Swapping Trends for Timeless to Leave Behind a Disposable Mentality

In recent decades, the fast-fashion ideology has infiltrated our homes, unintentionally creating toxic and even hazardous indoor environments.

Having first been accepted in fashion, and subsequently exacerbated by the rapidly developing technology industry, the shift in buying philosophy has evolved from quality products built to last, to a preference for inexpensive products following the latest trends and style. Unfortunately, cheaply made products, of often toxic materials, are designed to fail in order to drive future revenue. This proliferation of consumerism has lead to detrimental landfill overload and increased global carbon emissions, in addition to having negative health impacts.

Though many of us strive for conscious consumerism, the pervasiveness of this market sector is inescapable. Mainstay fashion brands, such as Zara and H&M, launched home lines in the early 2000s, blazing a trail for the fast furniture and homewares industry to flourish. The pandemic continued to fuel the industry, illustrated by the fact the US economy shrank 3.5% while home improvements and repairs grew more than three percent. With increased time spent in our homes, many of us were refreshing our living space to accommodate working, schooling, and leisure with readily available, mass produced home goods.

The fast furniture industry is also propelled by the recent emergence of “Generation Rent,” a phenomena stemming from relatively high living costs and construction prices rising faster than inflation. This environment, juxtaposed with low wage growth and ubiquitous student loan debt, has priced entire generations out of the housing market. Many families have not been able to buy their “forever home” and are thus looking for temporary furnishing solutions due to inevitable future moves.

With an acceptance to fill our homes with items that are more temporary than heirloom in nature, there is an inherent drive to design personal spaces to appeal to continually morphing styles. As seasons change and micro-trends shift, redesigns happen quickly, often discarding the previous iteration. Social Media is a platform of inspiration for these micro-trends, driving desire for change at a staggering rate. Who doesn’t love a dreamy roomscape photo, perfectly curated for social media? What once was our private sanctuary is now visibly accessible to strangers around the world.

Environmental Fallout

Products have become so affordable and accessible, it’s hard to see past the immediate convenience. Unfortunately, our planet is struggling to keep up with the demand. Most of these retailers rely solely on international shipping to move their products, compounding the tons of greenhouse gasses released by shipping. Low-cost production depends heavily on synthetic materials and chemicals to keep the price down. With the rapid amount of redesigns and shifting trends, all of these harmful byproducts end up in the landfill at a much quicker rate and greater volume.


What We Can Do

When a design approach’s main focus is to promote both human and planetary health, each element can be reviewed and selected to “do no harm.” Starting with the largest building blocks of your space, the core and shell, all the way down to the textures and textiles you touch; it is possible to create timeless spaces that can be enjoyed for generations. What is driving the style is not the latest trend, but something authentic to the place and people who enjoy it. When designs are inspired by the uniqueness of the client, informed by the local culture and ecology, and appropriate for the local climate, the end result is a unique expression of distinctive elements that can adapt and evolve with time.


Researching and partnering with vendors that have responsibility-sourced, natural materials and clear sustainability practices is key to creating healthy indoor environments. Many manufacturers have begun to assume responsibility for their products with a larger planetary lens. For example, carpet companies like Interface and Flor will buy back old carpet and recycle them back into new products. Wolf/Sub Zero offers one of the best warranties in the industry, focusing on product longevity and repair rather than replacement. Crate & Barrel has lines of “responsibly designed” items with sustainably-harvested furniture and packaging material. Even Ikea is working towards more transparency in their adhesives and ingredients, avoiding a red-list of harmful elements, to reduce off-gassing and landfill leaching.


All of these companies, although responding to the needs of a mass market, are making steps towards embracing and encouraging a circular economy. This is in stark contrast to the hold-over approach, still mainstream, from the industrial-age: take, make, consume, dispose, repeat. Aiming to eliminate waste, the goal is to keep raw materials in use for as long as possible, therefore reducing resource demand and pressure on the environment.

It is refreshing to see the change in the manufacturing mentality and view products across their entire lifecycle. Companies, including ourselves, are approaching the process from every angle; from sourcing materials, to production, product performance and and packaging/storage/delivery practices. Design should be enduring, and we should all strive to find creative solutions that allow style and methods to evolve while not causing harm.


Learn more about our Interior Design Services for ways we can help.


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