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Design & Designer: Circularity Q&A with Laurence Carr

Furniture World Magazine


What design tools, approaches, frameworks, and techniques can your company use to make your retail business more sustainable? Laurence Carr has suggestions.

Furniture World asked designer Laurence Carr to answer questions about her mission-driven pursuit of circular and sustainable practices. She founded Laurence Carr Inc., a regenerative, multifaceted design firm based in New York City, specializing in interiors that embody sustainability and healthy living. She also leads Studio Laurence, a sustainable luxury home goods brand focused on zero-waste product design.

Carr serves on the advisory board of the United Nations Fashion and Lifestyle Network, is a member of Maison&Objet’s judging committee for the Sustainable Track, and is a notable writer and speaker on sustainability and the circular economy. She is also the executive producer and host of Chez Laurence, an EarthxTV original docuseries.

Question: Please describe your path to founding Laurence Carr Inc., becoming executive producer and host of the EarthxTV original series Chez Laurence, and advocating for circularity and sustainability.

Laurence Carr: Having lived and worked on four continents, I found that the immersion of cultures enhanced my artistic perspective and ignited a desire to protect our planet’s natural resources and beauty. That was the path to founding my design firm, Laurence Carr Inc., and advocating for the importance of circularity in the built environment while working with manufacturers that embrace zero-waste processes and production methods. As an international interior architect and product designer, I specialize in creating sustainable interiors and designing home goods that intertwine sustainability and mindful luxury. I also consult on sustainable business management.

In the mid-2010s, I noticed how notions of well-being and sustainability were separate from any conversation within the home furnishings industry. My mission has always been to inform architecture and design professionals, consumers and companies about sustainable practices and the circular economy. This focus led to opportunities to take on impactful roles with global stakeholders and leading international organizations.

My docuseries, “Chez Laurence,” showcased an urgent need for circular and sustainable innovation. Episodes featured discussions about circularity with executives from brands at the forefront of this movement in interiors, hospitality, home furnishings, and the built environment. The goal was for audiences to come away with a stronger understanding of circularity, why it matters, and how it impacts our future.


Designer Laurence Carr

“Circular design focuses on creating products, services and systems with resource efficiency, durability and longevity, repairability, life cycle assessment, reuse, upcycling, shared economy and biodiversity in mind.”

Question: How do you approach your work as an interior and product designer?

Laurence Carr: My design company, Laurence Carr Inc. (laurencecarr.com), started with residential projects in New York City and the tri-state area. However, as an interior designer focused on creating sustainable spaces, I had trouble finding sustainable, circular home furnishings to work with. Hence, I decided to launch my studio and collaborate with international manufacturers that demonstrated circular practices within their proprietary product portfolios. I launched Studio Laurence (studiolaurence.com) with a capsule collection of circular vessels in collaboration with Nature’s Legacy, Inc. There are upcoming collaborations with furniture manufacturing companies, but I can’t say more about that now.

My active advocacy for wellness, healthy materials, and sustainable practices also led to invitations to partner as a brand ambassador with organizations, participate in trade showhouses and perform on-site installations at US and European industry shows.

Question: Are there challenges to bringing sustainability and circularity to people of average means?

Laurence Carr: I work in the luxury market, and my clients are mostly in the UHNW (ultra-high-net-worth) category. I believe the sustainable movement trickles down from the high end to the mass market, leading by example.

In 2021, getting third-party certifications for luxury manufacturing home brands was an education and a difficult, costly process. People were just starting to become aware of the benefits of HEPA filters! Good indoor air quality was a new notion. Following the global pandemic, the population shifted its focus to health and wellness in home, work and travel environments.

Since then, acceptance of climate change has progressed, and limits to finding circular products and healthy materials in the US and abroad have been erased. Demand has increased for furniture made of biomaterials, and the mass market now offers sustainable food, fashion, home and lifestyle products. Emblematic of this trend is Target’s recently launched home products line in partnership with Lenzing.

In addition, leading industry organizations, such as mindful Materials (mindfulmaterials.com), the International Living Future Institute (living-future.org), International WELL Building Institute (wellcertified.com) and the Business Institutional Furniture Manufacturer Association (bifma.org) have partnered to make a revolutionary shift to bring healthy materials to the built environment. Global commercial companies, architects, designers and industry stakeholders are joining the mission. Healthy materials and transparency are being normalized.”

Question: What’s the imperative to work towards a more sustainable, circular industry?

Laurence Carr: Circularity has the potential for far more potent impact than sustainability alone, yet it remains somewhat of an unknown concept.

Circularity in design is a product and system design approach that aims to minimize waste and efficiently use resources. It’s a departure from the traditional linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model of production and consumption. Instead, circular design focuses on creating products, services and systems with resource efficiency, durability and longevity, repairability, life-cycle assessment, reuse, upcycling, the shared economy and biodiversity in mind.

