As we turn our attention to being more eco conscious, many people are reducing how much meat and animal products they consume – or give them up altogether. Suszi Saunders took it beyond a plant-based diet: when she turned vegan, she saw it as an opportunity to bring her home up to standard, too. She spoke to my colleague Georgina about how her project came together.
“Creating a totally vegan home is definitely something that’s grown as time has gone on. It started off more about what I was eating, but then became much bigger than that,” reminisces Suszi Saunders, a hypnotherapist.
She and her husband Nat, a writer-producer, and their son Teddy, now five, moved from their top-floor flat in Crystal Palace into a Victorian property in south London, after looking for more living space, their own garden, and a place that allowed them to put their own spin on the design.
A blank canvas, they quickly set about getting Minifie Architects involved to help build a 3 x 7m rear extension to create an open-plan kitchen-living-dining area, as the original kitchen was, as Suszi describes it, “incredibly small”.
The resulting space, zoned for family living, includes a long run of units and a statement island – perfect for overseeing what’s happening elsewhere.
During the build the couple also decided to make the four-bedroom house into three, joining a box room and a cramped family bathroom into one larger space to include a freestanding tub and large walk-in shower.
Later, after the works were complete, Suszi and Nat also welcomed their second child.
Creating a vegan home
“I turned vegan about three months before we moved, which I saw as an opportunity to make everything I bought and used for our new home vegan friendly,” Suszi says – but it was no easy task. “I didn’t realise it would impact our interiors as much as it did,” she explains.
“For example, all the rugs we already owned were wool, the cushions and duvets were filled with feathers, and we had leather accessories and chairs. However, we were very mindful that although I didn’t feel comfortable in a leather chair – or having this stuff in our house – I didn’t want anything going to waste. So it was more a case of donating pieces to charity and slowly replacing things when it was time.”
Suszi started looking for plant-based alternatives, from vegan mattresses, organic cotton sheets, and rugs to wooden floors. Her vision for the ground floor was a dark interior, so she searched for paint companies that fit with her ideologies – Farrow & Ball, for example, met the brief.
“I love this kind of palette as I feel it can add energy and depth to a room and provides a perfect backdrop to all our furnishings,” she explains. If she couldn’t find something, she asked around to see who could help – for instance, Graham & Green normally uses feathers in its designs, but made a bespoke sofa for her vegan home using foam.
Is it eco-friendly, too?
With the new décor, being kind to the planet with purchases came into focus. “It’s hard to be vegan and eco friendly – I can buy plastic, polyester or acrylic, which I did at first, but then I started thinking about the impact on the environment so tried to find things that could fit those two goals, which is actually really tough.”
So Suszi began to find other ways of living greener.
“We wanted marble kitchen worktops, but I knew production isn’t very eco friendly – it uses a lot of energy and may pollute water sources – so someone I know suggested concrete, which we decided on for the worktops and for the flooring,” she explains.
“Nat and I used old wooden boards to clad one wall and scaffolding planks to make shelves. We also bought lots of things from Ebay – including a vintage locker cabinet that’s now a shelving unit – while most of my chandeliers come from local reclamation yards and have been rewired. Nat and I try and source many things second hand as we can to reduce waste.”
Speaking about day-to-day life in her vegan home, Suszi adds: “It feels great to have your ethics in line with your home; it’s a weight off my shoulders. I’ve always wanted to be vegan but hadn’t been brave enough to do it at first.
“When I did it, I realised there was nothing to fear – now it feels quite liberating. It’s been a massive learning curve
and while I do the best I can, it’s not going to be 100% perfect yet. But little changes such as what we’ve done really are for the better.”
Photography: Rachael Smith.