Vegan interior design

By Elspeth Pridham
May 11, 2019

BIID-registered Chloe Bullock was the UK’s first interior designer to be certified. Her company, Materialise Interiors, focuses on cruelty-free, sustainable and locally sourced fabrics, finishes and products.

You may have noticed a flurry of interest around vegan interior design recently, so I was delighted when Studio asked me to discuss my experience. Conscious design has played a role throughout my career, as I was lucky to be a retail designer for The Body Shop at the start of my career – under Anita Roddick, they pioneered carefully specified interiors (and still do, despite the different owners). When I heard about the course, I leapt on it.

My clients are increasingly concerned about what they buy, how furnishings and finishes are produced, health impacts and what happens at the end of a product’s life. Reasons to explore alternatives vary, whether it is because of the animals, people, health, or the environment.

Since founding Materialise Interiors, I’ve used alternatives because they are simply the right specification for my client’s needs – they are long-lasting, durable and don’t harbour dust. Technology is moving at a rapid rate and, dare I say it, ‘natural’ is not necessarily what you hope (most likely, it is heavily chemical laden). Many exciting developments in the fashion industry are flowing into interiors and automotive design – such as leather grown in a lab or derived from food waste (pineapple leaf fibre, mushrooms, apple fibres and coconuts).

There are many ways animals are used in interiors – leather, suede, skins, wool, silk, down, feathers, fur, paint, adhesives. Backed with facts from PETA, the course highlighted cruelty in the wool industry, the fact that leather is not a by-product (meat is), Chinese and Indian leather is not only bovine, the horror of live-plucked down, the appalling conditions tanners work in and the devastating effect chemicals have on their health. Add to that chemically polluted rivers in Bangladesh and what that means to the communities living next to them and, closer to home, the fact that some paints are still tested on animals. I don’t think these are concerns only for vegans – just as people in general don’t want cruelty in their cosmetics, toiletry or cleaning product choices.

Conscious consumption is the future for our industry. As designers, we need to know what we are putting in clients’ homes and businesses and guide them through the process.