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Whether you love it, hate it, or have never given it much consideration, green thought is here to stay. Why? Because we’re becoming increasingly aware of just how drastically our consumption patterns are impacting all life on Earth.

Yep, it’s a big (and inconvenient) issue. Some academics have even called it a super wicked issue (seriously!). But that doesn’t mean we should just throw our hands up and say it's too hard, using that as an excuse to go on as we always have (though every one of us has done that at some point, including the hermits). Nor can we simply hope that the necessary changes are made by the powers that be. After all, every one of us is a part of life on Earth. Every one of us has an "environmental impact".

If you're looking for ways to help improve your relationship with (the rest of) nature beyond reusable grocery bags and KeepCups, the family home can be a great place to start. And contrary to what some might lead you to believe, it doesn't have to be expensive, difficult, pretentious, or, if it's a relevant concern for you, unmanly. All it takes is some thought and care.

Research your materials

When selecting base materials, keep in mind that plastics, steel, and aluminium are derived from non-renewable resources which require a lot of energy to refine into commercially usable products. Timber, meanwhile, is a natural resource which regenerates faster. Make sure you look for sustainable timber options, however, as deforestation is a major environmental issue (and also a contributor to the spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19).

When you’re looking at upholstery, consider your circumstances. Do you have young kids or pestiferous pets who will tear your furniture to shreds in no time? Or do you live in a calmer household that is more of a haven for fabric furniture? If you don’t need quite the durability that polyester offers, consider using fabrics or blends composed of natural fibres, such as cotton, linen, or jute, in your home. At the end of their life, they’ll biodegrade much faster (and more safely) than polyester. At the same time, there's no point opting for natural fibres over polyester if it just means you'll have to replace your furniture more frequently. Buying new sofas every two or three years versus every ten or twenty (or more) is not only much more wasteful, it's much more expensive.

 

Virgin or reclaimed timber?

There are many reasons why a person might choose to dismiss reclaimed timber—also known as recycled timber, salvaged wood, upcycled timber, and so on. But if you really think about it, most of the reasons are vanity-related: for example, “Virgin timber has a cleaner, fresher look”; or, “Reclaimed timber looks cheaper and I think it's less durable than the new stuff”; or even (though rarely with as much self-awareness), “I've never had reclaimed timber before so I don't want to try it”.

These reasons don't stand up to scrutiny at all!

Firstly, reclaimed timbers add character to your home. Now, I understand that to a lot of people the phrase “add character” is a signal to switch off, being, as it often is, empty marketing waffle. But the thing is, reclaimed timbers really do add character to your home, because they’ve lived lives as other products. Celeste and Ben, our company directors, reclaim high-quality timbers which have been used in shipping pallets, fence palings, roof trusses, wall frames, horse rails, and even the wooden bleachers from the old Cal Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. A piece of timber can’t get much more characterful than that!

Secondly, reclaimed timbers can be made to suit any style. A cursory look at our furniture styles will show you heaps of examples.

Thirdly, let's debunk the myth that reclaimed timbers are categorically less durable than virgin timbers. Sure, there's no denying that rotting planks salvaged from dumps in landfill aren't suitable for furnishing your home. But we're sensible enough to not pick those timbers. There’s no point having characterful furniture if it’s just going to explode (quite literally) in a couple of months, after all. That’s why we only reclaim timber which is strong and trustworthy enough to survive the vicissitudes of family life.

And finally, just because something is different doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Life's no fun if you spend it in a cocoon!

Ivory breakfast stools

 

Make it yours and make it local

An ethos of my family has been to always buy the best of what you can afford, even in tough times. That way, things last.

How do we apply that to furniture? Enter our custom-made collections. Rather than buying pieces off the floor, consider the spaces in which you live and let your imagination run free—what reclaimed, Australian, hardwood furniture would be best for your dining room? What size? What shape? And how about the fabric furniture? Perhaps you’ve already got some sofas you love, but you’re considering a statement fabric chair to tie your living room together. Regardless of your circumstances, if you take the time to consider what would really be perfect for your home, as well as your favourite fabrics, colours, and furniture styles, there’s bound to be a solution in our custom-made collections. If you make wise furniture decisions now, they’re going to pay off for many, many years, including by reducing furniture waste going to landfill.

There’s another big benefit from going for custom-made furniture: you’re buying Australian-made products. This means two things. Firstly, you’re supporting local jobs, local businesses, and ultimately your local economy. And secondly, you’re reducing your greenhouse gas footprint by erasing overseas transport from the production process. Win-win!

 

Lagom: just enough

So, by now you might be imagining a more eco-friendly home, possibly with custom-made, Australian-made fabric furniture and reclaimed timber furniture. That's a good start!

But before you rush out to your nearest store to spend thousands in custom-made furniture for your entire house, stop and think: you're still consuming. You're still buying a whole lot of stuff, and probably dumping other usable stuff in the process.

The fact is, not buying anything is by far the best way to reduce your environmental impact, and it's the only way to reduce your impact, in terms of this purchasing decision, to zero. (And how many retailers are honest enough to tell you that?)

At the same time, though, it’s not very fun to sit, sleep, eat, etc., on the floor when you’ve just moved out, or to see your kids do the same when they move out. In other circumstances, things break down (or simply break) and suffer other problems which mean that every now and then—and often sooner than we'd like—we do need to buy a whole lot of stuff.

Regardless of where you find yourself, there are ways of going about furniture and home decoration to make it more sustainable. For example:

Try care, maintenance, or repair first.

This is for pieces you already have that are still functionally good, but just need Howard, Guardsman, Miller, or Warwick to do some work on them. If the job’s a bit bigger, you might want to speak to one of our friendly staff to see what options are on the table for you (as it were).

