Towards a zero-waste lifestyle with beautiful Hokan bowls


Hokan bowls (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

As you might already know, I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of plastic we bring into our home by buying refillable laundry products, wooden washing up brushes and switching to hand soap instead of bottles. So you can imagine how much I love these stylish Hokan bowls, which you can take from the oven to the table and then use in the fridge, meaning no more plastic storage boxes.


(Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Designed by Alistair Donald, whose father is a renowned jewellery designer, the bowls are beautifully crafted from sustainable stoneware and are tough enough to last a life time. Motivated by a desire to cut down on food waste and put an end to precariously balanced saucers of leftovers in the fridge, Alistair has designed a stylish set of bowls with lids that can go in the oven, are attractive enough to serve at the table and then can be stacked neatly in the fridge to save leftovers.


Me cooking a nutritious meal in my new Hokan bowls (image credit: Emily Wheeler).

The word ‘Hokan’ means ‘safekeeping’ in Japanese and Alistair has designed the bowls with this in mind for food. With an ethos of conscientious cooking, compassionate and efficient living (right up my street), he has designed them to be multi-functional, robust and as aesthetically pleasing as they are eco-friendly.


The bowls are beautiful enough to be used to serve at the table (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

The bowls can be used to bake and roast food in the oven and are microwavable and dishwasher safe. Because the interchangeable lids fit securely, the bowls stack neatly on top of each other and leftovers to be stored without any smell in the fridge and without nasty chemicals leaching out of plastic containers. As kitchens get smaller, space saving designs like this are becoming essential because they reduce the number of pans and storage tubs we need to buy as well as reducing food waste. Motivated by his quest to live a zero-waste lifestyle, Alistair has created the ultimate in functional yet beautiful design.


Hokan bowls used to serve at the table straight from the oven at my house (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Hokan bowls come in Pitch Black, Antique White, Cobalt Blue, Sea Green and Lemon Yellow. I was kindly given a set of Pitch Black, which we have used daily since they arrived, using them to cook  Mediterranean vegetable bakes, fruit crumbles and even mussels; taking them from preparation to oven to table, and then into the fridge for leftovers. Now even the inside of our fridge is carefully considered thanks to the bowls’ elegantly sculptural shape.


A set of Pitch Black Hokan bowls on the worktop in our kitchen (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Hokan are launching new ranges of stackable rectangular oven dishes soon as well a range of sustainable, upcycled textiles including oven gloves, aprons, tea towels and cloth bags to store vegetables in (did you know root vegetables last longer stored in a cloth bag?). I have a growing collection of the bowls but can’t wait to get my hands on the vegetable bags and table cloths too.

If you fancy adding a set of gorgeous zero-waste Hokan bowls to your kitchen, I have a discount code especially for you. Just enter the code HokanEW15 to get 15% off your order (valid 7-23 February 2020).



Biophilic design – what is it and why does it matter?

Biophilic design, or ‘biophilia’, means bringing our love of nature into our homes and workplaces to support our health and wellbeing. We have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to live in harmony with the natural world and our health is dependent on our access to natural light, clean air, water and plants, but we now spend 93% of out time indoors, which is having a huge impact. Biophilic design is proven to help us feel less stressed, sleep better and help us to stay healthier as well as happier.

Sitting in unnatural positions hunched over keyboards, looking at screens under harsh synthetic lights and breathing polluted indoor air all cause us stress, take their toll on our health and are part of the modern disconnect with nature. Biophilic design offers several easy-to-follow principles that can support us to feel better physically and emotionally by bringing nature indoors to create more human-centred spaces that calm our minds and lower our heart rates.

Biophilic student residence Lisbon

A biophilically designed student hall of residence in Lisbon.

I recently heard the renowned biophilic designer Oliver Heath talking about biophilic design at a trade show and was blown away by some of the research that supports the positive impact of biophilic design on our health and wellbeing. Oliver explained that patients who were treated in hospitals where there was natural light and views of nature recovered from operations faster than those in traditional wards and had a 22% reduced need for pain medication. Homes become more calming and restorative, with 7-8% less crime attributed to areas with access to nature, including significant reductions in domestic violence. Children who learn in biophilically designed education spaces had increased rates of learning of 20-25%, improved test results, concentration levels and attendance and there was a reduced impact of ADHD. The wealth of research into the benefits of creating spaces that bring us closer to nature, has got companies like Google, Apple and Amazon investing heavily in biophilic design for their workspaces because of the benefits to staff wellbeing and productivity and this is something we can all do in our homes too.

So how can we harness the positive impact of biophilic design at home?


Emily Wheeler kitchen plants

Houseplants in my kitchen (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Plants help to purify the air and are great for filtering out VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that cause indoor air pollution. VOCs come from paints, glues, household cleaners, scented candles, woodburners, cooking fumes and even MDF furniture and synthetic furnishings. Surprisingly, the air inside our homes is even more polluted than the air outside, and plants help to purify the air and produce oxygen. Not only this but they look beautiful and seeing plants helps to reduce blood pressure, stress and anxiety.

