Using sustainable interior design materials isn’t a trend. Rather, they’ve become staples for creating functional, practical, and beautiful spaces. Eco-friendly solutions aren’t just for homes anymore either, they’re also used in office and retail interior design projects. Afterall, there are a lot of benefits to reducing your carbon footprint and improving your overall well-being in all your spaces.
Since so many companies have been working on sustainable products for years, there’s also no compromise in quality or style. Sustainable materials can be both functional and stylish – providing an attractive and responsible solution for your interior needs.
What is sustainable design?
Sustainable design is an approach to interior design that minimizes your ecological footprint by using sustainable materials and renewable resources. In turn, it creates less waste and reduces the use of harmful chemicals. It considers each product’s entire life cycle and impact on the planet.
This design philosophy aims to lower environmental impacts by repurposing waste materials and reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources. It fosters a cycle of regeneration, promoting a healthier, more sustainable future.
What are sustainable materials?
Materials are the products we use to create ceilings, walls, floors, and furniture in a space. Sustainable materials do the same thing, but cause less harm to people and the planet.
Some materials only impact your overall carbon footprint. Others can also improve the energy efficiency of a home – like double paned windows! Many also have health benefits, like reducing or eliminating the off-gassing of harmful chemicals (like VOC) which have been linked to headaches, cancer, asthma, and more.
There are a lot of factors that go into how sustainable a product is (or isn’t). To get a full understanding of sustainable materials, check out our blog on Principles of Sustainable Interior Design.
Sustainable Interior Design Materials (Examples)
Natural stone like granite, marble, and slate are eco-friendly building materials perfect for countertops, flooring, and wall cladding. They are durable and low-maintenance, meaning they can last for years with minimal upkeep.
How to use stone in your home: Most folks do a stone countertop, but consider using stone for your flooring, or walls. Exposed stones like river rock, sandstone, limestone, and fieldstone create a cozy, natural vibe in your home!
Cork is a sustainable material made from the bark of the cork oak tree and can be used for flooring, wall covering, and insulation. It is naturally hypoallergenic, fire-resistant, and provides excellent sound and temperature insulation.
How to use cork in your home: It’s important to note that cork is antimicrobial. This means you’ll never have to worry about mold ruining the cork pieces of your home. While it’s a great choice for any room, consider adding it to a bathroom or kitchen because of its ability to withstand higher moisture levels without molding.
Using reclaimed wood for flooring, furniture, and décor helps to reduce deforestation and waste. It’s a great way to add a sense of history and character to your space, while supporting sustainable living.
How to use reclaimed wood: There’s no bad place to use reclaimed wood. Keep in mind, it will often become a statement piece in the room, so let the reclaimed wood shine!
Sentimental Repurposed Pieces
Repurposing old or sentimental items into new decorative pieces not only reduces waste but also adds a personal touch to your home. Transform vintage fabrics, heirlooms, and antiques into pillows, artwork, or everyday functional pieces. There’s endless possibilities when it comes to breathing new life into your cherished items.
How to use repurposed pieces: Items that you’ve repurposed obviously hold some kind of meaning to you, otherwise you wouldn’t be keeping them. So, put them on display! Pieces like these belong on coffee tables or a shelf that’s well lit. They will be nice talking pieces when you have guests over.
Make use of natural light to reduce energy consumption in your home. Incorporate large windows, skylights, or solar tubes to increase natural light, and choose light-colored paint to help disperse sunlight throughout the space.
How to maximize the sunlight in your home: Keep in mind your building’s orientation relative to the sun’s orbit and the purpose of each room. It may sound silly, but you’ll be glad you thought it through when you’re going to purchase blinds for your bedroom. You wouldn’t want sheer curtains that couldn’t keep the light out, especially if your bedroom gets early morning sun.
Opt for eco-friendly fabrics like organic linen, organic cotton, jute, and hemp for your upholstery, curtains, and rugs. These sustainable materials are produced with fewer toxic chemicals and have a lower environmental impact than synthetic fabrics.
Where to use eco-friendly textiles: Any of your soft furnishings are a great choice for a sustainable textile. Curtains, chairs, couches, bedding, table runners, towels, and more can all be made of these materials.
Glass can be used for windows, doors, and decorative pieces. It is recyclable and can reduce energy consumption by acting as a natural insulator. Double-glazed and low-emission glass options can further improve energy efficiency.
Where to use glass in your home: While windows and mirrors may seem like an obvious choice, you can also use glass in more decorative ways like nightstand lamps or ceiling fixtures. We also love tile that’s made of recycled glass!
Recycled aluminum is a sustainable alternative to traditional metals for fixtures, furniture, and hardware. It requires less energy to produce compared to new aluminum and can be infinitely recycled without losing quality.
Low or No-VOC Paint
Low or no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint is better for the environment and your health. It releases fewer toxic chemicals into the air, helping to create a healthier indoor environment.
Where to use low or no-VOC paint: Use this type of paint in every room of your home. You won’t have to compromise on color, and you’ll improve your indoor air quality in the process. No one likes extra gasses!
We always make a point to talk about bamboo in our sustainability blog posts because it’s currently very popular in the sustainability space. Rightfully so! Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable resource that can be used for flooring, furniture, and accessories. It is durable, lightweight, and has a unique appearance while also being low-maintenance in humid climates.