If you need to buy something, buy well and only get as much as you need.

Lagom, or “just enough”, is one of those trendy words much of the meaning of which is lost in translation. But it is a beautiful (and wallet-friendly) way of living. It should already be in your vocabulary if your home is inspired by mid-century modern or some other Scandinavian furniture style.

If you just can't stand a piece which still looks good and functions well, do what you can to prevent it from going to landfill.

For example, there's may be a relative out there who would be happy to adopt your piece. Maybe one of your kids will be moving out soon, and you might use a spare room or hire a storage unit for your old furniture so they're in a better position when they've left. Or, if you don’t have neighbours, friends, or family that could use it, there are always charities out there that are willing to take your stuff for you (as long as it's in reasonable condition). For example, a few years ago we donated over $15,000 worth of furniture from our Penrith store’s stock-to-go room to Women’s Community Shelters, furnishing crisis shelters for women and children suffering homelessness and family violence.

 

Where to go from here?

I know this is a long read, but I’ve got a couple of closing thoughts to share with you before you go.

The main idea of this blog, and a lot of 'green thought', is that us humans have got a bit of a relationship problem with pretty much everything else that lives on this planet. We pretend humans and nature are two separate things, but really we're as much a part of the environment as bees, coffee trees, and all other living things. It's no good thinking about humans and the environment; instead, try thinking about humans in the environment. Change just one word, and you’ll see the world in a completely different way!

Finally, don’t just take the ideas in this blog as food for thought. Digest them, absorb them, and use them to inform your way of thinking whenever you're about to buy something (not just furniture or homewares). Consider questions like “What is it made of?”, “Was it made locally?”, “Could I go for a reclaimed/recycled/upcycled/etc. version?”, and most importantly, “Do I really need this in my life?”. With these questions to guide your decisions, you might find that not only will your consumption patterns change, but you'll find yourself in a growing movement of people who are striving towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

How and Why You Should Consider the Environment When Selecting Your Furniture

This Christmas, give your friends, family, music tutors, sports coaches, and every other important person in your life a gift that is as special as they are.

Low on inspiration? Not to worry, we've amassed a shortlist of our go-to Christmas gifting ideas to suit every price range.

You Get The Picture

It’s virtually impossible to go wrong with a photo frame at Christmas time, especially as a gift for Mum. The kids can choose the frame they like the best, then everyone can get creative inserting Mum’s favourite photos, inspirational quotes, or even a cute hand-drawn picture. Try picking frames in her favourite colour!

Show Them How Much You Chair

If you want to really spoil your loved ones this Christmas (and let’s face it, they've earned it), why not go for a luxurious fabric armchair? They’ll love curling up with a cup of coffee and a good (audio)book. Plus, there’s plenty of room for little ones and furry friends to climb up for cuddles!

It’s A Sign

Inspirational wall signs, prints and plaques are easy, affordable options for gifting on all occasions. Choose a print, quote, or phrase that really resonates with your loved one's personality. Something to make them smile every time they see it.

It Just Makes Scents

Whether they’re into light florals or something a little spicier, most people on your gift list will have a favourite fragrance and would love to be able to enjoy it every day in the form of a candle or oil burner. While our Christmas candle never goes amiss this time of year, a popular favourite of our lovely customers is Japanese Honeysuckle, though Strawberry Champagne comes a close second.

You Deserve A Drink

Plenty of us have fantasised about having their our own bar table, complete with traditional bar stools, at one point in one lives or another!

Hint: If space is an issue, consider a half bar table and choose stools which can be neatly and easily stored underneath when not in use.

Thistle Make Their Day

Many appreciate the gesture of a beautiful bouquet of freshly picked flowers any day of the week. Unfortunately, they only last a few days, and some people just don’t see the point in flowers that only last a few days (or at most a couple of weeks). The solution? Artificial flowers. They’ve come a long way in recent years, and now it’s fairly easy to track down high quality, individual stems and stunning bouquets at really good prices. They look just like the real thing, and they’ll brighten Mum’s (or Nan’s) day for years into the future!

Couture Coasters

Okay, so “couture” might be pushing it, but coasters aren’t as granny these days as they used to be. Really. Coasters are cool. There are fruit-themed coasters, tile-themed coasters, big button coasters, or subtler, plainer coasters if that's your interest. They make a perfect gift for anyone who drinks liquids and would like to set their beverage on a table occasionally—i.e., everybody.

Happy shopping!

Christmas Gift Guide 2020

As handy as it might be to have the latest supermarket catalogues strewn across your coffee table, it’s not particularly attractive—especially when you have guests over.

Here’s where the coffee table book comes in. The main difference between a coffee table book and an ordinary book is that coffee table books are oversized and usually feature more colour and imagery. It’s not uncommon to find a coffee table book in all sorts of places in the home—for example, on side tables, entry tables, desks, and even dining tables.

Like homewares, coffee table books are perfect things for you to splurge on, as they beautifully showcase different aspects of your life and personality. But being organised thematically, coffee table books have a greater capacity than many homewares to keep people engaged. This makes them especially handy when you need to keep your guests occupied, e.g. while you’re cooking.

There are so many coffee table books being published today that there really is one for everyone. This includes people who don't like reading books. So, if you’re looking for some ideas for a new coffee table book, here are five to get you started:

1. An arty book

If you’ve ever been to an art gallery, you’ve probably come across those huge hardcover books artists publish of their latest exhibitions (or of art history, or something similarly arty). While they do cost a pretty penny, arty books are perfect for the coffee table—though, it’s worth waiting until you see an exhibition you absolutely love before you buy one. (And who knows: if you buy a limited-edition book, it may increase in value down the track!)

