Interiors: update a room sustainably

Consumerism has created a desire to keep up with trends and to constantly be changing the way we are: how we dress, how we decorate our houses and what we fill them up with. Cheap interior products have met our demand so that we can easily update rooms in our house to capture that latest look, even if it’s not really us. But what do you do if you want to check out of this constant spending and create a more sustainable home? Well I’ve set out some tips for you below:

1. Decide on the purpose of your room 

The first part of this might be easy: if you’re just aiming to redecorate then the main purpose of this room is going to stay the same. Yet even if that’s the case, think about what you want that room to achieve. If it’s a bedroom, then the aim of the room might be to create a space where you can sleep well, get ready for the day and nights out, display items that are very personal to you but which you don’t want in a more family orientated space and where you can have some quiet time to yourself.

2. Work out what your style is

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Ignore all of the trends in interior design and really think about what you like. Remember that this is your home and you’re the one who is living in it, no one else. If you like maximalism with bright colours go for it. If you want all the walls white and to only have black accessories then that’s great too. 

3. Moodboards

Create a moodboard to give you an overall direction for the style of the room. You might want to include your key colour scheme, any textiles you want to add, and a picture that summarises the mood and atmosphere that you want to create. Using the moodboard can help you stick to your style when you might otherwise be tempted to veer off into the latest trend from a recent interiors magazine.

4. Painting

Conventional paints can contain volatile organic compounds known as VOCs. These compounds are used in paint to keep parts like the pigment in a liquid state which ensures that you get an even application of the colour. That new paint smell that you get? That’s the VOCs being released. The downside of all this is that they are believed to cause respiratory problems. Look out for organic paint companies - my go to is Farrow and Ball. Their paint is water based, low VOC (note some VOCs are still used but low amounts have got to be better than high amounts!) and eco friendly but you still get a deep colour thanks to the rich pigments they use. They also use recyclable paint tins so even the packaging creates less impact on the environment. Their wallpaper collection is also produced in an environmentally friendly way If you prefer this to paint. You can read all about the various ways they are seeking to be environmentally friendly on their website. Earthborn are an independent company that set out to provide a true environmentally friendly alternative to conventional paints. They were the holder of the first UK licence of The EU Ecolabel for Indoor Paints and Varnishes which is an independent accreditation scheme. I haven’t used their paints before but they look like they could be worth a try.  

5. Furniture and accessories

Look at the furniture you already own: does it fit with your style and help you achieve your aims for the room? If they don’t then can you adapt them to do so - a coat of paint on a chest of drawers might make them look totally different. If the furniture still isn’t working for you then see if you can give it to friends or charity or sell it on a site like eBay or Gumtree so that someone else can use it. It feels a lot better than putting things into landfill! 

6. Accessories

You might already have the accessories you wanted but if you feel like you’re lacking something, have a look around your house for accessories that might work better in your new room than where they are. Sometimes things take on a new lease of life if you move them rooms or even out of a cupboard where they sat languishing! 

7. Buying new

Sometimes you just need or want to buy something new. That’s ok, you’re allowed! Aim for products that are made in environmentally friendly ways and that are designed to last. The longer you have them, the less impact you’re making on the environment. This is why it’s so important to work out your style and to buy what you truly love - you don’t want to get stuck with something that you bought because it was the in thing at that point in time. Check out my interiors directory for brands that are environmentally friendly.

Hopefully these pointers can help you to make your next renovation or redecorating project that bit more sustainable. Don’t forget, it’s ok to take these projects a little slowly to give yourself the time to make it right for you.