Have you ever wondered whether your home is vegan?
Most people, including myself until recently, relate veganism to food and the vegan diet. A vegan home may start in the kitchen, but it sure doesn’t end there.
I’ve always had a soft spot for animals. The more I learned about the animal cruelty, the effect of animal farming on our planet and lastly facing my own health challenges, it became clear that I needed to change my diet.
Over the past two decades, I’ve been a flexitarian, pescatarian and vegetarian. I always knew that veganism was the end goal, but it felt rather daunting. The thought of giving up cheese (I’m Swiss after all) was holding me back.
My personal vegan journey
In summer 2021 amidst a personal health crisis, a video by Dr. Neal Barnard [Source: Dr. Neal Barnard] prompted me to finally take the leap and become fully vegan. It was the best decision I’ve ever made in every aspect. I’ve learned more about nutrition since going vegan than ever before, allowing me to make more conscious food choices in general.
The popularity of veganism, in particular the vegan diet is at a global all time high. [Source: The Vegan Society]. Even from the time I became vegan a year ago till now, vegan options in supermarkets seem to have doubled. Although it might look like a fad, I believe it is far more than that.
However, this article isn’t about my vegan journey nor the vegan diet (there are plenty of amazing resources for that and I will list some below), but about vegan interior design and how to design a vegan home.
Vegan lifestyle beyond the vegan diet
Because of my own experience of going vegan, I’ve been doing a lot of research about vegan recipes and the vegan lifestyle in general and quickly realized that veganism goes far beyond the food we eat. It actually impacts every area of our lives, including our home. Since interior design is not only my area of expertise, but also one of my greatest passions, I decided to learn more about vegan home design.
Vegan home decor
I started doing some research about vegan interior design and vegan home decor and ended up going down the infamous rabbit hole…
It felt a bit like opening a Pandora’s box. I first started researching the most obvious culprits as it relates to home decorating, such as leather, wool and down (feathers). Learning more about these materials and industries was, mildly put, a true eye opener. Yet, what struck me the most, is the fact that there are so many much less obvious materials and finishes, such as wall paints and bath towels, that are not vegan. If you just let out a ‘huh?’, you’re not alone.
In fact, most conventional wall paints aren’t only tested on animals, but also contain animal derivatives, such as ox bile, bones and casein (milk protein). These are used as solvents, pigments and binders. Finding out that most towels aren’t vegan, however, was the most shocking to me. Why aren’t towels vegan you might ask? Because during the conventional production process of towels, they use softeners and dyes that originate from animals.
Compassionate interior design
This was more than I had bargained for and yet it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg. During my research it quickly became clear that I didn’t just want to veganize my own home and life in general (e.g. vegan fashion), but also introduce vegan design alternatives, such as vegan home decor and vegan wall paint into my interior design projects. I strive to create humane homes that are filled with compassion rather than harm.
I feel that as an interior designer I carry a certain responsibility to source and specify furniture, rugs and materials that are healthy, ethical and sustainable. Although I’ve never used real fur nor exotic leathers in my projects, I have used leather, wool and down. My research has shown that it’s time to find more humane and sustainable alternatives.
The interior design industry and veganism
In my own experience as an aspiring vegan interior designer, I’ve been getting different types of reactions from suppliers when asking them whether their products are vegan or not. These range from an ‘eye roll’ to ‘yes, this is something we are very conscious about’. I found that the majority, however, didn’t know, but were intrigued by my question and promised to find out more.
I’m aware that I’m only at the beginning of my vegan interior design journey, which includes turning my own home into a vegan home, but I shall persevere. As I do so, I’ll continue to share my findings with my interior design clients and my readers.
Having said this, I’ve come across some helpful sources and organisations, mostly in the USA, UK and Australia, that are focused on vegan interior design and the vegan home. Inevitably this ‘trend’ will arrive in mainland Europe and Switzerland eventually.
Vegan Homeware Awards
One of my discoveries during my deep dive into cruelty-free home design was the vegan homeware awards by Peta [Source: Peta]. Since 2017 Peta highlights vegan brands, vegan designers and vegan products, ranging from vegan furniture and vegan home decor to vegan interior designers and vegan interiors bloggers.
