365 Objects Of Design

Ethical Interiors: Why it Matters

2nd November 2017

Following yesterday’s post on what makes a home, today I wanted to take that one step further and look at the idea of ethical interiors. We are all familiar with the concept of eco-friendly and sustainable materials and we are well used to wondering just who makes those super cheap clothes on the High Street but I, for one, have to own up to the fact that I haven’t really paid enough attention to it when it comes to my furniture choices. Have you?

pink linen cushion made by refugee women housed in the UK sold via Aerende shop

It’s something I will be investigating this evening at the Aerende pop-up shop in Borough Market when I will be on a panel with Christine Chang Hanway, of Remodelista, Nina Woodcroft, an interior and product designer whose  work includes a strong commitment to environmental and social sustainability and Rhys Pritchard, of Restoration Station, a London-based enterprise that trains people recovering from addiction in the art of furniture restoration. The panel will be chaired by Emily Mathieson, the founder of Aerende, an online (and now bricks and mortar) shop selling products made in the UK by people facing social challenges. Some of you may remember I wrote about Emily, her shop and her beautiful home earlier this year.

non toxic and fume free firelighters made from soya wax and pine cones by people in wales with learning difficulties

non toxic and fume free firelighters made from soya wax and pine cones by people in wales with learning difficulties

When Emily first asked if I was free (both literally and metaphorically by the way) I immediately agreed to help out. I have always tried to write about small businesses and champion them where possible – taking on paid collaborations with big brands allows me to write about smaller ones with no budget – but almost as soon I had done so I began to panic.

wool throw made in Scotland by Ashleigh who has had his looms adapted to accomodate his wheelchair

wool throw made in Scotland by Ashleigh who has had his looms adapted to accomodate his wheelchair

I don’t know anything about this. I haven’t thought about it. I should have thought about it. Is anyone thinking about it? Now I don’t want to preach and I don’t want to tell you what and how to think but I do know this. Every day I walk under the railway bridge at Finsbury Park Station and I am haunted by the homeless people there. And I feel a little guilty about all that I have and also very aware that I make my living helping people to have beautiful homes and encouraging them to buy things to decorate those homes. And there are so many people who don’t have a home at all.

And so last Christmas I set up a direct debit to sponsor a room at Centrepoint for £12 a month. It’s a small thing but a regular thing. And thinking about ethical shopping is another small thing that can make a big difference.

copper candle holder made in Yorkshire by people with learning difficulties for aerende shop

copper candle holder made in Yorkshire by people with learning difficulties for aerende shop

Supporting small businesses is often giving a job to someone who wouldn’t otherwise have one, whether it’s in the UK or Uruguay. It’s about filling your home with things that mean something to you and not just because it was cheap or easily available. It’s about loving those battered inherited pieces of furniture rather than buying new ones. Giving employment to a small businessperson who can restore and reupholster rather than taking it to the tip. Or recycling it by asking the local council to collect it so that it can go to the home of someone who needs it.

tea towel made from naturally organic lithuanian linen and sewn by women receiving support from the national refugee council for aerende

tea towel made from naturally organic lithuanian linen and sewn by women receiving support from the national refugee council for aerende

It’s about caring where the stuff comes from enough to find out about it. Yes we all want nice things for our homes and I’m as guilty of that as anyone. Probably more so. But I’m going to try harder to be more aware. And to think about it more than I have been. And I’m going to tell you about it when I can too. Not to force you into anything but just so you know. Because knowledge is power. Power to decide where to shop if nothing else.

linen napkins from aerende's bespoke range launched for Hertfordshire refugees with clients now including Petersham nurseries

linen napkins from aerende’s bespoke range launched for Hertfordshire refugees with clients now including Petersham nurseries

And so, if it helps, in addition to the beautiful Aerende products which I have featured here and read the picture captions to find out who makes them all, I found an article by Lucy Siegle in The Guardian which is based mainly on fashion but which praises H&M, for a willingness to be transparent and Topshop for ethical designs, Zara for having good relations with trade unions, M&S for committing to pay its workers a living wage. Ikea lists sustainability as one of its five design principles and while no-one is yet perfect it’s important to recognise that change is happening and it will start to filter through to the interiors sector. Join me at the start of that conversation.

If you would like to come to the talk (I appreciate it’s short notice) you can sign up here. Otherwise I will report back – if you would like me to?

In the meantime, what do you think about ethical interiors? Do you try?



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  • Sean Mahan 7th November 2017 at 11:22 am

    Lots of cool things to think about. It’s nice to see something different when it comes to interior design and such 😉

  • Elaine Thomas 7th November 2017 at 7:39 am

    Lovely post, thank you Kate. We’re so fortunate to have so much. It feels so much better though if we can enjoy lovely things and do it with a heart. I love, recycled, old, up-cycled, hand made objects and the warmth they exude.
    There are some lovely ideas too on the comments section.
    Keep it coming!
    Thank you. Elaine xx

  • Vicki 6th November 2017 at 11:08 am

    It’s something I’ve not thought about too much although I do sometimes utilise second hand sites like gumtree or freecycle to grab a bargain instead of buying new, but ethical interiors is something that doesn’t seem particularly obvious. I’m glad you’ve mentioned it, we need to start thinking about it. thanks!

