Very often when it comes to an interior design project, whether large or small, we don’t think about sustainability enough – in a new kitchen project, for example, appliances will be replaced and the old ones go to landfill, even if they work perfectly well and could be recycled or even given away.
Sandgate-based Carole Tuff, who runs Intra Interiors, is on a mission to change that.
In her previous life, Carole was a lifestyle and food photographer based in London, but she came to realise that she preferred houses! In search of a better quality of life but still with the need to reach London for work, she settled in Sandgate, enjoying the beach lifestyle with her pet Chihuahua.
“I love the fresh air, walking on the beach at all times of the day, and the high speed train to London makes it so easy when I need to get back there.”
She embarked on her change of career after graduating from KLC School of Design, acknowledged worldwide as the leading place to study interior design. Sustainability had always been a passion, and in her final year she focussed entirely on sustainability within the principles of a circular economy. She has subsequently been invited back to speak to current students, filling in the gaps in their sustainability teaching and demonstrating that a sustainable design in no way compromises style. She’s also studying for an MSc in green building, further enhancing her credentials in the field.
Carole works with a wide network of freelance contacts across all areas of the business – for example, using contacts when travelling to a job would involve a long drive, bearing those carbon emissions in mind.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE INTERIOR DESIGN?
“Good question!” Carole says. “Sustainability is not just about climate change, although that’s obviously a key issue. Being ethically responsible in terms of interior design means being informed about where you source materials from, looking for longevity rather than ‘fast fashion’, ensuring you don’t use toxic materials – whether from their manufacturing process or the end result. It can be a minefield in some ways, which is why I like to make sure I do the leg work for my clients, enabling them to make the most conscious choice within the scope of their needs and their budget.”
We asked whether longevity is yet a feature in the industry. “There’s a growing awareness, but on the whole the industry is still focussed on trends, because that’s where the money is for many designers” she explains.
“It can be a wasteful industry, and there are many misconceptions. For example, many developers prefer to demolish and rebuild because it’s easier and cheaper, but it does lead to the homogeneity of our environment.
“U values and EPC ratings are another example – very much a one size fits all approach, they take no account of the complexities of old buildings, which add value in so many other ways, not least aesthetically.”
HOUSES OR OFFICES?
Carole works across both domestic and commercial projects – and loves them both!
“Domestic projects are great, because you are involved with making people love their homes even more, and making space work for them. Integrating sustainability into my approach enables people to consider options they might not have thought of, and which can end up saving them money in the long run.
“Commercial work is great fun! Environmentally aware businesses take a real interest, they don’t want to be ‘green washing’, they’re looking for real solutions – and they’re often prepared to take a much more conceptual approach than domestic clients.”
TOP TIPS FOR YOUR PROJECT!
We asked Carole what suggestions she’d make to someone planning a renovation of any scale:
- Think about whether you really need new ‘everything’
- Think about what you’re going to do with the waste – can you reuse it? Can someone else reuse it?
- Can you source some of the elements as preloved/local suppliers?
- Think about insulation, heating and powerpoints before you get into the looks!
- Don’t forget the garden – remember to plant for bees, bugs and birds.
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