Material world – Sustainability in interior design

Material world - Sustainability in interior design

As we become more mindful about making sustainable choices in our day-to-day lives such as recycling or reducing power use, it makes sense to turn attention to the immediate environment – our homes. Sustainability is a cornerstone of GemLife’s interior design ethos, but what exactly does it mean?

GemLife Manager of Interior Design Jennifer Kyle said sustainable interior design was simply about the effective use of space and careful selection of materials, with energy efficiency and longevity being the central focus.


One of the most important aspects of sustainable interior design at GemLife, according to Jennifer, was longevity, with the team choosing quality materials and creating a timeless look.

“We approach interior design with an eye toward a long lifespan. To do that, spaces are designed with a timeless aesthetic – we avoid fads and trends that will quickly date – and always choose quality,” she said.

“Classic trumps trendy in the long-term and simplicity and functionality is always preferred over fussy embellishments.”


Energy-efficiency is one of the foundations of sustainable interior design at GemLife, according to Jennifer.

“Everyone wants to keep their power usage and costs down and good interior design helps to do just that,” she said.

“For example, heat escapes through windows, so the use of appropriate window coverings, blinds and shades are an efficient way to help to control a home’s building temperature. Our standard inclusions offer window coverings designed to keep heat out in summer and warmth in during winter.

“Another example is the use of carpet, due to its excellent thermal insulation properties. GemLife uses carpet in all homes’ bedrooms as it can retain as much as ten per cent of a room’s heat.”

She added that another consideration was the use of internal and external colours.

“Lighter colours on walls reflect more light, while darker colours need more artificial lighting. Using reflective surfaces increases the amount of light in a room, decreasing dependency on artificial light. We always keep these things firmly in mind for the homes as well as our communal facilities,” Jennifer said.

“One example is the facades and roofs of GemLife homes which are light coloured to reflect the sun, therefore reducing air conditioning use,” she said.

“In addition, our homes use water-efficient tap fittings, LED lighting, and are fitted with ceiling fans to improve comfort during warmer weather as well as further minimise the need for air con.”

Recycled or reusable materials

An increasing number of interior design materials are being manufactured from recycled materials, providing more sustainable choices for designers.

“One of my favourite recent examples, which we used in the GemLife Pacific Paradise Pavilion, was stunning antique European terracotta tiles which were salvaged from the roofs of abandoned barns, farmhouses, and historic buildings in eastern Europe,” Jennifer said.

The ultimate in upcycling, these history-laden rectangular tiles frame the lift lobby of the pavilion and sweep up one side of the stairwell. “Each tile was repurposed and ‘upcycled’, giving unique character and charm to the building,” she said.

Jennifer added that GemLife also used sustainable and recyclable outdoor street and park furniture such as benches and seating.

“Australian-made, these products are constructed from sustainable timber, are 100 per cent recyclable, and are certified in both quality and environmental management.”

Five tips for eco-friendly decorating

1. Add plants

Adding plants to your home’s interior and alfresco is a low-cost and sustainable way to add freshness to your interiors with the added benefit of improving air quality.

2. Use sustainable fabrics

When refreshing your decor with soft furnishings, look for sustainable fabrics – shop for natural or recycled materials such as bamboo, hemp, linen, organic cotton, silk, or recycled and reclaimed fabrics.

3. Go local

Wherever possible, choose products made locally to cut down on transportation costs and emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases.

4. Buy sustainable furniture

Look for pieces made from natural wood, bamboo, and other organic or sustainable materials. Check the items have been sustainably sourced. Give second-hand pieces a new lease of life by buying vintage or antique.

5. Choose durable materials

Quality durable materials ensure your decorating items have a long lifespan. Good quality items will last longer and lessen your impact on landfill.

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