Back in September we highlighted 15 eco-friendly homeware brands, perfect for adding those finishing touches to your space. But, what if you aren’t quite at that stage yet? What if you’ve just moved in, or perhaps you are redesigning a room or even your entire home? It is absolutely possible to begin creating your sustainable home at this stage, simply by sourcing your paint, wallpaper, tiles and flooring from brands who put the environment first, yet don’t compromise on style. Make these carefully considered choices at the start and the planet and your family’s health will thank you for it. Sara Hesikova shares ten decorating brands with sustainability at their heart…
Originating from Australia, Bauwerk Colour offers a natural and safe alternative to traditional solvent-based paints which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In regular paint, these toxins are released into the air through the paint’s fumes which can cause headaches, nausea, troubles with breathing or irritation. While these effects are usually short-term, VOCs contribute to air pollution that harms the environment and can have a long-term effect on our health.
Instead, the husband and wife duo behind Bauwerk – former painter and textile designer Bronwyn Riedel and German-born stone mason Andreas Riedel – create non-toxic limewash paints – both for indoors and outdoors – made from calcium carbonate, a mineral found in limestone. Limewash paint has a matte appearance and is slightly chalky, giving depth and texture to your walls. The paint doesn’t trap any water under the surface and allows walls to breathe and age gracefully over time.
Bauwerk is known for its nature-inspired, subdued hues, with names such as wheat, hazelnut or tea rose – the colours proving very true to these descriptions. If you prefer a bolder statement, you can always opt for shades such as blue-violet Periwinkle or burnt orange Paprika.
Earthborn have been advocating eco-friendly paints since 2002 and were the first paint company in the UK to be awarded the EU Ecolabel, which the European Commission present only to brands and products meeting high environmental standards.
Available in an array of vibrant shades, Earthborn’s paints are made from clay and water with the addition of pigments and are free from VOCs, oils, acrylic and harmful toxins. In fact, some shades don’t include added pigments at all – instead the colour comes simply from the natural colour of the clay.
The result is an odour-less paint with high breathability. Just like limewash, claypaint allows walls to breathe without trapping any moisture which could otherwise lead to issues like mould or structural damage over time. Usually one coat less is required compared to regular paints due to Earthborn’s rich and creamy texture – a bonus in our book! The paints have also been granted the Safety of Toys Standard, set by the European Parliament so they are safe for nurseries and children’s rooms on walls, furniture and toys.
Surprisingly, some wallpapers also contain VOCs, if using solvent-based inks rather than water-based ones. Plus, many wallpapers are coated with PVC which contains harmful chemicals called plasticisers, which is not biodegradable. Some traditional wallpapers even contain metals such as mercury, who knew?
Instead, Abigail Edwards range of wallpapers use water-based inks free of toxins, and are printed locally in England at one of the few remaining traditional family-run printers. The paper comes exclusively from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sustainably-managed forests.
Abigail herself has plenty of experience within the interiors industry. As well as being a trained pattern designer, she’s also been an interiors stylist for many years and has written for several publications and brands such as House & Garden and The White Company. She even served as Deputy Decorating Editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine. This experience helped her to launch her eponymous brand in 2011.
The motifs featured in the brand’s hand-drawn designs are inspired by nature and fairytales, which explains their calming and serene quality. Abigail has also written a book exploring delicate pattern design – ‘Quiet Pattern – Gentle Design for Interiors’; the name perfectly summing up her aesthetic.
Wallpaper and home accessories brand, MissPrint was founded in 2005 by mother-daughter duo Yvonne and Rebecca Drury, while Rebecca was still at university studying textile design. Each of their print designs start as a hand drawing in Rebecca’s sketchbook, before they become the bold and colourful wallpapers MissPrint are renowned for. As well as being inspired by mid-century design and Scandinavian folk art, nature features heavily – both in the designs and their environmental policy, which is central to their business.
The paper comes from FSC or PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) certified forests and is not coated with any PVC. Printed with non-toxic water-based inks with organic pigments, they are free of heavy metals. The entire wallpaper collection is produced in the UK supporting the British manufacturing industry and cutting down on carbon emissions.
Tiles are generally considered a more sustainable option for wall coverings or flooring as they are made from natural ingredients like clay or stone, plus they are hard-wearing and long-lasting. Tiles are also known to be low in toxic materials and VOCs – some don’t include any – and they don’t attract mould and mildew unlike other materials.
But London-based Claybrook Studio go one step further to ensure the company is ethical in its practices. Many of the brand’s mosaic tiles are made from recycled glass and their terracotta tiles are made from discarded Serbian roof tiles which would otherwise end up in landfill. The by-product of their marble tiles is refined down into dust, mixed with resins and polished for over 60 hours to create baths and basins for the brand’s bathroom range. These are just a few examples of how the fairly young brand, only launched in 2017, strives for sustainability.
Claybrook also aim to source as many of their tiles as possible from the UK to have control over production. Where tiles are imported from Europe when regional expertise is preferable – such as porcelain from Italy and mosaics from Spain – the company pay regular visits to its producers ensuring the working conditions are safe and ethical.
