My new home is a project and a half: An older, 17th century stone cottage in need of a lot of TLC. It stood empty for about a year and had been seriously neglected prior to that. The cobwebs would have made Miss Haversham green with envy. It does have great potential, though, and I am busy renovating with a view to creating a quirky yet stylish living space and at the same time a healthy home.
One big attraction to the property in spite of it’s rundown state, is the fact that it predates the use of modern, building materials. I am a great lover of green low impact living and this enables me to keep my carbon footprint low and the amount of chemicals in the home to an absolute minimum by using eco-friendly organic lime based natural paint and plaster to repair and update. Auro natural paints, decorating and finishing products are fantastic and easy to order online, with fast delivery.
By using natural materials I aim to keep embedded energy values as low as possible. Stripped back style is one that really appeals to me, with elements of ‘industrial’ thrown in, and Country Living’s Special Edition Modern Rustic Magazine, Issue 2, has been one of my sources of inspiration.
Where to start? Using the Permaculture principles enabled me to come out of overwhelm and start to take some action. Principle 9, Small and Slow Solutions, was my starting point: moving in and making gradual changes would enable me to keep costs to a minimum as I had been living in rented accommodation while looking for a project. It didn’t take long to decide that the 80’s style gas fire needed to go, to be replaced by a traditional log burner.
Our home is an extension of our body, an outer shell. How we furnish our home environment is as important as the quality of food that we eat and the quality of the air that we breathe.
You may be surprised to know that, in our ‘modern’ world it has become usual to preserve home furnishings in the same way as foods, as a means to improving wear or maintenance, texture or appearance. Additives such as formaldehyde are used to make fabric ‘crease resistant’ or ‘easy-care’ and remnants of chemicals used in the dying process such a dioxins and even heavy metals are often present. Even many so-called natural fabrics have been treated with potentially harmful chemicals, either during the growing cycle, to improve crop resistance and increase harvest, or as applied finishes. These chemicals can pose a threat to human health and well-being.
Non-synthetic fibres such as cotton, linen wool, jute, sisal, coir, hemp, bamboo can be processed in ways that demand less treating although cotton is a very thirsty plant and does need large amounts of water to grow sucessfully. These fabrics can also be coloured with natural dyes which have far less impact on the environment. They are also biodegradable and can be recycled. Hemp for example has a very long life, being very hard wearing, and its texture actually tends to improve with age.