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Our Definitive Guide to Creating a Sustainable Interior Design Scheme.

Sustainable interior design is about creating interior spaces that benefit both people and the planet. Therefore Sustainable interior design must use products within the scheme that are guided completely by their environmental impact.

It can be difficult to extract the practical advice required when undertaking a sustainable interior renovation project. With such a huge and ever-expanding topic, we have focused on the 5 key elements required when pulling together a stylish and sustainable interior décor scheme. We have also included our recommended suppliers where appropriate.

Table of Contents

Sustainable Floor Finishes
LinoneumCorkBambooNatural FibreWoolLeatherWood.
Sustainable Wall Finishes
Natural paintsNatural Fibres & GrassclothCorkGreen Living WallsWallpaperClay & Lime Plaster
Sustainable Furniture Options
Recycled – Hand Carved – Reclaimed – Bespoke – Re-used
Sustainable Lighting
Sustainable Fabric
Organic Cotton – Hemp – Organic-Linen – Wool – Recycled Fibre
Final Notes

Why Sustainability is important now more than ever.

2021 is the year where we all take stock and truly act on how we intend to move forward as a society. We have suffered a year of a rapid turnaround in our expectations on how we live and interact, but it has also given us the chance to sit back and re-evaluate.

Just as spring is on the way and there are tiny glimmers of brighter days so are their glimmers of hope of a return to ‘normality.  But how do we wish that to look and what areas can we improve on to make this world a better place for the now and the future?

Start by creating a Sustainable home

The one place we can start with is our home, how do we transform the very epicentre of our everyday ‘world’ into a world we wish to inhabit?

The research of 1,022 UK homeowners was conducted on behalf of money.co.uk during July 2020. 76% of UK homeowners spent money on renovations in their home during lockdown that equates to 13.75 million homeowners. UK homeowners spent an average of £4,035.70 on home renovation during this time! imagine the positive impact if all those renovations and home improvements were sustainable choices.

What about the cost, isn’t it complicated?

For many people however the very term ‘Sustainable’ immediately flashes up pound signs, red tape, experimental finishes or images of rough shabby chic that look cobbled together, in all it can feel overwhelming and complicated and too far out of reach!

This guide is intended to break down these ideas and simplify the process by which a home interior décor can be rendered more sustainable. Nothing has gained pace quicker than the Sustainable movement, whether companies are signing up due to demand or for branding reasons the ball is well and truly rolling and the result is a more affordable and healthy home environment.

The 5 key elements to creating a sustainable interior design scheme.

1. Sustainable Floor Finishes

Sustainable Floor Finishes - Yellow Brick Road Design Totnes Devon
Choosing a floor finish is one of the biggest investments you can make when setting the stage for the interior look and feel of a home.

Along with the walls, the floor creates the backdrop for the overall pallet and therefore it should be the one area that is chosen for longevity as well as style. If warmth is a key factor, consider natural heat insulators, such as cork or wool – you will reduce your energy costs and it is better for the environment than underfloor heating.

Linoneum

Made from natural linseed oil and wood flour, this retro floor covering is undergoing quite a revival. Linoleum is a type of vinyl, made from a series of naturally producing materials, such as dried flax seeds and ground-up plant materials, including cork and wood flour.

All these materials can be sustainably produced and maintained ranking linoleum high up the sustainable flooring solutions ladder.

Additional benefits of Linoleum include its durability, affordability, anti-bacterial properties and low maintenance. Linoleum is available in a vast array of colours and patterns including bespoke to suit any interior scheme.

Recommended Suppliers

Top contenders include Tarkett who work alongside Recofloor recycling old vinyl floors as part of an industry-wide commitment to a circular economy and Marmoleum by Forbo which is made from 97% raw materials, is 100% biodegradable and manufactured in UK factories powered by 100% renewable electricity.

Cork

Cork flooring is enjoying somewhat of a revival and for good reason, this biodegradable and recyclable flooring has amazing eco-credentials.

Cut from the bark of the cork oak tree which eventually regrows leaving the trees to regenerate and continue producing. The long list of benefits include its ability to retain warmth within a room, its natural anti-microbial properties reducing allergens in the home, is waterproof, durable, acts as a fire retardant and its pressure absorbing properties act as a cushion underfoot, easing stress on your back and legs while also being low maintenance – what’s not to like?

