Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Greenspec reviews Urban Eco Chic

Brian Murphy of Greenspec, a UK Website dedicated to green building materials, wrote to Oliver Heath praising Urban Eco Chic:

"Your approach, the book structure and format is so right: small nuggets of information, delivered by graphically coded topic bullet points, its so accessible. I am recommending it to interior design and furniture design students.

The scope of coverage is very broad from building/finishing materials through to household goods and appliances which ensures your readers get something to think about every time they consider any household purchase.

Your constant reminders to consider reclaim and reuse and find locally is very refreshing and you demonstrate through your work and illustrations shows how it works. I am inspired by some of your pictures thinking about a much needed garden office and thinking about dismantling pallets for book shelving.

When you are in the public eye it means whatever you do will be scruitinised, all the more reason for getting it right, and I think you have, excellent job. Long may it stay on my desk."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Live Green Live Smart to use Urban Eco Chic as a textbook!

The Minesota-based organization Live Green Live Smart Institute has decided to use Oliver Heath's Urban Eco Chic as a textbook for their green certificate program! They have also invited Oliver to blog on their Website, so check back for updates on when the blog will be published!

Greenthinkers.org recommends Urban Eco Chic

"Urban Eco Chic is packed full of ideas on how to make your home more eco-friendly, sustainable and stylish. For homeowners, interior designers, green builders, and anyone with an interest in eco-friendly and sustainable design, Oliver’s tips are affordable and accessible. It features over 100 photos that hope to show readers that creating eco interiors are more about using your imagination than your wallet." - greenthinkers.org. Click here to see the entire review.

Environmental consultant reviews Urban Eco Chic

"There is no way you can even pick this book up and still think that green design can only be "earthy" in its look. This book lays out the fundamentals of eco-conscious design for every style. This book explores the very realistic ways in which you can incorporate sustainable choices into the creation of an elegant, welcoming home. I love that the design concepts are simple, even though the research behind the ideas and the ultimate look they create are so sophisicated." -Nicole Galdieri, a Philadelphia-based environmental consultant who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in environmental studies

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to create an eco-friendly nursery or child's bedroom

Good news – my wife Katie just had a little baby girl! Added to that over the last month we have moved house – believe me theses are two major life changes that shouldn’t happen anywhere near each other!

However it has got me thinking ever more about designing eco children’s bedrooms.

As there wont be too much energy use, your main concerns will be the creation of a happy and healthy space for your precious child to live, sleep (and occasionally scream!) in. Remember that childrens immune systems are in development and so more susceptible to the effect of toxins. (photo credit: www.inke.nl)

The main things to think about are:
-Reducing toxins found in furniture, paints, and toys
-Reducing dust levels – cutting down on unhealthy dust mite.
-Good natural ventilation- cutting out the build up of damp and potential mould
-Safe Low energy lighting

Natural wood floors will help to cut down on surfaces that trap dust (such as carpets. But if you do want some soft surfaces, try rugs or whip stitched sections of natural carpets made of wool with natural backings.

Paint walls in natural paints that don’t contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) which can off gas toxins onto the floor or surfaces below. VOCs are found at their highest levels in conventional eggshell or gloss paints

Furniture such as beds, wardrobes and chairs

Choose solid wood furniture that wont contain formaldehyde resin glues (found in MDF, chipboard and plywood) which can off gas. Vintage furniture can look great when given a lick of paint or even a little wall paper.

Mattresses can trap high levels of dust which leads to dust mites, these can be vacuumed clear. Alternatively you could use a closed cell structure natural latex mattress or use organic fibre mattresses which wont have been exposed to toxins in the production of the materials. (photo credit: www.inke.nl)

Buy solid wooden toys and avoid plastic toys particularly those made of PVC ( like rubber bath ducks) which contain phthalates- which have been shown to cause a wide array of health issues affecting the liver, kidney, lung and blood pressure, but most importantly is their reported effect on the reproductive tract of boys. (photo credit: www.ecocentric.co.uk)

It goes without saying that you should use low energy bulbs but I advise using the bulbs that have the curly filament encased within a conventional bulb shaped cover. Low energy bulbs contain small quantities of mercury which can be released if broken. Alternatively use a tough lamp shade such as polypropylene, which can be recycled at the end of its useful life.

