It shouldn’t be, but the fact is, it’s hard to find interiors that are guilt-free, with a focus on sustainability and social responsibility on the UK’s high streets. Heck – on high streets anywhere, really. But it’s OK, as I have you covered with this post on the best ethical interiors shops in the UK. You’re very welcome…now go get your shopping on.
1. The Decorator’s Notebook
Founded in 2013 by brother and sister duo, Joe and Bethan John, the Decorator’s Notebook is committed to selling design-led home accessories whilst helping artisans in developing countries build a better life. Choc full of beautiful homewares, this store is a must visit when seeking new pieces for your home. The Decorator’s Notebook stocks a comprehensive range – from furniture and storage solutions to beautiful cushions and throws – and is well worth a regular peek.
My personal favourite is the eternal sunset throw, pictured below. It’s from Swedish brand, House of Rym, and crafted in collaboration with the Jaquard weavers of Tunisia, using traditional techniques. And I love it in every way – the texture, the colours, the design. Mwah!
Named after a hut in Zambia, Nkuku creates beautifully handmade home and lifestyle products. They work with artisans throughout the world, combining timeless design with traditional skills and natural materials. Having grown from a small business selling leather journals to a successful home interiors brand stocking a wide range of home decor joy, this is a brand you need to know about.
Nkuku works with independent businesses, social projects and co-operatives in the knowledge that trading fairly provides local artisans with an opportunity to build a future. Fair trade helps businesses develop and creates sustainable employment. There’s a huge array of products available at Nkuku, including a lovely range of wooden tables and benches crafted in the UK, and combining traditional iron work from Rajasthan. Lovely.
3. The Basket Room
This online treasure trove of basket goodness delivers pretty much what it says on the tin. It is all about African baskets, covering every possible storage need you may have. Baskets for bikes, for shopping, for laundry, for display. You name it, there’s a basket for it.
The Basket Room describes itself as an ethical lifestyle brand, specialising in handwoven baskets and accessories made in Africa. Founded by Camilla and Holly, the company works directly with weaving cooperatives in rural Kenya, Ghana & Tanzania to create stunning collections. The primary driver is to create access to new markets with the goal of achieving a sustainable livelihood and recognition for the talented weavers, who otherwise are solely reliant on subsistence farming.
I love the focus that the Basket Room has on its weavers and their wellbeing. So if you need a basket in your life, this is my recommended go-to place to buy one!
4. Swoon Editions
Those of you that have followed NMC for a while will know how much I like Swoon Editions. I’ve raved about them in a couple of previous posts. They are a company on a mission to sell beautifully handcrafted furniture at honest, reasonable prices. By avoiding expensive overheads, they pass these savings onto their customers. Swoon Editions works closely with a small number of makers in India, China, Vietnam, Poland, Estonia and the UK, who make furniture using traditional techniques. And as each edition is sold in limited numbers, you don’t have to worry about spotting what you’ve bought elsewhere!
The cocktail chairs in the photo above are the Fitz (in grey) and the Duke (in orange). They’re gorgeous and available in a range of different colours and fabrics. The Fitz is made in partnership with a small Polish workshop run by a husband and wife team and is only £369! Bargain. And the Duke is made in Estonia, comes in various colours of plush velvet and costs £349.
YONDER.Living is another one of my UK favourites – I interviewed the awesome founders in this post. And I’m about to make the be-yootiful mustard mudcloth cushion in the photo above my next cushion of the week!
As a result I’m not going to spend too much time telling you about YONDER.Living’s awesomeness, but you do need to know that Pheobe and Sophia work directly with artisan partners in Morocco and elsewhere to source their fun and colourful homewares. They pay makers a fair price for the products produced and have some great new items in stock. They also offer wonderful customer service – and I should know given how much I’ve shopped with them!
6. India May Home
I’ve written about India May Home before – here, but my love for Karen’s scandi-boho style is as strong as ever. Where YONDER.Living packs a colour punch, India May Home offers a more calm and muted colour palette for lovers of both Scandinavian simplicity and global flair.
Karen sources her finds from artisans around the world, including Morocco, and her store has a strong focus on natural materials and textures. Bone inlay trays and boxes, brass trays and sheepskins are all available (as well as lots of other goodies), so if ethical Scandi styling is what you’re after, you are in the right place at India May Home.
Lalibella is all about Africa – home, fashion and design. Its focus is on the ethically produced, to empower local artisans, and promote new vibrant creatives. Oh yeah, and its a charity! All of Lalibella’s profits go into the Give A Future charity, an NGO that was founded by Lalibella’s creators, Stephanie Ferrario and Stefania Calice, 10 years ago and which today educates 10,000 children and adults in Ethiopia.
Lalibella works with the Maasai in Tanzania to create beaded jewellery, fashion designers from Kenya for the latest trends, and weavers from Swaziland who make vases, baskets and rugs. The traditional vintage Kuba cloth cushions are some of my particular favourites, as well as the Mohair throws. Oh yes, and the jewellery collection is pretty special….!
Aerende is a new find for me, but is a truly lovely online shop selling beautiful homewares made in the UK by people facing social challenges. In particular, those who are unable to access or maintain conventional employment.
The company was founded in 2016 by Emily Mathieson, a former travel editor for The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveller and Red. Driven by the lack of high-quality options in the ethical interiors sector, Emily began a quest to create a model for considerate, socially valuable shopping that doesn’t compromise on quality or style.
This is an inspiring social enterprise which involves its makers, and the organisations who represent them as core business partners. Focused on creating ‘life improving homewares‘, purchasing with Aerende means helping a fellow Brit to thrive where they may otherwise have been left behind by the regular employment market.
Working closely with artists and craftspeople around the world, Bohemia was established in 2006 by Jenny Lockton. Her goal was to build relationships with artisan producers, and through these collaborations help to support meaningful employment and ensure the survival of traditional crafts. Bohemia designs fashion and home accessories and works in ethical partnership with artisans in Morocco, India and Turkey to produce “contemporary handcrafted goods with an authentic soul“.
As I’m currently most of the world’s distance away from Morocco, it’s good to know that Bohemia always has a good stock of colourful pom pom blankets for sale. I really love pom pom blankets. But there are also handiras (Moroccan wedding blankets), cushions, rugs and babouches (berber slippers) available and lots more if you hanker for a bit of contemporary global soul at home.
10. West Elm’s Handcrafted Collection
I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t sure whether or not to include West Elm in this list. However, I am a big fan of giving credit where its due, and it is clear to me that this is a retailer who is generally committed to doing the right thing when sourcing its products. West Elm clearly takes its environmental, ethical and social responsibilities seriously, with a focus on fair trade, organic, sustainably sourced and handcrafted products. I’ve focused on its handcrafted collection for the purposes of this post, and West Elm considers itself to be a leading retailer in this space. It’s record is pretty impressive – working with over 20 artisan groups in 15 countries across the world.
I’m pleased that West Elm has embraced handcrafted products, though it does lead me to wonder why there has to be a special, dedicated ‘handcrafted’ collection in the first place. As I scroll back up this list of ethical interior shops in the UK, and look at the vast range of beautiful products they sell, I am struggling to understand why handcrafted and socially responsible interior products aren’t the norm. Is it the shops that aren’t making this a priority, or us as consumers? It’s probably a little of both.
I’m definitely going to make more of an effort when sourcing products for my home to search out stylish choices with a clear conscience. It feels like its the least I can do.
Do you think you’ll make any changes to your own interior shopping habits now? Let me know in the comments below.
Happy travels, and shopping