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Feature: The Style File

Sustainability and style have, in the past, had an uneasy relationship. It used to be the case that you had to make the choice between being responsible or being chic. Whether it was clothes, cars or homeware – you either displayed your green credentials or your fashion credentials. Thankfully, we can now start putting those days behind us as urban eco-chic becomes not just the look of the moment but the sustainable look of the future.

At this year’s Ideal Home Show, designer Oliver Heath, well-known for his work on the BBC TV series Changing Rooms, is launching an online eco-store, EcoCentric. A strong advocate for sustainability, Heath’s website will sell an eclectic mix of home and lifestyle goods, including lighting, soft furnishings, home accessories, toys, gifts and stationery. All the products have been chosen by Heath for their environmentally friendly principles; they either use low levels of energy or are crafted from sustainable materials or recycled items.

Heath’s involvement with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) for the Ideal Home Show 2005 helped inspire the concept for the store.

Last year, he designed for the WRAP stand and struggled to find sustainable products to display. This spurred him on to bring together a comprehensive collection of eco-interiors products.

“With EcoCentric there is a change in shift,” said Heath. “The products need to be both sustainable and beautiful. Beauty is important
and the way people’s homes look is important, and people will be able to shop with us for a combination of these elements. As a designer, it is not enough for me that something is just functional – the way it looks is critical.”

At this year’s show, Heath’s stand is composed of two living pods – a bedroom and a lounge/diner – both giving a preview of the products available from Eco-Centric. Armchairs, lamps, cushions, crockery shelving and iPod chargers – there is
a story behind each item, providing customers with information on how to implement a greener lifestyle. The overall look is warm, elegant and very stylish.

“This will appeal to urban dwellers who want to be ecologically minded but who are also interested in how things look,” he continued. “This is urban eco-chic.”

Heath believes that, fundamentally, all designers are interested in sustainability but whether or not they are able to make it work for them is a different matter. He has managed to make it work, and says that the pricing structure enables a wide range of availability. To those who doubt the quality of items made from recycled materials, he simply says “look at our website”.

Recycling and sustainability in the home is a dominant theme at this year’s show, with WRAP’s Recycle Now alley occupying a plum position adjacent to the EcoCentric stand in the concept living area.

From the exterior, the stand has been designed
to imitate giant cans and packets of food, including Heinz tomato soup, Tate & Lyle’s golden syrup and Uncle Ben’s rice. The inside highlights the different stages of the recycling process that household items such as metal cans, glass bottles and jars, paper and plastic undergo. The trip ends in a kitchen based on a design by Heath made entirely fr

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