Designers are seeing the green home as an opportunity to create products that are both gorgeous and good for the environment.
Urban home owners are doing their bit to combat pollution by opting for natural fibres, such as organic cotton, linen, wool, silk and hemp.
They also want solvent-free paints and natural materials for floors and furniture, such as lino, cork, bamboo and responsibly sourced wood.
And eco-conscious citizens don’t just want natural, they want sustainable or recycled (and recyclable) materials. Energy-saving is important, too, as is fair trade.
One young eco-shop owner, who opened earlier this year to a substantial amount of publicity (mainly because his business partner is actor Colin Firth), is Italian Nicola Giuggioli, director of the Eco store in Chiswick.
'Eco-conscious home owners don’t just want natural, they want sustainable or recycled materials'
Giuggioli wants to offer Londoners a greener and (crucially) attractive home. This 30-year-old is passionate about technology. “I built my first solar panel when I was 13,” he says. He carried out a study of renewable energy during his five-year economics degree at Rome university.
Quirky gifts are at the front of his shop - mobiles made from discarded flip-flops, colourful animals from scrapped cans. At the back is the more serious stuff - eco cleaning products, energy saving light bulbs, and electrical appliances.
But the best bit is the basement, an eco oasis of design, with an amazingly extensive materials library, meticulously arranged to show off a stash of building and decorating options. These include floorings, fabrics, blinds, tiles, wallpapers, paints and more.
Giuggioli has on sale a worktop made from bottles collected from London bars, and black roof tiles made from old tyres. His paints - from earthBorn - have no health-harming VOCs (volatile organic compounds) - “and even bright colours can be made to order” (www.earthbornpaints.co.uk).
He lays out seductive fabrics on a black-stained table (made from the building’s old joists). “See how beautiful eco can be,” he remarks (213 Chiswick High Road, W4; 020 8995 7611; www.eco-age.com).
The beauty of eco has also inspired Helen Mudie, a talented interior designer who trained at Inchbald School of Design, SW1, and Chelsea College of Art. She set up her website (www.oneecohome.co.uk) last year to supply as many lovely eco furnishings as she could find. Here you can browse everything from large pieces of furniture to lighting and small accessories. Accounts of what qualifies a product to be green are particularly detailed and well-researched.
Ex-publisher Nigel Berman fuels (www.nigelsecostore.com) with personally sourced products and also provides links to the best of other green activist sites. First Floor are Fulham specialists for linoleum flooring. Durable, warm and resilient, lino is admirably eco, being made from wood flour, pine resin, linseed oil and natural pigments, and costs from £30 a square metre.
Also on sale is flooring made from natural rubber and cork (174 Wandsworth Bridge Road, SW6; 020 7736 1123; www.firstfloor.uk.com. Close by is Ray Munn, who sells Beckers Paints from Sweden, which carry the EU Eco-Flower symbol for environmental safety.
Its new Icon range of paints from Iceland can be mixed to any shade from a colour sample scanned by a “Spectrophotometer” machine for an exact match. Ray Munn, 861-863 Fulham Road, SW6 (020 736 9876; www.raymunn.co.uk).
Lino specialists in Battersea are Sinclair Till (791-793 Wandsworth Road, SW8; 020 7720 0031; www.sinclairtill.co.uk). The Alternative Flooring Company’s Nature and Nurture carpet collection is certified free from harmful emissions (01264 335111; www.alternativeflooring.co.uk).
Find this - and more - at the Natural Flooring Company (now trading as Enntwine: www.enntwine.com) and the Natural Wood Floor Company, which is at 20 Smugglers Way, Wandsworth, SW18 (020 8871 9771; www.naturalwoodfloor.co.uk), and also has another branch in Brighton. Selling cork tiles for walls and floors direct is old-established Siesta of Croydon (020 8683 4045; www.siestacorktiles.co.uk).
Also in Croydon is Glasseco, which sells spectacular bespoke worktops made from tiny chips of glass, in white or colours, and in matt or polished finishes (01959 576897; www.glasseco.co.uk).
On the softer side, bamboo, velvet and vibrant organic cotton furnishing fabrics come from Malabar (020 7501 4200; www.malabar.co.uk).
The giant British wallpaper company of Graham & Brown has an eco wallpaper collection by young designers, printed with water-based ink on Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper, which means it is from sustainable sources. Even the packaging can be composted. A roll costs about £30 (www.grahamandbrown.com).
Also look out for the Method brand of American natural cleaning products, now in John Lewis and large supermarkets, which come in super-elegant eco-friendly packaging designed by Karim Rashid (www.methodproducts.co.uk).
The great and the good
* Jilly Cholmondeley uses hemp, which needs no pesticides and far less irrigation than cotton. It is surprising soft, fine and luxurious - but pricey (www.jillycholmondeley.com).
* Giles Miller turns recycled cardboard into witty, desirable flat-packed furniture. Side tables cost from £32; grandfather clocks from £100; and wardrobes from £180 (07780 924689; www.farmdesigns.co.uk).
* Alison Satasi is the founder of Luma, which makes exquisite linens and throws from fair-trade organic natural fibres (98 Church Road, SW13; www.lumadirect.com).
* Ryan Frank is a recycling genius whose elegant, curvy Strata furniture uses his innovative sheet material made from salvaged office desks and cabinets (www.ryanfrank.net).
* Sarah Johnson and Jason Allcorn run an altruistic not-for-profit outfit supporting designers who recycle (www.redesigndesign.org).