by Guest Blogger, Jennifer Davidson, Allied ASID, LEED AP
You should know about “green design” – the idea that we can design and build in a way that is more in tune with nature; healthier, and more sustainable. While it still is not possible to completely avoid industrially-produced products that are made with chemicals, it is possible to make smarter choices, both as a designer and as a consumer. Here’s how to source a healthier, greener couch or sofa for your home or office.
First, if you haven’t read my earlier post about healthy interiors, you should. It will help you make more informed decisions on a multitude of factors. Once you’re ready to think about healthier furniture, let’s begin with some history.
Graphic courtesy “New York Times”
The state of the industry
A 1975 California standard led to the use of harmful and potentially harmful flame retardant chemicals in furniture and baby products across North America. Greensciencepolicy.org tested the foam of 101 American couches bought between 1984-2010 and found that 85% of the couches contained toxic or inadequately tested flame retardant chemicals in the foam. These chemicals are linked to numerous health and environmental problems.
Graphic courtesy EPA & Tribune Reporting
Flame retardants found in couches
- TDCPP (chlorinated Tris), listed as a carcinogen by California in 2011
- PentaBDE, (pentabrominated diphenyl ether) globally banned due to toxicity and environmental persistence
- Firemaster 550, associated with obesity and anxiety in one animal study
Photo courtesy 2k3db at scientificamerican.com
Furniture manufacturers are making the switch to foam without flame retardants
In 2013 and 2014 the furniture industry reacted to the Prop. 65 listing of TDCPP and California’s revision of flammability standard TB 117. The industry began removing the chemical from furniture products.
A few of the bigger stores started phasing in healthier foam last July. Look for the “TB117-2013″ tag and confirm with a sales representative that the foam doesn’t contain flame retardants, which are not banned from furniture yet, but no longer required.
graphic courtesy greensciencepolicy.org
Soy-based vs. polyester foam
In an upholstered piece of furniture, the cushions need a filler of some kind. Before plastics, our grandparents and their parents used horsehair, feathers, wool or cotton batting, but with the rise of plastics, everything changed. Polyurethane foam was introduced as a cushion component in furniture in 1957 and quickly replaced other products because it was very inexpensive. Polyfoam cushions cost $2 vs. natural latex at $7 or $8.
Polyurethane foam is a by-product of the same process used to make petroleum from crude oil. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers polyurethane foam fabrication facilities potential major sources of hazardous air pollutants including methylene chloride, toluene diisocyanate (TDI), and hydrogen cyanide.
O Ecotextiles tells us that an average queen-sized polyurethane foam mattress covered in polyester fabric loses HALF its weight over ten years of use. Where does the weight go? Polyurethane oxidizes, and it creates “fluff” (dust) which is released into the air and eventually settles in and around your home, and you breathe it in. Some of the chemicals include formaldehyde, styrene, toluene di-isocyanate (TDI), and antimony. Polyfoam breaks down rapidly, resulting in lumpy cushions, and has poor porosity, which traps moisture and results in mold, plus it is extremely flammable. Therefore flame-retardant chemicals are added to its production when used in mattresses and upholstered furniture.
Compare this with a bio-based foam made from soybeans. Companies claim that using soy in polyurethane foam production results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions, requires less energy, and could significantly reduce reliance on petroleum, but it actually contains very little soy. It’s more accurate to call it “polyurethane-based foam with a touch of soy”. Soy foam is not biodegradable either. What’s a consumer to do?
Photo courtesy churchillandsmith.com
There is a viable (and yes, more expensive product choice): Natural latex (rubber). The word “latex” can be confusing for consumers, because it has been used to describe both natural and synthetic products. This product can be 100% natural (natural latex) or 100% man-made (derived from petrochemicals) – or it can be a combination of the two. Keep in mind that rubber and latex are the same thing.
Natural latex is breathable, biodegradeable, sustainably harvested, healthier, meaning totally nontoxic, mold/mildew proof, and it lasts longer than polyfoam – some reports say up to 20 times longer. I bet you know which one you should buy, based on this information.
Graphic courtesy Royal Winter Fair Wool
Other healthier construction choices
Now that we’ve considered the foam itself in detail, let’s also briefly examine some elements of a couch and determine which will be the better choices to look for when selecting a “green” sofa.
