Interior Design Trends 2012 – Green Design on a Budget – Part 1

I have missed 5 whole days, but today’s book-length post is packed with information for all design enthusiasts, whether you are remodeling or simply refreshing.

So what’s with the ocean image? It’s time to begin creating an earth-friendly family room! This will be a continuing segment, as the budget will be allocated over time. I would love to invite you to participate in the design selection process.

Here are the parameters: I am redoing a semi-finished basement family room with 3 different floor surfaces (Holy mixed surfaces, Batman!), ancient rough wood built-ins, antique track lights from the ’90’s, and an old stained ceiling

On a limited budget to be made available on an on-going basis re-design requires imagination, patience, and a willingness to get dirty! Feel free to express your selection opinions on the options available via feedback by commenting or emailing me at:

There are two separate mind sets to remodeling:

Cosmetic (surface updates) and build-outs involving construction with permits.

We won’t be going into all of that, as much as expansion and some construction would add value to this space- we’re on a tight budget.

In context to cosmetic remodels, there are also two schools of thought:

  • Remodeling with intent to sell later
  • Remodeling for your own long-term use and enjoyment.

Obviously, there’s allot of room for cross-over, which is great news because I-in this case, resale is not an immediate goal, but a future goal. Marrying your personal style to live with and love with an eye to relocation requires intelligent design. We need to divide our choices on a limited budget between portable design (take it along when you go) and fixtures (light built-ins or fireplaces) that remain with the property and add resale value.

Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  1. If you have a timeline and intend to sell in a few years time, paint any color you like. You will need to refresh paint to market your home anyway, and you can neutralize later.
  2. Avoid wallpaper. Wallpaper is very taste-specific and when you are ready to stage your home and neutralize to enable your buyer to envision themselves in this space, you will be creating unnecessary work and stress for yourself. (This being said, there is more than one way to skin a proverbial cat).
  3. Invest your budget on surface improvements that stay with the property and create value; build-ins, fireplaces, kitchen cabinets, up-dated floors, recessed lighting, etc.

Doing it green, or as green as possible is great for your budget, the planet, and a selling point to your buyer as well. At the end of the project, we’ll create and check our report card to see how we’ve done.

The very first thing that this budget remodel is begging for is an energy efficient window to replace the existing steel-frame window with a non-existent energy rating. However, the large-scale window in installed in the home’s foundation. This project is part of a future project with a larger scope. So let’s see what we can do in the interim with this worst of all worlds; a cosmetic remodel with a low budget and an old window!

Think of your commitment to green design practices like that old brides’ adage for must-have accessories – “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue” (not necessarily in that order).

Something Blue(ish):

Color theorists describe the color of light in terms of temperature.

Many ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs come in “warm” colors to match the yellowish light of incandescent bulbs, but you can also choose “cooler” colors with whiter or bluer light. Light color is measured on a temperature scale referred to as Kelvin (K). Lower Kelvin numbers indicate that the light is more yellow in appearance while higher Kelvin numbers render light that is whiter or bluer in appearance. Most energy star qualified bulbs attempt with varying degrees of success to match the color of incandescent bulbs which cast a light temperature between 2700-3000K. Whiter light is cast by 3500-4100K to cast whiter light; bluer white light – closest to sunlight occurs at 5000-6500K..

The old and unsafe track fixture on the low and water stained basement family room ceiling will be replaced with LED track lighting. The roof has been replaced first – so no more staining. The fixture (below) was purchased to fit the budget, offering energy value for less than $200 each, so we’ll be using these. While they are a huge improvement over the antiquated track light with bulbs that blow monthly that are hot enough to cook eggs on, they cast a cool white-blue light in the 3500K range, washing out or dramatically changing color in the room. Green can feel at times like low-fat dessert – but both are better for you, all told.

4-Light Brushed Nickel Contemporary Track Lighting Fixture

To compensate, all aesthetic choices were brought into the newly lit area, and reviewed periodically for one 24-hour waking period. They were completely different in the light of this fixture than you could even imagine in the showroom. This particular room is 50% below ground with an East facing window (morning light only) and a second-floor deck blocking any direct sunlight.