Eat the Problem.

But you don’t have to go an art gallery to buy an arty book. If you follow a popular artist on Instagram or YouTube, these days it’s likely that they’ll have a webstore for you to purchase a compendium of their works (this is especially so for photographers). Otherwise, ordinary brick-and-mortar bookstores and their online warehouses sell gorgeous hardbacks on all sorts of artistic topics, like music, film, fashion, and so on.

2. A hobby book

If you’ve got a hobby, there’s a coffee table book for it. While plenty of us have our niches and we can find books catering to those niches, keeping your hobby at a general level means you can buy any number of coffee table books looking at the hobby from different perspectives (e.g. an atlas of interior design, a history of flowers, and so on).

Flowers: Art & Bouquets.

3. A travel book

Whether your love is for Australia or for Austria, you can find a coffee table book to feed your wanderlust.

Wild Land.

 

4. A knowledge book

If your guests are the sort who will turn small talk about the weather into a conversation about the scientific uncertainties of meteorology, chances are they’ll appreciate a knowledge-oriented coffee table book. Think histories (especially local histories published by your library), atlases, science compendiums, and so on. If you’ve got school-aged kids, knowledge-oriented coffee table books may also help them learn.

Jacaranda Atlas.

 

5. A literary book

People still read novels, right? Fortunately, there are plenty of books these days published in a format which look lovely on a coffee table while still being convenient to read. Perfect for fancy editions of your favourite classics!

The Lord of the Rings.

 

6. BONUS: Your personal photo album

It’s your coffee table, after all!

Seldex portrait book.

 

So now you’ve got some ideas for your coffee table book, all you need is the right coffee table!

5 Coffee Table Book Ideas for Everyone

If you’re renting or soon to be renting, decorating your home can seem hard. It seems that whenever you’re excited to get anything, this thought suddenly comes to the front of your mind to spoil the fun: “Will I be able to take this with me to my next lease? Or am I just wasting my money?”

But never fear! In this blog, we gather four of our favourite renters’ tips to help you same time, money, and anxiety when decorating your home.

 

1. Consider your colours

Opt for nature’s ‘cross-over’ colours. Home Textiles Today helpfully gives us the Pantone codes for these colours (which you can enter here):

  • Sky Blue 14-4318
  • Faded Denim 17-4021
  • Navy Blue 19-3832
  • Teal 17-4919
  • Pineneedle 19-5920
  • Seagrass 16-6008
  • Pale Khaki 15-1216
  • Bleached Sand 13-1008
  • Light Taupe 16-1210
  • Sunlight 13-0822
  • True Red 19-1664
  • Beaujolais 18-2027
  • Eggplant 19-2311
  • Dark Earth 19-1020
  • Cappuccino 19-1220
  • Neutral Gray 17-4402
  • Charcoal Gray 18-0601
  • Jet Black 19-0303
  • Bright White 11-0601
  • Pearled Ivory 11-0907

As you can see, you don’t have to limit yourself to greys and beiges. You can experiment with interesting cross-over colours like teal and beaujolais while still being confident you can take them with you wherever you go.

 

2. Choose multi-use furniture.

If you can choose furniture that does multiple jobs, that’ll save you a lot of trouble down the line. Sofa beds are a favourite among renters looking for space-efficient ways to host guests. Or, consider a lavish day bed!

 

3. Bigger isn’t better!

Don’t pick a table that’s too big. Rather than going for a big, rectangular table, for example, try picking an extension table. It's a similar story forh round and square tables—not all houses will be able to fit the larger ones, but smaller ones around 1100mm will be fine in most places.

 

4. Go for minimalist décor.

While maximalism can be tempting—especially when you’ve just moved out of home and feeling like "finding yourself" through home décor—avoid the urge! Keep your homewares small, useful, themed, and organised.

4 Rental Decorating Tips for Every New Lease

Something you hear every now and then is people telling you about how to turn your house into a home or sanctuary. It’s common especially among communities of interior design enthusiasts, always looking for ways to improve their home. But what do these terms mean anyway? Is it just marketing waffle, or is there actually something to it?

In this blog, we go through the house–home–sanctuary trichotomy and how it can help you elevate your interior style.

 

The ‘house’

What is a house? Sounds dumb to ask, I know, but you’d be surprised: Macquarie Dictionary has 38 definitions entered under ‘house’! This includes two important definitions for our purposes: ‘a building for people to live in’ and ‘a place of lodgement, rest, etc’.

These definitions reveal capture exactly what interior designers and enthusiasts mean when they say they live in ‘just a house’. Basically, you don’t need to do anything to make a house a house. As long as you can live in it then you’ve ticked the box.

Of course, a house can have style. But mere houses, unlike homes, only have style in small quantities. Personal touches are rare, if they’re present at all. People who live in mere houses tend to not spend much time in them, and often they’re just functional and basic pieces of shelter. Décor is often impersonal, careless, and insecure. Alternatively, décor in the house is only there if it serves some practical purpose as well.

There’s no shame in living in ‘just a house’, of course. Everyone experiences this when they first move out of home, for example, and they’re yet to set themselves up. But there’s no doubt that you’ll be happier if you elevate your interior style from house to home.

 

The ‘home’

So, what is home? Again, Macquarie Dictionary has 38 entries under ‘home’ (and that’s excluding the sub-definitions!). Two of these are illuminating for our purposes: ‘a place of one’s domestic affectations’ and ‘deep; to the heart; effectively and completely’.

Again, the lexicographers have hit the nail on the head. Home is our most foundational sense of belonging; the place to which we are most deeply attached. We always return home if something goes wrong in life or when we lose our bearings. We trust home to be a safe refuge, even if we know deep down that there is no such thing as 100% security.

