Originally published in STIR®
Beige be gone! Manufacturers are developing environmentally sensitive accessories, furnishings and finishes that integrate bright, bold hues and patterns.

Not too long ago, many consumers eyed the green design movement skeptically. “People originally associated environmentally friendly building products with ones that weren't very attractive,” says Rachel Maloney, owner of Natural Built Home, a Minneapolis store whose products all have green characteristics.

Today, however, the availability of well-designed, colorful eco-sensitive products has skyrocketed. Accessories, finishes and furnishings now come in bold hues – not the bland beige that some people still associate with green design. “These products are just as beautiful as anything you could find in a conventional store,” Maloney says.

Finding eco-friendly products for the home used to be a somewhat arduous task: They were on the fringe, and designers had to search hard for them. Furthermore, the range of color choices often fell short – think tans, browns and greens. But now, many stores and Web sites devote themselves exclusively to the eco-friendly home – and some mass-market retailers like Target are going green in their home décor. Designers and consumers alike can easily access a myriad of choices made with recycled and reclaimed materials, showcasing beautiful designs and color palettes. For instance:

  • Gaiam sells a Turkish-pattern floor mat that's made from soda bottles and handcrafted by fair-wage artisans in Thailand, and jewel-colored meditation pillows made from hand-dyed and loomed silk and handcrafted by disabled people in Vietnam.
  • Los Angeles-based Viesso makes colorful, richly patterned custom furniture – ready to go in just three weeks – using locally sourced alder framing, water-based glue and stains, and recycled or natural fibers.
  • Re:modern creates vibrantly colored lacquerware bowls made from certified organic bamboo that is hand-coiled, -shaped and -finished. Their unique layering process permeates each bowl with 18 layers of natural lacquer to create a remarkably bright, durable, waterproof and food-safe finish.
  • Berkeley-based artist Jim Rosenau crafts pieces from old hardcover books that otherwise would have been discarded. At his studio, This Into That, the artist works with found and recycled objects, producing unique and “second edition” book shelves and cases, miniature chairs, and hanging sculptures, paying great attention to meaning, color, shape and texture.
  • Maloney at Natural Built Home helped one customer develop a hot-pink recycled-glass countertop inset with mirrors.

Not only does the list of eco-friendly products continue to grow, but their quality continually improves. “We've been able to work with natural fibers that last, and the range of [eco-friendly] pigments and dyes is far bigger than it was before,” says interior designer Christopher Lowell, host of Fine Living Network's “Work That Room.” However, he acknowledges that despite all this progress, tinting and impregnating natural fiber still needs more development.

No matter what the future holds for green accessories and materials, Lowell always keeps one principle in mind when working with his clients: “They've got to think it's pretty first.”

To explore paints and coatings that meet green building specifications, go to the Green Solutions section of sherwin-williams.com.

The lacquerware bowls featured in this article are the property of and can be purchased via Re:modern.