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Easy Tips for a Healthier Home (Plus, My Eco Apartment Tour!)

apartment tourecohealthy homehealthy tipshousemy apartment tour

Today, I’m going to share a post I’ve been excited to share for awhile: my eco apartment tour!  I’ll share some of my best tips for a healthier home, including budget friendly ways to get rid of some of our biggest sources of toxins.  While I aspire to be one of those people with super-swank, design blog apartments, I’m just a real woman, with a real Brooklyn rental home, doing the best that I can!  I am proud of how much my husband and I have made our place into a sanctuary, a healthy place of respite in the chaos of NYC.  Read on to find out how we did it (and stay tuned for the end, where you can find out how to win $100 gift card to detoxify your own home!).

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Yes, we color coded our bookshelf.  I have so many writer friends who absolutely hate this, which makes sense – when you’re looking for a book to read, you think by author or title, not “oh, I want to read something with a red spine.”  But!  It looks so pretty, so we did it, and really, with the amount we move, we got rid of so many of our books that it’s not hard to find the ones we want anyways.  This fiddle leaf fig is the newest addition to our plant family, and even though it’s the trendiest plant in the world right now, I absolutely love it.  Hot tip:  we held off on buying one for ages because they’re usually so expensive, until our local garden shop got a delivery of smaller plants.  The owner told us that they grow incredibly fast, and that it was always worth buying the smaller ones (for about $40) and letting them grow at your house into a plant that would retail for upwards of $300.

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We really wanted our apartment to have a light and airy feel – we actually based much of the design around the Mexican pillow on the right that I picked up on a trip to Cabo San Lucas a few years back.  One of my favorite things to do to drastically change the energy of an apartment is to paint – this apartment, when we moved in, was a yellow-y beige that felt dingy and super dated.  At a minimum, we look for zero VOC paint, but when I was living in England, I discovered you can go even further than that, with air purifying paint.  It’s from a brand called ECOS, and it actually pulls VOCS (which are in all of our homes, from pollution, cleaners, off-gassing furniture, etc) from the air and traps them, neutralizing them so they can’t be breathed in anymore.  I love it, especially living in a bit, pollutant filled place like NYC.  They also color match any color out there – I went with the classic Farrow & Ball All White.  I’ve even heard that countries like Chile and the Phillipines are using it in outdoor spaces to help cut down on pollutants in the air!

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Zack, my husband, makes the best cocktails.  We love to entertain and have a well-stocked bar – my favorite thing is to have him make cocktails personalized to our friends’ personalities (“make a Gina!”).  We have a bit of culinary (read: pesticide-free) lavender, which I love for the general scent and aesthetic, and Zack will sometimes muddle into a cocktail.  I also love having bitters on hand – they’ve long been thought of as a medicinal digestive aid, and sometimes, after dinner, I’ll shake a few drops into some sparkling or plain water and sip it to help get those gut juices flowing!

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For my bridal shower, my maid of honor had all of my bridesmaids write reasons they love me on Champagne bottles, which we drank at the party.  They make me smile every time I see them, so I put them on the windowsill.  The other bottle is a leftover beer growler – most of our vases are either vintage bottles or ones that we recycle from some other purpose.  We buy a bouquet of flowers once a week, and split them up among 4 or 5 vases and spread them all over the house.  It’s a great way to make $10 stretch to little bursts of brightness everywhere you look.  This week was sunflowers, which I absolutely love.

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Zack and I are both Californians, and Yosemite is one of our absolute favorite places on the planet.  We got this print at an Etsy shop that has a ton of vintage national park posters.  When I was younger, I was big on huge metropolitan environments – I’d take trips to places like Paris, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Rome.  As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve found myself more wanting to travel to see spectacular natural environments.  Maybe it’s living in Brooklyn, but I crave green space, waterfalls, trees.  Right now, South Africa and Iceland are calling my name.

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Zack and I found a driftwood wall hanging with leather chords hanging off it at a boujis Brooklyn shop, retailing for upwards of $300.  “We can make that ourselves,” Zack said, and, while I didn’t quite believe him at the time (we are not what one would call “crafty”), I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.  We got the leather chord at a local craft shop, the dried amaranth and flowers at a florist’s shop, and the wooden branch from a park down the street.  Everything is just hot glued to the back, including the twine that it’s attached to the wall with.  The blanket and furry pillows are from Anthropologie.

