10 Sustainable Interior Design Tips & Ideas
8 mins to read

10 Sustainable Interior Design Tips & Ideas

# Interior Design

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Well-considered interior design can transform a tired, dark, cluttered space into a beautiful, light, spacious room. But updating your decor shouldn't cost the earth. If you're looking for sustainable design ideas, you've come to the right place. 

This article will explain how to transform your living spaces in an environmentally sustainable way - listing the materials to opt for and the items to avoid.

And remember: sustainable doesn't necessarily mean hessian wallpaper and distressed sideboards. Sustainable interior design is a guilt-free way to express your true personality in your home - without polluting the planet.. 

So, put your feet up, grab a brew, and let’s get started. 

flower sprouting from hand

What is sustainability?

It's a good question and one that - perhaps - we take for granted. But what - exactly - do we mean when we talk about sustainable interior design?

The terms “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” often go hand-in-hand. And for good reason. 

According to the International Journal of Sustainable Built Environment, sustainability is a strategy to “provide benefit on a global scale”. In other words, anything you use to decorate your home should be from a source that doesn’t deplete or damage the planet’s natural resources.  

Materials such as concrete, steel, plastics, and chemical compounds, such as acetates, are incredibly damaging to the planet due to their manufacture or eventual disposal. 

But that doesn't necessarily mean that those items are ruled out entirely from sustainable design - we just go for reclaimed or recycled. After all, it's better in your home than in a landfill. 

Sustainable design practices look at how we can surround ourselves with beautiful things without the existential cost to the planet. 

Consider going from fossil fuels to bioethanol. Opting for low-VOCs. And choosing reclaimed over unsustainably harvested. 

Select eco-friendly materials for your furniture and flooring

Going green in the home is more just than installing solar panels or opting for a green electricity tariff. Sure, these things help, but there's way more to it than how we power our homes. 

Choosing sustainable materials extends into our furniture, paint, wallpapers, and how we decorate our floors. 

Here’s our list of sustainable materials for furniture, floors, and carpets:

1. Reclaimed wood

Most items of wooden furniture are built from living trees. Of course, it's possible to buy furniture made from sustained forests, but - on the whole - most of the tables, chairs, doors, and frames we buy are created as a result of killing living trees.

Trees are the lungs of the planet - they absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen - so we really couldn't survive on planet earth without them.

green leaves

A sustainable forest is managed, replacing every felled tree with a new sapling. This means that - over time - the loss of the adult tree has zero impact on the planet. So, if you buy new wooden furniture, make sure that it's built from a sustainable source. 

Look for the “FSC-certified” logo - that means that the product comes from a responsibly-managed forest.

For maximum sustainability, choose furniture made from reclaimed wood, which recycles old materials, giving it a new life. Reclaimed furniture has real character - transforming wood from old barns or buildings and breathing new life into it. 

The most popular use of reclaimed wood finds itself in:

  • Mantels above fireplaces
  • Coffee tables
  • Rocking chairs
  • Sideboards and wardrobes   

2. Bamboo - but it’s not all eco-friendly!

Bamboo has developed a reputation as an eco-friendly alternative to wood. It’s a fast-growing grass that regenerates new canes from its roots - so the plant continues to live and produce new canes. And the crop doesn’t require fertiliser. 

Compare that to the cultivation of cotton, which needs a constant supply of water while relying on pesticides, which can be detrimental to the soil.

Bamboo can be used instead of wood for furniture or flooring and can even be converted into fabrics for sheets, blankets, clothing, and rugs. However, bamboo rayon might not be as sustainable as you think, as it's often produced using an intensive chemical process.

But for furniture and floors, bamboo is generally sustainable. However, bamboo floorboards might not be as hard-wearing as wood, so ensure you protect them with rugs in high traffic areas. 

Bamboo isn't always eco-friendly. Some manufacturers use intensive farming methods, and the shipping might not be very green. So, research your source to guarantee that your bamboo is genuinely sustainable. 

3. Check out the scrap yard! Recycled metal

While many metals aren't considered sustainable, scrap metal helps reduce pollution and energy consumption. Furniture made from recycled metals or plastics requires fewer processes and resources, making it the more sustainable way to enjoy beautiful metals in the home.

It’s possible to recycle most metals repeatedly without any degradation to the material - it stays strong and beautiful every time. 

Metal from old machines and buildings will rust for millions of years in the earth, so give it new life and buy recycled. The quality will be just as good as a newly manufactured metal. 

