When you like to shop as much as I do, being an ethical consumer can be expensive. The fact is that if you want to buy new things that are both stylish and sustainably produced with quality materials, it'll cost you. All well and good when the bank balance is healthy, but what can you do when you're a bit short on funds but in dire need of an interiors revamp?
1. Paint it up
There are few things in life that can't be made better with a lick of paint in a cheery hue. On a limited budget, forget the whole room and think feature wall, a decorative paint feature, or an upcycling project.
The key thing is to choose your paint wisely so that it is low in VOCs and other toxic chemicals, including heavy metals. I've recently come across The Natural Paint Company here in New Zealand and will be ordering some test pots from them for my next project. Not only do they meet the sustainability credentials I'd expected, they also source and process their ingredients responsibly - with a focus on renewable where they can. In addition, they pledge to protect 1 square metre of rainforest for every square metre of surface that their paint is used on.
Oh yeah, and their paint also has a citrus smell. What? Nice smelling paint? This I have to try!
My immediate concern was regarding limited colour ranges and options - but as they offer a colour matching service, its pretty clear that you can source what you need for any project. I can't wait to send off for my tester pots - 4 for $19.95!
2. Get on down to the Op Shop
New stuff is great, but one of the things I dislike about buying new - especially when you shop mass-produced and mainstream - is seeing something you own in someone else's house. That probably says way too much about me, but screw it - I just prefer my home to look, um, like mine and mine alone.
That's why I love snooping around charity shops and vintage stores for cute one-off pieces that you're not going to see on shelves around the country. Shopping for specifics can be harder as the range is inherently limited by what's there at any given time, but perserverence always pays off. However, if you're just on the hunt for a little something-something to give a room a bit of extra interest, chances are you'll find a one-off gem that you'll treasure for years to come.
That's going to make you happy, won't have you remortgaging your house, and puts some money into the pockets of charities and organisations helping to make the world a better place. It's a winner all round.
Yvette Edwards' studio is my go-to place for houseplants and cut flowers
3. Plants and cut flowers
I'm a houseplant killer. It is a fact. I don't set out to kill them (I'm not a monster!), but death invariably happens when I choose style placement over their primary needs (you know, things like daylight and how easy they are to water regularly). Luckily I have a husband who is usually able to intervene at just the right moment, meaning that our home still has some lush green elements within it.
Since moving to New Zealand, my go-to place for plants and cut flowers has been Yvette Edwards on Tory Street, Wellington. Not only can you pick up a vast assortment of houseplants and blooms, but you'll also get a heap of amazing advice of how to care for and style/arrange them.
Plants and flowers are a great way to change-up a space and add interest, and there is lots of choice available depending on what you need:
I love adding a trailing plant to high level shelves - they add extra detail against the wall and can link spaces together. Succulents and cacti can take a coffee table from bleh to yeah with minimal effort, and plants with strong structure, like snake plants and peace lilies, can stand alone on a surface in place of other ornaments and knick-knacks.
Plants are also known to have health benefits in terms of air quality and increased humidity so are a great addition to your eco-friendly home.
Image via Better Homes & Gardens
4. Bring the outside in
Ok, I'm aware that so far, each tip has meant spending some money. And some months that is just not an option - thanks unexpected car repair! So, these next two tips cost nothing to implement.
This first one has two wins in my book - 1) free things that look good at home and 2) health and relationship benefits because you have to get outside.
We often overlook the beauty of what's around us. Moving to New Zealand has helped remind me of the awesomeness of the natural world and the ways we can incorporate it at home. I love nothing more than going out for a long walk with my husband some weekends and seeing what we find. As a result our home includes the occasional interesting rock, ornate and naturally carved driftwood and some iridescent shells (one is currently holding the bar of soap in the bathroom).
I've previously styled fallen tree branches in a tall clear vase for a sculptural display on a dresser and picked hydrangeas and sunflowers from the garden. Note - only bring in garden greenery if you can deal with miscellaneous bugs coming in with them. There was some fun with spiders and stick insects when I last did this...
I know others who press flowers and go on to frame them in a botanical wall arrangement unique to their home. And those who fill decorative jars with sand, leaves and other items they find while out in nature. The possibilities really are endless and cost nothing but fresh air.
5. Buy nothing at all - just rearrange what you have
This last tip is one of my favourite things to do - especially on a wet weekend. If you fancy a home revamp and don't want to spend any money or leave the house, have a rearrange day! Here's how:
- Gather up all your accessories from the room, or rooms, you want to play with and put them aside (everything - rugs, cushions, decorative objects, artwork)
- Step back and survey the room. Is there any scope for moving the furniture around for a change of scenery?
- Finalise the new layout and admire your creativity
- Start bringing items from elsewhere in your home into the room and see what works. Maybe that picture/cushion/throw you've had elsewhere for a while now looks better in this updated space?
- Play around with items from across your home until you're happy with how the new space looks.
That's about it! No new spending and a revitalised room. If you don't want to tackle a whole room, just pick a corner or a specific surface, such as the coffee table or sidetable instead, but apply the same principles.
I hope this post has given you a few new ideas - I know that I'd much rather do these things than spend what little money I had on cheap, trend-driven splurges that will eventually end up in landfill.
What steps are you taking to create and curate an ethical and eco-friendly home? I'd love to hear them!