Teaching- part of the job- Class coming up in April

One of the most difficult things to manage in the design business is delivering unpleasant news to a client.  I think everyone who does this work wants to solve problems and create great results, but sometimes bad news..... happens.  Recently one of my sources of organic towels discontinued a color, while I had an order in for that color, and without emailing me.  Yikes! The only way to handle it is to tell the client the truth, and to provide a solution as part of the message.  I spent a rather intense afternoon on the internet finding organic cotton towels in that exact color, before calling my client!

Being an interior designer with a green specialty means that you are always bringing up unpleasant realities.  The cabinet shop that is cheapest might use a formaldehyde containing wood product,  the mahogany flooring that the client likes might have been poached out of a rainforest, the wallpaper might contain vinyl and encourage mould growth in the walls.  It adds a level of complexity because I have to deliver lifecycle information about the products used in interior design, while still creating the visual, functional and emotional atmosphere a client wants in their home.  I love designing homes, and collaborating with clients, but sometimes I feel like the Grinch when I bring up some yucky environmental effect associated with a product.

I love teaching about green interior design because I get to share all of the information about green products, but without bumming a client out because I am telling them they shouldn't buy something.  Most people will never be in the situation where they are hiring a design professional, but I still want them to know about sustainable design.  I feel especially strongly about environmentally friendly interior design when there are health issues with conventional products.  No one should have formaldehyde in their interior wood products, it is a known airway irritant, mutagen and carcinogen, and is easy to avoid.  But if you don't know the right questions to ask, you might bring this pollutant into you house!

It is great because I can help people who are doing their own design make healthier choices.

Anyhow, this is all to introduce the fact that I am teaching again in April:

Here is the link to look at the class or sign up:
2 wks · Apr 21–28 Wednesday · 7 – 9 p.m. Palo Alto HS Rm 306 · $40
Kirsten Flynn,LEED-GA, CGBP, Allied ASID, kir@sustainablehome.com
Green interior design helps you create a home that reflects your great taste and your care for the planet. This two-night course covers environmental issues associated with most common interior materials and furnishings, and allows you to see and touch building materials that are as gorgeous as they are green. Kirsten Flynn owns the design firm Sustainable Home, teaches on the Peninsula, and recently designed the interiors for a totally solar house featured in the Solar Decathlon.

Sustainable Fabrics from Neo Con

Reports are starting to come back from Neo Con, a design industry trade show featuring new products primarily for commercial design.  I love commercial design products for a number of reasons: first, they are durable since they are made to hold up in banks, offices and hospitals.  Secondly, OSHA has standards for indoor air quality that apply in the workplace, so products made for offices must be low emitting.  These standards do not relate to the home, so I have to research the VOCs for every home product I specify.  And finally, partly because interior designers are working to achieve LEED points, there are a lot of recycled content fabrics, and fabrics with other eco qualities. I was impressed by this series from Brentano.  It is made of wool, but it is significant how completely they have scrutinized the wool manufacturing process.  They even made sure that the soap used to wash the wool prior to weaving was biodegradable!  Plus it is a pretty, useful stripe that comes in a variety of colorways. Stripes are so great for pulling a room together- they add a little bit of pattern without dominating.

I also enjoyed seeing this fun two tone floral from Carnegie.  It is made of 100% POST CONSUMER recycled polyester, and is part of a very attractive Bright Side collection of fabrics.  I could see the Whimsey floral, shown here, in a retro sun-room inspired setting, and the polyester would perfom well in there.  If the bright + white is a little bold for you, how about the nice multi color floral, called Imagine?  It is also recycled Poly, and comes in a variety of quieter colorways.  I like the slight orientalist feeling of the pattern, it could go modern, or traditional.

I love being able to offer clients a variety of sustainable choices in fabrics, and the product development is going very quickly these days. So nice to not be limited to organic unbleached cotton!

Copenhagen, do we dare to hope?

Sometimes I do not know why I get so worked up about things, it would be a lot easier on my blood pressure to just live my life, do my design work, and not get involved. But my mind is a lot more like the bumper sticker that says "If you are not outraged, you havn't been paying attention." I cannot change the part of myself that seems compelled to get active.The reality is that we all are going to have to take action to try and mitigate the effects of climate change, the only difference is when. Will change be forced on us after the first wave of climate induced human migration? Or will we wake up and move in a positive direction to shape the best future possible? Some times I do not know the answer. But, as my french teacher said, as I tried to tell her I did not know how to say in French the thing she wanted me to say: "Mais il faut qu'on essayer." It is necessary that one tries. Check out the Hopenhagen web site, they are trying to get folks to register their support for a real climate change agreement at this month's meeting in Copenhagen.

nature as inspiration - and good for the planet

I am extremely excited to be reading the various posts from NEO Con, the commercial interior design convention.  So many well designed, and exciting products!  Green products seem to have a strong presence, I am thrilled to see that sustainable design has penetrated deeply into mainstream product design priorities.  I have always loved the textile and carpet designs from Angela Adams, she does a naturally inspired modernism that I find very livable.  She has collaborated with Architex, who have some serious design chops of their own, to create a line of green textiles.  The fabrics are lovely, the products are sustainable, and will be realized in rugs and wallpaper by Shaw and MDG Wallcoverings, respectively.

