Interior designers Liz and Mima are the founders of Studio Mae Interiors; a holistic interior design studio that focuses on creating wholesome interiors that make us feel better on every level – visually, mentally and physically. Their approach embraces scientific research and considers how colour psychology, lighting and material sourcing impact not only our spaces, but our wellbeing and happiness too.
We spoke with co-founder, Liz Linforth, about the lightbulb moment which led her to create Studio Mae, the importance of choosing non-toxic materials for the home and the products she recommends for pared-back spaces that enhance our moods.
How did Studio Mae (formerly Conscious Cribs) come to be?
It all started when we (Liz & Mima) met whilst working as interior designers at an architectural firm in London some years ago. Being the only two Aussie designers in the firm, we both shared a passion for the same pared-back, thoughtful aesthetic which set us apart from the heavy European design style at the time.
Our mutual interest and research into holistic design, wellness, colour psychology, sustainability, ethical sourcing, and the power of the mind naturally led us to a lightbulb moment: to bring wellness and conscious interior design together. It was something we’d always naturally gravitated towards with our clients but, with Conscious Cribs, we wanted to make that connection even more deliberate. Today, we work with clients around the world and run an online holistic interior design course.
Your process and design ethics are centred around creating holistic spaces. Do you have a set criteria that you follow to ensure that your spaces encourage healthy and sustainable living?
We are all about making spaces feel better on every level – visually, mentally and physically.
Our mantra is that interior design is not a look, it’s a lifestyle.
We don’t prescribe to the fast-moving trends on Pinterest or Instagram but instead consider the needs of our clients, how they will use the space and how the natural environment can be used for inspiration, as well as for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. In our projects you’ll see nature everywhere. From soothing warm woods and subdued pigment on the walls to natural upholstery and organic linens; we bring natural elements into every scheme. We pride ourselves in sourcing products and fixtures that are good for the planet and the communities involved in the craft.
For those who are interested in refreshing their living room consciously, where do you advise they start?
The simple rule of thumb when designing consciously is that if it's mass-produced and man-made, it's probably full of toxins, such as traditional paints and synthetic materials. From the finishes people choose for their walls and floors, to the furniture they buy, the impact of toxic decor shows up in numerous ways. The VOCs and chemicals can cause poor sleep, increased allergies or heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
It’s impossible to eliminate toxins completely from your home so what we advise our students and clients to do is to deal with the canvas or backbone of the room first and work in. Everyone can follow this approach.
We start with the floors, walls and ceiling and choose non-toxic finishes for each. For example, we would source mineral based paints with no VOCs and natural made flooring like timber or wool carpet - not synthetic. Next, we choose the furniture and always assess whether pieces are made from natural materials and whether they were made locally or sustainably. The natural material in furniture is so important for our physical health, as it is less likely to be toxic, and the locally-made element supports our mental health.
It makes you feel good to walk into your home and see pieces that have a story, pieces that were crafted by hand and pieces you know are supporting the local community.
What are some materials that you tend to always include in living spaces?
As we turn to nature for inspiration and source finishes and furniture from natural materials, you’ll often see solid oak in the living spaces we design. Pieces that are crafted by solid oak or other timber have beautiful simplicity to them as well as depth. Totem Road furniture is a great example. The minimalist design is perfect as it celebrates the natural imperfections and beauty of the material being used and allows that to be the star of the piece.
What are the benefits of adding non-toxic materials to the home?
We believe the home environment has a huge impact on our wellbeing although interiors are often overlooked when we talk about wellness. Everyone is pretty clued up about eating well, exercising and meditation these days and now, because of the pandemic, awareness of our how our environment impacts our health is starting to grow too. The home isn’t just where we start and end our days anymore, it’s where we are spending most of our time.
It’s essential we consider the quality of air we breathe in our homes and workplaces. Are there hidden toxins from our paints and carpets? Paints are laden with harsh chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that continue to be present even after the room loses that fresh paint smell. You’ll continue to breathe in those toxic chemicals, which can cause headaches and eye, nose and throat irritation. Similarly, synthetic materials in carpets and furniture upholstery will be absorbed by our skin which all adds to our toxic load.
There’s also the matter of cleanliness. For example, we always recommend natural timber flooring in the bedroom because it’s not only beautiful and healthier – it’s easier to keep clean. There are thousands of dust mites that hide in our linen and mattresses – and potentially millions more in the carpet. Timber flooring helps to minimise that, which helps to reduce allergies and keeps us feeling healthy.
By choosing finishes that are made from natural sources like lime-based paints, wool, linen or solid oak, we can significantly reduce the amount of toxins in our home. Our space can then support our health and make us feel good, rather than the opposite.
You speak about decluttering as an instant way to create a calmer space. When searching for well-designed storage items for living spaces, what do you look for?
At the end of the day, you can’t relax in a space that’s cluttered. We believe that a calm space equals a calm mind. The best way to achieve a clutter-free space is great storage.
We love Totem Road’s Utopia Storage Unit. It’s warm but minimalist design is perfect for storage and display. It creates a perfect backdrop to feature your treasured pieces on.
What is your advice for people who are looking to shop more consciously? What should they look for?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to shop more consciously and there is a lot of greenwashing out there (it’s why we give our students access to our sourcebook!). We try to keep it simple by following these two rules: Is it made from natural materials and was it made locally?If a furniture piece can answer yes to these two questions you’re definitely on the right path to a healthier home.
Natural materials will reduce the toxins in your home and improve your physical wellbeing, whilst buying locally brings the feel-good factor.
Seeing a piece in your home that connects you to a story or the person who made it will release serotonin, the happy hormone, every time you walk into your room.