The interiors business has traditionally been wasteful as we seek to constantly change our homes the way we used to change our clothes, but over the last couple of years, it feels like change (and awareness) is beginning to happen and filter through. There is a real passion for vintage and antique furniture now and more and more eco paint companies are springing up. Small businesses have started up dedicated to re-using and re-working off-cuts and leftovers and while there is clearly much to do and no room for complacency, I wanted to use today, Earth Day, to tell you about some new companies I have found that are doing their bit and by shopping from them you are doing your bit too.
If you have never investigated my Do Less Harm Directory then please do so today. I set it up so you might find it easier to shop from companies that are doing their bit to reduce their impact on the planet and I always want to hear more from you so this can be a growing resource.
It is also up to us to ask questions and choose where we spend our money. A few weeks ago I received an email from Swyft, one of those new companies that will bring you a sofa in a box in 24 hours. It’s cheap, quick to assemble and, crucially, designed to fit through any doorway. They asked if I wanted one. I looked at the website and asked (I’ll admit – doubtfully) about their eco-credentials and where their products are made.
Back they came to tell me it’s made in Portugal (where many of the textile and ceramic companies are small, family-run businesses) the frames are all FSC wood and for every sofa made (which uses about one eighth of a tree) a new tree is planted. The cardboard packaging uses no staples and can be recycled – fastening is done by folding. Any plastic wrapping inside will decompose and they have partnered with Clearabee, who will remove the packaging and your old sofa (recycling where possible) for £45.
Now this just shows what you can find out if you ask. I rummaged around the website for a while and didn’t find any of this out (apart from Clearabee) and while I might have missed it, the point stands that it wasn’t immediately obvious and I think this is what we all want to know first these days – before we get into shapes and styles.
And the point of Do Less Harm was that we have to make our own minds up as to what we can have in line with our budgets. This is a sofa for less £1000 that has some eco-credentials. It’s not mass produced in China but nor is the fabric organic – at this stage and without a huge budget you can’t have it all. We are all, well most of us, working to our own financial circumstances so it’s about getting the best you can for the money you have and working out if shipping matters more than components or vice versa if you can’t have both.
It’s about asking the questions too. If companies think we don’t care they won’t change so it is up to us to keep on asking and talking and pushing. Although, encouragingly, a recent report for Homes and Gardens found that 84 per cent of Britons are looking to make eco improvements to their houses in the next two years. This is mostly on things like insulation, boilers, windows and thermostats but some more ambitious homeowners are looking at solar panels and ground source pumps and the like.
Oliver Heath, whose house Sophie and I visited for the podcast and who runs a sustainable architecture and interior design studio, has a new book out on 6 May based around his principles of creating happier, healthier homes by improving our connections to nature. Design A Healthy Home, 100 ways to transform your space for physical and mental well-being, is full of practical tips to improve lighting, with advice on reducing toxins as well as affordable ideas to make your home look better so you feel better.
I’m going to end with a few companies who are doing their bit to improve things. And yes I know it’s small steps but there will be plenty of doom and gloom news today and, after the year we’ve had, I wanted to celebrate some of the small steps and small wins so that we don’t all end the day feeling discouraged and told off. Because when we feel encouraged we are more like to try harder aren’t we?
Please add new companies in the comments and I will add them to the directory. I have written about Julia Haines before and her Haines Collection, selling upholstery fabric left over from big projects or that might have a printing defect. I am planning to have blinds made for my sitting room and am looking out for fabric from her so that I can reduce my own waste and impact on the planet. The key, as with shopping for vintage, is that you can’t be in a hurry as you have to wait for the right thing to turn up. But I have lived without blinds for 10 years so I can go a bit longer…
Tessa Layzelle is creating beautiful one-off quilts from deadstock for Couverture. Her colour patchwork uses end of line linens, and repurposed garments with even tiny scraps used as appliqué. Her inspiration came from birds of prey that came up in her children’s homeschooling projects over the last year. Three shape motifs appear across the quilts – the square represents the beak, the circle the eye and the curve the bird’s flight.
New company Maemara is making cushions from plastic waste. Each one uses 40 plastic bottles that would otherwise have ended up in the sea or in landfill. The filling is recycled and, at £25, they are more affordable than many eco products. In honour of Earth Day they are offering a 20 per cent discount as well with the code KATE20 so have a look and see if you fancy any of them.
I should also point you in the direction of Weaver Green for rugs and textiles made from plastic waste. Just look at this plastic runner made entirely from old bottles.
Finally, I have added an Eco button to the carousel of my shop Design Storey. This will gather in one place all the items from the whole store that are classed as Eco. For the moment it will be just obvious ones that are marketed as such rather than wool rugs, for example, as I might not know about the packaging or conditions of of manufacture. But I hope it will help those of you who want to know to shop in the most helpful way. As with all the other rooms there will be 10 products per page with up to five pages/50 products and no more. That way you don’t have to sift through tonnes of stuff to find that elusive one thing you want. I am also working on the idea of a flag system that will tell you with every product if it is eco, ships internationally or what the price bracket is before you click through but that’s for later.