Happy Home Design: Environmentally Friendly Choices for a Better Life

May 12, 2019 by University District

Calgary Expert Ana Cummings Shares Dynamic Design Tips with University District


As our modern world seeks to balance progress with responsibility for a sustainable future, forward-thinking people and businesses, like those at University District, are marrying everyday choices about how they approach life and work with a greater conscience for the health of our planet.


Small gestures include the decision to use a refillable container for your daily coffee, riding a bike to work, swapping out traditional light bulbs for LED alternatives. Bigger decisions include choices like living near where you work or purchasing a home designed with the environment in mind.


Sustainable design decisions can be found in all types of industries, including home building and home design. Since we all love our homes and spend quality time there, our home is a great place to show we care about the planet by striking the right chord with great taste and the greater, natural good in mind.


Healthy homes and communities create a healthy planet. Can making our homes eco-friendly lead to a better life everyone and the planet? We asked a local design expert, and the answer is yes!


We connected with Ana Cummings for some ideas about everyday sustainable design. Ana has been a champion of the harmonization of home and nature for more than a decade, and in that time has served as President of the Alberta chapter of the Decorators’ and Designers Association of Canada, lent her expertise to CTV’s Homes & LIfestyles Canada, and continues to act as an advisory board member for popular home resource website Houzz.com.


Read on to see what this national award winner has to say about creating healthy, vibrant homes!



Be sure to check back with us in June for an upcoming feature about Helen Youn, Calgary’s first and only Certified KonMari Consultant. From bedroom to bathroom, kitchen to curio cabinet, we have tips, insights and steps to organize your home life will further improve the way we live in the space we call home!


Eco Design: What It Means


The shape of a vase, the texture of a blanket, the colour of a feature wall are some of the decisions that, when made with care and sensitivity to nature, can contribute greatly to an eco-friendly home.


This principle of thoughtful design creates an opportunity for spaces that are more dynamic, vibrant, and pleasant to be in. And it’s easy to achieve. As the saying goes, it’s like a walk in the park!


As a health and wellness advocate, Ana maintains a good diet and eating habits and this philosophy and lifestyle choices extend into her career as a designer, her workspace, her home life and home design decisions made with clients, too.


“The same way that I maintain my health, I approach my home design,” Ana explains. “If you put good things in your body and into home alike — and take consistent care — they will both provide greater satisfaction and enjoyment over the long term.”


Photo Credit: Ana Interiors


So what are some concepts that Ana is seeing put into use that reflect that principle?


“Have you ever seen a living “green wall” in a modern office lobby, commercial space or outdoor application?” she asks. “This is called “Biophilic Design,” which is the addition of greenery to generate feelings of well-being and connection to living things.


“The results are absolutely stunning and have created an entire design movement.  Adding plants to our homes and offices has exploded in popularity in recent years. It may be a little Bohemian, but there’s nothing dowdy about it.”


From a single-stem orchid to a full, lush palm, a cheerful cactus on a sill to a hanging fern that evokes a woodland moment, living additions to your space can add a range of green hues, a pleasurable fragrance, and the feeling of vibrancy to where you live.


Are you interested in design and current ideas that bring your space to life? Avi Urban and Brookfield Residential’s in-house interior designers spill the beans on everything from emerging design styles and up-and-coming materials to tips on choosing the right accessories. Take a read here


Photo Credit: Avi Urban, multi-family division of Homes by Avi


How has Ana seen this niche in the design field develop to keep eco-design fresh and exciting?


“Eco-design simply IS exciting,” she says. “While the term itself may need a refresh, today’s technology is allowing great things to happen in this field. Take for example hardwood flooring that filters the air via embedded Titanium Dioxide nanoparticles activated by light and air movement!


“But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Eco-design can also be as simple as recovering your grandmother’s sofa. Upcycling is another term used for items taking on a new life as something else.”


We love that!


Now is the season the brown outside turns to green. You can reach new heights of eco-design on your urban balcony or deck too with these 5 designer approved tips


Photo Credit: Ana Interiors


Methods and Materials


From the hues to the feel, it almost goes without saying that fabric and materials from natural sources are more inherently pleasing for all of us whether our tastes run traditional, modern, eclectic or shabby chic!  As useful and efficient as materials like laminate flooring, linoleum and others are, they just can’t compare to the fascinating, textural, warm feel of materials derived from biological sources. Think cozy cashmere throws, crisp linen sheets, rich wood tables, natural cork decorator items, clay pottery!


“I love working with any kind of natural organic fabrics; linens, cottons, wools and silks,” says Ana. “Natural grasscloth wallcoverings are a hot commodity and more popular than ever. No VOC or low VOC paints are a must. Stone, marble and hardwood for surfaces are as easy and luxurious as ever. Bamboo and cork flooring options have come a long way as well.”


When a room or space incorporates materials that our bodies resonate with easily, our minds and bodies relax and tension releases. A large number of small choices in terms of the types of objects and materials we keep in our space can make a huge difference.


So where can people find these types of design elements?


“There are so many choices! Northwest favourites like Planet Organic, Sunnyside Natural Market and Real Deals are great choices for wholesome food options and small household items. Beyond that, there’s always Goodwill, Re-Store, consignment stores, garage and estate sales for used items. If you can’t find it locally, online works well too.”


Just like nature presents its beauty in many ways, so do eco-design choices. If you’re looking for creative design ideas, drop by the Discovery Centre and check out our new Esquire showsuite, where design choices are rich and varied! To learn more about this exciting new project in our award-winning community, click here


Photo Credit: Brookfield Residential


Five, Fast  Eco-Design Tips from Ana


  • Check to ensure energy efficient windows, doors, lighting and appliances are installed throughout your home. This saves money and energy!


  • Bring the outside in through sunlight streaming into your home or a gentle breeze that circulates fresh air. Open windows and window coverings are uplifting!


  • Add some plants! Talk to them, tend to them and you will feel better as a result of their natural beauty and form!


  • Opt for natural or organic materials whether to decorate, enliven or clean. Our homes and living spaces can benefit from essential oils in reed diffusers to add fragrance, beeswax candles for ambient light, wind chimes for peaceful tones, pure lemon oil to polish or white vinegar to clean for example.


  • Stay current. There are many new options for eco-friendly design and materials, like paint with no or low VOC products and more.

As good as it is for our environment to use products closer to nature, it’s as good or better for our own mental and spiritual well-being. Homes in places like Calgary need to be insulated from nature because of winter, but that separation from the natural world isn’t always ideal. Embracing earth-focused home design brings us closer to organic, natural, comforting materials and objects. Embrace change and nature at the same time for a better-designed lifestyle!


Do you have any questions or suggestions, trends or topics that interest you when it comes to decorating your home in harmony with nature? Share them with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and if you have a photo to share, tag University District!


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