If you work outside the home and are away during the day, save this vital step for the weekend – you will thank yourself for investing your time to avoid inevitable buyer’s remorse!

Next, comes Something New:

There’s allot of tired design  and bad choices to overcome in this space. Mismatched multi-flooring surfaces include black contractor-grade porcelain (hard to remove) hearth tile, old teal wall to wall carpet, and hardwood floors in need of refinishing or painting.

Let’s start with the room’s focal point; a monolith of a dated fired place, sporting an L-shaped tile surround. A peculator right-side firebox lends an unrealized modern attribute, foiled by a corner structurally supported by a metal pole.

I am going to begin developing a color scheme, since it’s so prominent in the room. The image below is a mock-up – the fireplace has no mantle and is a blank concrete wall.

The whole house seems like it may have been a self-build with an eye to the aesthetic of Art Deco homes located in Florida. The elements and structure of this style home don’t lend themselves to the climate of Central New York State. Writing on the wall discovered in a bathroom reno only deepens the mystery. The writing may have been in German, inclusive of umlauts in notes scrawled between studs relating to construction. This may account for the wonky measurements, which don’t relate to whole feet or inches anywhere!

To do this I picked two separate color schemes to choose from, one focusing on yellow and white as a jumping off pint, and the other foggy blue, greys, and lavender. Fell free to comment on your preference!

A combination of yellow, white granite and stain persistent berber carpet.

The blue/gray/lavender combination.

That accent blue glass tile actually is a rectangular style, but the tile source did not have a portable sample on hand:

A fabulous glass accent tile I chose to use in small measure, which is grouted in a perfect foggy blue. Colors include gray, mars red, sand and a lavender cast.

Look at the two glass tile images above, and make a mental note of what a make or break impact that grout color selection has on the end result – we’ll be back to this. In Interior Design, God is frequently in the details…

To choose our color scheme effectively, let’s consult the list of this Basement Family Room’s functional laundry list:

  1. Entertainment and community. Kids and teens alike will live in this space.
  2. Sleeping space – there are college age family members who need to crash here during breaks and summer. Function needs to combine with style, so that the room doesn’t look like a refugee camp or a college dorm.
  3. Storage – Kids mean toys; teens mean electronics.
  4. Family members include both sexes. It can’t look like a man cave or a powder room.
  5. Entertaining. Kids mean friends, and adults like to relax with friends as well.

This smallish and awkwardly laid out space will need to step up to some serious multitasking in style.

A Google Sketch-up elevation rough of the basement room in question.

White granite would not be a consideration if this was a functioning wood-burning fireplace, but the intention is to update it at a later time, installing a gas insert when the budget permits. Gas is clean burning, this firebox is quite deep, and at under $10 per sf it’s budget-friendly.

Color selections are based on preference, but also on durable materials.

To help visualize the options, I created the fireplace and an individual tile of each choice in Google sketch-up. If someone would like details on the how to, just ask in comments.

Option 1 - sparkling (literally) white granite with a graphic over-scale mural of Forsythia.

No this is not an image error – it’s a monument to over-thinking! I created a perfect granite tile to scale – but all the black lines made it distracting and not representative, as these lines would be filled with white mortar. The transparent white spray creates a slightly more accurate sample. Less is more!

Option 2

Both concepts involve a mural – wait didn’t she just say about  avoiding wallpaper?

Something Borrowed:

Murals Your Way offers an  option to upload a photo from your PC, and crop it to spec. If you want to remove it, you can select their “Smart Stick” option. It’s a few dollars more than vinyl, but you can actually peel it right off and re-use it elsewhere. If you’re wondering how it would be stored, you simply roll up the backing it comes with in, and put it in storage. If any sticky residue remains, wash the wall with DIFF and then apply your neutral coat of paint – best of both worlds. This mural was a headache – it was not a wide angle shot, so I spent a morning piecing bits of ocean-scape like a digital patchwork quilt.

