Long before its debut, Lawrence Carr made sustainability her signature.
Through the interior design studio she founded in 2005, Ms. Carr has become one of the industry’s most vocal advocates for the principles of environmental advancement in both design practices and materials.
Ms. Carr of the Laurence Carr, Inc. offices said: In Midtown Manhattan, where she is CEO and Creative Director: “Back then, when I talked about health and wellness in interiors, people looked at me like I had two heads.” “Of course, with the pandemic, everything has exploded.”
Staying at home through Covid, Ms Carr said, “people have realized that their home environments have not always been good for them”. “They started asking questions like, What is this paint? What is my sofa made of? Does my mattress have chemicals? They come to us because we have a presence in that area.”
Mrs. Carr’s upscale residential projects may seek virtue, but not at the expense of indulgence. “Sustainability and well-being can work together,” she said. “And some of the most beautiful brands are sustainable, with centuries-old traditional crafts and practices.”
She said that her idyllic upbringing in Strasbourg, France helped shape her design appearance.
“There was a relationship with healthy subjects and nature, whether it was walking in the woods, spending time in my grandfather’s fruit and vegetable garden, or eating fresh ingredients. She said my relationship with nature was complete.
In her EarthxTV series “Chez Laurence” and on her widely read blog, Ms. Carr highlights sustainable sellers and makers, and talks with technologists and educators to help advance an environmentally friendly design agenda.
She spoke to Mansion Global about the intersection of wellness and wellness, her favorite sustainable materials, and how consumers can learn more about reducing waste.
Mansion Global: Terms like sustainability and circularity have become buzzwords. How do you know them?
Lawrence Carr: In general, this means providing healthy materials to support human well-being and the wellness of the environment. The health of people and the health of the planet are closely related. So in practice, this means choosing products, from insulation to design elements, made from sanitary materials.
Recycling means avoiding what will end up as landfill and minimizing waste, and thinking about the life cycle of every product you choose for a project, right down to packaging. This means considering furniture and interior manufacturers who truly think about and embrace sustainability at every level of their business supply chain. It is our responsibility as architects and designers.
MG: Does your mission-based approach limit your choices as a designer?
LC: of course not. Think of all the beautiful, healthy textiles you can use, such as fibers such as linen, silk, cotton, and wool. It’s a matter of knowing who the brands are and going to that source for their commitment and transparency.
MG: What are the leading brands in those practices?
LC: I like [North Carolina furniture maker] Philips group. I am a fan of Libeco, the Belgian linen company. [Austrian fiber producer] The Lenzing Group is an exceptional company, with some of the most advanced, full circle and closed loop textiles available. They have a brand of Tencel fiber. Even retailers like Room & Board and Williams Sonoma have pledged and are doing an enormous amount of work around sustainability.
MG: What are your favorite sustainable luxury materials?
LC: I am a huge fan of Irish and Australian linen and wool. I love mushrooms [mushroom-based] leather. I love leather from brands like [Virginia-based] Moore & Giles, who make sustainable leather that doesn’t go to landfill. I am very careful about which stickers we choose. The wood is beautiful, but we make sure that the manufacturer is Forest Council certified.
MG: Is there a demand for sustainability among customers, or do you have to convince them that it’s important?
LC: The request is present. Millennials are 100% here. They want to buy from brands that are good for the planet, with transparency and emotional connection. Boomers listen to Generation Z, their grandchildren and most concerned about the future and climate change. Generation X, our high net worth clients, want sustainability in all aspects of their lives and homes.
Anything related to interior design is a luxury service. We make it clear that it is better to buy one high-quality product rather than five that will not have the same life cycle. That’s why we also buy antiques – round. Or a good quality vintage. You can also invest in good quality.
Another thing is that you can rent sustainable brands, and then go back and choose another one.
MG: How will sustainability and circularity play out in your industry in 2023?
LC: More designers and architects are learning the tools and skills to adopt sustainable practices in their companies. They were the missing piece, and this year will come. I teach at organizations such as the American Association of Interior Designers (ASID) and AIGA, the professional association for design. All of this is available online, and there are no excuses.
I also see more product awareness as manufacturers collaborate with designers like myself. I’m designing a home goods collection right now that will be approved from start to finish, and will grow to include furniture next year. I also see a broader embrace of circularity as the industry recognizes that we need to reduce waste and water. There will be more recycling, and more ways to turn scrap and textiles into new products.
MG: What differences have you seen between American and European customers?
LC: In Europe, everyone is sensitive to circularity and sustainability, especially in Scandinavia. Projects are usually smaller in size, because spaces are often smaller. And there are fewer elements in carefully thought-out layouts and interiors. In Australia and New Zealand, where I lived before starting work, there is also an emphasis on materials that are biophilic, such as wood, stone and green, along with natural light and sunlight. In the United States, there is a shift from the “more is better” method to a simpler method of design. And there are layers of things like window coverings that you don’t see in Europe.
MG: What is your definition of luxury?
LC: I define luxury as ethical, while designing or surrounding oneself with forward-thinking products and practices, aesthetically pleasing with roundness, health, and wellness in mind.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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