Natural Home Essentials

Why natural materials in the home matter

Discover why natural materials like wool, leather, organic cotton, jute, sisal and timber are a smarter option for the home, as well as how to care for and style them.

Natural materials, as close to their raw state as possible, age gracefully and add warmth and texture to a home. The feeling of sinking into a bed layered with sundried linen is akin to a relaxing holiday and the heady scent of sumptuous full-grain leather is hard to replicate. Natural materials are a direct connection to the environment, and their authenticity has a grounding effect.

The materials we surround ourselves with have a profound impact on our health and wellbeing. As the healthier alternative to human-made synthetic fibres, natural materials emit fewer toxins, and they contain naturally occurring antibacterial properties. They can help keep you and your family healthy and comfortable all year round in a home that feels fresh and clean.

[Wool] is a desirable option for rugs, carpets and upholstery, as well as bedding, throws, cushions and decorative objects.

Choosing natural materials represents an eco-friendly way of creating a home. Their production requires less energy and little to no chemicals, and they are more recyclable and biodegradable than plastic-based products. They will sometimes come with a higher price tag compared to their synthetic equivalents, but the long-term benefits for both you and the environment are worth the investment.

Read on for a guide to six natural materials, their properties and how you can incorporate them into your home.


Snuggling up in a woollen blanket on a cool evening is one of life’s little pleasures. Soft, luxurious wool, derived from sheep’s fleece, is a remarkable fibre with a list of eco-credentials and benefits that run the length of a ball of yarn.

Merino wool is 100 per cent biodegradable, naturally stain-resistant and highly durable. It is also odour-resistant and breathable. Wool contains temperature-regulating properties as it is an absorbent, active fibre that responds to heating and cooling.

According to Woolmark Australia, merino wool can absorb and release twice as much moisture vapour as cotton and 30 times as much as polyester. Due to its high water and nitrogen content, this fibre is naturally flame-retardant. It won’t melt, stick or cause burns, and it produces fewer noxious fumes than other materials.

This wonder fibre is a desirable option for rugs, carpets and upholstery, as well as bedding, throws, cushions and decorative objects.


  • Air your wool blankets outside to freshen them in between washes; avoid direct sunlight.
  • Check the label before washing, as some wools can be machine-washed. If machine-washing, always choose the wool or delicate setting and a mild, wool-safe detergent.
  • A spill left to soak into wool will eventually cause a stain. Soak the stained area with a solution of mild detergent and water; blot with a soft cloth and avoid scrubbing the fabric.


Nineteen seventies-style woven wall hangings have become popular again due to a new generation of textile artists embracing traditional yarn crafting techniques. Fibre art represents an antidote to our fast-paced, tech-heavy modern day, and the introduction of a handcrafted woven piece to your walls will create a unique focal point and add soul to your home.


Humans have been using leather for centuries, dating back to the prehistoric era when animal hides were wrangled for protection and comfort. Fast forward a few thousand years, and we are still drawn to the durable material with its rich look and feel. It’s a timeless material choice for home decor.

From a handsome chesterfield sofa to a contemporary bar stool with a tan leather seat, different applications of leather will look the part in a wide variety of interior styles. Leather softens over time, developing a warm patina that oozes character. While leather products can be expensive, your initial investment will pay off over the years.

Leather quality is classified by the amount of processing applied to the raw material. Full-grain leather is the most natural form, as it is the least treated. Top-grain and bonded leathers undergo deeper chemical processing, while vegan leather contains no animal products and is made with polyurethane or PVC. Industry bodies like the Leather Working Group create transparencies around the leather supply chains, allowing manufacturers, brands and consumers to make purchase decisions that align with their values on sustainability and animal welfare.


  • Clean up spills immediately, especially on leathers that are full-grain with little to no protective coating.
  • Once a week, wipe off dust and accumulated grime, and use a leather conditioner once every six to 12 months.
  • Direct sunlight over a prolonged period can cause the leather to crack and fade, so ensure the longevity of your piece by positioning it out of the sun’s harmful rays.


You can have too much of a good thing — too many leather pieces in one room will overwhelm the space and make it feel heavy. Pair an upholstery armchair with a leather sofa or add a knitted throw or a linen cushion to an armchair made of hide. The contrast of textures will highlight the character of the leather and add depth to the room.


Pure linen is synonymous with breezy feelings of sun-soaked, casual afternoons. From linen napkins placed on a tabletop setting to an inviting bed layered with soft linen sheets, this material manages to look refined and relaxed at the same time.

Linen, woven from flax fibres, is two to three times stronger than cotton and has temperature-regulating properties. It keeps you cool when you’re hot and warm when you’re cold, which is why it is a popular choice for bedding and clothing. It dries quickly and is antibacterial and naturally moth-resistant.

The natural state of pure linen is found in muted tones of oatmeal, ivory and ecru, while a never-ending range of dyed linens is available. Look out for linens produced in France, Belgium and Italy, as these European countries are known for their high-quality weaving and finishing.


  • Wash linen in cold or warm water on a gentle cycle. It’s best to air-dry linen; if you must use the tumble dryer, select the lowest setting.
  • Linen is susceptible to fading, so avoid direct sunlight over a prolonged period. Store in a cool, dry place.
  • Ditch the iron and embrace the natural creases and fall of this tactile fabric. It will become softer with age.


