Sustainable interior decorating

Just as the IPCC ‘Climate Wake-up call report’ is published this morning, I thought I would repost an updated version of this blog from January 2020. It feels like a drop in the ocean perhaps but every little helps, I hope.

Adopting sustainable interior decorating ideas really doesn’t mean that ‘style’ has to exit stage left! Quite the contrary. I believe a new sustainable approach based on a few old school values means that interior style is having a healthy rejig. With a little inspiration from the past, here are a few sustainable interior decorating ideas with a focus on some inspiring companies who are not only making changes about how they do things but who are sharing it quite vocally too.

Haines Collection

Since writing this post in January 2020, I have come across The Haines Collection a really innovative small business who are trying to reduce waste in the interiors industry by selling leftover designer fabrics, wallpaper, lights and accessories. Often at 50% off RRP. 

Thrifty inspiration

Influenced by generations of thrifty Scots who had two world wars to contend with, I have always been inspired by the inventiveness and creativity that was used then to achieve as good a life as possible.

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North Uist beach in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Photograph: Hamish Macmillan Adam.

With very few wartime resources, my North Uist born grandmother produced endless outfits for my mother on her Singer sewing machine at the family home in Glasgow. Difficult sometimes in family photo albums to distinguish these between the haute couture outfits that inspired them from Vogue magazine.

Purchases were considered and always of good quality with a view to them passing the test of time. Over 100 years later, a slightly threadbare pink Persian rug, some Irish linen and a predecessor’s 19th Century Campaign chair from one of the Boer Wars sits re-upholstered in a Designers Guild stripe in our sitting room.

Creativity is the way forward

Creativity and determination is always the way forward, and we know that we need to think carefully about the resources we are using and how.

A set of Art Nouveau theatre seats with gilt metal scrolling end panels and wooden armrests upholstered with a mix of antique linens, mounted on (removable pine runners). Depth 40 cm closed and 53 cm open. £1,800, Covelli Tennant.

There are signs of a few new sustainable ideas emerging but I imagine that retailers, package and product designers are burning the midnight oil as time is now of the essence…

Buy better, buy less

Investing in products which won’t damage the planet and preferably last a lifetime or two has to be a good thing. This doesn’t necessarily mean exclusively buying antique and vintage (although both also offer endless sources of exciting style possibilities) but perhaps seeking out sustainable and well-designed new products too.

One of the brightest shining lights with regards to sustainability is Francis M. They not only produce the most exquisite Irish linen but are great environmental advocates for the Buy Better, Buy Less movement with hashtags such as #BuyLessBuyBetterMakeItLast and #SayNoToaThrowawaySociety.

Luxury Irish linen by Francis M

Future antiques

These bobbin style shelves by furniture designer Alfred Newall of The London Workshop are set to become antiques of the future.

New bobbin style shelves by Alfred Newall at The London Workshop at Decorex International 2019. Photo: Charis White


Craft is perfect for accessorising interiors with soul and often relies on recycled materials. The manufacturing process doesn’t have as great an impact on the environment as mass production.

A haul of soap dishes (more people are going back to using bars of soap instead of liquid soap in single use plastic), bowls, vases and pottery candlesticks made on a wheel in a garden shed by Fiona Adam Ceramics.

Antiques and auction houses

It has been a long-held design practice by both interior stylists and interior designers to include antiques in a design scheme. Mixing old with new, creating a layering of time with items from different eras really does turn a house into a home. And the perhaps obvious result is that the creation of carbon dioxide and landfill is avoided.

The wealth of design history we have ready available in this country is endless. There is no shortage of pre-loved treasures with which to decorate, from provincial junk and charity shops to some of the UK’s top auction houses like Christies or antique dealers such as Fisher London.

Part of a room set styled by Rita Konig for Christies Collector’s sale in November 2018. POMEGRANATE Turkish Tobacco wallpaper, by Totty Lowther. Photo: Charis White
Affordable antique treasures from Fisher London. Photo: Charis White

Wallpaper designs for life

Finding a wallpaper design that stands the test of time means that you might perhaps just buy it once. I am not quite sure what the magic formula is for a design that you will never tire of. But when you see it, you will know. If you need a little help with that decision, then please take a look at my affordable interior design service Styling Box.

