Nikki Lisle, dreamt up and started Sala Verde three or four years ago when she was looking for an escape route out of the corporate rat race she was working in. Nikki studied interior design part time and things turned a corner from there. She decided to combine her interests in design, travel, anthropology, the environment, healthy interiors and business, and Sala Verde was begat!
Sala Verde was to be all about good design that was sustainably and ethically made – that had a story. And three years later that is still the essence that drives Sala Verde.
When did you first decide to get involved with ethical materials in home décor and furnishings and what inspired you?
When sourcing interiors products for my interiors course assignments, I wanted products that were sustainably produced, that were made of natural materials and had low or no VOC levels. I found these hard to find. And very often, there was no information about the provenance of the items – the makers, the materials etc. So combining this gap in the market with my love of interior design I set forth to source beautiful, sustainably and ethically made home ware.
Why did you choose The Philippines as your major supplier?
I have been going to the Philippines regularly since I was six years old. I have family and friends there and in later years began to notice and admire the craftsmanship and design work of the very creative Filipino people. So what better place to start?
Tell us more about your eco rating and how and why you developed this?
I wanted buyers to know the sustainable (both environmental and social) parameters with which I chose the products in my range. I researched some green ratings organizations and found that none of them rate home ware. So I created my own Eco Rating system. It’s not accredited but it does give buyers more information about what they are buying.
Do you know any of the craftspeople and artisans that make the products and can you tell us about one of their communities?
Before I order any products I check out the workshops and meet the makers. It’s important to me to see how a potential supplier reacts to my visit (some are cagey) and for me to see first hand the conditions in which the workers work. It means I’ve had to travel all over the Philippines and have been led down dirt roads into jungles. A tad intrepid, but I love it. It brings out the latent anthropologist in me. One workshop I visited was in the middle of a huge, huge banana plantation on the southern island of Davao. The workers knew about Sala Verde and all waved and smiled as I was introduced. They come from surrounding villages. They are given meals daily and schooling for their children is provided free. It is a rustic set up but the energy and the surrounds are beautiful and the workers feel pride in what they make and keep the sense of tradition (in their weaving) and community spirit alive.
You talk about being able to have sustainable furnishings that fit with modern design in homes, which is one of the focuses at Recycled Interiors, finding sustainable and ethical pieces that are also fit with a range of styles – do you have any favourite people or sources of inspiration in furniture design and interior décor?
I have long admired Terance Conran. He has achieved a lot on the world on interiors. He believed that “good design should be available to all people, not just to a few”. He finds luxury in the simple things, like the feeling underfoot of stepping out of the shower onto a soft thick toweling bath mat. Heavenly. As for other sources of inspiration, where to begin? The pattern of moss on a rock. The shapes in my son’s origami creations. The patina of old wood. Beauty is in the simple. And great design is all around us if we care to look.
What is a favourite product you are selling right now and how do you see your products fitting into contemporary interiors?
My personal favourite would have to be the Curly Rattan Pendant. It is made of rattan, a fast growing jungle-floor vine. It has been put through the bentwood process of soaking, heating, bending and drying over and over again to get those fantastic curls.
Although traditional methods are used to make many of our products, the results are decidedly contemporary in their designs and fit into any interior style.
You have just launched a new website! Can you tell us about the new site and also where people can purchase and see your products?
After three years of sourcing and selling both lighting and homeware, I have decided to focus on lighting. I love the sculptural element and wow factor of an amazing pendant lamp and the change of mood that lighting can bring to a room. On the business side of things, Sala Verde has become known more for lighting and I have been doing more and more customizations for commercial interior designers. So to reflect this change of tack, I have designed a new website reflecting these changes with new photography and new information. People can see and buy the products and read all about them at www.salaverde.com.au
What is your background?
I was born in Sydney but have lived half my life elsewhere. Ten years in Hong Kong. Before that, a couple in London. And before that, several other Australian cities. I majored in Psychology, Anthropology at university, travelled lots (I love Asia) and worked at a career in advertising for years before planning my escape into the world of interior design.
Apart from your work, what other interests or hobbies do you have?
Thankfully these days, my work and interests merge. But apart from that I seem to be fixated at the moment on how to live a chemical-free life. From food to shampoo to detergents. I seek out the less toxic, less processed, more natural products. I’m glad to say such products are getting easier to find.
What is your most treasured belonging?
Am I allowed to say my 10 year old son? (yes you are!) Although my Nan always said that children don’t belong to you, they are yours to raise and then to give to the world. A wonderful philosophy. Apart from that, I’d say it would be a small bronze “woman in a sari” statue my husband and I bought in India. She sits there pensively. I wonder what she is wondering.
What is your decorating style?
My house is pretty eclectic. Pretty much everything in it was bought whilst travelling. We have rugs from Tibet, India and Turkey. We have old Chinese furniture and porcelain. We have carvings and statues from the Philippines, India, Cambodia. Art from Vietnam, Italy, England. We have oak dining chairs from Vinnies and eBay. And no house would be complete without a few IKEA pieces. So I guess my style could be described as “put together the things you love, that have meaning and memories and it will all work well together”.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Satisfied that I have achieved worthwhile things thus far and to have a horizon full of challenges and excitement ahead of me still.