During the last ten years, there has been a dramatic change in attitude to Interior Design that has been less of a fashion statement than a ‘state of mind’. This new way of looking at interior space has been spurred on by the big changes that are occurring in our lifestyle as well as the growing environmental movement.
Lets face it eco-design is here to stay as the world’s natural resources dry up and the stresses of modern living are not going away. Most of the attention regarding the creation of eco-friendly and sustainable buildings is concerned with the fabric of the building but interiors design is lagging behind. The reason for this is that many interior architects and also the public think an eco-interior is going to be ugly, uncomfortable and unfashionable. In fact a lot of people think they don’t have the skills or training to make their home more environmentally friendly but I am sure this eco-home resource website will help both individuals and designers to source beautiful, natural and inspirational objects, furniture, furnishings and paints for their eco-interiors.
There are now not many areas of our life over which we have control and so our homes have become an important means of self-expression and provide us with a sanctuary where we can relax and be ourselves away from the stresses of the world. I think that the desire to lead a more relaxed, simple lifestyle and create a personal haven where natural elements are used both in the inside and outside in a natural flow.
For the last fifteen years I have been involved in providing international training courses in eco-design and holistic design subjects at the Holistic Design Institute. Our students come from many backgrounds and disciplines, but all are interested in creating healthy and life-supporting spaces both at home and at work. The more time we spend indoors the more these places play a pivotal role in our health and well-being. It is now common knowledge that our immediate environment dramatically affects our behaviour, moods and health and this changing awareness has meant that expectations of clients in both the private and commercial sector has radically altered. Responding to the changing demands has been a slow process but one which is gaining momentum. Planners, architects and interior designers are now coming to realise that their designs need to be less of a personal statement and much more in tune with the health and needs of the occupants using the space.
Running alongside this more caring role, designers are having to become much more responsible in the choice of materials which they specify. It has been our aim at the Holistic Design Institute to offer extended and specialist training in areas of design which traditional interior design schools ignore. We are living in a world of limited resources and this changing world should be reflected in design training. Much more energy needs to be put into the use of environmentally friendly materials and the development of natural paints. The fabric industry is one of the chief pollutants of ground water and it is up to designers to lead the way in finding organic materials and fabrics which without chemical finishes. We also need to question the origins of hardwoods from suspect sources more thoroughly. With the global village there is no excuse for us not to use furniture made from bamboo, rattan and other renewable resources.
A comfortable and relaxed atmosphere of an interior or exterior space is not just created by focusing on the hard objects and materials but by other subtle elements, such as natural light, air, colour, sound and aroma. These aspects of design are more important than many designers realise. Most people would agree that a building without ‘soul’ no matter how well-designed or expensive never fulfils its potential and is not a place where one wants to be. I am sure you can think of several such buildings in the town or city where you live. By changing the subtle environment we can re-discover what we already have and realise its potential without always having to move or create new buildings. There is definitely a growing interest in this important area of interior design and many designers are paying more attention to the subtle atmosphere they are creating.
These ideas about design and the changing role of the home are not just limited to the UK and I am proud to report that our school has students in over 35 countries – in every continent. I am often invited to give lectures and workshops and recently returned from a successful lecture tour of South Africa, sponsored by a large paint company and magazine group. The enthusiastic response from architects, designers and individuals interested in a more sustainable lifestyle and caring approach to building was overwhelming.
It seems that people everywhere just need to know they are not working alone and that they are supported by an international holistic design movement. Fortunately this year sees the launch of the International Association for Holistic Design, which I am sure will work closely with the Ecological Design Association in furthering the aims of environmental design. I am honoured to have been asked to sit on the international board and it is hoped that the interactive website will soon be up and running and will offer the opportunity to share experience and information.
On a more personal note, I am am lucky enough to be involved in one of two special design projects each year. For example, I was able to act as a consultant to a prestigious house development company who were creating a village-style cluster housing scheme on a golf course. Unlike many other similar developments they were also enhancing the local environment by the creation of lakes, wild-life areas and by planting trees. It was their aim to make attractive houses of low environmental impact and so they had based their designs on traditional vernacular and local materials. Inside the homes they wanted to continue the idea of a relaxed modern living and so they asked whether they could illustrate this by designing their showhome around the ideas from my latest book HOME HARMONY – in which I used the five natural elements of earth, fire, water, wood and metal to create harmonious home. I was most impressed with the result and the feedback has been excellent. The best compliment came from some visitors who actually relaxed on the sofas and chairs and said that it was the first show home they could actually feel comfortable living in!
The lesson from this is that we should all take heart that the idea of healthy and natural living has definitely permeated into the mainstream. Although there is a long way to go, I firmly believe that the continued demand from the grass roots level plus the hard work and commitment of all eco-designers is responsible for break-through of this type into more the conventional building market. Let us hope that more and more people take up this challenge and discover the joy and rewards of creating and living in a holistic home. Let us lead by example!!
Suzy Chiazzari offers email training courses in Holistic Interior Design and Colour Therapeutics for Interiors through the Holistic Design Institute leading to an International Diploma.
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