RSS Feed


    Last year I was asked on a panel discussion at the annual residential interior design show here in the UK, Decorex. I sat alongside designer Sue Timney to talk sustainability - we spoke to a room with about 50 people in it.  The response was very good. Looking at stands of the show itself - I struggled to find many (or any) exhibitors selling sustainable products.   I was asked back again this year to speak at their show which took place virtually this November.  Our panel discussion was on Sustainable Sourcing For Interior Designers - Cutting Through The Greenwash.  

    Myself, two fellow designers (Nicola Keenan and Susie Rumbold) along with Stefan Dodds from responsible furniture procurement company Dodds & Shute - shared our experiences and challenges in a discussion I was really happy to be a part of - moderated by Jeff Hayward of Wildwood PR.

    It was a great discussion to be a part of and I certainly learnt from my fellow panelists.  For me Sustainability also means people and production methods - AND also occupant health & wellbeing as well.  This certainly was supported by my fellow panelists.  

    The headlines from our discussion were…

    • Avoid products that have been flown here - I thought it was much more sea freight now but apparently not!

    • Companies like Dodds & Shute (and mine!) plant trees to offset their company's carbon footprint (Dodds & Shute’s scheme is actually tree saving)

    • Buy locally.  Made In Britain can actually often mean it’s assembled in Britain.

    • Use recycled aluminum.  It’s 9200 times more harmful than carbon dioxide is to planet extract bauxite to produce aluminium.

    • Certifications are very useful and not always perfect.  It can be expensive for smaller producers to attain - so don’t eliminate companies who don’t have them.  

    • Be inquisitive (my favourite!) - ask lots of questions.  Develop relationships with suppliers you trust. Asking questions and being inquisitive en masse will pressurise suppliers to change.

    • Avoid fast furniture.  Importance of using long lasting, quality FF&E and finishes.  Timeless design.  Modern heirlooms.  Adding character to spaces but using original, preloved items.

    • Watch out for water footprints of products - especially cotton.

    • Slave labour is going on in our supply chains - concerns over cotton industry in Uzbekistan from Stefan

    • Ask suppliers for their Sustainability Policy.  Many of the better companies are very self critical but are actually doing much more than the norm.

    • Consider the design of items - have they’ve been designed to be repairable or for disassembly at the end of life?

    • Fire labels being cut off beds, sofas etc. This means those items go to landfill when they could be reused if the label was intact.

    • Health concerns around chemical use: stain resistance, fire treatments, some paints, foams, formaldehyde in products - in our increasingly air tight spaces.  Interior air quality is 3 to 5 times higher than outdoor air quality.  Concerns for those working with these products and also occupant health of the end user of the interior.

    • It’s our duty as designers to guide our clients - and we need to research and learn to support that.


    The two surveys I suggested people complete to look at their own consumption are:


    This poll was alongside our discussion and was very heartening to read as well…


    I really want to encourage companies who are providing better - less people, planet and animals impacting specifications - whilst conducting business well and ethically.  I can see there's greenwashing happening - intended or not - and I can understand people's hesitancy and nervousness around getting into using these products.  I just want everyone to doing SOMETHING better.  Even if it is small.  It's all going to add up as our industry and designers working in it become more aware.

    For all these years that I've been working in sustainable design, I've seen many smaller companies following a passion to supply lower impact furniture, materials and finishes to our industry.  They've taken risks and have put in massive amounts of work - because they believe in what they are selling and in most cases - it's a passion project.  Yes those products probably have been more expensive - but they haven't had the volumes to benefit from economies of scale - and they also are producing these items closer to home and therefore likely to be looking after the people involved and paying fairly.  I want all these innovators to have their well deserved exposure and not get swamped by larger companies with huge marketing budgets. 

    Remember that people are part of Sustainability - so support small business and ensure you are happy with answers on the supply chains of products - do they even talk about them in their marketing?  Do they have a Modern Slavery statement as well as a Sustainabilty Statement?  Check the contents of these statements - having a statement alone doesn't mean they are doing good things - it needs reading.  Over time you'll see how some are much better than others.  Just stating they deliver in recyclable packaging is not enough!

    Since the panel discussion was aired, I’ve had such a great response from students, suppliers and designers - emails, messages, in blogs!  It really feels like people want to learn more and let’s hope things might be changing.  I’ve had so many people contacting me. 


    There were a number of discussions on sustainability during Decorex and interior design platform Houzz has summarised them in this article.  

    It's about time this feeling of a movement on Sustainility is happening.  As I say in the discussion - I'm 50 and I've been asking these same questions for half of my life now! 

    It's time!  It NEEDS to be the way we all work.  Our industry (built environment), accounts for almost 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions whilst also having a significant impact on our natural habitats.   We need to work sustainably and ensure those spaces are built to support human health and not contribute to it.

    My professional body (British Institute of Interior Design ) as part of the Construction Industry Council has committed to achieve the target of net zero emissions by 2050.  Find out more on the net zero commitment.  Great things are happening in the BIID - join us!  Myself and other members who have experience in sustainability have been brought into the Professional Practice commitee to support members with resources to help. 

    The support of Decorex is much appreciated.  The fact that this show was online this year really seems to have hugely helped to extend the reach to get to far more people than would have fitted in a stage area of the physical show.  I must thank Decorex for continuing this conversation and the panel’s hosts - Jeff and Susie from The Interior Design Business podcast for selecting this subject and for having me as part of the panel. 

    I feel positive - like this coversation is not going to stop now.  Well it won't while I'm involved anyway!

    Watch the discussion here - it’s available until 10th December ‘20.

