The How To Guide: Design Hotel Schemes and Choose Furniture with Sustainability In Mind

Erin Johnson, design manager at Morgan (www.morganfurniture.co.uk), shares her insights into how hotel designers can proactively reduce waste and reuse old furniture to create a more circular industry.

As the climate crisis accelerates, it is my view that if we don’t collectively take responsibility for the environment, then we don’t have a right to create. This means that sustainability must be at the core of everything we do: from the materials we source, to ensuring we only consume what is vitally necessary. We must find new ways to reuse products, by rejuvenating, refinishing and reupholstering.

In the hospitality industry, value for money is a huge swing factor when it comes to specifying materials and furniture for venues. Now, talk of sustainability is mounting globally, and there is an undeniable pressure on brands to make more eco-conscious decisions at every opportunity to reduce their impact on the planet. In terms of furniture design, this more urgent need to create real and measureable change has developed a focus on reuse and recycling of existing furniture items. In my opinion, this is a fantastic step in the right direction. It opens a wealth of opportunity for furniture manufacturers, like us, to help clients reduce their carbon footprint and demonstrate how our frames provide longevity, and with the ability to reupholster and refinish, a new product is born.

But how do you do this? Designers should start by looking for factors including material type, quantity and source. At Morgan we’ve found that working closely with both our supply chain and production team enables the best result for all interested parties.

Make once, make well
At Morgan our approach is to ‘make once, make well,’ which stems from our belief in ‘Right First Time’, a Lean manufacturing principle which strives to minimise waste. This principle involves a culture of continuous improvement, with an overarching aim to better ourselves, our processes and our thinking. It is a firm part of our organisation’s values and can be applied throughout the business. Along with eliminating waste through defects, Lean encourages minimal resource to be lost through other means, including overprocessing, overproduction and waiting.

As good as new
We recently demonstrated just how easy this is to achieve, during Clerkenwell Design Week. In a special exhibition, we featured the journey of four Pastille dining chairs from the Players’ Lounge at AELTC, Wimbledon through the reupholstery process. The project’s aim was to demonstrate just how effective reupholstery is in extending furniture’s lifespan. These chairs are now ready for many more Championships to come.

Waste innovation
This level of intent to become more sustainable demands innovation. We have been looking to increase our use of recycled materials and now offer our tabletop options in recycled materials. During our research we found high quality surfaces made of commonplace plastic items including yogurt pots, cosmetic bottles, electrical cabling etc. The supplier we opted for is a UK manufacturer, and uses waste produced in this country, providing a great example of circularity. It also offers the benefit of keeping transportation mileage and carbon down.

Designers can take reuse one step further and opt for a bespoke option taking waste from an old building or demolition and repurposing it, bringing a new item back into the project with a second life.

The result is a striking, abstract surface. Different plastics allow for a broad choice of colour motifs, as well as the option to add further visual interest with flecks of foil, from yogurt pot lids.

Quite apart from being a versatile, 100% recycled and 100% recyclable material, it can be a great conversation starter! Recycled plastics from multiple sources and increased use of terrazzo have also become popular design features. A lot of people don’t realise it’s usually made of recycled materials. These are options that offer significant design flexibility, from the colours used, to the chip sizing and composition.

This rethinking of materials will be strongly influenced by the plastic packaging tax which came into effect on April 1st 2022. Now manufacturers will be charged a 30% fee if they can’t prove they have at least 30% recycled content in their plastics.

There are many ways hotel designers can embark on making the spaces they create more eco-conscious. The key is to put the time into researching the product you’re specifying, asking, does it meet the criteria and will it be robust enough to withstand the test of time? Most importantly, can it be recycled or rejuvenated for many years to come?