Sustainability + Interiors Series / Introduction

We’re excited to kick off a new series on sustainability and what it means for interiors! In our first installment, read on for thoughts on how to consider sustainability for yourself.

Armadillo & Co’s rugs are made by hand from natural or sustainable materials using Fair Trade practices (  source  )

Armadillo & Co’s rugs are made by hand from natural or sustainable materials using Fair Trade practices (source)

I had always thought of myself as environmentally-conscious with my parent-instilled habits of religiously recycling and only buying new things when the old things could no longer be used. I even wrote a paper in college analyzing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and criticizing the loopholes in how they evaluated sustainability. But if I really dig into my life, there is so much unsustainability that escapes notice on a daily basis. Our beloved iPhones, for example, do we really want to know the conditions in which those rare earth metals are mined? (We don’t.)

Sustainable, green, eco-friendly - these are all words we hear often, but what do they really mean? Depending on who you ask and the context, there can be many different answers. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, “To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.” 

Whether or not you care deeply about the global environment, your immediate environment most certainly has an effect on your well-being. As many people have unfortunately experienced at one point or another, paint and carpet fumes most definitely cause headaches. According to the Sustainable Furnishings Council, our indoor environments are two to five times more polluted than our outdoor environment because of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) off-gassing from the furnishings that we bring into our homes. Not to mention, the textile production industry is one of the most chemically intensive in the world, and we are surrounded by textiles on our bodies and environments. 

Inside Cisco Home’s furniture workshop, a company known for their use of Forest Council Certified wood, natural materials, and lack of chemical fire retardants. (  source  )

Inside Cisco Home’s furniture workshop, a company known for their use of Forest Council Certified wood, natural materials, and lack of chemical fire retardants. (source)

How do we evaluate products and companies? Here are four main areas that are helpful in evaluating sustainability:

  • Transparent Sourcing

    • Can you trace back the origin of the materials used?

    • Is the material provider producing within ethical and sustainable guidelines?

  • Ethical Manufacturing

    • Are the working conditions safe?

    • Are labor practices non-exploitive?

  • Low-Impact Production

    • Are the negative by-products of production minimal?

    • Are harmful chemicals being used in the product?

  • Upcycled Materials

    • If plastic is being used, is it recycled?

    • Is the wood reclaimed?

It is absolutely difficult, if not impossible, to be 100% sustainable in all areas currently. Our goal in discussing sustainability is not to be perfect, nor to judge or criticize, but to present information so that you can make informed decisions on your interiors based on what is most important to you. Trade-offs are often necessary in design when there are budgets and schedules to consider. However, it’s becoming increasingly easier to make sustainable decisions for your spaces, and we seek to educate and highlight those alternatives in this new monthly series. 

Stay tuned for our next post on textiles. In the meantime, what topic most interests you in sustainability and interiors? Share with us in the comments below.

Pro Tip: When You Should Hire an Interior Designer

Interior designers create beautiful spaces, but hiring one isn’t right for every project. Here are the top 5 reasons for when you’ll want a full-service designer on your team...
 

1 / YOU WANT A UNIQUE SPACE

Interior designers help make any space uniquely yours due to their vast network of local, domestic, and international sources. They’ll find the exact right pieces for your home that you likely won’t see anywhere else, or they’ll create the perfect custom piece for you in collaboration with expert craftsmen.

Rest assured — your home will not look like your neighbor’s!

2 / YOU WANT FUNCTIONALITY AND DURABILITY FOR SPECIFIC NEEDS

Interior designers take the time to understand how you’ll be living in your space. Do you need to accommodate high-use areas for kids or pets? Do you have light-sensitive sleepers in an east-facing bedroom?

Interior designers apply their extensive knowledge of materials and vendors to help design your ideal space. You’ll get more than just a beautiful and inspiring home — you’ll get one that fits your daily life and is built to last.
 

3 / YOU WANT A COST-EFFICIENT PROJECT

Yes, hiring an interior designer is a considerable investment into your home, but there are several cost benefits too.

  • Interior designers’ relationships with vendors often result in prices lower than if you’d purchased the same items on your own.
  • Form + Field excels at project management and has overseen many projects before yours. We’ll help you avoid costly mistakes so you can have a beautiful space where money is spent on the things you care about most.

