I’ve been reading a lot lately about the current world of ‘fast fashion’ that we live in and its effect on the environment. Clothes and accessories have become cheaper than ever before, both in terms of quality and price, however serious environmental issues such as water pollution, toxic chemical leakage and textile waste have become the inevitable consequence of the instant fashion fix we’re all after.
And it’s not only in the fashion world. The interiors industry looks to be following suit, with unethical furniture manufactured from illegal timber, disposable homeware items and cheaply produced textiles providing us the opportunity to update our homes at a fraction of the price, and therefore, more frequently, too.
We’re all guilty of it. Updating our sofa with a cheap cushion cover picked up at the supermarket or opting for that replica designer chair to save ourselves a few pounds and make an instant, trendy update to our home. It’s very hard not to be tempted by the sheer amount of home accessories on offer on the High Street, in our supermarkets, even the discount stores are replicating designer looks for pennies. The result is a build up of clutter that ends up in our ever growing refuse heap and most of it not biodegradable, either.
On the flip side, however, the recent austerity years have given us a newfound love for second hand shopping, upcycling and trying our hand at DIY. This is a lifestyle trend that needs to continue if we want to embrace more ethical, considered and unique home interiors. I often encourage the idea of ‘shopping from within your home’ – rooting to the back of your wardrobe for that dress you haven’t worn in a few years and reworking it into a new look. It can be incredibly satisfying! So why not translate this school of thought into our interiors?
Here are a few ways you can refresh and shop for your home decor in a much more sustainable manner…
Buy secondhand where possible
It’s an obvious way to shop more sustainably, but many pieces of secondhand furniture show signs of much better craftsmanship and quality than the usual flatpack versions we often turn to for a saving. Make space in your busy weekend for a quick detour to your local charity shop and if there’s something in particular you’re looking for, let the staff know and they can note it down for you. Do this on a regular basis to ensure you don’t miss out on any good bargains!
Another way to source preloved furniture is at larger car boot sales, house clearances and vintage fairs. They are also the perfect hunting grounds for smaller home accessories such as lamps, pictures, mirrors, storage baskets and kitchenwares, guaranteed to add a quirky or eclectic twist to your home! Have a clear idea in your head what you’re shopping for to avoid the temptation to bring home all those ‘bargain finds’ that end up collecting dust in your garage.
In Denmark, friends often host swap parties to help brighten up the long, dark, winter evenings. So, why not embrace this ‘hyggeligt‘ Danish pastime and invite some friends or family over to swap homeware items? One person’s unloved shabby chic tea set will be another person’s preloved treasure!
‘Shop’ within your own home
As I mentioned earlier, this is a fantastic way to find newfound love for old possessions, yet it’s probably the least obvious way in which people believe they can refresh their home interiors. If you stand back and reconsider items in your home and try to see them in a new way, you can almost redesign entire areas of your home that just no longer work for you.
I am constantly shifting things around on this mantelpiece to create fresh looks!
It can be as simple as moving an object from one space to another. Many of us pop a lamp in a certain corner, only to leave it there till kingdom come, however it ends up becoming almost invisible to us. It becomes part of the paintwork, as the saying goes (unless, like me, you like to repaint things every 5 minutes!), however by shifting its position to another part of the room or another area of the house, you get the instant satisfaction from a fresh look and, more importantly, your home interior is given the freedom to constantly evolve. Here are some items we all have at home that can be shifted around pretty easily:
Plants – as long as they’re moved to an area with similar conditions to that previously, they shouldn’t suffer from the change of scene. Alternatively, swap their baskets and pots around for a new look.
Pictures – as well as rearranging a collection of pictures on one wall, you can split them up and move them into different rooms or create a brand new gallery wall with an eclectic mix of pictures and artwork. Try swapping some prints into new frames, too; if all else fails, it’s easy to replace them into their originals!
Books – it can be really fun styling your books in different ways and in unusual places. Pile them into baskets for a relaxed vibe, create a coffee table display with larger books or colour code them on a bookcase for a burst of rainbow colour in an otherwise neutral room.