A simple thing to do for the environment.

Hey, did you ever wonder if the simple act of lighting up your house when you are reading or working makes a difference in the environment? I know, we all feel like we have been beaten repeatedly about the head and shoulders with the compact fluorescent bulb concept. Yeah we get it, and we get it that we should turn out the light when we leave a room. But perhaps the niggling thought enters your head on occasion, "how much difference can it possibly make?"Well one small thing you can do this weekend will both- help to answer that question, and send a message to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. On Saturday March 28th, at 8:30 pm local time, 2009, people all around the globe will turn out their lights and other electric items for one hour. The Earth Hour goal is to have one BILLION people switch out their lights for that hour to send a message to the climate change conference that we are concerned about energy use as it relates to global warming. Almost as a side effect, previous Earth Hours have let us know whether turning out a few lights can make a difference in global warming.  According to WWF Thailand, Bangkok decreased electricity usage by 73.34 megawatts, which, over one hour, is equivalent to 41.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Toronto saved 900 megawatt-hours of electricity. 8.7% was saved if measured against a typical March Saturday night.  Ireland, as a whole, had a reduction in electricity use of about 1.5% for the evening.

And you know, snuggling in the dark, or having a glass of wine by candlelight, sounds like a pretty good thing to be doing this Saturday night!

Green building- what do you do when you go inside?

I am teaching a class in early March that answers that question, on the SF peninsula, through Palo Alto Adult School.  I really enjoy making folks laugh and and at the same time become more conscious about their interior design choices.   Of course, it might be partly because I like people paying attention to me as if I have something important to say, but the fact is I am passionate about how many gorgeous and green home choices there are out there.  Why bother choosing a product that has toxic components, or requires yucky chemicals to maintain, or created a dangerous situation while being manufactured for you?  I have a favorite quote from Anna Lappe "every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want."  And this vote is one that is very carefully listened to by very powerful people.  I do see my class as an opportunity to give remodelers, designers, or homeowners the knowledge they need to choose wonderful healthy products.   I cover a lot of interesting topics, and usually get students excited about the subject. You can register on line or over the  phone,  http://www.paadultschool.org/html/home_and_garden.html  or call  650-329-3752.

I love it when the right people win!


I posted not too long ago about new products coming out of West Coast Green.  Since then, I got my library set of samples from O Eco Textiles, and they are gorgeous!  I mean luscious and splendid.  I was a fabric designer in a past life, and love working with fabrics in my new incarnation as an interior designer. I am dying to get a project that I can use them on, I have been walking around my house saying "Maybe I should re-upholster that chair, or that one...."   But no, I will have to wait for the right job to come along.  

But meanwhile, Greenbuild just took place in Boston, and this exciting new textile line was recognized as one of the top 10 green products of 2008 by Environmental Building News and Green Spec. They deserve it for their stringent research and attention to visual quality. More colors please! I cannot get enough of these fabrics.

As an aside, if you are interested in reading the best researched articles about green building, you cannot do better than the Environmental Building News.

Is this my 15 minutes of fame?

My local Weekly newspaper, the Palo Alto Weekly, profiled me last Friday in an article about the Green Interior design class I am teaching this October.  If you live on the San Francisco Peninsula pick up a copy, if you live elsewhere- you can read it online here, Or view the PDF of that section Here.  It feels surprisingly affirming to have my business in the paper in my home town.  If you are interested in learning more about green interiors, sign up for the class!

West Coast Green

This show rocks.  The keynote speakers are compelling, and inspiring.  It is interesting, because many of them speak of things that have nothing to do with Green Building.  A consistent theme has been the concept of doing purpose driven work, starting with examining your own life.  This morning, we saw 4 speakers in the keynote session including Sarah Susanka, who wrote the Not So Big House series and Chris Jordan who creates photographic art that captures some of the myriad issues around consumption and waste.  Because the speakers are so interesting, more in line with speakers at TED, the attendees are energized and motivated to go out and do great green work.  Everyone is doing such interesting things that I have to be careful not to just network my way through the show, and never attend any of the educational sessions.

