Interior Design / Sustainability

What is the circular economy in interior design?

Damaged armchair

Our world is linear

If you read this article it’s very likely that you live in a part of the world where you have instant access to the internet as well as water or food. It’s also very likely that you can buy something in seconds without even leaving your home. We are living in a world where we take something from our planet, make it, and waste it. A linear economy.

Linear vs circular


Reduce Reuse Recycle

In the circular economy we make – use – return the products. It’s a simple approach, but do we have the mindset for it yet?

In 2019, UK households purchased approximately 17 billion British pounds worth of furniture and furnishings. 21% of Uk households have bought furniture and household goods online in the last 12 months. Alone in the UK 1.6 million tonnes of furniture ends up in landfills or is incinerated.

More companies are actually rethinking the design of their products to make them fit for reuse or recycling. For example, products could be taken apart after their use and the parts could be used in other products. Another way, of course, is repairing.

A great resource to learn about the circular economy is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The learning hub and courses give inspiration and a boost for those who want to design circular products or services.

Plastic on beach

The circular economy in interior design

The interior design industry is one of the largest plastic polluters and cause of deforestation after the fashion industry. It’s causing me shivers to write this…

But seriously, we need to rethink furniture, soft furnishing, home decor, and paint to add to a more circular economy. One model would be furniture swaps or furniture rentals. This way the furniture is affordable and comes back into the system after the rent ends. Restoration is another way of keeping the piece of furniture in the loop. It is old craftsmanship which plays a big part in the circular economy.

What could you do for a circular economy?

There are many ways to make a difference.

Have a look at a charity or antique shops that sell furniture, or go online and see if a local network sells furniture nearby. Of course, buying secondhand is not solving the problem in the long run, but it saves the furniture from being incinerated or ending up in landfills for a while and you save money.

Try to repair or restore a damaged piece of furniture rather than replacing it. If DIY isn’t for you then ask your local community for help. There might be a repair cafe just around the corner. Also great to put back new life in a piece of furniture is the upholstery. This way your beloved armchair can stay in your lounge for many more years to come.

Damaged armchair

Think in the long run and avoid trendy pieces of big furniture such as funky chairs as they might look dated the following year. Keep your furniture timeless and invest in quality rather than quantity. The ideal interior design style to meet the goals of the circular economy might be the minimalist style.

If you really want something new then look out for furniture or home decor made of waste.  Pollima offers tables and chairs from a waste product of hemp. Auping produces a fully circular mattress that is made of steel and polyester.  And last but not least Ikea has done an amazing job with its Kungsbacka kitchen fronts made of recycled plastic bottles. And the Ikea catalog 2021 shows even several examples of new but recycled products. Sustainable design doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s accessible for everybody.

For a full list of sustainable suppliers watch out for my sustainability guide which will be coming soon. Sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss the announcement.