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Designer recommends bringing the outside indoors

Designer Ami McKay designe the Power Smart Home at the 2013 Vancouver Home and Design Show.

Trend-setting designer Ami McKay says it can make your home healthier and more energy-efficient

Ami McKay remembers a time when our homes were filled with plants. "In the seventies, our houses were full of spider plants and macrame," she says, laughing.

But Ami says that plants are no longer out of style. "I'm seeing a resurgence of plants," says the interior designer and decorator.

And she's not talking about a couple of little plants, either, suggesting that finding a place for one big plant can really make a statement in your home. She likens it to a living sculpture, and it's one way you can brighten up any space.

Bringing the outside indoors

Aside from bringing some beauty to your space, plants are natural air cleansers that can make for a healthier home. Some plants, like peace lilies, spider plants, and other common tropicals, absorb volatile organic compounds, which are air pollutants that can come from chemicals such as paints, solvents, and cleaning solutions.

Living walls are also simpler than ever before, too. Ami installed two of them in the BC Hydro booth, which she designed , at the recent Vancouver Home + Design Show. She's seen one living wall that was installed along a bathtub and she wants an herb garden living wall in her kitchen.

Engineering and technology advances have led to living walls that are nearly maintenance free. You can connect a living wall to your water system or irrigate manually by filling a trough at the top of the wall. A sensor will let you know when you need to add more water.

"You don't ever need to put your finger in the soil again," says Ami.

A little lighting goes a long way

A sustainability advocate, Ami suggests that you not let the "environmental issue" overwhelm you when making decisions about what you can do in your own home. Simply being considerate of your choices can make a difference when it comes to make purchases or renovations to your home.

"When it comes to the environment," she admits, "we might not have a lot of choices."

If you want to adopt LED lighting, for example, there aren't yet many options if you're looking for a stunning fixture for the dining room. That's where designers like Ami can come in handy. Because that beautiful, even sexy, LED chandelier exists. "You just might not know where to get it," she says.

But even replacing burnt-out incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient ones such as CFLs and LEDs can help.

Reuse whenever possible, then recycle

For those with bigger projects in the works, Ami recommends thinking outside the box.

She's put barn board in people's houses and part of the design for a log cabin she's working on will use corrugated metal taken from some old sheds that were torn down during the construction.

And any materials that can be reused should be kept out of the landfill. Everything from cabinets to bathroom fixtures such as toilets and tubs to appliances can be donated to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

"One renovation I did they gutted everything in the house," recalls Ami. "It was all in good condition so they put everything on Craigslist." In short order the countertops, sinks, faucets, cabinets, and kitchen appliances were all gone.

"If it's usable, somebody out there needs it."