The Guide to Sustainable Decorating
  • HOME

The Guide to Sustainable Decorating

How to give your home a green home makeover this summer

What was your lockdown interiors project? Furniture stencilling? Beginners’ grouting and tiling? Constructing a pergola from scratch? If seeing your kitchen walls reflected on Zoom made you realise they needed an update, you’re not alone – DIY-related search terms leapt by 48 per cent over the last year and paint by 77 per cent. But in our eco-conscious age of upcycling and low-impact refurbishments, what’s the best way to give your home a responsible refresh? We asked reclamation and salvage specialist Retrouvius for its top tips for a sustainable home makeover.

Sign Up to The C&TH Interiors Newsletter

The Guide to Sustainable Decorating

Photo 1 of

Choose your centrepiece

The first thing to decide when it comes to furniture is what you’re using as a centrepiece, says Retrouvius co-founder Adam Hills. ‘When it comes to salvage, use one or two pieces to define the project. For example, a museum cabinet adapted to become a new kitchen island provides a large amount of timber and material to work with.’ Places to hunt for your next star piece include eBay, Vinterior, or 1st Dibs. ‘Too many layers of salvage will over-complicate,’ warns Adam, ‘so don’t incorporate too many pieces and stick to a restrained palette.’

TRY: The deluge of brilliant Instagram accounts selling second-hand pieces like @pt_antiques @vintiquelondon and @bohomeinteriors. You might just scout out the perfect base piece for your home bar or his-and-hers sink unit.

Image: © Theo Tennant


Pick your eco-paint

Put down the paintbrush and overalls: VOCs (volatile organic compounds) contained in many paints emit gases that are harmful to health, the environment and air quality. Instead, try paint brands like Little Greene, which has almost zero VOC, and Graphenstone, which is VOC-free and has a 100 per cent environmentally friendly production cycle.

TRY: For a broad range of cosy, bang-on-trend neutrals and earthy tonal shades, low-VOC brand Lick has gone a step further, partnering with plastic recycling initiative 4ocean to remove 18kg of plastic for every 2.5-litre paint pot sold – over five tonnes so far.

Exposed light bulbs

Get the right light

‘Retrouvius works with salvage as a priority,’ says Adam. ‘Whether it’s lighting or textiles, our first question is: can it be vintage or second hand? Secondly, can it be re-used in the future?’ For lighting, an on-trend industrial look can be achieved with copper, which is super-sustainable owing to the fact it can be recycled without losing quality, and festooning it against an exposed brick wall is easy to do yourself. Other stylish (and sustainable) materials include nickel, recycled brass and recycled glass.

TRY: Etsy and Skinflint Design for salvaged lighting. Finish with a Tala energy-efficient, dimmable LED lightbulb.

Photo: Unsplash / ©natashakasim

Retrouvius kitchen

Be resourceful

A sustainable renovation requires some creative thinking, and Retrouvius uses materials in ways that really make them sing in the context of the overall decorative scheme. ‘Use what is available, even locally,’ encourages Adam. ‘Embrace serendipity, re-use a material you love and find a way of building it into your design.’ For example, if you have an overspill of reclaimed hardwood for parquet floors, repurpose it for drawers, panelling or even cupboard fronts so it can be enjoyed at eye height and chime with different areas of a room.

TRY: Salvagers Lassco or Retrouvius.

Image: © Theo Tennant

Lorfords x Turner Pocock blue patterned sofa

Cover it up

From Cloth Collective ( to Offset Warehouse (, many companies now produce fabrics printed with non-toxic dyes on sustainable materials like linen (one of the most biodegradable natural fabrics) and hemp. Re-upholstering gives antique or second-hand furniture a new lease of life and can create a truly unique and bespoke piece.

TRY: For re-upholstery services, try Lorfords and Howe London.

Image: © Lorfords

Main image: Unsplash / ©natashakasim


The Guide to Sustainable Interior Design / The Best Places to Buy Antiques Online / The Best Eco Friendly Paint Brands