As sustainability is becoming a bigger priority for individuals as well as companies, sustainable interior design is getting more popular. From now on, all buildings need to be built with the planet in mind right from the start. Architects have the responsibility to design green buildings that have a lower impact on the environment. Interior designers then need to take over and design each room in a way that minimizes the negative environmental impact. Let’s find out how this can be achieved. But before we get to that, I want to talk about the benefits of designing buildings sustainably.
Benefits of Sustainable Interior Design
For The Environment
This is the primary aim of sustainable design. To create a space that is better for the environment and the planet. There are various ways this can be done. Interior designers must work to reduce energy consumption, reduce waste, the use of materials, and a lot more. We cannot keep building the way we currently are because it is releasing tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which contributes to climate change, and it sends a lot of waste to landfills.
For The Economy
This might not be one of the points that comes into your mind when you think of sustainable interior design but it benefits the economy too. Using space, energy and water more efficiently will lower the costs. So if you thought that sustainability equals less money, think again because, with this type of design, you can save a lot of money. Both building and maintenance costs go down when things are designed sustainably.
For The People
As I like to say, if it’s good for the planet, it’s good for us. And this is no exception. If we create green spaces in our homes with non-toxic materials, it creates a healthier environment for us to live in. Indoor pollution is something that is often overlooked. Thankfully, it’s possible to overcome it by designing smarter and more sustainably. Other than creating a healthier living space, it can improve our quality of life, make us more productive, and can reduce stress.
Principles of Sustainable Interior Design
01. Sustainable Materials
All materials must be sustainably sourced. However, the best thing to do is to use recycled materials because these don’t further contribute to the depletion of natural resources and its diverts materials going to landfill.
If you can’t get recycled materials, then you should at least use locally sourced, sustainably made materials to reduce carbon emissions.
I also want to mention that it’s not only about where you get the material from, but you also need to consider its entire lifecycle and that includes how it will be discarded in the end. For example, can it be used for something else?
But more on eco-friendly materials later!
02. Highly Efficient
Buildings must be efficient in all aspects. They must use energy and space efficiently to protect the earth’s resources and landscapes. Making a building or room energy efficient will reduce overall energy consumption. Domestic energy consumption is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.
This has to be considered by architects before the building is even built but interior designers can do a lot as well. Choosing energy-efficient appliances, for example, can go a long way. Another way in which interior designers can make a room more energy efficient is by choosing well-insulated windows and choosing good curtains that can keep the heat in.
Insulating the house doesn’t only keep the cold out during winter, it keeps the heat out during summer. Now you can see why insulating a building is so important.
Lastly, we need to use the space we already have efficiently, so the rate of urban sprawl decreases. The reality is that we don’t use that much space in our homes. It’s possible to make buildings smaller but maximize the space in a way that doesn’t make it feel like you are living in a tiny house.
Designers could take it a step further and choose to renovate old (abandoned) houses so new houses don’t have to be built in the first place.
03. Natural Lighting
A good sustainable interior designer always thinks about how to maximize the amount of natural lighting that enters a room. This is very important if we wish to reduce electricity consumption. Using large windows at the right orientation is the best way to achieve this.
Moreover, natural light is better for your health. Mentally and physically.
04. The Right Colours
Sustainable interior design often consists of light colors. It’s not only because they look good, but they also have a second use. They reflect more light and therefore, less artificial lighting is needed. So, I would suggest not using any dark colors, especially in rooms that already have little natural light coming through.
05. Less Is More
Minimalism is my favorite style and one that aligns with sustainability. Use fewer materials and buy less furniture. Use minimalism to maximize the impact of your home’s design. When people think of minimalism, most of the time they think about these cold-looking rooms which are basically empty. However, that is just one type of minimalism.
Your room can be filled with life and still be minimalistic.
In my opinion, simple is always best, and in the context of interior design, it’s actually more sustainable to choose a simple design. This is because people’s tastes and trends change. Minimalist design is more flexible so it can be changed more easily as time goes on.
Timeless means that the design will never be considered old-fashioned. It will always be in style. Timeless design is often achieved by taking a minimalist approach.
Don’t choose what’s trendy in that year. Go for a minimalist or a classic look that will forever look good. If interiors are timeless then they will not need to be renovated every few years. Define your timeless style.
We can’t forget about nature. Indoor plants are almost a necessity for sustainable interior design. They have countless benefits. It improves air quality, they are said to increase productivity and overall lower your stress levels. So don’t forget to get a few plants to put in each room and more importantly don’t forget to look after them.
Interior designers should embrace biophilic design because it was many benefits. Unquestionably, creating spaces filled with nature and life will help us reconnect to nature too.
