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Design Inspirations  Green Talk



Who do you shower with? I shower with Marble!

I shower surrounded by marble and I love it.  There is something both peaceful and elegant when showering in marble enclosures.  Natural stone triggers our body to relax, as does landscape pictures, and other symbols of nature.  Marble also gives a sense of elegance that ceramic tile just doesn’t have. Marble Tiles, Bellmont Cabinets

Marble is relatively low priced (compared to granite) and polished marble tiles can be used on the walls of your shower.  When having a marble tile shower enclosure installed, I request that my installer uses a very small grout line, just a hair.  That way we see more of the natural material and less grout.

 One extremely successful option that I recently explored is using entire slabs of marble on the walls of the shower and adjacent walls.  With few to zero seams, you really will not ever have a ‘grout problem’ and the result is spectacular. Marble Slabs An easy way to go about this is to visit a ‘stone yard’ and look at marble slabs.  There will be a wide variety of selections and with it, a wide variety of prices.  But some of the most beautiful stones are the most ‘common’ ones and many of those are in the lower price section.  Stone slabs come in different thicknesses.  3 cm is for counters, 2 cm can be used for counters OR shower walls.  Some slab yards have 1 cm slabs that are specifically for walls.  These are even lower priced because they are very thin.

A popular finish for stone is ‘leather’ (it comes in a variety of names).  This finish is not polished, and it is not honed.  It has a textured ‘hand’ which feels very ‘natural’ and ‘unproduced’ AND it is difficult to stain.  Leather finished marble is perfect for a shower enclosure.  It has the beauty of nature and the elegance that only marble brings to the table. 

So, Who do you shower with?  I shower with Marble!



Microwave ovens – will we replace them with Steam ovens?

Years ago, Miele (German manufacturer of appliances), introduced the ‘Speed Oven.’  It was the first hybrid of a microwave and a convection oven.  It is still one of the leading technologies of microwave/convection because it not only cooks either microwave or convection, but it can utilize both at the same time to increase the speed and quality of the cooking.  Miele was  mindful of the limited space in some kitchens and used the microwave (which has become a mainstay of the contemporary kitchen) to double as a second oven.

Recently Miele has taken its Steam Oven and combined it with a Convection oven (called a Combi-Steam oven.)   According to the representative, the Combi-Steam oven is overtaking the Speed oven in popularity, mainly due to the healthy benefits of steam cooking over microwave cooking.

Once considered a ‘specialty’ appliance, the steam oven is working its way into the standard kitchen appliance list.  Everyone knows that steam cooking is the healthiest way of cooking, mainly because it retains the nutrients, vitamins and minerals of the food.  It also maintains the moisture in the food and you do not need to use any oils or fats.  Because of the lack of oils and fats, cleaning the pots/pans is extremely easy.  In our new ‘health’ oriented society, steaming is ‘in’ and microwaving is ‘out.’  Although the FDA claims that microwave cooking does not reduce the nutritional value of foods ‘any more than conventional cooking,’ steam cooking experts claim that up to 60% of the nutrients and glucosinolates can get damaged by boiling or microwave cooking.

I’ve noticed that with every two steps forward in technology, we demand back a little of our old fashioned values, eating whole foods, raw or steamed, not boiled or fried, buying food from local farmers or even growing it ourselves to try to encapsulate the vitamins and minerals that are often lost in mass production.  Asking if the food has been genetically engineered, looking for quality products, grown in quality conditions, to put inside our body.  Keeping our bodies healthy….we all may be steaming soon!


Healthy Home – GLASS counters

ONE of the most important selections in a kitchen design is the kitchen counter.  A stylish healthy material that is often overlooked is Glass.  Glass counters take the spotlight (as they should) in any kitchen.  They are most often used as breakfast bars, entertainment bars or eating surfaces such as dining tables.  Glass counters can be just as effective in a small kitchen as a large one (just because you are small doesn’t mean that you cannot shine!)

Some of the benefits of glass counters include:*

1.  Glass is non-toxic.  It will not emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or radon gas, making it one of the most healthy materials in your home.

2.  Glass is non-porous, leaving no place for germs to hide or stains to absorb.  This is one of the few materials that I personally warranty will not stain.

3.  Glass is durable - more durable than you think.  glass is made of silica which is the main element found in granite, offering a similar hardness and long life.  Glass counters are thick and not easily broken.  Glass does not require sealing or any special maintenance.

4.  Some glass counters are made with recycled glass which give them an A+ in sustainability.

Be aware that some counter materials contain glass pieces that are bound together in a resin.   These counter materials do not have the same properties as the 100% glass counters described above.  In fact, many of them are MORE porous and MORE delicate.

Again, whenever you are selecting counter materials, obtain a sample and try to ‘kill it.’  Try to stain it, try to scratch it, try to clean the stain, use harsh cleaners, etc.  Then you can safely decide if you want this product for your kitchen counter – you will know exactly how it will react to daily use.

When you use glass counters, you raise the quality of your kitchen design while receiving the health benefits of using durable non toxic materials!

