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Aging Well: Going green with interior design

Sustainable interior design, utilized in such places as The Mather, emphasizes longevity and flexibility through ecologically conscious furnishings. (Interior rendering subject to change without notice.)

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

When it comes to interior design, green is becoming a popular trend for creating thoughtful, inviting, and aesthetically pleasing living spaces.

Green, of course, is referring to sustainable interior design — a style that emphasizes the use of ecologically and ethically conscious furnishings and materials. It’s a widely appealing approach already making its way into places like The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

With open floor plans and elegant fixtures, The Mather’s modern apartment homes — some up to 3,300 square feet — are a dream for interior designers like Kelly LaPlante. As a sustainability expert, LaPlante is designing the model apartment homes at The Mather with a heightened perspective on eco-friendly possibilities.

“There are so many more companies who are sustainably minded and are offering eco-friendly products,” LaPlante says. “It’s becoming a much more viable option for everyone.”

Basic sustainable interior design begins with placing an emphasis on longevity and flexibility, while being mindful of product life cycles; in other words, how long the product will be of use before it ends up in a landfill. This puts more responsibility on the designer to prevent materials and products from being discarded if they’re still functional.

Over time, some sustainability pursuits evolve based on the client’s or homeowner’s perspective. For example, a person with health concerns might focus on improving indoor air quality by sourcing low-toxicity carpets, finishes, and paints.

“Sustainable interior design refers to creating spaces that are deeply considerate of the planet and people,” LaPlante says. “There are many factors to it, and one’s focus will depend on their personal values.”

When seeking to lighten your environmental footprint, LaPlante suggests starting with the three Rs:

  1. Reduce — Reduce waste, especially the act of discarding products just because of it going out of style. Minimize the amount of materials and resources whenever possible. Limit purchasing products made with toxins or poorly made products.
  2. Reuse — Rather than buying replacement furniture, hold onto pieces that are meaningful to you and find ways to give them new life. Consider what you already own, so you’re not contributing to the need for production and shipping, which are hard on the environment. You can use these items as accents to your decor.
  3. Recycle — Use repurposed furniture. Mix in vintage or antique pieces — and/or pieces that are made from recycled materials. You can reupholster chairs or sofas, change out legs on chairs and tables, and update hardware like drawer pulls. Be responsible about how you dispose of pieces you are done with by recycling whenever possible.

“As with those moving into The Mather this spring, people moving into a new home will have the opportunity to reuse some of their existing pieces, so I’d always encourage starting there,” LaPlante says. “When you do purchase new items, be diligent about looking for pieces that are well made and will stand the test of time — so that they don’t end up in a landfill in five or ten years.”

Kelly adds another recommendation for those interested in sustainability: purchase organic bedding to set the stage for overall health and well-being. “We spend one-third of our lives sleeping, and that is when we do our deepest restoration,” she says. “So make the healthiest possible choices when it comes to your mattress and bedding; your bed should be a toxin-free zone.”

Making healthy choices in interior design — from comforters to couches — can result in a home that’s as ecologically sound as it is attractive.

The Mather in Tysons, VA, for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be. It opens in 2024.

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