Cushions – probably the most common item in the home to be moved around, as many of us refresh cushions on a seasonal basis, but how about moving a couple of larger ones onto your bed to make it a cosy place to retreat to at the end of the day with a good book or pop a few along a wooden bench in the hallway or bedroom to add a little textural interest?
Another clever way to reuse items in your own home is to repurpose them. We’re all guilty of stashing away too many glasses, cups and plates at the back of our kitchen cupboards that hardly ever see the light of day, so why not think of new ways to use them? Old tea cups can be repurposed as cacti holders and set along a shelf or in a bathroom window, a collection of cut glass tumblers can be styled up on a tray on a sideboard or in a glass cabinet along with a bottle of craft gin and some bar accessories (again set into little jars, glasses or dip bowls) for an on-trend mini gin bar! Or how about creating a cool wall display of vintage plates that you’ve inherited from granny?
I love the look of vintage wooden ladders propped against a wall for hanging towels on in the bathroom or extra throws for winter in the living room. In a similar way, you can mount wire baskets onto the wall for unusual kitchen storage or as a place to display a few plants. Another great way to repurpose something and add texture at the same time is to mount or lean a wooden shutter on a wall. Gorgeous for a coastal location or if your home is mainly light and neutral and needs some added textural interest.
An ideal time to look at old items in new ways is when you’re decluttering – set aside a box for things that have potential for repurposing before consigning them to the dump or charity shop. If they’re still in the box after a month, return to plan A!
There are no hard and fast rules for how you decide to repurpose your items – just play around with various arrangements and look for empty spaces or lacklustre surfaces in the home that could be elevated with a dash of creativity. Pinterest will be your friend if you’re struggling for inspiration on what to do with a random floating shelf, empty hamper basket or collection of old vinyl records!
The subject of repurposing items at home naturally leads on to upcycling, so here are some ideas for the more creative amongst you…
Paint tester pots are rarely opened again after a room has been painted and redecorated, however are often to be found languishing at the back of a garage with no real purpose for years afterwards. Sort through them and safely dispose of any unusable tins, then get creative with the colours that are left by repainting old frames, plant pots or lamp stands (you may need to prime them first) to give them new life. You could even unleash your inner modern artist and paint up blank canvases with your own artwork in colours that complement a room in your home. No one will be able to tell it’s not a masterpiece you picked up in the local gallery.. honest! ;)
Larger paint tins can also be reused – don’t be afraid to mix colours to create the ideal shade for a feature wall, old bathroom cabinet or back of a bookcase – just ensure you mix the same paint types!
Many glossy magazines contain very cool imagery and photography within features or ads, so why not cut them out and frame them as unusual artwork? Vintage magazine covers are ideal for this, as are high end publications, such as National Geographic. Greetings cards can also be perfect for setting into smaller frames, their designs often reflective of the recipient’s personality. Wallpaper samples are also great set within frames or perhaps used to cover a small storage box.
Old cushion covers and throws can be used to breathe new life into other objects, too. Try covering a stool seat with a beautifully embroidered cushion cover front or create a new cushion cover using an old wool throw, the tassels of which can add a nice bit of interest and texture.
Be eco aware
All the above ideas are certainly economical ways to refresh your home, but you can take things a step further by considering the impact your home decorating has on the wider environment, too. A simple first step to take is to switch to eco-friendly cleaning products or make your own from natural everyday store cupboard essentials such as bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice or vinegar. Perfect for cleaning up old glassware and metal items, ready for reuse!
If you are out shopping for new objects for the home, do try to buy wooden furniture which has been FSC certified, paint with low VOC levels, as well as ethically sourced, less harmful materials, such as undyed linens and natural fibres like cotton, silk and wool. Avoid cheap synthetic candles if you can, opting instead for ones made from natural soy or beeswax. Their scent normally lasts much longer, so you won’t have to light them for as long. (See? Cost saving in a tin) :)
There are lots of companies who specialise in sustainable home furnishings, however that is a whole separate blog post to cover just a few of them! In the meantime, though, head over to this article to read about some great companies leading the way in sustainability.
I hope this has given you a few ideas about ways to update your home without spending too much (or anything at all!). So, get those creative juices flowing and start to rethink how you can decorate your home – your purse and the environment will certainly thank you for it.