Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the wild events of the past year and the fact that I’ve had my Southampton interior design business for over 20 years! So much has happened since I first started my business, but one thing hasn’t changed: my commitment to beautiful design with sustainability in mind.

Why sustainability? I believe that a healthy environment is key to a healthy mind and body. Put another way: a sustainable lifestyle sustains us. I’ve spent 20 years learning about the marriage between good design and good environmental practices. I employ this ethos in my own home and my own life, and I’m convinced it’s why I’ve enjoyed good health for all of these years. 

A well-designed home offers a number of benefits:

  • Improved mental health and well-being
  • Spaces that work for you and your family’s needs
  • Long-lasting, quality workmanship for less maintenance

Equally, using sustainable materials and practices keeps us and our family happy and healthy.

Here’s how:

  • Reduces risk of chronic health problems
  • Maintains natural resources for future generations
  • Reduces costs over the lifetime of your home

Let’s take a closer look at how sustainable style benefits you, your family, and the planet.

Sustainable Style Improves Your Home's Air Quality

Walking along the beach in the crisp morning air is an invigorating experience. The fresh, clean scent from the sea breeze lifts my mood and vitalizes me for the day to come. 

I strive for that same experience inside my home — clean air that sustains me and my family. Many of us are aware of outdoor air pollution in large urban areas, but did you know that the air in our homes may be toxic as well? Especially for children, whose developing lungs are more susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals.

The average American household contains over 60 hazardous products — many of those come from cleaning products, paints, and even the furniture we buy. They can cause health problems such as allergies, asthma, hormone disruption, and cancer. 

These are the main chemicals to avoid in your home: 

Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs): 

Where they are found: takeout containers, pizza boxes, candy wrappers, nonstick cookware, cleaning products, personal care products, paint, and varnish


Where they are found: cleaning and personal care products; clothing and linens; and building materials and furnishings

Flame retardants: 

Where they are found: furniture, children’s products (such as mattresses), electronics, building materials, wires, and cables

Bisphenols and Phthalates: 

Where they are found: plastic water bottles and food storage containers, vinyl flooring and shower curtains, plastic wrap, glues, paints, and air fresheners


Where they are found: oil-based paints, paint strippers, adhesives, wood finishes, shoe polish, cosmetics, markers, aerosols, nail polish remover, garment dry cleaning, sealants, and household cleaners

Metals such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead: 

Where they are found: Mercury is found in fish, imported face creams, and fluorescent lights. Cadmium is found in metal costume jewelry, rechargeable batteries, and in paint finishes on glassware and pottery. Arsenic is found in foods, especially rice products like infant cereal. Lead is found in peeling paint and dust from homes built prior to 1978, some children’s toys and costume jewelry, and cosmetics like lipstick.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): 

Where they are found: paint, varnish, glue used for furniture, and cleaning supplies


Where they are found: by-products of the petroleum industry, found in cleaning products

The good news is that there are healthy alternatives to the products made with these chemicals! I’ll cover these in more detail in later blog posts (stay tuned!), but here are some easy swaps to consider:

  • Low or no-VOC paints and varnishes
  • Eco-friendly cleaning products, such as those made by Blueland
  • Children’s toys made with natural materials like wool, rubber, and silicone. Wood is a good option too, but make sure it’s certified sustainable--see below.

Sustainable Style Protects Resources for Future Generations

A few of our favorite sustainably made products

Living by the sea, we often don’t have the opportunity to think about the world’s forests. But they’re vital for storing carbon to slow climate change, and to provide a home to thousands of wildlife species. In fact, over 30% of the planet is covered by forest.

Wood is an essential natural resource used in construction, home goods, medicine, and more. Unfortunately, though, trees are being cut down at unsustainable rates. Every second, an area of forest the size of a soccer field is lost, leading to alarming rates of deforestation. If we don’t do something to slow this pace, our children and grandchildren won’t have access to the most important resources that trees provide.

There are three household products that are contributing to deforestation at alarming rates:

Palm oil: used in foods and personal care products, like snack foods and lipstick. Large areas of the Amazon rainforest are being cleared for palm tree plantations. 

Household paper products: Between 1996 and 2015, an area of Canada’s boreal forest the size of Ohio was deforested for toilet paper and other tissue products.

Furniture: Increased demand for furniture across the world is also one of the primary causes of deforestation, and it affects forests on nearly every continent.

I highlight these three products because of the easy changes you can make to help prevent deforestation and preserve natural resources for our children and grandchildren.

  • Check the labels on food and personal care products. If palm oil is listed, consider an alternative, or write the manufacturers and urge them to stop using palm oil. Let them know you’re concerned about the deforestation caused by palm plantations.
  • Use a bamboo toilet paper subscription, such as Cloud Paper. Bamboo is a fast-growing and self-regenerating resource that is an excellent alternative to tree-based paper products. And companies like Cloud Paper use FSC-certification to ensure no forests were cut down to grow the bamboo.
  • Seek out FSC-certified furniture. At my Southampton store, we carry a number of stylish options that come from responsibly sourced wood.

A bonus of choosing sustainable furnishings for your home is they’re of better quality than their counterparts. Quality-made linens, furniture, toys, and other products can be passed down through generations.

Sustainable Style Saves You Money

You might think that sounds like a bit of a stretch, but I assure you it’s true. Often the “true” cost of purchases isn’t immediately apparent.

Take for instance buying a traditional oven cleaner. You’ve compared prices at the store and the one you choose promises deep-cleaning for pennies. But when you start using it you notice that you get a headache. Or your child starts coughing whenever you clean the oven, and eventually develops a wheeze when exercising. Now you have health costs related to a seemingly innocent cleaning product.

You can see now how very important a healthy, sustainable home environment is! It’s not just health-related costs. A truly sustainable home will provide you with energy and home-maintenance savings throughout your lifetime. As another example, installing a smart thermostat will save energy and pay for itself within two years! 

Not to mention the peace of mind having a non-toxic, energy-efficient, beautiful home brings you. I truly believe this, and that’s why I’ve made it my life’s work to provide sustainable, stylish homes for my clients.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you committed to sustainable style? What sustainable steps have you taken in your home? Share in the comments below!

Interested in working with us to create your own coastal retreat? Book a design chat today?

March 05, 2024 — Shannon Willey