Home isn’t just a human thing, either. Birds have nests, wombats have burrows, and even bacteria have our guts to call home!

How do we transform our house into a home? As we write in our dedicated blog on the subject, ‘a home is a beautiful place for your friends, family, and you to create memories and enjoy life’. This means decorating it with your favourite colours, textures, and furniture style(s), as well as personal touches like candles, photos, and plants, artificial or otherwise. Just add pets!

But you can do better than home. Here's where the sanctuary comes in...

The ‘sanctuary’

What is a sanctuary? Among Macquarie Dictionary’s seven definitions of sanctuary are two important ones: ‘a sacred or holy place’ as well as the ‘immunity afforded by refuge in such a place’.

So, a sanctuary is a pretty special place. It’s a place where you should be able to recharge, reflect, feel yourself, and expect total privacy.

How do we transform our house or home into a sanctuary? Here are some tips:

  • Make the space yours. Focus on comfort and consider ordering custom-made furniture to fit your requirements exactly.
  • Make sure it’s private. Go low-tech and get rid of ‘smart’ devices collect and use information about you 24/7 (or even try to change your behaviour for others' profits).
  • Make the time and opportunities to connect with your sanctuary. Try, for example, growing an indoor garden.
  • Finally, shift your focus from stuff to relationships. A home may be filled with all the right things, but what makes a space a true sanctuary is its ability to heal and develop your relationships with yourself, family, and closest friends.

Remember: not every room in the house has to be a sanctuary. Nor does your sanctuary have to be the bedroom (though it often is). You may find your sanctuary in a sunroom, study, or even the kitchen. Whatever it is, having at least one sanctuary space will change your life. Why else do you think interior designers and home enthusiasts talk about it so much?

So, is your place a house, home, or sanctuary? Have you got any big style tips we’ve missed? We’d love to hear your contributions on our Facebook group, My Family Home. See you there!

From house to home to sanctuary

All cultures have a deep connection with the night sky. Indigenous Australians have maintained astronomical knowledge for tens of thousands of years. In the Western world, astronomy is one of the four original studies in a classical Liberal Arts education. But the night sky is everyone’s to share. The sky is, as they say, the common heritage of humanity.

In this blog, we go through how you might turn the most open room in your house—typically the sunroom—into an observatory. It’s something we think you should consider, even if the thought of doing astronomy has never crossed your mind!

 

Why have an observatory?

There are lots of good reasons to have an observatory! Astronomy is educational, which is so important for kids. It also keeps us adults stimulated, which is just as important. Plus, it’s fun!

Of course, building your own observatory is the optimal approach if you’re a serious stargazer. But of course, that’s not practical for most us. So, if we want to have a convertible observatory, how can we make do with what we’ve got? You just need to ask one question…

 

What pieces do you need in the room?

Obviously, you need something to help you gaze at the stars.

But it depends on what you want to see. If you’re mainly looking for constellations and a general picture of universe, naked eyes do just fine. If you want to see a spectacular view of the moon (or 100,000 stars as opposed to just 3,000), grab yourself a pair of binoculars. And if you want to look far deeper into space and see the moons of Jupiter, rings of Saturn, or distant galaxies, then you’ll need a proper telescope (which, by the way, doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars!).

Then you need some know-how.

Observing from an observatory is a lot more fun if you know what to look for and what you’re looking at. The good news is that, these days, you don’t need to attend special courses nor even buy expensive handbooks. There are heaps of instructional videos on YouTube you can watch to get you started!

You also need clean windows.

Or if you’re serious and willing to weather the elements, you should have open windows so you can look straight through. Make sure it’s facing a direction with minimal light pollution.

Light pollution in Sydney, © MAAS.

How about the furniture?

Well, fortunately for your wallet, it’s not dissimilar to what you already have in your sunroom. For example, back in the day, Sydney Observatory furnished theirs with bentwood chairs. These were the inspiration for our now-discontinued Benta Chairs. Otherwise, just make sure you have enough storage solutions and you’ll be fine!

Last, but not least, look at your wall art.

First, let’s make it clear: you don’t have to go with overtly celestial-themed décor, replete with moons and stars. After all, it’s a sunroom too! But what you can do is look out for wall art and décor which suits both night and day. Our Filling the Void Oil Painting is perfect for this!

With these tips in mind, you’ll be turning your sunroom into an observatory in no time. Now go see those stars!

How to turn your sunroom into a home observatory

Black Summer brought the issue of indoor air pollution to the fore of everyone’s minds. Australians realised how much we value having good air quality in our homes, schools, hospitals, offices, shopping centres, and warehouses. This led to a massive uptake—and shortage—in air purifiers and face masks across NSW and the ACT. It also made every second person believe that they were an amateur atmospheric chemist, recommending all sorts of weird and wonderful solutions to air pollution at low or no cost!

With a new bushfire season already underway, it’s high time to look at the facts of indoor air pollution. What should we be concerned about? Why should we be concerned? And what does the latest science say about cleaning air indoors? Let’s take a deep dive and find out.

 

The sources of indoor air pollution

Fresh air is great and overwhelmingly beneficial. However, unless you live in a sealed dome with no windows (think Simpsons Movie, but for the opposite reasons), air from the great outdoors can be one of the biggest sources of pollution. Those of us who live or work near a quarry or mine or have coal trains driving past their property are already well aware of this!

Everyone everywhere is exposed to a range of pollutants every single year. The commonest sources, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), are bushfires, dust storms, sea salt, and pollen. To this we add neighbourhood sources like chimneys, bonfires, fertilisers, and agriculture generally. You know what it's like: you're sitting on the sofa, windows open, enjoying a nice day, then suddenly the wind changes and—BAM!—your house reeks of God knows what!