Maitland & Poate
One of the best ways to be sustainable is to reuse existing objects and materials and that is where husband and wife team Chris and Emma Gulson-Brooke of Maitland & Poate come in, with their collection of reclaimed antique tiles.
It all started when the couple wanted to inject a bit of Andalucian flair into their London home by sourcing beautifully-patterned reclaimed tiles. Their hunt led them to Southern Spain, where they came across an abundance of antique tiles that they loved and simply couldn’t leave behind. On seeing the results of their house renovation, friends and family started asking them to source tiles for their homes, too. Maitland and Poate was born.
Today, their business offers a wide range of ornamental reclaimed encaustic cement tiles in striking colours, one as gorgeous as the next, as well as a selection of classic antique terracotta tiles, some dating back to the 17th century. All of the tiles come from different parts of Spain, as well as France and Belgium.
Granorte hails from Portugal – the home of cork – which incidentally is the material at the centre of the company and its offering. Founded in 1972, this family business was at the forefront of sustainability back then, aiming to utilise and recycle the cork waste from the manufacture of wine cork stoppers.
Cork is one of the most environmentally friendly materials. It comes from the outer bark of the cork oak tree which is the only tree with the ability to regenerate itself after harvest. The tree must be 25 years old before its first harvest and can only be harvested every nine years. The cork oaks also have the capacity to retain carbon and a harvested cork tree holds almost five times more carbon, which makes cork a naturally eco-friendly product. Additionally, cork also has exceptional insulation abilities, both thermal and acoustic, as well as being water-resistant with airtight properties which prevent it from rot and mould – an extremely durable material.
Granorte is a master in innovative design. With industrial designers Alzira Peixoto and Carlos Mendonça heading the design team since 2011, Granorte has developed collections of cork floor and wall coverings so closely resembling wood (as in the case of the Vita Classic range) or mosaic tiles (Storywall range) through digital printing and high-quality graphics, as well as the more textured Rusticork selection resembling brick and stone.
The Colour Flooring Company
Linoleum is making a comeback in the world of interiors. But rather than dated patterns, think monochrome or colour-blocking in modern bold colours. Linoleum flooring in a vibrant shade is the perfect way to bring a pop of colour to a space. And that is exactly what The Colour Flooring Company has to offer.
The London-based company started when two journalists working for The Independent, Lena Corner and Bill Tuckey, discovered a shared problem – sourcing vinyl flooring with a contemporary feel. It inspired them to start making their own and since then, Lena and Bill have endeavoured to make eco-friendly flooring options for their customers. Their natural rubber flooring which comes in many beautiful hues, has been awarded the environmental certification by Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Blue Angel, a German ecolabel for products with environmentally friendly aspects. The rubber flooring is available both in sheets and in triangle-shaped tiles, allowing you to create your own pattern whether it’s stripes or diamonds.
In 2019, they launched Okofloor, another green flooring option, made from organic castor and rapeseed oils. Both of these sustainable options are extremely practical – easy to clean, waterproof with good insulation. Last month, The Colour Flooring Company launched a new recolouring service giving tired-looking vinyl or rubber flooring a new top coat of any colour from the RAL colour chart, giving customers thousands of colour choices. That way you don’t have to throw away your flooring, just give it a face lift.
Founded in 1975 by Bruce Ker, a skilled craftsman with a love for working with wood, Woodpecker was later taken over by his son, Nelson. This family business makes high quality, tough wood flooring, sourcing all of its timber from FSC and PEFC certified forests. And while oak is the brand’s go-to choice of wood, we would like to shine a spotlight on their Oxwich range of bamboo flooring.
Bamboo is another wonderfully sustainable material – a kind of fast-growing grass, much like cork oak, it fully self-regenerates after harvest in just 5 years, only then is it cut again. Harvested by hand, it causes minimal damage to the forest and the surrounding areas, and there is no need for fertilisers or irrigation systems due to its fast-growing nature.
Woodpecker’s bamboo flooring is created by a process called strand weaving. This binds the bamboo fibres together, then compresses them to form boards which are extremely strong and hard-wearing. The Oxwich range comes in both plank and herringbone patterns in different shades, from the natural light shade of bamboo through to a rich coffee brown.
Celebrating 25 years, Alternative Flooring was one of the first companies in the UK to import natural fibres for carpets and rugs. To this day, the company’s Natural and Barefoot ranges offer alternatives to synthetic carpets, coming from natural, sustainable sources.
These carpets, rugs and runners are made from monsoon-grown, renewable materials like coir (coconut fibre extracted from the outer husk of a coconut), jute (a vegetal fibre more sustainable than cotton as it requires less water, pesticides, maintenance and fertilisers), seagrass, sisal (a fibre extracted from the leaves of an agave plant that needs almost no pesticides and fertilisers to grow) and undyed natural wool handcrafted on traditional looms.
The flooring in the brand’s Barefoot and Natural collections comes in the natural colours of the fibres, spanning from shades of cream and grey in wool, to the golden tints of coir and the browns and beiges of sisal and jute. They are a wonderful way to invite nature into your home, with a contemporary yet rustic look.