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Design Inspirations  Green Talk



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.


Creating healthy living choices – My new favorite appliances

Calling these small units appliances may be stretching it but I use them every day and they have changed my health for the better.  Coincidently both were Christmas gifts. The first one was from my dad – a single induction burner with accompanying cookware.  My first reaction was “but dad, I already have a stove, a nice gas one that works really well.”  “Oh but this is different, it is better, I saw it on a commercial” (two for one plus shipping and handling) he said.  Reluctantly I accepted the gift bringing it to my office to experiment cooking at work.   WOW! I am sold!  ’ NuWave Precision Cook Top’ is better than any other cook top I have used.  Plugged into a regular outlet the unit has an internal fan that keeps the fire alarm from going off.  Place your pot or pan on the unit and you can boil water INSTANTLY.  No more waiting for the water to warm up, induction cooking is truly instantaneous and safe.  Once you remove the cookware the cook top stops heating the pan, you can touch the cook top and it is not hot, you will not get burned.  I have known about induction for a while and always regulated this type of cooking to the ‘good for when you get older’ category.  I knew about the safety, however I did not realize how much faster the cooking process is.  Your food starts cooking immediately after turning on the burner.  This cook top came with 2 non stick (safe) frying pans which make washing dishes a joy.  I also received a ‘pot’ that has 3” sides that can cook an entire meal.  While you are cooking your dinner, you can place the steamer unit (same size, also comes with the package) on top of the pot to steam your vegetables.  A single glass lid fits both the pot, the steamer and the large frying pan. I do not need any oil to cook my food, I am eating healthier and washing less dishes.  Plus it uses up to 90% less energy than the typical gas or electrical cook top.  I even have a fondue accessory that fits onto the pot that holds the fondue sticks (also came with the package.)  What a bargain! ($19.95 for everything). 

My second ‘appliance’ was obtained at a Christmas gift exchange from my Aunt Jane.  This small blender/mixer is cute and portable.  But since I didn’t really blend food, it took me a while to appreciate it.  Now I use it every day and it has also changed my health.  With Bella’s Rocket Blender, I can make a single serving (or half single serving) smoothie and guess what?  After blending, turn the cup over, remove (unscrew) the blade and the cup turns into your drinking cup.  There is also a top that you can screw onto the plastic cup if you want to take the juice to go.  So, besides being very small and portable, you do not have to wash a blender AND a cup, it is one and the same! My morning breakfast has changed from a ‘breakfast burrito’ to a very yummy and healthy smoothie created from Vanilla Yogurt, Vanilla Metafuel (Univera meal replacement), 4 oz of Xtra (Univera antioxidant energy product) 3 oz of Aloe Gold (Univera immune system protectant) and 3 oz of water.  When I feel wild and crazy I will add in fresh blueberries (more antioxidants) and/or cocoa nibs (more antioxidants). The last time I went through the drive through at McDonalds the cashier said, ‘where have you been, we miss you!’  ‘Sorry’, I said, 'I am working towards a healthier lifestyle!’ Between daily yoga, a healthy diet, and my life changing supplements, I am going to live forever!’ (I’m going to learn how to fly – FAME!) - I think I just dated myself,

Eating green, Christine



How can you get the BLING in your remodel while keeping within a limited budget?  By singing the REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE  song. Here are a few examples:

 We were able to save money in this bathroom remodel by REUSING the drain locations for the tub, shower and toilet.  Because this condo had a post tension construction floor, drilling new drain holes would have been costly.  We were able to use the savings to purchase more costly items such as the free standing tub.  

   Also, in the closet section of this remodel, we REUSED the existing cabinetry, giving it a new paint job and handles and cutting an opening for the cat to use the litter box in private.

This floating wood counter is a RECYCLED coffee table top.  (I like to call this UPCYCLING)  Purchasing a slab of wood with the ‘live’ edge and having it sanded & stained would cost considerably more for this home owner.

This living/entry area was spruced up with paint that accents the architectural features of the home creating interest and REDUCING project costs by not removing the wall.


 REUSING this sustainable cork floor

resulted in significant savings for this kitchen/dining remodel as well as bringing welcomed warmth to the Seattle condo.

Sometimes budget restrictions create wonderful unique solutions that we may not have previously considered.


As always, I welcome your ideas and feedback,  Think green and keep dry,  Christine


Dark side of SuSTAINable Materials

In the Northwest we have embraced the Green movement, embraced the move to utilize materials that are manufactured in a sustainable way, materials that use recycled materials and or can be easily recycled themselves.  So with dismay I discovered that one product that I was very excited about turns out to be VERY SCRATCHABLE and another popular product turns out to be VERY STAINABLE!

Buyer Beware!  BEWARE what the manufacturers tell you whether in person or in their websites.  Ask for telephone numbers of people that have used their products and call them to see how they really hold up. Obtain a sample from the company and try to ‘kill’ it.

The beautiful and elegant GLASS2 product turns out to be difficult to work with by both glass and stone trades people.  Furthermore, the surface is so delicate it can be scratched with your fingernail.  Not a great product to be used as a counter, and unfortunately it is being promoted as such and sold by the slab next to granite and marble slabs that are sold and made into counters. Is this why there are only 17 pictures on the website of examples of use?  We tried 2 slabs over 4 months to create a simple bar counter, without success and came away very disappointed.

VETRAZZO is another very beautiful and stunning material.  Made of recycled glass of fairly nice size chunks, it has a tendency to chip away, particularly at any edge.  (The piece of glass breaks off leaving a hole.)  So the holes are supposed to be fixed before the counter gets to the customer but…..such is not always the case.  The hole problem, however, is not the whole problem (Hah!).  The bigger problem is that the cement that the glass pieces are floating in is extremely porous.  So we have a counter product that instantly stains!!!  IF you ask Vetrazzo, they recommend removing the stain with some liquid soap and water.  Well, that does not work.  If you ask their recommended fabricators, they will tell you to use bleach, which does work.  Further along in the ‘care and maintenance’ document they mention ‘sealing’ the product which ‘is applied during installation’ then further on they recommend that you apply wax to the surface after installation (right away) and ‘a couple times of year thereafter.’ (translation: every six months)  Yet in another paragraph in the document they recommend that ‘when the mood strikes you, buff it with wax a few times a year…’ (isn’t that every four months now?)  It seems to me that if you are up front with the issues and provide a detailed schedule for maintenance you will have happier clients because they will have consciously decided to install this product with the knowledge of the level of maintenance.


I’m disappointed and disillusioned and have stains on my green fingers.


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