Funnily enough, indoor air pollution also comes from indoor and backyard sources. Not all of these pollutants are necessarily harmful—for example, cooking smells and scented soy wax candles. But some you need to look out for include wood-fired heaters, cigarette smoke, incense, paints, aerosols, solvents, dust, and diesel and petrol for garden tools. You need to be especially careful if you’re considering open burning of wood, rubbish, or vegetation on your property, not only for the air quality impacts but because it may be illegal without a permit.

A special mention for people with allergies is pets. Sorry, labradoodle owners, but scientists have been proving for years that there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Or cats for that matter. That's because the allergens don’t emanate from the coats of these animals, but rather the proteins found in their urine and saliva. It’s not hard to imagine how pervasively these spread throughout the house!

 

Why indoor air pollution matters

No amount of air pollution is safe. For some, it is deadly.

In 2018, the World Health Organization told us that ‘3.8 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution’, and that’s just for cooking-related pollution!

But let’s narrow our focus to Australia. Here, wood-fired heaters are, literally, the worst. Three scientists recently wrote in The Conversation that wood heater smoke in winter is ‘the single biggest air pollutant in New South Wales and the ACT’ and is ‘[l]ike having a truck idling in your living room’. One wood-fired heater used for one year costs the health system $3,800, which, given one in ten Australians uses wood-fired heaters as their main source of heating (at least in 2014), adds up to $3.4 billion across the country.

And that’s assuming that every person using a wood-fired heater follows the law and uses clean, dry hardwood as fuel. Some people grab waste wood from construction and demolition sites instead, thinking they can save some time and money. But this wood is often treated with copper chrome arsenate, which, according to the scientists at The Conversation, ‘can increase incidents of liver, bladder, and lung cancers, and reduce the production of red and white blood cells, leading to fatigue, abnormal heart rhythm, and blood-vessel damage’.

Another scientist writing in the journal Atmospheric Pollution Research revealed in 2011 that the average Australian wood-fired heater emits a lot of methane and black carbon particles (more than reverse cycle air-conditioning and even gas heaters). This contributes to the greenhouse effect which, according to the US Institute of Medicine, makes existing indoor environmental health problems worse and creates new ones to worry about.

Also remember that pollutants interact. For example, one large-scale study in China looked at a certain type of head and neck cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), and ‘observed a significant addictive interaction between frequent incense burning and heavy cigarette smoking on NPC risk’. The same study reminds us that air pollutants can be even more threatening if you have a family history of certain cancers or diseases.

Finally, the NSW EPA reminds us that ‘older adults, children, and people with existing health conditions’ are especially vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution, no matter the source. So, plenty of reasons to be concerned about indoor air pollution!

 

How you can protect yourself and clean your air

Let’s be clear: it’s practically impossible to have perfectly clean air.

But, while we each must live with a minimum acceptable standard of pollution indoors and out, there are things we all can do to help reduce our exposure. Again, no amount of air pollution is safe.

So what can you do? Here are six ideas:

1. Close your doors and windows when outdoor air quality is poor or hazardous

This is a no-brainer. If your area is thick with bushfire smoke, shut your doors and windows!

The NSW Government also provides a real-time air quality index service and you can choose to subscribe to updates. When you check the weather, the Bureau of Meterology will tell you whether there's going to a poor air quality event to look out for as well.

2. Allow ventilation when outdoor air is fresh

Trapping all your indoor pollutants inside your home is not a good idea. When the air is fresh (and it is most of the time in most places in Australia), you should open your doors and windows. Let the pollutants dissipate!

3. Clean your house frequently and regularly

I think we’ve all had the experience of looking underneath our beds or behind our furniture and finding obscene growths of dust and detritus!

The best remedy against this is, unfortunately, more housework. Make sure you vacuum at least once a week, or more often (ideally daily) if you have pets or young children or both.

Also, consider wearing a mask when you do a deep clean. This includes not just when you're vacuuming problem areas, but also when you're using strong cleaning products or even when you do home maintenance projects like painting. If you're vulnerable to air pollutants, it's especially important to double check that your mask has been independently assessed and certified for its quality.

4. Make the swtich from wood-fired heaters

After all the evidence we just went through, this should be a no-brainer!

We’ll admit, it’s hard to deny that wood-fired heaters create an amazing vibe. For many of us, they remind us of our childhoods or are otherwise nostalgic. Unfortunately, cancers don’t care about our nostalgia!

5. Buy a good air purifier (or at least an air quality sensor)

If your family includes people with vulnerabilities like asthma and allergies, or you live in an area with notorious air pollution problems, you may want to consider buying an air purifier. Choice has some great independent advice helping you decide whether you need an air purifier and, if so, which air purifiers are the best value for money.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a purifier, consider buying a sensor instead. These are often hundreds of dollars cheaper and provide you accurate, real-time information about air pollution in your home.

Note that many of the higher-quality air purifiers also come with sensors, so it is unlikely that you will need to buy both.

6. If you have allergies, think carefully about pets

Pets are lovely. But, given hypoallergenic cats and dogs don’t exist, you may want to reconsider having furry companions in future if you have serious allergies. (You'll also obviate the need to think about pet-friendly furniture.)

Remember: not having a cat or dog doesn’t mean you can’t have any pets whatsoever. Consider birds, reptiles, rocks, or even an aquarium! It's a different experience but can be incredibly rewarding.

An important note: Indoor plants are great, but they won’t make a difference to your air quality

I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of spouting this myth in our blogs. But since reading this meta-study by Cummings and Waring in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, I’ve learned that indoor pot plants do not improve indoor air quality in modern buildings.

