Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.
As anyone who has ever decorated a home knows, the options are endless—and dizzying. But beyond aesthetics, everything from the paint on your walls to the linens on your bed can affect your health.
Whether you’re totally overhauling your living space or just freshening up, here are some simple ways to choose the healthiest décor possible.
Whether you’re putting in new hardwood floors or refreshing existing ones, choose a water-based stain or, better yet- go au naturale. Then use linseed oil to seal it instead of polyurethane. The same goes for cabinets, trim, baseboards, or anywhere else you have wood in your home.
They’re made of PVC, which off-gasses toxic chemicals, and that’s especially harmful when you’re sleeping. Instead, hang natural fabrics like linen, cotton, or wool on windows, and in bedrooms, add a thick cotton lining to block light.
There are a ton of brands out there with no-VOC paint. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t smell, but it’s not off-gassing volatile chemicals, so it’s not as bad. And if you had your heart set on wallpaper pattern, you can hire someone to do decorative painting instead. The design can be customized to fit your space and it’s a less toxic alternative to wallpaper glues and adhesives.
There are some exceptions, but the majority of mass retailers’ furniture and rugs come from abroad, and they are sprayed with flame retardants and pesticides so they survive the journey to the U.S. When you’re shopping, do your homework: find out where it was made, what materials were used, and where those came from. Ideally, you want something sustainably manufactured in the U.S.
They’re made from natural materials, built to last several lifetimes, and won’t off-gas chemicals in your home. I don’t feel guilty about splurging on antiques ever—they’re the most sustainable furniture you can buy. That said, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Talk to your grandparents and get some hand-me-downs.
Metal in your mattress and bed can amplify electromagnetic radiation, which can disrupt your sleep. I suggest getting a 100% organic latex mattress—they’re completely natural and resistant to mold and dust, plus they last so much longer. Have it sit on a wooden bed frame with no metal in the joints.
Ideally, you should have one in every room to keep your air clean. If you’ve just done construction, open the windows, keep your filters running 24/7, and try not to move in for three months so everything has a chance to off-gas. Even with all the careful steps you’ve taken, it’s the best way to avoid exposing your family to toxins.
Natural materials are worth the investment.