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Design Inspirations







Entries in Sustainability (13)


New Beginnings

Happy New Year!   Along with you, I have been reflecting on the past year and setting new goals for 2014.  Welcoming in the new year is like getting onto an airplane.  One of the things I like about getting onto an airplane is that I feel that I am about to embark upon a new adventure and that I am leaving my troubles behind. (at least symbolically.)  This is how I feel about 2014, it is a new year and I am embarking on a new adventure! 

After much deliberation, I have decided to go back to school. Sitting next to young smart people is stimulating enough but I also find that I am excited to be in a learning environment!   I will have help maintaining my Design Studio and Remodeling services and in fact I am adding to my Cabinet displays.  We are moving the showroom/office two blocks to a new location where I will have all my materials displayed along with a new cabinet display showcasing Bellmont’s wide array of chic styles.  I am also going to have a small Store that will feature healthy and sustainable health supplements, skin care for adults (my age!), specialty teas, non toxic cleaning supplies, meditation cds, bags and gifts using recycled materials, books, yoga mats, chocolate nibs (high on anti-oxidants,) and more.  

Our new name reflects our passion – Healthy Homes & Lifestyles!  You HAVE to visit US!

Please join us in the celebration early March (details to follow), our new home will be 7800 NE Bothell Way Suite 150, Kenmore WA

Always green, Christine


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.,


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.


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.



Sustainable Design is Dead - AIA terminates credit requirement

One of the questions I have often been asked by clients, colleagues and other professionals, is ‘how long is this green thing going to last’?  Is it a fad, a movement or is it a real change in our society?

For the past 10 years it has been a growing movement and has influenced our society from organic food to recycled glass counters.  Most manufacturers that have any interest in being in business have re-evaluated their manufacturing processes and carefully calculated the LEED* points that their product qualifies for.  Most manufacturers proudly advertise their level of ‘green.’

I have noticed, however, a split in some of the professionals that work with building products on a daily basis.  There are many architects, interior designers and contractors that have decided that they are not going to participate in the ‘green thing’.  (I am always shocked!!  REALLY?  Not at all???)  I have found that for most, it is a reluctance to learn new values, new design ‘rules.’  And to stereotype, it is the same group of people that say ‘why should I learn Autocad, I’m going to retire soon anyway.’  But, they are not retiring, they are active, working  professionals in our community.

So it is with apprehension that I read the announcement that AIA** has allowed the sustainable design education requirement to sunset at the end of calendar year 2012.  What? AIA is not promoting sustainable design?  This is what they said:

“Recognizing that sustainable design practices have become a mainstream design intention in the architectural community...AIA members will no longer need to complete the sustainable design requirement to fulfill their AIA continuing education.”

I’d like to think that sustainable design practices are main stream, but honestly, how many sustainable homes have you seen built lately?  Don’t they look suspiciously like the homes that were built 10 years ago?  Has the building industry changed? How many compostable toilets have you sold?  Or even HET’s? Do you even know what an HET is?

My point is that although sustainable design is much more frequent and accessible than it has been in the past, it is hardly main stream and the professionals that need this education the most are the ones that have long been out of school, the ones that would be required to take these courses as part of their continuing education.  I vote to keep those requirements.

Trying to Keep Green


 *LEED : Leadership  in Energy and Environmental design, a green building certification system established in 2000 by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)

 **AIA: Based in Washington, D.C., the AIA has been the leading professional membership association for licensed architects. emerging professionals, and allied partners since 1857.