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Sustainable Interior Design

Interior designer Chloe Bullock shares how she hopes to inspire positive change in the sector

This article first appeared in our International Women’s Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 08 March 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Main image: Paula Rosales’ reusable KITCHEN FOR LIFE kitchen design. Photo by Nacho Uribesalazar, Casa Décor 2021

We don’t always think about the impacts of our built environment, yet decisions we make when creating living and working spaces can affect animals, people and the planet.

According to Mykor, a startup launched by Royal College of Art graduate Valentina Dipietro, the global construction industry contributes to 50% of all climate change, 40% of drinking water pollution, 23% of air pollution and 50% of landfill.

In creating and furnishing spaces we use a huge palette of virgin materials – fibres, petrochemicals, forests, minerals, metals and more – yet as an industry, interior design is not always looking at the whole picture.

Designers can unwittingly contribute to environmental damage through the supply chains and lifecycles of the products they use.

As designers we want to please our clients and work fast to deliver; meanwhile we’re encouraging consumption and using fossil fuels, toxic chemicals and natural resources. We’re disconnected from nature.

Our industry pollutes our air, land and water – and that pollution then finds its way into
our bodies.

We are also disconnected from our supply chains, which can exploit people – even children and also animals, who are still seen as commodities and resources for our needs.

Designing positive change

I really want to help my industry to slow down and work consciously, so when I was commissioned to write Sustainable Interior Design for RIBA Publishing, I leapt at the opportunity to support positive change in the sector.

My own approach to interior design has centred on my passions: the circular economy and vegan design. These interests stem from the great learning experience I received at the headquarters of Anita’s Roddick’s The Body Shop, where I worked as a retail designer soon after graduating in the 1990s.

Anita used her shops as a vehicle to campaign on inequality and injustice – and even to get the law on animal testing changed. Her approach pushed the boundaries of retail, and showed us that business can do so much more than sell products. 

Living in harmony with nature

In Sustainable Interior Design I define 11 approaches that encourage positive change and bring us closer to harmony with our beautiful planet.

Along the way I have found some very exciting and special examples of how this can be done beautifully and luxuriously.

One of the most expensive furniture investments we make is a kitchen, yet according to Rehome, the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom outlet, in the UK one in four is replaced within just four years.

One of the many clever designs included in the book is a kitchen you can take with you when you move house. Spanish architect Paula Rosales of Kitchen For Life has designed a kitchen system that can be disassembled and reassembled using durable non-toxic materials, which can easily be added to and repaired.

Sharing and collaboration

I’ve also found some great examples of how to use the sharing economy for interior fit-outs.

In Brooklyn, Whitney Falk has created ZZ Driggs, a lending library of beautiful crafted furniture combined with curated vintage finds that can be borrowed when you need them.

In India I found Tipai, a wonderful resort where designer Ariane Thakore Ginwala has helped to revive crafts and skills for the surrounding community, while regenerating land that had been depleted by years of teak farming.

The book also takes a tour of designer Deborah Di Mare’s Miami home to reveal how easy – and beautiful – it can be to avoid animal-derived products.

I was lucky to be able to work with Elena Branch, the perfect illustrator and partner for the book. This is her first book commission and her illustrations feature throughout the book and on the cover.

I’ve loved showcasing the exciting work happening in my industry globally. This book is very close to my heart, and I really hope you enjoy it.

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