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The secret to making everyone happy with your furniture and décor choices can be summed up in one word: collaboration.

Collaborative interior design may sound like a headache waiting to happen, but it’s easier than you think. It won’t be conflict- or compromise-free, but it will make the road to redecorating the family home a lot smoother!

In this how-to blog, we give you three big tips to get you started.

 

1. Get everyone involved who wants to be involved

It might be easy and convenient for you to be the autocrat, but everyone will get along a whole lot better if people who want to be involved in home decoration are given the opportunity.

Even if there are people who don’t want to be involved, make sure you take their preferences. You never know what their preferences might be. They may have secretly wanted some safari-themed décor all this time!

 

2. Include the kids

Just because kids are kids doesn’t mean they can't or shouldn't have a say. In fact, if you give them the appropriate time and space, kids can come up with plenty of reasonable and considerate contributions to your interior style. Plus, it will help them mature and they may even respect you more. (Check out our blog on the subject if you’re interested!)

 

3. Find something which suits every generation living in your home

Whether you’re a single parent with child or a household with grandparents, parents, half a dozen kids and pets to boot, designing and decorating your home in a way which works for all generations is something really worth thinking about.

You can read all about it in our multi-generational home blog, but basically it involves four steps:

  • Getting to know your family, in terms of their interior design needs and preferences
  • Planning for both common rooms and exclusive areas
  • Sorting out safety requirements (depending on whether you have kids, pets, people with disabilities, or similar)
  • Being realistic about the space you have without overly restricting your creativity

Do you have a big tip that we missed? We’d love to hear your thoughts in My Family Home, our dedicated Facebook group with 10K+ members. Join us for all things home decoration!

How to Pick Furniture and Décor to Make Everyone Happy

Leaning and folding shelves are great storage solutions. Styling them, however, can be a bit daunting!

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this blog, we share three approaches you can take to styling folding and leaning shelves. Enjoy!

 

1. Eclectic and replete

Under this approach, your focus is on packing the shelves with whatever you want and as much of it as you want. Leaning and folding shelves are first and foremost storage solutions, after all!

The good news is that this is the most liberal approach you can take. You don’t have to think too carefully about making everything you want to store cohesive or thematically organised. As you can see in the display below, we’ve stored everything from stationery and teddies to books and bottles of wine. However, you do need to take a care about how you arrange your pieces so it doesn’t look like a mess. Also note that this approach works best with folding shelves in neutral colours, such as white or a natural timber finish, as these won’t draw attention away from the display.

 

2. Neat and tidy

For the perfectionists and minimalists among us, going neat and tidy is the natural (and only) way to go!

Under this approach, the key is to choose your décor wisely. Pick a few things which go well together, be it by material, texture, or, as we’ve done below, colour. But you don’t have to get much—the “less is more” or lagom mindset is best here. Very wallet-friendly!

 

3. Smart and stylish

Undoubtedly the more practical, in-between approach compared to the other two, under this approach you place what you use within an arm’s reach and save the other shelves for décor (like photo frames, as we’ve done in our styling below). Probably the best option for those of us working from home and no doubt reflects the reality for most people.

While this approach is versatile, it also requires a fair bit of thought. You have to think carefully about both the décor—what it is and how much there is—and how everything is arranged—making sure that the things you need are accessible. But once you have a folding or leaning shelf system in place, you won’t know yourself without one!

How to Style Leaning and Folding Shelves

Usually we don’t think twice about making all the interior design decisions around the house (and, occasionally, involving our significant others). But have you ever considered involving the kids? Strange suggestion, I know, but there are actually plenty of good reasons to do so. Here are just three…

 

1. It gives them something to be curious about

Who knows? You might inspire a hobby for interior design, or even a decision to pursue interior design academically or professionally.

 

2. You can make it fun

If you give them a chance, kids can be great at holiday decorating, decorating with their favourite colours, and choosing specific items of furniture to make a space theirs. Think dining chairs around the table, for example.

 

3. It fosters respect, maturity, and family bonding

If everyone’s on a level playing field, collaboratively furnishing a house actually involves quite a lot of planning, negotiating, compromising, and consideration of other people’s needs and interests. If you treat your kids with respect and give your kids some actual responsibility (while setting the rules governing the limits of what they can and when you’ll intervene), it can be a really good way to help them mature. You might even see them put their people skills into action (beneficially, of course) in other aspects of family life.

 

By the way, this doesn’t mean you have to let the kids make every decision about how you decorate your house

You’re the one who has to pay for it, after all! But give your kids the appropriate opportunities and responsibilities at the right time and place and you might just see them flourish in a way neither you nor they expect.

3 Reasons Why You Should Get Your Kids Involved in Home Decoration

There’s plenty of info out there about choosing ceramic tiles, but how about ceramic décor? It looks like no-one, or at least no-one on the first several pages of a Google search, has ever written on the topic. We thought it’s about time someone filled in that gap. So if you’ve been struggling to find any guidance for these beautiful homewares, struggle no longer! Here’s our guide to picking ceramic décor for your space…

 

Firstly, pick (or understand) your interior style

If you’re at the stage of picking ceramic décor, it’s highly unlikely you’re starting with a blank canvas at home. Most of us shopping for homewares have, for the most part, already created their interior style, both in terms of interior design (paint colours, flooring, etc) and the furnishings (sofas, tables, occasional chairs, etc). And whether knowingly or not, we’ve almost certainly created it in line with one or more existing styles. Why? Because all of us living in Australia have grown up with or had exposure to about a dozen interior styles, more or less, which have been dominant in our society during our lifetimes. And we tend to stick with what we know. People who go for a “light and bright” or “beachy” setting, for example, are almost always going for the Hamptons style. Others, like me, who prefer a “Nordic” or “Scandi” look are usually referring to the mid-century modern style. My fiancée prefers “rustic” furniture, which much of the time means industrial style. I know others who prefer contemporary furniture, vintage or classic styling, the farmhouse or country style, the eclectic style of shabby chic, and the various French styles (country and provincial and always popular).

