Sustainable Interior Design
Simone Suss of London-based interior design company Studio Suss is passionate about creating sustainable interiors which tell a story, look remarkable and are planet-friendly. Driven by her desire to create positive change within the interior design industry, Simone sits on the Professional Practice Committee of the BIID (British Institute of Interior Design). She is also a Patron of the Royal Academy of Arts and was a longstanding member of the British Fashion Council Fashion Trust.
Simone Stuss, Studio Suss
How do you feel the word ‘sustainability’ fits within the interior design landscape?
Sustainability is relevant to every industry and landscape. I think consumption in general, across every industry, is an issue we should all be conscious of. We live on a planet with finite resources and the built environment industry - including architecture, construction and interior designs are responsible for around 38% of the world’s carbon emissions. As interior designers, we need to be conscious of our impact on the environment and the influence we can have to do good and make positive changes. This includes improving our supply chains, having discussions with the architects and contractors we collaborate with on projects, finding more sustainable ways of doing things and influencing our clients to be more environmentally conscious too.
What was the driving force behind you completing further qualifications around the topic of sustainability?
I was a bit of a geography geek at school and was always interested in the subject of climate change and the human impact on the world. After I started my business, I was keen to learn about the many things I could do to practice as sustainably as possible. Completing my certificate in Sustainability Management at University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership made me see that it’s not all doom and gloom.
We are the first generation to really witness and experience climate change and the last generation who can do anything about it. Whether it’s challenging our industries to do better or spending wisely by putting the money spent on an interior design project into something that will be doing good for the planet, I see it as something that we should all be learning about. It should be second nature in the way that we operate as opposed to an afterthought or separate conversation. Anyone starting a business really should be thinking about their environmental impact. Now is the time to act, for ourselves and our future generations.
What are some misconceptions around sustainable design which you have discovered?
People assume that being sustainable means compromising on style and luxury - but I don’t think you have to compromise on anything at all!
What do you think interior designers and clients can do to make more planet positive choices?
It really boils down to conscious consuming. So that’s finding out more about where the products you are sourcing and purchasing come from, how they are made, how the process is sustainable, being aware of all of this and then ensuring you are ultimately making the right choices. I don’t think we need to stop buying things altogether, we just need to be aware of the choices that are out there. We also need to examine which elements of a project can be reused/refreshed and recycled rather than creating more waste.
Is there something in the design industry that you'd like to see disappear due to their negative environmental impact?
I’m not a fan of fast interiors and I’d like to see an end to them. Much like fast fashion, they are mass-produced items made from unsustainable materials, often in poor working conditions, where workers are not treated or paid fairly. They’re shipped across the world, cost very little, are poor quality so they won’t last. Where is all of this waste going? We may not see it, but it all ends up somewhere, and that landfill isn’t good for the planet.
What changes do you want to see happen that will have positive implications for the next generation?
I think education is vital. It’s not about scare-mongering children though, especially now when they have enough to be anxious about. We ought to keep the message positive and get across that we can truly make a difference through our individual choices and actions. I think Covid-19 has taught us that in some ways. Small actions from each of us individually can help fight problems on a global scale, and everyone has an overall part to play in making a situation better.
As for businesses, I think they can do so much, but ultimately it’s the laws that need to change so that everyone does it. I’d like to see more regulations from the government on sustainability topics and industries pulling together more collaboratively to problem solve, share ideas and insights, and work together to solve these issues which affect us all.
Is it possible to achieve luxury design that is fully sustainable?
Absolutely! I’m a firm believer that you can still purchase luxury and not compromise on the aesthetic of the interior, creating something you love and can feel good about too.
What are your top 5 sustainable interiors/design brands?
Stuart Scott is a furniture maker who we work with a lot, and he is very sustainable. His furniture is built to last and created by highly skilled artisans, he’s also very conscious about his supply chain and is very supportive of local communities.
Dirk Vander Kooij is a Dutch designer creating amazing furniture with recycled plastic.
Jennifer Manners makes the most fantastic rugs and has a range made from recycled plastic which is beautiful and hardwearing.
Smile Plastics make worktops out of recycled plastic and other waste materials.
What are 3 questions you would suggest someone who is starting a home refurbishment ask themselves which will allow them to approach the project in a sustainable manner?
1. What can I reuse or recycle to incorporate into my new interior design scheme? Perhaps there is an armchair I can reupholster or a piece of furniture which can be upcycled. Are there things in my house that I already love which I can enjoy in a new way?
2. How can I use the latest technology to make my home more energy efficient? This can be incorporated within the architecture of the home or at a design level, by recycling rainwater, adding solar panels, etc.
3. How can I be more sustainable in my sourcing of materials? Is the marble I am purchasing for my worktops from a quarry that practices sustainable and ethical mining techniques? Is the wood which is to be used in flooring and joinery from a responsibly managed forest?
2020 has been a trying year for so many of us...what are your hopes for 2021?
I hope that 2021 makes us all a bit more appreciative of what we have, with more conscious consumption. Covid-19 has possibly been the first time that the entire world has been united in fighting something together. There have been amazing collaborations to build ventilators, create vaccines and so forth. I really hope that we can continue collaborating on creating a more sustainable world.