Foam wrap – look for organic wool batting whenever possible. Wool is a breathable fiber that regulates itself to individual body temperature and really is warm in winter, cool in summer. It is naturally water-resistant, repelling moisture vapor through its fibers and making it resistant to rot, mold and mildew. It is also a rapidly-renewable material that takes little resources to produce.
Frame construction – Choose FSC-certified wood frames and water-based finishes. Avoid nails, choose screws instead for a stronger, more durable hold. If the manufacturer employs corner blocking with glue, ensure that it is water-based glue.
Fabrics – Many manufacturers such as Kravet and Pollack feature green fabric lines that meet strict performance standards, use recycled or sustainable fibers, and have been processed in facilities where wastewater is properly treated. You can also look for Cradle-to-Cradle certified products under Materials for Designers/Textiles to find 10 companies that manufacture textiles which meet C2C Certified standards, and can help you gain LEED points, if you are focused on Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.
Photo courtesy GreenSciencePolicy.org
Return your old foam & keep your sofa – but healthier
The Green Science Policy Institute offers a program called the Safer Sofa Foam Exchange. Take your existing foam inserts which contain flame retardants purchased between 1978-2013 and exchange them for new, healthier foam for about $50 per cushion. The Green Science Policy Institute will use your old foam for testing and research to determine the safest way to dispose of these chemicals, many of which have long half-lives, remaining in the environment for many years. Participating locations include Foam Order in San Francisco, Kay Chesterfield Company in Oakland, The Foam Store of Marin (reach them through the Foam Order site), and Foam and Cushion in Concord. This way you can keep the same sofa that you’ve loved for years, but make sure you’re healthy to keep using it for years longer.
So now that you are armed with an understanding of what your options are, how to make the best choices for you, and how to find healthier furniture choices, I hope you will consider making your next purchase a more sustainable one.
JENNIFER DAVIDSON is a LEED Accredited Professional and holds an M.F.A. in Interior Architecture and Design from the Academy of Art University. She is the Social Media Chair for ASID California North Chapter and consults with interior design professionals on their small business needs. Contact her via makesocialmediaeasy.squarespace.com
No, we’re not trying to make space by shouting fire – we’re announcing the theme of our craft-item-inspired room vignette at the American Craft Council show in San Francisco July 31st to August 2nd!
With more than 230 of the top contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture and home décor artists from across the country, ACC is the largest juried craft show west of the Rockies. For the past few years, ACC has featured a series of interior design vignettes called Make Room: Modern Design Meets Craft, created around and inspired by a craft item. This year’s theme is the 4 elements of Water, Air, Earth and Fire – Kimball’s theme!
Here’s a sneak peak at Kimball’s process:
Designer: Kimball Starr, Allied ASID
Design firm: Kimball Starr Interior Design
Inspirations: Victor DiNovi, Mark L. Hendrickson, and Clark Renfort
Design style: I draw inspiration from colors, textures, and forms found in nature, as well as from gritty urban landscapes. I combine these elements to create exciting urban spaces while maintaining a touchstone to nature, for custom-crafted interiors that fit each homeowner’s lifestyle and sensibility.
Vision: From the destruction that fire wreaks comes renewal and rebirth in nature. This room is a conceptual design of an outdoor “room” in a lava field that illustrates how that transformation can bring forth beauty. I chose these organically shaped pieces so they appear as if they’ve grown up out of the lava bed, like beacons of beauty that rise up after fire.
Come see Kimball’s designs for yourself – along with the 3 other designer vignettes and thousands of hand-crafted pieces, all under one roof!
San Francisco American Craft Council Show
Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center
July 31 – August 2, 2015
Click here for tickets, show info, and artist listings.
Kimball Starr Interior Design is an award-winning San Francisco interior design firm providing home decorating services. Always inspired, Kimball is constantly expressing her elemental drive to design. Put that drive to work for you by contacting Kimball for a consultation today!
Your bedroom is a haven from the rest of the world – a place you feel safe and comfortable. It’s also your most intimate environment, so it should be filled with happy memories and show what makes you, you. If you enjoy traveling, or are inspired by different cultures around the world, you can make your bedroom into a reminder of those travels without leaving the comforts of home. Here are a few international bedroom design ideas that express the personalities and travelogues of their owners.
Kimball Starr Interior Design / photo by Marija Vidal
The patriotic British flag rug brands this bedroom with masculine colors: bold red, blue, and white. The London Red fabric draperies soften the space while defining the feature wall and the metal studded blue leather bed frame is masculine yet sensual. Notice how the bed looks inviting? Make your bed linens soft and appealing so you won’t want to leave your bed!
