For those of you who know me, it should come as no surprise that the health and well being of my family is a top priority. We eat organic, locally grown, and ethically raised foods, wear natural fiber clothing (as much as possible), and get plenty of exercise and rest.

This health consciousness extends to all the products I bring into our home, including eco-friendly furnishings. Besides looking for beautiful, sustainably produced, and well-made items–for my home and my clients’ homes—I routinely seek out green and eco-friendly products made without petrochemicals or flame-retardants.

Bench seating with natural latex foam, and vintage Belgian linen pillows stuffed with down and feathers offer a natural alternative to foam fills.

Sofas, seat cushions, and bedding made and treated with these toxic chemicals are known to “off-gas” their volatile organic compounds which pollute our interior environments. An abundance of evidence shows long-term exposure has resulted in increased cancer rates, allergies, and birth defects, to name a few, contaminating people and pets alike.

Of course, I want the rooms I design for my clients to look beautiful, but I also want to enhance and elevate every aspect of their home – including creating a safe and healthy environment. When budgets permit, I encourage my clients to consider custom furnishings where we specify natural materials for cushions and bedding, or look for items that have not been treated.

Natural linen custom feather throw pillows gets the foam stuffing out of the house.

Natural linen custom feather throw pillows gets the foam stuffing out of the house.

At the vanguard of Earth-friendly alternatives, Cisco Home and Lee Industries have been manufacturing furniture with foam made from soy or natural latex, organically produced cotton, as well as naturally flame retardant wool and no longer treat any of their furnishings with flame retardants.

California State Senator Mark Leno, requires furniture manufacturers to label products treated with flame-retardants. Unfortunately, SB1019 doesn’t ban the use of flame-retardants outright, but does provide consumers with information – and a choice.

Latex foam used in sofa provides a natural alternative to poly-foams.

Latex foam used in sofa cushions and seating provides a natural alternative to poly-foams.

With an increase in awareness of the hazards of fire retardants, several big-name furniture manufacturers are rethinking their product lines. Companies like Room & Board, Pottery Barn, and Design Within Reach have all begun phasing out the use of flame-retardants, and are beginning to offer sustainable and Earth-friendly items. Unfortunately, many brand names are still lagging behind, so it’s up to us to make environmentally conscious choices.

As consumers, we have the power of our pocketbooks (or wallets) to enact change. And, as stewards of our planet, I encourage you to think “big picture” when making your next purchase of furniture. It may cost a little more, but an investment in your health, is money well spent.

(Originally published in the Piedmont Post.)