As Americans become increasingly conscious of green and healthy living, from organic, farm-to-table food to reusable and recyclable packaging, the home design community is pushing for a closer look at the materials we surround ourselves with.

Take it from Jillian Pritchard Cooke, an interior designer for 30 years and founder of Wellness Within Your Walls, an organization dedicated to distilling the wealth of data and research on toxins within the home.

We sat down with Cooke and other industry leaders for some tips on how to build a healthier, more eco-friendly home:

1. Avoid harmful VOCs

What do new car, fresh paint and cleaning spray smells have in common? We may have pleasant associations with these scents, but the true story is that each of these smells comes from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) evaporating into the air.

We need to learn that these smells that we associate with good are actually not good,” Cooke advises.

Because flooring and wall surfaces cover the largest total footage of the home, take extra consideration when considering materials for these surfaces. VOCs are present in many building materials, including plastics like PVC and vinyl flooring or even natural materials like wood, which often has chemical protectants. If you are using wood, make sure you’re using a natural protectant like flaxseed oil.

Eric Astrachan, executive director of the Tile Council of North America suggests tile as a healthy flooring option. “Ceramic tile is 100-percent VOC-free.”

2. Make it easy to clean

When designing or remodeling your home, be mindful of what it will take to keep your surfaces clean. Carpeting, for instance, will absorb chemicals and mold, but is notoriously difficult to clean.

“Instead of carpeting, try a tile floor with throw rugs,” says Astrachan. “Lots of your carpet cleaners to get out dirt, have to have some agent that breaks down greasy oil, it has to have some kind of chemical — a volatile compound.” He reminds consumers that one of the benefits of tile is its easy maintenance. “The mildest of detergents, or even just warm water, will take the dirt off.”

3. Keep it simple

Cooke advises to start with your foundational design. She suggests spending the most effort and money on items like paint and floors giving you a flexible canvas to work from. “If we buy for longevity, we consume less,” says Cooke. 

Simplicity doesn’t mean you have to go without style though. “Tile can emulate popular materials like hardwood, marble or limestone with incredible authenticity,” adds John Turner, Jr., president of Daltile. All of which offer you a timeless foundation in simplicity with plenty of style options.

Not only is simplicity a good use of resources and smart design, but it’s good for your health. Environments that aren’t over stimulating invite relaxation for a peaceful, healthy home. Your focus shifts from stuff to people.

The healthy home movement is a great way to add upfront value to your property. If you’re a long-term investor, the cost is offset by the long-term gains. Additionally, by reusing, repurposing and recycling when possible, you can ensure your home is safe for you, your family and the environment.