Heating and ventilation– thermostatic valves
Bedrooms need to be both heated and properly ventilated – this will keep the rooms living conditions healthy and comfortable. Children’s bedrooms should be kept at between 64.5 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, this can be achieved by using a thermostatic radiator valve to regulate room temperature.
Use trickle vents in the windows to maintain regular air changes, this will reduce the build op of damp and mold. (photo credit: www.ecocentric.co.uk)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Publishers Weekly mentions Oliver Heath's "Urban Eco Chic" book

Publishers Weekly's feature "Gimme shelter," published on October 13, mentioned Urban Eco Chic:

"When it comes to things green, Quadrille Publishing offers Urban Eco Chic (Sept.) by noted eco-designer Oliver Heath, who wants to “create energy-efficient homes that are beautifully designed” and combine elements of “vintage, nature and technology.” In keeping with that goal, the book is printed with vegetable-based inks on FSC-certified paper and recyclable laminate."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old furniture, new style: Oliver Heath's tips on refinishing furniture

One of my true pleasures is finding old pieces of furniture and giving it a new lease of life; it’s the excitement of the potential, the burst of creativity and finally it’s appreciating what you’ve made – knowing that its totally unique to you. Vintage furniture will add character and identity and it can help make your home feel more human – taking the harder edge off contemporary design.

I often scour markets and thrift stores for classic pieces such as chairs, bureaus or cupboards– older furniture won’t have any of the chemical nasties found in their modern counterparts and they are often built to last with solid timber – so all it takes area few ideas and a little work to give each piece a new lease of life.

Why not try a few of these:

Sand the piece down (to give it a key) then re-paint it using natural paints- which won't have toxins.

If the piece is covered in layers of paint, sand it down a little to give it a distressed look.

Or even create the distressed look yourself by adding layers of paint and gently removing them once dry– tonal shades of the same color work best.

Paint the interior drawers a vibrant – even shocking- color for a real burst of life.

Paint a section in natural paints to match your room, and then cover other areas in patterned wall paper, although wrapping paper or squares of origami paper will be cheaper as they are available in smaller amounts.

Apply gold or silver leaf over sections of the unit to give it a soft but rich reflective glow.

Replace the handles and legs with something more contemporary and if there is a lock with a key, fit a decorative tassel for a touch of glamour. These smaller details really work wonderfully.

Use stencils – such as flowers, leaves, or historic patterns to add color and texture. It could even have a graffiti feel for a children’s bedroom.

Cover the piece in blackboard paint and then use it as a memo board by writing on it with chalk – which can look fantastic although it’s best done over a solid floor as it can create dust.

Use a paper decoupage (cut out images or text from magazines) and cover the piece – choose similar colored images or even just black and white for the most coherent effect.

For chairs simply recover fabric sections in something retro, vintage or even really contemporary – the change will work wonderfully.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Outside spaces: Living close to nature

Exterior spaces should be treated with the same care and attention to detail as the interior of your home. They are a chance to get closer with nature which I believe has a calming and grounding effect on our lives.

In my own home I have created two outside spaces by building a structural glass balcony above a lower ground floor patio area. The upper space has a neat fold down picnic table and chairs made from reclaimed timber (which folds away when not in use, so it looks like a timber wall) and is perfect for alfresco breakfasts and growing tomatoes - see the picture for this years crop!

The lower space, which is partly covered over by the glass balcony above, has a number of functions. As the glass allows a maximum of light to filter down, it keeps the basement floor to stay light and airy. Being protected from rain, its good for drying washing (without the need for a dryer) – and it makes a perfect retreat space in the summer, staying cool and quiet. I’ve made the space feel more luxurious by the addition of 2 chaise lounges from reclaimed timber and filled the space with exotic market finds such as vintage mirrors, tables, chandeliers, and bird cages – all of which give it an air of grandeur. Even the floor is sustainable – the decking is made from reclaimed wood and plastic –it’s non slip and won't go green and moldy like timber – so it's very low maintenance.

But if you have the space there’s no reason why you can't do more to encourage wildlife and make your own home more sustainable. You may want to consider a home composting system, rainwater harvesting from the water collected by you roof, bird feeding areas, and encourage native plants and grasses to grow.

Friday, August 29, 2008

GREEN REVIVAL: Style and passion for the environment unite in new book that helps us combat green fatigue

Home decoration books aren’t usually emotional, but Oliver Heath’s passion for the environment makes Urban Eco Chic a thought-provoking book, one that subtly encourages all of us to reexamine the way we think of, shop for, and dispose of our home goods.

The book unveils Heath’s green home design style, called Urban Eco Chic, which “allows us to create energy-efficient homes that are beautifully designed and really stimulate and excite us by appealing to our emotional side.” To connect with our homes on an emotional level, Heath writes in the book, we should choose elements that balance vintage, nature, and technology:

Vintage: Treasured items and once-beloved collections that reflect our experiences, add a romantic quality, and create a sense of nostalgia.

Nature: The vibrant scent of freshly mown grass, the textual feel of tree bark, the flickering flames of a log fire - these all raise comforting emotional responses.

Technology is the key to how we can reduce our environmental impact and lower our carbon emissions. It is an exciting area, which is constantly developing.

