Women Mean Biz

Have you thought about sustainability in interiors?

by Kay James on 18th Feb 2020

Do you consider sustainability in your interior design?


If you’ve ever had a consultation with me or we’ve chatted about interior design in any capacity, you’ll probably have picked up the fact that I am pretty committed when it comes to renovating in an ethical and sustainable way. Whether that’s buying from companies who have a similar ethos or simple reusing items if at all possible, there are plenty of easy ways to add a little environmental friendliness into your interiors.


What do we mean by sustainability in the interior design industry?


At its simplest, sustainability is about reducing wastage; it’s about preserving our planet’s resources and recycling or reusing where we can.


The interior design industry, as with fashion, has got itself a fairly bad reputation in recent years as consumers are encouraged to constantly renew homewares and discounters offer great value items at irresistible prices. But awareness is increasing. Redecorating a room doesn’t need to be about chucking everything away and starting from scratch.


We’re gradually realising that those cheap imports from China might be a cost effective way to ‘dress’ our homes, but the damage they’re doing in terms of air miles and exacerbating the throwaway culture we live in is having a serious impact on our planet.


What is it Gandhi said? “Be the change you want to see in the world.”


We may not be able to change the industry, we may not be able to make huge changes at all, but if each of us does our bit, it might just be enough…


What can you do to make your home renovations more eco-friendly?


  1. Don’t always assume you need to change up everything


I very often find that when it comes to creating a new look and feel for a room, a new lick of paint can be enough to make a real difference. It can change the mood of the room, create a feeling a space and leave everything feeling clean and fresh. If chosen carefully around other items that are already in the room the need to buy new bits and pieces or throw away old can be minimal.


If you want to save some pennies too you could do the painting yourself. And for extra sustainability points you can even choose from the wide variety of eco-friendly, non-toxic paints that are on the market today.


  1. When using fabric buy only what you need


If you want to make, or have made, curtains to suit your new scheme make sure you ask your seamstress how much fabric is required as a minimum and only buy this amount to reduce wastage. And make sure you don’t choose a colour or fashion that’s likely to be a short-lived trend forcing you to replace them again in a couple of years. Why not try making cushions from left over scraps too? It’s a great way to get your money’s worth.


And if you’re forced to get rid of old curtains consider whether they could be adjusted to fit other windows or failing that at least offer them to a charity or take them to a textile bank in your area so they can be recycled properly.


The same goes for cushions and throws, try, where possible, to buy or make cushion covers for pads you already own as cushion fillings are very often not recyclable and may well just end up in landfill.


  1. Move things around before buying new


You’d be amazed how many times I have a little play with people’s ornaments and furniture when I’m finishing off a project, perhaps moving them into different positions than they might have been in before. And often it’s met with delighted exclamations of, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t think I liked that piece at all, but it looks great there.” Or, “I would never have thought to do that with it.”


You really can give long forgotten or hidden items a new lease of life and change things up in the process, while perhaps adding one or two new items for interest instead of replacing the lot.


  1. Invest in statement pieces you know will last


If you do fancy something new in the room, and let’s face it when we’re doing up a room it is lovely to add something that’s a bit special, make sure you choose wisely and think about the longer term.


Don’t simply buy cheap, instead invest in items you absolutely love and can see yourself keeping for years to come. And when choosing furniture try to think about the future too. Perhaps keep the fabric fairly plain so it will fit into other colour schemes down the line and add your pattern and colour in the other items in the room.


  1. Add plants to the room


Adding plants to a room really can change the space. Whether placed on shelves, in large pots on the floor or even hanging from the ceiling, a variety of foliage can complement any colour scheme and genuinely breathe life into a room.


And there are health benefits to surrounding yourself with plants too, many plants will help to purify the air in your home, taking in toxins and releasing oxygen, said to help you feel clearer headed.


  1. Try a bit of upcycling


Search Pinterest and Instagram and you’ll find groups of people for whom upcycling and renovating furniture and homewares is an addiction. Some great results can be achieved easily with paint brands such as Annie Sloane chalk paint and Rust-Oleum.


But if that’s not really your cup of tea, or you’re not feeling creative, why not commission a local craftsperson instead. I work with local Clevedon-based businesses Doghead Designs and Polodango for inspirational bespoke pieces that won’t break the bank but will breathe new life into old furniture that might otherwise be consigned to the scrapheap.


I love that we’re seeing a revival in all things upcycling in the industry, with Sophie Robinson and Mad About The House discussing this idea in a recent episode of their acclaimed podcast, and Lake District-based Patience and Gough seeing their gorgeous upcycled products stocked in Liberty London.




We may be seeing just a small cultural shift on the horizon for interiors, but at least it is something that we as designers are being held to account on by clients and each other alike.  At least it’s something we now consider.


And the benefits of acting more sustainability are more wide-reaching than simply acting in an environmentally conscious way. Reusing long forgotten furniture and other pieces, or upcycling antiques or vintage items, means you’ll be surrounded by items that have their own story – one that you’ve curated across the years. It’s these little pieces of the jigsaw of life that come together to create a special, personal home.



If you need inspiration, tips or ideas to help get started with your next renovation project and you’d like to learn more about doing things in a sustainable way, why not get in touch for a chat or book an Inspire Session so I can get you going on the right track and offer you tonnes of personalised advice.


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