Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

Sustainability is another hot topic these days, and I think it’s probably fair to say that we are all choosing to be more sustainable in our day-to-day lives.  However, how do we extend that sustainable mind-set to an interior design project, where quite often we just want to get rid of the old, and bring in the new.    As designers, this is definitely something that we need to become more mindful of.  As Albert Einstein so rightly said, “The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.”

Rapture and Wright hand print their fabrics using traditional methods, and a pond system filters, treats and disperses waste water from the printing process.

But, where did it all start?

To answer this question, we need to go back in time to the industrial revolution – a period of massive and rapid change, but also one of great optimism and faith in the progress of humankind.  Prior to this, agriculture had been the main occupation for centuries, and industry only consisted of craftspeople working individually as a side venture to farming.  But, with the invention of the spinning jenny, patented in 1770, this was all to change as industrialists, engineers and designers worked to make products as efficiently as possible and to get the greatest volume of goods to the largest number of people.  The result was huge economic growth and a more equitable standard of living to both rich and poor.

Benchmark’s solid timber furniture is free of  harmful chemicals and meets the standards for WELL certified buildings.

However, for all its good, the industrial revolution has also resulted in billions of tonnes of toxic material being put into the air, water, and soil, requiring thousands of complex regulations to keep people from being poisoned too quickly, as well as eroding the diversity of species and cultural practices.  Early industries relied on a seemingly endless supply of natural resources. 

Earthborn Paints were awarded the first UK licence of the EU Ecolabel for Indoor Paints and Varnishes.

Many of the raw materials used in modern manufactured products are actually harmful to humans, and the off-gassing from these products (appliances, carpets, wallpaper adhesives, paints, building materials, etc) results in the average indoor air quality being more contaminated than outdoor air, leading to a general decline in health.

Artisanne baskets are are made using traditional Senegalese weaving techniques, sustainable ndiorokh grasses and long strips of repurposed plastic.

Today our understanding of the natural environment has changed dramatically, and many companies are starting to implement processes that look after the environment – from resource management to the products they make and the way they make them.  Sustainability also considers the way companies manage their workshops and surroundings as well as how they look after their employees.

Skinflint find, salvage and restore vintage lights.

Artisans are producing unique pieces made using natural and reclaimed materials.  Sustainable materials are being introduced.  Upcycled and vintage pieces, imbued with nostalgia and memory, are being specified.  And under-privileged communities around the world are being supported by these collaborations.  Design is becoming environmentally conscious as the world embraces taking responsibility for the environment.  And our homes are becoming safer places for us to live in!

A Rum Fellow work with Maya weaving cooperatives in Guatemala to create works of art on cloth, supporting the female weavers and promoting their incredible textile art. 

And as a designer I try to make it my business to know which companies are striving to produce sustainably, and to work with those companies.  But I also work with clients to see which of their existing possessions can be reused in a new scheme, whilst still giving them the interior of their dreams.

“Glance at the sun.
See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.”

Hildegard von Bingen

Image credits from respective companies.

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on Sustainability and Well-being

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When you think about your home, does it make you smile?  Does your home inspire you; fill you with energy and creativity?  And how can tangible things create an intangible feeling of joy anyway?

Research has shown that there are certain properties that define the way an object looks and feels that give rise to the feeling of joy.  These aesthetics speak directly to our unconscious minds, without us even being aware of it.  Here are some of the ways that you can start crafting more joy in your home:

Introduce Colour and Light

All over the world, bright vivid colours are associated with joyful occasions – from the Carnival in Brazil, to India’s Holi festival.  In Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful, she says “Colour is energy made visible.  … [It] is an indication of the richness of our surroundings.”  Lively colours seem to radiate optimism and sunshine, and help us to marshal the energy we need.

However, in order to see colour we need light.  “Light is colour’s power supply.”  Humans are intrinsically attracted to light, and naturally congregate where the brightest spots of light are.  Think of the joy that is sparked on seeing steaks of sunlight coming through the window.  But what is also important is to have lighting that is variable, rather than uniform.

Layer Texture and Pattern

I don’t know about you, but when I visit places such as Morocco, India, Barcelona, Turkey and Thailand, as a tourist taking in the architecture around me, it is the buildings that are the most gaudily decorated that grab my attention and make me want to pick up my camera and capture that feeling to bring home with me.

This layering of colour, texture and pattern provides a sensorial richness, and a sense of abundance that is not only pleasurable, but vital to healthy neural development.  An environment that is too minimalistic acts as an anaesthetic, numbing our senses and emotions.  Pattern also brings with it the structured repetition of elements.  It enables us to feel abundance without it feeling overwhelming.

Group Items Together to Create Symmetry and Harmony

Try to arrange similar objects in geometric configurations to bring a sense of order and feeling of ease to a space.  Order is the tangible manifestation of harmony through balance, rhythm and repetition.  Repeating colours, shapes or textures in different parts of a room helps us to view the room as a whole, and brings structure to the complexity. 

Having order allows energy to flow around a space, and creates good visual flow as well, and will allow your body to relax, rather than getting sub-consciously stressed by obstacles and clutter.  If your environment makes you feel stable, balanced and grounded you’re more likely to reflect these behaviours too.

Incorporate Curved Forms

Circles and spheres are implicitly associated with safety and positivity.  There are no sharp angles to risk injury.  Round shapes subconsciously open us up to our playful impulses.  Think pom-poms sewn along the edge of a cushion, round side tables, or the Ball chair.

A round dining table creates a much more social dining experience, allowing guests to come together in a single conversation, and interact in a much more personal way.  And a spiral staircase brings a powerful kind of dynamism into a space.

Create Negative Space

Negative space is the space around and between objects.  Having more space allows for a greater freedom of movement.  It also reduces the visual weight of a space, so objects with perforations will appear lighter than solid ones.  Think slender legs on furniture, translucent materials and lighter colours.

Draw the Eye Up

Drawing the eye up by highlighting the vertical dimensions of a room will create a space that feels uplifting.  Think of your ceiling as the fifth wall, and pay as much attention to its decoration as you would your walls.  Think of painted ceilings in churches and mosques.  Incorporate decorative light fittings.  And if you’re stuck with low ceilings, then opt for low-slung furniture instead.

The height of a room can also be accentuated by using tall plants / sculptures, built-in bookshelves, full-length curtains, and wallpaper with a vertical pattern.

Add Some Magic and Sense of Celebration

A mobile that sways gently on a breeze, prismatic glass that creates rainbow reflections, mirrors that  create the illusion of a larger space, and mirror balls and surfaces that shimmer and sparkle all add a sense of magic to a space.

Shapes that burst out from the centre, like fireworks, have long been a part of celebrations around the world.  Think tassels and juju hats, a starburst mirror, or a chandelier that captures the bursting quality of light in static form.

Flowers are also a great of capturing so many of the elements listed above.  Flowers come in different colours, and their shapes vary too – from cups to cones, stars to clusters.  Floral forms are found on fabrics and wallpapers.  As Fetell Lee says, “Flowers bring an element of nature’s dynamism into the more static context of the man-made world”. 

Ingrid Fetell Lee  sums it up so beautifully – “The problem is that without joy, we may be surviving, but we are not thriving.  If we rarely laugh or play, if we never have glimpses of magic … or bursts of celebration, then no matter how well fed and comfortable we are, we are not truly alive.”

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on Does Your Home Bring You Joy?