If the vision of using a cork floor conjures up images of a retro 1950’s bungalow, rest assured that cutting-edge technology has allowed manufacturers to offer flooring with a range of stunning looks from hardwood to marble or contemporary graphic pattern. In all, cork flooring is available in a wide array of colours and grain patterns, so the design possibilities are limitless.

Recommended Suppliers

Bamboo

This tropically grown material is a much more sustainable option than wood. It is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, allowing it to be used within four years of planting versus 60-70 years required by most hardwoods.

It requires very few pesticides or fertilizers, and less water helping it to tick many of the sustainable boxes. When choosing a supplier do ensure your purchase truly is eco-friendly, as a number of producers of this resource do not abide by established environmental guidelines when harvesting and shipping it.

There are three main construction types of bamboo flooring: Horizontal bamboo, Vertical bamboo and Strand woven bamboo depending on the look, feel and durability your home requires.

Natural Fibre Flooring

There is an ever-expanding array of natural fibre carpet and rugs available from a range of high-street stores and specialist manufactures. Plant fibre carpets and rugs are durable, stylish, ethical and affordable and at the end of their life, biodegradable!

Made from sisal, seagrass, jute and coir among others, these materials require few if any, pesticides or fertilizer to grow and contain a natural stain resistance, reducing the need for chemical stain repellents.

The hardwearing nature of coir, sisal and seagrass make these a suitable choice for high-traffic areas while sisal and jute have a silkier feel and are therefore ideal in living rooms or bedrooms where a softer touch is required underfoot.

Recommended Suppliers

When looking at this finish as an option do ensure that the materials are farmed sustainably and are backed with natural latex.

  • Sisalandseagrass
  • My green pod
  • Knotistry
  • H&M
  • Made
  • Wayfair
  • Weaver Green: This range of soft machine washable rugs are made from over 5400 recycled plastic bottles. Available in a range of gorgeous designs and practical sizes, these recycled plastic rugs are easy to clean, stain-resistant and extremely hard-wearing, making them perfect for both indoor and outdoor environments.

Wool

Choosing to lay a carpet in your home can help to improve air quality in a space by trapping the dust particles from the air and holding them until vacuumed, they are also excellent sound and heat insulators.

The majority of synthetic carpets however are manufactured with the use of VOC (volatile organic compounds) or toxins that are harmful to the environment and to our health, therefore it is worth considering a pure wool carpet as an option.

There will admittedly be a higher price to pay, however, if your focus is on sustainability wool is a natural fibre that is replenished by the sheep every year with little impact on the environment.

Wool Rugs

A wool rug will outlive a synthetic one by 45 years so while a short-lived carpet might suite the budget, in a few years it will be contributing to landfills while the pile from wool carpet can be returned to the ground, where the nutrients released as it decomposes promote further grass growth, and the natural production cycle starts all over again.

Look out for pests!

The one drawback however on a pure wool carpet is carpet moths! these pests can cause havoc on the carpet and are notoriously hard to eradicate once they get hold. One option could be to use a wool rug to help define and add warmth to a space. Look for rugs with natural fibres, wool, and natural dyes. Rugs made from recycled polypropylene are also Eco friendly since the material is from recycled plastic.

Recommended Suppliers

Leather

When it comes to sustainability the jury is out as to whether leather falls into that category or not, for that debate may I direct you to my blog post on Sustainable Biophilic and Vegan design. For the purpose of this guide, however, it shall be included as leather has some strong qualities that can truly create a warm and unique interior setting.

Leather is an extremely durable flooring that has a soft warm feel underfoot which over time will develop a rich patina and character of its own. Other benefits include its inherent acoustic and flame-retardant properties while also being highly adaptable to changes in temperature and humidity, thus providing warmth in winter and cool in summer.

Leather tiles are also easy to maintain, a simple wipe with a cloth and soapy water eradicate the need for toxic chemicals to keep it clean.  It must however be treated with water-resistant finishes for kitchens and bathroom uses.
When choosing a supplier, however, it is important to ensure they use water-based finishes and natural dyes giving them a low VOC rating.

Wood

Little is required to explain the visual benefits of natural wood flooring, they add warmth, depth and improve the overall acoustics within a space. Wood can be one of the best earth-friendly and renewable materials you can choose. Not only are fewer raw materials used in creating them, but they also require less energy and natural resources.

