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Designing Dilemma Extra!

Ten Decorating Tips for a Healthier, Happier Home

  1. When painting, use specially formulated paints for low odor and low VOC (volatile organic compounds—the stuff EPA regulates to control air pollution) emission. These paints are available in latex flat, eggshell and semi-gloss finishes—so they’re also easy to apply and clean up. One option is Benjamin Moore’s "Pristine EcoSpec" interior paints.


  2. Choose colors carefully in your home—they will affect your emotional and physical states. For example, a soft yellow can evoke feelings of happiness and warmth, while a harsh yellow can cause uneasiness in a room. Bright colors are stimulating—perfect for a dining or playroom, while warm neutrals are calming and serene and give off a quiet luxury in bedrooms and living rooms. Know the effect you are going for in each room before deciding on colors. You can also consult paint stores and reference books in your library.


  3. Make your flooring allergy proof and chemical free. Use water-based, rather than oil-based, finishes on your hardwood floors to limit chemical odors and fumes if refinishing. Or, if installing new floors, choose pre-finished hardwood that requires no sanding or top coating so you won't bring unwelcome dust and chemicals into your home. Consider cotton area rugs instead of wool or synthetics for rooms that require more than just a bare floor. They're soft, colorful, inexpensive, less likely to cause an allergic reaction than wool and have none of the chemical odor usually associated with synthetic carpets.


  4. Limit household dust and improve indoor air quality by factoring in a sleek, new air purifier to your decorating budget. According to the EPA, indoor air quality is the worst environmental problem in the country—responsible for more respiratory problems than any other source. New air purifiers are made to blend in with your décor, run quietly and cost just pennies to operate a month. Beside the health benefits, a dust and odor free home will extend the life of your fabrics and soft furnishings.


  5. Soft Roman-fold shades made from inexpensive natural duck cloth (a heavy weight cotton), linen or woven reeds and grasses look good on windows and many styles provide ample light control and privacy. Best of all, they’re all natural and easy to clean with a vacuum attachment.


  6. Be green—literally—with foliage and flower arrangements. They’re an economical way to add vibrant color, interest and texture to room décor. Choose plants and flowers with low allergy potential such as ivy, ferns, snap dragons, viola tricolour, pansies, impatiens, lobelia, petunia, periwinkle, alyssum, begonia, clematis, columbine, crocus, daffodil, daisy, dusty miller, geranium, hosta, iris, lily, narcissus, phlox, rose, salvia, sunflower, tulip, verbena and zinnia. An empty corner or table top filled with plants and flowers in decorative pots and baskets is not only pleasing to the eye, but provides an extra ration of beneficial oxygen.


  7. Removing street shoes at the door keeps the petrochemicals in street tar and resurfacing materials from moving through your home. Purchase a large decorative basket with a washable cloth liner or purchase a wooden shoe tray to leave at the door and hold shoes. Your floors will not only be "healthier”, they will last longer and look better.


  8. Maximize storage space and increase the value of your home by installing cedar shelving in your closets. You’ll not only protect your wardrobe, but you’ll also eliminate the need for foul smelling, chemical laden mothballs.


  9. Light can drastically impact your mood and your health. If you suffer from seasonal mood disorders including stress, anxiety or depression, bring full spectrum light fixtures and light bulbs into your home. You’ll reduce fatigue and irritability because full spectrum light reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone secreted naturally in our bodies. Along with many other documented health benefits, full spectrum light slows the aging of eye retinas and promotes a feeling of well being. This is because, unlike conventional fluorescent and incandescent lighting, full spectrum light is like natural daylight-it has the same wavelengths of color, and in the same proportions, as a naturally occurring rainbow. Most indoor lighting is yellow/orange, from the narrowest part of the light spectrum. In addition, you should look for opportunities to maximize your exposure to natural light. Try moving a work area or breakfast table in front of a window to benefit from the natural light coming through.


  10. Placing unscented pillar candles of varying heights on fireplace grates looks great in a woodburning fireplace that you don’t use. They create a warm and inviting atmosphere when lit. Today’s gas and electric fireplace inserts are also wonderful, clean burning alternatives- without the smoke and smell that wood fires generate- and can be outfitted in almost any conventional fireplace.


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