The verdict is in and big, sprawling houses are out — at least if you want to be energy efficient, that is. The Pew Research Center reports that while we’ve made some considerable energy gains since the 1970s, a lot of that progress has been lost to the bigger houses homeowners have favored in the intervening years.
That means going smaller could potentially have a big impact. But living in a tinier space doesn’t come without its unique challenges. Rooms here often have to do double or even triple duty, transforming from a living room into a dining area, home office and back again in the span of a single day. Of course, that’s nowhere near impossible — just ask any New Yorker. Multifunctional furniture and storage units, plus a few genius layout tips, can make even the most cramped spot sing. Many of these items are manufactured with environmentally-friendly materials, meaning your cozy home will be extra green as well. Take a look!
Tables With Built-in Storage
Is it an end table or a bookshelf? Modular shelving makes it possible to have both. Shelving units like Way Basics’s Eco 2 Shelf Duo make an awesome spot to stash Blu-Rays, books or albums while offering somewhere to rest your drink during a serious Netflix binge. Way Basics claims that the product is made with 100 percent recycled paperboard, and with zero VOCs, it certainly won’t tax the air quality in your small space. Your living room’s coffee table is another spot to invest in some built-in storage — and it’s a great place to show off a standout reclaimed wood piece, too. Look for models with built-in drawers, like this cocktail table made from salvaged pine.
Let’s take a brief pause here to talk about furniture’s environmental impact. Sadly, the modern furniture business doesn’t always have the best reputation for going green. Stains, paints and finishes contain solvents that can be harmful when not properly stored and disposed. And then there’s the issue of deforestation. Items produced with wood and wood-based products often rely on materials that are unsustainably harvested, which ultimately contributes to climate change. Still, a snug space can usually benefit from a few choice pieces, particularly when it comes to seating. RC Green sectionals are made with Forest Stewardship Council wood and eco-friendly fabrics like cotton, linen, bamboo and hemp — and since they’re sectionals, they can be adjusted to fit even odd, narrow spaces.
A Corner Nook
Another way to set up a multi-tasking room is to literally carve it up by function — especially if you want a reading nook, office, or other private area to share space with your living room. For more privacy, there are plenty of eco-friendly room dividers to choose from, made with everything from woven bamboo to recycled magazines. If you’re particularly pressed for space, consider using a corner to house your home office. A corner desk like this one, made from MDF, gets green points since MDF, which stands for Medium Density Fibreboard, is generally considered more eco-friendly than timber. That’s because it’s manufactured from quick-growing pine trees that are much easier to replenish than oak or maple.
Don’t like the idea of devoting half your living room to a permanent office? Fold-out furniture, such as a murphy desk or table, offers a good compromise. Fold-down floating console desks have minimal finishes and use less lumber than their full-size counterparts, making them a sounder choice for the environmentally-concerned. You can even DIY using 100 percent salvaged wood to diver waste from landfills as well. Greener living that’s more comfortable, too? Now that’s a big deal.
Bryn Huntpalmer lives in Austin, Texas, where she currently works as editor-in-chief of Modernize with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.