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Conversation about Sustainability in Furniture Design

These days, doesn’t everyone want to work to address the issue of global warming? As an interior designer, this is top of mind in my industry—it is important to consider ways in which we as designers can prioritize sustainability in our work.

But first, what does sustainability mean? Sustainable interior design “seeks to reduce negative impacts on the environment, and the health and comfort of people, thereby improving building performance. The basic objectives of sustainability are to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimize waste, and create healthy, productive environments.” *source

Long story short, sustainable interior design is consciously creating a home that’s focused on:

  • Resource Conservation + Protection

  • Waste Reduction

  • Environmental + Human Health *source

Of course that all sounds good, but also it may seem overwhelming, so where does one start to introduce sustainability into interior design? With the goal of creating more sustainable interiors in your home, here a few simple considerations to keep top of mind when selecting furniture:

  1. Furniture Material

It’s advisable to select furniture made with natural materials (rattan, jute, glass, aluminum, wicker, raffia, for example) These are materials are naturally found in nature, and therefore more sustainable resources as they are easily recyclable, they require lower water demands than artificial introduced materials, and they bring nature indoors introducing positive biophillic properties to your home. There is scientific evidence that our natural environment actually lowers blood pressure, heart rate and production of stress hormones.

2. Frame Material

It’s important to prioritize furniture with FSC-Certified frames—this refers to a regulation of the wood industry which focuses on good practices for wood sourcing and growing. In general, you will want to steer clear of wood that does not meet this standard in order to avoid unknowingly introducing chemicals into your living space/breathing space.

3. Avoid Fast Furniture

Use this tip as an excuse to go vintage shopping! Instead of buying new “fast furniture” that might have a lifespan of two years, purchase a well-built older piece of furniture that would otherwise go into a landfill. Reupholster it in your favorite textured upholstery fabric that goes with your interior scheme or have it refinished to make a fun, personalized statement. This piece will therefore be unique to you, with quality fabric lasting well beyond that from big-box stores. For example, perhaps you own a quality sofa and can easily have the cushions and seat backs remade in the most comfortable and environmentally health conscious materials. These can be made specific to your needs and tastes and will make your furniture piece feel brand new! Additionally, look for items that are handmade. You’ll want to prioritize high-quality craftsmanship and look for items that have panache and could become collectibles someday. In this way, you’re also creating a home that is very unique to you and has a warm, desirable feel.

Lastly, keep in mind that while purchasing “fast furniture” may save you money in the short term, you’re still cutting into your budget when you have to replace these pieces just a few years down the line. Therefore, sustainable design doesn’t end up costing more when such pieces have a much longer life span.

It is imperative that we continue the conversation surrounding sustainability in design. In my mind, bringing thoughtful, well-considered design into the home through sustainable design creates richer, more beautiful spaces with a unique feel—and who doesn’t appreciate that?

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