The First Step in Green Decorating: Use What You Have

Anyone who has been paying attention to home decor trends has probably noticed that green design has become a hot topic. However, this trend also comes with the misconception that a green home is one full of high-end products made from FSC-certified wood and other sustainable (and expensive) materials. And boy, is this idea wrong. Simply put, a green home is one whose inhabitants are conscious of the things they consume. And the quickest way to achieve this is to work with the things you already have.


Those marketing eco-friendly products would have you believe that you should go out and buy them all in order to be kind to the Earth. But this is the opposite of what green living is about. There’s a reason the first word in the 3 Rs is “reduce.” Green living in general means learning to reduce our consumption. Ie. Buying and using only what we need. When it comes to the home, this can mean ignoring TV ads for a brand new plasma TV when your old tube model works just fine. It can mean being content with rearranging your furniture to change the look of a room instead of buying new ones. It means realizing that as beautiful as that new organic bedding may be, if you don’t really need it, it should stay in the store.


I will make a confession. Every few months, I start to get the itch. I’ll look around a room that has been pretty much the same for a while, and I’ll want to change everything and start over. While my husband is easily content with moving furniture, it’s not always easy for me to take my own advice. I’ll want to buy new throw pillows, change all the artwork and replace all our tchotchkes. But since I try my best to practice what I preach, I had to find new ways to make my home feel new without buying anything. The concept is simple, really. I just look around my home for existing objects that can be used in new ways. When my husband and I decorated our daughter’s room a few months back, we did use new products to serve functions that didn’t exist before. But when we could, we reused stuff she already had, including her bedding and a thrift store lamp we had refurbished months before. I admit that I wasn’t a fan of the idea of putting the old lamp in her new room. I wanted a new one. Instead, I settled for putting a new shade on the old lamp, and it felt like a completely new piece. You can see the transformation above. When we moved into our current apartment, we found that the laundry room had no door. Because I didn’t want to look at the washer, dryer, vacuum, etc. every time I walked into the kitchen, I knew I’d need an inexpensive way to cover it up. I used some fabric I already owned to create a simple curtain, attached to the rod with curtain clips I already had. SOME IDEAS FOR CREATIVE REUSE:
  • Have sheets that you love, but that have seen better days? Cut the parts of the fabric that are in good condition to make new covers for your throw pillows.
  • Take a closer look at the side table in your living room. Could it work as a nightstand in your bedroom?
  • Trim your existing curtains in contrasting ribbon.
  • Paint all your mismatched picture frames in a single color and create a unique wall installation.
  • Group empty glass bottles in various shapes, sizes and colors to create a centerpiece for your dining room.
Reuse at home requires a little creativity, but it can make a space look completely different, and you don’t have to spend a dime. And after you’ve done it enough, you’ll really begin to embrace the idea that you don’t have to shop when you decorate.


Sometimes, the things that we love will simply outlive their usefulness. And there are a few things in our home that are best replaced with greener alternatives. For example, you will save money, water AND energy when you replace older appliances with newer, more energy- and water-efficient models. But that doesn’t mean the old ones should go to the landfill. Items that you no longer need could be a godsend to someone who needs them. Before you throw anything away, seriously consider whether there is a way to give it a second life. Stores like Best Buy and Radio Shack will allow you to recycle electronics and cell phones, most housewares can be donated to charities Goodwill, the Salvation Army and other charities to be sold in their thrift stores. You can even start your search for a new use close to home. Ask friends and family members if they have a need for the item you’re getting rid of. And if all those options fails, you can always post an ad on sites like Craigslist or Freecycle for folks to come and pick them up. The final point? Don’t be persuaded to make your home greener by shopping. Trust your own taste and find ways to be creative with the things you already own. You’ll be surprised at what you can create when you challenge yourself.

Written by Jennae Petersen. Jennae is Skimbaco’s Green Living & Decor Expert. She is a mother, a graphic artist, a connoisseur of beautiful interiors and a purveyor of all things design. She also believes it is her duty to strive toward sustainable living. This means being more conscious about every aspect of life. She is the founder and author of Green Your Decor and Green & Gorgeous blogs. She also runs Hibiscus Creative, a successful, full-service graphic design firm specializing in branding and Thesis theme customizations. She designed the Skimbaco logos and blogs.

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