“Learning to design around natural principles may not come easily, but we must. Our resources are finite. There is no doubt that environmental concerns will shape the future of design. Less than 10 years ago sustainability and the environment were very discrete concepts. Sustainable design was practiced by a few fringe designers who were seen by their peers as modern-day hippies, a granola crowd whose image was characterised by Birkenstocks and a propensity for materials like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo recycled paper and plastic,” David Oakey, designer.
“For a long time, the scientists have been telling us global warming increases the temperature of the top layer in the ocean, and that causes the average hurricane to become a lot stronger. So, the fact that the ocean temperatures did go up because of global warming, because of man-made global warming, starting around in the seventies and then we had a string of unusually strong hurricanes outside the boundaries of this multi-decadal cycle that is a real factor; there are scientists who point that out, and they’re right, but we’re exceeding those boundaries now,” Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth.
Today, if you pick up a paper, change a channel or just happen to catch some advertising in-between channel hoping, you cannot but notice the increase in information about global warming and its far reaching effects. But sometimes marrying modern living with the effects of our ecological footprint is very difficult indeed. Most people would not choose to spend forty-five minutes in traffic burning fuel, but sometimes there is no choice. Our requirements for a basic standard of living have increased phenomenally over the past decade.
So how can a holistic designer change how we live? In reality all change happens from each individual, it is all down to our choices, and what we consider to be of value.
Holistic design is all about designing your home and lifestyle around what is important to you. As opposed to following trends, holistic design focuses on the occupants of the home and the designer works as a facilitator allowing the client to realise the full extent of the project.
This can include any aspect, whether it is choosing to downsize your house in order to change your lifestyle, look at sick building syndrome in your home or just generally to create a cosy atmosphere where, when you close the front door you can leave the outside world behind and relax in your own space.
This of course does not mean that you have to throw away all modern conveniences and start growing your own vegetables in your roof-top garden, on the contrary it is all about doing little things and being conscious.
Today we will use complimentary holistic treatments for nearly all ailments, from back pains, to headaches to allergies, but without treating the environment our body lives in on a daily basis we are not approaching the problem completely holistically. Colour, light, space, radon, electromagnetic fields are just a few issues that would need to be looked at when addressing a specific issue. Allowing your house to breathe is of primary importance, I know we all don’t like being chilly, but do we prefer being sealed in a box with chemicals such as formaldehyde?
Of course being environmentally friendly when choosing products for your home can generally be difficult, if not almost impossible. But everything is changing, natural paint can now be sourced locally and many different builders are looking at more sustainable building techniques. This is where your holistic designer’s portfolio of contacts comes into play. He or she should be able to let you know where to get everything from low energy bulbs to solar panels, to information on recycling and local craftspeople.
Holistic design in reality is about working with what you have and reducing its ecological footprint, this of course does not mean ripping out your MDF kitchen and replacing in with sustainable wood from managed forests or knocking down your house to start from scratch. Needless to say these options would not be very ecologically sound. It is all about changing the way you think, working towards a more holistic lifestyle that allows for stress to be alleviated, for our choices not to be dictated to by commerce, and of course the most important aspect of all is to work towards leaving behind a healthy planet for future generations.
Published UR Dream Home (Interiors magazine West of Ireland) & Athenry News and Views
Words Tina O Rourke