Design Dilemma: In Search of Sustainable Design | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: In Search of Sustainable Design

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We’ve written before about the inherent conflict between following decorating trends and living sustainably. It’s really quite impossible to keep up with the latest and newest in home design without trashing the earth. In a previous post, we discussed ways to decorate that are gentler on the planet, including buying secondhand, conducting furniture swaps with friends, and repurposing objects in your home from one use to another. Today we want to explore a slightly different but related concept: choosing  furniture that offers a sustainable design to begin with. This topic has become a hot one in recent years, and was even the subject of a recent manifesto entitled “Time to Rethink Design” by Swedish designer David Carlson. He argues that we are facing a pandemic of ‘designed stuff’ and have reached a “contamination point” which he labels a crisis in design. He calls for a guerrilla war against ‘designerism.’ Part of designerism is designing objects that offer no new solutions (and sometimes even present added problems) to functionality.

As far as consumers on the other end of design go, we can take certain steps to ensure what we buy doesn’t end up in a landfill:

1) Buy simple. The beauty of simple furniture pieces is that they can adapt easily to many different looks. If you’re into country chic one year, but change to an urban sophisticate look later on, there will be a greater probability that simple furniture pieces with classic clean lines can make the transition.

2) Buy functional. It goes without saying that whatever you buy should serve its purpose well. Chairs need to be sturdy, sofas need to be comfortable, beds need to provide adequate support for your back, desks need to provide enough space for your computer and papers.  In general, furniture needs to be easy to clean, able to adapt to varying color schemes and not too cumbersome to use for its stated purpose. If you’ve fallen in love with a gorgeous couch that’s uncomfortable and hard to keep clean, keep looking.

3) Buy with an eye to how things will look in five to 10 years. Sure, everything looks good when new, but not everything looks good with time.  When shopping for new furniture, imagine how the piece will look worn and scratched rather than shiny and new.  Often, this means you will be shopping for natural materials that age gracefully and take on a new alluring patina with time. Think of how beautiful a distressed leather chair, a worn oriental rug, or a scratched up farmhouse table can look. The same does not hold true of particle-board furniture pieces, that look scuzzy — not noble — with a few nicks and scratches.

4) Buy quality. What’s the best way from keeping your furniture from ending up in landfill? Buy high-quality furniture that won’t fall apart after a year or two of use.

5) Change your mindset. We instinctively seek out good deals, and many of us believe that if something doesn’t work out for us now, we’ll just ditch it later. Stop thinking of your furniture purchases as temporary until you can afford something better. Instead, imagine that you will keep what you buy forever and make your purchases accordingly.

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