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter which style you prefer. What matters is that you’re able to identify it (or, if you are starting with a blank canvas, what you want it to be). If you need help with that, we’ve written guides to telling the difference between furniture styles and furniture styles from around the world. Identifying your style is perhaps the most important step to helping you pick ceramic décor as each style is replete with colours, textures, shapes, materials, conventions, etc, which usually feature in it. Use these to guide your shopping and thinking when looking at ceramics.

 

Next, have a look at what’s on trend

While our range of ceramics includes a variety of timeless and on-trend pieces, it doesn’t hurt to see what the home decoration trends are for the year. Yellow and grey, for example, are the colours of the year for 2021. Also on trend is getting back to basics—i.e., unpretentious furniture styling—and, for the first time that we can recall, indoor gardening. Ceramics can play a role in all of those trends!

Still, many of us are simply looking for a safe choice when it comes to ceramics. If this is you, consider something in a monochrome palette—i.e., pick a colour and decorating using a range of its tints and shades.

Note that this doesn’t have the greyscale. You can choose green, for example, and complement it with other décor as we’ve done below.

 

Finally, trust your gut

If you love something, get it! Life’s too short to be worrying about whether a ceramic item you love fits in with your furniture style. At the same time, if something is radically different from everything else in your home then it may be worth a second or third opinion before you buy. That’s where shopping in-store with friends or family can be a real advantage—you can get opinions not only from those shopping with you, but also our experienced staff. They’re always happy to offer style advice!

 

P.S. Don’t dwell

Most retailers (including us) purchase items in limited quantities. If you’re purchasing from an art gallery, often ceramics are one of a kind. This means there’s a significant chance that, if you decide not to buy, the item you want won’t be available when you change your mind. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

How to Pick Ceramic Décor for Your Space

Looking to decorate your house with flowers, fruit, and foliage, but don’t know where to start? Here are three quick tips:

 

1. Spend the money on quality.

Some people think that because you’re going artificial that you should go cheap. But if you go cheap, then obviously your décor will look cheap too!

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg, but spending a few extra dollars goes a long way. It can be the difference between your artificial flowers, fruit, and foliage looking authentic and having them look, well, artificial.

 

2. Buy things you would find in your neighbourhood.

Location matters. Buying things that you’d find in your neighbourhood will help artificial décor feel a lot more natural in your home.

For example, we’ve got a lot of magnolia trees in our area (including a very happy one flourishing in our front yard). We used this to guide our décor decisions and have chosen to decorate our dining table with some artificial magnolia flowers in a vase. It draws things together and makes our place feel more like a home than just a house.

 

3. Go real!

More than half of the people who voted in our My Family Home poll on the subject said fruit is for eating, not for decoration. That’s a fair point.

But, of course, real fruits can be decorative (our next most voted option). Complementing artificial flowers, fruit, and foliage with real fruits can not only add variety, but also help your artificial specimens look a whole lot more real. Just don’t bite into them accidentally!

3 Tips for Choosing Decorative Flowers, Fruit, and Foliage

Nests of tables, also known as nesting tables or simply nests, have always been one of our favourite pieces of furniture. Functional, mobile, affordable, and super stylish, nests can be used in almost any room of the house whenever you want—either every day or when you have guests. They’re a fab storage solution, giving you space when you need it and tucking away into almost nothing when you don’t. Plus, they come in all sorts of sizes, styles, and materials, so they’ll fit in pretty much any home.

So, what exactly can you do with a nest of tables? In this blog, we reveal three on-trend ways to use these wonderful pieces of furniture.

 

1. Accent tables

By far the most common use for the nests is in the living room. They make a great accent and work just as well complementing traditional occasional furniture as they do substituting it.

 

2. Coffee tables

If you’re looking for something a bit different, try using a nest of tables instead of a traditional coffee table. You can extend the tables so that they’re only just nesting, spreading and spacing them out in whatever shape you wish. Before you know it, you’ll have a unique style which exudes practicality and sophistication.

 

3. Bedsides

Spice things up with a nest in place of the traditional bedside. Go with a classic stacked look or scatter the tables across the room in whichever arrangement suits your lifestyle best.

Top 3 Uses for Nests of Tables

I’m pretty sure everyone reading this blog knows exactly what it means to suffer the Australian heat.

With our summers now reaching nearly 50°C in the shade, it’s more important than ever to know how we can beat it.

For many of us these days, this means just reaching for the air con remote. It might be easy, but it is incredibly expensive and releases greenhouse gas emissions faster than you might imagine. It also adds a lot of ambient noise to your home.

So what else we can do to cool our homes? Continue reading to find out!

 

1. Decorate intelligently

Home decoration plays only a small part to play in cooling your home, but it’s the most fun and exciting so we’ll talk about it first.

There are two parts to decorating intelligently to beat the heat. The first is about placement. Try to keep sitting and entertainment areas (and your beds) away from windows and out of direct sunlight. Not only will this prolong the life (and coolness) of your furniture, it will help keep you and your family and friends cool as well.

The second part is about choosing your materials intelligently. For your upholstery, consider choosing breezy fabrics like linen and cotton/linen blends. For sofa cushions, remember that some materials (e.g. down) will trap heat more than others (e.g. feathers).

