptus grow quickly; they’re hard woods and are sustainable. It replaces itself rapidly." But keep in mind the first point about looking for locally sourced products. "If it's bamboo flooring and it's coming from a country that's 500 miles away, that's not as good as buying from a company that's closer."

Green Design Idea: Healthy Living Room and Bedrooms

"A lot of the major carpet manufacturers are working to bring green into the home," Woodrum says. Green carpet is made of natural fibers, usually organically grown cotton and wool, or made from recycled materials. Or she recommends you buying new and shopping for antique rugs and furniture. "Anything antique is green."

You can look for green products to spread or stick to your walls, too. "All the major paint companies are now offering green products. And it's the same for wallpaper."

And try to stay earth friendly when it comes to the little things, like tchotchkes, knick knacks and accessories. "There are a lot of companies out there making fun things out of recycled materials," Woodrum says. But one instance where you don't want to go natural is with coral. "I love coral, but look for companies doing resin castings rather than a big piece of coral that's been ripped out of the ocean. Better to have the resin than to deplete the coral."

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