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.