 

2. Garden appropriately

By now each of us has a basic level of awareness about climate systems at the global scale. But climate systems exist at smaller scales, too. For us, the foremost concern is the microclimate (see here for an encyclopaedic explanation). The microclimate is essentially the aggregate of longer-term patterns of weather variables like temperature, humidity, wind speed, and air pressure, and sometimes other variables like air pollution. Microclimates in outer-western Sydney, for example, are characterised by much greater extremes (frosty nights and extremely hot summers) than those along the coast. Those of us in regional areas experience different microclimates altogether. 

Fortunately, those of us living with extreme heat can garden in ways which mitigate some of these extremes. You’re not going to turn your warm temperate Sydney home into an alpine residence, nor even one in a mild temperate zone like those in the greater Blue Mountains (though it has snowed in Sydney before). But you will make a noticeable difference to the actual and “feels-like” temperatures in and around your house. Certain types of plants, like tall, mature trees, are good for shading. Others, like smaller trees and shrubs which aren’t too dense, will help filter breezes. The diagram below, courtesy of YourHome, is a good illustration:

 

3. Choose blinds for thermal efficiency

According to this study on thermal efficiency commissioned by a blinds company, choosing the right shutters can decrease the heat in a room by one-third when compared to the same room without window coverings over an identical period. That’s a big difference! So consider getting your blinds done next time you’re redecorating or renovating.

Courtesy of Classic Blinds & Shutters.

 

4. Don’t ignore your doors and windows

As we talked about in our noise pollution blog, double- or triple-glazing your windows is a serious renovation. Yet, while it takes a while to earn its money back, it’s worth the immediate and ongoing benefits to environmental efficiency. Not only will your home be less noisy, your thermal comfort will be much better all year round! (Though, of course, glazing isn’t the full story about windows. Frames, for example, are important too.)

Courtesy of Plustec.

BONUS TIP: Don’t forget the benefits of forming good habits. For example, it pays to remember to shut your doors, windows, and blinds not when it gets hot, but well before it gets hot (either before you leave for the day or, if you’re at home, when the outdoor temperature is roughly equal to the indoor temperature). Then, when it cools down at night (assuming it is cooler; sometimes the nights can be disgustingly hot), remember to open your doors and windows again.

 

5. Water features should be a feature

Parts of your backyard other than the garden and trees can make a difference too. In this case, we’re talking about water features. If you’re in a position to do so, putting pools, fountains, misters, or other similar water features right outside your doors and windows is a good idea as it will cool the air before it flows inside.

 

6. Indoor gardens can help too

There are two big cooling options yet to be discussed, but I just wanted to touch on indoor plants, too. After all, if outdoor plants can have an effect, perhaps indoor plants can too?

Well, it’s not quite the same. Indoor gardens have their own benefits, but they have relatively little in terms of thermal comfort (given the heat would already be in your house by that point). But they might make some difference depending on the size and where you place them. If you’ve got a big, leafy plant, for example, placing it near an open door or window will help filter the breezes. (Near the window is usually the best spot for indoor plants anyway, as that’s where they receive the most light).

Now for our final two, high-impact cooling options…

 

7. Make fans great again

Although fans are not appreciated like they used to be, they are still a really efficient way to cool yourself. A powerful ceiling fan or even a semi-decent floor fan is super cheap to run—4¢/hr is the oft-quoted rate—and it will make you feel several degrees cooler. No expensive, greenhouse-gas-emitting air conditioning required! Then again…

 

8. If all else fails, turn on the air con (and don’t feel bad about it!)

We all reach for the air con for a reason. It’s effective, and when we’re really struggling it’s an undeniably good option. And it’s worthwhile; you shouldn’t feel bad about using it, especially in the height of summer. Better that than all the health risks which come with extreme heat, after all.

 

Looking for more information about passive cooling of your home? We highly recommend ‘YourHome’, a collaboration between the Australian Government and UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, which provides all the info you could possibly need to get started on making your home more habitable and sustainable.

How To Beat The Heat Using Interior Design And Decoration

Another year of COVID-19, another year of working from home. With more people having their own stories of how they or their friends or family members have worked all hours of the day at home, more of us are realising the importance of separating work from home.

In this blog, we give you three simple ways to keep work and home life separate—tried and tested by yours truly!

 

1. Create space

It might be tempting to sit up in bed with a laptop to do your work, but this is a bad habit to set up. For starters, your bed won’t be the sanctuary you want and need anymore. You’ll also find yourself sitting up at very strange hours. Or, you’ll be doing work when you’re supposed to be doing something relaxing like reading a book.

The solution? Set a physically different space to do your work. That might be a home office, if you have the space. It could also be a nook, a space in a room, or even a hard-to-use corner of an open-plan living space.

You can also create a distinct space using the senses. You could paint the space a different colour, for example (bright yellow and classic grey would be very much on-trend). You could scent the room with a fragrance you don’t mind associating with work (reed diffusers and scented décor are perfect for this). You could even have certain music playing in the room, be it a genre, album, or artist (again, that you don’t mind associating with work).

By the way, when you personalise your space make sure you’re not personalising it to such an extent that you’re changing your workspace to something too homey or recreational. (It might be good to save that tabletop pool set you got for Christmas for another room of the house.)

 

2. Keep time

Home will always be work if you’re always working when you’re at home!

The solution is elusively simple: work your hours. If you work odd hours, monitor them so you don’t spend half a week working for free. If you work overtime, make sure you get paid for it!

Having a clock on your phone and computer is one thing. But making sure you have a clock visible at eye level somewhere in your room can really help as well. The clock doesn’t have to be on your desk, either. It can be on a wall, on a buffet and hutch, or on a ladder bookcase which provides storage for your workspace.

