Detox your apartment
A New York City interior designer offers her easy, eco-conscious tips for battling your abode's less-than-clean feeling.
Tue Aug 11 2009
A recycling station that Moore created for a client.
Moore chose to display a client's solar-powered phone charger on a decorative tray.
A reading nook that Moore designed.
An efficient kitchen layout by Moore.
atural fiber towels in a client's bathroom.
Serenity now: A soothing bedroom design.
Moore suggests using soy wax candles to fragrance a room.
Natural touches on a windowsill.
A recycling station that Moore created for a client.
Being in New York City during the muggy, smelly armpit-of-summer months can make one painfully aware of how much crap we breathe in every day: The hot, dirty exhaust from a passing bus; the perfume of decay that emanates from trash cans; the molten black tar that bubbles up in the streets; and the powdery filth that builds up on the inside of one’s windowsills are all evidence of a less-than-pure existence. So we turned to ecologically minded interior designer Amanda Moore, founder of re:place (replacenyc.com) whose clients include Charlie Sheen and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as mere mortals, to help us detox our living space. “I’m not a crazy fanatic about being green,” says Moore. “I have a strong design sense and I’ll listen to my clients’ needs—so if it’s not practical or doesn’t go with their aesthetic, we’ll find another way to create an eco offset.” Phew. “There are so many simple decisions you can make to be more green that don’t feel like sacrifices and don’t have to cost a lot of money,” she adds. In fact, Moore offers a home consultation service called re:visions for eco-savvy, design-minded individuals on a budget. And for you, dear reader, we’ve got tips of the cheapest kind—free.
Change your mattress
Moore delivered a big aha! moment for me: “People don’t realize how much time they spend in their beds, but you lie on your mattress for hours every night, 365 days a year, just breathing in whatever it’s composed of,” says Moore. “Those flame-retardant chemicals that are found in your mattress are toxic—it’s not healthy to breathe that in. If they can combat fires, imagine what it’s doing to your lungs.” Switching to an organically composed mattress will help you breathe easier at night. “Eco-friendly mattresses used to be expensive and out-of-reach for most of us, but then along came Keetsa!” says Moore. “Even if you have a mattress that isn’t ready to be pitched yet, sleeping on a pure surface is more important than the waste factor of replacing a conventional mattress. Try to donate your old mattress somewhere that can clean and reuse it for a good cause so it doesn’t end up in the trash.” Go to keetsa.com for more information.
Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it from Oprah, your roommate and even your mom. There’s a reason: It works. Switching to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) drastically reduces your energy usage, plus they last longer, meaning you’ll save money. “I like the new breed of 'bulb-shaped’ bulbs with a 2700K color temperature rating because of their ability to mimic the warm light of yesterday’s incandescent bulbs, and the fact that they don’t look like a futuristic glass Slinky!” says Moore. She recommends the soft white Alto bulbs by Philips (philips.com).CFLs are available at most hardware stores.
Switch to an eco-friendly paint
Sadly, for most renters, there are multiple coats of toxic paint on their apartment walls, slathered on by the landlord every time a new tenant moves in. “The volatile organic compounds [VOCs] found in most conventional latex paints break down or vaporize, and off-gas into the atmosphere over time,” warns Moore. While there’s not much you can do to combat years of these harmful coatings, if you do choose to paint on a fresh coat, Moore recommends zero-VOC varieties like AFM Safecoat and Green Depot’s brand (222 Bowery between Prince and Spring Sts; 212-226-0444, greendepot.com).
Create a recycling station
“Making the task of collecting and sorting recyclables easier on your family ensures that you will keep up with it,” says Moore. She encourages her clients to recycle and incorporates it into their everyday life by building stations that keep recyclables neat and conveniently located. “If your recycling center has to be out in the open, it’s important to make it as attractive as it is functional. I have three vintage wire bins stacked by my back door for my recyclables,” she says. And for space-conscious apartment dwellers, Moore loves the Simplehuman Pull-out Recycler ($70 at simplehuman.com) that has a bin for trash and one for recycling on the same pull-out track. And, Moore adds, “to keep newspapers and magazines organized and easy to tie up, Green Depot’s metal newspaper bin ($29.95) is genius.” Bins with different colored lids (for paper, glass and plastic) make recyclables easy to sort and transport—just bring the bin down to your building’s communal trash area.
Detox your textiles
This is similar to the mattress idea, and equally as powerful. “Think about the textiles that you come into contact with daily, like rugs, curtains, sheets and bath towels,” encourages Moore. “If they aren’t made from organic fibers and with eco dyes, they may be releasing gases that you’re breathing in and contain harmful dyes that you’re rubbing all over your skin.” It’s not environmentally smart to throw out everything you own and replace it with an eco version, but when it’s time to replace something, consider how close it comes to your body and how often you use it when thinking about buying green. “Choose rugs with natural content like cotton, wool, hemp or grasses like sisal and jute,” advises Moore. Green Depot (greendepot.com) has a nice selection of salvaged rugs, sisal and jute styles, and beautiful wool rugs. Make sure any new rug you have your eye on doesn’t have a PVC-filled backing and always choose a PVC-free rug pad to go under new area rugs.” Moore also likes Earthweave’s carpet products (earthweave.com) and finds a lot of great items at A Happy Planet (ahappyplanet.com).
Clean your air
“I have a historically black thumb,” admits Moore. “But houseplants can purify and greatly improve indoor air quality for very little money. Plus, they add a lively design element.” These ten plants are the most effective all-around in counteracting off-gassed chemicals:
*Dwarf date palm
*Janet Craig Dracaena
*Australian sword fern
Look for these plants at Chelsea Garden Center (580 Eleventh Ave at 44th St; 212-727-7100, chelseagardencenter.com) or Lowe’s (118 Second Ave at 10th St, Gowanus, Brooklyn; 718-249-1151), or check out nycgarden.blogspot.com for a list of garden centers in the city.—ErinWylie