The first thing to look out for when sourcing a supplier is to ensure they display the FSC logo, this means that they are FSC-certified and that their wood has been harvested from forests that are responsibly managed and environmentally conscious.

Reclaimed wood.

There is however an alternative option that can elevate your homes eco-credentials higher up the ladder and that is sourcing reclaimed wood. Reclaimed wood is made from scrap materials, usually removed from old or demolished buildings or structures that would usually be left to rot, burned or sent to the landfill.

The benefits of reclaimed wood are felt not only in your pocket, but it is also a more durable and tougher solution that will not react to fluctuating temperatures due to its increased exposure to the environment.

Recommended Suppliers

You can source a broad range of beautifully aged timber flooring that will instantly inject comfort and familiarity into any new build or renovation from these suppliers.

 

2. Sustainable Wall Finishes

Sustainable Wall Finishes - Yellow Brick Road Design Devon

Natural Paints

It is no secret that the majority of interior paints contain a range of toxic compounds such as VOCs, fungicides, biocides, and toxic pigments that have a lasting and negative impact on our bodies and the surrounding environment. It can be somewhat of a minefield when it comes to choosing more sustainable options and as with food labelling, misleading terms such as all-natural, eco, biodegradable, plant-based and sustainably harvested can make it all the trickier to navigate.

The good news, however, is that the industry has made great strides to improve not only their image but also their eco-credentials! When looking for a safer paint option choose paints with zero-VOC or low-VOC paint.

Eco-friendly paints can however be hard to find and somewhat more expensive than regular paints but their benefits far out way the negatives when you consider they cover such a large surface area of our homes.  Eco paints come in a wide range of colours including colour-matched to your desired shade and are available in a wide range of finishes for any use; emulsions, interior and exterior eggshells, masonry paints and primers, hard-wearing, wipeable natural paints for use in more hard-wearing areas such as kitchens.

REAL MILK PAINT

Old Fashioned Milk Paint Milk Paint is made using basic, natural ingredients; milk protein (casein), lime, clay is biodegradable, compostable, non-toxic, low odour and food-safe, containing no chemicals, preservatives, fungicides, hydrocarbons or any other petroleum derivatives.

Available in a wide range of colour options the paint will produce an antique, uneven chalky surface when first applied which evens out upon drying.

LIMEWASH

Unlike many paints, limewash is a great sustainable choice as it is not made from synthetic chemicals but instead use a mixture of natural clays, minerals and pigments.

The result is a surface that’s infused with colour and free from solvents and toxins. While many paints prevent the breathability of walls, limewash works in harmony with building materials such as stone and brick. It also makes for healthier homes by boosting air quality thus reducing the risk of damp while simultaneously producing natural anti-allergenic and antibacterial properties.

Recommended Suppliers

Some of the most tried and tested brands include

 

  • Earthborn Paints
  • Auro
  • Ecos Paints
  • Little Green Paint Company
  • Bauwerk Colour:  With over 400 colours to choose from for both indoor and outdoor settings, these paints creating a unique luminosity and depth of colour that is lacking in synthetic paints.
  • Edward Bulmer Natural Paint A range of paint colours using the nine natural earth and mineral pigments using only raw materials, while simultaneously aiming for the highest standard of ethical trading, with particular reference to modern anti slavery policies and traceability of raw materials.

Natural Fibres and Grasscloth

Hand woven from natural plant fibres such as sisal, seagrass, arrowroot, bamboo and jute all the materials used to make grass cloth wallpapers are derived from sustainable resources.

Plant fibres make an ideal surface for wallpapers with their natural ability to soak up dyes. However be aware that due to the nature of their hand woven quality some colour variation may occur, while noticeable joints may be unavoidable.

Natural fibre wallpapers are relatively hard wearing, although they are not suited to  wet areas or where high humidity is present. Thus best not used in bathrooms!

When looking to source natural fibre wall papers It is important to ensure that the backing is made from paper and that the grasses are cultivated on plantations that do not require pesticides or fertilisers.

The main downside to consider is that sisal plantations have been know to replace virgin rain forest, however the farming process is considered less destructive than other farming methods.

Cork

As per the writeup on Cork in the flooring section, cork wall finishes carry similar benefits and sustainable properties. Known for its resistance to mould and mildew, cork is a hypoallergenic option for homes and businesses alike.