 

3. Take breaks

Sometimes it’s hard to remember, or we get in the mindset that we’re just too busy to take a break (hence why some of us work through our lunch breaks). Not only is that unhealthy, it’s plain wrong. You might be spending more time working when you do that, but your productivity will be much higher if you allow your brain the time to refresh.

Here’s where tools can come in to help you take breaks. It could be a digital reminder set on your phone, a verbal reminder from someone else working at home, or really anything, as long as it works for you. Before you get up to leave your space, put your computer on sleep mode if you can (or at least use functions like muting the sound and toggling the “break mode” some browsers have to help you out).

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, make sure you physically exit your workspace when you take your break. Do not return until you’re going back to work.

Where do you go, you might ask? Anywhere out of the room is good, but somewhere out of the house might be even better. In my experience, best of all is taking a walk through a local greenspace, preferably with friends or family for company. Try setting aside a full hour for your lunch break (instead of just half an hour) to allow you the fullest time to enjoy this break. This will extend your workday, but it’s worth it!

#WFH: How To Separate Work From Home

Let’s skip the clichés about 2020 being unprecedented. We’re here to talk about something of far greater international and historical significance: interior design! What happened last year and what have we got to look forward to this year?

Firstly, let’s recap what we saw in 2020…

Sustainability grew in importance

With people starting to see, feel, and literally embody the effects of the climate change—Black Summer—and the effects of human–wildlife conflicts resulting from biodiversity loss—COVID-19—we saw even more people join the decade-long trend of re-thinking their consumer behaviour. Everyone from shoppers to retailers and banks to insurance corporations is making greater efforts to be more sustainable and more transparent about their sustainability. (Quite frankly, we saw a lot of hypocrisy and greenwashing, too.)

Some of the most popular interior design topics included those covered by sustainability-related blogs we’ve been writing and updating for years. This includes how and why you should consider the environment when decorating your home.

Other environmental topics, usually the province of technical specialists, also came to the fore. This saw us publish and constantly update blogs on indoor air quality, noise pollution, and the relevance of your neighbourhood when it comes to home decoration.

‘Biophilic’ textures

A bit of a short-lived buzzword in 2020 (understandable, given everything which happened last year), ‘biophilia’ became an everyday concept. Biophilia, for those of us who aren’t familiar with Greek, translates roughly to “love of organic life”. Biophilia saw retailers stock more timber, cleverly woven natural fibres, and nature-inspired décor, all of which were already made popular by the ever-popular Hamptons style.

Pantone Colour of the Year: ‘Classic Blue’

With previous colours like Ultra Violet and Living Coral, we were a bit surprised to see Pantone reveal the 2020 Colour of the Year to be something as plain as Classic Blue.

But there was a bright side to this: most of us found it relatively easy to (re)decorate with Classic Blue. It was also easy for us retailers, as it was a popular colour already in-stock in many furniture and homewares.

As with all the Pantone colours of the year, we saw Classic Blue come in more as a family of blues rather than the single shade. This made home decoration less of a chore. Indeed, for those of us working from home or otherwise isolated or quarantined, it was quite simple to keep our homes on-trend and looking good (especially when paired with warm neutrals, which were also on-trend).

 

What can we expect from 2021?

Hop on Zoom with ten different interior designers and you’ll get a hundred different ideas of what to expect in the new year!

Trying to reconcile all these different predictions of the future is, frankly, more effort than it’s worth. So, as in previous years, we’ve decided to save you the hassle of going through half a dozen blogs and fifteen Instagram accounts. We’ve done the research for you and synthesised three of our findings below.

Connecting with nature via indoor gardens

In spring last year, we pre-empted a trend: indoor gardens are becoming a thing!

It isn’t hard to understand why. More of us are wanting more meaningful connections with more of nature, for all sorts of reasons. But more of us are also stuck at home. Moreover, some of us, like those in apartments or rentals, only have small or indoor spaces to work with. The indoor garden has come to the fore because it is something anyone can do in these circumstances. Expect indoor gardens rise in popularity.

 

Pantone Colours of the Year: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating

An unprecedented year justified the (nearly) unprecedented call by Pantone to have not one, but two colours of the year. Pantone, with characteristic wordiness, describes them as “[a] marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting”.

Yellow and grey might seem difficult, but the pairing gives you scope for some really interesting combinations of homewares and furniture. For example, you could have yellow flowers sitting in a vase on a table near a grey sofa set. Jennifer Ott at Houzz has written a blog with some great ideas on this from a broader interior design perspective. It’s full of great ideas like painting the front door yellow while maintaining a grey-toned paint colour scheme inside the home.

Finally, we’re getting back to basics

Last year, we wished designers would become less pretentious and the trends would align with homeliness and comfort (which we’ve always seen as the hallmarks of Australia interior design). It might’ve taken something unprecedented to do it, but finally it seems like the trends are aligning with getting down to what matters. Expect people to fuss less about things like whether the texture of their upholstery is on-trend and more on whether their homes help them live the good life.

As a part of this, we expect to see people focus more on what they need. We saw a spike in home office orders last year, for example, and working from home is unlikely to abate this year. We expect more people to make the most of their space to help professionally as well as personally.

Any trends we missed? Why don’t you start a discussion? Our Facebook group, My Family Home, has over 10,000 members who all share a passion for good, unpretentious interior design. We’d love to see you there!

3 Home Decoration Trends For 2021: How To Start The Year In Style

Black Summer brought the issue of indoor air pollution to the fore of everyone’s minds. Australians realised how much we value having good air quality in our homes, schools, hospitals, offices, shopping centres, and warehouses. This led to a massive uptake—and shortage—in air purifiers and face masks across NSW and the ACT. It also made every second person believe that they were an amateur atmospheric chemist, recommending all sorts of weird and wonderful solutions to air pollution at low or no cost!

