Shopping for Green Design By Sunshine Flint
High style meets high demand with green design stores selling chic, eco-only products.
The latest high status question is “how green is your house”? The latest toy is not a Bose iPod dock, but a little device called The Owl that shows in real time how much energy your house is using. Demand has created a burgeoning green design field, and eco-only stores are opening in design capitals New York, Los Angeles and London.
There’s no lack of designers and entrepreneurs making chic, elegant and also eco-friendly products today, such as Norwegian company Northern Lighting and their energy-saving. but fantastical lighting. Or the surprisingly stylish cardboard furniture from Cartonniste Associes in France. But the desire for responsible design means now is the time for all-green, all-the-time stores such as Kelly LaPlante Organic Interior Designs in Venice, California. LaPlante, an eco-interior designer and author of écologique, a book on green lifestyle and design, recently launched jak, a line of stylish eco-furniture. She sees green not as one style, but as one standard. “A client can have whatever style they want,” she says, but LaPlante makes it sustainable. She sells jak at her store, along with vintage refurbishments and other green items from candle to throws. “There was no store in Los Angeles where you can just walk in and get a pillow or a vase and know it’s green,” she says. She may also soon sell Q Collection, a line of high-end luxury furniture that currently is available mainly on the East Coast.
Similarly, Vivavi’s pop-up store in Manhattan sells all-green modern furniture and accessories to both trade and to retail. When they started five years ago, they concentrated on regular customers, but started getting calls from designers who didn’t know much about green design, but whose clients were asking for it. “There aren’t a lot of green options out there for a modern aesthetic,” says Aron Kressler, director of sales. “And we sell exceptional design.” Vivavi stocks a wide range of sustainable, non-toxic, but exquisite furniture and accessories from designers like Austria’s Team 7 (whose furniture has won awards), linens from Ortolan, and Lulan, a custom-made silk line of textiles.
Brother and sister duo Nicola and Livia Giuggioli (she is married to Colin Firth who is also one of the store’s co-owners) opened Eco in Chiswick earlier this year as a store and consultancy for all green needs, selling to individual consumers, schools, businesses, property developers and interior designers. Customers can shop from soup to nuts: wallpaper, appliances, solar panels, green roof systems. They stock well-designed and expensive products that most would covet: just run a finger over a silky smooth Hans Wegner chair made from sustainable wood, or check out the deep and rich colours from Eco’s Earthborne clay-based paint. The owners have plans to stock green fashions soon and launch Eco stores in other cities.
No sacrifice of good taste is necessary today; high-end design now comes with everything on the green wishlist from water-based finishes to non-toxic adhesives to sustainable production. Meaning both style and substance are for sale.