When I first moved to New York and it came time to furnish my Brooklyn apartment, I wanted to find pieces that were both vegan and sustainable. My friend Tedi took me to a West Elm store for inspiration and I immediately fell in love with their aesthetic. I ended up getting practically all of my furniture from them because it was so easy to find pieces that were vegan, but I also loved their commitment to ethical practices and working conditions. A few months ago, I left Brooklyn and moved to SoHo. My new apartment is more spacious than the previous one, so when it came to styling it, I knew that I wanted it to feel sophisticated yet cozy and inviting, like an oasis in the middle of downtown where I could get work done, have friends over and read in a relaxed environment. I knew that West Elm had a design service, so I reached out to them and asked if they’d be willing to help me style the place and choose a few more more pieces that would complement the ones I already had. Sustainability is one of their core values and they liked the idea of styling an entirely vegan apartment, so luckily for me, they were more than happy to help me. Their whole team was amazing and it turned out to be an even better project and collaboration than I could have possibly imagined. October also happens to be Fair Trade Month, making it the perfect occasion to bring awareness to sustainability.
Before the makeover:
After the makeover:
[Before & After photos: courtesy of Landon Vonderschmidt]
Ethically sourced + vegan materials
The challenge when furnishing a home that is both vegan and fair trade is to find furniture that doesn’t include any animal products such as wool and leather and that is made from sustainably sourced materials while simultaneously supporting fair and ethical working conditions for workers. In 2014, West Elm became the first home retailer to join Fair Trade USA™ and their fair trade assortment now includes furniture, rugs and bedding. Their commitment to ethical practices and their social mission is something I love about West Elm just as much as their beautifully crafted designs. One of the first pieces of furniture I bought when I moved to the city was the Emmerson Reclaimed Wood Storage bed, which is made from certified sustainably sourced and unfinished reclaimed pine (29% of all the wood used in West Elm products is sustainably sourced, which the aim of 50% by 2020). I later also got the Emmerson dining table and benches that all have the same rustic and homey look. Since the wood is reclaimed, every single piece is unique, which is something I particularly love. When it comes to materials, finding wool-free rugs that look amazing and are high quality is one of the most challenging tasks, but luckily West Elm has a selection of rugs made from materials like jute that are entirely free from wool and silk. When shopping online, simply search by material in the rug section and you’ll get an overview of the vegan rugs they offer.
[all photos by Kim-Julie Hansen, unless otherwise specified]
Design + installation
For this project, the West Elm Dumbo Design Crew team asked me to tell them what kind of look and feel I had in mind when thinking of my ideal home and they did an incredible job of combining my vision with the West Elm aesthetic. The whole process was a lot of fun as their installation team and designers worked closely together to get the best end result. The designer came to my apartment to get a feel for the space in order to select the perfect additional pieces and accessories. West Elm has a Design Crew offering free design services in every store, so if you feel like you need a little extra help in the design department too, don’t hesitate to reach out to them, I’d definitely highly recommend it! What I loved most about it was that they really wanted the apartment to reflect my personality. Before choosing any pieces, they showed me a selection of different ones that would all work well in the space and let me choose whichever one I was drawn to most, thereby helping me discover my own individual style.
I had always dreamt of a home with a large open kitchen, dining and living area. I love cooking and spending time with friends, so the idea of hosting intimate dinner parties and get-togethers was one of the things that appealed to me the most when I chose my apartment. Since I already had a smaller Emerson reclaimed wood dining table, the designer decided to get a second one and turn it into a larger table that would be ideal for dinner nights with friends. In the living room area, they added smaller pieces that work together perfectly. The Roar + Rabbit patchwork side tableand Brass Geo Inlay Media Console, which are both fair trade, are two of my favorites because they’re so unique and beautiful. They made sure that every single accessory was vegan as well, choosing soy wax candles, for instance.
Overall, this was an amazing and fun experience and I love every single piece in the apartment, but above all, I love that my home reflects my ethical values and that we were able to show that you can create a beautiful and fair trade home environment without any animal products.
To see more pictures of the apartment, check out West Elm’s Front + Main blog. You can shop West Elm products online or use their store locatorto find the nearest West Elm store. My personal tip: if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll be kept in the loop about any upcoming sales they might have.
[photos: courtesy of Landon Vonderschmidt]
Disclaimer: this is not a paid collaboration. West Elm did, however, sponsor some of the furniture and provide the design and installation services. All opinions expressed are my own and I only recommend companies and services I personally use and love.