BUT IT TAKES A LITTLE EFFORT, SAYS SAN FRANCISCO-BASED INTERIOR DESIGNER NOZ NOZAWA
Noz Nozawa never thought she’d be passionate about antiques. When the San Francisco designer bought her first home in 2010, her style was firmly rooted in Mid-Century Modern. And since 2014, when she career-hopped from marketing to the world of interiors, she has honed a maximalist aesthetic—big, bright, bold. So color her surprised at the way old footstools—she now has a collection—and other French antiques have resonated with her over the years.
“It’s totally weird that in this modern boxy condo where I live, the most visible piece of furniture in my bay window is this 19th-century gilded, hand-carved French settee that I re-covered in a denim fabric from Zak+Fox,” Nozawa, 35, says.
It’s not a choice she envisioned a decade or so ago. The interest and appeal came on slowly, over time.
That same kind of open-mindedness and easy-does-it pace is what Nozawa preaches when it comes to sustainable design. She’ll be the first to admit: Sustainability is tough to pull off in the design world. Despite her own efforts to make environmentally responsible choices, much of what she sources for clients still needs to be shipped a long distance, which isn’t great for anybody’s carbon footprint. Most clients think it’s all about the products—bamboo floors, say, over oak. But the sustainability quotient of bamboo diminishes considerably if it has to be shipped from halfway across the world. Sustainable design is more than a magic set of materials. It’s a mind-set.
Noz Nozawa sustainably redesigned a San Francisco firehouse into a Mission-style home, renovating the kitchen, but leaving hosting spaces intact.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nicole Morrison
The greenest step a home enthusiast can take is the first one—to be mindful of the steps to come, and realize your choices can and will make a difference. For example, if you buy something—whether it’s a hammock or a Herman Miller sectional—knowing you’ll only have it for a few years and toss it, then it doesn’t really matter how eco-friendly its materials are.
If you care about the environment, Nozawa says, but find yourself drawn to a house that was remodeled five years ago, and you hate the renovation and plan to redo it, that’s a sign that you need to rethink.
Renovations use up natural resources. Buy a house you won’t change as much, she suggests. Or find a fixer-upper and save it from the bulldozer. This may mean living in the midst of your renovation for a time, with some rooms redone, some unfinished, some empty.
“It’s a huge ask,” she admits. But a commitment to sustainability often requires accepting a certain level of inconvenience.
If the latest supply-chain issues have taught us anything, it’s that a sofa upholstered one town over is worth 10 (or pick your figure) in a container ship.
“Our clients are proud of the number of local makers we work with,” Nozawa says. Look around, she advises. Perhaps you live in an area with great woodworkers, or upholsterers. Besides being more sustainable, supporting local artisans helps your overall community, and makes each item feel more special.
“And nothing comes damaged or in a huge box,” she adds.
Designer Noz Nozawa at home in San Francisco
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colin Price Photography
If you have to purchase items from a distance, try to resist the urge to get them here faster.
She calls herself old-fashioned, preferring to buy items in actual stores, rather than online, where the “express shipping” button is so seductive.
The faster something comes to you, she notes, the more likely it is that every part of the process—from production, to the extra packaging needed to ship it, to the pollution churned out by air transport—has a harsher impact than buying something locally and with a slower delivery rate.
While construction and renovation are, in essence, consumptive, when done right they needn’t be wasteful, she explains. High-quality goods tend to last longer, and caring for them will only extend their lifetime.
The same can be said for life’s creature comforts—objects and spaces designed purely for beauty or pleasure. If that creature comfort brings you joy, if it keeps you happy and settled in one place, instead of roaming to the next home, the next renovation, then the purchase—no matter the price, or the materials, for that matter—was likely well worth it.
Like Nozawa’s bay-window settee.
“My husband takes naps on it, my dog uses it to stand on and bark at other dogs on the sidewalk. It’s the best.”
And it looks much better there than in a landfill.
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