Vegan furnishings: how to make your home animal-friendly

Jana Janßen

Until now, did you mostly associate the word vegan with food? Wrong – more and more vegans are not only looking at what ends up on their plate. They are also paying attention to what they put in their living room. We explain what’s important in vegan furnishings and provide tips on how to find vegan furniture.

A textile couch can be seen in the living room of an old building. The decoration consists of natural materials and plants.
© Getty Images

In this article

Adopting a vegan lifestyle – not only on your plate

Vegans avoid animal products and products tested on animals. Not only for the sake of the animals, but also to protect the environment. More and more people who don’t live a completely vegan lifestyle are trying to make their lives more sustainable and use fewer animal products.

However, animal products are not only found on your plate. They are an established part of many areas of our lives. A vegan lifestyle is therefore not just about diet, but also applies to fashion, cosmetics and more and more often even to interior design. There are more animal ingredients in our furnishings than you might think. This is because manufacturers of high-quality furniture and home textiles in particular tend to use leather, silk, wool, fur or feathers.

A retro-style leather couch and leather armchairs can be seen in a living room.

Leather is considered a high-quality material for couches. Vegans avoid it.

Adopting a vegan lifestyle – what you will have to do without

A leather sofa and down pillows can easily be identified as non-vegan, even by a layman. It’s different when it comes to glued wooden furniture, for example. Would you have guessed that in some cases, the glue is made from animal skins or bones? Paints, oils and varnishes can also contain animal components – such as the red-coloring pigment carmine or shellac. Both are obtained from scale insects. The following list gives you an overview of animal components that might be hiding in your home:

  • Leather: leather is a popular and high-quality material for couches and armchairs, as well as for carpets and curtains. It’s no longer merely a waste product from meat production – animals are specially bred so that their skin will make particularly attractive leather. At the same time, the quality of synthetic leather is improving, and there are plenty of alternatives on the market, including the plastics polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU), or sustainable variants like pineapple or apple leather.
  • Fur: furs like sheepskins are popular as rugs or cozy toppers for couches or chairs. There are many vegan alternatives which are hard to distinguish from the real thing – at least in the case of particularly high-quality imitation furs.
  • Down: pillows and duvets made of goose feathers are found in many Swiss bedrooms because they are so comfortable and warm. However, synthetic materials such as Climashield, PrimaLoft and 3M Thinsulate can imitate the warming properties of down very effectively. Natural fibers such as bamboo, cotton or Tencel are also very good at regulating heat and are just as breathable as down.
  • Wool: wool from sheep can often be found in duvets, for instance, but also in carpets, mattresses or the covers of particularly high-quality couches. Depending on the desired usage, there are a variety of possible substitutes – mainly cotton or polyester.
  • Horsehair: manufacturers of environmentally friendly mattresses, in particular, often use horsehair as a filling. The material is also popular for box spring beds. Alternatives are vegan mattresses with a core made of synthetic foam material, (natural) latex or cork.
  • Silk: silk is obtained by boiling cocoons with live silkworms inside. In furnishings, you will come across the fabric above all in pillowcases and curtains. Its weightless, slightly translucent properties are best mimicked by cupro, acetate, polyester or viscose.
  • Paints and varnishes: to increase their adhesive properties, wall paints may contain casein, a protein obtained from cheese production. Vegans should also be wary of colors containing red pigments, which could originate from scale insects. These insects are also used in the production of furniture varnish. Even if a wall paint doesn’t actually contain animal substances, the product may still have been tested on animals. To be on the safe side, check for logos that identify vegan and animal-free products.
  • Glue: glues often used to manufacture furniture include hide glue, bone glue, rabbit glue – the names alone indicate that they are not vegan. Glue can also be obtained from milk protein. There are many alternatives, both synthetic and herbal. Unfortunately, however, manufacturers usually don’t explicitly indicate exactly which glue they use.
  • Wax: wax can also be of animal origin, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Candles are very likely to have been made from petroleum or plant waxes, unless you have a beeswax candle in your hands. Furniture polish, on the other hand, often contains beeswax. The ingredients should be clearly marked on the packaging.

Manufacturers don’t have to label animal materials on all of their products – especially when it comes to furniture. Perhaps you are now wondering how you can tell whether or not a piece of furniture or decorative element is vegan. Just like food and clothing, some furniture comes with a label that the manufacturers use to identify their products. Look for the “Approved Vegan” logo from the animal rights organization PETA, for example.

Vegan furniture and decoration – stores and tips

Searching for furnishings that are explicitly vegan can be a bit of a hassle. If you are unable to find certified furniture, you can contact the manufacturer to ask if their production processes involve animal products. The Vegandesign.org community is a great help. They blog about vegan decorating tips and provide a list of links to vegan furniture and decorative items on Amazon.

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The online furniture store Allnatura offers a very large vegan range with clear labeling – including couches, mattresses and textiles. In addition, the manufacturer attaches great importance to natural and sustainable materials and resource-saving production methods.

The online mail order company Ackermann also stocks some explicitly vegan products such as beds from the grüne betten brand, or dressers from the Premium collection by Home affaire. These use water-based adhesives that have been screened for harmful substances, which are not only better for animal welfare but also more environmentally friendly.

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Converting to veganism – it won’t happen overnight

Have you decided to go vegan, not only in terms of what you eat, but in your living room too? Don’t throw out your good leather couch and all your woolen blankets right away. That wouldn’t be very sustainable. By gradually paying attention to vegan alternatives when making new purchases, you can make a valuable contribution to ensuring a more sustainable future.

Sustainable living – even more tips

Adopting a vegan lifestyle is just one way to live more sustainably. But you don’t have to choose veganism. Here are some more tips on how you can use natural materials in your home to help protect the environment: Sustainable and fashionable: natural materials in the bedroom

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