Green Gift Guide – day four – stuff for the home…

Today on day three of our Green Gift Guide, we are looking at nice stuff for the home and garden, which will eco up a space very nicely indeed – and some in very different ways than you may think…

1 – Eco Filament bulb by Urban Cottage Industries – Filament bulbs have been the go-to fitting for a few seasons now to create that popular industrial style interior, but despite looking great, they are certainly not great for energy efficiency. But, thankfully, there is now an option which combines the looks of old style filaments with the energy efficiency we should all be striving for. The Eco Filament by Urban Cottage Industries is A-rated and has a life of 25,000 hours, which equates to 11 years at 6 hours per day… fantastic. from £30.60 inc delivery

Caret lamp eco-filament E27

2 – Hessian covered lighting cable by Urban Cottage Industries – we are sticking with Urban Cottage Industries for the next of our green things for the house, and whilst many people would argue that lighting cable is not sexy, we would beg to differ. The shade gets all the attention, the bulb partly so, but the cable often gets forgotten… bring your lighting up to scratch with some of this brand new hessian covered lighting cable from Urban Cottage Industries – £4.80 per metre (order a bit more and give it a decorative loop we say)

Hessian Fabric Cable | Cloth Covered Wire | 3 Core Round

2 – Home Hack kit by Sugru – there is barely a day goes by when we do not mention Sugru and what we could do with it here in the studio. We have a tin of this wonder stuff in every colour possible in the studio and we use it on everything from in-house repairs to client projects. Sugru – the self setting silicon based rubber has grown into a community, with people posting their hacks and repairs online – proudly showing how they have fixed their stuff. And now Sugru has started a home hack kit, complete with other useful things which you can combine with the mouldable coloured Sugru such as magnets, bits of lego and tennis balls… we love this stuff. Perfect for a DIY enthusiast in your life. Or actually anyone. £17 plus shipping
Home Hacks Made Easy — The Kit

4 – seeds from The Garden House from What You Sow – The beautiful online store What you Sow has everything you would need for those with green fingers – from tools to twine, but it is the seeds from The Garden House, with their stunningly simple illustrations that we adore. With a variety of edibles and flowers to choose from, we say get a bundle of seeds, then also buy your giftee a lovely secondhand frame too, so they can frame up those great illustrations after planting. from 2.95 each plus shipping (final orders 18th Dec!)

Garden House Seeds at What You Sow

5 – recycled card light shades from Tabitha Bargh – possibly the most ‘obvious’ eco choice on our Green Gift Guide today, these lovely lampshades take recycled cardboard to a whole new level. Clean and precise, this is how sustainable materials can and should be used – perfect in any modern interior. In fact, we are looking at using these for a project we have got coming up in 2016… from £75 each

So – five eco ideas that may be a little different from your usual options for the home…

(images via associated brands)

2015 Eco Open Houses a great success!

Last weekend we were delighted to be part of the 2015 Eco Open Houses trail in Brighton – opening up our workspace, Studio Loo to the public. This is the second time that we have been part of the trail as we opened for visitors in 2014, when the studio was about 80% through it’s conversion from derelict wc to the eco office space it is now. It was great to look back over the past year and recall the photos from the construction period.

claire potter design studio 2

And it was also great to welcome back people that visited last year – many had returned so they could see how we had finished the space. For instance, visitors last year saw the reclaimed parquet flooring as individual sticks in bags, but this year they got to see it down, sanded, polished and lacquered – and complete with a years worth of little scratches and dents from use.

But it was also great to welcome a load of new people to Studio Loo – many of whom had travelled a fair distance to see our converted wc and talk to us about their own projects – and how what we have done could be applied to their spaces.

eco open houses 2015

We discussed recycled paint, solid insulation, solar gain and glazing, timber certification and we even gave away a few of our secret spots for finding reclaimed furniture and materials in Brighton and the surrounding areas. 