With a new bushfire season already underway, it’s high time to look at the facts of indoor air pollution. What should we be concerned about? Why should we be concerned? And what does the latest science say about cleaning air indoors? Let’s take a deep dive and find out.

 

The sources of indoor air pollution

Fresh air is great and overwhelmingly beneficial. However, unless you live in a sealed dome with no windows (think Simpsons Movie, but for the opposite reasons), air from the great outdoors can be one of the biggest sources of pollution. Those of us who live or work near a quarry or mine or have coal trains driving past their property are already well aware of this!

Everyone everywhere is exposed to a range of pollutants every single year. The commonest sources, according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), are bushfires, dust storms, sea salt, and pollen. To this we add neighbourhood sources like chimneys, bonfires, fertilisers, and agriculture generally. You know what it's like: you're sitting on the sofa, windows open, enjoying a nice day, then suddenly the wind changes and—BAM!—your house reeks of God knows what!

Funnily enough, indoor air pollution also comes from indoor and backyard sources. Not all of these pollutants are necessarily harmful—for example, cooking smells and scented soy wax candles. But some you need to look out for include wood-fired heaters, cigarette smoke, incense, paints, aerosols, solvents, dust, and diesel and petrol for garden tools. You need to be especially careful if you’re considering open burning of wood, rubbish, or vegetation on your property, not only for the air quality impacts but because it may be illegal without a permit.

A special mention for people with allergies is pets. Sorry, labradoodle owners, but scientists have been proving for years that there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Or cats for that matter. That's because the allergens don’t emanate from the coats of these animals, but rather the proteins found in their urine and saliva. It’s not hard to imagine how pervasively these spread throughout the house!

 

Why indoor air pollution matters

No amount of air pollution is safe. For some, it is deadly.

In 2018, the World Health Organization told us that ‘3.8 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution’, and that’s just for cooking-related pollution!

But let’s narrow our focus to Australia. Here, wood-fired heaters are, literally, the worst. Three scientists recently wrote in The Conversation that wood heater smoke in winter is ‘the single biggest air pollutant in New South Wales and the ACT’ and is ‘[l]ike having a truck idling in your living room’. One wood-fired heater used for one year costs the health system $3,800, which, given one in ten Australians uses wood-fired heaters as their main source of heating (at least in 2014), adds up to $3.4 billion across the country.

And that’s assuming that every person using a wood-fired heater follows the law and uses clean, dry hardwood as fuel. Some people grab waste wood from construction and demolition sites instead, thinking they can save some time and money. But this wood is often treated with copper chrome arsenate, which, according to the scientists at The Conversation, ‘can increase incidents of liver, bladder, and lung cancers, and reduce the production of red and white blood cells, leading to fatigue, abnormal heart rhythm, and blood-vessel damage’.

Another scientist writing in the journal Atmospheric Pollution Research revealed in 2011 that the average Australian wood-fired heater emits a lot of methane and black carbon particles (more than reverse cycle air-conditioning and even gas heaters). This contributes to the greenhouse effect which, according to the US Institute of Medicine, makes existing indoor environmental health problems worse and creates new ones to worry about.

Also remember that pollutants interact. For example, one large-scale study in China looked at a certain type of head and neck cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), and ‘observed a significant addictive interaction between frequent incense burning and heavy cigarette smoking on NPC risk’. The same study reminds us that air pollutants can be even more threatening if you have a family history of certain cancers or diseases.

Finally, the NSW EPA reminds us that ‘older adults, children, and people with existing health conditions’ are especially vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution, no matter the source. So, plenty of reasons to be concerned about indoor air pollution!

 

How you can protect yourself and clean your air

Let’s be clear: it’s practically impossible to have perfectly clean air.

But, while we each must live with a minimum acceptable standard of pollution indoors and out, there are things we all can do to help reduce our exposure. Again, no amount of air pollution is safe.

So what can you do? Here are six ideas:

1. Close your doors and windows when outdoor air quality is poor or hazardous

This is a no-brainer. If your area is thick with bushfire smoke, shut your doors and windows!

The NSW Government also provides a real-time air quality index service and you can choose to subscribe to updates. When you check the weather, the Bureau of Meterology will tell you whether there's going to a poor air quality event to look out for as well.

2. Allow ventilation when outdoor air is fresh

Trapping all your indoor pollutants inside your home is not a good idea. When the air is fresh (and it is most of the time in most places in Australia), you should open your doors and windows. Let the pollutants dissipate!

3. Clean your house frequently and regularly

I think we’ve all had the experience of looking underneath our beds or behind our furniture and finding obscene growths of dust and detritus!

The best remedy against this is, unfortunately, more housework. Make sure you vacuum at least once a week, or more often (ideally daily) if you have pets or young children or both.

Also, consider wearing a mask when you do a deep clean. This includes not just when you're vacuuming problem areas, but also when you're using strong cleaning products or even when you do home maintenance projects like painting. If you're vulnerable to air pollutants, it's especially important to double check that your mask has been independently assessed and certified for its quality.

4. Make the swtich from wood-fired heaters

After all the evidence we just went through, this should be a no-brainer!

We’ll admit, it’s hard to deny that wood-fired heaters create an amazing vibe. For many of us, they remind us of our childhoods or are otherwise nostalgic. Unfortunately, cancers don’t care about our nostalgia!

