When Scott Voelker designed and built his home in North Lawrence, he paid special attention to window location. If not properly placed, the windows wouldn’t fetch enough natural light, causing him to rely too much on lamps and light bulbs.
With this in mind, Voelker arranged his windows optimally to attract enough sunlight to keep his place bright without having to flick on the lights until the sun goes down. An architect for more than 10 years, Voelker, of Eggmanink Design, was thinking green — a fresh trend in home design that’s affecting how architects and interior decorators think.
Right now, big trends in home design and architecture reflect an environmentally conscious public, Voekler says. For instance, people are snatching up more energy-efficient appliances and low-VOC paints. They’re also using bamboo floors instead of wood, and carpeting their homes with recycled fabrics, not new material.
“We’re seeing a return to more simple ideas,” Voelker says. “The efficiency thing is big. People are tired of getting a $300 or $400 heating bill, so they’re focusing on natural lighting and sustainable living in general.”
By cherry picking where his windows went, Voelker was able to shrink his carbon footprint by reducing his reliance on fossil fuels. He was also able to trim his usually hefty electric bill.
“A lot of the green things to do were less expensive than other things,” says Voelker. “Bamboo floors are cheaper than maple or oak.”
And bamboo floors look just as handsome and are just as durable as wood, says Katherine Overfield of Lawrence Decorating Center, 2400 W. 31st St.
Lawrence Decorating Center is a Benjamin Moore signature paint supplier. And according to Overfield, the green movement has altered her industry.
“The main thing with decorating and design is that everything is going green,” says Overfield. “We are selling a lot of low VOC paints.”
VOC stands for volatile organic compound, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the fumes and chemicals that waft from VOC-loaded paint could cause ear, nose and throat irritation, allergic reactions, memory impairment and a slew of other conditions — some deadly.
Within the last decade, low-VOC paints have penetrated the paint market, mainly because of federal government regulations demanding VOC reductions. And now that low-VOCs can retain pigment, they offer an attractive alternative to oil-based and latex paints — both high in VOCS.
The writing on the wall
One way to dodge paint worries altogether, though, is to stick with an old design favorite: wallpaper.
“I’m selling a lot more wallpaper lately,” Overfield says. “There are some really cool wallpapers out there. A hundred different colors and styles to choose from.”
Grass cloth is particularly popular right now, Overfield says. Still, wallpaper might be popular, but it’s not making much of a dent in paint purchases.
“If I’ve learned one thing while doing this, it’s that everyone in our society wants change all the time. Paint is something very easy to change,” Overfield says. “A gallon of paint can change a whole room.”
Color me purple
Popular painting colors include pink, spiced orange, soft blues and rich browns. But for window treatments, like draperies and curtains, people are drawing on purple.
“We’re seeing a lot of purple in this town,” says Jane Bateman, owner of Jane Bateman: The Interiors, 2101 B West 28th Terrace. “This is not a K-State purple, but a wine and berry purple. A plum purple. Purple is taking the place of blue. Blue was always very stable and popular color, but purple’s taking over.”
Other trends include home offices, recycled materials and furniture restorations.
“There’s a phrase I love. ‘Flashy is trashy,’” Voelker says. “Maybe modesty is the new trend, as opposed to the last decade of flaunting.”