Ethical Living: Eco-friendly, sustainable & ethical interiors

In our ethical living series we have looked at beauty, laundry, gifts and fashion and now we are looking to interiors. How can we style our homes beautifully while minimising our impact on the environment? Stylists and business owners Karen Barlow and Kirsty Saxon investigate this and gather a collection of homewares and accessories that tick all the right boxes in terms of their ethical credentials.

It wasn’t so long ago that the mention of eco-friendly homewares conjured up images of bland and boring, non colour, scratchy fabrics and furniture made from old shopping trolleys and repurposed tyres.

With much more awareness to the damage being done to our planet from plastics and overflowing landfills, designers have started exploring more sustainable alternatives and natural materials and even some high street retailers are now producing eco lines to sit alongside their main ranges, such as H&M Home’s Conscious range.

Creating an environmentally-aware home has never been easier and the choice of products never more abundant, but there’s still confusion for consumers about what actually constitutes ethical?

Cork lighting –    Nove Lighting   ; Organic cotton stationary –    Folk Interiors   ; Drinking glass and carafe –    Form Lifestyle   ; Terracotta planter on stand –    Object Style   ; Reclaimed wire tray and vintage terracotta pots on windowsill –    The Old Potato Store

Cork lighting – Nove Lighting; Organic cotton stationary – Folk Interiors; Drinking glass and carafe – Form Lifestyle; Terracotta planter on stand – Object Style; Reclaimed wire tray and vintage terracotta pots on windowsill – The Old Potato Store

Recycled, repurposed items

One of the areas of product design that has evolved the most is the use of repurposed items to create covetable homewares. Pioneers in this area such as London-based salvage company Retrouvius and Herefordshire-based Baileys Home have paved the way, demonstrating the use of industrial salvage within our homes, in a cool and interesting way. Items that would have been destined for the skip such as old school chairs, factory lights and redundant retail signage are now making a design statement within our homes.

ceramic plates and bowls and small bowls in foreground by Camphill Village Trust -    Small Batch Goods   ; Fluted edge hand made tableware –    Kchossack Pottery   ; Avocado dyed hemp napkins –    Small Batch Goods   ; Glassware –    Form Lifestyle   ; Blanket on bench –    Lavender and Green   ; Lighting –    Nove Lighting   ; Vintage Wooden platter –    The Old Potato Store

ceramic plates and bowls and small bowls in foreground by Camphill Village Trust - Small Batch Goods; Fluted edge hand made tableware – Kchossack Pottery; Avocado dyed hemp napkins – Small Batch Goods; Glassware – Form Lifestyle; Blanket on bench – Lavender and Green; Lighting – Nove Lighting; Vintage Wooden platter – The Old Potato Store

Handmade objects

As we become ever more removed from the physical world through social media, email, online banking & internet shopping, we crave connection with the real world. Buying hand-crafted items, with all their imperfections and individuality, created by the human hand, helps us to feel grounded and connected. The recent rise in popularity of handmade pottery and tableware is no coincidence. It reconnects us to the earth in an increasingly unstable world. It is both practical and beautiful, reasonably affordable and collections can be added to gradually. One of the founders of The Arts & Crafts Movement, John Ruskin, believed “Fine Art is that in which the hand, the head and the heart of man go together.”

Grey 100% linen bedding –    Soak and Sleep   ; Terracotta organic cotton bedding –    H&M Home   ; Seagrass rug –    Armadillo   ; Handwoven grass slippers –    Yonder Living   ; Blanket –    The London Cloth Company   ; Lighting –    Nove Lighting   ; Cushion in foreground –    Porter and Cole   ; Hand loomed black and white cushion –    mali Mudcloth   ; Mid century portrait and rustic Eastern European milking stool –    The Old Potato Store

Grey 100% linen bedding – Soak and Sleep; Terracotta organic cotton bedding – H&M Home; Seagrass rug – Armadillo; Handwoven grass slippers – Yonder Living; Blanket – The London Cloth Company; Lighting – Nove Lighting; Cushion in foreground – Porter and Cole; Hand loomed black and white cushion – mali Mudcloth; Mid century portrait and rustic Eastern European milking stool – The Old Potato Store

Sustainable and natural materials

The trend for natural linen bedding over the last few years has largely been driven by both its aesthetic quality and our growing environmental awareness and better knowledge of manufacturing techniques. Linen, bamboo, hemp and organic cotton bedding and fabrics are produced without the use of pesticides and chemicals. Both linen and hemp are extremely durable fabrics which should last a lifetime. Avoid any fabric product that says non-iron on the packaging, this will have been produced using petroleum.