On Saturday we had a visit from MP for Portslade and Hove, Peter Kyle, who was with us for almost an hour discussing the merits of great design and the reuse of abandoned buildings, and on Sunday we had a visit of nearly 40 people in one go, courtesy of Cara Courage and the Brighton and Hove Urban Ramblers…eco open houses 2 2015

Another great weekend of chatting about all things sustainable design and architecture – we are now gearing up the studio for our next public opening as part of the Christmas Artist’s Open Houses – watch this space!

(images by claire potter and courtesy of Cara Courage and Eco Open Houses)

Monday Musings – is sustainable design the same for everyone?

A week or so ago we attended the fully sustainable Brighton Fashion Week 2015, starting with the debates and industry presentations and ending with the stunning and extravagent catwalk shows that we featured last week in our photo specials. It was a packed day. But what we were really keen to understand, as non-fashion designers, but sustainable designers – is the stuff we think about the same? Is sustainable design just sustainable design?

Brighton Fashion Week 2015

Of course, designing a ‘sustainable’ building, or creating a ‘sustainable’ piece of footwear needs distinct and defined specialisms, but at their core, what are the similarities? Sitting down at the talks for Brighton Fashion Week 2015, we were pondering this exact question.

We soon realised, as we had hoped, that regardless what your specialism is, the issues you face as a designer are the same:

  • materials – understanding where, how, when and what sort of material you will use in your design is key. And this also accounts for its end of life processing and how it will behave with the end user. Toxic ingredients? Impossible reprocessing? Material manufacture processes? This is a universal issue for all designers.
  • waste – understanding materials and processes allows you to understand waste generated – and how it can be limited. Reducing the waste and increasing the efficiency of your designs can be related to a cutting pattern for fabric as easily as it can be for timber. And waste appears at all stages of creation, though to end of life.
  • design for disassembly – this is an area that we personally feel very strongly about, as even if you choose your materials well and minimise waste in the production phase, if you merge materials into ‘monstrous hybrids’ that cannot be easily separated, you consign your design to landfill. Designing for disassembly from the start allows pieces to be uncoupled and reused with the minimum amount of material contamination.
  • ethics, legislation and certification – the physical difference between specifying an organic material and a non-organic material can be small, but the implications to the producer are likely to be huge. Equally, choosing uncertifeid timber will still allow you to build something, but using reclaimed or FSC certified timber ensures that the wood has been produced from sustainable practices. You may not see the advantages with your own eyes, but it is essential to understand the wider issues.
  • emotional durability – if we are emotionally attached to something, we are less likely to consign it to the ‘bin’. We are more likely to treasure it, and look to repair and reuse it.
  • technical / functional durability – this allows us to have pieces that are fit for purpose and when they need it, they can be reused, repaired, hacked, amended and reinvented.
  • stories – the importance of stories and context is another area that we feel very strongly about. By telling a story you are emparting a history, sometimes materialistic, sometimes humanistic, but that depth of a past helps us to have a connection – and aids emotional durability…

These were but a few of the key issues we picked up at the Brighton Fashion Week 2015 talks and debates, and these both reinforced our thoughts and gave us hope. We are all designers. We choose, we create and if we are all talking the same language, communication, collaboration and impact are a whole lot easier.

(image by claire potter)

Zero Waste Week starts here…

Welcome to Zero Waste Week – the annual drive both in the UK and further afield to get us all – individuals, businesses and local authorities alike to consider the stuff we chuck ‘away’. But we know that the magic place is actually not ‘away’ at all, but our creaking landfills or worse, out to sea where it degrades and is eaten by fish and other mammals. 

Plus, this year, the focus is on Reuse – a subject very close to our hearts, so for the rest of this week, we will be looking at great projects that can help you to reuse stuff, or are even made of waste themselves…

And there are plenty of ways to get involved with Zero Waste Week – why not try a few of these challenges:

  • only buy secondhand for the week (apart from food, obviously)
  • completely delete new plastic use for a day (harder than you think…)
  • purchase one thing that is made from a ‘waste’ material, for yourself, or for someone’s Christmas present.
  • don’t buy any bottled water, but use a refillable water bottle instead (make this a permanent habit if you can)
  • sign up to Freegle.

