How to Design Your Home for Conscious Living

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Living consciously means embracing what you love. It’s living in alignment with personal values and making choices accordingly. As a philanthropist and former first lady, Michelle Obama said, “I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.” However you express it individually, it’s what you appreciate and brings you joy. Being aware of what nourishes you, be it animal kindness or human welfare, awareness can offer you a clear path toward designing your home more consciously.

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Our values are as unique as each of us. It’s evident in our daily lives that our taste in food, color, and careers vary, but more subtly, our ethics are just as diverse. Whether you prioritize being healthy, sustaining our planet, and equality for all, living consciously is well within reach.

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Wherever you are on this journey, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. If you’re beginning, consider making future purchases aware ones. If you’re buying a pillow or rug, find one from a cruelty-free source or a craftsperson who is conscious of their impact on the planet. If you’re ready to embark on a deeper level of commitment, assess an entire room or your whole house. If that seems daunting, hire a designer who aligns with your values to make substantial changes to transform your home into a sanctuary. An experienced designer will work to express what lights your imagination on fire. A designer takes the stress off your plate so you can focus on the beauty and big picture while they take care of the minutia. They can help push your bravery into the limelight, so your house can be what you envisioned.

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Conscious living requires little to no sacrifice. For example, being vegan does not mean trading in personal luxury. You can bring quality and opulence into your home while honoring the welfare of the person fabricating your sofa. By making informed decisions, we can improve the conditions of workers of Vietnam, and help a single mother supply artisan handcrafted goods to anyone in the world, while supporting her children financially and emotionally. However, with such freedom and availability, we also have information overload. In design, it takes knowledge and experience to create a harmonious space that matches your preferences. Look for designers and artisans who specialize in handcrafted goods, or sustainable products. Because there are so many options, it truly helps to have a skillful designer evaluate the myriad of choices and to verify legitimate sources.

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As you design your life intentionally, you convey to those around you what you love, which then draws more of what you want into your life. Being intentional in your choices will be reflected in all areas of your life. “You are your choices,” according to German philosopher Sartre. Generously expressing personal truth brings abundance to your life. A home that resonates with positivity brings more vitality to the physical body and uplifts family and friends. A home with thoughtful design works symbiotically to achieve goals and allows energy to flow into projects with passion. For those who are clear about what brings them joy, their spaces radiate it.

by Grace Carter

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Vegan Interior Design

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.

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“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 work with a designer who has experience and vegan resources prepared.” One must vet each component of every item. There are the obvious things: fabrics, leather, and fur. But plenty of materials that you wouldn’t expect to use animal byproducts, too. Paint, glue, and lacquer are less obvious and slip by unnoticed most of the time. Old master painting or collectible 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 a cruelty-free product need to be verified also. For example, some silk manufacturers claim they wait until the silkworms have died to harvest their cocoons, but less reputable manufacturers have been caught lying about their processes.

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While it can be exhausting searching for an 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. Humanmade options could mean introducing elements that off-gas chemicals into your home. Vinyl and PVC for example, have been known 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.

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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 created 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 large 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 relevant 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.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier and Steven Dewall.