Highlights from Chicago's Design Harvest Festival

Sustainable design was a clear focus at this year's Design Harvest showcase, where highlights ranged from a non-toxic paint system that allows you to design and paint your own rug, to furniture fashioned from scraps of steel, to sumptuous wallpapers from indie design studios.

It was exciting to see how designers are fusing sustainable practices into incredibly appealing design concepts. Check out the following companies if you're looking for inspiration for your own renovation or design projects.

1. Vecco. What if you could design your own rug using the colors you wanted and the pattern you wanted? Oh, and it would be non-toxic too. Pretty cool, right? That's the concept behind Vecco, a new line of non-toxic, water-based paints, templates, and sealants that allow you to create custom-designed rugs. Their products are made in the USA, contain no-CFCs, and encourage people to redesign their own rugs rather than throwing them away (although you can purchase a plain white rug from their website). The Vecco system is also "mistake proof" since you can vacuum up the paint once it is dry, and their paint only adheres to carpet after a sealant is applied. Vecco sells design templates but the community page on their website shows an incredible array of design ideas dreamed up by customers.

2. & 3. Readapted is a design firm rooted in creating beautiful work that is unfussy, personal, and crafted out of sustainable materials. Some of the sustainable materials they use include:

Constant Willow - Designers at Readapted use willow branches to craft wall panels, screens, and furniture. I love the organic and refined appearance of willow as a screen or wall panel, and since willow regenerates much more quickly than trees, it makes for a more sustainable raw material.

Black Locust wood - Traditionally used for fences and ship building. According to the Readapted website, the creamy appearance of Black Locust wood offers a sustainable alternative to tropical hardwoods such as Teak.

4. Grow Modular is a company that crafts modular furniture/exterior built-in systems using sustainable materials. They build their products in a LEED Silver factory, and also offer a Woodworkers Training Program to train and employ low-income and displaced workers in the woodworking trade.

5. MTS Design Lab - Michael Todd Smith, the artisan behind MTS Design Lab, envisions what can be created using reclaimed wood, scraps of stone, glass, and steel. Michael explains his use of steel scraps in furniture because steel is a "strong material," which I found really intriguing. On first glance, I probably wouldn't consider scraps of steel as a potentially beautiful and strong base for furniture, but that kind of thinking is exactly what makes this such a cool company.

6. Green Home Chicago was featured in our Green Home Renovations: The Most Helpful Resources post. It really is a one-stop-shop for green building and design needs, and it's not just Home Depot for the sustainable set. They specialize in helping clients draft and implement green renovations, and they'll work with contractors and vendors throughout the duration of a project.

7. Urban Source is a retail design studio featuring a lush assortment of environmentally friendly textiles, window treatments and some of the most gorgeous wallpapers you can imagine, many from independent studios. If you're in the mood for some serious inspiration, peruse their links to indie wallpaper studios.

(Images: as linked)

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