Leather might be the first thing that pops into mind when you think of animal materials used in interior design, but there are a number of other facets of vegan decorating.

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Veganism is one of the most popular movements in the food world today. According to one 2019 survey, about 10 million American adults now identify as vegetarian or vegan—in terms of their diet, at least. But some people are taking this plant-based philosophy beyond their plates and applying it to their entire homes.

A quick refresher: Those who follow a vegan diet aim to exclude all foods that come from animals or involve the exploitation of living things. That means meat, dairy, eggs, honey, and other items processed with animal products are all off-limits.

family room with cream sofa rug coffee table and wood ceiling
Credit: Courtesy of VeganDesign.org

So What Is Vegan Design?

Vegan design takes these same animal-free principles and applies them to the home. "Vegan or cruelty-free design is defined as creating environments that are free from animal-based materials and decor," says Deborah DiMare, founder of VeganDesign.org and DiMare Design, a firm focused on designing humane interiors.

Leather might be the first thing that pops into mind when you think of animal materials used in interior design, but there are a number of other facets of vegan decorating. A fully vegan home doesn’t include any furnishings made with wool, cashmere, silk, fur, down, snakeskin, or other animal-derived products. Because many home furnishings—from rugs to throws to lampshades—commonly use these materials, a completely vegan home can be difficult to achieve.

Take your living room furniture, for example. Even if you buy a sofa upholstered in velvet or faux-leather, there’s a possibility the cushions or other elements contain an animal-derived product. "Ensure that when a sofa is touted as 'vegan,' it doesn’t refer to the fabric of the sofa only," DiMare says. "Many sofas are manufactured with down wrapping underneath the fabric in order to make the sofa more comfortable."

Paint is another home decorating item that often contains animal byproducts. Many standard paints contain casein (the primary protein in milk), shellac (which comes from the female lac bug), or ox gall (which comes from cows). Vegan paints, on the other hand, substitute these animal-derived ingredients with plant-based binders.

What Are Some Examples of Vegan-Friendly Decor?

Home furnishings comprised of natural materials are common vegan decor options. This includes throw pillows, rugs, and other accents made from linen, cotton, hemp, cork, or bamboo. Synthetic textiles like nylon and polyester are also generally vegan-friendly choices.

Other vegan options include more unusual materials. Piñatex is a leather alternative made of fibers from pineapple leaves. According to their website, the eco-friendly textile is “soft, versatile, lightweight, and durable,” and it’s now being used on furnishings like table lamps and interior upholstery.

Furnishings made with Tencel Lyocell fibers offer another cruelty-free (and sustainable) choice. Made from wood pulp, the material is biodegradable, compostable, and sustainably sourced. Bedsheets and linens, towels, and rugs made from the material are now available at retailers like West Elm and Pottery Barn.

Much like switching to a vegan diet plan, going fully vegan in your home decorating probably won’t happen overnight. DiMare suggests taking it slow by focusing on one room or one animal-based material, such as leather or wool, at a time. "Once you decide on your direction, write it down and give it a date," she says. Starting with a few small changes can help you achieve a fully vegan home over time.


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