The myth started when people played Chinese whispers with the 1989 NASA Clean Air Study (and the lead author published a provocatively-titled (and incredibly lucrative) book for laypeople, How to Grow Fresh Air). This study—conducted to investigate one way astronauts might be able to enjoy cleaner air in small, sealed space stations—quickly evolved into a myth that plants of a certain size, species, or distribution would filter the air in your home by a certain percentage.

Today, we know that it's just not true. Looking at volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Cummings and Waring checked out twelve different studies about plants as air filters and expressed very high confidence that indoor plants make practically no difference in typical buildings (in the US), given the way modern buildings are designed. They say that, depending on the species, you would need to place between 10 and 1000 plants per square metre on a building’s floor space for plant filtration to be as effective as ordinary ventilation. That's a lot of plants!

But the study isn’t a total repudiation of the air-cleaning power of indoor greenery. The authors suggest that green walls ‘may create a more effective means of VOC removal because of their size, exposed rhizosphere, and controlled and continuous airflow’. However, more studies are needed before we can be highly confident about that. Plus, green walls are too expensive for most of us!

Image courtesy of Patrick Blanc.

Also, it’s not a one-way street. Plants emit spores, bioparticles, and simple gases like oxygen, but they are also capable of emitting VOCs themselves when under stress. (This sounds scary, but there's no evidence suggesting we should be concerned. These emissions are mainly for plant communication and to attract herbivore-eating predators to help plants save themselves. But hey if you don’t take care of your plants and feel like you need the barest justification to go artificial, then this is one!)

To summarise: plants are great for many, many reasons. Just don't expect them to do anything for your indoor air quality!

To conclude…

Boy, that was a long blog! Congratulations for making it this far.

Being a furniture retailer, air pollution is not normally the sort of subject we normally cover in our blogs. But, as a family-oriented company, we feel an obligation to do what we can to separate facts from fiction and help everyone keep their families happier and healthier. That's part of life in the family home, after all!

If you’ve found this blog helpful, tap or click here to check out our 100+ other blogs (including our companion blog on noise pollution). We cover topics ranging from trans-seasonal styling to indoor lighting, coffee table books to custom-made furniture, multi-generational living to environmental sustainability, and a whole lot more!

Indoor air pollution: Why it matters and what you can do about it

The NSW Environment Protection Authority reports that many people who call its hotline complain about excessive noise, especially late at night and early in the morning.

This may seem petty, but noise pollution is an issue we should all consider. It’s not just annoying, there are some serious health impacts that can accrue over time! If you’re looking for a quieter life, read on to find out more about the sources of noise pollution, why you should care, and what you can do about to reduce the impacts (including with your home furnishings).

 

Sources of noise pollution

As you can imagine, there are plenty of sources of noise pollution. Let’s look at them in terms of whether they’re external to your home or inside it.

External sources are usually the noisiest. Among these, transport (cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, trains, aeroplanes, helicopters, and so on) is usually the noisiest of the everyday noises. Depending on where you live, other noises include industry, agriculture, and the hustle and bustle of city life, as well as neighbourhood noises like barking dogs, hooligans, parties, your neighbour’s conversations and latest Netflix obsessions, yard work (leaf blowers and high-pressure hoses especially), and construction.

Indoor sources may seem more innocuous, but cumulatively these can lead to a surprisingly noisy home environment. These include slamming doors, flushing toilets, hot water systems, TVs, desktop computers, musical instruments, sound systems, exhaust fans, vacuums, washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, fridges and freezers, food processors, burping and farting husbands, loquacious relatives, argumentative kids, crying babies, and even light bulbs!

The light in my bedroom hums at a constant, identifiable pitch. Sometimes it’s loud enough to interfere with my music-making!

Note that a lot of noise properties, like loudness, are perceptual. This means that it isn’t just the perceived loudness of a noise that matters, but also its timbre, your mood, and the time of day. Some people are irritated by babies crying, for example, and others don’t care to hear their neighbours’ garage band jamming on an otherwise quiet Saturday evening (even though they might find it perfectly fine on a Sunday afternoon).

 

Why care about noise?

Noise pollution is just plain annoying, and for many of us that’s enough reason to care. But hey, I want you to get something out of this blog, so here’s some science to make our huffing and puffing at the neighbours feel justified.

Let’s look at the health effects of noise pollution. The Australian Academy of Science tells us:

Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise has been shown to cause a range of health problems ranging from stress, poor concentration, productivity losses in the workplace, and communication difficulties and fatigue from lack of sleep, to more serious issues such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss.

We measure noise in decibels (‘dB’) and safe levels of noise are usually regulated by the government. SafeWork NSW tells us that noise shouldn’t exceed 85 dB when averaged over an 8-hour period or 140 dB at any point in the day. They suggest that ideal maximum noise levels are 70 dB for routine activities and 50 dB for high-concentration work or effortless conversation. That’s a whole lot of meaningless numbers, so to put that in perspective: breathing is 10 dB, whispering is 20 dB, a library is 40 dB, conversation in the office is 60 dB, a vacuum cleaner is 70 dB, a food processor is 88 dB, a trumpet sounding at full volume is 100 dB, a thunderclap is 120 dB, and a teacher’s aide screaming at schoolkids is 129 dB. Noise starts becoming painful for the average person at 110 dB (coincidentally the decibel level of live rock music) and you’ll rupture your eardrum if it gets to 150 dB.

Also keep in mind that decibels are a logarithmic measurement. This means that, for example, a conversation in the office (60 dB) is half as loud as a vacuum cleaner (70 dB), while a thunderclap (120 dB) is 32 times louder than that. (Finally, my high school maths is useful!)

 

What you can do about it

Surprisingly, your home furniture and decoration options can have a significant effect on the noise pollution you experience.

