Sophie Robinson gives us her top tips on shopping sustainably

Interior designer and judge on The Great Interior Design Challenge, Sophie Robinson on how to style our home AND be kind the planet...

At home with Sophie Robinson
(Image credit: Sophie Robinson)

Looking to become a more sustainable shopper? Us too, because as you probably know we at Real Homes love a bargain and we love a trend (it comes with the territory) but we are also aware that fast fashion isn't doing our planet any good. 

So how can we style our homes to perfection while not contributing to the whole our-planet-is-going-to-turn-into-a-ball-of-fire-if-we-don't-stop-consuming thing? Well, we spoke to stylist, judge on The Great Interior Design Challenge and judge of the first ever Etsy Design Awards, Sophie Robinson, who knows A LOT about creating spaces that are both gorgeous and sustainable. These here are her top tips...

For loads more tips and inspiration to help you become more sustainable at home, head over to our eco hub page

1. Buy less and buy sensibly 

'I would first encourage you to just make a start because it can feel really overwhelming to begin with. We’ve have a convenient culture where things are stacked high and sold cheap and that suits us and our busy lives; you can just click a button and someone will deliver it and we don’t even have to think about. We need to realise that is not sustainable.'

'Once you have realised that, the number one thing that you can do easily and which will save you money is to just consume less. Just don’t have so much stuff. All those purchases where you think, 'this is in a high-street store and it’s cheap and I can buy it without really worrying about how much it’s costing me', just nip that in the bud. Stop that knee-jerk compulsive bargain mentality, because quite often those are the products that are not the best to buy. Be more considered in the purchases you do make, too. Think a little bit harder, a little bit deeper about what you want in your home.'

2. Shop at the right places 

'Look at vintage and secondhand pieces that are usually fairly good quality, a fraction of the price of something new and which have already been on the planet hanging around for quite a long time. Balance this with looking on free-cycle, auction sites, car boot sales – I know Etsy also do vintage – and then mix that with more considered purchases and resist the big, cheap, factory processed stuff. 

'For me, it’s all about getting in touch with the designer directly. You cut the middle man out so it does make it more affordable, because the shop or online store hasn’t put their mark up on. That’s why Etsy is so brilliant because you have got so many different people and you can find something specific to what you are looking for. That’s what I would encourage people to do; go on your own journey and find your own people. That’s really thrilling rather than just buying something from the high street that literally everyone else is going to have.' 

3. Own your style 

'So many people feel insecure about their own style and they buy into trends. Suddenly rose gold and blush pink are everywhere and everyone feels the need to buy into that. Resist that feeling that you need to follow the trends because the problem with trends is that they come and they go and they feel the need to reinvent themselves, were as your home has a lot more longevity than that.'

'It’s about making our homes feel more special, more authentic more original. And I think that’s really what people should be doing right now, rather than making it Instagram worthy for the grid and then chucking it all out and doing something else.'

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A photo posted by @sophierobinsoninteriors on Jun 3, 2019 at 9:34am PDT

'Obviously, yes, we still want to be able to buy things and still want to be able to update and refresh our homes, but it’s thinking about not just buying into trends but buying into your own personal style and being more confident to make bigger investments in something you are going to love for a long time. So do your work, really research what your style is and what you love and then invest in that and be original and that’s really fun and creative.'

4. Upcycle your second hand finds

'Look for the shape, the style, the dimensions, the quality and if the colour's not right just paint it. I just love painting old pieces. It’s really quick and easy. A lot of what we call brown furniture is… brown, and quite a lot of the dark wood isn’t really people’s bag. But Victorian furniture is so beautifully made and I’d have that over a flat pack chest of drawers any day of the week. Me and Dan Hopwood always argue about this on The Great Interior Design Challenge, because he thinks if it’s got a beautiful wood then it should be left, but if it’s the difference between you keeping something or chucking it out then just paint it.'

'And there’s obviously great products, chalk paint for example, that make it very quick and easy to do. Before, you used to have to put knot stain solution on and then prime it and undercoat it and then two layers of top coat and it was all just a bit boring. But now these products mean you can literally just slap in on in a weekend.'

Speaking of which, if you do have a piece of old neglected furniture you fancy giving a new lease of life, check out our guide to how to paint furniture. And if you want to delve in the furniture changing qualities of chalk paint, pick one of the best furniture paints from our buying guide.

Sophie Robinson is speaking as part of the panel of judges for the inaugural Etsy Design Awards, which recognises the work of extraordinary Etsy sellers from around the world. Discover more from the finalists here.

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Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer before moving to the Livingetc team in 2021 where she took on a role as Digital Editor. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration. When she isn't writing about interiors, she is renovating her own spaces – be it wallpapering a hallway, painting kitchen cupboards or converting a van.