When it comes to home design products that are sustainable, affordable and handsome, it’s hard to beat bamboo.
The fast-growing perennial grass is an abundant natural resource that is popular for design that is done with sensitivity to the environment. Bamboo is being transformed into pieces ranging from headboards, chairs and mirrors to window coverings, bowls and sinks. It is also a popular flooring option. It has gained a reputation as a “greener” – or more sustainable – alternative to hardwood, and it is considered almost as durable as laminate flooring.
Bamboo is one of the more affordable green flooring options. At home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, prices for bamboo flooring are similar to hardwood, ranging from $2 to $5 per square foot.
Susan J. Hilger, an interior designer specializing in earth-friendly design, has installed bamboo flooring in several homes, from a modern loft uptown to a traditional home in the suburbs. She likes incorporating bamboo flooring into high-traffic areas because the plant, which is so strong that it has been used to build bridges, scaffolding and homes throughout Asia, can sustain a lot of abuse.
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“A big part of the appeal (of bamboo) is that it is durable and eco-friendly,” says Hilger, owner of S.J. Hilger Interiors. “It really brightens up a home.”
Bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource, compared to some other woods, that can be grown without chemicals and woven into soft fabrics, making it a popular choice for “green” linens, including duvet covers, sheets and towels with prices that are often comparable to organic cotton.
Look for bamboo bedding in a range of colors and patterns at retail stores such as Target and Crate & Barrel.
Among eco-conscious consumers, bamboo has long been a popular choice for home renovation and interior design projects, but the material is just starting to attract mainstream attention. Online retailers such as overstock.com and inmod.com offer a broad selection of bamboo furniture and accessories; big-box stores around Charlotte also stock bamboo products in a range of colors and styles.
Bamboo isn’t limited to Asian-inspired decor, as in decades past. Hanging a bamboo mirror over a lacquered console or placing a bamboo chair in the living room adds modern flair to a design, and bringing bamboo patio furniture and planters into an outdoor space can help make a patio feel like an exotic oasis.
As bamboo becomes more popular as a sustainable building material, consumers are able to choose products in a range of finishes – from naturals and neutrals to finishes with bold colors.
While there is no shortage of options for bamboo-based furnishings and accessories, Hilger cautions against incorporating multiple pieces into a room. It’s better to select pieces that make a statement.
“When you combine elements from different styles, like traditional and modern, it makes both (design styles) look richer,” Hilger explains.
There is a downside to shopping for bamboo products. The popularity of the versatile grass has led to a wave of imitation products, including imitation bamboo and bamboo-blend products. Those products may have the same appearance but are not likely as durable or sustainable as the real thing.
To ensure products are made from 100 percent bamboo (and do not contain toxic sealants), Hilger suggests asking retailers about the materials used to make the products or checking manufacturers’ websites for information before making a purchase.