cruelty-free design faqs:


feng shui FAQs: 

What is "cruelty-free" design? 

Cruelty-free design is the ethical non-use of animal products in interior design services. Examples of cruelty-free choices would be choosing man-made or plant-based materials instead of feathers or animal skins when making or buying furnishings. In almost every case, the animal products that are widely used to make most furnishings- products that are considered to be either "normal" or, more often, "luxury" products- are obtained by horrifically cruel means. In lieu of preaching here, suffice it to say, if you care about animals, our planet, and the people that live on it, you owe it to yourself and to them to become informed. 

Cruelty-free = healthy and happy from beginning to end.

Aren't feathers and leather by-products? Won't they just go to waste if we don't use them?

Unfortunately, no, that is not the real story, in most cases. There is a myth floating around that cow leather is a byproduct of the meat industry, as if it's just some honest family ranchers raising cattle these days, and, gosh darn, the ranchers would just have to throw out all those precious hides after they sold the steaks... as a generalization, that is an untrue picture- and this thinking fuels the myth about what the leather industry really is. The leather industry is a very high-demand/high-volume industry, in and of itself, independent of the meat industry. The demand for leather goods is so high, and so high profit, that dogs are also used (in China) for leather export and small leather goods manufacturing. Yes, dogs. And the cows being raised for the leather industry, in many cases, live unbelievably horrid existences, before they are inhumanely slaughtered in shocking numbers. Suffice it to say, that I really do hate to be the biggest bummer you've encountered today, but the truth is ugly and has to stop. I never wanted to know these things were going on, but now I can't un-know it. If you would like to know more, here are some statistics.

I feel conflicted because I love the look and feel of leather and want to use a beautiful, natural materials that will last forever. I'm afraid if I substitute another material for the real thing, it will be cheap-looking, or feel like plastic, or be a compromise... But I love animals, am not a hippie, and if I choose cruelty-free materials, I feel trapped in the beige world of hemp and bamboo... help. 

First of all, once you've let go of your attachment to the idea that animal products equal "luxury," which is now a marketing myth, you have opened yourself up to a whole other world of actual luxury. Man-made products are absolutely incredible these days: faux leather, faux suede, faux shagreen- these are all carried at the best showrooms in a rainbow of hundreds of colors and they are either indistinguishable or better-looking than the real thing. Additionally, they will last forever and can be cleaned, all while fooling the eye and the touch.

Secondly, hemp and bamboo have come a loooong way. I could show you bamboo you would swear was cashmere woven in Scotland and hemp you would swear was the best Belgian linen. There's also polyester that could convince every silkworm to retire. 

Can you make a squishy, comfortable sofa or throw pillows without using down? Won't the cushions or pillows get flat or feel cheap and too-firm? 

Yes, you can make super-squishy upholstered furniture, and no, it will not feel cheap! Because technology is not cheap, and it's the incredible technology that's created majorly convincing down-substitutes- materials that you sink into when you sit, ones that upholstery manufacturers work with in the exact same manner as they work with down products. The materials were developed for the sake of allergy-sufferers, but if you're anything like me, the knowledge of the suffering that happens in order to fill feather pillows is enough to make the squishiest sofa a sad experience. 

Once again, there is a myth that there are lots of "cruelty-free feathers,"  but sadly, it is mostly just a myth. The manufacturers who advertise their products as being made with cruelty-free feathers usually do not know the source of their feathers, just that they buy the feathers, in good faith, from a supplier. These suppliers do not even know that their product is not 100% cruelty-free- unfortunately, there is a middle-man supplier between the feather-farmers (in China, where there are no regulations) and the feather distributor. It is this middle-man supplier that says, "Sure, wink wink, these are all cruelty-free feathers." They are not. Look it up. Unless you personally know the feather farmer (my term) and have seen the naturally-molted feathers, I would not trust they weren't plucked with terrible cruelty. Look it up- it's interesting and very sad research. And if you find a verifiable "cruelty-free" feather producer, please let me know about it! The honest good guys need to be supported. 

Click here if you would like to know more.

Why do you have to keep yammering on and on about all of these horrible things? You're bumming me out. Interior design is supposed to be fun. Boo.