Cork also has natural insulating properties, a bonus for those who are looking for temperature or sound control. From a style perspective cork has advanced in leaps and bounds from the tired 70’s look with todays designs exuding a contemporary range of colours and styles from graphic through to a more cocooned textured look. If any further convincing is required, check out GRANORTE for inspiration.

Green Living Walls

Biophilic design has been playing a major roll in interior design trends for the past 10 years, its influences have literally grown in strength. Plants are not only aesthetically pleasing they are also incredibly good for your health. Vegetation of any kind can help with air purification within a room, allowing for fresh, clean air that is good for your wellbeing. This connection with nature inside the home is a great way to feel relaxed indoors

‘Green or Living walls’ have steadily become more mainstream in both commercial and domestic interiors and incorporate a variety of plants with different textures and shades from moss to a more jungle feel. Living walls are simply vertical gardens that allow live plants to grow within structures mounted upright into exterior or interior walls.

When installing a green wall, considering the location of the installation, ie light levels. Green walls have an automated irrigation system installed within them constantly maintain themselves, meaning there is no need to water them, trimming the plants back every so often is the only maintenance they require to keep healthy.

An alternative and more low maintenance option would be to install a moss or preserved real foliage wall. These come in an endless variety of shapes and styles from the sleek to the more ostentatious look.

The one slight negative is that as they are not living breathing plants they possess less of the overall health benefits of living plants however they are altogether a more cost-effective solution.

As with all sustainable claims do ensure they come from a reputable manufacture with sustainability credentials at their core such as Innerspace Cheshire.

Wallpaper

An ever-expanding range of sustainable wallpapers, parchments and rice papers are available in a range of patterns and colours to suit any style. These papers are manufactured using water-based inks without formaldehyde, heavy metals, PVC, or vinyl backing, while a growing number are made from papers sourced from managed forests or natural materials.

Greenguard certification is guaranteed to contain low levels to no VOCs. Look out for solvent-free wallpaper paste to complete the process.

Recommended Suppliers

Suppliers that gain points for both style and sustainability include;

Graham & Brown UK: This leader in high-quality wallpaper and paints have been a forerunner in sustainable manufacture for 70 years. For every tree used, three more are planted while even the machinery used in the forest runs on biodegradable fuel, so any leaks do not damage the ecosystem on the forest floor.

Printed using water-based inks and any resulting pollutants are ‘burnt off in an incinerator and the heat produced is recycled within the production process. Finally, all cartons are FSC accredited while boxes are glued together to avoid the use of non-biodegradable vinyl tape.

Little Greene: These wallpapers come from FSC or PEFC certificated sustainable forests, so for every tree used another four are planted. The pigments used to print them are completely non-toxic while their wallpaper paste contains no solvent.

Farrow & Ball: Produce rolls of high-quality wallpaper sourced from sustainable forests, while the use of eco-friendly ingredients result in a range of beautiful, durable and 100% recyclable products.

Woodchip & Magnolia: A UK based wallpaper company that produces their papers in small batches in the UK, using FSC Certified paper products and water-based inks. In addition, their packaging is 100% recyclable, and they purchase all their power from a renewable energy supplier

Clay and Lime Plaster

Clay plasters are 100% natural, non-toxic, with Zero VOC emissions and no synthetic, concrete or lime additives. Made from readily available, naturally abundant materials, they require no processing, only blending.

Very little energy or water is required during the manufacture resulting in zero waste once the process is complete. If applied onto a sustainable, natural backing board the surfaces can be composted, a concept known as Cradle to Grave. Readily available, affordable and easy to use, the result is a visually stunning and natural backdrop to the most contemporary of interiors.

Recommended Suppliers

Clayworks a Cornish manufacturer,  is leading the way with clay plaster wall finishes. Born through a love of nature and belief in natural, sustainable building practices their eco-friendly practices follow right through to their brown paper sacks that contain no plastic.

Earthcoat Plymouth based Earthcoat produce a wide range of natural bespoke finishes from Venetian or polished plaster through to Clay or Lime plaster using a combination of highly crafted, unique and fully sustainable materials with a design-led, ecologically conscious approach. If you are looking for a finish that stands out yet retains its health benefits within a home this is worth a look.

