As Oxfam’s eco-conscious initiative Secondhand September comes to an end, sustainability and conscious consumerism should not stop there. While looking to our wardrobes as a way to behave more sustainably is a great start, there are other areas of our lives through which we can make a difference too, which you might not even have considered. Our homes, and how we decorate and style them, can also have a negative impact on the planet. Similar to the fashion industry, many homeware products are made unsustainably, using cheap labour and then transported thousands of miles before we pay ‘bargain’ prices to have them in our homes.
With recent circumstances meaning we’ve all spent a lot more time within our four walls, many of us have been looking around our living spaces and wanting to make improvements. But rather than throwing everything away and starting again (that wouldn’t be kind to the planet either) we urge you to move things around, upcycle and get creative. But for those times when you do need to add some new furniture or accessories to your space, writer Sara Hesikova has collated a list of 15 of the loveliest sustainable homeware brands and stores here in the UK. With the help of these eco-conscious brands you can start transforming your home while limiting your impact on the environment.
previously a travel editor for the likes of Condé Nast Traveller and The Guardian, Emily Mathieson started Aerende in 2016, an online store stocking ethically and locally-produced items for your home. All of the brand’s limited-edition products, such as pottery, candles, brass accessories or wooden kitchenware are made by people facing social challenges and who struggle to access conventional employment – those with learning disabilities, recovering from mental illness or from alcohol and drug addiction, among others.
Aerende works with making-based charities and social enterprises who directly support and represent the makers, providing them with revenue as well as a sense of purpose and pride. No wonder the brand calls its products ‘life-improving homewares’. It is also no surprise that Aerende means ‘care’ in old English – how very fitting. Last year, Aerende was awarded the Homeware Brand of the Year in the Sustainable Lifestyle Awards for its social and environmental commitments.
Collective-Stories marries contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship in a collection of small-batch sustainable, ethical homeware. Inspired by their trip to Guatemala and a weaving course taken with local artisans there, Pierre Luc and Pernille Brodersen knew they wanted to celebrate the traditional techniques of the skilled craftsmen and women and work with them. And so, they did.
Both having a background in design, they learnt the possibilities and restrictions of backstrap weaving, brocading and natural hand dying and got to designing. Since then, they’ve started working with not one but two communities in Guatemala, producing Collective-Stories’ cushions. Additionally, they work a cooperative in Mexico, who make their rugs and another collection of cushions, while another group in the Philippines produce their range of baskets.
The brand’s aim is to support these communities that follow Fair Trade principles and set their own prices, that way having access to sustainable employment. The cooperatives also preserve the local culture and their natural environment, something that is deeply rooted in their principles.
Anemone & basilic
Describing their offering as “eco-friendly chic”, founders of online store anemone & basilic, Anne Caroline de Loe and Dominique Borzillo, carefully select and test the range of sustainable handmade homeware products before they make it onto the website. When choosing a name for their company, the owners wanted something that sounded fresh and that related to nature. Thus, came about anemone, a flower which sounds similar to Anne Caroline, and basilic, a herb rhyming with Dominique.
Every anemone & basilic product is eco-friendly in some way, whether than means plastic-free, reusable, recyclable, biodegradable or made of sustainably sourced materials and they are all the work of small, like-minded businesses. The range is not only pretty, as the founders gravitate towards subtle natural hues and timeless simple aesthetic, but it is also very practical, featuring many eco-friendly alternatives to kitchen utensils and bathroom accessories.
Form Lifestyle Store
In addition to its e-shop, Form Lifestyle Store boasts a brick-and-mortar store in Manchester’s trendy neighbourhood of the Northern Quarter. Owned by partners in life and in business, fashion graduate Elly Amoroso and graphic designer Harry Williams, the physical space is also used for a range of workshops, such as embroidery and candle making and other events like life-drawing evenings and various pop-ups.
The store, online and offline, stocks thoughtfully-created handmade products by small independent makers who enjoy the slow creative process, promoting slow living and a considered approach to buying. The homeware and lifestyle goods are made on a small scale and often to order, designed for longevity and with purpose.