The beauty of 100 per cent linen is in its loose, gently crumpled look. When it comes to linen bedding, upsize your sheets and quilt cover for a generous drape; for example, if you have a queen bed, go with king-sized sheets and quilt covers.

Organic cotton

Let your eyes wander around the room you are currently sitting in. The chances are that you will see something made of cotton, whether it be a cushion, your jeans or the curtains. It is absorbent, breathable and versatile, and can be woven or knitted into many fabrics including velvet, corduroy, chambray and flannel.

… 100 per cent organic cotton offers a more sustainable solution, produced via chemical-free agricultural practices, favourable working conditions and increased water efficiencies.

In 2014, the Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report listed cotton as the most widely produced natural fibre in the world, representing around 31 per cent of the world textile market. Cotton is a thirsty crop, requiring huge volumes of water to grow, harvest and process; the World Wildlife Fund claims 2700 litres of water is needed to produce the cotton for one single T-shirt. When you couple this fact with the volume of pesticides used in cotton production, the ubiquitous fibre is often associated with negative impacts on the environment and lowered ethical standards.

The good news is that 100 per cent organic cotton offers a more sustainable solution, produced via chemical-free agricultural practices, favourable working conditions and increased water efficiencies. When searching for organic cotton products, look out for labels and logos that specify verification by the Australian Certified Organic (ACO) or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This indicates that the cotton meets organic textile processing requirements and is a healthier, sustainable option for our planet.


  • Use a mild detergent and cold to warm water when washing, and always wash dark colours separately.
  • Avoid strong bleach and cleaning chemicals as they will degrade the organic fibres.
  • When ironing organic cotton, choose a low heat setting and test on a small area. Organic cotton can’t withstand the high temperatures that a chemically processed cotton or cotton blend can.


When it comes to styling cotton cushions on your sofa, play with different fabric finishes for an interesting grouping that catches the eye. Mix velvet and corduroy cushions, or contrast a soft chambray style with a heavy canvas. If you choose cushions that are similar in colour, the variety of fabrics will look cohesive.

Jute & sisal

Like a woven beach bag or a wide-brimmed sun hat, jute and sisal home decor conjures up visions of sand and sun. The golden-hued fibres add earthiness and visual warmth to a space and they are often an essential ingredient for the styling of a coastal-style home. Jute and sisal are versatile, affordable and readily available.

Sisal comes from the agave plant, and jute is derived from the stalks of the corchorus plant, most commonly found in India. Jute is one of the world’s most-produced vegetable fibres, second only to cotton. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, both jute and sisal are renewable resources that require no chemicals or pesticides to grow, and they are easily recycled and biodegradable.

Sisal is more durable than jute, which makes it a popular material for rugs in high foot traffic areas.

Jute is a natural repellent of dust mites, making it a fantastic choice if you have dust allergies. Keep in mind that a tighter weave gives a neat, refined appearance, while loose designs appear more organic and casual.


  • Avoid exposing jute and sisal to excess water as the moisture will warp and weaken the fibres.
  • To clean a spill off a jute or sisal rug, press firmly with clean, white paper or cloth towels immediately. For darker liquid spills, like red wine, dab carefully with soda water.
  • Vacuum jute and sisal rugs regularly.


Jute baskets are an attractive storage solution that makes tidying up a breeze. Keep a basket or two in the living room to store extra throws or reading material, in the kid’s room to corral toys, or on shelves in the study area to hide excess tech equipment or paperwork.


The benefits of spending time in nature have often been reported, but did you know the existence of natural timber in your home can also positively influence your levels of wellbeing and happiness? In 2015, Planet Ark reported the multiple physiological and psychological perks of timber-rich interiors, including reduced blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels, improvements to a person’s emotional state and improved air quality through humidity moderation.

… the existence of natural timber in your home can positively influence your levels of wellbeing and happiness.

The authentic character of raw timber is hard to replicate with a machine. The natural variation in tones adds an organic richness to a room, even more so if the timber is reclaimed or recycled. Hardwood flooring is warmer than tiles, and a well-made timber furniture piece will last generations. A small addition like a timber-framed artwork will impart a feeling of nature.

Choose timber products that have been sustainably harvested and produced with environmentally friendly non-toxic oils or paints. A timber product that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified has been manufactured with the best interests of both environment and society. The FSC is a globally recognised organisation that seeks to ensure the timber is harvested in an environmentally sustainable and socially beneficial way.


  • Use a damp mop only on hardwood floors. Wet mopping your floor will cause extensive water damage over time.
  • Keep timber furniture looking fresh with a homemade furniture restorer made up of two parts linseed oil, two parts turpentine and one part methylated spirits. Use a rag to rub the restorer on lightly, following the grain of the wood.
  • Direct sunlight can fade timber, so rotate your pieces often to avoid patchy colour.


The trick to making different timbers work together in the same space is to keep all the timber tones in the same colour family. If your floors are warm in colour with a red or orange base, add furniture with the same tones; for floors with a colour base of blue or greys, stick with cool-toned furniture.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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