3. Sustainable Furniture

Sustainable Furniture - Yellow Brick Road Design Devon

The first purchase I made upon receipt of my very first paycheque was a beautifully crafted reclining wicker chair, sadly I could not afford the type of house suited to such a large piece and once I moved away my mothers lack of appreciation for such a sculptural aesthetic led to it being brought to the auction house!  Sad for me, but a steal for the person who purchased it!

The one consolation however was the knowledge that such an investment piece would enjoy a long life wherever it ended up. This was no throwaway item and it is a policy that has remained with me for many of my purchases throughout the years.

When sourcing sustainable furniture options for your home the choices are as diverse as your imagination. Look for pieces that really connected with you, pieces that add to the story you wish to tell.

From recycled, hand-carved, preloved, repurposed through to bespoke these are the pieces that will transform your house into your home.

Many of the standard and cheaper furniture ranges available contain a large number of chemicals and are one of the leading causes of the off-gassing (the airborne release of a chemical in vapour form) of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), greatly contributing to air pollution within our homes! The negative effect of these VOC have been attributed to such ailments as;

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea
  • Damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system
  • Some VOS’s can cause cancer in animals and humans

None of which is ideal in an environment we dedicate such time and effort to when it comes to style and comfort!
With little imagination however, there is an endless pool of suppliers and manufacturers where sustainability practices go hand in hand with style, comfort and practicality.

From High Street retailers through to local market finds the true personality of your home can ring through with personalised nuggets of joy suitable to any style and budget.

Invest in pieces that you truly love and take it slowly. That way your choices will have longevity and will no longer blow with the wind as trends go in and out of favour.

According to Kelly Hoppen, one of the world’s top interior designers, ” The pandemic has caused many people to look at design in a different way. More of us are focused on reusing and repurposing things like furniture and accessories, and that trend will likely continue into the new year “

Let’s not forget how important the home office is today, no longer the hardly used study or spare room but now a busy and important part of most peoples working life. There is no sign that this demand will end as companies realise the many benefits of letting their workforce work from home. Take a look at our article on How to Create an Eco Friendly Home Office for some furniture and styling inspiration for your own home working space.

Recommended Suppliers

It may come as a surprise to some that many of the pieces from the furniture go-to giant IKEA  are made with renewable wood which complies with the IWAY Forestry Standard, and are FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified. They have also just lunched a new “Buy Back” scheme allowing customers to sell their unwanted furniture back to the retailer. Customers can earn up to £250 in the form of a voucher per returned item in good as new condition. The flat-pack giant has also announced a new partnership with Gumtree to sell second-hand products via the online marketplace. Ikea aims to become a “fully circular and climate positive business” by 2030. The group is investing four billion euros in renewable energy to reduce its climate footprint.

While West Elm: also hold a large and varied range of sustainable certification in their furniture range.

If however, you are in search of higher sustainable credentials and budget is a little more flexible there is a vast array of dedicated makers who see furniture as items to be cherished above and beyond their function.

Muck N Brass: creatively re-purposes once loved homeware items such as furniture and lighting that have been dumped, turning them into modish homewares that can make any room pop

Relish lifestyle: Connoisseurs of vintage furniture, Relish is a lifestyle brand selling pre-loved vintage homewares.

Grain In their own words they are ” pioneering a truly sustainable approach to furniture retail, placing the needs of people and the planet at the heart of everything we do. ” Beautifully crafted sleek timber furniture using water-based finish avoiding the release of dangerous VOC’s into the atmosphere. 

Sebastian Cox: Sebastian immerses himself in our material history and reinvigorates traditional materials and ways of making to drive change in our material culture.”

Nkuku: Working with artisans around the world, Nkuku is all about transparency, ethics and sustainability. The brand works with independent businesses, social projects and co-operatives frequently visit its suppliers, and adheres to the globally recognised 10 Principles of Fair Trade. What’s more, everything is handmade from natural or recycled materials, and we can’t get enough of these beautiful pieces!

Scaramanga: Vintage, Shabby Chic and Bohemian interior design style. regular trips to visit all our suppliers and producers to ensure the ethical standards we set ourselves are being met. We ensure staff are all well looked after and earn above average wages for the industry and ensure no children are employed.”

Konk furniture Furniture design studio and workshop that produces bespoke pieces of furniture that are made for life.  Working in partnership with One Tree Planted, they donate to plant a tree for every single order we receive.

