Design for Life: Quality is Green

Buying quality once beats spending less money, multiple times.

| March/April 2008

  • Beth Meredith and Eric Storm’s condo emphasizes quality over size.

Money was tight when I started my architectural practice 20 years ago, so I bought a $20 desk chair. After a few years, the upholstery showed wear and the seat wasn’t level—and it sometimes dropped a few inches without warning. Even after things improved financially, I didn’t want to send the chair to the landfill—and it didn’t look good enough to give away. So I put up with it.

Then one day at San Francisco’s Green Festival, I approached the Green Fusion Design Center booth and beheld the strangest-looking office chair I’d ever seen. Its tag said it was ergonomically designed and its upholstery fabric was environmentally sound. I sat down and went to heaven.

That chair—a HÅG Capisco—cost 50 times the price of my original desk chair and has been worth every penny. As soon as I sat in it, I knew I should have bought a good chair long ago. I realized that by holding my body in an unhealthy posture, my old office chair gave me constant subliminal messages that life is difficult and money is scarce. Sitting in my new seat, I felt more alert, more capable—more wealthy! This made me stop and think about the importance of quality. And it helped me see that good quality is green.

If I’d invested in a good chair in the first place, I wouldn’t have a disposal challenge now. Secondly, my new chair is likely to remain attractive and functional much longer than a cheap one. Finally, I could have been feeling more alert and flexible all these years. The "green" upholstery fabric is icing.

Small size, high standards

The phrase "good quality" brings to mind durable materials and excellent craftwork. I believe that carefully selecting objects of strength and beauty brings satisfaction. This came to light when I visited Beth Meredith and Eric Storm’s Portland, Oregon, condo—a model of sustainable living.

Their home is in a lovely old building in a walkable neighborhood. They remodeled small, dark rooms into flowing, naturally lit spaces; the finishing details echo the building’s timeless beauty. Though their budget wasn’t huge, they used high-quality materials.



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