Buckle up folks! With the biggest festival of consumerism on our doorstep I’m swooping in with a very timely topic; Conscious consumerism. I was recently invited to host a panel debate at an Etsy pop up shop in central London in Covent Garden on this subject and it was fantastic. Now while this isn’t an area of speciality (I’m good at the consumerism half of the equation), I jumped at the chance to be involved for a few reasons. First of all making more conscious purchases is something that I think we are all getting more and more aware of, I know I am. No more plastic shopping bags, only paper straws in our drinks, no more fast fashion that’s only worn once on a Friday night (especially after watching Stacey Dooley’s recent BBC documentary “Fashions dirty secrets‘). In preparation for the event, and as someone who is never backwards in coming forwards when telling people how they should be furnishing their homes, I wanted to think hard about this one and I canvased you guys on my instagram stories and the insight was really fascinating. It’s something we are all thinking about it would seem. And since I’m currently bringing LOT’S of things into my house at the moment while we totally refurbish, there’s currently plenty of shopping opportunities to consider.
First up my Google ponderings took me across the term Lagom. (Which is another one of those clever Scandinavian concepts like Hygge). The concept is all about the joy of living within your means and finding satisfaction in not filling our homes with lots of necessary clutter or general toot. *who me?!*. It urges us to recycle, re-use and up cycle, to not waste food or electricity and to buy responsibly and sustainably. After shrinking at the abundant sight of all my currently unpacked boxes of ‘stuff” I found this concept rather inspiring. It all feels quite simple and easy and generally common sense. So less stuff. Sounds good. I’m in. What’s next.
So first up the best way to design your home with minimum impact, that I could think of, was to “shop at home!” Literally, have a massive sort out, chuck some stuff out and look at re-styling the objects you already own. Top tips for me is to think about gathering things in groups. Either cluster some objects and ornaments to create pleasing tableaux, odd numbers and differing heights works well. Another great idea is to gather up your collections of pictures, mirrors and artwork and make a gallery wall on one wall to create a stunning focal point.
Next up consider buying vintage or second hand furniture. I’ve done this in every house I’ve owned as not only does it save furniture from landfill, it saves on the budget and I’d argue that it also imbues a new scheme with a little personality and provenance. I also love up-cycled furniture for the stories that they tell and that they are also one off pieces in favour of anything mass-produced. I have lots of old things. Some are inherited and have a little sentimental value. But I’ll be honest most is because it’s just not fiscally possible to go out and buy everything new. And the planet thanks us for that!
One of the other reasons I love vintage furniture and pieces in my home is that they were often built for life. Mass manufacture has been amazing, making design affordable to the masses but the down side has been poorly constructed furniture, made cheaply that doesn’t stand the test of time. Much of the flat pack furniture can’t even survive moving house so often ends up in landfall while it falls apart. So buy vintage or invest in a piece of well made furniture or home wares that you can enjoy for years to come. Etsy is a wonderful site to find fantastic craftsmen. I met Ted Jeffris of Ted Wood Design at the Etsy panel event. Ted makes beautiful solid wood tables using traditional techniques. Because he is the man selling his wares, you can have a conversation direct with the designer, with the opportunity to customise. Ted argues that the end price isn’t as much as people imagine as you are cutting out the shop mark up. Ted is fastidious in his selection of wood, using sustainably British grown. It is Ted’s fond hope that, through his work he will create a counter balance to the throwaway culture of modern society. We can all sign up to that with our cheque books surely!
So if you are making some investment purchases that last the test of time then it’s really important that you know your own sense of style. What stops most people making brave commitments is fear of conviction in their own taste. The courses that I run are specifically designed to help people to take this journey and learn more about themselves and their design preferences so they can have even more awesome interiors. So I was thrilled that Etsy invited me to host a little mini style workshop during the event. I always love to see what they reveal and see people tap into their colour loving potential. But the main aim is it’s a win win. Know what you love, invest in it, keep it, be happy ever after.
All of this is moving perfectly in the direction of owning your look and creating an interior, a home, that really reflects you, your family and resonates on a deeper level. And in order to do that I love to invest in pieces that really tell a story. I absolutely love to support creative designers and small business entrepreneurs. They are essential at keeping my industry feeling creative but also give a deeper sense of soul to your home. And your money is going towards someone who is truly passionate about what they do and we are spreading the economic love to small support small business as well as big. Georgia Bosson who I met at the Etsy event is one of those highly passionate designers. And a fellow colour lover it turns out! Through her I learnt that cotton fabric is one of the most high impact fabrics on the environment due to the amount of water consumed in its process. Flax is a faster growing and hardier fibre than cotton, and therefore uses less water and pesticides to produce. She also has a social enterprise part of her business employing women in prisons to manufacture her products as part of a rehabilitation scheme.
But Don’t get me wrong, I love our high street brands. They bring us great design at a price we can afford and I’m all for that, but I’m equally passionate about supporting the small people too; recently graduated students, part-time mums, the master craftsmen. Buying local gives the same feeling as it’s feeding back into your local economy. And cutting down on airmails yadda yadda you know the drill! Now buying local doesn’t mean you should feel pressurised into buying some dreadful home made soap from the local WI committee. Increasingly there are online platforms that showcase talent and you can find out where things are made and sourced. So just do a minute’s research before you press click, but I do love how Etsy have made it easy with their specially curated online Good Store.
And the good news about all this is that hand made has never been so fashionable! Fabrics that are hand dyed, batik, wax relief, woven or screen-printed are all at the top of any designers wish list. We are lusting over the gentle imperfections that hand made items have, the thumb print of the maker, the line of the chisel. After all a hand thrown ceramic mug feels so much lovelier in our hands than a mass manufactured mug. Yes even if it does say “best Mum in the world’!
So in summary. Buy a bit less, and if you must buy something, consider buying from a real person with a real story and help celebrate their creativity. Etsy’s platform has been specifically designed to make it easier to find those small designers that are all too willing to make us something special, although, I’ll be honest I still find mega websites tiring to navigate. Which is why it’s so awesome that you can have a poke about the specially curated Etsy Good Store collection online, available during November and December. Items chosen for this pop up shop cover all basis; Sustainability, Wellness and Craftsmanship. I’m still no expert, it’s a massive topic but I’m so chuffed to have been involved and to meet the inspirational Ted and Georgia face to face.