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Sustainable considerations every interior designer should make

As designers we are responsible for people's living environments and it's up to us to ensure sustainable design is at heart of every decision made.

sustainable interior design
Sustainable considerations every interior designer should make
Lori Bolon
July 14, 2022

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This article was originally posted on Making Space, a Substack penned by our Cofounder, Matteo Grand. Subscribe below to receive more content just like this.

With an ever increasing pressure to make sustainable design decisions, the responsibility lies with designers to educate themselves and their clients. Luckily, from plant-based surfaces to recycled materials and carbon neutral suppliers, there are more options than ever to create beautiful designs that have minimal impact on our environment. 

We at Portaire strongly believe in sustainability,  so we have created a list every designer should consider when embarking on a new project.

Wall surfaces

Low VOC paint and plaster walls are not only better options for the environment, but they also allow walls and surfaces to breathe, preventing condensation and damp problems that can lead to associated indoor allergens. Suppliers in this category are quickly improving their environmental efforts, meaning the options are endless and the aesthetic can be maintained.

Portaire Interior Design Marketplace London Sourcing
Paint by Atelier Ellis


Timber is sustainable, renewable and durable, and can be used as both a structural and feature material. It can even be used indoors and outdoors. If you are looking to bring warmth into your project, nothing quite does it like timber flooring, wall panelling, joinery, doors and even furniture. 

That said, not all timber is made equal. It is important to source FSC-certified wood. The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an international body that governs the certification and accreditation of the world’s forests, plantations and timbers. It aims to ensure forests are managed in a way that’s environmentally, socially and economically beneficial.

If you able to source your timber locally that's even better to  minimise your carbon footprint.

Portaire Interior Design Marketplace London Sourcing
Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher home by Howard Backen and Vicky Charles

Reuse things

It’s easy when starting a renovation to suggest ripping everything out and starting from scratch. Interior designers have a lot of power when it comes to waste reduction, which carries a responsibility to act sustainably. The planet’s precious resources are limited, so discarding products as they go out of style and replacing them with those that are currently trendy is no longer justifiable.

Fortunately, old is becoming the new new, so upcycling and repurposing existing objects and design elements is how many designers are injecting unique character into their projects. 

Interiors by Rose Uniake

Opt for solar energy

When you approach a new design project, you are designing for approximately the next 7-10 years for a home and 10-15 years for a commercial project. With this in mind it’s important to question how decisions you make today will be fitting for years to come. 

A common reason clients are against installing solar panels or led lights is the high upfront cost. However, if you work out the savings they make over time plus the environmental benefit this decision could have, you will improve your chances of convincing them. Consider constructing a cost benefit spreadsheet that clearly shows the client’s savings over the long run.

Interiors by Niko Architecture

Design for energy efficiency

Energy consumption is one of the major contributors to climate change. Designers and architects can improve a building’s energy efficiency by reducing the amount of energy required to heat and light each space, and operate appliances.

When working through the floor plan, consider placing the rooms used the most during the day where they receive natural light and sun. You can also create channels for air flow between spaces to reduce the burden on air conditioning, and opt for natural materials that help trap warmth in winter and breathe well in summer. It’s small details like this that make all the difference.

Portaire Interior Design Marketplace London Sourcing
Kim Kardashian and Kayne West home by Axel Vervoodt

Design for longevity and flexibility

To prevent materials and products being replaced or discarded often, consider the lifespan of materials relative to their purpose within a space. For example, using soft or delicate wood as flooring in high traffic areas will naturally lead to the floors needing to be replaced prematurely. The same concept can be extended to the use of certain stone in kitchens or bathrooms, or using tiles that stain easily outdoors.

The goal of designing for longevity is to design durable and timeless spaces that don’t need changing every couple of years. The best way to achieve timelessness is to choose quality over quantity, classics over trendy, and simplicity/functionality over embellishments.

Obviously people grow and change over time, and want their surroundings to reflect their new stage of life or lifestyle. In anticipation of this, consider how easily a space can be adapted to fit the changing needs of the people who are using them. Designing spaces where individual elements can simply be swapped or updated reduce the need for future demolitions or renovations of a room.

Interiors by Hollie Bowden

If you have any other suggestions on how to design sustainably, we would love to hear from you below.