5. Buy a good air purifier (or at least an air quality sensor)

If your family includes people with vulnerabilities like asthma and allergies, or you live in an area with notorious air pollution problems, you may want to consider buying an air purifier. Choice has some great independent advice helping you decide whether you need an air purifier and, if so, which air purifiers are the best value for money.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a purifier, consider buying a sensor instead. These are often hundreds of dollars cheaper and provide you accurate, real-time information about air pollution in your home.

Note that many of the higher-quality air purifiers also come with sensors, so it is unlikely that you will need to buy both.

6. If you have allergies, think carefully about pets

Pets are lovely. But, given hypoallergenic cats and dogs don’t exist, you may want to reconsider having furry companions in future if you have serious allergies. (You'll also obviate the need to think about pet-friendly furniture.)

Remember: not having a cat or dog doesn’t mean you can’t have any pets whatsoever. Consider birds, reptiles, rocks, or even an aquarium! It's a different experience but can be incredibly rewarding.

An important note: Indoor plants are great, but they won’t make a difference to your air quality

I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of spouting this myth in our blogs. But since reading this meta-study by Cummings and Waring in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, I’ve learned that indoor pot plants do not improve indoor air quality in modern buildings.

The myth started when people played Chinese whispers with the 1989 NASA Clean Air Study (and the lead author published a provocatively-titled (and incredibly lucrative) book for laypeople, How to Grow Fresh Air). This study—conducted to investigate one way astronauts might be able to enjoy cleaner air in small, sealed space stations—quickly evolved into a myth that plants of a certain size, species, or distribution would filter the air in your home by a certain percentage.

Today, we know that it's just not true. Looking at volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Cummings and Waring checked out twelve different studies about plants as air filters and expressed very high confidence that indoor plants make practically no difference in typical buildings (in the US), given the way modern buildings are designed. They say that, depending on the species, you would need to place between 10 and 1000 plants per square metre on a building’s floor space for plant filtration to be as effective as ordinary ventilation. That's a lot of plants!

But the study isn’t a total repudiation of the air-cleaning power of indoor greenery. The authors suggest that green walls ‘may create a more effective means of VOC removal because of their size, exposed rhizosphere, and controlled and continuous airflow’. However, more studies are needed before we can be highly confident about that. Plus, green walls are too expensive for most of us!

Image courtesy of Patrick Blanc.

Also, it’s not a one-way street. Plants emit spores, bioparticles, and simple gases like oxygen, but they are also capable of emitting VOCs themselves when under stress. (This sounds scary, but there's no evidence suggesting we should be concerned. These emissions are mainly for plant communication and to attract herbivore-eating predators to help plants save themselves. But hey if you don’t take care of your plants and feel like you need the barest justification to go artificial, then this is one!)

To summarise: plants are great for many, many reasons. Just don't expect them to do anything for your indoor air quality!

To conclude…

Boy, that was a long blog! Congratulations for making it this far.

Being a furniture retailer, air pollution is not normally the sort of subject we normally cover in our blogs. But, as a family-oriented company, we feel an obligation to do what we can to separate facts from fiction and help everyone keep their families happier and healthier. That's part of life in the family home, after all!

If you’ve found this blog helpful, tap or click here to check out our 100+ other blogs (including our companion blog on noise pollution). We cover topics ranging from trans-seasonal styling to indoor lighting, coffee table books to custom-made furniture, multi-generational living to environmental sustainability, and a whole lot more!

Indoor air pollution: Why it matters and what you can do about it

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has reported that many people who call its hotline complain about excessive noise, especially late at night and early in the morning. This may seem petty, but noise pollution is an issue we should all consider. It’s not just annoying, after all. There are some serious health impacts that can accrue over time.

If you’re looking for a quieter life, read on to find out more about the sources of noise pollution, why it matters, and what you can do about it (including with your home furnishings) to reduce its impacts.

 

Sources of noise pollution

As you can imagine, there are plenty of sources of noise pollution. Usually, they're divided into internal and external sources.

External sources are usually the noisiest. Of these, transport (cars, motorcycles, trucks, buses, trains, aeroplanes, helicopters, boats, etc) is usually the noisiest. Depending on where you live, other noises include industry, agriculture, as well as neighbourhood noises like barking dogs, hooligans, parties, your neighbour’s conversations and latest Netflix obsessions, yard work (leaf blowers and high-pressure hoses especially), and construction.

Indoor sources may seem more innocuous, but cumulatively these can lead to a surprisingly noisy home environment. These include slamming doors, flushing toilets, hot water systems, TVs, desktop computers, musical instruments, sound systems, exhaust fans, vacuums, washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, fridges and freezers, food processors, microwaves, burping and farting husbands, loquacious relatives, argumentative kids, crying babies, and even light bulbs!

The light in my bedroom hums at a constant, identifiable pitch. Hardly noticeable most of the time, except when I'm trying to mke some music!

But it's not just the source of noise that matters. After all, a lot of the physical properties of noise, like loudness, are perceptual. This means that it isn’t just the perceived loudness of a noise that matters, but also its timbre, your mood, and the time of day. Some people are irritated by crying babies, for example, while others don’t care to hear their neighbours’ garage band jamming on an otherwise quiet Saturday evening (even though they might find it perfectly fine on a Sunday afternoon).

 

Why care about noise pollution?

For some of us it's just plain annoyng, especially if it's regular or frequent, and that’s enough reason to care. But hey, I want you to get something out of this blog, so here’s some science to make huffing and puffing at the neighbours feel more justifiable.

Let’s look at the health effects of noise pollution. The Australian Academy of Science tells us:

Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise has been shown to cause a range of health problems ranging from stress, poor concentration, productivity losses in the workplace, and communication difficulties and fatigue from lack of sleep, to more serious issues such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss.