Live and learn, Sustainable Home is teaching this fall

I am teaching again in October through the Palo Alto Adult School.  The class is two evenings, two hours an evening.  Here is a class description, GREEN INTERIOR DESIGN-THE NUTS AND BOLTS

You love to create a beautiful home, but you worry whether the paints, furniture, and flooring you choose are healthy for you and the environment.  It's time to look into green interior design, a new approach to home decorating that reflects your great taste and your care for the planet. This two-night course covers the environmental issues  that are associated with  common interior materials and furnishings.   In this class you will see and touch building materials and fabrics that are as gorgeous as they are green, and you'll leave the class with a solid understanding of how to select materials for home interiors and the theory behind green building.  Your instructor, Kirsten Flynn, owns the design firm Sustainable Home and specializes in environmentally responsible interiors. She teaches on the Peninsula and recently designed the interiors for a house featured in the Solar Decathlon, an international solar home contest.

Happy Earth Day

Think of today as a big thank you to the earth. Thanks for:Oceans to boogie board in, thanks for trees, rivers, little birds at my bird feeder, clean air, water I can drink, Yosemite (especially good work, by the way), in fact thanks for the whole bloody Sierra Mountain range! Thanks for lizards. Thanks for grass to lie on and clouds to watch.  Thanks for the fact that there is a skink with a blue tongue- evolution must have a sense of humor.  Thanks for weeds, if only for their extreme persistence, and for beetles, because they are so interesting.

In return I will not use my car today, and try to create no trash. Wow, seems a little inadequate. What are you doing? Write me and let me know!

By the way, for those Bay Area readers, my Green Interior Design class starts tomorrow. Last chance to sign up!

Come, let me fill your mind with information!

I wanted to let my regular blog readers, (you are out there, right?) know about a couple of Green interior design events coming up. They are all in the Bay Area, but if you can make it... great! First, I am teaching a one hour class on Green Interior Design at the Elephant Pharmacy in Los Altos from 3 to 4 pm, (not like it would be AM) on the 12th of April. I will cover the basics of interior issues, introducing the concepts of indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Evaluating the environmental claims of different interior materials and furnishings, and using certified wood. We will also look at a lot of green materials for different areas in your home. For more information to to: Elephant Pharmacy. The second event is an opportunity to see, and learn about, three great green buildings. Hidden Villa, an Environmental Education Center in Los Altos Hills is having a Sustainable building day on April 13th from 4-6. They have three green buildings: one earth sheltered home designed by Cornell Tam architects, featuring passive solar and extensive use or reclaimed materials, One straw Bale hybrid, designed by San Luis Sustainability Group, with stellar solar access design and solar H2O and PV in addition to other green materials, and finally a Arkin Tilt building featuring rammed earth, a geothermal system, strawboard ceilings, and reclaimed wood both decoratively and structurally. All of the buildings will be open with group leader available to explain their green features, and Hidden Villa also has a CSA garden, a children's garden, hiking trails and farm animals. It is a fun place to visit any weekend. I will be the docent in one of the buildings.

And finally I am teaching a two day class on Green Interior Design, through Palo Alto Adult School. I will cover the concepts of environmentally friendly materials selection, choosing products that encourage resource efficiency, avoiding Volitile Organic Compounds (VOC's) and improving indoor air, issues with upholstery and fabrics, and the right questions to ask to get a green interior design solution. You will learn so much about green interior design, get to see many green materials, and we will have time to answer specific questions about your homes. It is a two evening class on consecutive Wednesdays, the 23rd and the 30th from 7 to 9 pm. More information, or to register.

I hope to see you at one of these events. Feel free to contact me if you need any further information The image is of some very lovely energy efficient lights from Michelle Kaufman, available as a fluorescent fixture or LED


If you entertain at all over the holidays I have one word for you: Vintage, vintage, vintage! (Ok, that is one word repeated three times for emphasis.) Truly, this is another green lifestyle choice that improves the quality of your life. These beautiful hand embroidered German napkins are selling for under $3 each on Ebay right now, and aren't they prettier than paper? Better yet, save the shipping by going to your local thrift shop benefiting the hospital auxiliary or the Cancer Society. You know your money will go to a good cause, and the linens, (or glasses or serving platter) add charm to your event. Don't even get me started on my love of vintage china..... If I sound gushing, it is because I really love giving older items a new life. New products take a tremendous amount of raw material to be produced and get shipped to you. Vintage item are often better made, cheaper for similar quality, and have a smaller effect on the world. Plus, they are much more unique than new retail. Be chic, buy vintage.