Be aware – as soon as you move your palette away from secondary colors into the tertiary range your choices become more limited and complex. Bright colors and ocean tones don’t necessarily play well together, so bringing in chrome, fun accents and velvet pillows adds that feminine touch that keeps your family room from being a man-cave.

Mural mock-up

Option 2 involves modern tile mimicking rustic barn board, a glass tiled mantle and a mural that wraps around of an ocean scene made personal by a family photo. The mantle is extended here and wraps around the right side (as does option 1). Recycled glass tile breaks up the monotony and ads something unexpected. The colors relate to the mural, and the faux barn wood tile, that comes n at a budget friendly $7.99 per square foot. The mantle will not take much of the that expensive glass tile, so that would be a small splurge.

The two palettes offer separate limitations and opportunities.

Yellow is a fabulous accent color in a wide range of shades, and white looks crisp and cheerful. The brights in a dark space capture much -needed light in a finished basement that is 50% below ground. Yellow is a primary color, and with white opens the palette wide to fabulous color and surface opportunities.

fabrics- image via House To Home UK

and the granite sparkles like white glitter under the LED’s — soooo alluring….

Did I mention BOYS? Teens? Kids? Choosing the right surfaces can make lights and brights realistic options even for a family room –

Bright Vinyl Pillows by BlissHome Living are kid-friendly color solutions at

…but lighter carpet  in that yellow and white motif challenges our green resolve.

Something Old (made new) – recycled soda bottle carpet is my favorite option, available at Lowes. Of all the big-box carpet solutions, these have by far the best colors. The carpet manufactured with corn sounds green. It comes with a stain resistant life-time guarantee – but the colors are washed out and I’m not sold on the green virtues of corn. The rush to farm corn was a reaction to early bets on corn as a replacement for fossil fuels. But for many reasons, it’s not a feasible solution and is creating a world-wide food shortage, particularly here at home as farmers abandon crops like wheat.

I wouldn’t normally choose wall to wall carpeting at all, but engineered wood products are not great choices for a basement environment.  Wood-look  laminates are inexpensive and perfect in basement family rooms, but in this room’s significant variation in fllor ing and carpet heights would require costly concrete leveling to compensate the inch of variance in floor height. Even Green marriage is about compromise…

Choices, choices – many more to come! Thoughts and impressions are always welcome!

Stop by MyHomeFaceLift this Spring, where choices abound:

Pillows and Area rugs freshen a whole room with ease - find fabulous choices at!

About Kimberly Latimer

My background is in fine arts. In addition to residential work in interior design, I have designed both product and packaging for childrens' retail products at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Natural History Museums in the US and Canada. I am an expert in color and my style embraces color, art and up-cycling for a green edge to design.
This entry was posted in DIY - Do it Right!, Re-Do Color and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Interior Design Trends 2012 – Green Design on a Budget – Part 1

  1. Blue/Gray/Lavender! This seems like it is going to be quite a challenge! I can’t wait to see more.

  2. sabah says:

    i vote for the blue/lavender/gray combination. It will make a stunning base for you to layer on. The exposed concrete wall sounds like a great canvas – how about leaving it as it is and using it as a “plant/flower” wall that you can rearrange as you please. You can put these flowers behind a wire mesh and attach it to the concrete wall or use scrap wood to create wooden frames to house fresh flowers and plants. Just a thought

    • klatimer says:

      Hi Sabah! Great ideas! I think you are suggesting a vertical garden ( ) like the stunning works of Patrick Blanc. I LOVE that idea, and in truth, it was my first consideration. But that big window you see at the East wall is actually hooded outside by a 15 x 20 ft deck! pLANTS NEED SUN…also, the small focal wall that houses the fireplace is not actual concrete – it’s painted (ugly red) concrete veneered cinder block, and my image did not include top right the gaping 6 x 12″ hole for the heat register cover that can’t be re-routed – ARGH! Never a perfect world! You’ll see why that wall cannot be sanded down in a future post…but thanks for your ideas! Keep them coming…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s