We nap on pillows stuffed with down feathers. We warm our tootsies on wool rugs. We frame our windows in sleek silk drapes. In other words, plenty of the rich textures, plush fabrics and soft surfaces adorning our abodes are derived from animal products.

But some professional designers are out to change that, adamantly nixing those traditional products. Among them is Deborah DiMare, founder of DiMare Design in South Florida. Earth911 talked to DiMare to find out how she found herself in this niche career, the most promising alternatives to familiar items and how you can get started on curating your own cruelty-free home.

Vegan interior designer Deborah DiMare

Earth911: How did you come to be a vegan interior designer?

Deborah DiMare: I became a vegan interior designer a few years ago. I could no longer play the game of “ignorance is bliss and keep my head in the sand.” How could I claim to love animals and yet profit off their blood and tragic death, all for a leather hide? Our pets are our family and they are an integral part of our life.

The more I learned about animal cruelty, the more passion I had to make change. Watching footage of angora farms, dog leather slaughterhouses, alligator farms and so on changed me personally and professionally. My life’s mission has become to put an end to animals killed for the furniture and home goods industry. It’s that simple. I think about it 24 hours a day and it runs through my veins.

Earth911: What is vegan design?

DiMare: In the world of design, a vegan designer only uses products, materials and fabrics that do not contain, harm, torture or exploit any conscious living being. Vegan design acknowledges that all living creatures have emotions and feelings and should not be used for society’s idea of luxury.

Vegan approach to office design. Photo: DiMare Design

Earth911: Who is interested in vegan design? Is it only for vegans?

DiMare: Vegan design is for anyone who wants a healthy environment [and] cares about the future of the planet, its people and animals. One has to understand that vegan alternatives are not only for those that care deeply for animals. Vegan design has many layers to its mission. Vegan design addresses animal cruelty, inhumane working conditions, a healthy lifestyle and the environment.

Earth911: What are examples of vegan-alternative products?

DiMare: Faux leathers being made from pineapples. Faux silks created from banana plants. Faux wools and silks derived from recycled plastics and tree pulp.

As we speak, there is a race globally to develop materials that will not harm the planet or its inhabitants. Companies are testing materials made from mushrooms, methane, soy [and] garbage from the ocean. It’s very exciting.

Earth911: Are the faux leathers and other faux materials as delicious as the real thing?

DiMare: Yes. They are just as cushy, or even cushier. [Faux leathers] are just as warm and just as buttery, the really good ones.

[Note: DiMare pointed out that faux versions are typically less expensive, less toxic and more durable. As further proof, she offers this video of Chief Barketing Officer Lucca and a faux fur blanket.]

Earth911: What tips would you offer DIYers for incorporating vegan design into their residences, offices, patios, etc.?

DiMare: Baby steps. Start with one space and pick something small, such as pillows. Switch out your wool pillows for faux down and vegan-covered ones. Then move on to a larger item such as a rug or a desk. Then move on to the desk chair. Start small, pick one space and start with the least expensive items.

Photo: DiMare Design

As a resource, DiMare’s Vegan Design website offers information about vegan design, including links to products that fit the style. To learn more, take DiMare’s online Vegan Design 101 class.

By Patti Roth

Patti began her writing career as a staff writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Still based in Florida, Patti serves as editor for Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap. She regularly writes about environmental, home improvement, education, recycling, art, architecture, wildlife, travel and pet topics.