Furniture companies can benefit from reorganizing their supply chains, production cycles, and materials sourcing and from better understanding their products’ life- cycle assessments. Every generation and every consumer is looking into third-party certifications, waste management and design for longevity, reuse, and even repair services.”


Laurence Carr’s interior design work incorporating principles of sustainability and circularity.

Question: Is there a downside for furniture manufacturers and retailers who fail to address these issues?

Laurence Carr: At some point, furniture companies that ignore these issues will face many challenges. They will lose market share to competitors because of consumer demand shifts, regulation, cost issues and brand reputation.

Question: In 2021, you worked on Salon de la Circularité at the October High Point Market. What was your experience?

Laurence Carr: Designing a vignette for High Point Market Authority’s Sustainable Stories activation was a pleasure. At that time, the project was an excellent opportunity to invite HPMKT to be part of my EarthxTV series. My team and I sourced all furniture and accessories with circularity in mind. Creating regenerative interiors is a philosophy that extends beyond design into conscious consumerism and life cycle thinking.

With “Salon de La Circularité” we hoped to pass a message to interior designers about the value of designing long-lasting luxury interiors. We did that by repurposing items or finding new uses for old pieces. When buying new furniture, I look for standard third-party certifications that verify sustainable manufacturing processes and support local artisans and manufacturers when possible. I chose healthy selections such as renewable, recycled or upcycled materials and natural fibers such as linen and hemp for textiles.

It was a great experience working with Cisco Pinedo (of Cisco Home), Libeco Textiles and Lenzing to commission a sofa using circular materials inside and out. The Phillips family enthusiastically collaborated, providing pieces from the Phillips Collection. The Mill Collective and local artisans contributed upcycled metal lighting and wooden chairs to this project.

Question: Is the U.S. far behind in adopting sustainable practices?

Laurence Carr: Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries, has led the way in promoting the circular economy and regenerative practices. The U.S. has caught up and is transforming its throwaway economy into one where waste is progressively eliminated.

However, there is a long road ahead. I recommend Furniture World readers check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s website (ellenmacarthurfoundation.org). It’s one of the best online resources for learning about circular economy principles. Included are a collection of examples and case studies illustrating how companies embed the principles of the circular economy in their design process. With a systems-thinking approach, products and materials can circulate for longer and avoid becoming waste while also regenerating natural ecosystems.

“There is a long road ahead. I recommend Furniture World readers check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s website. It’s one of the best online resources for learning about circular economy principles.”

Question: People in the U.S. can’t even trust where their recycling ends up. Is this lack of trust a problem?

Laurence Carr: The pathway to a solution is education, education, education! The furniture industry needs to take the time to explain to clients and consumers the health benefits of surrounding oneself with healthy materials and products. Once they understand, a mindset shift begins. Consumers of all generations are learning about sustainable products versus greenwashing. Third-party certifications are a real thing. Educating consumers that VOCs or PFAs are endocrine disruptors, and can cause serious diseases, is key.

Another excellent online resource is the Sustainable Building: Materials Guide for a Healthy, Circular, Affordable Future course (cpe.newschool.edu/certificates), created by the Parsons School of Design. Any furniture retailer, architect or designer can take this course to learn about healthy materials, sustainability and circularity. The U.S. Green Building Council website (www.usgbc.org) is helpful for further understanding the relationship between human health and environmental attributes.

Question: What can retailers do to help incentivize and inform customers about circularity and sustainability?


Vessel capsule collection designed by Studio Laurence and a living room by Laurence Carr incorporating principles of sustainability and circularity.

Laurence Carr: Besides highlighting their sustainability value proposition, retailers need to inform consumers with clear third-party certification labels, create educational displays and train staff. They can also incentivize consumers with sustainable discounts, trade programs and financing options.

Question: What home furnishings companies are leading the way in promoting refreshing, renewing, recycling and circularity?

Laurence Carr: Here are some: Room & Board, GreenRow (Williams- Sonoma Home), IKEA, West Elm, Lenzing, Libeco, Cisco Home, Andreu World, Keilhauer, Mater, Kvadrat, Loose Parts and COCO-MAT..

Question: Is there a relationship between caring for yourself and caring for the world by making sustainable choices?

Laurence Carr: Absolutely! Health and wellness are inextricably linked. Healthy materials contribute to wellness. There is a relationship between caring for oneself and caring for the world through the act of making sustainable choices. Homeowners can enjoy physical and mental peace of mind knowing that non-harmful products—healthy materials from insulation to paint, floorboards, kitchen countertops, energy-efficient devices, wood cabinets, mattresses, sheets, rugs, and decor—surround them.

The triple bottom line involves caring for the planet, sourcing healthy products, and caring about people while making profits.

“The future of furniture’s second life might include hybrid retail business models—combinations of buyback programs, resale platforms and customization, and technology integration with augmented reality.”

