5 Principles of Sustainable Interior Design

| Martina Pardo | Sustainability and Well-Being

Hello Design Lovers! In this article, I would like to talk about sustainability in interior design from a different perspective.

A while back, we discussed 5 amazing brands that focus their production on sustainability and provide amazing alternatives to regular materials. If you wish to read about those too check our guide 5 Top Materials for a Sustainable Interior Design in 2020.

This time I would like to start with the principles we apply to sustainable interior design.

Recycling

The first principle is recycling. There are different ways in which this can be interpreted. One is, of course, finding a brand that develops materials or furniture from wastes and recycled materials.

As mentioned before, we made extensive use of Smile Plastics, which provides a material obtained by old yogurt pots and creates interesting patterns for various kinds of interior.

table smile plastics

But there’s more. Here are other interesting examples of brands that put their own spin on the concept of sustainability:

  • Heal’s has an entire line of products obtained from recycled materials from numerous sources such as ocean waste, glass, plastic, cotton, and other textiles offcuts.
    ocean furniture

  • Pentatonic is another interesting example with an added value. The brand, in fact, not only creates products from recycled materials but aims also at encouraging the development of a circular economy. This means creating sustainable items that in turn push a more sustainable way of life.
    pentatonic pebble

  • Elvis & Kresse similarly to the other brands mentioned rescue raw materials and wastes. They then focus on high-quality craftsmanship to produce quality items (along with accessories and apparel). To top all that, 50% of the profits coming from these collections are then donated to the charities providing the original materials.
    Katie Walker Bench 2 1000x

  • Jennifer Manners has a range of rugs, cushions, and other textiles obtained 100% from recycled plastic bottles and handcrafted. But to go even a step further, they provide a bespoke service to create special design and pattern for the clients that require it.
    jennifer manners handcrafter rug

Transparency

Transparency means accountability and traceability. It means knowing the production processes and the provenance of the raw materials.

This has become a keyword in numerous industries where technologies like the blockchain allowed corporations to make sure that suppliers source every material in a responsible and sustainable way. Luckily, social responsibility in a connected world has become a crucial factor for product manufacturers' success.

In Interior Design it is rarer to see extremely complex supply chains, so it is usually easier than in other sectors to trace.

One brand that takes this concept at heart is Edward Bulmer Natural Paint. The company not only produces paints providing the list of ingredients used but also claims it to be beneficial for people and buildings thanks to the absence of chemicals and the breathable surface that paint coating creates. Finally, the zero-waste production process makes it also CO2 neutral.
edward bulmer natural paints

Natural and Biophilic Design

As I touched on the topic before, Biophilic design is a current that has proven how natural elements and materials in an interior can improve numerous aspects of our life. The most important one being our mental health.

So, while in the previous paragraph we talked about natural materials from a sourcing perspective, this time the principle takes into consideration the beneficial effects that these have on our life.

When applied in shared living spaces, and (like in our case) student accommodations, the connection with nature, plants and water is helpful for the residents to release stress, lower the blood pressure, and improve focus and performance when studying or working even.

With regard to this topic we previously introduced the lovely Patch Plants and Organoid, which provide respectively an amazing range of plants and pots, and beautiful panels to cover or finish walls and furniture obtained from organic materials which also preserve a beautiful natural smell (different depending on the used material).
patch plants and organoid

Cork is another natural material that is becoming increasingly popular due to antibacterial and acoustic properties. When it comes to Biophilic design then, brands like Granorte and Puretree Cork offer a range of interesting solutions based on cork.

granorte

puretree cork

Biophilic design is important in terms of physical well-being as well. It is concerned, in fact, with the limitation of volatile particles through the lack of chemicals within the used materials. True Linoleum produced by brands such as Forbo for instance is CO2 neutral and contains 97% of natural materials.
forbo flooring

Minimalism

The next crucial principle of sustainability is minimalism. This is not intended in its meaning of design aesthetic definition, but as the opposite of consumerism.

Designers can often decide to use existing furniture and renew it or reupholster it to give it new life and create a new feeling in an interior. As we went through various interior renovations in our student accommodations for Nido, which takes sustainability very seriously, we also opted for recycled furniture.

Our scheme in West Hampstead, London uses various reupholstered pieces of furniture.
west hampstead

As for brands that take minimalism as a mission, Retrouvius maintains a stock of old pieces that encourages to use as it sees good materials as a precious value even in old furniture.
retrouvius interior

Energy Saving

Finally, energy-wasting is another major factor in climate change and something that interior designers have to account for.

Thermal insulation with sustainable materials can help a great deal when it comes to saving energy both in cold and hot weather. Interiors elements obtained from hemp, cellulose, or wood contribute positively to energy saving.

Another way to achieve that is by using the right lighting. LED lights are a good solution to save energy and spend less. Tala, for instance, focuses on LED lighting turning the bulb into a proper design object and collaborates with designers to develop bespoke projects as well.
tala led

These are our 5 main principles on which Sustainable Interior Design should be based. While these guidelines should always be kept in mind, it is also difficult to implement all of them in every project. Especially in the commercial sector, there are numerous needs to satisfy that won't always allow picking the ideal option. Nonetheless, it is worth trying to add value to one's own work. Luckily, there is a lot of room for improvement. Many areas of sustainable design are still in the early stages of development, and we are excited about the future!

Photos source: Heal's, Pentatonic, Elvis & Kresse, Jennifer Manners, Edward Bulmer Natural Paints, Patch Plants, Organoid, Granorte, Puretree Cork, Forbo, Retrouvius, Tala


Martina Pardo

Written by: Martina Pardo

I am Martina, an Italian designer based in London. I spend most of my time designing interiors or writing about it. I also love travelling. You may find me walking around the East End of London, drinking coffee and stopping at every single bookshop I bump into.

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