We asked four designers how to have a more sustainable approach when decorating a home and shopping for furniture. From simple tips like lighting and plants, to attitude adjustments, there is something for everyone when it comes to helping the planet.

Laurence Carr  laurencecarr.com

What is sustainable interior design?
Sustainable interior design achieves an elevated aesthetic by leveraging materials that are made with ecologically responsible practices.

Why did sustainability become a focal point for your firm?
As we watch climate change wreak havoc on our planet, there is no longer room for debate, nor is there time for questions. If we hope to make any changes in the overall health of the Earth, we have to start small. Looking closely at waste management is paramount. Simply put, sustainability is the key to a brighter global future.

How does your firm practice sustainability?
Laurence Carr Design looks at every design project holistically. Our goal is to raise our clients’ energy, resulting in a happier, healthier life. Part of this is leveraging sustainable materials that contain lower levels of toxins and promise little to no environmental impact. More and more companies are beginning to understand the benefit of circular materials and sustainability, so it is becoming less of a challenge to incorporate responsible, yet on-trend items into our designs.

Why should other designers consider more sustainable design practices?
I view my role in my clients’ projects as one where I don’t just design, I also provide education. For many, I offer a bridge between the old way and the new, which celebrates an awareness on how each and every object impacts a space’s overall feel. A big part of this is honoring our planet with the choices we make. As designers, we have an opportunity to change the way our clients live. I love seeing clients who walk into an initial meeting using a plastic straw and tossing a takeaway cup in the trash, but by the end of our work together, they’re often using bamboo or metal straws and recycling religiously. This is tangible proof that your surroundings can catalyze personal growth.

What are three easy ways people can incorporate sustainable design into their homes?
Take a hard look at your mattress. Though we spend 6-8 hours on them at night, they often contain high levels of toxins and are made of materials that do not break down easily. Coco-Mat is one of our favorite sustainable furniture and accessories companies, and their mission all started with a mattress.
Consider vinyl wall coverings instead of wallpaper. Vinyl is derived from natural substances, chlorine and salt, and therefore has a lower carbon footprint than most other materials. Wall coverings also come in supple textures that add depth to a room’s design scheme.
Look for more responsibly sourced textiles. Essegomma is a manufacturer currently using polypropylene yarn. The best thing to do is to check the label. Anything polypropylene, linen, hemp, or bamboo receives an automatic green light.

What are some misconceptions around sustainable design?
People hear this term and either think that the design is cold and unfeeling or, on the other end of the spectrum, that it’s bohemian and too busy. In interior design, it simply means leveraging products that are kind to our environment. The word “sustainable” only refers to the practices of the company who produced the items used. A great sustainable interior designer can achieve any aesthetic responsibly.

What is the future of sustainable design? What is the most exciting component in your opinion?
Sustainable design will give way to a circular economy. The reuse and upcycling of materials. This means a drastic reduction in waste and huge leaps forward for our society as a whole.

What is the biggest roadblock in widespread sustainable design practices, and how do we eliminate these?
Right now, we have to look at cost reduction. Sustainability cannot remain a luxury for long. The trickle-down effect into the mainstream will come with increased demand, forcing the industry to take a hard look at processes and production.

How does someone who isn’t experienced at vintage buying educate their eye and develop their aesthetic/confidence?
Read books, watch documentaries, look online, and take notes. Learn from set designers who are some of the best-educated minds in the interior design business, often curating amazing items from vintage collections themselves. Snap screenshots of your favorite spaces, and keep a running list of inspirational words that keep you on track when sourcing for your home. Increase your confidence by easing yourself into the process. Start with 1-2 pieces; then, once you see how they settle into your space, go for more. Just don’t feel the need to toss everything new and start from scratch. That can be overwhelming and make you shop too quickly, thus creating a look that is jumbled and not polished.

Any tips for buying vintage rugs? Are there sizes/colorways that you find yourself looking for?
I love buying large vintage rugs, looking for pieces that speak to cultural trends, seeing the certification labels, learning whether it helped any handcrafted tradition give a community an opportunity to live on it. A classic Persian rug will last a lifetime. A Scandinavian rug is timeless, yet on-trend right now, and is a sure conversation-starter. Small rugs are also great to use as wall hangings in an entrance or open plan room.

Selling and buying vintage has long been seen as a more conscious way of decorating. Can you choose two items from Sotheby’s Home vintage shop and tell us what drew you to those pieces?
Being an environmentally conscious designer, I lean into the notion of vintage being a great choice because I am giving an item a longer life. Also, that way I am not supporting any production system, since I am flushing money into a marketplace that will continue to extend the lives of these pieces, thus keeping them out of waste.