Some of the best air purifying house plants include peace lilies, ferns, English ivy, orchids and mother-in-law’s tongue.

Natural materials and wood

Emily Wheeler kitchen

Whitewashed floors that show the natural grain of the wood in my kitchen (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Being able to see and touch natural wood helps to reduce stress and anxiety and can make us feel safe and uplifted. Try exposed wooden floors, either varnished or white washed so you can still see the grain of the wood, like I have in our home. Wooden furniture helps us feel grounded or why not go all out and introduce some wooden timber cladding?

Emily Wheeler dining table

Our wooden dining table and chairs all have a lovely warm, natural wood patina at home (Image credit: Emily Wheeler). Having a comfortable space to come together and eat with friends and family also makes us happier by supporting meaningful close relationships with our loved ones.

Natural light

Central to biophilic design is the importance of maximising natural light. We need daily exposure to bright natural light in order to regulate our circadian rhythm, or body clock. Without natural light, we can become depressed and anxious and our sleep suffers, which can have serious health implications. So throw open those curtains and blinds, get out for a walk every morning, and if you’re renovating, make sure you add plenty of big windows and roof lights.

Emily Wheeler dining space

Roof lights and large windows help to maximise natural light in our home (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Framing views of nature

Emily Wheeler kitchen doors

The view from our dining space into the garden (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Being able to see a natural environment is also beneficial, so try to think about what you see out of your windows. If you can, add window boxes to outside ledges or plants along indoor window sills. Hanging plants look great, and if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, make sure you make the most of it and can see it even when you’re inside.

Natural materials and textiles

Loft bedroom

Natural materials in our loft bedroom at home (Image credit: Emily Wheeler)

Using natural materials and textiles also makes us feel better and won’t leach nasty chemicals into your environment, so try to choose natural linen, wool, silk or cotton for textiles and decorate using eco paints (see my blog post on the five best eco paints here).

Other important biophilic principles include bringing in soothing rhythmical patterns, such as the flickering flame of a fire or candle or the gentle trickling of water and introducing physical patterns inspired by nature such as wooden grains, floral motifs and natural stone. Try turning down the lights in the evening and lighting a fire or candles, while enjoying your new house plants and see how much more relaxed you feel.



Easy swaps for more eco friendly cleaning

Emily Wheeler eco cleaning

As well as trying to reduce the amount of plastic we use at home, I have been trying to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals we use. This is important because harsh chemical cleaning products, sprays and even scented candles can all pollute our indoor environment and have a harmful impact on our health as well as the environment. I’m by no means perfect when it comes to sustainable and natural living, but these are some of the small steps I’ve taken on our journey to reduce the harm inside our home.

My first swap is to use refillable liquid detergents so that we are not constantly buying more and more plastic bottles. Luckily, the refill companies are also health and eco conscious and so the refillable products are usually kinder to us and the environment than the harsh chemical cleaners you can buy in the supermarket. We buy refills of washing up liquid and laundry detergent and keep them in glass bottle dispensers. You can buy glass bottles in IKEA or your local refill or hardware store.

Secondly, we have switched from bottles of hand soap to bars of charcoal activated anti bacterial soap. Not only does this mean no plastic, but it also looks great by the sink. There are lots of brands available now from £2 on the high street to £40 a bar from Dior, because of its amazing purifying properties and incredible black colour.


Eco swaps Emily Wheeler

The third swap we have made is to wooden utensils, such as this gorgeous washing up brush. Who would have thought washing up could look this good?! Not only does this look a thousand times nicer than a bright plastic one, but it is biodegradable so it won’t harm the earth when you’ve finished with it. Most of the wooden ones have replaceable heads too, so you only need to change the head when it wears out rather than the whole thing.

The fourth swap we have made is to use coconut husk soap holders and scourers. Also biodegradable and plastic free, they look gorgeous and will quickly break down once discarded and can be recycled in your food or garden waste bin as they are completely natural.

And lastly, we have switched to bamboo toothbrushes. Have you ever thought about where your plastic toothbrush goes when you throw it away every three months? Plastic toothbrushes account for a huge amount of plastic pollution and bamboo ones are completely biodegradable and look great too.

Five of the best eco paints

With most of us spending around 90% of our time indoors, the quality of our indoor air is more important than ever. The cocktail of chemicals we use in our homes in cleaning products, synthetic furniture (MDF etc) and even cooking fumes can seriously damage our bodies. If you think about the surface area you cover when redecorating walls and woodwork with paint, choosing an eco friendly paint can be a smart choice if you want to not only reduce your environmental impact but also look after your health.

The good news is that there are are lots of ‘eco friendly’ paints available these days, but navigating exactly what that means can be confusing. Don’t be fooled by paints being simply labelled ‘water based’, because plenty of toxic chemicals can be suspended in water.

There are two main factors to consider when making you choice. Firstly, the ingredients: Shockingly, there is no legal requirement for paint companies in the UK to list their ingredients, but any reputable company should be able to provide you with a list if you ask for it. When checking ingredients, remember that just because something is ‘natural’, it doesn’t mean it is not harmful to humans or the environment. There is also no such thing as VOC-free paint but there are legal limits. Look at the grams of VOC per litre (g/l) -a paint with less than 4g/l is classified as minimal VOC.