Committed to reducing our eco-impact without compromising on style, Oliver Heath has applied this philosophy to this book as well. When published in September, the gorgeous, sustainably-produced book will be printed with vegetable-based inks on FSC-certified paper and coated with fully-recyclable laminate. Retailing for $29.95, this 176- page hardcover will feature more than 100 full color photographs and an eco resources section that lists green building supply companies, energy efficient retailers, green non-profits and more.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Don't want to use your A/C this summer? Urban Eco Chic author Oliver Heath offers up these no-sweat ideas to cool down your house.

  • Close your curtains: Cover windows during the day with thick curtains to stop the suns heat soaking into the interior materials.

  • Choose light-blocking blinds: Use black out blinds or silver backed blinds to reflect the suns rays back out from the window.

  • Encourage a breeze: Allow cross ventilation

  • Open skylights: If you have a skylight in the roof, open it to allow warm rising air out. This will be aided if you open a window or door lower down the building, allowing a chimney effect of warm air to be sucked out.

  • Light colors: Use whiter, lighter surfaces for interior furnishings that won’t attract and soak up the heat from the sun as it pours through windows.

  • Filter light: Venetian slatted blinds are a good way to filter light into a space without allowing in the suns rays – making them perfect for office spaces or those that are to be used in the daytime.

To keep your home cool this summer think outside the box - and outside your home.

  • Install slatted screens: The best way to cool down your house from the outside is to stop the suns rays entering the building in the first place, as they transform from light energy to heat as they pass through glass. So use Brise Soleil (slatted screens) overhanging the window to stop the majority of the suns midday strength, from entering.

  • Close your shutters: Stop the suns rays getting through the glass by using shutters fixed to the exterior of the building and keep them closed during the day.

  • Plant trees: Use deciduous trees planted out side your home to cut down on sunlight penetration in the summer (when leaves are present and blocking it) but allow the suns warmth through in the winter when the leave s fall off.
  • Grow vines: Do the same by using natural vegetation (such as climbing or trailing plants) grown over a pergola or similar structure, to cut down on summer sun but allow through warming winter rays.

  • Upgrade to tinted glass: Use technologically advanced solar glass such as high performance tinted glass (which can be blue, grey or green in color) low-e reflective strip glass or reflective coatings to bounce the suns away from entering the building.

Urban Eco Chic author and green designer Oliver Heath traces his commitment to the environment back to childhood.

Growing up in Brighton (on the South Coast of England) meant that I spent a lot of time as a child at the beach, even though the sea is pretty cold over here. Seeing rubbish and pollution wash up on the shore was always upsetting for me and so stuck in my memory. As I grew up I became a fanatical sailor and windsurfer, and whilst at university studying architecture I spent my glorious summer vacations working as a windsurfing instructor in Brighton. I taught my students how to respect the sea, the weather, how to look after themselves and learn how to make the most of it all by windsurfing.

These important lessons combined with my studies of the built environment (all 6 years of them!) to create a fascination with architecture and design that works with the forces of nature rather than against it - trying to shut nature out.

As my career took on a media angle I felt it important to discuss the issues in design that were important to contemporary living – and in my mind this was to focus on sustainable design. Now more and more we are seeing the issue of sustainable architecture being brought to the fore and I felt it was important to show how interiors could reflect this shift- to do their bit to reduce our environmental foot print, through well considered design and behavioral change, without compromising on style – naturally! Now the many stands of my work focus on designing aspirational sustainability- to create spaces that are first and foremost, beautiful, functional and inherently green.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Urban Eco Chic: FSC-certified

What did it take to publish Urban Eco Chic on paper that was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council?

Step 1: Deciding on FSC-Certification
Urban Eco Chic will be published by Quadrille Publishing in September 2008. When the idea for the book came about, a lot of the people involved wanted to use FSC certified paper to underscore the environmental message of the book. Author and green designer Oliver Heath agreed.

Step 2: Choosing an FSC-accredited printer
We did a lot of research and found a printer who had the FSC credentials. Printers are awarded FSC badge by passing an audit. Once accreditation is obtained, further audits take place to check that the mill/printer is adhering to the guidelines.

Step 3: Determining the right paper
The paper a book is printed on is one of the most important aspects of turning a manuscript into a high-quality book. The printing company worked with us to choose the best paper for Urban Eco Chic, made from recycled materials. This special recycled paper carrying the FSC logo is not usually held in stock. We custom-ordered the paper, which is also more expensive than regular paper.

It takes a couple weeks longer for this paper to come in, so it takes longer to print a book on FSC certified paper, but it's well worth the wait to conserve trees and underscore the message of Urban Eco Chic with real action.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Urban Eco Chic home accessories: Eco-Vases

From page 158 of Urban Eco Chic by Oliver Heath:

There is a good variety of recycled glass vases available, from everyday cylindrical ones to adventurous pieces. But a glass vase does not need to be big to display its eco-credentials. Dutch designer Tord Boontje, with his partner Emma Woofenden, has created a beautiful set of vases made from cut and frosted wine bottles. Manufactured by a Guatemalan cooperative aimed at getting artisans off the street and back into work, they are part of the Design with Conscience Campaign.

