What role does design work play in driving cultural conversations around subjects like environmentalism and sustainability? Do you think those will become increasingly prioritized in the future?
PS: We have to make it cool to not have a lawn. We have to make it cool to not use plastic because it doesn't look good. You have to think about what you consume and what you put out there. I think if you're in the style industry you can have an influence, and so you might as well do something good with that. There's a lot more we can do, and we have to. We have to make it the norm and fashionable, but there's no reason to give up design in the process. It's just another challenge.
FN: Are your clients generally receptive to those considerations?
PS: Some of our clients come to us for that. We start with a code of ethics and a goal. Right now, we have two clients that are environmentalists and we learn so much from them. It pushes us to research further and get behind things that we really believe in.
I was lucky enough to work with Rick Ridgeway from Patagonia, and he’s really big on repairability. It's been challenging, for example, to find a refrigerator company that will just repair a refrigerator. With the Patagonia jacket—the company will buy it, repair it and give it back to you. He really got me thinking. We need to be doing the same thing with appliances. Or with lights. That was a wonderful thing that came out of those meetings, but there's still so much more we could do.
FN: I think it's also a discussion to have with the client. Informing them and stressing the importance of things like sustainability and circularity. Look at wood floors, for example. There's a direct connection to the environment, to nature. How they forest it, how they select the wood. If clients get particular about how it looks—they don't want too many knots or this certain color—it can result in a lot of waste.
We love these imperfections because that's what wood, what nature, really is. You don't want anything to be perfect. We have this discussion frequently with our clients. If the designers, the tastemakers, embrace that natural variation and say, “This is what we want”, it trickles down. If that’s made clear in a design meeting, then when it goes to the factory, we don't have to throw this stuff away. We can use all of it.
PS: It starts there. We have to lead the way in showing that imperfection is okay.