Cadee Wilder was a fashion designer who specialized in print textiles. She wanted to spruce up her office, and, thanks to her profession, had high standards. "I was looking for cool wallpaper that was eco-friendly. I couldn't find it. So, I started making designs for myself and from that point on, decided that this is what I wanted to do."
Wilder is now designer and partner of California-based Kreme LLC, which has a line of sleek wallpapers made with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) inks and eco-friendly papers.
Wilder is one of a growing number of designers, decorators and manufacturers who are looking at going green in a new light. The old stereotype of green products is officially dead: Forget hemp and natural-looking, nubby fibers, bamboo motifs, and recycled plastics made into carpets and rugs. Not that there's anything wrong with those products, but they have a certain aesthetic, which not every homeowner is going to want. Even worse, in the early days of the green movement, these products may have been eco-friendly, but not necessarily practical. In many cases they were hard-to-clean, scratchy on the skin or otherwise less-than-perfect.
The latest eco-products unite form and function in new ways. Think of them as green 3.0. The Kreme wallpapers are just one example. While they are made with a natural latex coating, they are applied just like traditional wallpaper, and Wilder says they are even more durable. Some can even be cleaned with a damp rag, as you might clean a painted wall.
But Wilder and her team didn't abandon their desire for new graphics when they were working on the eco-elements. Wilder is an animal lover, and uses inspiration from the animal kingdom in her modern designs. "I am trying to give people something a little more fashion forward. It is a more fun line; we are not going for the subtle," she says, adding that many of her customers are using the bold patterns for a singular feature wall presentation, rather than to cover four walls in one room.
"Feature walls used to be marble, tile or stone. But people are trying to do something cheaper and more environmentally friendly. This has a lot more impact than painted walls," Wilder says.
Another eco-friendly product having an impact in an unexpected ways is Caroma's Profile Smart toilet. Few people would think a toilet could be as sexy as fashion-inspired wallpaper. But Profile Smart is just that: A toilet focused on performance and water conservation that is also sleek and modern.
Caroma supply chain manager John McFadden is from Australia, where water restrictions are more prevalent than they are in many of the states.
"When I moved to the U.S., I did not how to use a plunger," McFadden confesses. "It baffled me that people would accept a $90 toilet from the hardware store and buy plungers at the same time because they know they are going to get clogged."
Profile Smart is pricier than other toilets (in the $400 range), but McFadden says the large trapway prevents from clogging. Even more green is the mini gray water system: The toilet has a sink on top of the tank. Fresh water comes into the sink, you wash your hands and the water drains into tank for your next flush. Because the sink is on the tank, there is not just water savings, but physical space savings. This has made the toilet appeal to city-dwellers with small bathrooms, as well as those with high water bills.
And, when visitors walk into your powder room, they're sure to ask, "What will they think of next?" When it comes to green design, the sky's the limit.