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While it’s almost impossible to “green” your whole house (unless you’re Gisele), your bed is absolutely the best place to start.  Think about it – you spend far and away the most time in your bed of any single place, often up to 8 or 9 hours a day (hopefully!).  Your sheets are like clothes you wear every. single. day., so opting for organic, so you don’t have chemicals rubbing up on your skin (your largest organ!) makes a ton of sense.  Our sheets and comforter cover are from Coyuchi, and we love them.  Going for a crisp white mimics that hotel bed feeling I love so much, and they’re soft, luxurious, and chemical-free (we also wash them in eco-detergent).  West Elm also has some great, affordable organic sheet and comforter cover options.  Your mattress is another hugely important opportunity to go non-toxic, since again, we spend 8 or 9 hours with our face pressed up against it.  Most mattresses off-gas quite a few VOCs (volatile organic compounds), so we knew we didn’t want to go that route.  A used mattress that’s largely finished off-gassing is a good option, but in NYC, bed bugs are a real issue, so we weren’t comfortable going that route either.  Finally, we found Spindle.  Spindle is the same style as many of the other home delivery mattress companies that are so popular these days – you order on-line, and your mattress comes in a big box.  Cutting out the middleman allows companies like these to charge incredibly reasonable rates for super high quality mattresses.  Unlike other companies, though, Spindle is made of 100% latex, rather than fairly toxic memory foam.  It doesn’t off-gas at all, and it’s covered with 100% organic cotton.  We weren’t sure what to expect with latex, but we absolutely love it – it cradles the contours of your body like memory foam mattresses, but it has the bounce of spring mattresses, so you don’t get that vortex feeling of being sucked in.  It’s truly the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on – when Zack and I travel, we miss our bed.  Plus, we can rest easy knowing we’re breathing fresh, clean air every night.

healthier-home-8I love to read at night using my Himalayan salt lamp, which emits a very orange-toned light that doesn’t have the sleep-cycle disturbing effects of blue-light (like that of screens).  It also supposedly helps to clean the air.  The portrait is of our cat, Bella, and was a wedding gift from one of our best friends.  It’s such a spectacular likeness (you can see Bella herself next to the portrait one image back) – I love those moments when you realize how incredibly talented your friends are.

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This plaster and gold deer head was another wedding gift.  He still needs a name, but even in his anonymous state, he’s the best necklace holder I’ve ever had.

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Our kitchen is probably the part of our house I’m least happy with (the floor and the counter are both far from what I would’ve chosen), but in a rental, there’s not much you can do.  We jazzed up the space with tons of plants, which (as you may have noticed) are far and away my favorite way to decorate.  They’re incredibly air-purifying (did you know indoor air is 5 times as polluted as outdoor air, which is horrible for your inner body and your skin?) and it’s been proven that it just makes us happier to look at fresh green objects.  We have herbs on the windowsill (basil, mint, rosemary and thyme), which is super convenient when I’m recipe testing, and a palm, one of the most purifying plants, on the floor.  The carnivorous plant hanging from the ceiling is new addition, but I love how jungle-y it makes the kitchen feel.  The kitchen table is another one that’s not ideal – it’s particle-board from IKEA, which off-gasses more than solid wood, which is why we try to get solid wood or metal as much as possible – but solid wood tables are pricey and we needed something to eat at!  Work in progress, people.  That said, if anyone has a beautiful farmhouse table that they don’t want anymore – well, don’t hesitate to give me a call!

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  1. thefolia says:

    We love our flora in our nest…happy nesting!

  2. Leslie says:

    Hi Liz, your apartment looks super cozy and chic, love it!
    One idea I can borrow immediately is to color-code my bookshelves – that’s actually very practical to me because I don’t tend to remember book names and author names well but am super sensitive about color. It’s a great idea to help me find books easier, and of course make my bookshelves look better 🙂

  3. Sarah Johnson says:

    OMG LEMON POPPYSEED WAFFLES. Looks so dang good.

  4. kim says:

    Hi Liz, your place looks great! Fresh and very welcoming. Nice job. Kim

  5. Michelle says:

    This is awesome!! I’m always trying to “greenify” my house. I’ve done a lot over the years with eliminating toxic cleaning products but there’s room for improvement!! I love the tips about the plants.