Store: 6 Bradley Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 1EH
The creation of Nove Lighting came about after the founder, interior stylist and designer, Kirsty Saxon’s many trips to Portugal, the homeland of cork, which is the material of choice of the Nove lights. Kirsty was inspired by the natural beauty of the material and the way it was sustainably and skilfully crafted. Nove maintains the raw natural beauty of the cork and marries it with contemporary yet timeless design.
The brand’s name means ‘nine’ in Portuguese, paying homage to the country that produces the key material and in reference to the harvest of cork oaks which happens once every nine years, and only after the tree is 25 years old. Cork trees commonly live around 200 years, therefore each tree can be harvested only about 18 times.
Set up during the Covid-19 lockdown, Aesthete Label is still in its infancy; its branding and ethos, however, is clear and strong. Aesthete Label is a fully vegan lifestyle and homeware store with a prominent minimalistic aesthetic, offering design that doesn’t cost the earth. Aesthete means a person who is appreciative of and sensitive to art and beauty. And that is exactly who Aesthete Label’s founder Courtney Wemyss is, as are her customers.
The online store stocks beautiful photographic prints focusing on the subject of nature, as well as a selection of candles and handmade ceramics, among other things. The store also has a section called “Collected” where you can find one-of-a-kind pieces carefully handpicked by Courtney, some which are vintage, while some are unique pieces from artists around the world.
Combining the words fair and era in its name, Firera was born out of appreciation for all things natural and is built on the values of a fair world – for the environment, people and animals. Inspired by the beautiful countryside surrounding her family home in Estonia, founder Maria Ilves started her business with a collection of pure linen items for the home, all handmade by her mother Kati.
Maria believes one’s home is, or should be, one’s sanctuary of calm and comfort, away from the stresses of modern life, mindfully created from and filled with natural materials. And that is what she aims to create with Firera’s sustainable, cruelty-free and ethical product range which has recently expanded. It now includes additional own brand zero-waste products, as well as goods from other makers, such as stainless-steel lunch boxes, geometrical wooden vases and jute rugs.
The birth of the brand was inspired by its founders’ year-long trip around the world. Naming their brand after a village in Zambia, Ali and Alex Cooke built their business on appreciation for the hard-working craftsmen and craftswomen they met on their travels and the talented artisans that produce their handmade home and lifestyle products for Nkuku. Today, anyone can go on Nkuku’s website and read about these artisans’ stories, from a carpenter in Devon to a leather stitcher from Delhi. Therefore, every one of their products has a story, too.
The products are made from either natural, eco-friendly or recycled materials. Recycled includes glass, cotton sourced from old T-shirts, leather or metal. Some of the natural materials used are hemp, which doesn’t require any pesticides and its durability makes for a long-lasting material when transformed into Nkuku’s rugs and poufs, or rattan made into baskets, the cultivation of which has delayed deforestation in certain areas due to its value. Nkuku adheres to the globally recognised 10 principles of Fair Trade and the Cookes work closely with their suppliers, making regular visits to ensure ethical practices and to offer help and support.
The name Ecosophy was created by combining two words – eco, originating from the Greek oikos meaning household, and sophy, from the Greek sophia, translating as wisdom. The meaning of ‘household wisdom’ or ‘ecological wisdom’ is reflected in the ethos of the sustainably-made home textile brand founded by Kate Anderson, whose London home we recently toured on the blog and which you can see here.
The textile industry is one of the largest in the world, much of it having a negative impact environmentally,. However, Kate, who has a background in sustainable development, wanted to create a textile brand which could have a positive impact, producing its textiles responsibly and using sustainable materials. Ecosophy works with producers from all over the world who are pioneers in sustainable textile production, from India and Bangladesh to France and Turkey. Materials used include organic linen, organic cotton and matka silk, which is a kind of upcycled silk created from off-cut short threads from mulberry silk production. Ecosophy also uses almost exclusively natural dyes, the most remarkable being the natural indigo which is a blue dye from the indigofera tinctoria plant.
Take a tour of Kate’s home in the blog post below.