Noise is measured in decibels (‘dB’) and safe levels of noise are guided by government regulation. SafeWork NSW, for example, tells us that noise shouldn’t exceed 85 dB on average over 8 hours or 140 dB at any point in time. It suggests that, ideally, maximum noise levels should be no higher than 70 dB for routine activities and 50 dB for high-concentration work or effortless conversation. To put that in perspective: breathing is 10 dB, whispering is 20 dB, a library is 40 dB, conversation in the office is 60 dB, a vacuum cleaner is 70 dB, a food processor is 88 dB, a trumpet sounding at full volume is 100 dB, a thunderclap is 120 dB, and a teacher’s aide screaming at schoolkids is 129 dB. Noise starts becoming painful for the average person at 110 dB (coincidentally the dB level of you're average rock concert) and you’ll rupture your eardrum if it gets to 150 dB.

Also keep in mind that decibels are a logarithmic measurement. This means that, for example, a conversation in the office (60 dB) is half as loud as a vacuum cleaner (70 dB), while a thunderclap (120 dB) is 32 times louder than that. (Finally, my high school maths is useful!)

 

What you can do about it

Surprisingly, your home furniture and decoration options can have a significant effect on the noise pollution you experience.

But first, the most effective solution. Scientists say that most noise pollution comes from outside the house entering through the windows. This means that noise pollution will be best addressed by installing double- or even triple-glazed windows. These windows are essentially use multiple panes of glass with air or inert gas in between. This enables the window not only to block out a lot of noise, it allows the windows to become far more effective insulators, making your home thermally efficient and helping you save on your energy costs. Extra glazing is significantly more expensive, but it’ll pay off in the long run. (Plus, if you have musicians in your family, your neighbours will appreciate the extra glazing too!)

But not everyone wants to replace their windows. What’s a cheaper solution? Why, our interior styling of course!

The key is noise absorption, and we maximise this by choosing fabrics. Carpet is great for this. If you don’t have carpet, consider covering your floorboards or tiles with rugs. Just add upholstered furniture, such as sofas, and you’ve got a far more noise-absorbing environment than you had before.

Otherwise, it’s just about lifestyle adjustments:

  • Look at your noisy tech. Not much you can do about things like fridges and freezers, but take stock of your computers, TVs, sound systems, computers, and yes, your light bulbs, and turn off anything you’re not using (by the power point if necessary). The cumulative effect of switching off is astounding (and honestly quite relieving)!
  • Really, does everyone need to hear the video you’re watching on your bed? Or the computer game your son is playing? Or the music your daughter is listening to? Or the latest podcast your husband keeps insisting you subscribe to? Get your family to use headphones and you'll instantly have a much quieter home.
  • When you are listening to or watching something communally, turn the noise down. You might love MAFS, but your neighbours might not!
  • When there’s noise outside, shut your doors and windows. If your doors and windows don’t shut properly, spend the money to get them fixed. Also consider buying some draught excluders to block any noise which might escape underneath your doors. You can use these to block noisy rooms inside the house, too.

 

Conclusion

Being a furniture retailer, noise pollution is not normally the sort of subject we normally cover in our blogs. But, as a family-oriented company, we feel an obligation to do what we can to separate facts from fiction and help everyone keep their families happier and healthier. That's part of life in the family home, after all!

If you’ve found this blog helpful, tap or click here to check out our 100+ other blogs (including our companion blog on indoor air pollution). We cover topics ranging from trans-seasonal styling to indoor lighting, coffee table books to custom-made furniture, multi-generational living to environmental sustainability, and a whole lot more!

Noise pollution at home: Why it matters and what you can do about it

Whether you love it, hate it, or have never given it much consideration, green thought is here to stay. Why? Because we’re becoming increasingly aware of just how drastically our consumption patterns are impacting all life on Earth.

Yep, it’s a big (and inconvenient) issue. Some academics have even called it a super wicked issue (seriously!). But that doesn’t mean we should just throw our hands up and say it's too hard, using that as an excuse to go on as we always have (though every one of us has done that at some point, including the hermits). Nor can we simply hope that the necessary changes are made by the powers that be. After all, every one of us is a part of life on Earth. Every one of us has an "environmental impact".

If you're looking for ways to help improve your relationship with (the rest of) nature beyond reusable grocery bags and KeepCups, the family home can be a great place to start. And contrary to what some might lead you to believe, it doesn't have to be expensive, difficult, pretentious, or, if it's a relevant concern for you, unmanly. All it takes is some thought and care.

Research your materials

When selecting base materials, keep in mind that plastics, steel, and aluminium are derived from non-renewable resources which require a lot of energy to refine into commercially usable products. Timber, meanwhile, is a natural resource which regenerates faster. Make sure you look for sustainable timber options, however, as deforestation is a major environmental issue (and also a contributor to the spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19).

When you’re looking at upholstery, consider your circumstances. Do you have young kids or pestiferous pets who will tear your furniture to shreds in no time? Or do you live in a calmer household that is more of a haven for fabric furniture? If you don’t need quite the durability that polyester offers, consider using fabrics or blends composed of natural fibres, such as cotton, linen, or jute, in your home. At the end of their life, they’ll biodegrade much faster (and more safely) than polyester. At the same time, there's no point opting for natural fibres over polyester if it just means you'll have to replace your furniture more frequently. Buying new sofas every two or three years versus every ten or twenty (or more) is not only much more wasteful, it's much more expensive.

 

Virgin or reclaimed timber?