Needless to say, I still want to create beautiful interiors and provide my client with luxurious materials and finishes, but they need to align with my values. As a friend of mine put it so eloquently: “Essentially, your business is an extension of yourself.”
Thankfully there have been a number of individuals and companies around the globe working on real solutions over the past few years. In fact, I was quite amazed by the variety of natural plant-based materials and alternatives for the home, such as latex, hemp, bamboo, eucalyptus, kapok and tencel, as well as a wide range of natural vegan leathers.
This modern vegan leather sofa made from apple leather is a great alternative to a real leather sofa. (Photo: Gus Modern)
My findings prompted me to write a post about vegan interior design on my Instagram in honour of Veganuary 2022.
Veganuary is a wonderful organization encouraging people to try a vegan diet for the month of January. They provide insights, vegan recipes and other useful tips for anyone who’s curious about starting a vegan diet and for vegan newbies like myself. The response to my Instagram post was fantastic, which motivated me to explore the subject further and launch a blog series about vegan interior design.
Vegan Luxury brands
Change towards a more humane and cruelty-free world is (finally) happening and it’s happening across all industries. Luxury brands of all kinds are going vegan.
Some of the biggest names in fashion have gone fur-free, Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana being among the first. The magazine ELLE has ditched fur in all its print publications and online content globally. Fashion brands like Adidas are growing their collection of vegan shoes and even luxury car brands, such as Bentley and Tesla have started fitting out their car interiors with vegan leathers.
Luxury brands are trendsetters, so it’s only a question of time until more industries and the mainstream will follow.
Ethical materials in the furniture and interior design industry
Despite so many amazing ethical options that are animal-friendly, human-friendly (i.e. better for our health) and planet-friendly, finding vegan furniture alternatives and vegan interior decor is still quite challenging. Partially, because unlike in the food industry, there are no labels (yet).
However, I trust that with so many humane eco-friendly leather alternatives and other ethical materials coming onto the market, animal derived products will become more and more obsolete. I envision a world where animal derived materials are considered archaic.
How to veganize your home
Below is a nonexclusive list of materials to avoid and/ or replace with vegan alternatives if you want to veganize your own home and create a healthy, non-toxic and allergen-free home environment. I truly believe that no animal nor person for that matter should suffer for our home.
Materials to avoid:
- Real fur (e.g. cushions, throws, poufs)
- Leather of all kind (e.g. sofas, chairs, poufs, wall coverings, décor)
- Down feathers (e.g. pillows, duvets, cushion inserts)
- Wool of all kind (e.g. rugs, blankets, fabrics like felt)
- Silk (e.g. curtains, cushions, wall coverings)
- Paint containing substances deriving from animals
Healthy, cruelty-free and sustainable materials you can use instead:
- Faux Fur (personally, I don’t use any type of fur)
- Vegan leathers made of mycelium, apple skin, mango skin, pineapple etc.
- Down-free alternatives made of natural latex, kapok, tencel, hemp
- Rugs made of natural fibers such as bamboo, eucalyptus, kapok, tencel, linen, organic cotton, sisal and jute
- Blankets and fabrics made of linen, organic cotton, eucalyptus and tencel
- Vegetable silks, such as bamboo silk, banana silk, tencel
- Non-toxic vegan paints
With the goal of becoming a fully vegan interior designer aka a compassionate interior designer and as I continue to veganize my own home, I’ll be writing about vegan leathers, vegan bedding, vegan paints, vegan soft furnishing and other ethical home furnishing products for a more healthy and sustainable home.
In conclusion, I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes by writer and poet Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
P.S. If you are a vegan furniture brand or a supplier selling vegan furniture, vegan homeware or vegan materials, I’d love to hear from you.
Sources and useful links:
- The Vegan Society
- Peta – Humane Home
- Peta – The Fur Industry
- Peta – The Leather Industry
- Peta – The Wool Industry
- Peta – The Mohair Industry
- Peta – The Down Industry
- Cupful of Kale (vegan recipes)
- Sweet Potato Soul (vegan recipes)
- Isshappy (Course: ‘How to become a vegan’ (in German), which I found very useful)