Heavy woven wool shams play to the country’s crisp cool air reminding you of foggy days, thick sweaters, and snuggling by a roaring fire. Pairing those with crisp white linens, wool herringbone throw blanket, and French Blue pinstriped pillows are reminiscent of a proper British tailored suit. Finish off the bed with an accent pillow embroidered with a quintessential double-decker bus, and a bench could also be added at the foot of the bed, covered in fabric that mimics place name signage such as Haversham Corner or Tottenham Court for a genuine British feel.
Kimball Starr Interior Design / photo by Mirija Vidal
The softer blues, creams and whites of this vintage bungalow bedroom can be either feminine or masculine to celebrate a global style with a relaxed feel. These soft watery blues and creams complement the vintage Broyhill Brasilia dresser, the bedside lamp and the authentic Brazilian carved masks. Various textures of pillows and ethnic patterned bedspread create a warm landing for your eyes and body.
An antique patterned rug makes a comfortable way to get up in the morning, protecting your feet from cold floors. Brazil is the home of Carnival, so an authentic addition might be a feather arrangement reminiscent of the fabulous headdresses worn at Carnival, or add your own fun masks or carved art you find on your very next global beach travels!
Kimball Starr Interior Design / photo by Eric Rorer
Artisan textiles are the focal point of this contemporary bedroom, which are based on the Guatemalan tapestry brought back from the owner’s travels. We hung it right over the headboard as a statement piece, and then upholstered the bench in a similar hand-sewn fabric. The throw blanket was also an Antigua find in the Guatemalan markets, and we had colorful tassels added as a playful fringe. The bedding is finished off with a decorative pillow to visually tie together all the handmade textiles.
Upholstering the bed in an inky blue velvet provides a balance of sensuality and calm to the multiple patterns. Wood tiled drawer fronts on the nightstands paired with glass jug bases for lamps complete the handcrafted style, but balance nicely with a modern aesthetic. An excellent additional choice might be woven baskets, used by locals to carry items to and from market.
Kimball Starr Interior Design / photo by Eric Rorer
While this last photo isn’t a bedroom, it’s an entryway that leads to a bedroom. Entryways are a great way to set the mood of the home, and here we used the client’s art collected from international travels to highlight the Tibetan influence along with a few sculptural pieces. The warm orange wall color glows from lighting that highlights curated artwork. A wonderful cultural addition could be prayer flags hung along the hall ceiling, or Tibetan singing bowls on the table. This entryway makes you feel welcome, wouldn’t you agree?
Now that you have some inspiration, incorporate your own international flavor into your home to express your personality, or contact us and we’ll show you how!
Kimball Starr Interior Design is an award-winning San Francisco interior design firm providing home decorating services. Always ready for the next trip, Kimball is constantly on the lookout for travel design inspiration and new ideas around the globe!
artwork courtesy Blisstree.com
Continuing our series inspired by our love of Mad Men, interior decor and summer cocktails, pairing design and drinks! Following on the heels of our last post on pairing Melon Madness with décor, this edition is a playful and colorful interior that makes entertaining fun and easy.
San Francisco condo living/dining area by Kimball Starr Interior Design / photo by Eric Rorer
Above in this San Francisco condo, custom chartreuse-and-silver custom cabinetry opens to reveal a cocktail bar, perfect for offering guests a drink while they enjoy a movie on the hidden projector or snack at the dining room table flanked by bright seating.
Left: Green iguana courtesy drinksmixer.com / Right: St. Patrick-tini courtesy Anders Ruff
To enjoy this bachelor pad with friends or dates, we recommend the Green Iguana!
- 1/2 part tequila
- 1 part Midori melon liqueur
- 2 parts sweet & sour mix
Mix tequila, midori melon liqueur and sweet and sour mix in a blender. Add ice. Serve in a margarita glass.
Get other pairing ideas by visiting our Pinterest Drinks & Décor Pairings! For a non-alcoholic version, we love St. Patrick-tinis! Mix green Jell-o with vanilla ice cream, and refrigerate overnight or until set and garnish with a lime twist – view the full receipe via our Pinterest.
If you need help designing a space for entertaining, we at Kimball Starr Interior Design are residential design experts! We can help you discover the possibilities of your own property!
