Thoughtful Living: giving rooms a regenerative revamp
If you’re doing up your digs, thinking outside the box is always good – especially when it comes to considering the wider impact of your design choices. Here, we explore some good resources for low- and no-waste furnishing
The fact that redecorating is more wasteful than not is a sad but inescapable truth. But what does that mean for those wishing to make their homes their own? And how can we furnish with things that do good and well as look good?
One way to make a difference – as we’ve already explored in this series – is to reuse, repair and upcycle where possible. But to suggest that every single person should stop replacing things altogether is unrealistic – sometimes, forking out on furniture and fabric is unavoidable. It’s important too; doing up our homes – our domestic sanctuaries – boosts happiness, while living somewhere that gets you down… well, frankly, it gets you down. Navigating how to do it responsibly, however, is tricky – but we’re here to help.
As it stands, the need to decorate in a more circular way is vital. “We’re all now aware that we are using the earth’s resources faster than nature can replenish them,” says Jules Haines, founder of Haines Collection, a company that sells leftover designer fabric. “Sadly there is very little research about textile waste in the interiors industry,” she explains, “which indicates there’s little awareness of how bad it is.” (The UK homeware market is valued at £13.8 billion, which gives you some sense of the scale of consumption.) According to a situation report by WRAP in 2019, around 900,000 tonnes of textile waste ends up in landfill or is incinerated every year; 42 per cent of that comprises homeware textiles.
It’s not just fabric; masses of furniture – 22 million pieces – ends up in landfill every year. Stark though that may sound, companies like Vinterior are committed to changing things. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Sandrine Zhang Ferron, says the solution is really quite simple: “good-looking, good-quality furniture is a better choice for the planet”. That’s something we can get behind.
Who are these companies making a difference?
Colours of Arley’s approach is to turn trash into treasured textiles, championing localism in the process. Based in Cheshire, which is where it makes all its fabrics, the firm – founded by Louisa Tratalos – diverts plastic bottles destined for landfill and weaves them into sensational stripes. Every inch is made to order (“including our samples!”), meaning there’s no waste involved in production.
The idea of waste is exactly what led to the foundation of Haines Collection. Working for a textile designer, Jules saw first-hand how many fabric remnants and rejects were being thrown away. “I’d come home with bags full of scraps to avoid them ending up in the bin,” she says. “I knew other designers, upholsterers and curtain makers had a huge problem with surplus textiles, so in 2020 I officially launched Haines – a resale platform for leftover or unwanted luxury products from the interiors industry, as well as an online home for conscious designers.”
Similarly, Vinterior sells style with genuine substance. Last year, it gave 172,000 items a new lease of life. “Our aim is to have everyone consider preowned before buying new,” Sandrine says. The company’s recent collaboration with Farrow & Ball centred around upcycling showcased that beautifully. “I’m not saying take a paintbrush to everything, but if it means you can use something again or sell it on, then give it a go. Don’t be scared to leave your mark on it.” It also extends beyond just furniture, Sandrine continues. “Katherine Ormerod, the journalist, is in the process of redoing her rented home and putting us all to shame, showing how big changes can be made without having to gut and redo a space.”
What’s the most important thing to consider when trying to shop, furnish or redecorate with the planet in mind?
First off, says Jules, “work out if you actually need it, or if there’s something you already have that can be repurposed to fulfil that need.” Then, look to shop second-hand – something Sandrine naturally champions. Despite it perhaps seeming daunting, “lots of people will be surprised by how easy it is.”
Louisa underscores the importance of investing in what you really love; that way, “you’ll always find a special place for those things.” It’s easy to be seduced by fads and high-street prices, but before you make a purchase, consider its longevity. “Is it a classic piece that will withstand trends, or is it a style du jour that next season will be out of fashion and hidden in the cupboard?” She recommends approaching your home as a capsule collection, in which “pieces can be mixed and matched together, to create a whole new look when paired with various items”. With textiles, pay attention to patterns, which “often see high and low tides of popularity”. Stripes, meanwhile, “have a rich history and transcend trends within interiors and fashion alike. Classic and oh-so timeless.”
What are some tips for the uninitiated?
Before founding East London Cloth, Gemma Moulton worked for Oxfam. “Being resourceful and working with second-hand things has always made sense for me,” she says, which was why when it came to furnishing both her home and her bricks-and-mortar shop, Gemma plumped for plenty of preloved items. As well as eBay, Facebook Marketplace and flea markets, she recommends looking at auction houses, many of which can be accessed online through The Saleroom (though IRL bidding can also be thrilling).
Research, says Jules, is key. “I would recommend putting a couple of hours aside to consider all of your options. Start a Pinterest board for what you like and what you’re looking for – and soon you’ll see a pattern.” Gemma says she often finds herself gravitating towards sofas and chairs. “My budget and taste rarely match in this department – if at all! I could never afford the quality of what’s available second-hand by buying new.”
Her best tip? If you find something you love, snap it up – even if it requires some flexibility. At the moment, Gemma’s got a beautiful bath in her sitting room, having bought it – for £70 – right before her builder pulled out of her renovation project. “It’s a good bath though, so I feel OK about the wait – if a little awkward about explaining the situation to guests…”
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