A grand de­sign with a last­ing legacy

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Property -

Vanessa Balin­ska is a fi­nal-year stu­dent who, along with thou­sands of oth­ers, is cur­rently putting the fin­ish­ing touches to her end-of-course project. Over the com­ing weeks, arts and de­sign schools across the coun­try will show­case the work of our fu­ture talent. These en­er­getic twen­tysome­things will be the ar­biters of Bri­tish taste for the next few decades, set­ting the tone for fu­ture trends in aes­thet­ics and cul­ture, from the colour of our liv­ing rooms to the shape of our lamp­shades. As part of her fi­nal project, Balin­ska, who is study­ing for a Bach­e­lor’s De­gree in in­te­rior de­sign at KLC School of De­sign in Lon­don, is spec­i­fy­ing ma­te­ri­als and ac­ces­sories for the bar area of a May­fair restau­rant. Al­though the look is un­de­ni­ably sleek, she is us­ing re­claimed and low-en­ergy ma­te­ri­als. The wooden slats for the ceil­ing are from re­claimed oak and the sculpted lights are from old cop­per pip­ing. The bar work­tops are re­cy­cled glass and the floor­ing is eco-con­crete made from mag­ne­sium ox­ide ce­ment, which uses half the en­ergy of con­ven­tional ce­ment in its man­u­fac­ture. “Most of my de­signs and work dur­ing this fi­nal year have been led by sus­tain­abil­ity,” says Balin­ska, who wants to work in do­mes­tic in­te­rior de­sign af­ter grad­u­at­ing. “I’ve tried to in­cor­po­rate ma­te­ri­als that are ei­ther re­claimed, re­cy­cled or that have a low car­bon foot­print dur­ing man­u­fac­ture and trans­porta­tion. Us­ing LED lights and en­ergy-ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances are sim­ple ways of con­sid­er­ing the en­vi­ron­ment as well as be­ing more eco­nom­i­cal for the client.” We may scoff at the su­per­rich celebri­ties of New York and Los Angeles splash­ing out on so-called en­vi­ron­men­tal fea­tures such as an apart­ment block “well­ness concierge” and vi­ta­min C-in­fused show­ers, but real change starts from the bot­tom and works up, not the other way round. Vanessa be­lieves that to­day’s new gen­er­a­tion of de­sign­ers, start­ing out on a shoe­string, have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­duce the strain on nat­u­ral re­sources of their projects. But clients are in­creas­ingly ask­ing for low-im­pact ma­te­ri­als to dec­o­rate their homes, too. Piers Prideaux, a lec­turer at KLC (klc.co.uk), says: “Stu­dents are train­ing at an amaz­ing time of change within the in­dus­try where we are mov­ing rapidly away from a cul­ture where dis­pos­able is con­sid­ered ac­cept­able.” He says stu­dents are taught to look at ma­te­ri­als with an imag­i­na­tive eye to see what can be reused. While un­til re­cently, the words “eco-friendly in­te­ri­ors” con­jured up im­ages of shabby chic, ad­vances in fin­ish­ing tech­niques mean re­claimed and up­cy­cled pieces don’t have to look bashed up at all. “You can have an en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive in­te­rior which doesn’t look ei­ther shabby chic or all kaf­tans and in­cense. You can be very grand and still have nat­u­ral, re­new­able ma­te­ri­als that haven’t come from du­bi­ous sources,” ex­plains Piers. This can range from prac­ti­cal items such as lamp­shades, to more dec­o­ra­tive ob­jects in­clud­ing the art­works we put on our walls. Young de­signer Em­i­lie Os­borne, who grad­u­ated from Arts Univer­sity Bournemouth last June, cre­ates beau­ti­ful 3D wall cover­ings made from re­cy­cled card. Her phi­los­o­phy arose out of hard­ships ex­pe­ri­enced as a stu­dent: “I can’t bear throw­ing stuff away,” she says. “As a stu­dent you are al­ways on a budget and I think it fil­tered through to the way I found the ma­te­ri­als I used in my de­signs.” For Chris Thorpe, who grad­u­ated last sum­mer from Fal­mouth Univer­sity, in­spi­ra­tion came from the nat­u­ral re­sources that sur­rounded him in Corn­wall. Chris makes stun­ning home­wares out of gran­ite of­f­cuts and oak and sy­camore refuse from tree surgeons, to cre­ate pen­dant lamp­shades that are an art­work in them­selves. Chris stud­ied un­der Drum­mond Master­ton, course leader at Fal­mouth (fal­mouth. ac.uk/sus­tain­ableprod­uct de­sign). Drum­mond says stu­dents ar­rive with a pas­sion, “whether it is to re­duce waste, to con­serve bio­di­ver­sity or help the de­vel­op­ing world,” which then has to be turned into hard-headed prac­tice. One of his stu­dents is cur­rently work­ing on a Hun­dred Year Ra­dio that will last through the next century thanks to a dropout mech­a­nism that will al­low the elec­tron­ics to be re­placed when­ever tech­nol­ogy makes them re­dun­dant, while re­tain­ing the beau­ti­fully en­gi­neered ex­te­rior and high-qual­ity speak­ers. The de­mand for a greater fo­cus on the prove­nance of ma­te­ri­als and how much en­ergy houses and ap­pli­ances are go­ing to use has be­come more im­por­tant for clients over the past few years, says in­te­rior de­signer Ge­orgina Gibson. She has been in busi­ness for nearly a decade (georginag­ib­son­in­te­ri­orde­sign. co.uk). “Re­quest­ing that a home makeover be eco-friendly used to be quite niche, but now it’s more preva­lent,” she says. “I like to source a lot of sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture for clients and then re­fresh it with re­uphol­ster­ing or paint. It of­ten works out a lot cheaper, too.” Em­i­lie Os­borne and Chris Thorpe will be ex­hibit­ing at next month’s New De­sign­ers Show (newde­sign­ers.com). Day tick­ets from £10.50, plus book­ing fee

Up­cy­cle the world: from eco-con­crete to lamp­shades as art, the low-car­bon word is spread­ing

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