*Glassworks Inc.,


Your Body is Your House

Toxins in our homes have been in discussion for several years.   LEAD based paint is most certainly in 70% of the homes in Seattle (all homes built before 1978 are suspect).  Even if the layer of lead based paint is five layers down, you are in danger of lead poisoning.  When would you disturb a layer that old?  When you remodel!  Toxins enter the body either through our lungs or by accidental eating (a microgram of lead dust is enough to cause lead poisoning.)   Do your children or grandchildren play with or suck on car keys?  Keys contain lead.  Even handling your keys and eating finger food can deliver a significant amount of lead into your mouth.  The dangers of lead poisoning are many.  LEAD is a highly toxic metal that can profoundly suppress immunity.  Lead poses significant health risk for adults but are particularly dangerous for children causing damage to the brain and central nervous system, can cause decreased intelligence, reading and learning difficulties, behavioral problems and hyperactivity.  This damage can be irreversible, affecting children throughout their lives.

The bottom line is that your house can be dangerous to your health.  The double bottom line is that some of the items we purposely put in our body also contain lead.  Things like…hmm… Vitamin supplements! 

Surprisingly, one of the biggest sources of lead in your life (assuming you are not remodeling a home built before 1978) may be your nutritional supplements.  Lead contamination in calcium supplements has been a significant problem, even though an FDA warning on this issue was published in 1981.****  Since then, studies have confirmed that many forms of calcium still contain lead in amounts that exceed EPA safety guidelines.  Since many people (including children) are taking large doses of calcium, this is a matter of concern.  Supplements that we TRUST to put in our body may be making us SICK.  In 1993 researchers tested 70 brands of calcium supplements and found high levels of LEAD in a significant percentage.

How can you tell if your supplement contains high amounts of lead?  Ask for ‘certified heavy-metal assay’ from the manufacturer.  If they can’t give it to you switch to a company that will.

This sounds nuts but the truth is that there are different levels of QUALITY in vitamins and nutritional supplements.  They are not all alike.  Stephen Cherniske, CSO of Univera remarks, 'The bottle that says Calcium is not the same as the bottle next to it that says Calcium.  We exasperate the problem because we want ‘good deals’ and look for the cheapest brand at the cheapest price.  Is that the way to make sure you put healthy supplements into your body?  NO!  Think about it, if it takes more time to keep toxins out, if it costs more money for research to show the benefits of a product, if it costs more money to purchase purer base materials, then it will cost more.' 

Why would companies knowingly produce and sell low quality products with high levels of LEAD to the general public?  Because THEY CAN, and they are betting that you will buy it.


Is Interior Design sustainable?  

As I morph into various versions of my Interior Design career, I’m left with the question ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I doing?’  ‘Am I still considered an interior designer if I sell cabinets to other designers?’  ‘Is Interior design a sustainable business?’  My 2008 interior design business model is not.  Two years without any new design clients is not sustainable.  It is the way to become extinct.  When I studied in Cornish, I learned in cultural history that in the past, all great art and architecture was commissioned by a few, very rich people.  Is that our brave new world? 

I have survived by adding services such as procurement of cabinets, construction/remodeling services, I combined two companies into one, I moved my office, I laid off all my employees L, I specialized in a niche, I cut all unnecessary expenses, I eliminated phone lines, I tried to learn search engine optimization.  And lately I had to stop paying myself. The latter part of 2008 I was honored to receive the ASID Designer of Distinction award for the Washington State Chapter, a month later I laid off all my employees.  Every year that passed brought more financial destruction.   Cash flow management was the most important strategy to know.  Walking into the Seattle Designer Center is like walking into a memory book, everyone is gone, the halls are empty, even the national companies are having a hard time surviving. 2009 was bearable, 2010 I hung on.  But 2011 was the worst year yet.  How could it continue to slow down?

2012 was better- a little. 2013 is ‘picking up’ for a lot of people.  I find it going in spurts.  And spurts do not pay the bills.  2013 is the 6th year of struggle.  I’m tired.  Most of my friends that have/had businesses for themselves are also tired. Some friends slightly older than me have gracefully retired – those with spouses that had normal jobs with retirement savings.  If Interior Design is a sustainable career, then Interior Designers would have their own retirement savings, right?   NOT!  Name me one independent designer that has put money away for retirement.  That just didn’t happen for me.  It doesn’t matter how old I am, I cannot afford to retire. 

I’m tired.  It’s like starting all over.  Like the beginning when you were just building your business - but back then you had lots of energy and you had hopes, big hopes, big dreams.  You were willing to put in 70 hours a week, work on weekends and holidays, anything for your new business that you were building.  I’m tired.  I am still in business.  But now I look around and see my friends leaving the business and in some case leaving the state.  People are migrating to Arizona in waves seen similar to the great depression.  We are in the sixth year of this and some of my friends are just now losing their houses, they made it through 5 years but could not continue into the sixth year. They gave up their houses to try to save their businesses.  Now their businesses are failing. The spurts are too late.

A friend of mine has a stone yard in the design district.  Business has slowed to a small trickle, not near enough to pay the bills or put food on the table for his six kids.  ‘What are you going to do?’  I asked.  ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how to do anything else.’  Is the natural stone business unsustainable?  What business is sustainable?  And will I be happy doing that business?  I’m certainly not happy in my business, I am stressed out.  Is happiness sustainable?  Or is it just an illusion? 

Another friend sadly closed his upholstery business after 27 years. ‘Where are you going?’  ‘What are you going to do?’  I panicked, ‘How are you going to live?’  ‘How will you get food?’

‘I don’t know’ he whispered.  He was shaking.

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