4. Bio-glass

Bio-glass is made from post-consumer recycled glass and can be used for everything from bathroom furniture, such as sinks and shower units, to decorative ornaments - even flooring. 

recycled bottles

Post-consumer recycled glass has a look of its own - more inconsistent than typical glass, it’s full of character, charm, and style. And it’s bringing life back into old bottles, windows, and mirrors. 

5. Cork

Cork is more than just a stopper for a wine bottle. And it’s a sustainable material because it’s extracted in a way that doesn’t harm the tree. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, leaving the tree alive and well and continuously producing new bark.

We all think of cork as this spongy material that yields to pressure - that's why it fits in champagne bottles, after all. However, cork makes an excellent floor covering, and it can be manufactured to feel just like hardwood.

Additionally, cork is reusable - many cork floors are made from recycled wine stoppers.

6. Recycled Plastics

Plastics are particularly troublesome for the environment because they require a fairly noxious chemical cocktail to produce. And plastics become particularly problematic once they’ve served their purpose. 

So, items made from single-use plastic, such as catering forks, plates, and wrappings, end up polluting the earth and our seas for hundreds of years as they biodegrade. After all, a plastic bottle can take 450 years to degrade in the ground. 

Recycled plastic gives post-consumer plastics a new life and can be transformed into a surprising array of materials. 

For example, post-consumer plastics can be transformed into beautiful indoor or outdoor rugs or refashioned into sturdy, durable furniture items, such as chairs or tables. And plastic bottles can even be turned into fabric for the clothing industry. 

7. Choose environmentally sustainable finishes

Paints and varnishes might seem like an odd place to look for sustainable or eco-friendly materials. Still, it's vital to seek water- or latex-based paints with minimal Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

pots of paint

VOCs used to be found in most paints in the UK, but they're a little rarer these days. VOCs evaporate when your paint dries, polluting your air for several weeks and can cause a range of health problems, from kidney damage to nausea and headaches. Just like you choose smokeless fuels for your fireplace, low-VOCs are essential for a cleaner environment.

And once VOCs are in the air, they react to sunlight, causing smog. 

So, look out for eco-friendly paints and varnishes. Look on the label for the following:

  • Non-toxic paint
  • Low- or No VOCs
  • Milk paint
  • Water-based paints, sealants, and stains
  • Latex-based paints

These products are better both for your immediate environment and the planet. 

8. Let there be (energy-efficient) light

One of the most simple switches we can make to create a more sustainable household is to change our lightbulbs to LEDs. If you’re still using old-school incandescent lightbulbs, you’re paying way too much for your electricity bill. 

Low-energy light bulbs initially got a bad rap because the halogen variety took a while to "warm up", offering a fairly dismal light when you first switched the bulb on. 

However, LED technology is much better, offering instant bright light while using 75% less energy than traditional bulbs. If you’re using a dimmer switch, you may need a special “dimmable” LED, though.

9. Let the light in

On the subject of light, that big glowing thing in the sky is our ultimate source of heat and light - so we should use it as much as possible. Reduce your reliance on the national grid by opening your curtains fully and letting the sunlight heat and brighten your living space. 

We get between 8 and 16.5 hours of sunlight in the UK, depending on the time of year, so one of the greenest things you can do is make use of this free natural resource while benefiting from a healthy dose of vitamin D without even leaving the house.

10. Go bioethanol

We all love a wood-burning stove, but it's becoming clear that burning wood is damaging our air quality, especially in big towns and cities. And while wood-burning stoves are becoming more and more energy-efficient, there's no denying the pollution they produce each time you light your fire. 

On the other hand, bioethanol fireplaces are almost 100% energy efficient, meaning that the heat produced stays in the room - not lost up the chimney.

Bioethanol is a by-product of crops like corn and sugarcane and doesn’t pollute the air when it’s burned. In fact, you don’t even need a chimney or flue for a bioethanol fireplace - it really is the guilt-free way to enjoy a real flame in the home. 

Bioethanol fireplaces are available in various styles, from traditional wood-burning stoves to modern fireplace inserts and freestanding models. Most bioethanol fireplaces require minimal installation, so you can literally remove the packaging, fill it with bioethanol, and you're good to go. 


ImaginFires for bioethanol fireplaces

ImaginFires has a range of beautiful bioethanol fireplaces to suit every room - from sleek and modern to traditional or freestanding. Our fireplaces won’t pollute the planet. 

Whether you’re looking for a wood-burner style fireplace or a modern fireplace insert, ImaginFires has a product that will enhance your room - without the need for a chimney or a flue.

We’re sure you have some questions about bioethanol fires. Don’t hesitate to get in touch, and we’ll help you choose the right fireplace to enhance the beauty of your home.