The Small Home
Before starting The Small Home, Ayshea McCormack worked as a fashion buyer for 20 years. But, following the births of her two daughters, the throw-away culture of retail wasn’t appealing to her anymore and she saw an opportunity to develop a brand with integrity and authenticity. The Small Home sources practical, yet beautiful products from artisans and small socially-responsible producers. The result is a range filled with the natural, the handmade and the unique, taking inspiration from the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, centered on the acceptance of imperfections.
Their sheepskin moccasin slippers are central to the range. The production does not involve the use of any chemicals and the skins are sourced from a reputable British sheepskin supplier with the highest animal welfare standards. The brand also uses off-cut sheepskin from Rolls-Royce car interiors, utilising waste from another industry.
Konk Furniture was established by Alex Ratcliffe, an architecture graduate who decided against becoming an architect, and instead started making furniture by hand on a small scale. The brand makes each of its majestic pieces of furniture to order in its Bristol-based workshop to ensure nothing goes to waste. The modern created from of woods such as walnut or oak, are often made in a way to stay true to the natural shapes of the wood. The furniture is made exclusively from timber sourced from sustainable forests approved by FSC (The Forest Stewardship Council) and it is made for life. It is strong, durable, ages well and with character. Konk has also partnered with nonprofit One Tree Planted, and plants a tree for every order received.
White Space Home
While many of the brands on our list opt for a minimal and simplistic style and a subdued natural colour palette, White Space Home is the opposite, with its eco-friendly offering brimming with uplifting colours and fun patterns, despite its name perhaps making you think otherwise. The brand’s name refers to the white spaces in our homes making our selected objects stand out.
Growing up in a colourful home created by her mum, owner Sadie White was inspired by her upbringing and her mum’s never-ending hunt for vintage treasures for their home. This led Sadie to put together a range mixing new design-led products and preloved vintage pieces.
For those who embrace a pared-back and simple lifestyle, Brüün offers an entirely wooden collection of kitchen and home accessories, with a minimalistic Scandinavian aesthetic. All objects are made in small batches in their design studio near Bristol. The wood used is hand-selected and responsibly sourced only from sustainably-managed forests in the UK and Europe, to ensure woodlands are preserved.
The brand was started by Steve Brüün who fell in love with wood when he was 12 years old and has worked with it ever since. He appreciates the uniqueness of each piece of timber which is what gets his creative juices flowing. He favours the light-coloured English Ash, nicknamed the ‘the king of timbers’ for its strength, durability and versatility, hence why a large part of Brüün’s collection is made from this material.
Secret Linen Store
Founded in 2013 by sister duo Molly and Harriet, Secret Linen Store offers a range of natural well-made linen and Egyptian cotton bedding, as well as pillows and duvets which are made to order. When starting their brand, the sisters knew they wanted to do things differently, placing importance on high quality, sustainable practices, fair prices and good relationships with their suppliers in Portugal and the UK.
The founders are committed to being as sustainable as possible and admit it is a journey they are still on, constantly improving and thinking of new and better ways of doing things. On their website, they invite customers to share suggestions if they know of better packaging options for example. They explain why they steer away from certain materials commonly believed to be sustainable and they give tips on their blog and in their newsletters about how to care for their linens while being kind to the environment. As Molly and Harriet say, you spend a third of your life in your bed, so make it somewhere special.
Partnering with an impressive number of over 200 eco-friendly, ethical and vegan-friendly UK brands, Wearth is a store offering products to serve all aspects of our lives. It’s sustainably-minded community also provides tips on living more consciously on their blog Eco Inspo, including vegan recipes and zero waste guides from leading eco-conscious lifestyle influencers.
Wearth was founded in 2017 by Ed Davies and Imogen Minoli, two people in their twenties who want to live and shop in a more conscious way. Their website now helps people make more informed purchases, promotes sustainable living and holds everything one might need under one roof – from homewares and cleaning products to beauty and clothing. Wearth also makes it really easy to shop by your values – be it plastic free, refillable, organic, socially contributing, recycled etc. Each product on the site is listed under these ‘value categories’ to make browsing more targeted.