In this post: I connect with Philadelphia Interior Designer and Architect Johanna Adamiak, RA, to discuss her unique approach to designing spaces she and her clients can feel great about.
COVID-19 has been a defining event in many of our lives. And while the pandemic tested all of us in countless ways, it was not without some positive side effects. Many of us had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-examine our priorities and the time to take action on what we discovered.
Johanna Adamiak, RA, an architect, Philadelphia interior designer, and owner of Rooted By Design, was one of these people.
During the pandemic, Johanna used the downtime to adopt some eco-friendly habits in her home, like composting. These habits bled over to her professional life where she started to become aware of the waste that can be inherent in interior design. With this realization, Johanna researched better solutions and shifted the focus of her business to more eco-friendly interior design practices.
How this Philadelphia interior designer approaches sustainability
For Johanna, the first step in creating a more sustainable home is understanding a client's priorities. For example, clients with small children may put non-toxic (and durable!) materials at the top of their list, while for others, reducing waste may be more important. By having these conversations and aligning her knowledge with their values, the design plan begins to take shape.
This alignment of priorities is more than just a casual conversation, Johanna focuses on five key areas to uncover what her clients are seeking. These include:
1. Identify what stays
Creating a new look doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Reusing things you already own can reduce waste and potentially save you money.
2. Donate or rehome what's left
For the things that aren’t going to stay, identify a sustainable way to find them a new home. Johanna suggests checking with your network first to see if there’s someone who could use what you no longer need. If you strike out, there are countless online marketplaces, used online furniture stores, local consignment shops, and charitable organizations looking for preowned items.
3. Discuss finishes
When it comes to finishes, Johanna recommends you look for options that maximize your desired style and at the same time are selected for their longevity, sustainability, and material safety. This is a great time to research manufacturers whose business practices match up with your values.
4. Explore what's close by
Sourcing locally can be one of the best ways to minimize the carbon footprint of your renovation project. Try incorporating vintage pieces, or things made by local artisans.
5. Prioritize quality
When it comes to the most important and heavily used items in a design, putting quality at the top of the list makes good sense. Take flooring for example. It may be tempting to go with the cheapest option, but if you can’t refinish it in the future, it may not be the best value, overall.
Johanna concludes her approach by saying:
Sustainable design in practice: Graduate Hospital Philadelphia project
A recent design highlights how utilizing Johanna’s framework can facilitate beautiful results.
In a recent project, a client wanted to refresh their space but needed it to still be kid-friendly. (sounds familiar!) This meant creating plenty of storage and finding durable materials. Layering sustainability on top of these demands may sound daunting but her strategic framework made it possible to achieve all of these objectives.
The kid-friendliness was incorporated by using high-quality, durable materials, no VOC paint, and by creating plenty of storage in the living room and an adjacent mudroom. These additions were also eco-friendly because they utilized non-toxic materials and locally sourced wood.
Johanna was also able to put reuse into practice in this project. Because the floors were hardwood, they were able to be refinished. In addition, Johanna was able to repurpose the client’s existing decorative items in the new design.
photo by Kristina Kroot Photography, courtesy of Rooted by Design
Making all design more sustainable
It’s great when clients come to a design project seeking a more sustainable home. But there’s no reason that designers can’t prioritize eco-friendly and responsible choices, even if it’s not a top priority for the client. Every designer has their own style and way of working and sustainability can certainly flex to meet the needs of different designers and projects.
That’s an idea that Johanna embraces in Rooted By Design projects. While many of her clients are excited to think about the bigger ecosystem in which their home exists, even if they aren’t, it’s still factored into the company’s designs. Now that this Philadelphia interior designer knows the extent to which sustainability lends additional quality and long-term functionality to each of her projects, there’s no reason not to incorporate eco-friendly materials, when possible.
But what if you can’t afford to work with a designer?
Not everyone can afford to hire a designer but that doesn’t mean you can’t work Johanna’s ideas into creating your own sustainable design. There are many partners who can help you along the way.
“What I’ve found is that a lot of vendors and manufacturers are really trying to push the boundaries with sustainable initiatives. It’s bringing in so many more interesting choices to mix into design projects. It’s really exciting to see the direction the industry is moving.”
Johanna’s favorite manufacturers include:
Some of these aren’t direct to the consumer sellers but may be able to point you in the direction of where you can purchase. Johanna also shared that some of the bigger brands like those under the William Sonoma banner (West Elm, Pottery Barn) are really committed to sustainability and worth checking out.
Where to learn more
If you’re looking for professional help in making your sustainable home dreams a reality, we hope you’ll reach out to Rooted By Design via their website. Rooted By Design is also featured in our Directory of sustainable interior designers.
In the event that you’re in more of the DIY interior design space, or just interested to learn more, please subscribe to our newsletter where we’ll send regular updates on new tips and inspiration.