01 August, 2021

Sustainability-What’s Quality Got To Do With It? -According to LiLu

Sustainability and Quality

Sustainability: What’s Quality Got to Do With It? Here's a little story to get us started.
This fall, my husband Andy and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary! And 20 years ago I bought what my husband thought were ridiculously expensive walking sandals for our honeymoon trip to Greece. I still have my husband and I still have those sandals. I was raised to believe it was smart to invest in the best.
By purchasing high quality sandals, I believe I actually saved myself money in the long run. That one pair of sandals cost me approximately $7.50 per year. Not much more than a cup of fancy coffee. And I will likely wear them for a few more years.
Not only did I save money, I saved the environment. I saved the environment in several ways
-At least 4 pair of less expensive and shoddily made sandal would be in a landfill somewhere
-Energy would have been used to manufacture and ship these shoes
-Materials like leather and rubber would have had to be grown and processed to make several pairs of sandals adding pollution to the environment and using energy
This example is one that can translate to many areas of our lives including furnishings and home accessories. Which, I am particularly interested in as an interior designer

Quality Matters

When answering the question sustainability: what's quality got to do with it? I start with thinking about investing in the items I have in my life instead of buying them.
Investing in good quality furnishings can be a daunting idea. Furniture is expensive and it can be a bit confusing to understand the hallmarks of a truly quality piece of furniture.
To some extent, you do get what you pay for so if a piece of furniture is more expensive, it is likely higher quality but that isn’t always the case. Hiring a good designer is one way to ensure you have pieces of furniture that are well built.
I could write a book on the questions to ask to determine whether furnishings are high quality and sustainably manufactured. We will cover this in future blogs. In the meantime, here are three key things you can research:

  1. What materials are used in the piece of furniture?
  2. What are the manufacturers policies regarding sustainability?
  3. How is it constructed?

Upholstery and wood furniture have different quality hallmarks but if you start to look into these key questions, you will uncover the differences between furnishings that will tell you more about the quality of the piece.
As you find out more about the furnishing you are looking at also ask yourself "Sustainability-What's quality got to do with it? "

Sustainability in Manufacturing

When you are buying a new piece of furniture one thing to look for is how sustainably the piece of furniture is made. Asking,“What’s it made of?” is a good starting point.
If this question can’t be answered, you might what to choose a different piece of furniture. Knowing the materials that go into a piece of furniture indicates the retailer or designer knows the supply chain. This information is key to knowing the quality of the furniture.
Good quality materials and building techniques mean you will be purchasing a good quality piece of furniture.
A short cut would be to take a look at the member of the Sustainable Furnishing Council. All members have sustainable practices in place and use Life Cycle Assessment to analyze the environmental and health impacts of their products.
Of course, many makers and manufacturers may not join this organization but have sustainable practices. If you ask questions you’ll know more and be making better informed decisions.

Keeping It for the Long Haul

The reason quality matters in the long run, is that the longer a piece of furniture can serve you or someone else, the longer it will remain out of a landfill and the pollution stream.
It matters to the environment, and it will matter to your bottom line too. If you buy a $7000 sofa that last you 30 years, that is better than buying 10 $2000 sofas that need to be replaced every three years and will end up in a land fill. You will safe money and the environment.
It would like to share some examples of how buying quality can make a difference and how you can use and reuse quality furnishings to keep your bottom line healthier too!

The Sofas That wouldn’t Quit

Nearly thirty years ago, my clients were married and they were given a gift certificate to purchase some furniture at a well-known quality retailer at the time.
They selected a sofa and loveseat that became the main seating pieces in their living room. They choose a classic frame, constructed of hardwood and with a printing and outline-quilted fabric that was traditional.
Over the years we have helped them design much of their home, including the living room. With some budget restrictions and a desire for a classis look, we have always retained those sofas in their original fabric. While styles have changed, those sofas have always seemed to fit in. We’ve changed the chairs in the room and the former chairs found new homes in their children’s first homes.
Buying classic, well-built furniture paid off for them many times over! That's one of the answers to Sustainability-What's Quality Got To Do With It?
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New Fabric New Life

When you own a good piece of upholstered furniture it can be in your life, for your entire life. Reupholstery can do wonders for an update, replacing cushions is a must for a well-loved chair and even restyling is possible if the skirt or arm is looking a little frumpy!
This lounge chair is a favorite in our client’s great room but the jewel tones chosen to hide the use of a young family were no longer needed for this now empty-nest couple. So a new elegant cut velvet fabric updated the chair at a fraction of the cost of replacing the chair with one of equal quality. And the energy and waste required producing a new one wasn’t expended.
A similar story with a lovely settee from the same room, here the leather frame remained in place and only the seat cushion and pillows received new fabric.
These dining chairs were similarly updated to a neutral color palette with a commercial fabric that will wear like iron. Think of all the money and waste that reupholstery saved.


Creative Reuse

Our client had a good quality cherry table with updated French traditional lines. It started life as a dining table and then because the finish was a bit tattered looking it was being used as a table desk.
When they moved to a new home with a formal dining room, we decided to refinish it and add silver leaf to the legs giving it a bit more of a glamorous look. It was perfect for the dining room. Then another move turned it back into a table desk, albeit a little fancier.
And notice it’s companion settee seating turned into a great bench on the landing in their new home. A perfect place to sit and read or look out the window at the view of the lake.


Update An Heirloom

Have you ever inherited a piece of furniture that just didn’t feel like you but it was of great quality or sentimental value? A good quality piece of furniture shouldn’t go to waste so we say reimagine it.
Just one example is this grandfather clock. Sentimental and cherished, it just didn’t fit our clients style. So a bit of lavender paint and it’s transformed. Refinishing, reupholstering and repurposing are great ways to keep furniture out of the land fills.
If you can’t imagine how something could be transformed or reused just ask LiLu Interiors…this is a key part of our design practice.
A quality heirloom you can use forever answers the question Sustainablility-What's Quality Got to Do With It?

Bringing Intention Home
At LiLu Interiors, we love designing spaces that support our client’s lifestyles. It is our intention to find out your intentions. Would you like to create a home that will be sustainable for you now and in the future?  Reuse pieces handed down from your relatives but have them match your style? Whatever your intention is, we want to know. We are in the business of designing interiors and creating spaces for you to live out your dreams. Whatever your dream is, we will creatively collaborate with you to design a home that uniquely expresses who you are and how you live. Give us a call, let’s bring your intentions home.
See an entire project based on sustainability.
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Comments on Sustainability-What’s Quality Got To Do With It? -According to LiLu
  1. Janet Lorusso says:

    Excellent, excellent post, Lisa, and so important in today’s throw away culture! Buy quality and buy it once – I couldn’t agree more!

  2. Jill Laine says:

    Wonderful! I love your ideas about painting and re-upholstering to freshen dated items AND keep them out of landfills.

  3. Mary Ann Benoit says:

    Great article! Quality really is the key! In this day and age of everyone wanting things fast and cheap, there is so much waste and impacts to the environment.

  4. Pam Enz says:

    This is such an important topic Lisa. And you’ve done an excellent job of telling the story. Most of the furniture in my home is over 30 years old. The things that have been replaced were either purchased on the fly, without thinking, cheap, to fill a gap, or were truly worn to bits and has been repaired several times.
    While I spend more per piece at the outset, I have spent considerably less than those who purchase less expensive pieces.
    I try to convey this to folks who ask my advice all the time.
    From a former interior designer turned consultant.

    1. LiLu Design Team says:

      Thanks for the comment Pam…We all need to do a better job of beating the drum on this subject. It’s important for the earth!

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