Look out for cork homewares for an ethical option. Cork is probably one of the most naturally sustainable materials, regenerating itself repeatedly, growing back under the bark of the tree after it has been harvested. The tree can be harvested many times during its lifetime, which can be as long as 200 years.

Natural flooring such as sisal, coir & seagrass are also both tactile and practical and rug companies such as Armadillo produce beautiful decorative designs. Reclaimed timber flooring, although expensive, creates a surface that at once looks inviting and warm and with a beautiful patina created over years of wear. Look to use parquet floor reclaimed from old school gyms or iroko and teak worktops from old school labs. These can all be sourced from salvage yards. Look at Salvo for a guide to some of the best and check auction sites, one person’s scrap is another’s gold.

TOP SHELF: Items available from    Folk Interiors   ; 2nd SHELF: Vintage kilner jars –    The Old Potato Store   ; Snow tall beaker –    Room 356   ; Rebecca Morris Bowls –    Object Style   ; BOTTOM SHELF: Broste Copenhagen pottery -    Folk Interiors   ; Rebecca Morris Pottery and espresso cups –    Object Style   ; Vintage Madelaine tin & old signage –    The Old Potato Store   ; WORKTOP: Vintage oyster basket, chopping boards and butter pats -    The Old Potato Store   ; Blue Broste Copenhagen jug and beakers –    Folk Interiors   ; Waffle Tea towel –    Such and Such   ; Dimple ceramic mugs –    Room 356

TOP SHELF: Items available from Folk Interiors; 2nd SHELF: Vintage kilner jars – The Old Potato Store; Snow tall beaker – Room 356; Rebecca Morris Bowls – Object Style; BOTTOM SHELF: Broste Copenhagen pottery - Folk Interiors; Rebecca Morris Pottery and espresso cups – Object Style; Vintage Madelaine tin & old signage – The Old Potato Store; WORKTOP: Vintage oyster basket, chopping boards and butter pats - The Old Potato Store; Blue Broste Copenhagen jug and beakers – Folk Interiors; Waffle Tea towel – Such and Such; Dimple ceramic mugs – Room 356

Add contrast to your interior

The most interesting interiors play with contrast, rough with smooth materials such as marble with wood and polished concrete with stainless steel. Juxtaposing old with new is a perfect way to create eclectic, interesting décor. Mix sleek contemporary designs with vintage and salvaged items, hand-crafted items with foraged and found pieces. A perfect example of how beautiful this can look is the Japanese technique of Kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with precious metal.

Buy Local when possible

The distance some items have to travel from production to consumer, impacts on its carbon footprint. Lots of small independent shops stock products made within the UK and many stock local makers and artists work. Also trawl maker markets and vintage homewares events in your area, such as The Vintage Home Show. Seek them out and your home will have an individual look and a story attached to every piece within it. It’s always interesting to know the provenance of a piece. Another great idea is to attend a workshop with a maker - learn a new skill while also making something truly individual.

Recycled paper planters and candlestick –    Room 356   ; Terracotta planter on stand and Rebecca Morris hand-thrown drinking vessel used as planter -    Object Style   ; Vintage tiny terracotta pot and scissors –    The Old Potato Store

Recycled paper planters and candlestick – Room 356; Terracotta planter on stand and Rebecca Morris hand-thrown drinking vessel used as planter - Object Style; Vintage tiny terracotta pot and scissors – The Old Potato Store

Go Green

With so many of us working from home on our laptops & computers and shopping from our phones, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest trends to emerge over the last few years is the return of house plants. These little green babies are adept at soaking up carbon monoxide and releasing oxygen as they photosynthesis, purifying the air for us. Surround yourself with them and make your home an urban jungle. Many towns and cities have seen dedicated plant shops opening up, where you can purchase unusual species and receive the specialist knowledge required to care for them.

Use low or non-VOC paints

Traditionally household paints contained VOC’s - ‘Volatile organic compounds’ - or chemicals which gave them their strong smell which could be toxic and in some cases cause ill health. Many companies started produce low-VOC paints. Low however, only actually means compared to other paints on the market. There are currently no regulations to define low. But now there are brands producing non-VOC or eco paints which can be determined by checking the label: look for wording such as non-toxic or natural. These are microporous and allow the walls of the building to breath and are ideal for period properties. They also often provide a lovely chalky matt finish.