    And listen to it here.  It's now an  The Interior Design Business podcast episode - so the reach is now even further!


  2. My 6Rs - based on zero waste guru Bea Johnston's 5Rs but including REVIEW and REPAIR


    Fellow Brightonian interior designer Angela Cheung and I have decided to have regular conversations following the feedback we had from our one last month.   We have lots to talk about and to compare notes and most importantly to us - we share our learnings on sustainability and wellbeing in interior design with anyone watching!  We have different specialisms and enjoy discussing the overlaps together.


    This week we are talking about LIVING WITH LESS.  Watch to find out more about minimalism, decluttering, Chloe's involuntary decluttering,  Angela's voluntary decluttering,  the health & wellbeing benefits for us both, design for longevity and buying better. 


    This month marks my 15th year in business and it’s really making me reflect!  This conversation is very real for me because in my first week in business I had a house fire and lost most of my belongings.  I very quickly learnt to Live With Less!  It sounds so shocking doesn’t it - but it was the most important lesson to me about possessions.  Of course it was a shock and upsetting but I was hugely lucky.  No-one was hurt and I was properly insured (you just don’t know for sure until you have to claim).  You realise how many possessions you acquire along the way.  Much of it you rarely use or even look at.  You move from place to place taking it with you and paying for the extra space it needs to be kept in.  Reducing your possessions - severely for me - and it turns out for Angela as well - was a positive and freeing experience for us both.  As Angela observes “it leaves space for other things” which for her meant she’s made time in her life to do a Masters degree in Architecture at the age  of 50!!  I recognise it is not for everyone at all.  But to surround yourself with items that remind you of your loved ones and positive experiences you’ve had has such a huge wellness benefit. for us  I’ve learnt to not save things for best and to use and to wear and use them.  As Angela points out - live your one life now!


    We know we are some of the highest consumers on the planet in the UK and the US.  David Attenborough showed us this in his recent, alarming documentary 'Extinction'.  We are over consuming and not appreciating the huge amount of resources used to keep us in our mindless, one-click buying habits of gathering STUFF.


    In our conversation we talk about how we encourage our clients to REVIEW and SLOW DOWN when buying for a new space.  Buy things you LOVE and find ways to buy those better quality and longer lasting things including PRELOVED.  Appreciate too that those things will also have a resale value should you want to sell them on too!  REFLECT on the reasons you buy things - are they good reasons?  Last of all - buy things that are DURABLE and made to last.

    Book recommendation: The Minimalist Way - Erica Laine

    Must watch: Bea Johnson's Ted Talk


  3. Working with my ethical business

    I want to write about being an ethical business and what that means to me. I've been very fortunate to experience the inner workings of a successful ethical business in action during my 10 years for The Body Shop International’s head office - so it's natural for me to carry these values on into my own business.   

    This month I celebrate my 15th year in business and I'd like to use that milestone to review what I am doing and to make improvements.  Wow 15 years though.  It’s been a great experience but it’s not been the simplest path - from a housefire in my first week in business (I’ll tell you about this another time!) - to a financial crisis, Brexit uncertainty and now a pandemic!  Who’d have thought it would be so dramatic.  


    TREE PLANTING is really important to me and my clients love having trees planted in their name as a thank you when I've worked with them.   It is a positive although inaccurate contribution to offset the carbon used on the materials used in their projects. I’m aware it’s not in any way exact.  

    The exciting news is that there are pioneering furniture suppliers are able to give a CO2 calculation with their products.  It’s a hugely useful piece of information and I can’t wait for it to become the norm in my industry.  Clients can consider that as part of their decision process.  


    I want to review and increase my commitment to planting trees...

    🌳Up to now I've been planting 10 trees at the beginning and end of a full project.  This will now be 25 at the beginning and end.  

    🌳 I've also decided to plant 10 trees for each one-off consultation as I've been doing lots more of these recently - especially online.

    🌳 As a THANK YOU for anyone recommending my services I have 10 trees planted in the name of the referee for each positive CLIENT REFERRAL lead  I receive. 

    🌳 I’m planning to stay on the ground for travel for a while - but if I do fly I will I’ll follow Natalie Fee’s advice in her book ‘How To Save The World For Free’ She tells us “...if the aviation sector was a country - it would be the 7th biggest polluter in the world.” Obviously this is a pre-pandemic fact.  But it’s an alarming one.  Natalie recommends 

    • Atmos Fair - the flight is calculated and you pay to offset.  Offsetting takes the form of numerous climate protection projects such as energy efficiency, wind energy, hydro and solar power.  

    • Mossy Earth - your flight is calculated by the hour or road trip by distance and you pay for native trees to be planted and/or support their rewilding projects.


    Today I'm up to 433 trees planted and I'm just about to plant more for a client. 

    The project I'm supporting at the moment is PETA founder Jane Goodall's Institute initiative with OneTreePlanted - who need our help to plant 3 million trees as part of the Wildlife Habitat & Corridor Restoration Project. The Albertine Rift landscape is a diverse ecosystem which is crucial to many species and is a prominent habitat for endangered chimpanzees. It also houses over 50% of birds, 39% of mammals, 19% of amphibians, and 14% of reptiles and plants of mainland Africa. By pooling resources and combining efforts, One Tree Planted and the Jane Goodall Institute are aiming to restore and manage these incredible forests.⠀And it's not just about biodiversity, working with local communities will also include promoting agroforestry for sustainability, improving forest monitoring, and establishing community-managed enterprises and microlending programs in order to create a holistic long-term benefit.⠀⠀