A Beginner's Guide To Sustainable Interior Design
Updated: Sep 16
‘Sustainable Interior Design is a relatively new Interior Design trend based around a conscious and sustainable outlook on life. It takes into consideration the impact fast consumerism has on our environment and our carbon footprint. Typically this design style incorporates little to none synthetic and plastic materials. It champions local artisans and craftsmanship and focuses on sourcing local natural materials. This is my personal definition and interpretation of Sustainable Interior Design.
But Does Sustainability Mean?
To fully understand Sustainable Interior Design we must first go back to the beginning and understand what sustainability actually is. According to youmatter.world, sustainability ‘can be defined as the processes and actions through which humankind avoids the depletion of natural resources to keep an ecological balance so that the quality of life of society doesn’t decrease.’
The Earth’s natural resources are being used up at such a speed that we are at the brink of depleting all our natural resources. If we do not make a conscious effort to curb our consumption and find other alternatives, then we will find ourselves in trouble. A lot of natural materials do renew over an extended period of time, but we are consuming at such a speed that these materials do not have adequate time to renew, thus putting further strain on other natural resources that are renewing faster and are much easier to access.
It is due to this that we have relied heavily on synthetic materials over the past few decades. We do not have to wait for them to naturally renew, they can be produced in factories. Plus they are cost effective and cheaper, and are low maintenance. Now this may sound like a perfect solution, however it takes a huge amount of energy to produce these synthetic materials, energy which is derived from non-renewable natural resources. And therefore we find ourselves back at the original problem of using up all our natural resources. And in the age of fast consumerism, this is proving to be a massive problem.
Another aspect of sustainability is pollution. We as humans are generating far more waste than we are capable of disposing of and recycling safely and quickly as possible. Synthetic materials are made of highly toxic chemicals which are released into the atmosphere when these materials begin to decompose and break down. These toxins are highly dangerous to humans, animals and plants. These toxins are also interfering with our renewable natural resources, causing problems and delaying their renewing time.
However, synthetic materials are not all that bad and there some very life changing uses of plastics and they play a huge role in making our lives easier and efficient. The problem is with our wasteful habits and not fully understanding the harms of irresponsible use and disuse.
So sustainability is a conscious movement which focuses on how we, as humans, consume and dispose our products. It is about extending the lives of our natural resources, whilst also capping our waste and consumption of synthetic materials. Recycling plays a huge role in sustainability. The majority of natural materials and synthetic materials are recyclable, so it is a question of making sure they are recycled and they do not end up on landfill sites. It is also about inspiring designers to design products which use recycled materials, and is about making the consumer aware that recycled does not mean low quality or old. It just means that the end product is more sustainable and is keeping the Earth healthier for us and for the future generations.
So What Is Sustainable Design?
It is designing with an emphasis on sustainability. According to ecolife.com, ‘Sustainable design is the intention to reduce or completely eliminate negative environmental impacts through thoughtful designs. This concept can be applied across all fields of design, such as designing buildings or products.’
Sustainable ways of designing are on the rise. Designers are now shifting to a sustainable mindset of designing. It is all about stopping and thinking about our consuming and buying behaviour. We are beginning to see a huge range of products being made from sustainably sourced materials. Whether it is through using new natural materials, recycled natural materials, low impact synthetic materials or recycled synthetic materials, sustainable designing is proving itself to be the better alternative.
And What Is Sustainable Interior Design?
It is sustainable design that is focused on how we design our interior spaces. It is about determining an effective use of our spaces, natural light and natural heat. It is about selecting sustainable materials and products to furnish and decorate our spaces with. This concerns everything from paints, to window treatments and to floors. And from sofas, to lighting, and to plates. It is also about curbing our energy consumption and waste.
We spend most of our time indoors, whether it is at work, home or in public places. It is also indoors where we consume the majority of our products and energy. Therefore we should all be making a conscious decision to make our spaces as sustainable as we can afford to. Sustainable alternatives are currently slightly more expensive than their non-sustainable counter parts. Therefore making an interior fully sustainable is difficult, especially if we’re looking to making quick and small changes to existing interiors. It is relatively easier to design fully sustainable interiors if we are starting from scratch. But most of us are not, and this is okay. A few sustainable changes as and when we need to make them is the way to start.
There are a lot of people who are under the assumption that Sustainable Interior Design is all about throwing out all their old products and replacing them with sustainable alternatives. That is not the case. You are adding to the waste problem by throwing away products that are still fully functioning. Sustainability is about product longevity and curbing waste. So replace products with sustainable alternatives when they need to be replaced, at the end of their use and life. In the next blog post I will ll be going into more detail about Sustainable Interior Design and how to design a beautifully sustainable interior.
Hopefully I have covered the basics of sustainability. My understanding is a working understanding, I am learning more as I go along. If there is any errors then please let me know and I will try my best to edit them out. I have tried to keep the explanations easy to understand. I have had quite a few people reach out and ask me what Sustainable Interior Design is, and so this is a response to that. Circle back round next week for the second part of this series.