Once upon a time, interiors were impervious to fashions. Craftsmen spent years learning their trade and dedicated countless hours creating the most beautiful, perfectly crafted furniture and textiles they could possibly make. Homeowners commissioned only what they would absolutely need or what was necessary to assert their social status. And all that was passed down to the next generation, and to the next, and to the next, sometimes for centuries.
Now, that's sustainability.
The French (and many other Europeans) still think that way in many aspects of their lives, and definitely in their décor: They will often prefer investing in the best, timeless furniture they can possibly buy, and keep it for the duration. They have a special joy in understanding that a superb piece of craftsmanship will gain sentimental value, and that age will add to its charm: a beautiful patina, a story, memories, and sometimes actual monetary value. The rationale is: low quality furniture always looks cheap, and it will cost just as much to replace it as buying it right in the first place.
A well-crafted sofa can be reupholstered at will and passed down from generation to generation. Serious furniture makers use wood from sustainable sources. The best fill is a salvaged by-product of the food industry (feathers and down), reusable at will and completely biodegradable. The average lifespan of an “industrial” sofa is 8 years. Even if they were sustain-ably made, the ecological impact of discarding 5 of them during a lifetime against reupholstering is just not comparable.
Whether we are in Paris or New York, the best craftsmanship is often found locally, and there is a special satisfaction in knowing that the curtains have been made by that skilled seamstress around the corner, and that the fabric was entirely produced locally from thread to dye to weaving. The ecological gains from sourcing such goods locally are huge: child labor is excluded, pollution is controlled, carbon footprint is minimized, and artisans have actual health benefits.
Boring? Not a bit. Master upholsterers do wonders to update a sofa or chairs. The variety of fabrics and trimmings available alone would make one’s head spin, and changing them is enough to completely transform a room. And wood furniture can be re-finished time and again to match the new decor.
Good craftsmanship is sustainable. That’s what I believe as a decorator, and it is a value that I am proud to adhere to everyday in my work.