Interior Designer, Clair Strong, looks at how you can create an environmentally friendly and sustainable home
Designers and brands have become increasingly conscious of how the products they create impact the planet which means there is so much more information and choice for consumers today.
In 2021, doing our bit for the environment is more important than ever. As an interior designer, I find more and more of my clients want to use ethical and sustainable products in their homes. Recycling materials to avoid waste and keeping products in use for as long as possible are key to sustainability. Today, more and more designers and brands are considering the materials and processes used to manufacture products and how the products they make can be repaired or even recycled again to extend their life in a bid to reduce emissions and reduce damage to the environment.
From worksurfaces made from broken glass to flooring made from bamboo, here’s some of my favourite sustainable products and brands to help make your house a greener place to be.
Floors are a big surface area in your home and what you choose can have a dramatic effect on the environment. Luckily there are plenty of eco-friendly flooring options available nowadays.
Traditional wood flooring is not usually considered eco-friendly because of deforestation but if you choose reclaimed or salvaged wood from trees that were chopped down a long time ago you will be choosing a sustainable option. Look in reclamation yards like Bath or Wells Reclamation.
Cork, harvested from the bark of the cork tree, is sustainable because the trees are not cut down and will grow back, making it a wonderfully renewable flooring product. Bamboo flooring is made from a grass that grows to maturity in three to five years which makes it much more sustainable than wood. Polished concrete is getting more and more popular because it’s sustainable and can be polished and coloured in many different ways. Rubber flooring made from recycling tyres is one of my personal favourites for office spaces. Fun and funky!
If you are carpeting your house, look for carpets made of wool, which is a natural resource. Other natural materials used to make carpets or rugs are sisal, jute and cotton.
Little Greene Paint
If you’re thinking about giving your walls a fresh new look, make sure you consider using an environmentally friendly paint brand that uses natural formulas and recycled packaging.
Little Greene’s paint is water based and carries the industry’s lowest eco-rating. The paint tins are made using 50% recycled steel and can be recycled again once you’re finished with them.
Cool new paint brand, Lick, is a champion of sustainable initiatives. The brand has partnered with ocean cleaning initiative 4ocean to help remove rubbish from seas, rivers and coastlines. So far in 2021 all Lick purchases have contributed to removing 11,000 kg of plastic from the sea and planting 5,112 trees.
Make sure you choose a kitchen company with a mission to reduce the environmental impact of installing a new kitchen. Talk to your kitchen provider about where the wood for your cabinets comes from or choose a specialist eco-friendly company. Based in Bristol, Sustainable Kitchens recognise their responsibility to reduce the consumption of energy, water and raw materials, to minimise the loss of habitat and biodiversity, and to reduce waste and emissions. By manufacturing their wooden cabinets predominantly in-house, they can control over the environmental impact of their production.
Sustainable Kitchens only use timber and sheet materials which are deemed to be ethical and which carry certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) who promote sustainably managed forests worldwide. They also help to replant the UK’s native woodland to ensure planting and maintaining of trees with every kitchen they make.
Apart from your kitchen cabinets, the most important part of your kitchen is the worktop. It’s very important to choose the most eco-friendly option you can find. Because worksurfaces are in contact with food, natural materials are better for your health. There are loads of different worktop options for different budgets, and some choices are more eco-friendly than others.
As well as looking fantastic and being super resilient, quartz is an environmentally friendly material. Quartz is a by-product of both the glass and mining industries and is made by using materials that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. Quartz is good choice if you want the look of granite or marble, but without the issues around mining and child labour. Look for a quartz manufacturer like Caeserstone or Silestone who certify their quartz products. Local worktop suppliers all stock these popular brands.
When planning a new bathroom, there are a few options available that are kinder to the planet.
A natural stone bath or basin is not only stunning but made to last. Stone baths are incredibly durable and will keep bath water warmer for longer. Stone bath designs offer everything from sleek, ultra-modern simplicity to more luxurious, classical freestanding bathtubs.
Steel is another great eco-friendly alternative to the traditional acrylic bath. It is a natural material so it is fully recyclable. It is also excellent at retaining heat.
When you do want a long soak in a bath, why not reuse your bath water for watering the garden?
If you want to use less water, save baths as a special treat and opt for a shower on a day to day basis.
Make sure you install a dual flush toilet. Toilet flushing accounts for a huge amount of water used in the home and dual flush models use as little as 20% compared with older toilets.
