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Feature: Deborah Soulier, Non-Toxic Interior Designer

October 04, 2021 6 min read

Feature: Deborah Soulier, Non-Toxic Interior Designer

Deborah Soulier is the Principal designer at Soulier Design Studio based in Toronto, Ontario.  Deborah has a passion for design, is an environmentalist and is also an executive coach.  You will find Deborah's work scattered all over Canadian Home Trends magazine where she discusses topics like Empty Nesting & Wellness In Your Home.

Fusing health and wellness into interior design space

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?  Where are you based out of?  What gets you up in the mornings?

Sure Sandy!  I live in Pickering, Ontario, Canada with my husband. I have two beautiful adult children and two grandchildren! Mornings are my absolute favourite time of the day.  I am an early riser (5am) and have been since I was very young.  For me, this time is the best time. A fabulous bold coffee with almond milk is bonus! I am a life-long learner. I love each and every brand new day . It is an opportunity for me to learn something new, exciting and grow my knowledge base. Sandy, I rarely ever mention this but I am also a Cancer survivor. I have recently celebrated my 8th year. This alone is motivation to get me up in the mornings! 

I'm curious as to what an interior designer's home looks like.  Can you describe your personal style and what is your favorite room in your home?  Why is it your favorite room?

For me, it seems that my home is always a work in progress...I am always changing things up. Growing up, I lived in an extremely dark home. It always felt so depressing to me. Our home faced north and the only window in the living room had a verandah overhang which completely stole every drop of light that there was.  As a result, I now really enjoy bright, calm, contemporary, non-sterile but clutter-free spaces with white walls as a backdrop. It is what makes me feel my absolute best. 

This backdrop, like an art gallery, helps to highlight special pieces that I have collected over the years such as beautiful mirrors, pictures, artwork, my books (I am a serious book addict so you will find numerous books in my home), my piano (I am classically trained), plants and furnishings.

My favourite room is a toss up between my kitchen and living room.  My kitchen because it is full of light and I love to cook/bake...I knocked out the 8 ft ceilings, took them up to 14ft at one end down to 8ft on the other and installed beautiful skylights.  Basically the entire ceiling is glass.  It is such a feel good space for me. I added a huge live edge table and banquet which is perfect for large dinner parties and family get togethers. My living room is another favourite because we have a comfortable sectional couch, a fabulous TV, surround system and fireplace.  My husband and I are insane movie and Netflix/Prime series buffs and love to spend time on the weekends cozied up on the couch watching our favourite shows.  

You come from a very unique background where you've blended your eye for interior design and LEED/Eco training, plus you are a life coach.  I can understand how interior design comes hand in hand with LEED/ECO training.  How does your life coach background influence your work with your clients?

My Life Coach training was one of the best things that I have ever experienced.  Not only has it helped me enormously on a personal level, it helps me understand my client and allows me to help them live their lives to the fullest. A life coach's primary goal is to provide a support system for their clients so that they can achieve their goals. That is exactly what I do when working with my clients.  I help and support them so that they can achieve their goal of creating a beautiful home. One that they can personally resonate with.

What caused you to dive deeper into the world of eco, sustainable living?

I adore Interior Design and Architecture and have since my teenage years.  I realized very early on that your interior environment has such a profound effect on your health and well-being.  Spaces can either make you feel really good or really bad. The amount of light, the colours within the space all evoke some type of emotion as I described in my first question above. I started to research restorative spaces and this just took me further and further down the eco/sustainable rabbit hole journey. I started to learn more about the importance of biophilia and how the addition of Mother Nature in a space can have energizing properties, and health and wellness benefits. I started to learn about the toxic properties of furnishings, particularly paint and soft furnishings, and the effect that their off-gassing has on the occupants overall heath. Once you remove these many positives happen.  Improved moods, vitality, better quality sleep, enhanced concentration. It truly is a domino effect!

I recently graduated from Parsons School of Design, New York. I am now certified in Healthier Materials and Sustainable Buildings. The goal of the program is to empower practitioners to make change with the knowledge that healthier buildings lead to healthier lives. I am also in the final stages of my Well AP Designation. 
I am seriously committed to differentiating myself as a leader in human health and wellness in the spaces where we spend our lives.

I know your motto is to 'fuse interior design with wellness' and that is what a lot of us would love to be able to do in our homes.  If we're new to this concept, what would you suggest as baby steps to start incorporating wellness into our space without getting rid of everything that is toxic to us and the environment?  Or do you suggest taking a 'rip the bandaid off in one go!' sort of approach?

I think that the baby steps is the way to approach this otherwise it may be just too overwhelming. Start by incorporating these ideas!
  • From a cleaning perspective...get the chemicals out of the house! Opt for natural cleaning solutions.  Vinegar, baking soda and lemon and no more fabric softener sheets...opt for wool dryer balls instead. Purchase, natural non-toxic laundry detergent.
  • Linens....choose organic cotton or linen bedding.
  • Mattress....choose a natural latex (from trees) to sleep on.
  • Avoid flame retardants and stain guard in furnishings
  • Do not purchase MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) which are full of toxic chemicals. Opt for wood products.  Consider second hand, vintage or repurposed furniture
  • Choose natural rugs such as natural jute, wool or organic cotton
  • Be cautious of "green washing"...companies claiming that their products are eco-friendly.  They may be greener then their counterparts but not necessarily GREEN.
  • Reduce the use of plastic in your home especially single use.  Saran Wrap, sandwich bags...opt for glass storage containers. Instead of plastic wrap, I use Abeego. Abeego is made with beeswax, tree resin, jojoba oil, infused into a hemp and organic cotton cloth. 
  • Use paints with zero VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds)

As a business owner myself, I often feel frustrated when people choose convenience or "a good deal" over caring for their health.  I mean, we obviously believe in what we sell, otherwise, we wouldn't be doing what we do in the first place.  So just speaking from a business owner to business owner perspective, how do you cope with this frustration?  How do you regulate and continue to inspire others without making them feel bad about their choices?

No doubt it is very frustrating!  People don't know what they don't know.  Meaning...people are not aware of the dangers of these unhealthy products and the negative effects that they may have on their health and well-being. 

Even though many of these items are toxic, manufactures are still allowed to make them.  We all know that cigarettes have negative effects on peoples health but the Cigarette companies are still permitted to make and sell them. I have been talking about Eco-friendly design for the past 14 years.  Even when I told other designers that I specialized in sustainability and Eco-friendly design they told me that no one cared about this stuff and looked at me like I was living in the Twilight Zone.  14 years later, in the midst of a global pandemic, people are really starting to understand the relationship that there homes have on their health as they spend more and more time inside. 

We have to really step up our mission and be the public awareness announcement. We have to keep educating people and create a greater demand for these healthy products.  This will drive the currently higher prices down.  We can make a difference!!

What issues or circumstances happening in the world today keep you up at night?

I would have to say the uncertainty of our future.  Clearly, no one knows what our world is going to look like in the next few years. This pandemic changed our lives in a moment and has turned our world upside-down. There has been so much loss.  Loss of lives and loved ones, loss of businesses, jobs, income, mental health and hope. Trying to navigate this is very difficult for sure!  Self care, staying focused and as positive as possible is key for me! 

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