Thursday 25 August 2011

Jacqueline Neusch – Sew Chic Eco Decor

Is your home eco-chic?

Jacqueline Neusch enjoys designing attractive, relaxing interior spaces – from university friends’ basement apartments to her own home.

Simplicity and low cost were key factors for her friends at university.

When Jacqueline and her husband moved into Second Avenue Lofts in downtown Saskatoon, her focus expanded to focus on decorating their home in an environmentally-friendly fashion by working with refurbished, repurposed, and sustainable furnishings.

Jacqueline has turned her talent for interior design into a business (Sew Chic Eco Decor) and is now offering classes and personal consultations to help other people create a home that is calm and beautiful. She is an excellent source of information if you want to make your home more eco-chic.

Making environmental choices
It can be challenging to try and follow environmentally-friendly principles when designing and furnishing your home as there as so many different issues to keep in mind.

Some people have health problems, so their focus is on minimizing air pollution created by off-gassing and chemicals in paint and furnishings. They’re looking for natural fabrics – wood, sisal and wool.

Other people want to live a simpler life with less conspicuous consumption and prefer to furnish their home with handmade or secondhand goods. A minimalist lifestyle calls for getting rid of the clutter, while conscientious shoppers may want to buy from locally-owned or fair trade businesses.

Followers of feng shui strive to create balanced environments that promote personal energy.

Eco decor
“We were overwhelmed with all the information and with trying to satisfy all the criteria at all the different price points,” says Jacqueline when asked about decorating their loft. “So we decided to make decisions that are one step better.”

Jacqueline and her husband achieved their goal in a variety of different ways. First of all, they chose to live in Second Avenue Lofts as it was a creative reuse of an existing building. “Every acre of reconstructed brown space saves four acres of green space,” Jacqueline explains.

The chairs in the living room are from Lazy Boy’s environmental line. The cushions are made from soy-based foam, a renewable resource that doesn’t off-gas and is biodegradable in the landfill. The fabric is made from recycled pop bottles, and the frame is lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

There are paintings by local artists who used donated or secondhand material, as well as antiques that were inherited or obtained online from The living room rug is a remnant. The kitchen cabinets were purchased from Ikea; there is no formaldehyde in the glue and no volatile organic compounds (VOC), so they don’t increase indoor air pollution.

The dining room table is a work of art. It was created from recycled exotic hardwoods from abandoned barns in Brazil. It was expensive, but Jacqueline says her husband loves it and it will have a long life as a central feature in their home.

HomeSchool courses
Jacqueline has been providing home consultations, but she began to realize that clients want to play an active role in decorating their home.

“People want help and ideas, not a designer,” Jacqueline says. “They want to do their own shopping and to make sure that the home reflects their own taste.”

As a result, she has started offering short, relatively inexpensive courses to provide people with basic design principles and the tools they need to do their own interior design work.

The classes include Redesign Room Rescue, Show & Sell Staging, Realtor Ready (an informational networking session for realtors), Definitive Decluttering, Fun with Feng Shui, and Economical Eco Upgrades. Classes are for up to 12 people and last from 3 to 9 hours spread out over 1 to 3 weeks.

Economical Eco Upgrades provides tips to help save money on energy, light and water and discusses a variety of environmental products that are currently on the market to help you choose the ones that are right for you.

Ecofriendly tips
Jacqueline has spent a lot of time to studying different environmental products. She offered some tips to help us as we decorate or design our living spaces.

Paint: Paint can emit volatile organic compounds (VOC), which can be harmful to human health and the environment. You can purchase paint with lower levels of VOC, but you need to be aware that the largest numbers of VOC are in the tint, so check to make sure that the tint as well as the base is low in VOC.

Paint can also contain a wide range of other harmful chemicals, so find out all the details. Jacqueline uses Benjamin Moore’s Natura line of paints as they have 0 grams of VOC in both the base and the tint and don’t include as many harmful chemicals.

Countertops: Jacqueline says that concrete is one of the most sustainable countertop options. Granite is a natural material, and granite mining practices are less environmentally damaging than marble. A newer option is IceStone, a mix of concrete and glass, which is now available in Saskatoon and priced in line with granite and marble.

Bathroom fixtures: Jacqueline recommends checking the national ratings to compare how well low-flow toilets flush. And be sure to replace both the bowl and the tank as the bowl has been specially designed for low flow. A great deal of water is wasted by leaking toilets, so the flapper should be replaced every 5 years to avoid leaks. It’s important to purchase the right flapper. Generic flappers will not work properly with low-flush toilets.

Lighting: The Vereco Home (which Jacqueline helped furnish) has samples of various kinds of LED lighting to suit different situations. Overall, Jacqueline recommends avoiding purchasing the cheapest lighting, low-flow showerheads, or toilets from big box stores as Jacqueline and her husband have often found them to be unsatisfactory.