When I first entered the interior design industry I had no sense of the destruction that over-consumption and waste was having on the planet. It was not something that was taught at my London based design school, nor was it something that the companies I worked for ever considered or discussed. Eventually designing interiors for people who seemed to have so much, and yet were still buying more, grew a feeling of distaste inside me. This feeling pushed me to leave employment and create my own approach to interior design. In fact Hawker was born out of a need to offset the damage I felt I had made in the past and to provide a sustainable lifeline for home designers. It became my opportunity to create change.
Interior design is ultimately built on aesthetics and consumption. Designers service very wealthy people and make beautiful spaces for them. It is an huge industry and there is plenty of opportunity to be selective on what products to offer clients, and the chance to support the right makers. For me, now in 2021, designing interiors comes with a set of questions. Here is a list of criteria I think about when I am designing and discussing options with clients:
Are the products made locally and is your money supporting a local artisan or a local businesses? If not, ask how is your item being shipped and in what packaging.
Where and how has the product been made, for example has it been made by machine or by hand? Is someone being paid fairly for their work, and are they in safe working conditions? Ask yourself why something costs so little, as much as you ask why so much.
Is there an alternative vintage or antique option? Sourcing an existing piece of furniture, investing in its refurbishment and preventing it from going to landfill is the number one most sustainable option.
Is there a low toxic or less plastic option to work with? Products made of hardwoods are more expensive but are a far superior product and there are a number of paint companies out there that specialise in eco products.
Can we move an old item onto someone who will appreciate it rather than sending it to landfill? Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree are excellent resale websites.
These questions should be easily answered by the company representative when buying your materials. If they don't know how to answer your questions then they are not prioritising sustainability in their production process. There are plenty of wonderful companies at all budgets who offer sustainable choices. You don't have to only enjoy rustic design to be able to make an impact. Buying pieces from reputable design houses, such as in Europe, where skills and handicrafts have been passed down generationally, is a great resource to buy from. You are supporting a much needed industry of artisanal craftspeople whose skills are in danger of fading away due to mass and machine production. Buying pieces that are reproductions of design classics is not an OK option when prioritising sustainability, or ever for that matter.
The following are examples of individual makers and larger furniture companies you can support. This list is Australian based.
Armadillo and Co: A Sydney based rug company who only uses sustainable fibres in the weaves of their beautiful rugs. Their rugs are woven by artisan based in India.
Laneway Design: Luke Delv is a local Byron Bay based furniture maker and refurbisher of old treasures who can turn a forgotten broken down work bench into a feature piece that will last another 100 years.
Jatana Interiors: Designed by owner Sonya Marish, the tiles are artisan-made in India and Morocco. Sonya has close ties to India and visits regularly to work with her team overseas.
Jardan Furniture: Australian Made and certified carbon neutral since 2014. Jardan is a high end Melbourne based furniture company specialising in sofas and armchairs.
Worn Store: A Byron Bay based store who plants a tree for every piece of furniture sold, carbon offsets their shipping and works with family run businesses. They trace their materials to ensure all are sustainably sourced and certified and priorities sustainability in all aspects of their business.