That was not easy to do especially at a time when sustainability was NOT the big buzzword it is now. That was back in 2013!
You read that right! In 2013 I shifted my business model from traditional interior design to sustainable & holistic design. Beyond the technicalities of Green Design which had been around for ages (ancient builders were “green” by default, but the term wasn’t used until the 1900’s), sustainable & holistic design forced me to focus more on the person.
And with a background in psychology, that really appealed to me & made my work even more rewarding & fulfilling than it already was.
These days, I only take on a few projects a year but I am loving the opportunity to share my knowledge through this little blog of mine & on social media!
Enough talking! Let’s dive into my top tips for How To Decorate Your Home Sustainably
Don’t buy into trends
This is my number 1 design rule. As Nate Berkus once said “trends exist to make people feel bad about what they don’t have.” It’s one of my all time favorite quotes because it hits on 2 issues I address as a holistic designer:
- Spending money on things you don’t truly love because you think other people WILL love it (Ex above: if you don’t love “farmhouse” don’t do “farmhouse” just because everyone else is) &
- Loving what you have & having what you love.
The biggest reason this is my top design rule is because trends come & go. Sometimes it’s a very quick cycle & sometimes things stick around a little longer but never are they timeless, classic, or long lasting.
And where do all those things go when they’re no longer in style or when you realize they never were your style in the first place? And what replaces them?
Buying into trends keeps us trapped in a cycle of consumerism that isn’t economically, emotionally, or practically sustainable.
Which leads right into the next tip to decorate your home sustainably…
Only buy or keep what you truly need & absolutely love
Love what you have & have what you love. If you have to buy, bonus points if you buy second hand.
A mix of old (thrifted) & new items in my office & dining room.
It sounds so simple but it’s hard to get into the habit of purchasing with intent. My weakness is sale & clearance items. Especially textiles, housewares, & chairs (I have a thing for chairs!) but honestly it could be anything.
Sometimes it can be hard to take my own advice. I have had to work really hard at walking away from a great deal & the way I do it now is in 3 steps:
- ask myself “do I need this & if so, for what?”
- if I don’t need it, I ask myself “do I really LOVE this or is it just “soooo” cute?”
- if the answer to both is no but I’m so drawn to it, I’ll sleep on it, go back to it & if it’s still there maybe I’ll get it. But only if I have an immediate use for it.
I had to learn that process the hard way. Right now I have boxes of (beautifully functional) textiles that I can’t/don’t use. That leads to my next tip…
Upcycle, donate, RECYCLE
There are so many ways to upcycle that go beyond changing the function of things. So even if you’re not into DIY projects, you can still re-purpose existing items – whether you already own them or purchase from a thrift store, flea market, or garage or estate sale – to fit into a design plan.
- Build or rebuild (preferably out of reclaimed materials) instead of buying new. Look for salvaged materials, thinking of & using them in unique ways.
- Reuse items in different ways. “Shop” around your home & move things around for a new look.
- Look at things with a new perspective. That sofa or chair that seems useless, outdated, or sagging may just need some new fabric, pillows, or a little extra stuffing.
- Refinishing, painting, reupholstering, or revamping all just a few DIY projects I love for upcycling items to keep them out of landfills.
Here is one of my latest & favorite projects. This bergère has been in my family for generations & has been reupholstered 3 times – once by my great-grandparents, once by my grandmother, & now by me!
If you don’t use it, can’t use it, haven’t used it in 6 months or more, donate it. Either to an organization or to someone you know who may be need it. It really is that simple.
The not so simple part is figuring out if something is donatable. Not just what organizations will accept, but if items are in acceptable condition.
I am always amazed at what people think is okay to donate. Just because you love something, paid a mint for it, or it has sentimental value, doesn’t mean it’s donatable.
Use good judgement – if you wouldn’t pay for something in the true condition it’s currently in (take your feelings out of it), DON’T DONATE IT.
Instead, break it down to it’s core parts/pieces & recycle what you can. The reason is because those unusable items either:
- Still end up in a local landfill or
- End up shipped to other (usually impoverished) countries which then have to dispose of them in ways that tax their local resources & environment even more than if those same items were disposed of locally. This is a horrible kink in the system.
If you have something you truly can’t use, upcycle, or donate, break it down to it’s core parts/pieces & recycle it. In some cities, there are even companies that will pick up your unwanted furniture, break it down & recycle it for you.
That’s a win!
Consider the supply chain —> shop local
This is probably the hardest to do because it’s so easy to hop online & order all the things!
Especially with Amazon. And if you have a Prime membership, it’s a done deal! Am I right?!
You could literally make over your entire home in 2 days – 1 day to order everything on Earth & have it delivered and 1 to put it all in place just like you saw in that pic on saved on Pinterest! DONE!
But at what cost. Most of what you’re ordering is NOT local or even from the same country. That means that:
- You have no idea what it’s truly made of & if that material is renewable (think cotton & bamboo), ethically sourced (fair-trade), sustainably produced, or even healthy to bring into your home (contains formaldehyde or other chemicals).
- Those products have to make it from wherever it was made to your doorstep. That could take a flight or 2, a freight truck, a freight train (do we still use those?), or a combination of all. And that means gas & pollution of all kinds.
Honestly, buying local is hard sometimes even for me. It can limit choices but it can also make the design process it bit more adventurous, creative & fun. I especially like the option to go thrifting – it’s like a treasure hunt every time!
BUT if you can’t buy locally, buy from companies that have a commitment to sustainability. There are so many ethical & sustainable home décor retailers that you can feel great about shopping from. Click here for just a few of my favorites!
Staying true to sustainability can be a challenge at first. For me & my family… well let’s just say there were a few glitches. We still struggle with a few things along the way but when I explain how living a sustainable lifestyle benefits us, it gets easier to stay on track.
If you’re thinking of making changes to your home, I hope this gave you a few things to think about & some ideas on how to do it more sustainably! Plus there’s the added bonus of saving money AND the planet.
As I always say… keep it super simple (KISS), have fun & enjoy the process of creating a home you love to live in!