Australia's design scene has always been a melting pot of influences, reflecting the country’s intricate cultural heritage, our beloved sunshine-soaked lifestyle and deep appreciation of the outdoors and the natural world. These defining characteristics tie in with the idea of sustainability, and in recent years we have seen Australian design become increasingly environment-centric. 

With a growing awareness of environmental issues, both designers and homeowners are prioritising eco-conscious practices. This shift has led to exciting new trends that emphasise resource conservation, responsible material selection, and a focus on human well-being. 

Nature takes centre stage

Imagine stepping into a light-filled apartment in Melbourne’s densely populated Fitzroy, with a vertical garden cascading down a wall to blur the rigid boundary between the indoors and outdoors. This is the essence of biophilic design, a movement that isn’t necessarily new but is certainly taking Australian homes by storm. 

Architects are utilising floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights to better connect indoors and the outdoors. Natural materials and organic textures, like timber, stone and woven carpets, soften the visual language of urban interiors. Purposefully placed greenery not only improves air quality and enhances health outcomes for occupants, but it also complements this focus on a natural aesthetic.

Tech takes a sustainable turn

This emphasis on well-being extends beyond the incorporation of nature in the built environment. Technology has always played a crucial role in creating sustainable interiors, and now smart home systems allow for efficient control of lighting, heating, and cooling, reducing energy consumption – and improving wellness outcomes for the occupants. 

Innovative materials and technologies – like self-cleaning windows or automated motorised blinds – help harness our connection with nature, while minimising reliance on cleaning chemicals or air conditioning systems, and improve both occupants’ health outcomes and energy efficiency.

Commitment to craft

Locally sourced materials are taking centre stage, minimising environmental impact associated with transportation and promoting responsible resource management. 

Australian-made furniture pieces, crafted from sustainably harvested timber or recycled elements like reclaimed bricks and scaffolding planks, are undoubtedly becoming statement pieces. The commitment to craft and locally-made products celebrates the unique beauty and imperfections inherent in hand-made artisanship, as well as the stories embedded within these materials.

The focus on local craftsmanship aligns with a growing appreciation for the unique design language that reflects Australia's cultural heritage and environment. By incorporating these elements, designers are not only creating sustainable spaces, but also fostering a sense of place and community.

Greener underfoot

Sustainable flooring options are no longer a niche concern – they're fast becoming a key interior design consideration. Leading Australian flooring suppliers are embracing innovative production processes and eco-conscious materials, delivering solutions such as modular carpet tiles and recycled content carpets. 

These products help divert waste from landfill by incorporating a significant portion of post-consumer recycled materials like plastic bottles and fishing nets, and – for modular products in particular – help minimise waste compared to traditional wall-to-wall carpeting. 

These emerging trends in Australian interior design signal an ongoing move towards creating spaces that are not just beautiful, but harness the power of nature, technology and material innovation to redefine the notion of a sustainable and liveable space.

To become eligible for the awarding of the Interior Design category at the 2024 Sustainability Awards, please nominate a practice here.