HPH171 : An eco interior designer in the home – with Elina Grigoriou
Elina Grigoriou from Grigoriou Interiors talks about design, wellbeing and sustainability, and the role of interior designers.
Interview with Elina
Elina and her sister founded Grigoriou Interiors in 2010. Their vision is “to create interior spaces of beauty and function that look after people and our planet”. A strong theme of sustainability is used in their branding and website, to educate people on the concept of sustainable interiors and to attract like-minded clients.
Interior design is about understanding how space affects you
Interior design involves looking specifically at the spaces that fall within the floor slab, ceiling slab and external walls. Elina explains: “From the moment you step into a building until you come back out of it, everything you touch, everywhere you interact within that space is forming the interior and the way that has been intentionally designed to support your life.”
Design can influence how well you sleep or eat
Wellbeing is a big issue right now, and Elina finds that a lot of people don’t understand the effect their space has on them. It is often only when they start talking about how they behave in an interior that they slowly start to realise how the space is informing some of their behaviours, or may be stopping them from behaving in a certain way.
For example, the shape of a table will affect how people communicate. Are you sitting opposite each other at a square or rectangular table, or around one with no sides? Elina suggests that dinner with your in-laws might be nicer at a round table!
And patterns tend to help people to relax. Elina explains that we find them reassuring because we trust things that are repeated. Movement is associated with asymmetry, whereas a balanced style promotes calmness.
An interior designer can help create a living environment
There are different motivations for hiring an interior designer. Elina says some people feel they should hire one because they’re ‘supposed to’ or to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, adding the image-conscious association often linked with interior design is not helpful.
A better reason would be someone wanting to create a home that feels like a home, where they can entertain guests, work, and allow the space to affect them in a positive way.
Elina guides clients through a decision-making process to make choices they will be happy with. Interiors contribute to the relationships people have in their homes, and she wants that contribution to be a positive one.
We can better understand and re-use existing buildings
One step is to establish whether the original architecture assumed a particular ‘user journey’ from the moment you walk through the door. What kind of volumes and spatial proportions did the designer envisage for the interior spaces? If this hasn’t been considered, you can get quite structural: reforming spaces and opening or closing up floors.
Self-builds can get it right from the beginning
Unlike commercial and residential developments, which tend to be quite ‘vanilla’, the self-build ethos creates an opportunity to engage in the design process and make a home fit for purpose.
With new builds, Elina would recommend involving an interior designer at the earlier stages, when forming the architecture and considering what kind of lifestyle you want to enjoy in the building. That’s the time to start discussing the internal spaces, views, etc.
A detailed brief gives a clear basis to start from
Elina recalls a previous project where the husband wanted to have lovely conversations with his daughter in the living room. She comments that this is the kind of brief they can respond to and believes this is the right kind of objective for a home.
Grigoriou Interiors create what they call a user profile. Every question they ask of each client in the design process goes back to this profile, gradually informing how the space needs to be and documenting where they started from and why. Typical questions might include:
- What’s the geographical location like?
- What’s the typical climate?
- Is it an existing or new building?
- How many bedrooms do you want?
- Do you entertain at home?
- Do you work out at home?
- Do you like lots of fresh air in your interior?
- Do you like a lot of natural daylight coming in?
- How are you going to clean it?
- How long do you want to live there?
- Will you be there throughout the year?
- Do you want to rent it out?
Shorter purchasing cycles mean greater impact on the environment
Architects consider lifespans of 20-30 years or more, and these timeframes inform product and material decisions. However the average interior lifecycle is just five to ten years.
Elina says it falls to designers to ensure that what they specify is sustainable in the first place. Grigoriou Interiors talk with their clients to understand where the environmental impacts are going to happen from the client’s own behaviour in a space. For example, working from home may mean longer periods of heating and lighting. Establishing this in the brief, at the start, allows them to create a sustainable interior and suggest certain materials and layouts based on how the space will be used.
Beauty is very important when it comes to interiors
Elina explains that the perception of beauty is personal to everyone’s individual conditions at a point in time. So she has to work with clients to understand what they consider beautiful and what kind of look they want. Something minimalist? Or a bit of texture? Do they have some lovely crafts, perhaps from their travels?
Existing furniture may not be suitable for your new home
If you are moving to a different sized house, Elina suggests that some of the furniture you currently own – such as the dining table or soft seating – may be too big or small for the new interiors. Similar spaces may allow you to re-use existing furniture but it’s worth questioning which pieces may need to be recycled.
A new build, especially a passivhaus, presents an opportunity to minimise or even eliminate the introduction of pollutants. Emissions from materials and furniture will affect the quality of air inside the house so, for example, an existing sofa will likely have chemical foams. Elina is excited to see alternatives such as coconut fillers becoming available.
Deciding not to re-use doesn’t mean throwing away
If you can’t use some or all of your existing furniture, there are plenty of quick and easy ways to pass it on before moving. Freecycle and Preloved are just two websites and Elina says more options are emerging all the time.
Interior design advice doesn’t have to cost the earth
Even with a limited budget, it’s still possible to engage the services of an interior designer. The key is bringing them in at the right time to get their feedback on architectural proposals. Elina describes it as having them dip in for a day or two to review the proposals, give you some feedback and possibly pose some questions.
Find out more
Visit the website of Elina Grigoriou
Follow Grigoriou Interiors on Twitter
Download a transcript of the interview with Elina Grigoriou
Please connect with me
- Subscribe, rate and review the podcast in iTunes
- Rate and review the podcast on Stitcher
- Like our Facebook page
- Follow us on Twitter
About The Author
Rachel Goldberg provides freelance business consultancy and support services. She would love to self-build one day. She and her husband recently extended their home, taking on a lot of the work themselves and gaining skills for the future. The process has also given them first-hand experience of architects, builders and suppliers!