Atom Interior Styling is a great example of a company that expert upcycles furniture.

Other notables are:

Adventures In Furniture

Tom Raffield.

Forest & Maker

Arlo & Jacob: A sustainable choice when it comes to sourcing the perfect sofa with a range of sustainable fabrics to choose from while all the beech and birch hardwood in the frames are ethically sourced from FSC managed forests to help preserve the environment and are built using the traditional method to ‘glue, screw and dowel

Sofa for life

wearthlondon.com  an online marketplace perfect for anyone looking for sustainable, zero-waste, natural and earth-friendly products. Featuring UK makers who use reclaimed and sustainably-sourced materials making quality long lasting pieces.

Lomas Furniture creates bespoke one of a kind pieces of furniture allowing the timber to speak for itself and collaborating with the wood grain in order to create a piece where no two items of furniture are the same.

For some people – myself included – finding the perfect chair is as desirable as the the perfect shoe! Our home should be an extension of our style and this can be flaky at best, each day brings its own character and it is fun to embrace the change. This is where the joys of  Harth Space comes in, rented furniture at the click of a button. As we spend more time in our own homes it can be fun to mix it up so why not go all out and embrace the change with some unique designer items that can be changed on a whim.

If you are looking for a kitchen refit check out  The Used Kitchen Company for an extensive range of high-end pre-loved kitchens, many of them come with inbuilt appliances all at a vastly reduced cost. Remember to include fitting and collection within the cost, just as you would a new model.

On a final note, never underestimate the value of Etsy Reclaimed Furniture, eBay, Facebook market or antique / salvage yards for picking up unusual one-off pieces, There is something extra special about finding a unique item, and using antique furnishings is a great way to not only go green in your house but inject character.

On that note the reverse is also necessary in order to render your interior practices sustainable, remember that ‘one mans junk is another man’s treasure ‘. So if you do find you are tired of a piece or there is simply no space for an item it is just as important to pass it on, recycle, resell or donate to the numerous local charity ventures. Landfill should always be the last option!

4. Sustainable Lighting

Sustainable Interior Design Lighting - Yellow Brick Road interior design Totnes Devon

Once the interior ‘stage’ is set and the furniture ‘props’ have been chosen, it is time to focus on lighting!

The first thing to consider is how to maximise natural daylight within a room. Exposure to natural light reaps many benefits for both our physical and psychological health.

It helps us to regulate our natural body clock as the light colour changes from bright blue-rich light during daylight hours telling our bodies to be awake and active, to soft, red-based light in the evening setting us up for a good nights sleep.

Consider bringing in indirect daylight into a space through the installation of clerestories, roof windows, internal courtyards or glazed walls if a more substantial renovation or extension is being undertaken.

When it comes to choosing artificial light fittings however there is a vast array of options available from the standard to the more playful and dramatic. The first things to consider is a switch to the more energy-efficient LED light bulb using up to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, lasting 25 times longer while also providing attractive, warm lighting at a fraction of the energy cost.

Recommended Suppliers

Following on from that, the variety of suppliers range from the High Street through to the more crafted, using a collection of finishes from mushroom-based Mycelium pendants by Sebastian Cox, to stunning woven natural fibre fittings by Lin lovekin baskets and for a more contemporary look, 3D printed lights made from recycled PET bottles by Plumen.com or the deep red terracotta linear lights by  Hand & Eye. This is the one chance to step out of the ordinary and finish off the uniqueness of your home with a sustainable and desirable focal point.

Other notables are:

Grey pants

Lam Lighting

Pipi & Me Ceramics

Nkuku

Pinch Design

Cre Re Paper mache

Lin lovekin baskets

ReChic: Contemporary Recycled Lighting

Nove Lighting

Hand & Eye

5. Sustainable Fabric

Sustainable Interior Design Fabrics - Yellow Brick Road interior design Totnes Devon

The doors of the fashion factory floor have been well and truly flung open and consumers are increasingly aware of the negative impact a rushed fashion purchase can make on the environment and livelihood of so many people.

We have subsequently seen the fashion industry take several strides toward reducing its carbon footprint and ethical practices over the last few seasons. But what of the accountability within the interior fabric market?

Due to the nature of interior design fabric and the general ‘tough’ living conditions, they have to endure, many interior textiles are treated and finished with chemicals, flame retardants and other environmentally unfriendly substances in order to increase their functionality.

