Healthy, Green Design: Repurpose Existing Niches in Your Home

Reader Contribution by Stephanie Nickolson
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Stephanie Nickolson has designed residential, commercial and eco-conscious environments for more than 24 years. Her firm, Stephanie Nickolson Design, promotes the use of sustainable, non-toxic, recyclable and environmentally-friendly products and services. The firm works largely with clients who have allergies, chemical sensitivies or who have children with special needs.

I believe it’s indicative of the times, and with winter upon us, that many homeowners are opting to stay home, settle in, or nest, having a new project or renovation in mind. This trend can also be known as staycationing, for those who choose to trade a trip somewhere to staying home, to “enjoy all that one’s home has to offer.”  Personally, I like to refer to my own home as my retreat or safe haven.

Need a winter project? Create a built-in bench with storage for your home. Photo By sierravalleygirl/Courtesy Flickr.

After a realtor convinced my husband and I to do away with the idea of building an addition onto our kitchen, we took her valuable advice and pulled up the existing flooring (which included carpet and inexpensive builder-grade laminate) and installed hardwood floors throughout the entire first floor. By doing this, we learned that it could increase the value of our home up to 10 percent. This benefit, and adding to the eco-friendliness of our home, was quite pleasing.

Ideas to repurpose existing areas in your home abound, but first I’ll offer the idea of building a storage bed in a nook of a bedroom, as a childhood friend of mine had in her room. I have fond memories of this concept. I think of how innovative and purposeful her parents were to think of this. She had a bed built in inside a windowed-alcove with storage-enhanced drawers to store clothing. The bed was then topped with a mattress.

Another idea is to build a bench or built-in upholstered seating area. This idea is conducive to a bay window or alcove as it envelopes the people seated there. It creates a coziness and warmth, almost restaurant-like and comforting. Chairs can be used around the other sides of the table.

If you have an attic, you can utilize the ceiling area where it’s vaulted and build a desk area into this section of the room. When doing this, make sure to provide enough accent and overall lighting for doing tasks or hobbies. Track lighting is nice if you’re looking for a more contemporary feel. You also have the flexibility of moving the lights. By painting the room’s walls and ceiling the same light color, it will make the room appear larger and more open.

Create a warm, cozy atmosphere with built-in kitchen seating.
Photo By Posh Living, LLC/Courtesy Flickr.

Installing glass shelving in a corner or unused area is also a great way to accent art with nice accent lighting. By painting the niche an interesting color and spotlighting the art, glass pieces or other collectibles, it creates a focal point and establishes a small gallery-like feel.

Another tip: When building a bench, cabinets or desk, please remember to use formaldehyde-free adhesives. These can be purchased from some green building supply centers.

Some eco-friendly resources that may be helpful when planning these areas are:

Wheatboard: Formaldehyde-free and for interior use only for cabinets. This product can be purchased from Natural Built Home or Building for Health. (They also sell adhesives.)

Laminates: For surfacing cabinets or for shelves. Most laminates in the market are not green and will outgas. Greenlam manufactures eco-friendly decorative laminates with some really fun patterns and textures. In addition, they are Greenguard certified.

Pillow forms and filling for cushions can be purchased from many sources. A few are Quilting Warehouse (search for eco-friendly pillow forms) and Harts Fabric.

~Enjoy your new retreat, nest or staycation! I’d love to hear about your projects!  

Editor’s Note: Natural Home does not recommend, approve or endorse the products/services offered by companies guest bloggers review online. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.