Where to use bamboo: Though it’s a better choice than virgin plastic, bamboo is not ideal for folks who live in Colorado. Our dry temperatures can crack the bamboo, and it often travels from China to get to us, creating a large carbon footprint for shipping. If you have to choose between bamboo and plastic, get the bamboo. If you have another option like recycled aluminum or reclaimed wood, it’s a more sustainable option when you look at the entire life cycle of the product.
Remember to consider these sustainable interior design materials when planning your next eco-friendly build or home update. Making informed choices can help contribute to a healthier environment and a more conscious lifestyle.
Comparing Material Choices
From microplastics to leaching, research shows plastic mainly has a negative impact on the environment. Plus, it’s often mislabeled, making it incredibly difficult to recycle, and can only be down-cycled. The sooner we find alternatives for plastic and minimize its use the better.
If you have to use plastic, you can opt for bio-based plastics made from plant sources like cornstarch, which can be biodegradable or compostable. Another alternative is using recycled plastic that has been processed and repurposed, reducing waste in landfills and conserving natural resources.
In addition to these options, explore using natural materials or recyclable alternatives such as jute, aluminum, cork, wood, or hemp. These materials can be sourced sustainably, are biodegradable, and often require less energy for production compared to plastics.
Choosing the Right Materials
When selecting sustainable interior design materials, consider the following factors:
- Sourcing: Choose materials that are locally sourced, reducing the carbon footprint associated with transportation.
- Recycled content: Look for materials with high recycled content, minimizing the need for new raw materials.
- Durability: Opt for materials that are built to last, requiring fewer replacements over time.
Here are some extra examples of sustainable materials.
- Brick: Bricks are energy efficient and have a long life cycle and can be repurposed multiple times before being discarded. Plus, they’re versatile and can be used to give your home a rustic, or modern look – even on the inside!
- Terra Cotta Tile: Though made at a high heat level in a kiln, terra cotta tile is a very sustainable product. Tiles are made from clay and can be broken down and used again and again, extending their lifecycle.
- Recycled metal: Using recycled metal in your home can contribute to a modern and industrial aesthetic while minimizing environmental impact.
By incorporating these sustainable interior design elements and practices, you can create a home that is not only stylish but also eco-friendly and mindful of the environment.
Companies with a Low Environmental Impact
Some companies have built their entire business around doing the right thing. They only create sustainable building materials for a greener home and planet. Here are a handful that have our stamp of approval.
Hempwood: Looking for non-toxic, sustainable hardwood? Have you considered hemp? It’s a beautiful hardwood alternative with unique patterns. Use it for tables, cabinets, frames, floors, and more.
Note – for those in Colorado, they cannot supply prefinished products due to climate concerns, but it can be finished on site after many weeks of acclimation.
Fireclay Tile: If the glass tile idea above piqued your interest, then check out Fireclay! They have an incredible collection of sustainable tiles, perfect for commercial and residential spaces. Their products are also American-made, climate neutral, and the business is B-Corp certified and employee-owned.
Delta Brick & Climate: If you’re looking for clay tiles, bricks, pavers, or adobe blocks, start here. Especially if you’re in Colorado! Delta Brick and Climate makes structural materials from reservoir mud. They not only create stunning tile pieces, but they also are working to protect the planet through projects like coal basin methane capture.
Ted Bradley Studio Lighting: The lighting created by Ted Bradley is at the crossroads of sustainable and luxury. The beautiful porcelain ring lights add so much character to a room – perfect for those who like a more modern finish!
Eden Oaks Woodware: Incorporating wood into your space? Eden Oaks uses reclaimed oak butcher blocks to create everything from mantels, to floating shelves, doors, and countertops.
Fenix: we love that all of their products are carbon neutral as of December 1st, 2021. They create surface materials inspired by Italian design for residential and commercial spaces. You can find their countertops in kitchens, hospitality, healthcare, bathrooms, and more.
Why invest in environmentally conscious companies?
Where we invest our money matters. By investing in sustainable businesses, you allow them to keep their doors open and continue to provide sustainable alternatives for others.
Plus, if you find somewhere local (like Eden Oaks Woodware) you’ll be reducing the carbon footprint of the shipping. Businesses like these also have an additional level of transparency through certifications like GreenGuard Certified or B-Corp status.
Prioritize materials that have a reduced impact on the environment, such as recycled materials and responsibly sourced natural options. Implementing these choices will create a more eco-conscious space that contributes to a healthier planet for future generations.
Can sustainable interior design also be luxurious?
Absolutely! It doesn’t matter if you’re redesigning your home office or an entire office complex, there are plenty of luxurious sustainable interior design materials and pieces out there. Yet, you may want to call in an expert if you want to ensure you’re getting high-quality products that are actually sustainable.
There are a lot of important considerations that can be hard to track and manage on your own, like how sustainable a product is, how sustainable a company is, and whether or not it works in your space. Consider working with an experienced, sustainable interior designer, like Spark Interiors. A little help from a professional can ensure you get the right high-quality aesthetics for your build.
Book a call to get started.
Not sure if you should hire an interior designer? Check out our blog post on when to hire an interior designer, and when to do a project on your own.