Green Design: Outdoor Furnishings
Have you been enjoying the lovely spring weather as much as I have? While it never lasts long enough, that perfectly crisp spring air compliments outdoor living so well. Luckily, we live in an area in which the weather compliments outdoor living throughout the summer. Outdoor dining, lounging, and sunning are a major part of the season. It only makes sense to have the perfect furniture pieces to support these leisurely activities.
Surprisingly, purchasing outdoor furniture can be one of the most intimidating decisions for a homeowner. It is a substantial investment for something used only a portion of the year, and depending on the longevity you seek from these items, it can be quite costly. Also, there are so many materials available, the options can be intimidating!
Unlike a living room sofa, you can choose from wood, woven fibers, iron, concrete, plastic, and on and on and on. Products built to withstand nature’s elements aren’t always the most ecofriendly to produce and it can be a tough battle searching for green products when it comes to outdoor furniture.
It isn’t impossible to find resources that take on these issues. Here are a few brands that I have found to help you take a step in the right direction. Remember, as with any green product, there is always give and take. Find the style that best fits within your budget and meets as many green standards as possible—every little bit counts.
Elegant Earth is a company out of Birmingham, Alabama, that is completely committed to sustainability. Many of their items are constructed from concrete, so their longevity is un-paralleled. Completely made in America, they use non-toxic water-based finishes, 90 percent recyclable and biodegradable materials for packaging, and adhere to strict environmental standards. Each piece is constructed with a gorgeous textural quality, giving a nod to the past. It is easy to see inspiration from antiquity in many of their designs. From outdoor planters to tables and more, the casual elegance of each design brings every piece to life. Check out their website at www.elegantearth.com.
A great, affordable collection of outdoor furniture comes from West Elm. Believe it or not, mass-manufacturing isn’t always the enemy of sustainable design. West Elm’s wood products come from FSC certified forests, which means the lumber is harvested from forests in which sustainable practices are used. According to West Elm, the company’s green products are responsibly produced, certified organic, recycled, rapidly renewable, or non-toxic. So while each piece may not be 100 percent green, you can find options at a great price point that are environmentally considerate. Every green item is clearly labeled on their website at www.westelm.com, and they are as clear as possible when labeling how each piece meets different standards. They offer great options for the price conscious!
Palecek Outdoor Furniture is a to-the-trade resource committed to high eco-standards. This company’s designs utilize sustainably harvested rattan and other materials that renew quickly such as wicker and abaca. Implementing ways to conserve energy and resources in the manufacturing process is just as important as the products they create. Relying on water-based finishes for their line of paintable furniture, Palecek is concerned with not only manufacturing, but how products affect the end consumer. From beginning to end, this company is committed to green design, and its products are gorgeous as well. Check out their website at www.palecek.com.
Sometimes all it takes is a little research to figure out the best products to fit your lifestyle. When shopping, always keep in mind the give-and-take needed when searching for beautiful, sustainable, furniture.—By Maggie McClure of Beth Haley Design
Editor’s Note: Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm, focuses on remodeling and revitalizing established homes, as well as creating stimulating, functional, sustainable spaces in new homes. Maggie McClure is an allied member of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers). E-mail your questions to her at email@example.com or visit