Close up of new Papyrus wallpaper, £70.81/m, Lewis & Wood. Photo Charis White

Curtains that last a lifetime

Investing in the best quality curtain fabric you can really does make sense – if nothing else for the complete joy that it will bring. My advice is to buy a design you fall in love with. It is a bit like art, always go with your heart. There is absolutely no reason why a pair of curtains might not then last a lifetime. If in the meantime you fancy a change, a well-made pair of curtains in a beautiful fabric should have a resale value.

It is worth investing in bespoke interlined curtains and pelmets as they will last a lifetime and should have a resale value. Photo: Sara Gilbane Interiors/Pinterest
Love these unlined linen curtains for a well-insulated home. An affordable and sustainable option might be to buy Aina ready made curtains from IKEA or to buy vintage linen sheets (online auction sites) and turn them into curtains with simple no sew clip hooks (Syrlig, IKEA). Don’t forget to add the element of a dark contrasting ribbon or braid. Photo: Judith Peacock/Pinterest

Vintage soft furnishings

These vintage Kanthe quilts. made into a cushion by Rebecca Aix Home, caught my eye at last summer’s White Door Antiques Brocante.

Cushion made from vintage Kanthe quilt by Rebecca Aix Home. Photo: Charis White

Jaine McCormack Ex Creative Director of the Guy Goodfellow Collection, has also cleverly repurposed Kanthe quilts into Roman blinds in her own home. The thickness means that they hang beautifully as well as provide a little extra insulation.

You will be able to see artist and designer Jaine’s beautiful Oxfordshire home photographed by Catherine Gratwicke in a piece I have written for Country Living magazine for the November 2021 issue.

Giving old furniture new life with ‘peripatetic style’

I have had the pleasure of meeting Sara Covelli and Jane Tennant through Georgie Pridden PR and Events. The stylish duo source vintage furniture and fabrics from their travels and have an impressive client list including House & Garden Top 100 interior designers as well as international celebrities from the worlds of film and music.

Covelli Tennant have developed their own take on quirky English style (which I adore) and, as they put it themselves, they allow “neglected treasures of the past to be rehabilitated and take centre stage once more”.

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Vintage chaise longue with button detailing to the back and arm with painted legs is upholstered with Ralph Lauren ticking, navy block printed borders and tangerine velvet piping. Covelli Tennant.


Making slip covers from new or vintage textiles for old furniture is a great way to extend their life as well as being more practical to clean. I like the relaxed/smart balance of styling in this room and of course this includes the box pleat slipcover and the graphic numeral 5 cushion!

Passementerie made for life

I just love it when I come across a really different upholstery product such as this coloured leather cord piping from Ian Sanderson. Great for offering longevity on upholstery but also looks delicious with either patterned vintage textiles or with weaves, tweeds and tartans.

Waste not, want not ruggage

Amy Kent’s new collection of ‘recycled rugs’ are woven from the left over wool of her bespoke rug orders. Prices from £840 for 152 x 230 cm.

New recycled ‘Geometric 21 Flatweave’ 400 x 500 cm, £4,800, Amy Kent bespoke rugs

Planet friendly paint

Many paint companies have become much more environmentally conscious but the one that stands out not only for their beautiful paint but also for their voice regarding climate change issues is Edward Bulmer.

Beautiful environmentally friendly pink hues by Edward Bulmer Paint.

Thank you

Thank you so much for reading my blog!

I would love to know what ideas and tips you have for living sustainably – be it food, fashion, travel or interiors, so please do leave in the comments box below. With many thanks, Charis x

Charis White, Interior stylist/writer. Photography:
Charis White, Interior stylist/writer

10 thoughts on “Sustainable interior decorating

  1. Love the idea of mixing antiques and vintage furniture with new pieces. It’s good to remember that not everything needs to be pre-owned and that new, quality-made pieces can be sustainable too. And great intro to sustainable designers like Covelli Tennant – turns out I’m a fan of quirky English style as well!


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