This Modern Inlaid Circle Vase is a top pick of mine. Sculptural sensibilities combined with bold color make this piece a work of art sure to elevate any table. The stone is so raw, you can’t help but feel grounded when you run your hands over it.

These Live Edge Side Tables With Griffins combine carved wood and cast iron, two strong materials with staying power. These tables can be placed anywhere in a residence or hospitality space, and they’ll never disappear. I’m fond of these tables in an entrance, foyer, living room, library, office, or in private spaces like a master bedroom or dressing room.

Laura Hodges  laurahodgesstudio.com

How can interior designers help their clients have a more sustainable home?
Sustainability is a key component to a well-designed home, so designers can try to incorporate responsibly sourced products that are free from harmful chemicals and have a small carbon footprint. Knowing where and how products are made allows us to introduce our clients to the most innovative design ideas that support a healthy home. We always look to include vintage and antique furnishings to conserve natural resources and incorporate sustainable elements as much as possible, such as locally made furniture, plants that clean the air, and zero VOC paints and finishes.

Do you see a shift in people’s conception of what it means to have a more green home?
Yes, the concept of sustainability in the home is becoming more important as people see the impact on the environment and their health. Safer and more responsible products are more widely available every day, and I hope that we keep seeing more transparency in manufacturing.  

Can you share some simple tips that can bring more natural elements to a home?
Plants are one of the best ways to improve your indoor air quality, and we always try to maximize natural light with energy-efficient window treatments. You can easily lower the energy consumption of the home with LED lighting, smart home integration, and efficient appliances.

Selling and buying vintage has long been seen as a more conscious way of decorating. Can you choose two items from Sotheby’s Home vintage shop and tell us what drew you to those pieces?
I love incorporating vintage finds, and it’s the easiest way to design more sustainably.

These mid-century lounge chairs have a beautiful profile, and I love the stitched detail and deep olive color.

This x-shaped stool has a great, contemporary feel with a simple but thoughtful design in the wrought iron legs.

What are some of the trends you see having a strong comeback in 2019?
I think we’ll see a continued appreciation for modernism but with more of an emphasis on warmer colors and natural materials. I also think we’ll see more fashion-driven styles, as people have more access to a wider range of custom design via social media. I hope we’ll see a return to a better quality of materials and more American-made and sustainable products.

 

Jennifer Jones nicheinteriors.com

What is sustainable interior design?
Sustainable interior design focuses on improving indoor air quality as well as reducing the impact that furniture purchases have on the environment.

Why did sustainability become a focal point for your firm?
As the daughter of environmentalists, I’ve always felt strongly about conserving resources and minimizing our impact on the planet. When I became pregnant with my son, I started researching the health impacts that furniture and design choices have on our health – particularly that of infants and young children. I became passionate about indoor air quality, and became a LEED Accredited Professional soon after.

How does your firm practice sustainability?
Our designers are LEED Accredited and share a common interest in creating healthy, non-toxic homes for our clients. Simple changes can collectively have a big impact. We think through how we can make choices that conserve resources, such as salvaging what we can in a remodel and donating unwanted cabinets and fixtures for reuse. LED light fixtures, water-efficient plumbing fixtures, and wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council help conserve energy, water, and our forests. Our custom furniture designs are manufactured locally in San Francisco, reducing our carbon footprint and supporting local businesses.

Why should other designers consider more sustainable design practices?
It’s the right thing to do and it feels good to be part of the solution! We’ve also found that by doing work that aligns with our values, we attract more of our ideal clients. Win-win!

What are three easy ways people can incorporate sustainable design into their homes?
Make the switch to LED bulbs! LED technology has improved immensely over the past few years – you can find bulbs that emit the familiar warm glow of incandescents and use 75% less energy. For maximum impact, replace all recessed cans in your home with LED bulbs.
Opt for natural fabrics and rugs over synthetics. We especially love organic cotton and linen fabrics and wool rugs.
Avoid flame retardants! Ask retailers if their upholstery contains flame retardants before purchasing. California is phasing these out over the next year, but it’s still common to find these harmful chemicals in sofas and armchairs.

 What are some misconceptions around sustainable design?
There’s a misconception that eco-friendly and high-end design are mutually exclusive concepts. Completely untrue! The great thing about non-toxic upholstery is that the most significant improvements are invisible. We can design the perfect sofa with sophisticated fabric options and unique design details using healthier foam inside the cushions. This is a perfect solution for those who are chemically sensitive or who suffer from allergies.