Candle –    Small Batch Goods   ; Glass cloche –    Lavender and Green   ; Wire tray –    The Old Potato Store    Organic cotton stationery –    Folk Interiors

Candle – Small Batch Goods; Glass cloche – Lavender and Green; Wire tray – The Old Potato Store Organic cotton stationery – Folk Interiors

Natural fragrances

We all like our homes to smell lovely and fragrances help to discard cooking and pet smells. An alternative to toxic, chemically-produced sprays and plug ins are soy-based candles made with naturally-scented oils - an effective and eco-friendly way to fragrance your home. If the candle is in a recycled or repurposed vessel, even better. Online retailer Orchard Cheshire sell some lovely vegan candles in repurposed vintage French confit jars. There are also some beautiful exotic smelling incense sticks and cones widely available which emit a fragrance when they are burned and natural reed diffusers with essential oils are very effective and long lasting.

Thanks to Karen and Kirsty for all of this sage advice and lots of shopping tips too. Be sure to check out Kirsty’s gorgeous cork lighting at Nove Lighting and Karen’s fab vintage finds at The Old Potato Store.

Photography by Si Thompson / Words & Styling: Karen Barlow / Styling: Kirsty Saxon

91 is reading.... Natural Living Style

Being environmentally conscious is something I now find myself thinking about on a daily basis, whether it’s a smaller purchase such as a new pair of jeans or which washing powder to go for, through to larger items such as what type of car we should go for when we replace our current one. Much of the changes that we can make start within the home, and there is so much we can do in terms of consumerism, repurposing and recycling.

Selina Lake Natural Living Style book review

Natural Style Living is the latest book from stylist Selina Lake, and as always, is a book which is not only beautiful but also has purpose. Selina explores homes which have been created with materials in mind, where homeowners are thoughtful about the process of creating a beautiful home, while limiting their impact on the environment. Selina also gives advice on eco-friendly materials, repurposing, recycling and decorating with natural objects rather than man-made.

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Selina always manages to find the most amazing homes to include in her books, and this collection is no exception. One that particularly caught my eye was the home of Susannah and David Le Mesurier, whose home has all the modern rustic charm you could ever wish for. The light walls and floors are warmed up with vintage furniture and rustic wood, with pieces from the likes of Baileys Home & Garden and I gigi.

One of the best ways of reducing your impact is simply by being considered in your purchases. Not being swept up by consumer marketing but being really thoughtful about what your home needs. Sticking to a neutral palette and natural materials means everything in Susannah and David’s home goes together effortlessly. You get the feeling that they only buy objects that they truly love and spend time sourcing those perfect vintage items.

Enjoy the little peek at this lovely space, and then do check out Selina’s book for more beautiful homes and tips for making your own home more sustainable without compromising on style.

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style ©Ryland Peters & Small

Natural Living Style: Inspirational Ideas for a Beautiful & Sustainable Home by Selina Lake, Photography by Rachel Whiting. Published by Ryland Peters & Small 

91 is reading... Live Green

As we all become more and more concerned about the damage humankind is causing to the planet, we are doing what we can to reduce our personal impact, but I think it’s fair to say many people can feel overwhelmed by the changes we need to employ to really make a difference. Jen Chillingsworth’s debut book Live Green: 52 steps for a more sustainable life is here to prove that it is easier than you think to become kinder to our environment, simply by adjusting our habits and becoming more mindful in the choices we make.

Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - review by 91 Magazine

The book itself is a thing of beauty - small format, printed on responsibly sourced paper and featuring the most beautiful illustrations by Amelia Flower (great name!). It’s perfect for dipping in and out of when you need advice on certain areas of your life.

Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine
Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine
Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine

The book is split into six sections - Green Home & Garden, Eco-Household, Eat Green, Slow Fashion, Natural Beauty and Simple Christmas - covering so much in terms of home life and consumerism. It’s full of great little snippets of advice on things you might not even have considered and includes some practical recipes and DIY ideas for things like natural cleaning products, homemade moth repellent and even how to wrap your Christmas gifts in fabric using the Japanese technique of furoshiki.

Jen describes how she made these changes to her daily life over the course of a year; it doesn’t have to happen overnight, and her approach proves that it is achievable. As Jen states in the book’s introduction: “small steps lead to big changes.” This is one book I know I will return to time and time again, and will recommend to friends who are keen to live more sustainably too.

Live Green by Jen Chillingsworth - book review by 91 Magazine

Live Green is published by Quadrille and will be available from 10th January 2019. Pre-order your copy here. Jen is the author of slow living blog Little Birdie.