I know, right? The problem is, once you discover what's happening, and see it for yourself, you can't un-see it. You can't un-know these things. There are horrible things happening to feed insatiable appetite for luxury, design, beauty... the list is long. And there are wonderful substitutes for every single animal product out there.  In the most simplistic terms, all that's missing is massive consumer demand to make cruelty-free choices the new normal.  And while one person can't save the whole world with a sofa or a couple of throw pillows, my long-term bet is on consumers- if most of us stopped asking for things today that caused hideous animal-suffering then there wouldn't be such widespread, senseless animal suffering tomorrow.

As a long-time vegetarian, I willingly took a blind leap into learning about cruelty-free design- what I didn't realize was how devastating the truth really was and how much my life would be changed in a matter of eye-opening moments. My design business reflects this change of perspective and I hope to shed some beautiful, well-designed and cruelty-free light on this dark topic. Interior design IS a beautiful world- I'd like to help make everything about it healthy and happy. 

If you think you are ready to take a deeper dive into knowing what's really going on...

you may click here.

What is Feng Shui?

On the most fundamental level, classical feng shui is not a tricky, magical practice, but simply a well-developed practical approach, with its roots in Chinese Medicine. The basic intention of feng shui is to design our environments to be as natural as possible, addressing the fact that we human beings have done an excellent job of separating ourselves from the natural world, which includes the ways we have constructed our "built life." Feng shui attempts to bring naturalness back into the built world, creating a good flow of energy, so that the places in which we live and work are supportive, bringing happiness and good energy to the people that inhabit them.

I don't usually believe in things like feng shui... how do I know it works?

You don't have to believe in feng shui-  it's not a religion or any kind of belief-dependent practice. Feng shui is happening everywhere all the time, whether you acknowledge it or not. Feng shui simply deals with the relationships that are happening all around us in our physical environment, both natural and man-made. These relationships, between our built environments and their surroundings, as well as people and their surroundings, are the focus of feng shui consultations. A feng shui consultant addresses the relationships that are already happening, maximizing the good, while minimizing the bad, hopefully helping the relationship between a client and their space or property. 

If your property has "feng shui problems," how much can these problems really affect you?

Most importantly, don’t see problems where there are none. It is rare that “everything is all wrong” in a given space. More often than not, there are a few bigger issues- and by simply addressing those issues the rest of the space feels a lot better. Pinpointing the potential “root causes” of disfunction in a space simplifies the solution, and more importantly saves money, time, and energy, by concentrating on only the real issues that need correcting.

Every place is unique- there is no property that has identical issues to another. Sometimes problems are significant and noticeable, and sometimes the effects of certain issues are subtler, giving the inhabitant a "creeping sense" that something is chronically "off." My experience has been that there are almost always some minor, easy adjustments that can be done to significantly improve the feng shui of a place.

How do I know if I need to address the feng shui of my home, office, or property?

First, ask yourself a few simple questions: "Do I feel happy here? Do I feel comfortable here? Do I feel productive/alert/peaceful?" Feng shui addresses how environments feel first. If a space feels great, it is usually energetically and functionally optimal too. So start with your feelings- most people can tell how they feel and whether they want an adjustment to their experience in a particular space. 

Second, take some time to reflect on whether there are some patterns that have emerged while you've occupied the space: are there repeated communication issues, money issues, relationship issues, strange accidents or unusual obstacles? It's not usually the space that will singlehandedly cause problems, but if the feng shui of a place is not great, it can either encourage more negative patterns to emerge, or not support more positive patterns to manifest. I think of good feng shui like a powerful tuning fork: positive behaviors are certain "musical notes,"  and if you "tune" your environment to those same positives notes, it will increase the vibration of those notes in your own life, just by the complementary resonances being in close proximity to one another.

GET in touch

Get in touch with Aubrey and schedule a consultation. You could be on your way to having a new-designed space, one that maximizes that place's potential for supporting you and your family on every level. 

I am the designer to call for help. You may think of me as your personal house doctor. In addition to being a trained and experienced interior designer, I’m also an internist, but for buildings.
I will examine your surroundings, talk to you at length, and figure out how to best address the issues that may be affecting you and your family- my aim is to bring added health and happiness, through good design, into your space.
Often, it turns out that what people need is just some help with space planning, lighting, paint colors, or other easy fixes. The smallest changes can create the biggest effects.
My approach to interior design is straightforward, adaptable, and compassionate.
koi blog.jpg