What is the future of sustainable design? What is the most exciting component, in your opinion?
I’m encouraged by the increased public awareness about sustainable design and recent policy changes in California regarding phasing out flame retardants. The more consumers take an interest in the materials that are used in the furnishings and building industries, the faster we can effect change.

What is the biggest roadblock in widespread sustainable design practices, and how do we eliminate these?
The throwaway culture of buying cheaply made items and using them for a couple years is definitely a roadblock. We try to educate and encourage our clients to purchase quality, American-made pieces that will last for decades. Whenever possible, we rely on local craftsmen/women and local fabricators to bring our designs to life.

How does someone who isn’t experienced at vintage buying educate their eye and develop their aesthetic/confidence?
Start small! Go to your local flea market and see what’s out there. Pay attention to the joinery details on wood furniture, and when in doubt, lift a piece up! Is it solid wood? Does the upholstery have heft? Perusing vintage sites is another way to familiarize yourself with designers and start to understand the value of pieces.

Are there different considerations to buying vintage online vs. in person? How do you navigate the challenge of not seeing the piece in person?
Be prepared to ask A LOT of questions and request additional photos when purchasing vintage online. I always ask for close-up photos of the underside of pieces, if the pieces come from a non-smoking home, and if the dealer has any authentication.

Selling and buying vintage has long been seen as a more conscious way of decorating. Can you choose an item from Sotheby’s Home vintage shop and tell us what drew you to it?
We love incorporating vintage lighting into our projects! The Greta Von Nessen lamp  is a classic mid-century modern design that would add personality to any space.


Can you share any keywords that might help a shopper focus?
Find a similar vintage piece in your favorite design magazine, and use this as a search term to find similar designs.

 

Carey Karlan  careykarlan.com

How can interior designers help their clients have a more sustainable home?
Some furniture manufacturers are stepping up and making it very easy for designers to offer cleaner, eco-friendly options. Many people may not even be aware that the material used to make most sofa cushions is petroleum-based. Lee Industries, for example, offers soy-based renewable seat cushions and seat backs made from recycled plastic bottles, and they are absolutely comfortable! Also, wood finishes and paint are routinely available now with low VOC emissions.

Do you see a shift in people’s conception of what it means to have a more green home?
Honestly, my clients are interested in aesthetics, functionality, durability, and cost. New construction projects, especially those with good architects, tend to be the most concerned with the latest eco-friendly technology. My clients generally think of being green in terms of efficiency: a home that saves heat and cooling costs, toilets and showers that don’t waste water, a kitchen that makes it easy to compost and recycle, solar shades that help to cool rooms and protect from sun damage, smart homes that can be activated from a distance to run at peak efficiency, etc.

Can you share some simple tips that can bring more natural elements to a home?
Natural fabrics such as cotton, linens, wools, and wicker are comfortable to live with. Flowers and plants make all the difference in terms of a healthy atmosphere, though contrived arrangements are out. A branch from a tree in the yard even brings life into the home. Examples of other natural elements would be live edge tables, furniture made from recycled materials or repurposed for another use altogether, tree stump styled stools, ombré throws, wallpaper with hand-blocking, organic cotton sheets, and so on.

Selling and buying vintage has long been seen as a more conscious way of decorating. Can you choose two items from Sotheby’s Home vintage shop and tell us what drew you to those pieces?

Enzo Mari Pago vase, in brilliant sunshine yellow.  Can you see it in a white kitchen dispensing a jolt of joyful energy and happiness?

Carl Aubock Wall Magazine Rack:  Ever since I went to Maison & Objet in Paris this year, I have been obsessed with wicker, which was shown everywhere! This piece is interesting, charming, useful, and unique. I love items that have history and age. Anyone can find new and well-designed furniture online these days, which is of course a good thing, but we run the risk of having homes that are predictable and impersonal if we don’t find a few things that have real meaning for us, where there is the memory of the adventure of the hunt!

What are some of the trends you see having a strong comeback in 2019?
Based on the cover of every recent shelter magazine, I would say that color is really coming back! It has been tough to wash away the gray, but I think the tide is turning. No longer satisfied with just a pop of color in a pillow, the trends of bolder color, patterns, and layering are emerging, which is a natural reaction against a long period of minimalism. KonMari Method aside, we want more!
I also see wallpaper making a big comeback; the popularity of grasscloth papers primed the demand for more complex and dramatic papers. First, grasscloth papers were printed with geometric patterns, then there were papers resembling marquetry, beaded papers, papers made from cork, bark, and handmade paper, then bolder colorswho knows, are florals next?

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