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Eco-friendly interior design: 11 changes interior designers can make

Discover how to design more sustainably and start your next greenest project.

nate berkus design plants green eco conscious
March 10, 2023
Design by Nate Berkus

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​​As the world becomes increasingly conscious of the impact of climate change, more and more people are turning to eco-friendly living. While many of us focus on reducing our carbon footprint through lifestyle changes such as cycling to work or eating a plant-based diet, we often overlook the impact homes can have on the environment. With the average person spending over 90% of their time indoors, it is crucial that designers create spaces that are both healthy for their clients and the planet.

To make changing just a little bit easier (and perhaps more beautiful), we've put together a list of 11 sustainable changes you can make to your interior design projects.

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01. Choose sustainable materials

When it comes to sourcing products for a residential project, it is important to choose materials that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also sustainable. This means renewable, sustainably sourced and positively impactful. Opt for materials such as bamboo, wood, and recycled plastic, which are not only eco-friendly but also durable and long-lasting.

02. Use natural fibres

When selecting textiles for your next design, choose natural fibres such as cotton, linen, and wool. These materials are biodegradable, require less energy to produce, and are much better for your clients’ health than synthetic fibres. And we’re not even discussing how “in” natural textures are, but that’s also a plus!

Natural fibre furniture in a cement home with rustic charm by La Redoute

03. Choose low-VOC paints

Paints and finishes can contain harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals can cause headaches, respiratory problems, and even cancer. When selecting paints and finishes for your home, opt for low-VOC or no-VOC options. COAT Paints is a wonderful supplier of low VOC paints. Below, you can see some of their amazing products.

04. Source from local suppliers 

The world is full of interior design products, but you might not know the magic hiding so close to you. If you can, try and source from local suppliers. This will lower down transport costs and also add an autochthonous charm to your designs.

Traditional British style living room, photography by Michael Sinclair via House & Garden

05. Install energy-efficient lighting

Lighting can account for up to 10% of a home's energy bill. Switching to energy-efficient lighting such as LED bulbs can significantly reduce your energy usage and save you money. If you’re looking for LED lights you’ll love, here are some gorgeous options.

06. Invest in smart home technology

Smart home technology can help your clients reduce their energy consumption and save money on their utility bills. Consider investing in a smart thermostat, which can automatically adjust your home's temperature based on your clients’ schedule.

Hidden TV set-up in dining room and kitchen open space, photography by Joshua McHugh

07. Choose low-flow fixtures

Water is a precious resource, and it is important that we use it wisely. Installing low-flow fixtures in your next design, such as showerheads and faucets, can help your clients conserve water without sacrificing performance.

Low flow fixtures in a tiny home by Minnesota couple via Dwell

08. Add indoor plants

Indoor plants not only add a touch of natural beauty to your home but also improve air quality. Plants absorb harmful pollutants and release oxygen, helping your clients breathe easier. Biophilic design is all the rage for a reason, so be sure to use this tip!

Biophilic design dining room by Nate Berkus with Douglas Friedman as photographer via Architectural Digest

09. Use the roof space

If your client has a flat roof, there are many ways you can utilise it to create more sustainable effects. Option A is a green roof, which is a layer of vegetation that is installed on top of a roof. This can help regulate the home’s temperature and add more biodiversity into the area. If your client is committed to a greener future, consider Option B; installing solar panels to invest in clean energy.

Green rooftop design by KRADS via Yanko Design

10. Invest in insulation

Whether you’re designing for a cold or warm climate, insulating a house appropriately allows the client to live comfortably with little to no energy consumption year-round. This can be done with thicker, more robust walls, double-paned windows and many other ways. You can find further inspiration here.

Low energy house by Architecture for London

11. Support suppliers who are committed to make a difference

Where you source is who you support, so make the effort to figure out who you want to build professional relationships with. For example, ILALA works tirelessly to uplift rural communities with their handcrafted range. And the results speak for themselves.

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