Emma Stergoulis Design
Sustainable Interior Design
Unless you have been residing on another planet these last few weeks, it would be hard to ignore that we are coming up to an election in Australia on 18 May. As the mud slinging between the Majors, scandals among the Minors, and the temptation to be done with them all and vote for the Pirate Party is becoming very real ( no I am not kidding there maybe less tax on rum together with a policy of free eyepatches and bandanas ahoy!!), out of it all is one major moot point that seems to be pretty prevalent in the campaigns, being climate change and sustainability…..
So how does this tie in with the world of residential interior design? Well we have seen businesses, and major corporations, use buzzwords such as”sustainability” and “corporate responsibility” with a push to make their workspaces and environment for employees and clients a healthy and sustainable place. This means that “sustainability” is pretty much a standard in most modern business designs and plans, and as such a common brief with architects and their associated interior designers. Inevitably what happens in the corporate world starts to trickle into the residential sphere, albeit in a smaller way. Just like the fashion of the runway trickles in influence to the high street clothing stores.
Accordingly clients, when renovating, building or just “tweeking” a room here or there, are starting to look at aspects of their life and wanting to make changes that assist them in reducing costs, waste and being more considered in choices that are healthy, long lasting and add value to their life. This goes from the cost efficiency of the buildings, to the level of toxic chemicals in the paint on the walls, right down to the decluttering phenomenon of Marie Kondo – and whether that item “sparks joy”!
So what does sustainability mean exactly? Sustainability is defined as something which maintains a focus on ensuring the needs of the present are met, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
It is important however to note that there are a number of buzzwords that are associated with sustainability, but the mere fact that they have association does not actually guarantee that they are in themselves “sustainable”. For example, we hear a lot about “eco-friendly” products. This label alone do not necessarily mean that the product is sustainable, nor does it mean that it will have no impact on the environment, it just means that it “may” have a little less impact on the environment than the product it is being marketed against. When you read the fine print that “eco” element may only apply to one small part of the product. For example, a paint suggests that it is low in VOCs (harmful chemicals released into the air) but it may still contain a level it is just in a form or at such a level that the guidelines allow it to be seen as low or VOC free. Equally a carpet may state that it is “eco – friendly”, but when you drill down it only applies to one part of the fabric used to make the carpet. Just like that sugar free grocery product, it can be smoke and mirrors diverting you from the fact it contains high levels of salt. As such research and research is the key.
Designing a Sustainable interior ( or exterior for that matter) is about looking at the clients needs, what the spaces need to achieve, and put together designs which use products (or utilise the current space or furnishings – don’t forget recycling) – to allow this to be achieved in a way that ensures minimal or no impact on the occupants health, the environment, and whilst it is unlikely to not hit the hip pocket in someway, is cost effective either upfront or at some point in the future.
This does not necessarily mean we have to upcycle or reuse, but rather be more considered in choices and look at the products available to help the client achieve this. There is no one size fits all as every client is individual and has different needs, whether they have allergies, disabilities, lifestyle requirements, careers (do they work from home or need the capacity to do so). So many considerations and it is what makes this job so fun and fascinating…