Once the interior fitout of Emma and Andrew’s apartment was complete, it was time to start adding furniture. The couple had very little in the way of already-accumulated furniture between them, which meant a lengthy list of items that they still needed to buy, make, or otherwise obtain for free.
With a limited budget and a desire to make more sustainable purchasing decisions wherever possible, a lot of furniture items were DIY projects or purchased second hand. When the couple did need to purchase something new, they looked for products boasting solid sustainability credentials (such as GECA certification) wherever possible.
The key was to source pieces that all worked together visually while making the best use of the limited space in the apartment. A second hand couch was refreshed in seconds just by using a cream-coloured throw as a cover and colourful cushions on top. A TV bench was fashioned from painting an old wooden coffee table with leftover paint and putting an offcut from the kitchen benches (made from FSC certified Acacia timber) on top. The same paint was used to quickly freshen up some old timber shelving as well.
“Reusing existing pieces was fantastic, not just for reducing waste, but for our budget as well,” said Andrew, who did the majority of the apartment’s DIY projects himself. “It does take some extra effort, but it’s worth it when you can look around your home and think, ‘I did that!’”
Clever space-saving solutions for the dining area included two newer items. A set of stackable dining chairs with GECA certification from Zenith Interiors, and a folding dining table that can transform from a slim side table to seating up to six people, help keep the living space uncluttered but fully functional. “Most of the time, we have the chairs stacked to one side and only half of the table folded out, since it’s just the two of us,” said Emma.
Emma and Andrew’s converted flat is evidence that it’s possible to do an eco-friendly home renovation on a budget – and even to do eco-friendly DIY. The majority of the work was done by their family and friends, with just a couple of professionals called in where necessary.
So for anyone else looking to do a similar renovation, what are the best ways to source sustainable furniture and building materials?
For furniture, try choosing second-hand products or make your own wherever possible. There are so many resources out there for finding good quality second hand furniture, from the local op shop to Freecycle.org to Gumtree, or even picking up items from the side of the road during council clean-ups.
Make use of what you already have. Refreshing an old piece of furniture can be as simple as a new coat of paint, or swapping out old hardware for new (such as with door knobs or furniture legs). The Internet is an endless source of DIY tutorials, and you might pick up a new skill!
If you’re sourcing materials for a DIY job, or doing a fitout such as installing a kitchen, pay attention to the credentials of each component. For example, make sure you’re using low- or no-VOC paints. (Again, keep an eye out for the GECA label to ensure the manufacturer’s claims are genuine!) Emma and Andrew’s kitchen bench top is made from FSC-certified Acacia wood and treated with a solution of pure tung oil and citric terpene to provide a natural and environmentally-friendly water-resistant finish.
When buying new products, looking for the GECA ecolabel demonstrates that a product meets GECA’s strict environmental, health and social standards. The manufacture, use and disposal of furniture products can have a negative environmental impact caused by anything from the choice of raw materials used, to coatings, textiles, and adhesives. GECA certification ensures that furniture and building products have been manufactured responsibly with minimal impacts on the environment and health.
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