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How To Interior Design Your Home Sustainably

We’ve noticed that interiors have become a lot more like fashion in the last year or so. People are looking to keep their homes fresh and up to date more regularly than before. And with more and more homeware brands available on the high street and at a lower cost, it’s far easier to do these days.

However, do we need to be looking at how we all buy and consume interiors products in the same way that we have in fashion? Should we be moving away from ‘fast interiors’ and thinking about furnishing and decorating our homes in a more sustainable way?

You may have seen our thoughts on this topic in the Yorkshire Post on 1st January. If not, here’s a link to the article. However, we were only able to submit 450 words for that article and we found we had so much more to say about the topic. So, here’s a slightly longer version for those of you interested in creating a more unique and individual interior whilst helping the environment.

Buy second hand

There are fantastic charity shops selling beautiful pieces for an absolute bargain. We particularly love Emmaus St. Mary’s St in Leeds as it always has a good range of stock, from smaller bits and bobs like glassware to larger pieces of furniture like sideboards and wardrobes.

We’ve sourced multiple pieces from charity shops over the years. How many things in this photo do you think are sourced from charity shops?

Open plan living room and dining room

The TV unit, the sideboard and the record player used as a side table next to the sofa are all from British Heart Foundation charity shops when we lived in London. But it’s not just the furniture that we’ve sourced second hand. The typewriter on the sideboard was from a local charity shop and the bowling balls by the fireplace and the clock were all sourced from antique shops we popped into.

But you don’t even have to trawl from shop to shop these days, you can buy equally fantastic pieces for a snip on Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and the like. The mirror in the picture was a Gumtree purchase (along with a number of other mirrors) as part of a house clearance. We recently bought an original G Plan extendable dining table with six chairs for £100 and they are in great condition. They weren’t based in Leeds but all we had to do was organise a pick up and delivery via Shiply and it was all ours for £150 all in.

Mid century dining with exposed brick wall

Upcycle or make

This is possibly our favourite way of making our own home unique and individual. Whether it’s a second-hand bedside table you’ve just bought, an armchair that’s seen better days or a kitchen that could do with bringing to life, you can always update various elements in your home and make them more unique with a bit of upcycling, rather than buying new.

There are so many courses you can sign up to across Leeds, Yorkshire and beyond teaching you everything from painting furniture to upholstering an armchair. Some will be a one-off session where you can complete a small project and learn the basics, while others will involve signing up for a number of weeks in order to learn more complex skills and complete a larger-scale project.

I’ve personally attended a furniture painting session run by Nicky from Done Up North. It was a short evening session where we painted a small box using Nicky’s trademark geometric pattern techniques. This then gave me the confidence to paint a far larger piece at home using the same masking tape technique. It also meant that I was able to contact Nicky after the session to see whether she thought the Fusion Mineral Paint that we’d used at the session would work on a bath. She said yes, so that’s how we ended up with an affordable dark blue freestanding bath. And because the pots of paint go so far, I also managed to upcycle a vanity unit in the same colour for the bathroom.

Painted blue freestanding bath

Blue painted home made vanity sink

I also took on the upholstery of a chair that we’d inherited from family for the bedroom on a full day course with Emily Farncombe Upholstery. It was a really fun but full-on day of hard work, and the end product is a beautifully unique piece that has more of a meaning than buying new. And if you’ve got a piece of furniture that involves more work than this chair you can book into a number of days over the course of a few months to complete your project.

Upholstering an old chair

If you fancy taking things a step further you could potentially even make something of your own from scratch. Jon made the light fitting above our kitchen peninsula and in our bedroom from the old rafters that were taken out when we extended the loft. We also used the 6m purlin that was taken out from the loft to create the breakfast bar. These pieces of timber would otherwise have found themselves in a skip and off to landfill so it’s great to be able to give them a new lease of life and keep them as part of the fabric of the building.

Open plan kitchen with reclaimed wood features

A project like the breakfast bar needs specialist tools which we already have, but if something is beyond your toolkit or DIY skills then don’t be scared to hire a professional. They’ll also be able to help with your ideas and design and create something bespoke for you and your home.

But if you fancy making something that involves fewer tools and dust you could make something like a macramé hanging plant pot holder from recycled T-shirt yarn, an arm-knitted chunky knit blanket or paint your own ceramic plates. These are all things I’ve done in the last year in Leeds at Chirpy and Jackrabbits Pottery. But I’m sure if you do a bit of a search there’ll be sessions just like these local to you.

Bright living area with picture wall

Support local

Last but not least, buying from British or Yorkshire makers will mean that you’re getting a better-quality product and something that is far more unusual and won’t be seen in lots of other homes up and down the country. Sometimes, it can even mean that you get a genuinely unique piece.

It could be a pot that’s been hand thrown in the Dales, a furniture maker that can create a truly bespoke dining table that comes in the size and shape that suits your style or a bespoke plywood kitchen made by local craftspeople. There are fantastic makers out there in the UK, so let’s support them.

Open plan living room and dining room

So, leading a more sustainable lifestyle doesn’t mean you can’t keep your home fresh and interesting. By buying second hand and upcycling you can help avoid old furniture and materials going into landfill. By buying local or making something bespoke you can avoid the air miles that a new piece made abroad clocks up. But not only that, it can be something really fun to do too. And it means you have a more unique and individual home. It’s a win win in my opinion!

If you are thinking about renovating your home or commercial space and need some help or inspiration, do get in touch with us here. And don't forget to follow us via Instagram, Facebook and our upcoming blogs.

Fresh Start Living is based in Leeds, West Yorkshire and covers the surrounding areas as well as offering a remote interior design service.


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