But first, the most effective solution. Scientists say that most noise pollution comes from outside the house entering through the windows. This means that noise pollution will be best addressed by installing double- or even triple-glazed windows. These windows are essentially windows with multiple panes of windows with air or inert gas in between. This enables the window not only to block out a lot of noise, it allows the windows to become far more effective insulators, making your home thermally efficient and helping you save on your energy costs. It’s more expensive than normal windows, but it’ll pay off in the long run. (Plus, if you have musicians in your family, your neighbours will appreciate them too!)

But not everyone wants to replace their windows. What’s a cheaper, more stylish solution? Why, our interiors, of course!

The magic to noise absorption is fabrics. Carpet is great for this. If you don’t have carpet, consider covering your floorboards or tiles with rugs. Just add upholstered furniture, such as sofas, and you’ve got a far more noise-absorbing home environment than before.

Otherwise, it’s about lifestyle adjustments:

  • Look at your noisy tech. Not much you can do about things like fridges and freezers, but consider computers, TVs, sound systems, computers, and yes, your light bulbs, and turn off anything you’re not using (by the power point if necessary). The cumulative effect of switching off is astounding!
  • Really, does everyone need to hear the video you’re watching online? Or the computer game your son is playing? Or the music your daughter is listening to? Or the latest podcast your husband keeps insisting that you must subscribe to? Get your family to use headphones or earphones.
  • When you are listening to or watching something communally, turn the noise down. You might love MAFS, but your neighbours might not!
  • When there’s noise outside, shut your doors and windows. If your doors and windows don’t shut properly, spend the money to get them fixed. Also consider buying some draught excluders to block any noise which might escape underneath your doors. You can use these to block noise from noisy rooms inside the house, too.

 

Conclusion

Being a furniture retailer, noise pollution is not normally the sort of subject we normally cover in our blogs. But, as a family-oriented company, we feel an obligation to do what we can to separate facts from fiction and help everyone keep their families happier and healthier. That's part of life in the family home, after all!

If you’ve found this blog helpful, tap or click here to check out our 100+ other blogs (including our companion blog on indoor air pollution). We cover topics ranging from trans-seasonal styling to indoor lighting, coffee table books to custom-made furniture, multi-generational living to environmental sustainability, and a whole lot more!

Noise pollution at home: Why it matters and what you can do about it

Some people go full country in the country. Others will do anything to make their apartment in outer suburbia look as Hamptons as possible. Others still don’t pay any attention to their neighbourhood whatsoever.

While no single approach is right, we think it’s a good idea to consider your neighbourhood when furnishing and decorating your home. No matter where you live, there’s something your neighbourhood will have to offer!

 

Firstly, think about its character.

Whether you live in an old farmhouse out bush or a contemporary townhouse in the newest estate in suburbia, every place has character.

Do you live in an old area? Pay tribute to that heritage with gorgeous classic furniture. Newly developed area? Why don’t you go contemporary? Or, better yet, why don’t you get to know your neighbours and see how they’re furnishing their places?

At the same time, don’t feel limited by the character of your area. Don’t feel forced to go for classic furniture just because you live in a historic town. Plenty of very old places have been renovated and redone in a contemporary style, after all!

 

Then think about your environment.

Consider the climate of your area. Is it more temperate? Decorate with lots of cosy throw blankets, thick fabrics, and darker colours. Is it more tropical? Think breezy fabrics, lots of open space, furniture materials like cane, and plenty of whites and light colours to reflect the heat.

Also think about the ecology of your area. What plants and animals do you see? If you see a few succulents about, for example, you could go for succulent wall art. If certain flowers and fruits are popularly grown, you could grab some artificial ones to get the look without all the hassle.

 

Also think of your local history.

What is the history of your local area—Indigenous, colonial, and multicultural? Draw on these connections for some inspiration for your home decoration.

So, does thinking about your neighbourhood mean you have to abandon your personal style? Of course not! But you might find that your style is enhanced by looking at your surroundings and thinking about how to incorporate them into your home.

Location matters: Why you should think about your neighbourhood when decorating your home

It doesn’t take a design expert to know that bad lighting can instantly ruin even the most beautifully styled interiors.

Get it right, on the other hand, and you can transform the look of your home with the flip of a switch. Here are our seven best tips for success:

1. Don’t go overboard overhead

When it comes to interior lighting, most of us are guilty of almost exclusively defaulting to overhead lighting in most rooms of the home. But this can have the unfortunate effect of making people feel as though they are on stage or at a convention centre. "Lighting shouldn't wash down on you," says renowned interior designer Barclay Butera. "It's harsh and unflattering."

Instead, try layering the lighting in your home. Use a combination of ambient lighting (such as natural daylight, overhead fixtures and pendants, all of which gently and evenly light up a room), task lighting (like floor or table lamps in a cosy reading nook), accent lighting (such as adjustable, recessed lights that draw attention to the architectural features of a space) and decorative lighting (like chandeliers, candles and other 'feature' lights sources, designed to create drama and interest all by themselves).

Courtesy of HGTV.com

2. Incorporate task lighting to define the space

You and your loved ones will be forever complaining about eye strain unless you install appropriate task lighting in key areas around the home. To cover the basics, equip your home office with a great desk lamp, ensure kitchen benches are well lit so that no-one loses a finger preparing dinner and, finally, install floor or table lamps in your family's favourite reading spots (such as in bed, in a comfy armchair, or at the end of a sofa).

3. Size does matter

You wouldn't pair a giant, luxurious corner modular sofa with a coffee table the size of a shoe box. As with every other area of design, proportion matters when it comes to choosing lighting fixtures. "This a common mistake I see homeowners make," says Studio Ten 25 designer Abbe Fenimore. "A too-small chandelier over a large dining table or an oversized lamp on a table next to a sofa will make the area look disproportionate."