Once again by looking into our past and researching into our future, there is an ever thriving range of alternatives through the use of natural & recycled fibres. This has resulted in an extensive range of classical, tactile and hardwearing fabrics that will proudly drape over the loftiest of windows or sleek contemporary furniture.

Natural fabrics to look out for include:

Organic cotton is one of the most widely used natural fibres in the world. Its uses range from clothing to interior fabrics such as curtains and upholstery. Sustainable organic cotton is made free of pollutants and under socially correct conditions while adhering to strict controlled water and energy consumption. Look out for certifications such as GOTS or EU Ecolabel to help you make a better choice. Notable suppliers are

Hemp Naturally akin to linen in look and feel, organic hemp fabric can be soft like silk, drape like linen and snug like fleece. It is as versatile as cotton and as durable as canvas while its manufacture is produced in the most sustainable and ethical way possible. Of all the sustainable fabrics available on the market, hemp is the most eco-friendly choice. Notable suppliers are:

Organic linen is made from flax, a natural raw material that requires no irrigation or chemical treatment. All parts of the plant are used and it is naturally biodegradable ensuring no waste at any stage of its lifecycle. The range of beneficial properties that come with linen include; its high absorbency, strength, antiallergic and high abrasion resistant making Linen a suitable fabric for a range of interior finishes from upholstery through to soft furnishings and curtains.

Wool has been a staple fabric for centuries but due to increased demands, the manufacturing process has been compromised resulting in unsustainable practices.

In all however wool uses 18% less energy than polyester and nearly 70% less water than cotton to produce 100 sweaters while also being the ultimate in Cradle to Cradle product due to its ability to be 100% biodegradable.

The markings of 100% Pure new wool states that it derives from a living animal and is not death’s wool and is guaranteed by Woolmark standard. There are many manufacturers who stick to the traditional methods of weaving and dying and produce a beautiful range of woollen fabrics suitable for many applications within the home.

Recycled fibre is another area that companies have looked to invest in and develop in order to not only reduce their own landfill but that of external concern also. Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate or rPET, is created using recycling plastics that were previously used as packaging materials or bottles.  Just 1 tonne of regenerated rPET yarn equals to nearly 70,000 plastic bottles. Notable Suppliers are:

If it is curtains, blinds or bed linen you are looking to source it is worth checking out Loom and Last who work closely with a range of trusted suppliers from around the world to source some of the finest all-natural cotton & linen fabrics.

A number of the bigger names within the interior fabric industry have also strived to make greater gains in reviewing and reshaping their sustainable processes while simultaneously developing individual ranges that are suited for both the commercial and domestic market. These include Osbourne and Little with their ‘Ocean’ range, Designers Guild’s ‘Lisbon’ fabric and the ever so cutting edge, Kirkby Design with ‘Leaf’.

As with all finishes marked with ‘green credentials,’ it is important to fully research the claims by questioning not just the sustainability of the material but also the production cycle, transportation, emissions, duration of use and recyclability.

The following are few organizations that provide independent certification or eco-label to help make that process a little less overwhelming:

One Final Note if you are planning a Sustainable Interior Project

One final note on planning a sustainable interior refresh, extension or complete renovation. It is important to consider carefully the existing and future use of the space required.

Look beyond the now, and design with flexibility in mind as this will reduce the need to have to go through the process further down the track resulting in more landfill!

One growing trend, that has only been heightened during the pandemic, is the desire for multi-generational living, a flexible space that grows and morphs as our life, family and social structures unfold.

Secondly, recognise that any large scale project will inevitably produce a large degree of waste, this in itself is a negative impact that should be considered, carefully managed and budgeted.

The aim of this guide is to create a resource to refer to when making the choices that bring both style and sustainability in line with the budget and time frame. Whatever your dream home is, at Yellow Brick Road Design we wish to help take you one step closer to creating the perfectly sustainable ‘your world’.

And don’t think you need to be in London to find sustainable interior design suppliers. Take a look at our very best Devon Interior design suppliers in our recent article.

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Caomhie Mckenna Yellow Brick Road Interior Design Devon
Discover more about me and my interior design business by browsing this site and please feel free to contact me by using the link below.

Caoimhe McKenna: BA Honours Design.

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