Many people avoid leather because of the obvious harm to the animal- but what people don’t know that leather processing is just as much a HUMAN issue as it is an ANIMAL issue. When talking about leather, I think it important to mention the damaging effects leather has on animals, the environment, and the people who both work in the leather tanneries and the ones who purchase the end product.
The biggest misconception with leather is that it is a byproduct of the meat industry. There is an important economic interdependence between factory farming and the leather trade, so farmers do not sell every single part of each animal to minimize waste but instead to maximize revenue and profit. For that reason leather is an animal product much like any other: produced to meet consumer demand while lining the pockets of those within the respective businesses. In actual fact, leather accounts for approximately 10% of the animal’s total value, making it the most valuable part, pound for pound.
The production of leather has serious environmental ramifications, which are two-fold. First of all, factory farming is an extremely dirty, environmentally unfriendly; and (fossil) fuel-intensive practice. In raising billions of animals each year, millions of tonnes of waste are generated that contaminate both the ground and water supply, while millions of tonnes of methane – one of the more potent greenhouse gases – are released into the atmosphere.
Secondly, once the hide or skin has been harvested from the slaughtered animal, there is a three-stage process it must undergo to become leather. The remaining flesh is scraped away and the hairs removed, after which the skin is treated (tanned) to ensure it doesn’t decompose. The skin is then thinned, re-tanned, lubricated, and, if required, dyed. This process uses several chemicals and toxins including ammonia; cyanide-based dyes, formaldehyde; and lead. Some of these products are carcinogenic, and all are environmental pollutants, which end up released into the air, ground, and water supply. Of course, these processes are especially polluting in countries where environmental regulations aren’t enforced.
The people who work in these tanneries suffer terrible diseases as a result of the chemicals used in the processing including open sores and wounds, lung scarring, diarrhea and shorter lifespan due to the chemicals and lack of regulation.
The good news is there are many non-animal sourced leather alternatives that are beneficial to mention!
A big name brand Kravet (as well as their sub brands Lee Jofa and Brunswick and Fils) offers an extensive range of faux leather that isn’t scared, doesn’t off-gas, resists stains, and doesn’t scratch, much like real leather would. Faux leather is better for those with allergies, sensitivities to toxic chemicals (don’t we all?) or those with sensory needs as they are less offensive and don’t need to be treated with harsh chemicals to stop the rotting process.
So when shopping for that perfect Instagram-worthy sofa of your deepest dreams, please consider faux alternatives for your home, your family, and the planet.
Planning a remodel and want to choose materials wisely? As a designer, this is probably my NUMBER ONE question: HOW DO I PICK MATERIALS THAT WON’T BE OUTDATED IN 10 YEARS?
I get it- When you are spending such a large amount of cash on your home remodel you want it to look good, and look good for years to come instead of looking great now and being out of style next week!
I am very aware of the dilemma posed by this question: “How do I create a home that is timeless rather than trendy?” And perhaps even more importantly: “How do I create a home that can easily grow and change as my tastes and styles change?” After all – it’s not about creating a museum that never changes – it’s about creating a home that grows and changes as you do.
Here is my disclaimer: it’s important to realize that it’s perfectly reasonable that your tastes will change over time. Nobody wants to be boxed into the same colors and styles and patterns for the next 20 years! I know I certainly don’t. In fact, I expect that 5 or 10 years from now my house will look drastically different than it does right now. Hell, my home will look different five months from now, never mind five years out! But that comes with being a designer- things are swapped, and swapped often around here (much to my boyfriend’s distress!)
But for those of you looking for a little more consistency in your home, here are my best tips.
6 TIPS FOR CHOOSING MATERIALS THAT WILL STAND THE TEST OF TIME
TIP #1: Natural materials are key.Natural materials should be the backbone of your design when renovating your home to have a timeless look. There is a reason why wood and stone are often sought after as these materials are not only earthy, but also wear well with time. For many materials, choosing the real deal will allow them to be refinished as they wear down. I would treat natural materials as staples for bigger items such as flooring, countertops & tile as they truly stand the test of time.
TIP #2: Respect your homes original architecture. If you have a flat-roofed 1970’s home or a heritage 1920’s abode, try and be respectful of the building’s original architecture. This doesn’t always mean restoring it to its original grandeur, but being respectful of its unique details and giving it a nod can go a long way into creating a timeless feel. Clean lines are always a safe choice, and they are super important when it comes to creating an ageless look.
TIP #3: Go neutral for ‘permanent’ items. Use neutral colors and materials for anything that would be difficult to change out down the road. Of course, depending on your pocketbook (and mental ability to live through another rennovation) nothing is ever truly permanent, but be mindful of the items that are easier to swap out than others. Kitchen cabinets & countertops? Pretty difficult and costly to keep up with changing trends.
TIP #4: Go bold for easy to swap items. Paint, wallpaper & accessories? Easy peasy to swap out! If you are someone like me who enjoys the constant changing and updating of the rooms in your home, keep the big stuff neutral, and swap the easy stuff often.
TIP #5: Splurge on fixtures. If you have room for it in your remodel budget, make getting quality fixtures a top priority.The better quality your fixtures, the longer they’ll last. And the whole goal here is a beautiful space that you don’t have to rip out in 5 years. These gorgeous fixtures – while an investment – will last you well beyond the lifecycle of any trend.