Another pro tip: everything looks smaller in the context of a showroom than it will in the average family home. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can eyeball it unless you're really confident. Instead, snap a few photos on your phone and bring along your measurements when shopping for lamps, pendants and other lighting fixtures, so that an experienced staff member can help you make the right choice.

4. Create atmosphere and drama

Decorative lighting is, as the name suggests, primarily there to create an aesthetic rather than achieve a functional objective. For example, chandeliers and candles might not flood a space with light or even be bright enough to read by, but they do wonders for creating atmosphere and intimacy throughout the home.

5. Work with what you’ve got

Okay, this may seem like an obvious one, but it needs to be said: stick with the existing style of the room. Whether you've got a country, French provincial, coastal, industrial, minimalistic or shabby chic look going on, make sure you work with it and not against it. So, think about where in your home you want to place your new lamps, for example, before whipping out your credit card to ensure they don't clash with your existing decor.

6. Watch the wattage

"Mood is everything," according to expert designer Barbara Barry for HouseBeautiful. "Who wants to dine in bright light? 60 watts for the dining room. I want it bright when reading, so 75 to 100 watts for the living room. It's nice to have options — if you don't have dimmers, then have some variety from 40 to 100 watts, so you can change the mood for the occasion ... The best lighting is at eye level, not overhead, which creates shadows. And the best light is diffused light from a white or off-white lampshade."

7. Look out for shadows

It's the little things: a floor lamp that is too tall will blind passers-by; too much overhead lighting casts highly unflattering shadows on people, as well as make them feel like they're in a dentist's chair; and poorly positioned lights in workspaces can result in your shadow being cast over whatever you're trying to do. Plan ahead to avoid regret!

BONUS TIP: Remember to watch out for light pollution

Unnecessary outdoor lighting, or indoor lighting escaping through windows and glass doors, doesn't just leave you with excessively high energy bills. It creates problems for human health, biodiversity (especially in urban areas), and astronomy. Look after your family and local environment and turn off those lights when you're done!

Courtesy of the MAAS.

7 Ways to Light Up Your Family Home

Well, we’ve been dealing with a pandemic for the better part of a year now. As we’re hanging out for a vaccine, we thought we’d ask our staff what their tips are for creating a COVID-safe home. Here’s what they had to say:

Clean your furniture regularly and more frequently. And make sure you’re using the right products! (Check out our blog about cleaning, maintaining, and caring for your furniture for more info.)

Divide areas in the home. Try to minimise communal areas and limit where people go.

Like in shops, have sanitiser, wipes, and soaps available everywhere. This will prompt people to maintain a high level of personal hygiene. It’ll also prompt you to wipe down the door knobs every now and then.

Keep your doors and windows open. Ventilation is so important for COVID-safety. Plus, fresh air is nice!

Be kind. Don’t be a germaphobe or mean about staying COVID-safe. Times are tough enough as it is.

Don’t touch your face!


Top Tips for Creating a COVID-Safe Home

Unless you’re already familiar with the ones you’re browsing, home fragrances can be hard to shop for online. But don’t worry! Despite what the naysayers say, there are ways you can shop online for home fragrances without feeling like you’re gambling. You just have to know what to look for!

Start by considering where and how you want to use your home fragrances

Before you even look at the fragrance, think about how you want to use it. Do you want it to be an instant refresher? If so, go for a home spray. Do you want a faint but consistent home fragrance? Go for scented décor or a reed diffuser. But if you want something more powerful to use occasionally over several hours, candles and oil burners are your best bet. Finally, if atmosphere is what you’re going for and scent is secondary, go for tealights instead.

By choosing the right form of home fragrance, you’ll have already narrowed your options helpfully!

 

Look at what the fragrance is called

The name of a fragrance is usually a good indication of its character. A great example is our Aussie Outback range. The name evokes so many ideas, and if that’s the right sort of character you want for your home, then you’ve got a potential candidate.

Likewise, if you’ve got something like Freshly Cut Pine Tree (see our home spray above), then you’ll know straight away that it’s going to smell like Christmas! 

Look at the details: the fragrance notes and ingredients

Given a fragrance like Aussie Outback might mean so many different things, how do you get a more precise idea of what it actually smells like?

Well, you look at the ingredients. In fragrance language, these are called the notes. For personal fragrances, these are often divided into ‘head’, ‘heart’, and ‘base’ notes—basically, what you smell first, second, and last. This will give you some idea about how a fragrance will develop. Home fragrances don’t often describe themselves in these ways, but if the right story is told about the fragrance then usually you can still get a pretty good idea. For Aussie Outback, for example, the description is as follows: “a rich floral blend with notes of fresh green grass and green leaf fused with lemon pine and eucalyptus”. Now that tells you a whole lot more about the fragrance you’re about to buy!

 

Finally, realise there’s no perfect way to shop for fragrance

This is the case even if you shop in-store. After all:

  • You’re not going to find out much about a scent by smelling the tip of a spray bottle.
  • The smell of something in-store isn’t going to be exactly the same as it is in your home.
  • And candles smell different in solid wax form compared to when they’re burning.

Even when at home, things don’t smell the same all the time. How a home fragrance interacts with the other fragrances flowing through your home will change over time. It’ll change with the windows being open or when you’re cooking something, for example. So there’s always going to be some uncertainty with buying fragrance, be it in person or online. It’s okay to feel uncertain.

Nevertheless, with these tips, you can rest assured that the home fragrances you pick online will no longer feel like random choices. Now go shopping!

How To Pick A Home Fragrance Online

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