June 25, 2019
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How to decorate your house sustainably

Stock photo | Pexels
Stock photo | Pexels

Step aside, subway tiles and exposed lighting.

According to the home decorating site Decoraid, the coming year will see design trends moving away from the recently popular tech-themed decor to a more natural look featuring materials such as stone or copper. The effect? An organic and serene ambiance that reflects the world outside the home, the site says.

In Maine, that’s never been truer. With an increased focus on materials sourced from within the state, or at least within the country, many Maine-based designers are finding that customers increasingly are looking to create a more sustainable, earth-friendly home.

“Not unlike many other design fields, interior design is intertwined with changing styles and trends,” Michele Zajkowski of Portland-based Ocean View Designs said. “One of the fastest-growing segments of interior design and interior architecture is in the incorporation of ‘green’ design.”

And even more are searching for ways to bring the outside in.

“Our beautiful landscape provides an incredible backdrop for interior design in Maine,” Zajkowski said. “So many people move to Maine for the quality of life that we experience. We are lucky to have small-city living with incredible restaurants, and live close to both the mountains and the ocean.”

But where to start? Bangor Metro recently spoke with two interior designers in Maine to get their take on how Mainers can find their home’s personal style and create a more sustainable livable space.

Discovering your style

For Rachel Ambrose, owner at Home Remedies in Portland, personal style is not something that can be found through a Buzzfeed quiz or flipping through a digital magazine.

“I don’t think you can find your style online,” she said. “I think you have to touch and feel and smell furniture. It’s not something you do on a screen, and it takes talking with people who know what they’re doing.”

Ambrose said many of her clients go 20 or 30 years between decorating or re-furnishing a home and may not be as in touch as she and other interior designers are with changing designs and trends.

“We’re in the business. We do this every day,” she said.

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Working sustainability into design

Designing sustainable spaces doesn’t have to be complicated, Zajkowski said.

Think first about creating a durable and timeless space. Stay with traditional shapes, and stay away from super trendy permanent materials and finishes, such as wood paneling or chevron-patterned tiles, which can be expensive and wasteful to replace.

“Choose quality over quantity, investing in the best sofa you can — one you’ll want to reupholster in later years, not throw in a landfill,” Zajkowski said. “And incorporate heirloom family pieces as you’re able. You can always paint them, restain or reupholster.

For those drafty older homes, or even newer ones, Ambrose encourages clients to consider dressing their windows to keep heat out in the summer and heat in during the winter.

“Windows are wonderful for light, but you need to be able to control that light,” she said. “Shades can be made of all different kinds of materials, some of which are recycled or layered creating a super-insulating feature that look gorgeous.”

Embrace the old (but include the new)

As for working in the heirloom pieces your grandmother passed down, consider giving old furniture a new, more earth-friendly life.

“We can slipcover things, or we have organic fabrics,” Ambrose said. Not to mention, designers are experienced in using repurposed materials such as reclaimed beams or other wood pieces to create unique finishes to ceilings or furniture.

Zajkowski said those classic pieces can help tell a home or family’s story, creating a unique blend of old and new. She fondly recalls pieces such as the upcycled antique candlestick she was able to turn into a lamp or the old lamp she repainted and added custom silk lampshades to.

“I like a house to be collected or tell your story. Perhaps it’s something handed down or a piece you’ve found at an antique flea market — there are always different ways to use things,” she said.

But a word to the wise from Ambrose: Make sure whatever you’re repurposing is not only fashionable but also functional.

“It needs to be comfortable, because just changing a cover isn’t going to make something comfortable,” she said. “And if it’s not comfortable, what’s the point? Then, it needs to have a place in your home and fit in with the rest. Yes, [interior] design is a lot about fashion, but you’ve still got to like it.”

And most importantly, Zajkowki said, take your time.

“Budgets change, and sometimes one room at a time in best,” she said. “As designers we realized people grow and change, styles change, interests change and art may be collected. Our job is to help clients and push them out of their comfort zones to help avoid costly mistakes.”

Shop local and often

Second-hand stores are often moving merchandise on and off the shelves quickly so be sure to check back often. Here are a few places throughout Maine that offer sustainable or repurposed products:

— Bangor Antique Marketplace and Cafe: A two-floor antique store filled with unusual collectibles and furniture including wardrobes, dressers, kitchen items and pottery

— 304 Stillwater Avenue Furniture, Bangor: Custom furniture store specializing in Maine-made solid wood items

— Treasures and Trash Barn, Searsport: An eclectic collection of everything from antique tools to bathtubs and ironwork

— Architectural Antiquities, Harborside: Maine’s oldest Victorian-era architectural dealer specializing in lighting, doors, windows, hardware and fireplace items

— Maine Woodworks, Saco: A social enterprise of the nonprofit Creative Works, Maine Woodworks employs an integrated workforce, made up of people both with and without disabilities

— Portland Architectural Salvage, Portland: A large-scale salvage, antiques and art store has four floors of merchandise, from plumbing to hardware to flooring and windows

This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s April 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.

 



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