Reserved: Is This The New Age of Interior Design?

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With the introduction of Ikea’s new facility that enables customers to return furniture to selected stores globally.  Does this mark the advent of a new movement towards sustainable product design for the Interior Design industry?  Designing spaces, for both living and working, dates back many years.  In Egyptian times, the methods adopted and materials used are considered, today, to be sustainable.  Sustainability and the implementation of a circular economy is key if we are to protect the needs and welfare of the planet.  We are often bombarded with information regarding what we should and should not be doing in order to protect the planet.  We are constantly being influenced by the internet, social media, magazines and the television on current or up and coming furniture design trends.   How do we manage these opposing messages?  Could we achieve luxurious designs using re-used, reconditioned, upcycled Interior Design products?

In 2017, Continued Platform, a company owned by  Peter and Vigga Svensson, created a circular economy approach to fashion.  This new system ensures clothing brands are taken back and resold.  A complimentary option now offered by the fashion industry (renting out designer clothing) has been available for some time in the Interior Design industry, that of renting furniture instead of buying it.  There are a number of companies who rent out designer furniture.

The big question is, will this new idea from Ikea filter through to other key furniture designers and manufacturers?  One challenge slowing progress towards achieving a circular economy, involves adapting the consumer mindset.  A Circular Economy requires a change to the way we design, including designing out waste through the creation of products which can be reused or remanufactured at the end of a previous life.   One enabler, cited by Donella Meadows, is the introduction of systems thinking.  This involves looking at the cause and effect of our design decisions, providing solutions which won’t be detrimental to the environment and society at large.   Adapting our design thinking at the start of a project will revolutionise how we design homes, restaurants, hotels and offices for now and in the future. 

A bring-back system will greatly reduce the amount of furniture waste generated by the buildings and interiors upgrades.  Each year 200 million tones of waste ends up in landfills.  Consider how many hotel and residential property refurbishments occur each year on a global scale, how much furniture is discarded instead of re-used?  As cited by Loannou and Gwilliam (2011), eco-friendly designed luxury hotels can offer the same level of elegance and prestige as a luxurious hotel designed using current (non-eco-sensitive) methods.  Loannou and Gwilliam also cite, a luxury sustainable hotel would achieve more credibility within the hospitality industry and its clients than that of a luxury hotel designed using current products and methods.

However, and as easy as this may seem, when designing domestic and commercial spaces, continued consideration of the client’s needs are essential.  Therefore, introducing a circular approach may place greater emphasis on communications to ensure that the same level of style and luxury can be achieved by the new approach.  Adopting a circular approach to furnishing interiors and exteriors will ensure the Interior Design industry moves away from the linear system – a system of make, buy, and throw away.

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