Leading By Example in Interior Design

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As the CEO of SURFACE ELEVEN, a UAE-based interior surface specialist, Amal Barreto is an expert in the latest in material technologies. In this article, Amal shares insider knowledge of her favourite earth-conscious brands.

It's a must-read for any Interior Designer, Architect, Developer or Contractor.

Beauty on a Budget?

As a material specialist, the responsibility to educate interior designers about the composition of surfaces used on walls, floors and ceilings is implicit. Frequent conversation points are a product's aesthetic value, technical aspects, durability, maintenance and budget. These have been the primary criteria for selection in urban design.

But are we happy to deliver projects that tell half a story?

Far too often, as an industry, we are content with beauty on a budget and a matching timeline. But what if designing a space entailed creating structures that speak to far more than what an occupant merely prefers?

I'm here to question this primary motivation and challenge you to push conventional boundaries to redefine Design itself. After all, the story of any design project is devoid of a happy ending when the long-term effects of the materials used are ignored.

The story of any design project is devoid of a happy ending when the long-term effects of the materials used are ignored.

To help you with this challenge, I've listed my top five picks of companies that embed sustainable values in their production processes, raw materials, and societal benefits. My suggestion is to review what they do and list a set of questions to ask your material supplier. In providing this list I hope to inspire a re-evaluation of your design studio's criteria when selecting a material for future interior projects.


Country of Origin: Sweden

Product: Reindeer moss for walls and ceilings

Sustainability Features: Acoustic rating of 1.0 NRC (noise reduction coefficient) for convex panels, Class A fire rating, fully recyclable, lasts a lifetime, zero-maintenance, hypoallergenic

Stakeholder Benefits: Nordgröna is the densest reindeer moss in the market, which is an aesthetic feature high in demand.

Their distinct density is the result of how lichen - the raw material for moss - is handpicked following strict rules in terms of environment and sustainability across an area of about 15.000 km² (5800 mi²). Lichen is picked from parts of the Scandinavian forest above a specific length to allow for optimal conditions for regrowth, thus respecting its natural habitat. No more than 20% of the amount is picked at a time, and the area is not revisited for at least four years.

Picking lichen requires a governmental permit in Sweden and the approval of landowners, forestry companies, municipalities, and private individuals. The collection of lichen ensures employment for rural communities and is a requirement in some forest areas where its overgrowth inhibits plants and animals. The picking of lichen is subject to a rigorous review (ISO 9001) conducted every three years as part of auditing all company activities.

As a brand that contributes to green buildings, Nordgröna goes beyond the face value of simply installing green moss on a wall or ceiling with what they do behind the scenes for the community and environment.


Country of Origin: Netherlands