036 Sustainability, Wellbeing and Interior Design with Elina Grigoriou

Elina Grigoriou is a London-based Interior Designer, Sustainability and Wellbeing Expert, as well as the Co-Founder of Grigoriou Interiors. With 20 years’ experience in the global commercial interior design sector, Elina’s extensive knowledge of human-centric design is complemented by an eye for aesthetics and in-depth sustainability know-how. She works at the heart of the latest industry developments and initiatives regarding sustainability and Circular Design Economy, partnering with national and global institutions to drive and support collaborative approaches for systemic change.

In 2017, Elina was awarded Honorary Membership to the RICS in recognition of her dedication and work promoting sustainability in the property sector. In 2019, her book ‘Wellbeing in Interiors, Philosophy, Design & Value in Practice’ was published by RIBA.

Sustainable Interior Design and Consulting

What is, actually, sustainable interior design? Elina Grigoriou gives us an overview of what she does and the purpose of her business.  

“Sustainable consulting has evolved out of trying to do sustainable interior design as a job. So I am an interior designer, and I’m also a sustainability consultant that specialises in interior fit out and sustainability. I have a team around me that helps me do that, and we’ve been around for 12 years now. Our vision is to create spaces that are supporting the flourishing of all people inside there, and not costing the Earth, but actually being a positive influence to the environment that we’re hosted in. It is quite an ambitious target, but that is the vision that we want to deliver on every project that we’re working on.”

Recognising a Good Interior Design

We wanted to know how surveyors can recognise a good interior design when they walk into a property.

“It goes back to understanding what good design is,” Elina explains. “There are two avenues to this, and I’m going to simplify it greatly. One is, of course, nature. You’ve got beauty that is following nature’s principles, and that are some default proportions and combinations of materials and layouts that instinctively are assumed as beautiful because they are comfortable. They’re based on what we expect and what we need. And there are others that are following trends, and that would be much more about something that’s been socially created as a norm, and that will always change. It will momentarily be seen as beautiful, and then perhaps quickly as not beautiful. So when we are deciding what is a good design, we can ask ourselves – is it for the people that are going to feel that they belong into that space? Is it going to stand the test of time, and be liked by more people? None of us can really interpret beauty, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In residential design it is very important that that home represents you. It’s about identity, beliefs and psychological situations. If it is just about something you saw in a magazine and just copied it for like, you’re going to regret it pretty quickly.”

Changes in Interior Design Caused by the Pandemic

Elina is currently developing a service to respond to the new needs of many people who have started working from home, and need home office spaces.

“As more people are working from home, we need to ask how homes can become productive working environments. That’s something we’re developing now, as a cost-effective virtual consultancy. So let’s look at your space where you’re working, how does that actually meet your needs? Everybody has had a colleague who’s trying to balance having a video conference call with kids running behind them, or having the neighbours having some work done. It is real life, so it does affect productivity, like the interior itself. There’s a fun kind of balance where we’re bringing work home, and we have to be much more disciplined, but also create a more dynamic relationship with the physical space to adapt it to our daily life. The interventions can be lighter or bigger, depending on everybody’s circumstances, but we also have to consider how we’re adapting the space for our mental health. That’s absolutely vital. It is critical to good design to know who your user is, and understanding the psychology and their emotional state. And also very importantly, when it comes to working space, this is the amount of stimulation that you need to add or not, for concentration and getting into the flow.”

Honorary Membership at the RICS

Although Elina is not a traditional surveyor, she is an honorary member of the RICS. She shares with us what that role is and how it came about.

“It was in recognition of my contribution towards sustainability in the built environment, within the RICS specifically, and around the SCAR rating scheme, the environmental assessment methods for interior fit out and refurbishment projects. I worked with the team at RICS for about 10 years, and did a lot of voluntary work to change hearts and minds and create tools to support and promote a more sustainable approach and agenda around refurbishment and fit out. I ended up knowing everybody at the RICS, but still not being a member, which was a shocker to everyone. So they put together an application, and I had been given an honorary membership for life.

In the end, it’s all part of a bigger picture, where surveyors, interior designers and other professionals all have important roles in the property industry.

“We have both professions perhaps thinking themselves at different ends of a project and different remits, and there needs to be a much greater overlap between the professions and how they’re working together, understanding each other’s needs and roles. Through the years of working RICS I’ve come to respect the nature of surveying and the multi faceted services they need to give. Surveyors are so core in projects, and they’ve worked very hard for this position. But to make the sustainable results that we need, surveyors are at a critical point to upskill themselves now around sustainable design and procurement. I cannot stress enough how important that is for everyone’s ambitions to achieve a sustainable future,” Elina concludes. 

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