Carr filming Chez Laurence EarthxTV in NYC and a Laurence Carr designed NYC Living Room.

Question: Are some furniture retailers looking to create a second life for their products?

Laurence Carr: IKEA has a test store that collects data on consumer interest in secondhand furniture, tests pricing strategies, and examines the logistics of refurbishment and resale.

It could become a profitable model for other retailers if they find that they can resell at competitive prices and generate large-scale consumer demand. The future of furniture’s second-hand life might include hybrid retail business models—combinations of buyback programs, resale platforms and customization, and technology integration with augmented reality.

Furniture retailers might also investigate working in partnership with their municipalities on waste management, disposal of furniture remnants, upcycling some parts and engaging in public and private partnerships for investment to strategize their supply chain and production for a more sustainable approach.

Question: Are there challenges convincing consumers to pay more for used furniture vs buying new?

Laurence Carr: Globally, 36% of consumers are willing to buy second-hand, with a higher percentage among younger generations. Sustainability, affordability, and uniqueness are major factors that they care about.

The concept that second-hand furniture is less desirable than new is a societal issue. Older generations, like boomers and Gen X, might not perceive ‘second-hand’ as a benefit. However, millennials and Gen Zs embrace the circular economy and understand sharply that climate change is a reality; there is no planet B. In 2024, buying second-hand and vintage is more than a trend. Purchasing products from second-hand retailers in the fashion and home sectors is part of the sustainable living movement.


Pictured is Laurence Carr (far left) leading a home furnishings industry panel at HPMKT. The topic: “Big Shift: Why Circular Design is the Way of the Future.”

Panelists (l-r) were Cisco Pinedo, Susan Inglis, Kathryn Richardson and Chad Bolick.

Question: Do you envision the necessity for the government to set a regulatory environment to accelerate the realization of a circular economy?

Laurence Carr: I serve on the Advisory Committee of the United Nations Fashion Lifestyle Network. This online platform serves as a hub for industry stakeholders, media, governments and UN entities to collaborate on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the fashion and lifestyle sectors.

I do envision the necessity and opportunity for the government to set up a regulatory environment to embrace circular economy practices in different industries and sectors.

Education is key. I recently completed a certificate in Sustainability Business Management at the University of Cambridge. Learning about government policies is essential to moving forward. It takes a village to make impactful changes leading to a sustainable future.

Question: Aside from you, where Is leadership in sustainable and circular design coming from in the furniture business?

Laurence Carr: Many global furniture industry trade shows are leading the way in promoting sustainability and circularity. Furniture retailers should know that Salone del Mobile has an amazing sustainability program. NeoCon in Chicago has a Sustainability Lab led by Metropolis magazine. Organizations such as mindful Materials, IFLI and the WELL Institute are partnering to revolutionize the built environment. Maison&Objet recently focused on sustainability for its 30th anniversary. ICFF/Wanted Design in New York (wanteddesignnyc.com) is doing its part. Every European and Asian trade show has embraced this message as have global retailers such as Andreu World and its circular design challenge program. Keilhauer, Mater, Kvadrat, and Mohawk Group, are other leaders in this effort.

Question: What concepts regarding refreshing, renewing, recycling and circularity should Furniture World readers know more about?

Laurence Carr: They should be aware that creating beautiful and functional products informed by biodiversity, inspired by nature and made with renewable energy sources and materials improves their customers’ quality of life. I would direct them to the Living Product Challenge 2.0 standard created by IFLI, the International Living Future Institute (living-future.org). It’s the world’s most advanced product sustainability standard. The framework encourages manufacturers to create healthy and inspiring products and give more than they take across the life cycles of their products. Becoming a professional member and taking their online course on that topic is easy.

Question: What steps would you advise a furniture retail operation to take to achieve circular and sustainable goals?

Laurence Carr: Every case is different. I would provide advice on the company’s supply chain, production or operations that would benefit the most from investment and innovation to improve sustainability practices. For example, applying new technologies, product designs and business models and then determining how those changes might contribute to revenue improvement.

I would investigate how the company could innovate in each business area to promote sustainable practices. These might include design approaches, tools, frameworks, or techniques to make identified areas more sustainable, such as bio-mimicry, LCA and frugal innovation. I would also look for ways to overcome any barriers to implementation.

Question: Has progress been made in other industries that can serve as a model for the residential home furnishings industry?

Laurence Carr: The apparel industry promotes overconsumption and generates significant textile waste. However, it’s made progress using sustainable materials, second-hand platforms and rental models. These options support the reuse and repair of garments and upcycling, which are circular economy principles. The furniture industry has started to explore similar options online and in some brick-and-mortar operations.

There’s a long way to go, but these are successful strategies the furniture industry should to consider to promote sustainability and circularity.


Music room by Laurence Carr


Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.