Pre-loved interiors change the story of stuff.
THE way you fit out and decorate your home is a matter of style, but also of substance – each purchase contributes to the size of your footprint.
October is the Salvos Stores’ Buy Nothing New Month. The campaign encourages people to buy only their necessities new, and for the rest, to scavenge, swap, or seek out second-hand goods.
Author Clive Hamilton says the campaign is about “spending our time and money more thoughtfully”.
Throughout the month, some Salvos Stores will be showing The Story of Stuff, a short animation on the life cycle impact of goods, from the extraction of raw materials to disposal.
“We usually think of our greenhouse gas emissions being associated with direct energy use, like heating our houses and driving our cars,” Mr Hamilton says. “But a lot of greenhouse gases are embodied in the goods we buy, because so much energy is used in making them.”
He says white goods and furnishings often have relatively high embodied energy. Overall, the indirect emissions of households (through the products and food we buy) are larger than the direct emissions (caused by our energy use).
We tend to spend what we earn, either now or later. “This is why high-income households always buy more stuff, generate more greenhouse gas emissions and produce more waste,” he says.
But that consumption is a matter of choice. “Changing what we consume can reduce our emissions in the same way as driving less or turning the thermostat down,” he says.
Artist and interior designer Christo Gillard argues that buying pre-loved not only reduces materials consumption and saves money, but also adds pizazz.
“Recycled things are fantastic because they hold a lot of character that other stuff doesn’t have. They’ve got instant personality,” he says. “As far as interiors and houses are concerned, recycling isn’t a new thing. Antique stores are emporiums of recycled products.”
There are many ways to avoid buying new. You can ‘up-cycle’: fix, re-furbish or re-upholster existing things to give them new life.
“Textiles generally don’t outlast the framework of furnishings,” Mr Gillard says. “You can re-glue and re-upholster an amazing, rickety old chair. Spend a day’s work and it’ll last another 50 years.” When re-upholstering, choose the fabrics for durability and enquire about eco-friendly adhesives and foams.
The same goes for lampshades, because there are few craftspeople making high-quality ones. “If you’re lucky enough to find one in an opshop and re-cover it, you’ll have something intensely unique.”
You can also seek out pre-used materials. Mr Gillard has drawn drapes from old cinemas and lit upon French louvers in council collection piles. He especially recommends reclaimed carpets, floorboards and tiles.
“Recycled tiles are marvellous. One time I found a load of tiles for $150 and gave them to a client. I saw someone else who found similar tiles new and paid $8000 for them,” he says.
You can save on everything, from taps and fittings to kitchenware, and even hifi equipment such as record players. “The internet is a bottomless place to find stuff,” Mr Gillard says.
“Visit places like Camberwell market, trash-and-treasure stores and opshops. Garage sales are the greatest things in the world. There’s so much available from houses, shops and buildings that are being demolished. It’s all about how you mix and match it.”