True green decor

Fall is here. In Montreal, it’s time to bring in the plants and batten down the hatches for another winter.

After a summer enjoyed in the great outdoors, once we seal up our homes for another winter, I wonder how many of us turn our thoughts to indoor air quality. In fact, indoor air pollutants can be significantly higher than outdoor air pollutants. Our homes and the stuff we have in them can contain a cocktail of hazardous substances such as formaldehyde (found in MDF, carpets, upholstery) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassed from carpets, upholstery, paints, insulation, plastics and countless other common products.

Green plants come in handy here. They absorb toxins, removing VOCs from the ambient air, and they actually improve air quality through photosynthesizing — that is, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing energy rich oxygen.

An effort to capture these health benefits is propelling the movement in corporate headquarters, arts institutions, universities and public spaces to incorporate into their interior architecture permanent installations of plants — or living walls. Living walls are covered by plants, which do not root in the ground but in soil or mats suspended on the wall itself.

living wall 8(source: egreenwall.com)

In addition to being visually stunning and delivering physical benefits, living walls provide psychological health benefits by inserting nature into human (and often corporate) landscapes.

ryanprange.com succulent wall

A wall of succulents (source: ryanprange.com)

Most living walls require a significant investment, a relatively sophisticated infrastructure and considerable maintenance commitments that can be met in institutional settings. But there is no reason that the infrastructure can’t be transferred to people’s homes, as long as they have the means and ability to pay for and care for the undertaking. Take, for example, this fabulous creation by garden designer Daniel Bell who created a living wall that runs inside and outside a house in north London in the UK.

The indoor section of the wall(source: the Guardian)

This wall is made from two layers of capillary matting (made from recycled clothes) with a waterproof plastic backing. Slits were cut in the outer felt, plants were inserted, and the opening was then stapled to anchor the plant. This system allowed the designer to create different-sized pockets to suit different plants. The innovative design coupled with clever plant choices resulted in an absolutely spectacular living wall masterpiece.

living wall 7(source: the Guardian)

When I opened Galerie CO in 2008 I budgeted out installing a living wall in the boutique. At the time it represented too large an investment when there were so many other things that needed to be done.

Nevertheless, I was committed to the idea of showcasing greenery and inspiring our clients to ‘green’ their own homes. So I set out to find affordable alternatives; ways to install plants inside en masse and in unconventional and beautiful ways. Here are four of the solutions I sourced, that are displayed and sold at Galerie CO and would be easy to install in any home:

1.  Colourful and petite, Thelermont Hupton’s delightful ‘off the wall’ ceramic wall pots are ideal for small bursts of interior greenery in the kitchen, living room, home office or bathroom. With invisible fixtures these simple pots let your plants nestle on the wall creating discrete and artful interior ‘gardens’.

thelermont-hupton--off-the-wall-pots--small-and-large--72-rgb

‘Off the wall’ pots (source: Thelermont Hupton)

2.  A larger option is available from Wooly pockets. Made from 100% recycled post-consumer PET plastic bottles, these planters hang on the wall.

news item woolly pockets

Wooly Pocket’s Wally 3 (source: Woolypocket)

They are easy to install, simple to use and modular, allowing you to create a custom-sized living wall to fit your space.

oliver heath comA gorgeous wall created using Wooly Pockets (source: Oliverheath.com)

3.  If you don’t have the space or the inclination for a living wall, Boskke’s innovative sky planters allow you to suspend plants upside down from the ceiling. They are striking on their own, but really pack a surreal visual punch when the three different sizes are displayed at various heights with an array of different plants.

Boske

Assorted skyplanters and plants (source: Boskke)

Boskke provides some guidance on the types of plants that love to be raised upside down. In our experience, orchids do especially well in the skyplanters. In nature they grow clinging to tree branches, their roots firmly attached to the bark of a tree, which explains why they are so content upside down in the sky planters.

BOSKKE Sky Planter Recycled medium White Orchid(source: Boskke)

4.  L.A.’s Sheleterblack has created beautifully simple and contemporary wooden wall mountable planter frames. The Garden State boxes are available with contrast detail on half of the perimeter in black, neon pink and neon yellow. They are designed especially for succulents, which are secured through a wire mesh.

living wall shelterblackShelterblack’s Garden State box planter (source: core77.com)

So, as the air cools in the evenings and the threat of frost approaches, when you bring in your patio plants think about creating your own, affordable, living wall on a smaller scale.

We’d love to see how you create green spaces inside you own home.

Send us your photos on twitter or instagram @GalerieCO or tag yourself as a #COclient to be featured.

#sustainabledesign

Sustainability — the ability to last or continue for a long time or the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level — is a word that often relies on its context for clarity of definition. The concept of sustainability as it relates to human development first appeared in 1987 in the idea of “sustainable development” as follows:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

—World Commission on Environment and Development’s
(the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Meeting the needs of the future depends on how well we balance social, economic, and environmental objectives–or needs–when making decisions today. For example, at a broad level, industrial growth might conflict with preserving natural resources. Yet, in the long term, a balanced approach that advocates the responsible use of natural resources now will help ensure that there are resources available for sustained industrial growth far into the future.

sustainability and CO

As applied to policy making, sustainability requires us to question what are the needs of the present? How do we decide whose needs are met? What happens when needs conflict? When there has to be a trade off, whose needs should go first? What gets prioritized?

The decision with respect to which “needs” are most vital and should weigh most heavily in the balance is a subjective exercise and depends critically on immediate hardships, challenges, value structures and expectations. If you did not have access to safe water, and therefore needed wood to boil drinking water so that you and your children would not get sick, would you worry about causing deforestation? Difficulties notwithstanding, the balancing of objectives is vital in the short term – by individuals, communities, cities, countries and groups of countries – if we expect to sustain our development in the long term.

We recently asked our Facebook friends and our Twitter followers what sustainability meant to them in the context of design.

Consistent with the breadth of the concept of sustainability, we got a diverse set of responses. So we built a word cloud around the definitions where the larger the word, the more frequently it was used in a response. Within the diversity, the similarities stand out: “environment”, ‘materials”, “beautiful”, “creating” and “long-lasting”.

The words in the cloud touch on the many facets of sustainability and those used most frequently are consistent with the values in a society with a robust social safety net, access to services, relatively low levels of gender inequality, and where our basic needs are met in terms of subsistence, education and health. And importantly it reflects not only the importance of the responsible use of resources, but also the idea that design can be a driver of sustainability through original ideas and innovation.

The construct of a sustainable balancing act exists.  #COclientsarethebest!

sustainable design word cloud