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Design Inspirations  Green Talk



Sustainable living -Let's stay home


Most of us want to stay in our homes until the very end.  In other words, none of us wants to go to a 'rest' home or skilled nursing facility.  Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to remaining in your home, Is Your Home.    As interior designers, we have both the knowledge to design safe environments as well as the aesthetic talent to keep your home looking sophisticated as opposed to clinical.  Almost of all of our suggestions can easily be incorporated into your current remodeling projects.  It just makes sense to plan for your future. 

There are quite a few opportunities to create safe healing environments so I will start off with a basic challenge:

BARRIERS.  Look at the picture above - this is one example of a curb less shower. It is not only barrier free, but it looks great!  While we are looking at it, notice the hand shower and the built in shelving for toiletries.  Other barriers in a home include doorways that are too narrow for a wheel chair to pass, unsafe or non existing transfer seats to safely enter a bathtub, and regular stairs.  Stairs to get in the house, stairs or level changes to move from room to room, etc.  For small elevations, ramps can safely be installed.  For a flight of stairs, there are chair lifts available that can move you from floor to floor.  If you have a 'vertical' home, consider adding an elevator during one of your remodels.  A typical closet or powder room is often located directly above/below another closet or powder room, making it the perfect location for your elevator!

Other 'sustainable living' issues that I will address in future blogs are safety and healing environments.

Keep safe!  Christine


Cabinetry & Formaldehyde 


Did you know that 'regular' cabinetry off gasses urea formaldehyde into your home for up to five years?  And, if you have a done a great job insulating and weather proofing your house, those voc's (volatile organic compounds) don't leave the house, you simply breathe them into your lungs.  This is one example of why EPA has determined that the indoor air quality of our homes is 5 TIMES worse than the exterior air quality. 

The quick solution is to purchase cabinetry that is made with a plywood box.  Careful, there is plywood available that DOES have added urea formaldehyde in it.  Make sure that the plywood that you are paying extra for (and you will be paying an up charge) is formaldehyde free.

There are other options to complicate our decisions:  there is a new particle board (EcoCore) that consists of 100% recycled materials that also contains no urea formaldehyde.  There is also 'Environmentally Preferred Particleboard' which has extremely low amounts of urea formaldehyde.  Or, you can purchase cabinets and allow some time to 'air them out' in an area that circulates air out of the home (open the windows?).  They will still off gas into the years, but the majority of the formaldehyde will be gone.

Many of you may be asking the same question that I asked - why do all these products have urea formaldehyde in them?  And why can't we use 'solid' wood?  The answer is that solid wood reacts to water and moisture in the air which causes warpage.  That is why, if you order a 'slab' style door, it is never 'solid' wood, it is a wood veneer on a substrate that does not warp.  And, that is why cabinet boxes are not made of solid wood, because they would be constantly expanding and contracting and warping.  The materials that do not warp significantly are plywood (many layers of wood) and particle board.  Particle board is made up of many particles that are held together with binding agents.  Most of these binding agents contain urea formaldehyde.  That is why some plywood and most particle board off gas voc's.  Sometimes, by solving one problem, we seem to have created others.

Breathe well & Have a Happy Thanksgiving,



Appliance Niche

Last March I whined about appliance garages and the lack of really good options.  The ideal solution that I espoused is reflected in the picture on the left.  Shallow counter space to get close to your appliances, a 'hidden' storage area that is both convenient as well as discreet.  In this case, the storage area is located behind the 2' deep pull out pantry unit.

Amazing things can happen when you design your remodel to accommodate all of your needs!  Here is the same kitchen from behind the island.  Can you tell that there is a functioning work station back by the window?

Let us know your solutions to appliance use and storage!


Color your World


To be honest, I just figured out how to add a picture to my blog!  So, my first picture needed to be in color and about color! Bold beautiful color!  Most people are very hesitant to add strong colors on their walls, and for good reason.  Many people have tried and failed to get the 'right' shade of color on their walls and have debated about the 'accent' wall having the strong color against the remaining white walls.  Will it make the room seem smaller?  What wall should I put the color on? etc.  So, let's cut to the chase and give you some guidance.

1)  It REALLY helps to have before and after pictures to convince yourself and your loved ones that color can be a wonderful thing.

2) Strong colors work really well with other strong colors. (see the picture above)  If you are working with a pure hue, then the supporting colors should also be a pure hue.  If you are working with a greyed down muted color, then the supporting colors should also be greyed down.

3)  Most people make the mistake of choosing one strong color to put on one wall and leaving the rest of the walls white.  NO, no, no.  Contrasting colors such as a red wall against a white wall, are attention getters.  It is not the red color, it is the contrast of the red against the white.  In this example the contrast will jump out at you, making the room seem smaller.  What you want to do is have equally strong colors on the supporting walls (see picture above), or, perhaps the strong color on all the walls.


 This 'living room' was 9' x 10', doesn't it look much bigger?

4)  If you have nice architectural features you should show them off by utilizing alternate colors (see the picture at the top).  If you hate the architectural features, hide them by painting everything the same color.

5)  Keep everyone healthy, purchase low to zero VOC paint.  If you are scraping off old paint and your home was built before 1978, please read my blog on lead poisoning.

6)  Finally, save yourself some grief and hire a professional to help you.  Two hours of consultation will save you hours of painting and repainting your rooms.  It will also save you the cost of the gallons of unused paint that will be sitting in your garage for the next 10 years. :)


Color & Light Therapy - Frequencies that Heal

As we go into the Fall and Winter months, many of us actually FEEL the change in our bodies and psyche as we exchange the sun for the 'dead mouse' grey skies and the increasingly dark days.  Do I sound depressed? (Where are my anti depressants!!)  For those affected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder), winter in the Northwest can be challenging.  There are 'natural' solutions that are not surprisingly related to the causes of our depression. (Darn, no drugs this time!)

The quick explanation is that different colors have different frequencies.  All color require light to be perceived.  Different colors of light have different frequencies (these are measured in Kelvins and called color frequencies.)  Our bodies are made up of frequencies (See The Body Electric by Robert Becker.)  As we leave the summer months, the color of light changes and the amount of light is reduced, leaving us with 'frequency withdrawals.' l Luckily, we can recreate these lost frequencies through  the use of color and light in our surroundings.  Many people are aware of the 'blue' light that can be purchased, put on on a timer and is meant to mimic daylight.  The trick is, you have to sit in the light (or carry it around with you)  for a period of time for it to really have an affect.  The other option is to add color into your environment.  The largest amount of surface that we are surrounded by are our walls.  Seeing/feeling color frequencies can help ward off the Northwest blues.  Select color(s) that not only stave off the depression, but ones that you will enjoy year round.  (Call me for color consultations.)  Use eggshell finish for the walls, semi gloss for the trim.  Make sure to purchase low to zero VOC paint to keep this venture healthy.  And for goodness sake, read that stack of books you have been staring at, and call me in the Spring.