Don’t Be Overwhelmed by Green Design Choices

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Green Design: Overwhelmed? Don’t Be!

To many homeowners, the idea of using green building products can seem overwhelming. They see the multitude of options and potential expense, wondering, “How much is too much? How much is too little?”

My job is to convince homeowners that using green building materials doesn’t have to be overwhelming at all! Green construction is an exciting frontier, filled with constant innovation and changes. As we locate new ways to renew waste and redevelop dated building systems, the world of “green design” will continue to be at the forefront of sustainable practices.

Because there are so many aspects of green design, I understand how easy it can be to become overwhelmed. As a designer, I am constantly seeing new products, and it is necessary to wade through the waters to find what is worthwhile. It is easiest to determine the steps to green design from the ground up, as a home is built.

Let’s start with floors—if you are in a home with hardwoods, consider refinishing with water-based stains and sealers. If you are applying new floors in your home, consider a renewable resource like cork, which is easy on your feet, as well a green material. Do you have carpet to replace? Corn carpet is incredibly soft, widely available, and affordable. Plus, almost any stain can be removed from it.

Once your floors are in place, move up the walls to paint. No-VOC paint is the easiest, most affordable way to incorporate green living. Who wants to smell the paint anyway? This option is readily available in home improvement stores, and any qualified painter will gladly use it. At one time, the darker pigmented colors were more difficult to replicate, but that is no longer the case.

beth_haley_red_rock_tileNext, let’s consider cabinets, which themselves connect to most major green products. Countertops, most notably. Today there are countertops made from quartz, paper, concrete, glass, plastic, and other materials. Quartz is my favorite option, as it withstands heat, doesn’t need to be sealed, and is available in every color under the moon. It is durable and many companies, including Cambria, are GREENGUARD certified, which means they implement sustainable product practices.

The cabinets themselves should be constructed locally, of formaldehyde-free, FSC-certified woods if at all possible. Or, you can refinish your existing cabinets for a fresh, new look.

As always, Energy Star appliances are a no-brainer option for kitchens. Backsplashes can easily be designed with recycled tile, be it glass or ceramic. You could even consider using tile handmade locally, such as Red Rock here in Nashville.

Sometimes “green” means being aware of the transportation required for shipping—selecting a local resource saves energy and money. In bathrooms, consider low-flow showerheads and dual-flush toilets. A lot of water is wasted in the bathroom, and these are very simple and affordable solutions. You can install touch faucets that help eliminate water waste.

That leaves us with the ceiling, which incorporates lighting, a favorite topic among the designers at our office. We know that LED bulbs are the way of the future. Prices are steadily dropping and the life of these bulbs cannot be beat. Color rendition is continuing to improve and, as it does, we can expect a replication of the softer, glowing Edison bulb that we love so much. Look for dim-mable 2700K bulbs for the best color.

Once a home’s components are broken down, you can see that green design doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It is easy and affordable. If you select areas that will benefit your own home and lifestyle, you will see it’s not difficult to “ go green.” Every small step is a move in the right direction!

—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 or visit

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