By Kelsey Betancourt
“You can still have everything you want, even if you are vegan,” Sarah Barnard explained. For those vegans who want to surround themselves with luxurious vegan linens, more natural, beautiful and durable vegan materials are available than ever. If you are the type of vegan who loves the look of animal products, more and more perfect options are available for you as well. Los Angeles designer and recent ASID award-winner Sarah Barnard took time to go over the growing vegan interior design market and her experience with clients who care about animals. “Happily, the days of sacrificing comfort for principles are over. There are plenty of luxury options for vegans, too.”
Of course, vegan and vegetarian mean different things to different people. It helps to clarify your preferences ahead of time. A knowledgeable designer can help you sort through what is desirable to bring into your home and what isn’t, and can help with any additional design considerations that frequently go hand-in-hand with a love of animals, like the desire for an eco-friendly home. DIY strategies are abundant on sites like Pinterest or Etsy, but some subtle animal materials may slip past you if you aren’t sure what to avoid, or less perfect materials may get selected by default.
“If vegan living is important to you, find an interior designer to help you. It’s the best way to make sure you feel good about your design decisions,” Barnard explained. “Ideally, you would would work with a designer who has experience and vegan resources prepared.” Each component of every item needs to be vetted. There are the obvious things: fabrics, leather, and fur. But plenty of materials that you wouldn’t expect use animal byproducts, too. Paint, glue, and lacquer are less obvious and slip by unnoticed most of the time. Old master painting or collectable paintings, for example, can potentially have small amounts of animal byproducts: nevermind that canvas was sometimes made of animal hide, but eggs were used to make tempera paint and some pigments were derived from animal skin or hair as well. “Essentially, every part of every item could potentially bring animal products into your home.” Barnard cautioned. When asked how she avoids this, she answered, “I work closely with local artists and manufacturers that work with vegan materials. The artists care deeply about animals and the environment and make careful choices in the selection of materials.”
Some things that may be marketed as cruelty-free need to be verified also. For example, some silk manufacturers claim they wait until the silkworms have died or metaphorized to harvest their cocoons, but less reputable manufacturers have been caught lying about their processes.
While it can be exhausting searching for alternative, don’t settle for just any synthetic material. A designer has access to samples and access to a myriad of information on the manufacturers’ technical specifications on art, furniture and building materials.
Consider your health when designing or decorating with synthetic materials. Manmade options could mean introducing materials that off-gas chemicals into your home. Vinyl and PVC for example, have been know to release chemicals for at least two weeks after installation. There are plenty of safe synthetic materials made by responsible manufacturers.
If you were on the fence about making your home vegan, consider that for a family member or guest with allergies, making your home vegan can be an excellent way to make sure there are no allergens that cause discomfort. Artificial down for example can be better than it’s feathery counterpart because alternatives are often water-resistant in addition to being hypoallergenic.
For a family member on the autistic spectrum, the smell of animal leathers and the rough textures of some wools and skins may be bothersome. Ideally, a space designed for them has carefully considered and designed the materials, lighting, and flow.
When asked about her favorite part of designing a vegan home, Barnard said, “Vegan interiors often end up being automatically eco-friendly.” It turns out vegan homes can have a smaller carbon footprint, simply because any process involving cultivating materials from animals means using resources to care for the animal to grow, and the carbon dioxide they exhale during their cultivation contributes to a greater carbon footprint. Wood should be researched as well and sourced from responsible, sustainable sources, or reclaimed from previous projects and buildings.
Whatever your reason for choosing a vegan home, it should be important to the designer who helps you create your perfect home, too. You don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort; more than ever, it is possible to luxurious, durable, cruelty-free, materials.
Sarah Barnard is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), is certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and is recognized by the International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecology as a Building Biology Practitioner (BBP) and by the United States Green Building Council as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). She has served on the Santa Monica Conservancy's board of directors and specializes in sustainable interior design and historic preservation.
Undertaking a broad range of projects, all of which are grounded in smart design and mindful of healthy living, Sarah’s diverse body of work includes upscale private residences, chic restaurants, luxurious spas and impressive corporate headquarters. Her projects have been featured in local and national publications, and have placed prominently in several noted design competitions. Sarah holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont Graduate University as well as undergraduate degrees in Art and Interior Architectural Design. Her interior design practice is the culmination of education and interests in art, architecture, textiles and the environment and she has written several articles for important publications including the USGBC, United States Green Building Council.
Barnard is currently working on interior design projects in the Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Los Feliz, Hancock Park & Palos Verdes Estates. Other recent projects include the corporate offices of National Geographic Entertainment in Beverly Hills, the headquarters of Life Rolls On, a subsidiary of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in Culver City, a Backstage Celebrity Eco-Lounge for both the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Teen Choice Awards and a Sustainable Penthouse on Ocean Avenue for an out of town couple with super meditative space requirements. Think total relaxation and harmony with the universe.
Photos by Chas Metivier and Steven Dewall.