Four R’s of Green Design=renew, reuse, recover, and recycle


In the 1980’s when I was working at my first design job out of college I had a lot of clients moving to Florida from the cold winter states to retire. They needed to furnish their winter homes and were looking for a lighter Florida look that was different than what they had lived with in their northern residences.

They wanted to get rid of all the good dark furniture that they had and buy light mica laminate furniture that was becoming popular at the time. One of the problems with that thinking is that the budget that they had to work with would not go very far to furnishing their new place and they would be replacing good quality solid wood furniture with toxic laminate furniture. Also what would happen when all the custom mica laminate furniture was not trendy anymore? It would end up on landfills!


What I would talk to them about doing instead was using some of their good dark wood furniture in a new way. Some had hi- end pieces from Baker and Henredon furniture that their current budget would not be able to replace. So by recovering and refinishing the pieces in lighter finishes and fabrics their design budgets went farther, and it was good for the environment.


I found this buffet in a resale shop, it needed a lot of work but I knew it was solid wood and it was worth refinishing at $50.00 since a lot of furniture today is made with particle board and photo laminate on the top surfaces.


An old saying is “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!” How that applies to design is when you are faced with a redesign project on a limited budget you don’t want to throw out good pieces that can be reused in a new way.

  • By renewing them if they get worn out or damaged


  • Reusing them somewhere else in another room


  • Recovering good pieces of furniture with new fabric or slipcovering sofas chairs and headboards, if you are redecorating, rather than throwing out and buying new.


  • Recycling by donating furniture and household items or reselling them keeps materials out of land fills.

If you are not sure if a piece of furniture is worth refinishing or re-upholstering you can ask an Interior Designer or a furniture refinisher.

chair and chest

I found two of these 18th century Louis 16 chairs in a resale shop they were upholstered in white vinyl and in bad shape but I knew they were diamonds in the rough. I saw a set like them in perfect condition in an antique store for $9,000.00.  I offered them $10.00 each and refinished and re-covered them in new fabric and finish.

3 Principles of Green design

There are more than 3 principles when you are building a home, but I am only talking about 3 as it pertains to choosing interior furniture and finishes for your home.

  1. Improve indoor air quality by reducing items that you bring into your home that off gas chemicals and VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), proper ventilation in your home and letting products off gas outside your home before bringing them in.
  2. Waste reduction of materials; buying good quality items for your home that will last for generations to come and recycling them when you no longer need them.
  3. Green products means choosing one product over another such as paint and materials with low VOC’s, products without formaldehyde, off gassing, minimal or no toxic properties. Furniture made of solid wood rather than particle board.


When I found this table my daughter had dug it out of our neighborhood dumpster and was using it and its leaf in her and her friends hangout fort, it gave them something to sit on under the trees in the wooded area near our home. It had been raining for weeks on it so I knew it must have been solid wood because if it was particle board with veneers it would have swelled up like a wet sponge. So I told them I would pay them with outdoor cushions if they would roll it down to our house so I could refinish it.

Becoming an educated well informed consumer is good for you, your family, your health and the environment. So think about it before you throw something away can it be renewed, reused, recovered or recycled? If any of the four R’S apply then donate it so it can be reused, or refinish it, recover it or repurpose it.

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Katheryn De Wolfe Walker is a licensed interior designer specializing in Green Design and healing environments. Call  561-364-0074 for an appointment for a free design consultation.

2 thoughts on “Four R’s of Green Design=renew, reuse, recover, and recycle

  1. I just love the idea of finding old furniture and revamping it into something amazing, like what you’ve done with all those beauties pictured above!! But for me, I find it very intimidating to take on such a project, just because I don’t have a clue what to do, or where to start!! I’d love a post that includes step-by-step instructions of how you do that.

    Very inspiring post!! Thanks so much!!

  2. Thank you Brenda, I appreciated the feedback. Yes I plan to do a step by step instructions in the future. Maybe we can do a project together or you would like to be a guest blogger sometime?

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