Although not very big, they hold a simple stem or a few flowers.

(From Urban Eco Chic by Oliver Heath from Quadrille Publishing. Used with permission from the publisher).

Urban Eco Chic bedrooms: Vintage elements create an intimate environment

The use of vintage items in the bedroom imparts an individual identity onto the space— after all, it is your private area, so make it unique to you, with treasured items that you enjoy and that say something about who you are.

-Personal collections and objects displayed in your bedroom will reflect you and your experiences, allowing you to relax into a space that suits you perfectly.

-Vintage items can also add a romantic quality, allowing you to revel in a sense of nostalgia about your life or shared experiences with your partner, be they mementos of time spent together or pieces chosen in antique stores, markets, or on travels.

-Even in a bedroom, the softening effect of vintage pieces on the harder edges of a clean-cut contemporary space is useful. A worn leather armchair might be juxtaposed with a modern cabinet, for example, to set up an enticing visual contrast.

(From Urban Eco Chic by Oliver Heath from Quadrille Publishing. Used with permission from the publisher. Photo credit: House Beautiful magazine).

Urban Eco Chic bathrooms

After the kitchen, the bathroom is where we use the most resources - water, heat, electricity. Urban Eco Chic has a section on ways to make your bathroom earth-friendly. Here are some ideas on going green in the bathroom:

Water-saving devices
Did you know 30% of all water used in the home is flushed down the toilet? To reduce this waste, install a low-flow or dual-flush toilet and while you're at it, install low-flow shower heads and faucets. You can also purchase a gray-water system, which reuses water from the bath or sink for flushing the toilet, to reduce water consumption up to 30%. (For a complete analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of this system, see page 117 of Urban Eco Chic).

1. Keep your showers under five minutes, and keep baths to a minimum.
2. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
3. Fit flow restrictors to faucet valves.
4. Fit a water displacement device in your toilet.
5. Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater; it is pointless to mix scalding
water with cold—this wastes water and fuel.

Choose a smaller bathtub (less than 66" by 27") or shower instead.

Part-tile and part-paint your walls with an eco-friendly, eggshell finish paint.

Recycled rubber flooring, cork tiles, linoleum, solid wood, rubber or ceramic tiles are all eco-friendly options.

To create a truly multifunctional space that refreshes you in the morning and relaxes you
after an exhausting day, maximize natural light levels.

(From Urban Eco Chic by Oliver Heath from Quadrille Publishing. Used with permission from the publisher. Photo credit: Kohler Bathrooms).

Urban Eco Chic home offices

How to set up an eco-friendly home office

A home office increases the pressure on your
personal space but also offers environmental
benefits. By using all that technology has to offer, you
can create a more efficient workspace— one
that uses less electricity and other resources,
such as paper. Here's how:

1. Turn off all appliances when you finish for
the day. In some cases, you may need to
unplug them; check the instruction manual or
your dealer

2. Make the most of communication
technologies, such as digital imaging;
conference calling, and broadband, in order to
reduce the need for travel and mailing items.

3. Use recycled paper in your printer;
print on both sides of paper (though you
may need a thicker grade of paper to do this).

4. Keep two wastebaskets—one for ordinary trash and one specifically for paper and
envelopes—this also makes paper easier to reuse, provided you do not crush it up.

5. Recycle your empty printer cartridges

6. Recycle obsolete items of I.T.— look online for charities that will take old computers and printers away for use in schools or developing countries or for local community groups, such as freecycle. org. If it is totally out of date, contact your local government, who can advise how best to dispose of any items without sending them to landfill.

(From Urban Eco Chic by Oliver Heath from Quadrille Publishing. Used with permission from the publisher. Photo credit: House Beautiful magazine).

Four steps to an eco-conscious bedroom

1. Cut down on energy use, in the form of heating and lighting

2. Minimize toxins in materials and finishes

3. Reduce the levels of dust, which can lead to asthmas and allergies.

4. Use organic, fair-trade fabrics for bed linens, thereby easing your eco-conscience for a really good night's sleep.

Key eco-questions to ask of every material and product:

Where has it come from?
Is it from a naturally renewable source?
Was it made in a nonpolluting, energy-efficient way?
Were the rights of the workers respected with good conditions, reasonable hours, and fair pay?
Will it travel vast distances to reach me?
Can I chose a locally made product instead?

How will I use it?
Will it be energy efficient, saving me money and saving the environment carbon emissions?
Is it built to last, or will it fall apart as soon as the guarantee ends?
Is it easy to maintain and fix?
Am I able to get spare parts easily?

Where will it go once I am done with it?

Can I pass it on to someone else to use after I have finished with it?
Can I recycle it easily?
Will it biodegrade?