There are many reasons why a person might choose to dismiss reclaimed timber—also known as recycled timber, salvaged wood, upcycled timber, and so on. But if you really think about it, most of the reasons are vanity-related: for example, “Virgin timber has a cleaner, fresher look”; or, “Reclaimed timber looks cheaper and I think it's less durable than the new stuff”; or even (though rarely with as much self-awareness), “I've never had reclaimed timber before so I don't want to try it”.

These reasons don't stand up to scrutiny at all!

Firstly, reclaimed timbers add character to your home. Now, I understand that to a lot of people the phrase “add character” is a signal to switch off, being, as it often is, empty marketing waffle. But the thing is, reclaimed timbers really do add character to your home, because they’ve lived lives as other products. Celeste and Ben, our company directors, reclaim high-quality timbers which have been used in shipping pallets, fence palings, roof trusses, wall frames, horse rails, and even the wooden bleachers from the old Cal Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. A piece of timber can’t get much more characterful than that!

Secondly, reclaimed timbers can be made to suit any style. A cursory look at our furniture styles will show you heaps of examples.

Thirdly, let's debunk the myth that reclaimed timbers are categorically less durable than virgin timbers. Sure, there's no denying that rotting planks salvaged from dumps in landfill aren't suitable for furnishing your home. But we're sensible enough to not pick those timbers. There’s no point having characterful furniture if it’s just going to explode (quite literally) in a couple of months, after all. That’s why we only reclaim timber which is strong and trustworthy enough to survive the vicissitudes of family life.

And finally, just because something is different doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Life's no fun if you spend it in a cocoon!

Ivory breakfast stools

 

Make it yours and make it local

An ethos of my family has been to always buy the best of what you can afford, even in tough times. That way, things last.

How do we apply that to furniture? Enter our custom-made collections. Rather than buying pieces off the floor, consider the spaces in which you live and let your imagination run free—what reclaimed, Australian, hardwood furniture would be best for your dining room? What size? What shape? And how about the fabric furniture? Perhaps you’ve already got some sofas you love, but you’re considering a statement fabric chair to tie your living room together. Regardless of your circumstances, if you take the time to consider what would really be perfect for your home, as well as your favourite fabrics, colours, and furniture styles, there’s bound to be a solution in our custom-made collections. If you make wise furniture decisions now, they’re going to pay off for many, many years, including by reducing furniture waste going to landfill.

There’s another big benefit from going for custom-made furniture: you’re buying Australian-made products. This means two things. Firstly, you’re supporting local jobs, local businesses, and ultimately your local economy. And secondly, you’re reducing your greenhouse gas footprint by erasing overseas transport from the production process. Win-win!

 

Lagom: just enough

So, by now you might be imagining a more eco-friendly home, possibly with custom-made, Australian-made fabric furniture and reclaimed timber furniture. That's a good start!

But before you rush out to your nearest store to spend thousands in custom-made furniture for your entire house, stop and think: you're still consuming. You're still buying a whole lot of stuff, and probably dumping other usable stuff in the process.

The fact is, not buying anything is by far the best way to reduce your environmental impact, and it's the only way to reduce your impact, in terms of this purchasing decision, to zero. (And how many retailers are honest enough to tell you that?)

At the same time, though, it’s not very fun to sit, sleep, eat, etc., on the floor when you’ve just moved out, or to see your kids do the same when they move out. In other circumstances, things break down (or simply break) and suffer other problems which mean that every now and then—and often sooner than we'd like—we do need to buy a whole lot of stuff.

Regardless of where you find yourself, there are ways of going about furniture and home decoration to make it more sustainable. For example:

Try care, maintenance, or repair first.

This is for pieces you already have that are still functionally good, but just need Howard, Guardsman, Miller, or Warwick to do some work on them. If the job’s a bit bigger, you might want to speak to one of our friendly staff to see what options are on the table for you (as it were).

If you need to buy something, buy well and only get as much as you need.

Lagom, or “just enough”, is one of those trendy words much of the meaning of which is lost in translation. But it is a beautiful (and wallet-friendly) way of living. It should already be in your vocabulary if your home is inspired by mid-century modern or some other Scandinavian furniture style.

If you just can't stand a piece which still looks good and functions well, do what you can to prevent it from going to landfill.

For example, there's may be a relative out there who would be happy to adopt your piece. Maybe one of your kids will be moving out soon, and you might use a spare room or hire a storage unit for your old furniture so they're in a better position when they've left. Or, if you don’t have neighbours, friends, or family that could use it, there are always charities out there that are willing to take your stuff for you (as long as it's in reasonable condition). For example, a few years ago we donated over $15,000 worth of furniture from our Penrith store’s stock-to-go room to Women’s Community Shelters, furnishing crisis shelters for women and children suffering homelessness and family violence.

 

Where to go from here?

I know this is a long read, but I’ve got a couple of closing thoughts to share with you before you go.

The main idea of this blog, and a lot of 'green thought', is that us humans have got a bit of a relationship problem with pretty much everything else that lives on this planet. We pretend humans and nature are two separate things, but really we're as much a part of the environment as bees, coffee trees, and all other living things. It's no good thinking about humans and the environment; instead, try thinking about humans in the environment. Change just one word, and you’ll see the world in a completely different way!

Finally, don’t just take the ideas in this blog as food for thought. Digest them, absorb them, and use them to inform your way of thinking whenever you're about to buy something (not just furniture or homewares). Consider questions like “What is it made of?”, “Was it made locally?”, “Could I go for a reclaimed/recycled/upcycled/etc. version?”, and most importantly, “Do I really need this in my life?”. With these questions to guide your decisions, you might find that not only will your consumption patterns change, but you'll find yourself in a growing movement of people who are striving towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

How and Why You Should Consider the Environment When Selecting Your Furniture

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