4 / YOU WANT A LOW TIME COMMITMENT

With an interior designer you’ll benefit from:

  • A hands-off project that is completed in the most time-efficient manner possible
  • An experienced person on-site to help you avoid time-sucking mistakes that could set back project schedule

With an interior designer on your team, you won’t squander your precious time resolving issues or sifting through countless options. You don’t need to be on-site with contractors or overseeing installations… and your project will be completed more quickly if you aren’t!
 

5 / YOU WANT CONFIDENCE AND PEACE OF MIND

Your interior designer understands building codes, communication requirements between parties, and every other nuance of a design project. They’ve managed the process many times before!

This means…

  • You can trust that your project is in qualified and talented hands.
  • You can live your life as normally as possible during the process.
  • Above all, you can experience stress-free the excitement of knowing your future home will be nothing short of stunning!

Wondering if an interior designer is right for your project? Ask us your questions in the comments below!

Behind the Scenes / 8 Questions with San Francisco’s Jack Fischer Gallery

Form + Field loves art. Not only can art have an emotional impact, but the right piece can anchor all the elements in a space and create visual harmony. As a side benefit, art can also be a great conversation starter!

When it comes to hunting for that perfect piece, one of Form + Field’s go-tos is The Jack Fischer Gallery in Potrero Hill and Minnesota Street Project.

The Jack Fischer Gallery at Minnesota Street Project

The Jack Fischer Gallery at Minnesota Street Project

When he opened the gallery 16 years ago, Jack Fischer’s mission was to exhibit the work of “insider” and so-called “outsider” artists, to support both of these important groups in the art community.

Jack’s faithfulness to this vision has since curated one of the most diverse art collections in the city. (The painting in our One Room Challenge: Living Room Makeover came from The Jack Fischer Gallery!)

Here are a few of our other favorite pieces:

"Machochinos" by Kirstine Reiner Hansen

"Machochinos" by Kirstine Reiner Hansen

"Big Rock Candy Mountain 7" by Henrik Drescher

"Big Rock Candy Mountain 7" by Henrik Drescher

"Untitled #376" by Jay Kelly

"Untitled #376" by Jay Kelly

It's no surprise that the man behind the gallery is just as interesting as the art within.

8 Questions with Jack Fischer

Q: What inspires you?
A: I am lucky to be inspired on a daily basis by everything, from a story in the news to a crushed can in the street.

Q: If you were a piece of art, what would you be?
A: A collage, a multimedia piece, a wallflower, a Francis Bacon, a Picasso.

Q: How do you evaluate a work of art?
A: If I would own the piece. In terms of its monetary value, there is a history of what the artist’s work has been selling for. It is also the hardest thing to do with emerging artists.

Q: Your gallery features a diverse collection of artists’ work. What is the common thread, if any, between them that compels you to share them with the world?
A: I love to see the evidence of the artist’s hand, the obsession with making marks. And work that I could see in my home.

Q: If you weren’t a gallery owner, what would you be?
A: An actor.

Q: What are your aspirations for the next 3-5 years?
A: To have the work of artists that I represent be acquired by museums.

Q: What motto do you try to live by?
A: Be kind and engaged.

Q: What is the effect you hope your gallery will have on individuals or the community?
A: That I would instill a love of art and hopefully the collecting bug. This will in turn support artists. Artists are an integral part of the fabric of any community.

We couldn’t agree more.

Love art? Share your favorite gallery or artist in the comments below!

Pro Tip / Our Favorite Countertop Materials

Selecting kitchen countertops is one area where we see clients wanting some guidance. There isn’t just one obvious choice! Every type of countertop material, from marble to granite to concrete, comes with its own set of pros and cons.

To help you minimize hours of research, uncertainty, and decision paralysis, here’s a simple guide to 4 of our favorite countertop materials: quartzite, granite, soapstone, and concrete.

Have a question about these materials or others? Ask us in the comments below!
 

1 / QUARTZITE

Quartzite (not to be confused with man-made Quartz) is the hardest and most durable natural stone. It is one of our favorite countertop options for the simple reason that it excels in just about every category.

Pros: Quartzite is extremely heat resistant, so you can go ahead and set those scalding pans down. It also resists acid, stains, and scratches, and cleans easily with baking soda and water. Quartzite’s array of veining and color options (including some that mimic the look of marble) make it easy to get the look you want.