Plus, if you are looking for another way to reuse or recycle your stuff, you can also sign up to the first UK Garage Sale Trail later this month as a seller, or take a wander around and buy stuff you need that other people do not. It’s that simple.

(we are having a sale at Studio Loo too – loads of design journals, salvage, books and cake – see details here)

Reuse – it’s our only way forward.

industrial interior design or on trend, eco and simple?

Often, when people find out that we are ‘eco interior architects’, they ask exactly what that means. Do we only use natural materials? Do we use reclaimed materials? Do we have a particular look? The answer varies, but the general consensus is ‘sometimes’. We do use a huge amount of natural materials and specialise in using reclaimed pieces, and whilst our style is very particular to the studio (a general honest, slightly industrial look) it depends hugely on what our client requires. But, the ongoing trend for ‘industrial’ styled spaces tends to lean towards the use of honest, raw, yet highly precise materials.

Designing a Modern Fast Food Restaurant

One such example of this type of interior is with the new fast food restaurant, ‘Simple’ in central Kiev. This innovative restaurant was given a complete identity and interior design by Ukrainian based Brandon Agency, who stuck to the use of organic materials such as plywood, kraft paper and machined timber to create a simple and unified scheme.


With the ubiquitous grey (of which we are massive fans…) there is a good balance between the white brick and the green of the plants – another essential ingredient in the stereotypical ‘eco’ interior, which creates a fresh and welcoming, if slightly hipstery space. The design is thorough and beautifully balanced and fits the branding and ethos of the company – simple – very well.

Now, we are fully aware that even though eco interiors can be created in any style, this is the type of project which has come to represent the genre. This is great whilst the grey / green / timber space is being welcomed, but we are pretty keen to break down a myth that perhaps all eco interiors look like this. Many projects that may not be seen as an ‘eco’ interior on the face are actually very responsibly sourced and specified, so if you do not see wood and plants, it does not necessarily mean that it is not an eco interior.

Sometimes you have to scratch the surface a bit…

(images via Design Milk)

SPOTTED – the Box Pendant…

Lighting can make a massive difference to a scheme. And of course, there are many different types of lighting which can be selected to create the right sort of usable or decorative statement. But when picking statement lighting – the single piece that you see when you enter a room – there are so many options it can be quite baffling. What size? Colour? Materials? Because of the options available, we keep a close track of lighting that catches our eye, based on design and materials. This Box Pendant is certainly going in our Recycled Lights category…

box pendant

Created in Germany and available at Folklore, the Box Pendant comes in two different diameters and is created using recycled brown cardboard packaging, coiled around itself to create a very utilitarian feeling pendant light. Plus the light does not just comprise the recycled card shade, but comes complete with black fabric cable and a ceiling pendant.

A great lamp that will make a very sustainable statement. Just not for anywhere damp…

(image via Folklore)

SPOTTED – the Rag and Bone Man pop up exhibition…

Today on SPOTTED we have another little gem for you in the eco stakes. Whilst it is wonderful to see the brand, spanking new designs on show, we do try and seek out a few events that are perhaps concerned with wider sustainability issues within the design world. On Wednesday we wrote about (and visited) the Ella Doran / Galapagos Design / Great Recovery Project exhibition at the V&A, which is a demonstration of how new design can be created from old, and today we are looking at another practitioner who works in a similar, but very different way – Designer Craftsman Paul Firbank, otherwise known as the Rag and Bone Man.

But this is not the rag and bone man of our youth (yes – I do remember them) – Firbank creates the most incredible structures, products and pieces of furniture from scrap metal as diverse as golf clubs to aeroplane wings. And they are beautifully finished.

As a studio that is firmly rooted in the responsible – but with detail and quality being paramount, we are delighted that people like Paul Firbank are creating pieces that can be used as beautiful, recycled statements for spaces. This type of designing also keeps skills alive and shows brilliant ingenuity.

So – visit the pop up exhibition at the London Design Festival (In the Queens Park Design District) from the Rag and Bone Man here, and here’s a little introduction to the work of Paul Firbank…

(image via the London Design Festival)