Erica Reiner with E. Leigh Designs, the creator and owner of a Los Angeles based, interior design studio formed her business to help people create ideal residential, retail and commercial spaces. Erica specializes in eco-friendly and non-toxic interior designs for every budget without compromising quality or style. Her journey into sustainable, healthy, eco-friendly design began with a love of nature and animals as a child. Early in life a foundation was laid that encouraged Erica to think outside herself and taught her an awareness and appreciation of the planet’s renewable but limited resources. After completing a ” How to Be Sustainable,” college course for extra credit at the Santa Monica Sustainable Works Program, Erica changed her major and began pursuing a career more in line with her identity and values.
In response to Marla’s question as to how she became involved in eco-friendly interior designing, Erica responds that after starting her own business she noticed how much waste and toxins there are in the design industry. Because of her environmental expertise she made a targeted and purposeful effort to green her design business. She began to focus on creating a niche in the eco-friendly, non-toxic interior design world, by researching and specializing in products, materials, furniture and accessories that are better for people’s health and the environment.
Voting with Your Money
Erica and Marla share their excitement over the increasing availability of sustainable products in the design and building industry. Marla adds that she finds herself in some type of home improvement store about once a week and is constantly amazed at the growing variety of sustainable choices available in the big box stores and small mom and pop shops. Erica states “I’m a big believer that we vote with our money,” meaning that the more people spend money on natural and/or sustainable products from the big box stores and smaller enterprises the more apt they will be to stock more choices. Retailers take note of what is purchased and don’t want to lose business, so buying sustainable products is voting with your money. Erica states that her goal is to, “show that conscious consumerism is a beautiful thing.”
Greening Up Your Spaces
One of the biggest hindrances to people greening up their home, work or business space is the fear that they can’t afford eco-friendly products. People assume their dream design is too expensive but Erica “reverse engineers” the process to help make their dreams fit into their budget, by researching where to get the biggest bang for the buck in terms of bringing in the non-toxic & eco-friendly elements that works well based on the client’s individual design needs. Marla notes that it’s easier today than ever before as there are many ways to be sustainable; there are products with low toxins, products made of recyclable materials, furniture and fixtures that are re-purposed or restored and within each of those perimeters there are a myriad of choices.
Being concerned with indoor air pollutions, one of Erica’s favorite things to do is to “attack the soft-goods in a house,” which means replacing chemically laden sofas, rugs, beds, and curtains with items that are fire-retardant free. Erica’s designs also include using repurposed and/or low or no formaldehyde wood and wood that is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. FSC is an “independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC certified products are “produced from wood harvested from responsibly managed forests where environmental, societal and economic interests and benefits are safeguarded.”
Pre-loved items are no longer just for shabby chic and vintage lovers. Modern, Mediterranean and coastal designs can now be found from a myriad of purchase platforms. Choosing pre-loved items reduces the impact on the environment by using less virgin resources and energy; it also saves money on shipping costs when ordering from ordering from places like Asia, India or South America.
A few of Marla’s favorite “green-as-you-go” choices include installing energy saving window treatments and light bulbs, upgrading to newly engineered low-flow toilets and opting for low or no VOC paints, flooring, furniture, carpet and adhesives that don’t emit toxic off-gassing. Erica adds that there’s always a way to squeeze in a few eco-friendly items that won’t break the bank and considering the impact on the environment and the negative health risks to humans, these are win-win choices when trying to green up your spaces.
On-line Design and Design On-Demand
Erica also shares with Marla the importance of being available and accessible to many kinds of people, providing them with services they can afford which is why she designed her on-line design packages which allows her to work with people in commercial, retail and residential projects all over the world.
Erica’s on-line design process begins by chatting through phone or video conference and having the client fill out a questionnaire allowing her to get to know the client’s personality, style, wants, needs and priorities. She feels her job as an on-line design professional is to set the client up for success by asking the right questions, doing the research, sourcing and procuring on-line products, teaching them how to measure properly and instructing them through the installation process. Erica notes that by not having to be on location, it keeps costs down, which opens the door for so many more people to be able to afford her design services. It’s easy to see that Erica is not just about eco-friendly home consulting, but through the intersection of great design, sustainability and good business, Erica helps her clients transform spaces that reflect their identities, vision or branding without compromising on style or quality.
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Greenbuild International Conference and Expo Nov. 2018
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Get Marla’s award-winning book Living Green Effortlessly: Simple Choices for a Better Home, now available on Kindle!
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