We all want our homes to look good, but wouldn’t it be better if they also did good? Meet the new generation of sustainable designers bringing their eco values to the world of home interiors.
In a world where sustainability is, quite rightly, permeating our day-to-day lives – from ethical fashion to green travel – it makes sense that ecological responsibility should be applied to interior design too. After all, the decisions we make for our home can have a considerable impact on the environment (did you know, for example, that lighting accounts for nearly six per cent of global CO2 emissions?). Thankfully, a growing number of designers are pioneering products and principles that will help towards a healthier planet, whether through repurposing waste materials to create bespoke pieces of furniture, adopting total transparency in their manufacturing process or donating revenue to philanthropic causes – or all three. Meet the trailblazers whose eco-credentials are as impeccable as their design practices.
Irish artist and furniture designer Sasha Sykes works with organic, locally-found natural materials, from simple life forms such as algae to more complex structures like discarded bird nests, which she encapsulates in hand-cast resin to create all manner of pieces – though a stand-out has to be her fantastical reinterpretation of Shiro Kuramata’s iconic Miss Blanche chair. “I like to explore the cycle of life and decay, and the dichotomy of fragility and preservation. I’m interested in mankind’s relationship with our surroundings and expressing the nature of that interaction is central to my work,” explains Sasha. “When foraging, I am conscious of the plants and algae I take from and always check their health and abundance beforehand. The resins I use are very different to single-use plastics – they’re amazing materials that allow for multi-functional use and long-term appreciation.”
Miss Ban, Burning Gorse, Wildflower Bloom; price on application at sashasykes.com
Designers Adam Fairweather and Rosalie McMillan are on a mission to open people’s eyes to the unexpected beauty of scrap through their company Smile Plastics. The London-based design and manufacturing house uses innovative art and technology to handcraft colourful panels from 100 per cent recycled materials (think yoghurt pots, coffee grounds, even old mobile phones, banknotes and wellies), which can be used on everything from furniture to large-scale construction. The duo also creates one-off bespoke pieces – with clients including Stella McCartney, Anthropologie and Dior – all of which serve to change people’s perceptions around waste and recycling.
Studio Smile Large black and white table, from £695 at smile-plastics.com
This young, British lighting brand is guided by the founding promise of “conservation through beauty”, and certainly puts its money where its mouth is. The London-based studio is fully committed to reducing the world’s carbon footprint, not just through its elegant LED lighting designs (you’ll see its work at Third Space health clubs, Hackney Coffee Company, Re:Mind Meditation Studio, amongst other places) but also by donating a percentage of its revenue to reforestation through projects and partnerships with a portfolio of charities. Indeed, this forward-thinking company is on track to fund the planting of 300,000 trees by the end of 2020.
Little Greene may be the go-to brand if you’re looking for an inspirational palette, depth of colour and a luxurious finish from your paint, not to mention the finest grade wallpapers. But this independent, family-run business is about more than pretty walls and ceilings. Little Greene is fully committed to minimising ecological impact, from the virtually VOC-free water-based paint (meaning no harmful solvents and toxic fumes) and the oil-based paints reformulated with sustainable vegetable oils, to the forest-friendly wallpapers and recycled/recyclable paint tins. With everything manufactured in the UK, the company is equally dedicated to minimising pollution and energy consumption, whilst also supporting local suppliers and businesses.
Designer Charlotte Kidger takes secondary raw materials and transforms them into innovative objects, all crafted by hand. Her latest project “Industrial Craft” uses leftover polyurethane foam dust associated with CNC fabrication, which the Central Saint Martins graduate repurposes into a durable material she then casts into pots, vessels and tables – each one unique. “I believe the material and objects to represent both elements of sustainability and innovation,” says Charlotte. “Through working with abundant waste material sourced from the creativity of other designers, I hope to have found a solution to utilising this waste stream.”
London and Amsterdam-based Nina Woodcroft established her interior and product design studio in 2014. With a grounding in hotel and restaurant design, Nina’s emphasis is on projects with a strong focus on sustainability and a sense of community – she recently completed Dean Street Café for homelessness charity Centrepoint. She has also designed The Breakfast Collection, ceramic tableware hand-crafted from responsibly-sourced materials and batch-produced for maximum efficiency and a reduction in waste.
The Breakfast Collection espresso cups, £22 each at ninaand.co
Fed up with poor quality bedding that didn’t feel good to sleep on, was manufactured using nasty chemicals and that cost a fortune, New Zealand-born, UK-based entrepreneurs Jed Coleman and William Coulton set about finding a solution. Made from 100 per cent extra long staple cotton (aka Egyptian cotton), with a 400 and 600 thread count, their Rise & Fall sheets neither cost the earth, nor indeed hurt it – this company is all about 100 per cent green energy, low impact dyes, water recycling and plastic-free packaging; plus all factory workers are paid a fair wage and given access to free education, and £3 from every sheet set sale goes to Centrepoint, the homelessness charity. “Sustainability in interiors is every bit as important and we are already seeing the rising tide in our industry,” says Will. “If you think about your bedding, in particular, your skin in is contact with your sheets for one third of your life. So knowing how that material has been made and where it has come from is incredibly important.”