What’s the difference between a sustainable interior designer and other interior designers?

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Read this before picking an interior designer

Finding the right designer for your project may feel like walking down a hallway of endless doors. How are you supposed to know which one to open? One way to shorten the hallway is to limit your search to a certain criteria. You can look for designers in your area, or who specialize in the styles you love, or only consider sustainable interior designers.  

Unlike traditional designers, sustainable interior designers put the planet at the forefront of their designs and make green or eco-friendly choices. While both craft beautiful and functional spaces, a sustainable interior designer uses different methodologies and has different priorities. 

Here’s how to determine if a sustainable interior designer is right for you. 

What's the difference between a sustainable interior designer and other interior designers?

What an interior designer and a sustainable interior designer have in common

Like a normal interior designer, a sustainable interior designer can work on commercial or residential projects, and their clients can be individuals, businesses, the government, non-profits or architects. 

Both specialize in enhancing aesthetics, functionality, and safety of an interior space. When starting a project, they assess their client’s needs and desires. Then, they plan and arrange spaces, choose colors, materials and furnishings. All interior designers also coordinate with architects, builders, and other contractors to execute on the final vision of the space. 

All (good) designers will develop a space that fit’s the specific needs and wants of the individuals inhabiting the space.

read this before you hire an interior designer

How are a sustainable interior designer and a traditional interior designer different?

Both sustainable and traditional interior designers can craft visually appealing and functional spaces. Yet, their approaches and considerations are very different. 

Sustainable interior designers prioritize environmentally-friendly practices during the design process. This often includes:

  • Working with local contractors and vendors
  • Evaluating the lifecycle of products
  • Sourcing eco-friendly materials
  • Picking energy efficient appliances
  • Reducing waste during the build 
  • Picking furnishing and finished that healthy and safe

The end result is a deeper commitment to minimizing the environmental impact of the build or re-design, while promoting long-term sustainability. 

Traditional designers, on the other hand, might prioritize aesthetics or current trends without necessarily factoring in the environmental implications of their choices. Healthy products, that don’t offgas or contain harmful chemicals, are also often not a factor. 

What is a sustainable interior designer?

A sustainable interior designer is someone who creates spaces at the crossroads of environmental preservation, functionality and aesthetic style. Often, they’ll leverage the principles of refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose to bring interior spaces to life.

What makes an interior sustainable?

A sustainable interior often includes some, if not all, of the following:

  • Materials that do less, or no harm to the planet
  • Construction methods that do less, or no harm to the planet
  • Includes products and materials from companies with sustainability commitments
  • Reduces or eliminates energy and water consumption
  • Adaptable spaces and pieces that can be re-configured
  • Aesthetically timeless, avoiding rapidly evolving trends
  • Healthy products that protect our indoor air quality and overall livelihood 

In use, sustainable interiors reduce the overall environmental impact through its emphasis of living a healthier and safer life. 

Is green interior design more expensive?

Upfront, yes sustainable interior design can be more expensive. While you’re doing the build or re-design you may look at the prices of the products you’re purchasing, compared to their unsustainable counterparts and think, “Wow… why is that one so much cheaper?”

In the long-run, you’ll likely find that sustainable interior design is less expensive. Sustainable products normally have less maintenance, don’t need to be replaced as often, are easier to get rid of or re-home and reduce energy expenses. They’ll also potentially help you avoid expensive medical bills down the line by improving your indoor air quality and avoiding harmful offgasses like VOCs

A sustainable interior designer isn’t more expensive than any other interior designer, though! So, a designer with sustainable experience can help you save money in the long run. 

What's it like to work with a sustainable interior designer?

Why does sustainable interior design matter?

Everyone has their own motives for investing in sustainable interior design. Some reasons include:

  • Wanting to leave the planet better than they found it. 
  • Wanting to protect a specific part of the world, like the forests or the oceans. 
  • Wanting to slow or stop global warming, for themselves or others. 
  • Wanting to ensure their home is safe for their family and loved ones. 

There are also people who care about a mix of these things, or all of them. There are a lot of reasons that sustainable interior design could matter to the planet, but the most important reason is the one that resonates with you.  

Ultimately, there’s no wrong reason for wanting to create a more sustainable home. 

What is an example of sustainable interior design?

Sustainable design doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing commitment. Instead, it can be an opportunity to consider all of your options. You can weigh the pros and cons of your choices and pick what makes the most sense for your needs – and the needs of those to come. 

Some tangible examples of sustainable interior design includes:

  • Picking natural materials, like jute, stone or reclaimed wood
  • Maximizing the natural light
  • Installing solar panels 
  • Investing in thermal heating
  • Choosing high-quality drapery and windows for insulations
  • Avoiding VOCs in carpets, cabinets or paints
  • Prioritizing energy-efficient appliances
  • Diverting water into greywater tanks for recycling
  • Making local purchases when possible
  • Finding “forever pieces” for your home

You can also learn more about making sustainable choices from some of our past blogs. 

Designing your home with eco-friendly materials is often better for the planet and your health.

Does my interior design style impact if my home is sustainable?

The short answer is no – your interior design style or preference does not impact if your home is sustainable or not. As long as you make intentional, green choices when designing, any design style can be considered sustainable. Sustainable interior design is more about the details than the style. 

The long answer is yes – some styles naturally lend to more sustainable design than others. For example, mid-century modern, organic or minimalist interior design styles use a “less is more” aesthetic to create a space. Naturally, this lends to less purchases, smaller carbon footprints and more sustainable interiors. 

On the other hand, traditional homes with lavished decorations could be less sustainable given they’re designed for grandeur rather than the preservation of the planet. 

Or, eclectic or bohemian styles could require a lot of purchases to fill each of your rooms to create the full and layered look of these styles. Depending on how sustainable those purchases are, the design style could have a greater impact on the planet. 

Yet, if you purchased those items locally, second-hand or prioritize items made of natural materials, you could still create a sustainable interpretation of these busier styles. 

Why work with an eco-friendly interior designer over a designer who doesn’t have the same passion for the planet?

Even if sustainability isn’t at the top of your priorities, by working with a sustainable designer some eco-friendly decisions and protocols will be put into place. You’ll also have selections of furniture and finishings that you can feel good about. 

There’s no reason conservation can’t be paired with innovation and beauty. If you’re ready to talk to an interior designer about their process, fill out a contact form. We’d love to hear more about your project. 

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