Sophie Hitchens

Sophie Hitchens


The New Naturals: Inspired Interiors for Sustainable Living

Sophie Hitchens Tuesday 23rd January 2024

Louisa Grey, the location owner of Clay House, features in the new book ‘The New Naturals’, a stunning collection showcasing inspired interiors for sustainable living. In this beautiful new publication, author and stylist Jen Haslam examines how designers, owners, and architects decide to minimise their environmental impact. 

This exquisite book invites you to explore the varied aesthetics of homes unified by a considered, responsible approach to making a home. It showcases 19 homes from around the world that celebrate the rawness and imperfection of natural materials, allowing them to breathe and intrigue. 

We’ve been in love with Clay House since we first set eyes on it, and we couldn’t wait to see more interiors that take the approach of sustainable living to the next level. So, we caught up with Jen to look at this thought-provoking publication about sustainable interiors.

The Seed of a New Idea

Jen, having previously produced A New Leaf – a book about gorgeous homes that integrate plants as a focal element in their décor, conceived the idea for a new book. Her publishers were keen to work on another project together, and as they explored Jen’s idea, it became clear there was something worth exploring in sustainable interiors. When it came to the concept of the book, Jen told us,

The idea for the book came from observing a shift in how people were decorating their homes—how people were leaving the bones of their house on show, bare timbers, natural walls, wooden kitchens and floors, some of which can be seen in Clay House. I was intrigued by traditional building methods for making a resurgence, such as Tadelakt Clay plaster, and wondered what was behind these choices. Was it just a visual aesthetic or a consciousness of the environment? – and it turned out to be the latter.”

The result is a beautiful publication sharing stunning properties that are innovative, sensitive and sustainable.


A Journey into Authentic Interior Design

When we asked Jen about her journey of discovery, she told us, 

“I loved hearing everyone’s stories. I found it intriguing to learn about the research that went into the homes to make the most sustainable choices possible, some driven by the homeowners, others in collaboration with the architects and builders. The layers of thought and research that inspired many decisions were very technical regarding how the buildings were constructed and the study of surface materials such as paint. 

What was interesting was the different and conscious choices each of the homeowners had taken to making those choices; it wasn’t about everyone having the most sustainable type of property possible, but about encompassing ideas such as only purchasing second-hand furniture, seen in Erica Tanov’s San Francisco home, or using natural breathable paints and clay plasters, as seen in Clay House. And for others, it went a step further, such as building as a collective in Melbourne or creating an incredibly contemporary factory produced, Passive Haus’s that’s dropped into the landscape.

Visually, the thing that was most key to me was that the properties weren’t just contemporary minimal white spaces; it was about showing homes that were very much lived in and loved, and the variety that brings. So from a rustic Mallorca finca to a Margate terrace, to a wood-clad Koto cabin, the look and feels were varied, yet with a shared ethos of sustainability first”.


A Long-Lasting Future for Tomorrow’s Interiors

One of the key learnings from the book is the substantial time and research that the property owners and designers invested. This marks a distinct shift away from quick fixes, delving into what would be long-lasting, identifying the best choices to make along the way, and determining how to apply them effectively. Jen believes that this approach sets the scene for a long-lasting future for tomorrow’s interiors:

“I think the only way to move forward is with sustainable building practices, harnessing energy from natural resources, and not making cheap disposable, toxin-filled products and furniture. We must keep questioning where things have been made and their origins.

The result of this change is not only about sustainability but a gently shifting aesthetic. The natural textured aesthetic will always stick around, and new designs aren’t about avoiding colour, as there is a plethora in the natural world. So, it’s about sustainably connecting to that. For the maximalists, sustainable interiors are not only about natural materials but about considering where things have been made, what has been put into the pieces chosen, what can be repurposed and what can be salvaged.” 


A Calm Welcome at Clay House

An undeniable by-product of these new interior designs inspired by sustainable choices is a welcoming feel, defined by natural and earthy materials and an aesthetic driven by a planet-friendly approach. This is abundantly clear in Clay House, which features in the first chapter of The New Naturals.

When we asked Jen about what she loved about Clay House, she told us, 

The most poignant thing for me about Clay House is the calmness and warming welcome that is felt the moment you step through the door. 

Louisa and House of Grey are real talents; their whole ethos is inspiring, with their meticulous research into every material they specify to ensure they know where it has been made and where it will end. For example, the rugs Louisa has collaborated on with Armadillo will eventually decompose and leave no trace. And of course, the house’s beautiful and quiet tactility stands out, and its impeccable design makes it a joy to shoot.”

A Trusted Team to Capture a Vision

Jen’s book is a testament to her belief in the changing face of sustainably driven interior design. And having worked with the same publishers for her previous book, she also built a team of talented photographers she knows and trusts to capture the essence of her vision.

“I’ve worked with Simon Bevan on many projects, and we genuinely bring out the best in each other. There’s a silent understanding when we shoot together, me quietly doing my thing, him his, and an unwritten agreement on what we’re hoping the image will look like. Over the years, our collaboration has blossomed into friendship, bringing a good level of fun to our work. Plus, his genuine investment in the project shone through in the beautiful shots he created each day.

I also worked with a few other photographers for the project, namely Edvinas Bruzas, who captured Clay House beautifully and Marnie Hawson in Australia, a real pioneer in shooting sustainable-only projects.”


A Career Highlight

The New Naturals is a beautiful book showcasing the future of interior design, and it’s a project of which Jen is incredibly proud. But during our conversations, she was keen to point out that while writing a book is hard work, with the right team around you, it’s a fun and life-changing experience: 

“I was lucky to have a team I was as happy to spend time off set as on set with, which is so important when travelling is involved. We always had a good level of humour on set, with a wonderful set of stories to tell. Highlights included battling the elements in a snowy northern Denmark when we were hoping to create a summer beach house aesthetic, which was fun! Another was photographing the exquisite, handcrafted Mallorca Fina by Terra Coll home. It was an amazing day, especially as it included a trip to the beach for a chilly early March swim! 

Every shoot day had its stories, and this whole process was a career highlight.”


Find Out More

The New Naturals: Inspired Interiors for Sustainable Living is available now on Amazon. Find out more here. 

For more information about Clay House, find property details, location and booking information here


Sophie Hitchens

Sophie Hitchens