With spring approaching, home and business owners often begin to contemplate restoration and renovation ideas for their homes and work spaces. Paint, of course, is a great way to quickly and economically achieve a sense of renewal. Environmentally friendly paints are becoming the standard rather than the exception, both as the result of recent state and federal regulatory changes and because of consumer demand.
Paints generally contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are organic compounds that are unstable. These compounds are off-gassed (gradually dispersed) into the air as paint dries, which means that fairly hazardous chemicals are typically dispersed into our indoor and outdoor environments.
Most paint manufacturers now feature less toxic "Low VOC" or "No VOC" paints, with their designation determined by the amount of VOCs per liter of paint. Unless paints are designated "natural" and contain only natural, raw ingredients, they will still contain chemical colorants, and possibly fungicides, biocides, or very low levels of heavy metals or formaldehyde. Note that "No VOC" (sometimes referred to as "Zero VOC") paints may still contain up to 5 grams of VOCs per liter of paint.
Natural paints have come a long way, and are rewarding to use from both an environmental and a color selection standpoint. The Real Milk Paint Company, for example, offers a very wide array of color possibilities
For a great guide on natural, Low VOC and No VOC paints, check out EarthEasy.com
's page about non-toxic paints.
And here's a New York Times article
by Stephen Treffinger where the author tested 10 different brands of various vendors' self-proclaimed environmentally friendly indoor paints.
Many (probably most) interior designers graduate from school ready to take on the design world, but not the business world. Design firms do not typically require newly hired fledgling designers to use much business expertise, but if a designer decides to strike out one's own, it's a whole new ballgame. Running a business can be quite challenging. Taking a course in basic business management or consulting with someone to help manage ones design firm can be of great benefit.
A very useful resource that I've gone back to time after time is Mary Knackstedt's Interior Design Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Profitability. The topics covered in this well written and very informative book address all aspects of professional practice, including contracts, types of compensation, setting up a well functioning office, marketing, and much more. I refer to it whenever I need a refresher on aspects of running my business. My copy is an older edition, but the content is still very pertinent. The most recent (fourth) edition includes updated sections with information on software tools for interior designers.
Ms. Knackstedt's blog
also features helpful and encouraging information for designers.