Choosing vintage or sustainably producing lighting is another way you can really make an environmental impact. As a specialist in steam bending wood, sustainability is at the heart of Tom Raffield’s beautiful lighting. All the wood comes from local sources and always comes from FSC-certified, sustainably managed woodlands. Each piece is handmade by Tom in Cornwall and because steam bending is a low-energy technique it creates very little waste product.
Felix Lighting, based in the artisanal heart of Bath, has an extensive collection of vintage industrial lighting, fixtures and accessories. I love browsing for rare original lighting, up-cycled vintage and handmade original designs. Check out the enormous Cartwheel Chandeliers, Felix Lighting installed at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire for a real wow piece of upcycled lighting!
Weaver Green Nomad
Weaver Green rugs are hand woven entirely from PET (recycled plastic bottles) and look just like wool, but contain up to 3000 salvaged plastic bottles each!
It took former cider-maker and flooring specialist founders, Tasha and Barney, seven years to create a fabric from plastic waste that would have the softness and texture of wool, while also being machine washable, stain-resistant, environmentally friendly and suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
All of the products are made in exactly the same way meaning when you buy a Weaver Green rug you have helped prevent hundreds of single use plastic bottles from ending up in the ground or floating in the ocean!
When shopping for furniture look for brands with a commitment to sustainability. Two of my favourite brands are Nkuku and Rockett St George.
Devon based Nkuku was founded by husband and wife, Ali and Alex, after going travelling together. Whilst in Africa, they were inspired by the artisans they met and felt there was something they could do to work and support them back home in the UK. Their passion for the environment and fair-trade practices as well as an interest in traditional crafts and interiors, led them to launch Nkuku.
Nkuki now sells a variety of bohemian homewares from tableware and storage, to lighting and furniture. Earthy colour palettes combined with trend-led designs are key but the best thing is you will know everything you buy from Nkuku is “ethical, eco-friendly and handmade”.
Friends Jane and Lucy founded Rockett St George in 2007 after spending their weekends trailing antique shops, flea markets and car boot sales, re-arranging the furniture in our homes and continually re-decorating. With a purpose to break free from chain store offerings by sourcing unique, authentic and quirky pieces bursting with individuality, Rockett St George have a mission to source sustainable and eco-friendly products, packaging and materials wherever possible to minimise our impact on the environment.
Ian Mankin produces beautiful interior fabrics designed and woven in the UK. They are committed to producing fabrics from 100% natural and organic fibres in timeless and elegant designs Passionate about British produce and preserving traditional crafts and skills. Ian Mankin has one of the last surviving cotton mills in Burnley in Lancashire and is dedicated to protecting the unique industrial landscape of which it forms a part. I love that the team are so proud to continue the crafts and skills learnt over generations.
The best way to buy sustainable furniture is to buy vintage or pre-loved. As well as Ebay and Gumtree, I love Vinterior – the online marketplace where you can buy vintage furniture from old leather chairs to haberdashery cabinets. You can find pieces with real character whilst also shopping sustainably.
We have reclamation yards aplenty in the South West and a plethora of great vintage and second-hand stores. I am a big fan of Lark Vintage in Frome and the monthly Frome flea market.
Away from the West Country, a London based favourite of mine is Retrouvius, founded in 1993 by Adam Hills and Maria Speake. It is a fabulous destination salvage company and design studio based across two buildings in Kensal Green, London. Overseen by Adam, the changing stock in the warehouse ranges from tropical hardwoods, architectural elements, eye-catching one-offs, rugs and lighting. Early champions of reuse and sustainability Adam and Maria’s philosophy is that good materials and well-made objects are precious.
From brands which have had an ethical mission statement from the start to big household names bringing out new eco-friendly ranges, there are plenty of ways you can shop sustainably for your home. Conscious interior design can help conserve energy, reduce waste and pollution and help create healthy environments. All better for our environment.
As a small, friendly, creative business based in Bath we pride ourselves on offering client-led interior design solutions for all the rooms in your house, from redecoration to complete redesign and refurbishments. We also offer a virtual interior design service to help clients design or update their homes without the need for a face-to-face meeting. We can also design off-plan for those of you with moves ahead.
You can see many of the projects I have worked on since 2006 on my website at www.clairstrong.co.uk or click the buttons below.