Sustainability through design

Currently, sustainability seems to be the word on everybody’s lips – and for good reason. Materials and processes that are environmentally friendly are crucial to the viability of businesses and lifestyles.

It’s not surprising that the place of interior design is key when creating sustainable spaces. Designers can ensure the longevity of the built environment by adding the right features at the very beginning of its lifecycle, which enhances the ability to future-proof a project. Bernard Interiors has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to employing a sustainable approach, thanks to its experience on multiple refurbishment projects in the commercial and residential property sectors. 

Recently, the team at Bernard Interiors has worked alongside a vegan and gluten-free cafe based in Essex, UK. By making use of its expertise in sustainability, the team was able to create a warm, comfortable cafe that would encourage members of the community to sit, sip and socialise – sustainably. 

The first step was to understand the needs of the client by pinpointing their exact goals. 

The project is called ‘The Humankind Cafe’, which reflects the inclusive and personal approach of the project.

The cafe will be based in a former Barclays Bank building in the town of Billericay and the food will be prepared freshly onsite with locally sourced, organic, and gluten-free ingredients. Due to its commitment to healthy eating and catering to those with dietary requirements, the cafe’s ethos was immediately clear. The Bernard Interiors team knew that their mission was to convey the cafe’s community-minded and wholesome pursuit, while also considering which design elements would help to make the cafe’s goals a reality. 

To ensure that the cafe was sustainable in both its design and processes, the team at Bernard Interiors began collaborating with the client to consider how they could successfully limit the carbon footprint of the cafe, and effectively use spatial planning to ensure this was achieved. To reduce emissions, all contractors were sourced locally to allow people involved in the project to have shorter commutes and transport materials more efficiently.

The design studio also created a herb garden within the cafe to cultivate produce like basil, oregano, and parsley, which are used frequently in the cafe’s main dishes. In addition to reducing carbon emissions from delivery drivers, growing products internally also reduces waste from plastic packaging. 

The cafe’s interior design focused on recycling and upcycling to channel the sustainability theme. When it came to choosing fabrics and flooring that would represent this common thread, the design studio was well placed to advise, thanks to its far-reaching network of suppliers and vast knowledge of the sector. 

The studio commissioned Agua Fabrics, a fabric supplier and creator of VerdEco, for all of the seating areas within the cafe. VerdEco is a high-performance, eco-friendly, upholstery fabric made entirely from recycled materials. 

The cafe’s tiles and all of its fixed joinery will also be created from recycled or upcycled products, so that the very foundation of the design reflects the cafe’s eco-friendly ambitions. 

In addition, Bernard Interiors has conducted a range of sourcing expeditions to find high quality, pre-loved furniture and decorative accessories. Vintage shops became the teams’ local haunt at this stage of the process, and a variety of hidden treasures were uncovered. For example, an antique condiment unit was sourced from a second-hand shop, along with a variety of accessories, like vases, umbrella stands, and vintage artwork. 

Bernard Interiors saw true value in this project and felt so inspired by the clients’ ethos that  the design studio offered a charitable approach for the interior design. As the design studio grows, it is committed to never losing sight of its mission to ‘do good’ and make a difference. Projects like the Humankind Cafe allow Bernard Interiors, headed up by founder Jen Bernard, to always work towards the goal that binds the team together, to give back, and work with purpose. 

Our style is born from our clients vision and our skills realise our clients’ business aspirations or dream lifestyle.


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Photography © Neale Smith / Kristen McCluskie