  • Emma Lewis 3rd November 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Oh, Kate … what a brilliant piece … as we say in our ‘home’ … I don’t just like this – I love it!

    Brilliantly written, balanced, honest and open. I so admire that you use your position to influence the world positively.
    When I read your first blog piece on what makes a home, my mind instantly jumped to the ‘values, care and sustainability’ that go into making a home look gorgeous and warm … deep down in the heart, not only on the surface. My current mission is to get more involved in this area of ‘home’ which can be a beautiful place in every respect … not just surface value. Please keep me posted on how the talk went – I’m in Bristol and mother of two, so sadly couldn’t make it. I’d love to collaborate with you in some way in future on this theme … so please do keep in touch. Thank you again and all the best. Emma Lewis

  • Karen McBride 3rd November 2017 at 12:57 am

    This is very refreshing, Kate. Thank you. If you or any of you readers is aware of something like this in the U.S., please speak up!

  • Kate Lovejoy 2nd November 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you for this post Kate. It can be really hard to keep the ethical angle as part of the remit when designing a scheme… but it really shouldn’t be!
    As part of the IDC I’m going to suggest we have a new section in our supplier directory that includes ethically sourced goods.

  • Jean Rowland 2nd November 2017 at 4:45 pm

    What a lovely post – thank you. Such important points you make. Did I learn about http://www.decoratorsnotebook.co.uk from you? If not, they are another ethical company selling lovely household things. Yes, most of us reading your blog are extremely fortunate to be able to make comfortable homes for ourselves and it is difficult to imagine what it must be like to be homeless. Good luck for your talk tonight.

  • Leslie 2nd November 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you for writing about this issue and I encourage you to continue. I do try very hard to think ethically when purchasing (and otherwise).

  • Home Improvements in Newham 2nd November 2017 at 12:03 pm

    I would definitely try it. I think we all should highly assess the hard work of these people. They deserve much more than we give them because they put more efforts than most of us do. Ethical interiors need greater disclosure and appreciation. Thanks for sharing this post with us and looking forward to tonight’s talk.

  • Fiona Wyatt 2nd November 2017 at 11:00 am

    Kate – having been inspired by an impromptu conversation with a remarkable Big Issue seller yesterday, your post today has reinforced thoughts triggered in me by him. These regard supporting each other by making (often simple; often small) ‘best/better’ choices that can directly improve others’ lives (and also my own). Hope that mouthful of a sentence makes sense! I look forward very much to hearing about your experience this evening … as always, thanks, Kate. Off now to cull some of my attic excess belongings and, no doubt, make room for more ‘stuff’ down the line.

  • Anna 2nd November 2017 at 10:28 am

    Excellent piece written from the heart.
    May I suggest everyone looks at Kiva where by giving a tiny loan that you don’t expect back, you can change someone’s life for the better. http://www.kiva.org

  • Anna Lindeman 2nd November 2017 at 9:19 am

    I would have loved to come to the talk this evening but am unable to, so please report back! I’m so interested in this. I agree we all probably don’t think enough about this. I love old “stuff” more than new but don’t always buy old I have to admit, but definitely do so more than I used to. Great to know where we can buy new but ethically produced “stuff” too. I’m off to look at the Aerende site now. Ive worked with people facing various social challenges and am very pleased to hear about this.

  • Trisha Silcock 2nd November 2017 at 8:52 am

    Nothing really to add to what Heather and Emily have said, just needed to say that I love all your posts but this has to be the most inspiring. Thank you very much, and do please report back.

  • Sandra 2nd November 2017 at 8:41 am

    I do try! And thank-you for writing about this Kate! It’s so important to recognize the beauty in the lived-in and creativity in the repurposed and value it as someone’s work rather than just a cheap piece of trendy! I am eager for this awareness in our world. As consumers, parents, friends, bloggers, prescribers we can make a difference !!!
    I love Kintsugi, the Japanese philosophy of recognizing beauty in broken things and repairing broken pottery with gold. The broken is part of the history of the object, kind of like our own creases and wrinkles :-)))

  • Rebecca Gooch 2nd November 2017 at 7:37 am

    Thank you Kate for this article. I read your posts each week as first thing in the morning they fill me with a little bit of escapism, beauty and calm before I dive into my work supporting ‘troubled families’ for children’s services.
    Hopefully this post will appeal to others social conscience and deepen awareness of some great work being done by social enterprises and individuals with some lovely products. Please do keep on keeping us informed!

  • Heather Dyer 2nd November 2017 at 7:28 am

    Really impressed with this post! Please do feed back
    about tonight’s meeting!
    Definitely going to learn more about the
    Organisations you mention here.
    Home is so important to all who read your posts
    and you are right, we live in a world where
    many don’t have even a roof over their heads
    and a world which is increasingly showing
    the results of the greed and thoughtlessness
    of man from discarded plastic- who would have thought it would end up in the belly of some fish
    In the oceans? – to global warming and air not fit
    To breathe.
    No wonder we seek sanctuary and shelter in our homes and are so focussed on them. Least we can do
    is ensure the things we put in them are
    sustainable and give employment to those less
    fortunate than ourselves.

  • Emily Mathieson 2nd November 2017 at 7:17 am

    Love your honesty and your attitude Kate. I really believe in the power of consumers to make a difference and it’s by kicking off these conversations that we can start to make that happen. So looking forward to tonight.

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