Danny Seo is an expert on environmental home design.
Green Guru Danny Seo
Environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo is the official Green Living Partner for JCPenney. He also contributes a green advice column to Better Homes & Gardens magazine. Seo’s first lifestyle book, Conscious Style Home, describes his renovation of his parents’ home in Green Hills, Pa., using easy-to-find, eco-friendly materials.
Why Go Eco for Home Furnishings?
Eco-expert Danny Seo gives tips and tricks for going green.
- by Michelle Porter Tiernan
Choosing eco-friendly décor can pay off in more ways than one, says eco-expert Danny Seo. Uncertain about going green? Learn how easy—and affordable—it can be.
Q: Why is it important to go eco-friendly when decorating your home?
A: More people are finding that an eco-friendly home is an energy-efficient one, saving resources and money. Plus, as we all spend more time in our homes—working, spending time with family, etc.—it makes sense to want to create a home that’s as healthy as possible.
Q: How can you buy sustainable furnishings and décor without spending a lot of money?
A: There’s a huge misconception that going green is going to cost, well, a lot of green. The truth is, yes, there are lots of pricey, eco-friendly furniture pieces, paints and other items out there, but there are plenty of affordable options, too.
The rule of thumb here is simple: Shop around. If you want a sofa with soy-enhanced foam, wait for the custom upholstery sale at Mitchell Gold to save money. Or, use an online paint calculator to figure out exactly how much zero-VOC paint you really need to buy instead of overbuying. Plan, think and save!
Q: What should you look for when buying wood furniture?
A: An oldie is always a goodie. I love vintage and antiques because their inherent design quality is of durability, beauty and it’s green because it’s reusing something. To buy new, go with the Forest Stewardship Council mark as a sign that the wood sourcing was harvested in a sustainable manner.
Another simple rule of thumb is to buy quality pieces instead of quantity. A cheap piece of furniture that feels disposable isn’t something that’s green, no matter what the source of the wood is. If you can’t pass it down to someone else, pass.
Q: What options can you expect to find in low- or zero-VOC interior paint?
A: Now, whatever color you want for your walls, you can find a zero-VOC paint to match it. Benjamin Moore’s Natura paint is zero VOC, and there are hundreds—if not thousands—of colors it can be matched with. And their Aura paint line, which is low VOC with waterborne colorants, can be tinted very dark colors. I painted my house black, and it took just one coat of Aura paint to have it fully covered.
Q: What fabrics do you recommend looking for in window treatments, bed linens and rugs?
A: Thermal-lined drapes and blinds are great because they help keep your home warmer in the winter months by keeping drafts out. JCPenney’s Simply Green roman shades are made from recycled PET from water bottles, but they look like classic shades.
Rugs are getting easier. Mohawk flooring has been recycling millions of plastic water bottles into durable nylon rugs for years. You can get anything from wall-to-wall carpet to scatter rugs made from this recycled material.
Bedding is also more mainstream than ever before. You can find a whole variety of eco-sheets in stores made from materials ranging from organic cotton to Tencel to bamboo fiber. It may soon be harder to find conventional sheets than eco ones!
Q: What are some eco-friendly options for wallpaper?
A: I like this company—the Alpha Workshops in New York City—that makes handpainted wallpaper. It’s pricey, but wallpaper is something that’s going onto your walls that you’re going to be living with and looking at for a very long time. It might as well be a piece of artwork. There are also eco-friendly options out there from most higher-end wallpaper companies, featuring recycled paper backing or integrating natural cork on the top layer in a myriad of colors. Just avoid PVC wallpaper; it’s not very eco-friendly.