Vegan interior designer Deborah Rosenberg blends her ethics with her profession bringing new daring and energy to interior design. She travels the world for projects that involve creating beautiful spaces without harming a soul.
Our homes are our most intimate spaces and they’re a reflection of us. As vegans, it is natural for us to have a desire to incorporate our principles of compassion and kindness to our homes. Deborah Rosenberg, a leader in vegan interior design and a PETA advocate, makes it possible for people to create beautiful home spaces without sacrificing on aesthetics or values. Her design firm DiMare Design is PETA approved vegan. Deborah is passionate about animal rights, lectures and writes articles on humane and wellness design, was a featured designer on TLC, and has also appeared on The Today Show.
In this interview, we discuss with Deborah about her inspiration behind starting a cruelty-free design company, the challenges she faces, brands she loves to work with and how does she convince her clients to ditch animal products in their luxury homes.
Interior design seems to be one of the industries that is yet to make a stance in the world of veganism. What drew you to this industry and why especially vegan interiors?
I’ve been in the luxury interior design business for nearly 15 years. I am self-taught. When my twins were toddlers (they are now 22 years old…wow!), I found two beaten up wooden headboards in a consignment shop for $15 each. I painted them a beautiful green and decorated them with butterflies. Everyone loved them and wanted to know where I got them from. I was always handy in that way. For me, design was always about creating optimal, happy, successful environments with great energy. My business evolved. I became a designer on TLC, started designing ultra-luxury homes, offices, and hotels.
In the past, I never had made the connection between animal slaughter and furniture until I started seeing grotesque, inhumane footage of animals being tortured and killed for their skins and hides. It was life changing for me.
I became much more aware of the foods we were eating after learning about the horrendous, inhumane slaughter of animals for the food industry. Our diet changed. We stopped eating all dairy and meat strictly for humane reasons. Once you see the dark side, it’s impossible to turn back, especially if you love animals the way my family and I do. I have two daughters. They are 22 years old and our life revolves around our pets. They are a strong part of our family and who we are.
This led me to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle. It has impacted me in every way, shape, and form for the better. Raising awareness, educating others, and transitioning my business to saving and protecting animals has been a very integral part of the next chapter of my life. We even created an online platform called certifiedCrueltyFree.net, which provides education for professionals and anyone wanting to learn about vegan options. The course is accredited and we license our logo for companies to display. Every part of my life is focused on saving animals.
What materials do you most like working with and do you notice any major differences with these?
The list of fabrics I enjoy working with are endless. As long as they meet my criteria of not being made from animals nor are affiliated with animal testing, I consider them. The pineapple silks are wonderful along with tencel. The faux leathers I use are as soft and buttery as real leather. However, what makes them far better than real animal hides and skins are that faux alternatives don’t smell gamey or like “dead animals.” They are much more durable and can be much less expensive. Vegan options stand up to pets and kids. More than half of Americans, unfortunately, have allergies or sickness. For those suffering from allergies or asthma, down alternatives are ideal. Anyone with sensory challenges such as those in the spectrum of Autism benefit highly from faux alternatives. They don’t scratch the skin and don’t smell.
What are the key items/materials vegans should be cautious about that may seem deceptively vegan?
Be a skeptic. Example; A recent investigation about a major retailer claiming to be selling “faux fur winter hats” discovered that the hats were made of Angora. Check out the company and its credentials to ensure they are truly cruelty-free and vegan. Do a Google search. That is one of the reasons I created the “Certified Cruelty-Free” trademark. It is a way for consumers and other vendors to ensure the validity of a company claiming “vegan.” There are a lot of scams out there and “vegan” is the new hot term and unfortunately, many companies loosely use the term to sell their products but the truth is they are simply lying. We also created a “forum” on the platform to answer and all questions that are posted. It’s been a great source for people.
What do you deal with a situation where the customer insists on using leather or other animal products?
Simple, we do a comparison test. For example, if a client insists on real leather, I show them an incredibly soft, buttery, gorgeous faux alternative next to the leather hide sample. The client cannot tell the difference until I pour liquid on both and scratch the samples with my nail. Real skins stain and get scratched super easy. That’s why they belong on the animal and not on our couch. It wins the client over every time. Durable, pet and kid proof….. faux is da bomb!
Your design aesthetic in 3 words.
Symmetrical, clean & simple.
Any sustainable brands you recommend or love to work with.
Yes, Kravet fabrics are one of my favorite textile companies. They have endless vegan alternatives such as faux leather and fur. Philip Jeffries for wallcoverings. I love their cork, sisal and faux silks for walls. Most of our furniture is created by our custom line, Arthur Avenue, since everything must be completely vegan. We like unique companies like CocaBee for displaying pretty beauty products and Matt & Nat for vegan leather desk accessories. For the budget minded, we are always guiding followers about great finds at places like Target, West Elm, IKEA and other big box stores.
Your most challenging project, and your favorite one.
I’ve had so many wonderful projects it’s difficult to select one. However, I have great memories of a very large home we redid for a newly divorced woman. We redecorated her entire home completely cruelty-free and vegan. Initially, she didn’t seem so on board with it and was just unimpressed with the idea until we were done with the house. She was blown away with the beauty, sophistication, textures, and freshness of the spaces. When I reminded her that her newly redone spaces were free from blood and despair since no living creatures had to suffer or die for her furnishings, she was elated. It really struck a chord with her. She feels her home is now filled with positive energy.
Regarding challenging projects, I think all good projects are challenging in their own ways. Everything in life that is worth something – business and personally, is hard work and challenging. But challenges are good, they make you better, push you to think out of the box and always keep you on your toes. I like challenges.
Do you take projects across the world or only specific regions like Florida or USA?
Yes, we have projects all over the US, from California to New York and in between. Our projects span across the globe and we have worked in almost all continents.
Have you discovered any materials that you were shocked to find weren’t vegan, or find that people are shocked at discovering?
One of the most frustrating and shocking realizations for me has been the disgraceful, completely false marketing created for the term “responsible wool.” The largest sheep farms in the world are run by big corporations such as Patagonia. They claim to not harm the sheep raised for their wool. It is 100% a lie. There is endless footage of the unimaginable abuse and torture that these poor innocent creatures endure for their wool. The wool industry is completely fooling the consumers about the horrific abuse and death of sheep. Here’s a link to an article about the wool industry. PETA.WOOL.
Personal style signifier?
I would describe my style to be classic and simple. My color palette usually consists of solid whites, grays, dark colors and black. White collared stiff shirts and jeans, loose jacket are my work look. My wardrobe contains a lot of Stella McCartney, Anne Fontaine and James Perse. I love the simplicity and tiny details to their beautiful collection.
You are PETA approved, how did you come about this and is this something you find majorly impacts your work from a customer perspective?
I am very proud to be PETA approved. PETA is an incredible organization. They are do-ers. They take action and have tremendous passion. I can send an email with a question and without exaggeration, 5 minutes later I get a response. Having PETA’s approval definitely gives my company credibility and distinction.
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