Cons: For any scratch or chip repair, we recommend hiring a professional. You’ll also want a professional to apply sealer every 1-3 years, depending on the porosity of your quartzite slab.

Price Range: $$-$$$
 

2 / GRANITE

Contrary to popular belief, granite is not just the stone of the 90s. Granite slabs come in a wide range of veining, splatter, and color options, so it’s more than possible to incorporate a style that will keep your space looking current. Plus, the stone’s long-term durability is well worth the investment.

Pros: Granite is extremely resistant to damage from heat, acid, common foods, and household cleaning products. Granite is also scratch resistant, so if you’re known for using your counters as chopping blocks, your granite will survive… though the sharpness of your knives may not!

Cons: In the unlikely event that your granite chips or scratches, you’ll want to hire a professional to repair it. You’ll also need to schedule a professional sealing application every 2-4 years.

Price Range: $$-$$$
 

3 / SOAPSTONE

We love materials that patina and get better with age, and soapstone is at the top of that list. If you want a countertop that has beauty and longevity, you should give soapstone your serious consideration.

Pros: Like quartzite and granite, soapstone is extremely heat resistant. Though it’s the softest natural stone, its lack of porosity resists damage from acid, bacteria, and stains. Scratches can happen, but they’re easy to buff out with 60-80 grit sandpaper. Removing any residue or blemishes is also easy to do without calling in a professional.

Cons: Your color options are limited to a range of veining in white and gray, and body colors in gray and green. Perhaps the biggest con is that soapstone requires regular maintenance. Mineral oil applications are necessary 1x / week for the first few months, as well as every few months afterward, though you don’t need a professional to do it. Also, keep in mind that mineral oil turns your stone dark, as in this before and after photo. (Though we see this as a plus!)

Price Range: $$

4 / CONCRETE

Concrete countertops look beautiful, especially in modern spaces, and will develop a lot of character over the years. If you don’t mind the high maintenance, their beauty is worth your extra loving care.

Pros: Concrete countertops are extremely heat resistant and have a versatile selection of color, pigment, and finish options.

Cons: As a porous material, concrete is prone to scratches and stains and is susceptible to etching from acids. While a yearly sealing is the minimum requirement, sealing won’t protect the surface from all stains or etching. You’ll also want to call a professional for any chip and scratch repairs.

Price Range: $-$$$

Have questions? Did we leave out your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!

Behind the Scenes / How Architecture Informs Interior Design

A building’s architecture plays a large role in interior design. Even if you’re creating an open floor plan, the basic bones of your space (and of the others on your street) are characteristic of the era in which they were built.

What does this mean for you?

It means your space has an existing narrative! If we ignore that narrative while using interior design to tell your story, the two may sit at odds with each other and look incongruous. It’s our job to find harmony between the two and to create a cohesive story that feels uniquely yours.

To show you what we mean, we designed this high concept guest bedroom that fuses Mediterranean-inspired architecture with our signature modernist style.

form-and-field-bay-area-modern-room-design.jpg

Because our goal was to blend old with new, push color boundaries, and create something wholly unique, we didn’t recreate a typical Mediterranean villa.

Instead, we let the architecture inspire a vibrant color palette. Hues of yellow and red create a warm and hospitable welcome, while robin’s egg blue bedding gives a refreshing nod to the sea.

Mediterranean architecture is also known for arches and curves, so we combined the circular elements of the sconces and the ceiling fixture bulbs with the clean lines of the ceiling fixture itself, a modern chair, and these functional yet minimal nightstands.

form-and-field-architecture-modern-mediterranean-bay-area-interior-design.jpg

In general, art is a great way to tie a room together, especially when you’re marrying genres. These contemporary pieces by Robert Szot (left) and Paul Wackers (right) echo the room’s warm and colorful palette and create further harmony between lines and curves.

Lastly, plants are the final piece in evoking an airy Mediterranean retreat and just might inspire this house guest to throw open the windows!

christine-lin-modern-interior-designer-bay-area-color.jpg

In the end, this room tells a specific story for a specific guest. It’s the perfect example of not fighting or ignoring your home or building’s architecture, but having the courage to weave nuances of it into the interior design.

Let multiple influences create your narrative, and you might be surprised by the richness of the results.

What styles would you want to mix together? Tell us in the comments below!