Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Alison Pollack, founder of Earth Friendly Interior Design and the Green Designer Studio Collection

Alison K. Pollack, specialist in non-toxic interior design for nearly two decades, is founder of Earth Friendly Interior Design and of the Green Designer Studio Collection of furnishings, including AKP and Suite Baby…organic nursery, represented at the Livingreen stores. Her furnishings are manufactured locally, creating Green jobs and environmental production support services. Alison is a published author, educator, guest lecturer and a pioneer in her field.

You founded Suite Baby, an organic nursery line, and AKP Fine Earth Friendly Furnishings. What inspired your interest in green home decor and why did you see a need for more eco-friendly design businesses?

My interest in the Green sector was inspired via my search to be the type of designer who gives back to their community. I am sensitive to our natural world so I thought to be an environmentally friendly designer.

That led me to learn what really are in the materials a designer specifies, hence, the discovery of unlimited toxic chemicals in our every day products, and which I felt was criminal as they were undisclosed.

When I was in design school, in 1991, an eco-friendly business was not a common find, at all. As my firm grew it was necessary to custom create furnishings for our clientele as there were none on the market to specify.

You do business in Los Angeles and Hollywood, sometimes working with people in the television and movie industry. Do you think design choices made by designers on sets can influence the greater public?

Yes, I absolutely do. Set designers are some of the most talented artists and the exposure to their work can be global. Just like a fashion designer’s gown shown on a celebrity figure, set decorators make a huge impact on style trends.

Why is it important to choose eco-friendly decor for your home? If someone were to invest in just one or two eco-friendly options for a room, what items would you suggest?

It was important to me to specify eco-friendly materials for my own home, especially after knowing the amount of toxic chemicals that are introduced into the many aspects of a remodel.

By utilizing these materials myself, it was a way to test alternative materials vs. conventional materials prior to specifying them on a client’s project. And it was how I learned, hands-on, the various construction trades, by applying and installing them myself with a general contractor’s supervision.

The first eco-friendly option for a conventionally designed room, I would suggest is a transportable air filter. It’s the first step to gain any ground on the exposure we have to the countless toxins we’re exposed to and that are affecting us in ways we may not recognize….yet.

And for, let’s say the bedroom, because we spend the majority of our time sleeping, I would recommend an alternative mattress. Again, it’s just simply shocking the amount of toxins that are in mattresses, that we absorb through our skin and inhalation.

What are the some of the first decorating mistakes you see when you walk into a home?

An overdone interior can be just as jarring as an empty one. Too much of everything, using all the tricks of the trade, all in one place, makes a space feel busy and disconnected.

On the flipside, a space that is done to aesthetic perfection, but shows no real signs of inhabitants, is also just as psychologically disconcerting. An inviting space, with groupings of interest and places for one’s eye to rest, within a warm and comfortable atmosphere, whether it be of traditional or contemporary design, is what I believe to be the ideal.

What decorating techniques/ideas/suggestions would you recommend to a homeowner looking rev up the look of a room or house without spending a fortune?

First, de-clutter. Get rid of anything that doesn’t please your eye every time you walk into that room. And if it’s still too much, store a portion and rotate decorative items throughout the year.

Negative space is just as important as used up space. Cluttered space = cluttered thought. Introduce house plants in small groupings. Not only do they bring the outside in, but they filter our indoor air, absorbing toxic chemicals and they look lovely.

What piece should homeowners start with to build a new decor scheme around?

A favorite item that will be around for a long while, for instance a rug, or a piece of art, a favorite piece of fabric, or cherished piece of furniture.

What has been the best decorating advice you've gotten or what do you wish you would have known before decorating your own home?

“Less is more” is the best advice I received while apprenticing an amazing designer and I know it originates with a famous architect, but it is just as suitable among d├ęcor.

For customers on a budget, what pieces do you think are important to splurge on higher quality furnishings/decor and what can you get away with doing cheaper?

A mattress is an item worth the price, IF, the materials used to make it are free from harmful chemicals. Shopping for vintage items at flea markets, garage sales, antique malls – that’s a great way to discover treasures at reasonable prices.

What do you think amazing floor coverings can do for the look and feel of a home?

Floor coverings ground a space. They create a visual foundation. For high volume spaces, they make one feel…well, grounded.

For shorter ceilings, they create a slightly enclosed space that lends a feeling of coziness and introduces a more human scale of proportion. And when they’re amazing, the comfort level increases to one of luxury, such as the effect of a cashmere, silk or mohair rug.

Why is it important to invest in a natural fiber and/or vegetable dyed rug for your home? What do you see as the primary benefits?

It comes down to healthy home = healthy inhabitants = healthy natural world. In knowing that there is no sacrifice for beauty, luxury, or the health of ourselves and the natural world, to me, there is no justification for deciding otherwise.

Do you find many clients seeking out green home decor products strictly because of environmental ethics?

Yes, I do. And it’s wonderful how awareness has catapulted in the interior design sector of the Green movement.

We also have a client base who seeks green home products, not so much as a choice, but that they have become so chemically sensitive that they can no longer live with conventional products. Their immune systems have been compromised and they can no longer live with petroleum based synthetics, and the like.

Who would you recommend ecoFiber Custom Rugs to?

To everybody. The product is gorgeous, durable, feels wonderful on bare feet, and is harmless to indoor air quality and to the planet in its’ natural degradation.

Natural fibers would embrace dry climates, but, even so, I don’t think I would let that stop me from purchasing one for my own coastal house!

What are the advantages to investing in a high-quality, custom made rug?

Well crafted rugs are known to grow in value over time. They are meant to be multi-generational, heirlooms, that grow richer with patina over the years.

They are not only functional for many years to come, but can be timeless in their design.

A good rug is like buying a Hamilton watch, once you’ve purchased one, you never have to consider making that decision again in your lifetime. Unless of course, the same in another color is desired. At that point, I’m just spoiling myself….and I do.

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