TIP #6: Go with what you love. Don’t let the fact that something may or may not be trendy steer you away from something you are head-over-heels in love with! If you truly love the look and see yourself loving it for many years, then DO IT. Life is short, and perhaps this is contrary to what most designers would say, but don’t forget that ultimately this is your home, and you are the one who will be living in it. If it makes you happy- who cares what the trends say?
Sure you have heard of vegan diets. You may even know someone who lives this lifestyle or you yourself might be vegan. But vegan interior design? There are many reasons why you should consider using cruelty-free materials for your home.
Take a leather sofa for example- A pure and true leather hide is not perfect. There will be nicks and scratches from where the animal may have brushed up against barbed wire, or otherwise been scraped. Those marks are scars, just like the scars we get on our skin when we get nicked or cut. When you make the connection that the material you are sitting on is skin, the actual skin of something once living- it’s a little creepy, isn’t it?
“But you don’t eat it!” True! Many of us are not gnawing on the corners of our leather sofas. But living a compassionate lifestyle goes beyond what is on your plate. Veganism is ultimately a vote with your dollars- If you wouldn’t pay a butcher a kill an animal so you could eat the meat, why would you pay a butcher to skin an animal so you could use the hide for a rug? (Or shoes, or belt, or handbag, etc).
KIND to ANIMALS
I’m extremely passionate about bringing awareness to the cruel treatment of animals. I’m continually thinking of better ways to help and educate others about the horrors of breeding farms for furs, slaughterhouses, and wool. I used to be completely ignorant of the inhumane pain and suffering that animals endure during their short lives in order for my clients and myself to sit on a sofa made from the skin of a cow. I had no idea of the brutality, torture and often death a lamb suffers while being sheared for the wool for an area rug. The stories are endless and heartbreaking. interior design doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose and should choose better for our homes and the energy we create within them.
KIND to THE PLANET
The vast amount of grain feed required for cattle production is a significant contributor to deforestation, habitat loss and species extinction. In Brazil alone, the equivalent of 5.6 million acres of land is used to grow soya beans for animals in Europe. This land contributes to developing world malnutrition by driving impoverished populations to grow cash crops for animal feed, rather than food for themselves. Not to mention the pollution that comes with raising so many animals, so quickly, and in so tight a space. Communities near factory farms are known to have a higher risk of cancer and diseases as the waste cannot be contained to farmland alone and often runs off into rivers and waterways.
KIND to YOUR HEALTH
Fur is only “natural” when it is on the animal born with it. Once an animal has been slaughtered and skinned, his or her fur is treated with a soup of toxic chemicals to keep it from rotting in the buyer’s home. Various salts—along with ammonia, formaldehyde, and other chromates and bleaching agents—are used to preserve and dye fur. Until the late 1800s, animal skin was air- or salt-dried and tanned with vegetable tannins or oil, but today animal skin is turned into finished leather with a variety of much more dangerous substances, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes—some of them cyanide-based. For those with asthma, breathing problems, or compromised immune systems, the off-gas of these chemicals can be especially irritating. Family members or guests with sensitivities benefit greatly in this area with easy to find, less toxic, non-animal alternatives.
KIND TO YOUR WALLET
As a designer, I make it my priority to source materials and furnishing that do not use animals parts such as leather, wool, fur or any other animal-derived materials. There are many cruelty-free options all around us that are not only accessible but CHEAPER than silks and wools. For example, linen or cotton sheets and a down alternative comforter and pillows can be found at most major box stores including Pottery Barn, Target, Crate & Barrel, and Restoration Hardware. It really is a win-win all around! You get to save cash, have a beautiful and peaceful home, and no animals are harmed in the making.
Mother’s Day is coming up and what better way to treat the mothers in your life (or let’s be real- yourself) than with a few nice things. I rounded up a few items that would make perfect gifts, that are conscious, cruelty-free and all vegan for the mamas in your life.
It’s not every day you stumble across a furniture line that is both aesthetically pleasing AND eco-friendly, though I’m happy to report on this particular day I DID. I’m happy to share with you all a new home brand to love- Ziggy! Ziggy offers customizable and completely toxic-free furniture and accessories, all designed in NYC and handcrafted in Connecticut.
Born from the idea that healthy living starts at home, Ziggy makes handcrafted hardwood furniture using 100% water-based paints, high gloss lacquers, and wood finishes. This means each piece from their entire line is non-toxic, VOC free, and a safe solution for your family that doesn’t compromise on style.
That fact that each piece can be customized with a range of paints and finishes means Ziggy items can be made to fit a range of looks. Here are some of my personal favorites:
Ever since I saw this photo I’ve been in bar cart lust! Bar carts are a super fun and mobile way to display anything from bar items (duh) to books, jarred grains, artwork, etc. Here are some bar carts I’m totally crushing:
Easter is very mellow this year. Very very mellow. Typically Chris and I meet his family at Poway Park and do a big breakfast and egg hunt for the kids, but since the kids have since moved to Palm Springs with his sister, it was going to be a pretty low turnout and got canceled. I’m not mad about it- usually, we have the job of getting to the park early to stake out our spot before all of San Diego shows up, but skipping this event means more sleep for me. More sleep, and ample time to find all the good stuff on the internets. Enjoy!