Kimball Starr Interior Design is an award-winning San Francisco interior design firm specializing in contemporary interiors for the San Francisco, Peninsula, Marin, and San Jose area. Kimball Starr “changes lives one room at a time” by creating interiors tailored specially for you.
artwork courtesy Blisstree.com
Inspired by our love of Mad Men, interior decor and summer cocktails, introducing a fun series of posts pairing design and drinks! Throughout the summer months we will share with you new pairings to inspire your own entertaining and interior design style combinations.
To kick off this 4th of July holiday weekend, a kicky bungalow patio is paired with melon-infused goodness to celebrate summer breezes and fresh fruit season.
Kimball Starr Interior Design / Photo by Marija Vidal
Above in the Palo Alto backyard, Kimball Starr designed the patio with outdoor furniture made of a contemporary resin material with the look of wicker but much more durable. The patio’s outdoor umbrella has a built-in light, so you can read the paper well after sunset. You’ll never have trouble finding your cocktail with these playful illuminating cube tables that double as additional seating. And the outdoor fabric on these loveseats is designed to last through years of rain, wind and sunlight without fading or becoming frayed – it dries quickly and covers a comfortable marine-grade cushion.
Left: Honey Deuce Cocktail courtesy Grey Goose / Right: Melon Ball Punch courtesy iFood.tv
To enjoy this outdoor space on a warm summer night, we recommend the Honey Deuce, a lovely light cocktail created by Nick Mautone, Master Mixologist for Grey Goose, for the US Open Tennis Championship in 2009. It includes vodka, raspberry liqueur, lemonade and honeydew melon balls for a taste that beats the heat.
- 1 1/4 parts Grey Goose Vodka
- Fresh-squeezed lemonade
- 1/2 part Chambord or premium raspberry liqueur
- Crushed ice
- Honeydew melon balls for garnish
Get other pairing ideas by visiting our Pinterest Drinks & Décor Pairings! For a non-alcoholic version, we love Melon Ball Punch! Mix watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and limes with lemon-lime soda, lemonade and another secret ingredient you can find by visiting our Pinterest.
If you need help designing an indoor-outdoor space for entertaining, or you just want to live outdoors, we at Kimball Starr Interior Design are outdoor living design experts! Have us help you discover the possibilities of your own backyard!
Kimball Starr Interior Design is an award-winning San Francisco interior design firm specializing in contemporary interiors and outdoor living for the San Francisco, Peninsula, Marin, and San Jose area. Kimball Starr “changes lives one room at a time” by creating interiors tailored specially for you.
Our first post on bay windows was a breath of fresh air, so we decided to share more “before & after” ideas from Kimball Starr Interior Design’s portfolio, and how bay windows can be beautiful spaces for relaxing with a little help from your neighborhood designer!
BEFORE: Russian Hill bay window
In San Francisco’s Russian Hill district, this bay window has a fantastic view that feels ignored with the sofa facing away from the window, and the darker sofa combined with the wood paneling makes the sunlit window area feel heavy.
AFTER: Russian Hill Bay Window seating by Kimball Starr Interior Design / photo by Marija Vidal
Kimball Starr’s expert design makeover utilizes this space by replacing the sofa with a custom-designed chaise upholstered in a pale watery-blue. Now the chaise faces the view, and a side table is added for your book and a soft white area rug to bury your feet in.
With a lighter color palette to balance the wood paneling, and a reorientation of the furniture, you’re now encouraged to enjoy the bay window and admire the iconic view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge.
BEFORE: A wide view of the San Francisco loft bay window
A contemporary San Francisco loft located in SOMA has clean lines and modern style but the bay window space was underutilized and not inviting to use.
AFTER: Zen loft bay window as comfortable seating by Kimball Starr Interior Design / photo by Eric Rorer
Expert decorator Kimball Starr knew precisely how to address the dark and empty bay window space! Soften the hard surface with a custom-built window seat in cream upholstery and add colorful throw pillows. Now you can curl up in the window for a midday nap and enjoy the sunshine. And the fabrics are outdoor rated, so they won’t fade from the sun!
Do you have windows that you’re embarrassed to show? Kimball Starr can design a space you’ll love! Contact the award-winning design firm today to transform your home!
Kimball Starr Interior Design is an award-winning San Francisco interior design firm providing home design throughout the SF Bay Area.