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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?