Think of the modern Australian eco home complete with a roof-top turbine, a water-harvesting tank and a jaunty solar panel, and you might be forgiven for thinking that all the eco-action goes on outside. But clever interior design can go a long way to improving the overall carbon footprint of a building.
Designers who using eco-friendly production practices, finding raw materials from sustainable sources and considering their ‘product miles’ by counting miles in (the transport from the factory to the purchaser) and miles out (the transport of raw materials) are in demand in Australia.
“The demand is increasing each month,” Katie Pascoe from Stylecraft, stockists of commercial, hospitality and residential furniture to the architectural and design communities. Stylecraft ensure that all its products meet Australian and European environmental standards, as well as ensuring products have a lifespan of at least seven years. “The materials with a long life — such as stainless steel, powder coated steel and leather — those raw, unfinished materials tend to be more expensive, which is a challenge.”
While a few years ago it was ‘wrong’ to care about what your furniture looked like while polar bears were dying, thankfully Australian designers have realised that sustainable design can also be chic.
“If you can’t make sustainable furniture that is contemporary and attractive, then you might as well forget it,” Allan Witt of Witt Design said. “We’re aiming at design-conscious customers and not your average Joe Blow.”
Witt Design is very fussy about minimizing waste too. For example, its Rees Coffee Table is cut out of one sheet of wood. The components are glued up so that they don’t waste a lot of material. Then there’s the Stage Stool. Its components are all cut out by a computer controlled router before the wood is laminated.
”It allows us to maximize what we get out of the sheet — we only have sawdust left over at the end,” Allan Witt said. “To keep our products as environmentally friendly as possible we avoid aluminum,” Witt said. “We tend to try and use PVA type glues rather than formaldehyde glues. The foam we don’t use synthetic foam we use latex foam — so that’s a natural product, although there would be furniture miles involved in tat because it’s got to come from Asia. And we use leather that is produced in a closed system — we use Elmo leather. (www.elmoleather.com)