A Co Down interior designer has launched an eco-design service for clients who want to update their home sustainably.
Working to revamp and recycle rather than dump or destroy existing furniture, Andrea Graham has also introduced a series of wallpaper and fabric designs inspired by Northern Ireland nature.
Already environmentally conscious, Andrea sees her new service as a way of using her creativity to create beautiful interiors while helping protect the planet.
“Whenever I’m doing anything now, I’m being much more conscious of the environment,” explains the Donaghadee designer.
“I produced this range that can sort of reimagine furniture rather than focusing on buying new all the time.
“I’m working in a way that aligns with my personal values, and I’m responding to an increasing trend from clients who want a beautiful and sustainable environment to live in — both in their homes and for the planet in general.”
Her business, Born Interiors, offers a collection of hand-drawn, photographed and digitally designed, nature-inspired wallpaper collections, curtains, cushions, sofas and chairs.
It’s not a completely new initiative for Andrea.
“I have been working on different prints and done something similar for clients in the past, specifically creating a print for them for a wall,” she says.
“Now it means I have something tangible I can show someone rather than create something from scratch.
“I do love print and I do love the surface decoration and mixing textures. I’ve always been interested in the soft furnishings side of interiors.
“At the moment, I’ve got three concepts: feathers, collected from local forests; seaweed that’s been collected from Donaghadee beach and then one is a cloudscape, from photographs I had taken from Cavehill.
“The idea is that they can be produced in any colour and any size. I’ll look at the piece of furniture and see the best position for the print.
“I have a really good camera that I can use to take really decent photographs — I can zoom in and go closer. Then I work with those images digitally and through drawing to create the prints.”
Bringing the outdoors indoors is a popular theme for décor lovers and through Andrea’s business, new life is being breathed into furniture and fabrics that may have, in different times, just ended up in the dump.
An interior refresh without breaking the budget is all the better news in these purse-tightening times. “Most people are wanting quite a natural environment,” says Andrea.
“There’s been a lot of design recently that’s all about bringing nature in and initially I knew that’s what I wanted to create, something quite calming and soothing with the ethos of reusing and recycling where I can.”
Born Interiors had its origins in an unusual initiative which Andrea established in late 2021.
The Crisp Packet Project was established in 2019 as part of a global initiative to help people living on the streets, transforming empty crisp packets into durable blankets. With crisp packets believed to take up to 80 years to decompose, this initiative provides an alternative to throwing them away.
“This experience made me more eco-aware in my professional life,” explains Andrea of working on the initiative. “It reached so many people and so many got in touch. It was fantastic, absolutely brilliant. I now think differently about waste, especially when you realise how long it takes many materials to break down in landfill.
“It can take up to 80 years for just a crisp packet to decompose fully. So, you can just imagine the environmental impact when we simply dispose of furniture and fabrics because we are bored with the design.”
Andrea is channelling her passion for nature and the environment into her designs and encouraging her clients to re-love their existing furniture by revamping it with a touch of imaginative style.
“I think most people are really open to looking at older pieces and vintage pieces and bringing them in,” she says. “And I think you know more people would be looking at auction sites and places that you can get furniture that’s more vintage, and maybe mixing it with newer things.
“Definitely people are seeing the benefit of something that’s been crafted really well that they’re going to have and that they’re going to keep, rather than throwing it away because it’s not working anymore.
“I do think people are looking for quality and they know that those older vintage pieces will have that quality.
“You have the stamp or mark on the bottom, and you can Google it and it’ll show you or tell where it was made and tell you about that piece which you would never get from new furniture.”
Andrea believes that because she works so closely with her clients to reflect their tastes and personality, she gives them beautiful interiors with longevity.
“My ethos is if you get the design right the first time, you won’t have to change it frequently.
“The furniture and fabrics I use are all quality pieces. Many have already lasted someone else’s lifetime and, with a revamp, can continue to be useful for decades.
“I don’t believe you should waste style and quality, whatever era it originates in. By thoughtful reuse, recycling and reviving, I give my clients unique interior results that they can love and live with for ever.”