These days, sustainability is a word we hear often and something the world would be thankful for if we incorporated into our lives a little more.
Sure, we recycle our trash at home, donate clothes and household items to charity to keep them out of landfills and even buy better lightbulbs for longevity. But we could be doing so much more.
Nina Edwards Anker, architect and interior, product and furniture designer has made it her mission to bring sustainability into the home in a new way.
Recently I caught up with Anker to learn how sustainable furniture is really making a difference in our lives.
Tell us about your background:
I grew up in NYC with my brother and parents and attended the Lycee Francais. My mother was an interior designer who graduated from Parsons School of Design and worked at Skidmore Owings and Merrill. She trained our eyes for design and often brought us to the Metropolitan Museum. I majored in art history at Vassar College, then worked at Sotheby’s for two years and studied at the Architectural Association for two years in London. These London years were incredibly formative and inspiring. I wanted to go back home eventually though and transferred to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design to complete my master’s in architecture.
How did you become interested in sustainable furniture/home decor?
Upon graduating from the GSD in 2001, I traveled back and forth for a few years between NYC and Oslo, working in architectural firms in both cities. I was influenced by Norwegian architectural traditions, especially with regards to minimalist style, space efficiency and connection to the surrounding landscape.
I started nea studio in 2006 in Oslo, where I completed several residential projects that prioritized natural materials, especially wood, and connection to the natural surroundings, as well as the ‘Arctic Line’ of furniture, inspired by Nordic landscapes.
What exactly is sustainable furniture?
Sustainable furniture is furniture that is made to promote longevity; it does so by promoting health for both human beings and the planet. It is made from non-toxic and/or recycled materials that do not emit CO2 or toxins into the atmosphere, which are damaging to both the ecosystem and human lungs.
Ideally, sustainable furniture also incorporates an element of biophilic design that connects to the natural environment in various ways (natural materials, organic forms, etc.), as scientific research proves that human connection to natural elements lifts spirits.
What is LEEDs certification and why is it important?
LEED certification is one of many certificates that establish a communal language around what it means to build sustainably, according to an agreed-upon standard that is continuously updated.
Optimal orientation saves on electric bills to capture the southern sun and promotes healthy sleeping patterns if the bedrooms are facing east.
What are the Top 10 reasons for having LEED certified products in your home:
- LEED products save money on electric bills — Solar and other forms of renewable energy eliminates gas and oil, and also powers a minimal heating/cooling system and lighting.
- Healthier life - Improved air quality with natural ventilation and elimination of toxic gases from metal structure or polyurethane foams, etc.
- Thermal comfort/delight: It offers passive solar heating/cooling and natural ventilation.
- Lifted spirits - Biophilic design that connects to the natural environment in various ways (natural materials, plants, etc.) express care for and celebrate the natural environment.
- Promotes regular sleeping patterns: Circadian rhythms improve due to east facing bedroom windows.
- Minimizes stress — Uncluttered environments with minimalist backdrop allows for focus on the slower pace of biorhythms.
- Savings on transport costs — Products are all manufactured with locally sourced materials (within 500 miles).
- Increased sense of community - Passive building traditions are rooted in strategies and skills that have evolved from historical local architectural typologies.
- Improved acoustics in the home by offering super insulated northern walls.
- As a result of the above, we become a Healthy planet!
If a buyer wanted to source sustainable furniture, where should they start?
nea studio! Or anything made of FSC-certified wood (Forest Stewardship Council), without toxic glues. Classic and simple, such as certain pieces by Crate & Barrel or CB2, is always a good design choice.