t first glance, the world of homewares and the zero-waste ideal make for an incongruous pairing.
The pressure to have an eye for interiors does not discriminate: sending renters and homeowners alike running to big-name brands to do the curation for them. Fast.
Yet sustainable design is out there and, while the original outlay may feel steep compared to mass-produced fast homewares, quality materials and skilled craft more than pay their way in cost per use.
“Zero-waste home design means closing the loop on everything you bring into your home and eventually part with,” says interior designer Nina Woodcroft, founder of design studio Nina+Co, whose projects have included the world’s first zero-waste restaurant Silo in Hackney Wick and social enterprise café Luminary Bakery in Stoke Newington.
Looking at materials is the best place to start when it comes to being more mindful of waste — choose pure, natural fibres over difficult-to-recycle synthetics — but reusing and repurposing existing materials is far preferable to bringing brand-new pieces into your home.
As well as eliminating the need for new raw materials and production waste or emissions, vintage furniture is the best way to add instant character and individual style to your home, says Woodcroft. Vinterior is a buying and selling platform for furniture, lighting, textiles and antiques.
Restoration Station is a social enterprise workshop on Shoreditch High Street that repairs, restores and sells vintage mid-century furniture.
Salvage companies are always worth a try for off-cuts and inspiration. Retrouvius is based in two buildings in Kensal Green, one a design studio, one a warehouse storing everything from hardwoods and marble to rugs and lighting.
Ecobirdy make chic recycled and recyclable plastic furniture for kids. Colorful rhino lamps cost from €139 (£120).
Smile Plastics uses PET materials from things like plastic bottles and yoghurt pots to make panels, planks — Woodcroft commissioned one for the 12-metre bartop at Silo — and side tables.
“The planks are geared towards being able to work with them without using massive machinery, says Woodcroft. “If you’re considering having something made by a local craftsman, they do make fantastic tables, the imagination is really the limit.”
Supernovas has recycled plastic furniture with a buy-back scheme for when you’d like to change things up a bit. The Afterlife collection has easy-to-assemble indoor/outdoor furniture like crates and benches made from materials found in bottles, toys and packaging.
Look for useful schemes offered by big retailers too – Ikea runs a buy-back scheme and John Lewis collects mattresses and sofas to reuse or recycle (although there is a cost) – while Used Kitchen Exchange is a good first port of call for finding a pre-owned kitchen or selling your own.
Instead of buying tools, head to the Library of Things to borrow them: a cordless drill, hand sander (both £8 a day) and carpet cleaners (£19.50 a day) are all available at the Dalston site. There are eight more already up and running in London, including the newly-opened Hammersmith site. Another is to open in Sutton in July.
Room Service by Cort is a long-term service whereby you can rent furniture and home accessories by room, a living space set costs from £76 a month.
Where to buy the basics
Know The Origin stocks wares from sustainable brands online — there’s a zero waste category to get you started — and at occasional pop-ups in Angel and Brent.
Online marketplace Wearth has reusable everyday kits, from cleaning sets (£19.96) to bamboo brushes (£8) and linen bowl covers (£20).