Secondly, consider how the paint is produced and what environmental and sustainability credentials the company has. Production processes, transport and waste will all have an impact.

Here are my five great eco paints that you could consider if you are redecorating:

Farrow and Ball

Farrow and Ball jitney

Farrow and Ball were one of the first companies to produce an almost entirely water-based range of paints, which all exceed the legal requirements for minimal and low VOCs. They are safe for children’s furniture and toys, being certified to meet Toy Safety Standards and for pets (I even painted a cot using their paint, knowing my baby would chew on the bars and I am one paranoid parent). They also recycle almost all their waste, source their ingredients responsibly, use FSC certified paper for all their brochures and colour cards and don’t test on animals.

Web site:

Little Greene

Little Green 13_intelligent_finishes

All Little Greene’s water-based paints are virtually odourless and their oil-based paints are made from sustainable vegetable oils. Their Absolute Matt Emulsion, Intelligent Matt Emulsion and Intelligent Eggshell paints meet toy regulation standards and are safe for babies and children. Little Greene also recycles its waste, the paints are produced in the UK, so no air miles, and they don’t test on animals.

Little Greene’s sister company is Paint and Paper Library, which has the same credentials.

Web site:


Earthborn paints Kitchen-ft.-walls-in-Peach-Baby-and-cupboards-in-Secret-Room

Earthborn was established as a designer ‘eco paint’ company back in 2002 and prides itself on being awarded the first UK license of the EU Ecolabel for indoor paints and varnishes. All their products have a full list of ingredients and do not contain any acrylics or oils. Earthborn paints have good breathability and the moisture absorbing qualities of their Claypaint helps even out the humidity in a room, making for a healthier, more comfortable living environment. The clay in Earthborn Claypaint emits negative ions; higher ambient levels of negative ions are widely accepted as being beneficial to health and wellbeing, especially for allergy and asthma sufferers and Claypaint’s high clay content helps to destroy airborne odours and contaminants. Earthborn claims that this paint results in less static electricity build up, reducing dust and allergens.

Web site:



Graphenstone is the brainchild of a chemical engineer who dedicated himself to the idea of developing a natural, ecological and health conscious paint for the 21st century. Their unique lime paint is created through using a 100% natural and environmentally friendly production cycle, using traditional techniques, but adding a new ingredient called graphene, which makes it more durable.  Graphenstone’s paints are free from VOCs, carcinogens or toxic substances and amazingly also reduce carbon dioxide from the air inside your home in similar quantities to a tree. Due to a natural process, when the lime is carbonating, it absorbs CO2 from the ambient air and cleans the air that you breathe.

Web site:



Painthouse is a new British paint company that makes almost VOC -free paints, meaning that they have almost no smell. Suitable for children’s rooms and for those with allergies, you can sleep in a newly painted room the same day without worrying about breathing in fumes. Painthouse paints also need no primer and are easy to apply. They dry to a smooth, matt finish and marks can be easily wiped away with a damp cloth.

Being UK based means there are no air miles involved.

Web site:

A little update

Kitchen 2

Hi everyone. You might have noticed I haven’t posted for a while and I thought I would pop on here and give you an update! Just at the point that this blog was really taking off, I decided to take a break from it to focus on growing my little family and renovating our first home. That might not make  much sense, but the truth is that although I had planned to share all that with you here, life with two small boys, our first home to fully refurbish (see above  –  a work in progress!) and full time work meant that it wasn’t really possible for me to do that in the way I intended. Something had to give!

Anyway, here I am, a little older and wiser and getting ready to share my journey with you once more. It’s going to take a little while for me to give this web site a refresh but stick with me – it will be worth it I promise!

The new blog will feature an updated portfolio of my writing and styling for magazines;  my interior design portfolio; pictures of our home and renovation journey and will have a focus on sustainability and community, which is where the last few years of my work have led me. I’ve got so much to tell you about what I have been up to and about the exciting projects I have coming up. More on that soon…

Please stay tuned and I hope you will keep checking in. In the meantime, please follow me on Instagram @emilywheeler.interiors where I post regular updates.

Thanks so much for your support and see you soon!

Emily x

Tapiola: my latest design project

The Modern House

A little preview of a longer post I’m writing about the award-winning architect designed 1970s house Tapiola, which I designed the interiors for. The brief was to bring it up to date for the owners, who had been living abroad, and the house was feeling a little unloved. I designed it with a nod to the Scandinavian background of the owner and in sympathetic tones to the materials of the house itself, which was designed to sit gently within the surrounding trees and natural environment. More coming soon…

Tori Murphy’s home in Germany’s Couch magazine

Couch_Cover_grandeCouch_1_grande 1Couch_2Couch_3Following my feature in The Guardian, textile designer Tori Murphy’s lovely home featured in Germany’s Couch magazine, styled and written by me. Check out Tori’s fabulous work here and also in the Christmas issue of Living Etc out this month.