Before taking a look at the most sustainable furniture brand, step into a second-hand shop and browse to see if you can find anything. Thrift shopping is always better than buying brand new products. You can often get amazing pieces from vintage shops and these often have more character. If they look a bit worn out, you could always refurbish them or upcycle them which brings me on to the next point.
All designers are creative (obviously). This means they can come up with creative solutions to make old furniture look amazing again.
Repurposing what we already have instead of choosing to buy new as our first choice will reduce the amount of waste produced. This is also called upcycling. It’s not something that only interior designers can do. You can do it at your very own home with your own decor and furniture.
Everything must be easy to fix for everyone. Currently, most companies create products to be replaced after a couple of months or years so customers keep coming back. While this might increase profits, it is not good for the planet. Get items that you can easily repair yourself (or at least the company you bought it from can repair it for you).
11. No plastic (nearly)
A room cannot be sustainable if it’s filled with single-use plastic; a non-renewable material.
The only exception to this is if it is recycled plastic that would have otherwise gone to landfill. In that case, go ahead. Lately, I’ve been seeing many small companies going around, trying to convert discarded plastic into useful products. What a great way to contribute to the circular economy. Our society is addicted to plastic and it must stop. Unless the plastic product is built sustainably and made to last a lifetime, try to avoid it.
12. Good-Quality Furniture
Good quality is at the heart of every sustainability project. All furniture and items must be very durable so that they last a very long time. Even though it will be a bit more expensive to buy these at the beginning, don’t let that put you off. Don’t opt for cheap products because they will end up in the bin before you know it.
13. Discard Mindfully
If you are refurbishing a room, it certainly doesn’t mean you should throw away everything you own in the bin. If there’s anything you really don’t like, first see if any second-hand shops or charities will take them. Additionally, think if you can repurpose current furniture to go with the new style. Keeping things out of the bin is a priority.
Good ventilation is important to maintain a healthy environment. As I said in the beginning, sustainable design also needs to benefit you, the person who is living or working in the room. Good ventilation filters out pollution and harmful gases that would have otherwise lingered in the air for a long time.
15. Aesthetically Pleasing
Finally, all designs must look good. But that will not be a problem because sustainability is beautiful in itself. What’s better than authentic, good-quality material, plants, and natural lighting. I don’t think it can get any better than that. Don’t think for a second that you need to give up aesthetics to have a sustainable home. On the contrary, sustainability will help you transform your home into an even more beautiful space.
In sustainable interior design, there are some materials that are preferred and some that should always be avoided. Below are the most eco-friendly materials and the ones you should look out for.
Bamboo is an excellent choice because it’s the fastest-growing plant and therefore the most renewable source we have. As it grows so fast, it can be replenished fast. However, we still need to ensure that farmers are using sustainable practices.
Recycled Wood/ FSC Wood
I’ve already mentioned this but I want to stress the importance of using recycled or reclaimed wood. It’s always the best option. If given the option, choose recycled wood since it requires less energy to make and doesn’t require the cutting of more trees.
If you don’t have any other option but to use new wood, then look for FSC certified ones. This label signifies that it came from a sustainably sourced forest.
The most common one is aluminum. Technically, metal is a non-renewable source so personally but as it can be recycled so many times it is seen as sustainable. Granted, metal does need a lot of energy to extract and make but that’s why you should choose recycled metal if you can.
They can come in many different forms, making it a very versatile material. The fact that it is a natural material, makes it sustainable straight away but on top of that, it is durable and can be recycled.
A very durable material and one that can be recycled at the end of its lifecycle. Glass can be used to make a lot of things. Just be sure to recycle it if it breaks because again glass is another material that is very machine and energy-intense.
I bet you didn’t think about this one. Me neither, I nearly missed it off the list. Again, cork is a very versatile material that can be used in various ways. I’ve seen it be used on walls, decor, lamps, and more. Make your house interesting by using this lesser-used eco-friendly material. Cork mainly grows in the Mediterranean so it’s better if you live near Europe/ North Africa if you want to reduce your carbon footprint.
Eco- Friendly Fabrics
All fabrics should either be recycled or organic if you want your home to be fully sustainable. Here are the most eco-friendly fabrics:
- Organic Cotton
- Organic linen
- Organic Silk
- Soya fibre
- Organic Wool
- Sea cell fibre
So if you need to renovate a house or if you are starting from scratch, keep these principles in mind. I promise you, choosing the sustainable path is always best. It will be cheaper in the long term, better for the planet, and better for yourself as you will feel better physically and mentally.
I hope this has made you love sustainable interior design as much as me.
All images from Unsplash