April 25th, 2013
Did you know almost 80% of the U.S.’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) last year came from the service sector? A big number, but not a new trend.
Defined as an economic activity that does not result in ownership, or provide physical goods, the service sector is admittedly a wide field. But how to explain an intangible product, whose value is ultimately subjective? Welcome to my newest series: Who, Why and How.
Service is often equal parts knowledge and skills, as well as physical ability to get something done. Most are personal services, but there is ‘personal’, and there is PERSONAL; I’d say Professional Organizers fall into the latter category. Many have specialties, each has their style, but share common goals: to replace chaos with serenity, and to add hours to your days.
According to NAPO the average person spends one full year of their life looking for lost or misplaced things. YES. One. Full. Year. Our lives are busy, our activities and commitments are many, and our days are fragmented; we are distracted, and otherwise engaged, it’s easy for nice, perfectly fine things to accumulate and morph into clutter.
“Organized” is the relationship between people and their stuff, so for many, the first step is acknowledging the stuff is affecting productivity, or happiness. Trust is established first. Most organizers work collaboratively, shoulder to shoulder, talking things out, taking small but solid steps to facilitate changes that will stick. A number work by the hour, usually in pre-determined time blocks of several hours, but some prefer to work by the project.
Tools they utilize could include organizational materials like files, labels, and containers. Their niche could be photos, closets, paper systems, books, or behavior modification. Resources are just as likely to be a vetted donor list, an Ebay seller or an auction house-or burly men with dumpsters.
Many will seek the help of a Professional Organizer when their life, or their needs suddenly change: The birth of a child, an elderly parent or adult child coming into the household, an illness, even someone suddenly working from home all place new demands on an existing space. Many times I see adult children who’ve used their parents’ space as a repository for stuff they can’t/won’t deal with on their own. Some may be just chronically disorganized, others dealing with loss or grief, unable to let go.
Asking around my own circle, the biggest misconceptions or fears are they will be judged, or that they will lose control, and be forced to throw things out, or adjust to a generic system. OK, sure-the less that changes, the less will change…but at their core, Professional Organizers are kind, but pragmatic problem solvers, with your best interests at heart. Overwhelmingly, being a witness to the positive transformation in people’s space, their lives and relationships are what floats their boat.
Bottom line-we all realize life is short. Whether it’s lost bills, not being able to park in the garage, tense relationships in the household or repeatedly buying replacements for things you know you have but can’t find-you can find your own best answers by taking the first step: talk to friends, or other trusted home professionals like Realtors or Home Stagers. Have a conversation, ask for some recommendations, then get on with your life.
February 13th, 2013
It’s that time of year. Perhaps it was a New Year’s resolutions we haven’t gotten around to yet…a long-awaited move…or just that cooped up, we are forced to face the sheer volume of STUFF that is in our lives. Deciding to clear out is one thing, how to approach it and get it done is another.
Knowing whether to donate, or sell some things is a common challenge. It’s a personal decision-your mind needs to be clear on your goals and priorities, as well as your time to get this done; you also need to be informed about the demand for what you have.
The 80s and 90s were a time of great procurement…and many people are doing the same thing you are. Costly items like furniture or designer duds abound in the market place, this affects value/desirability. And value is always in the eye of the beholder.
If you decide to sell, research a bit first. Depending on what it is, check out Ebay and local shops. Appraisers will give you an unbiased current price. Sometimes for free if you’re just looking for a verbal/ballpark type of thing; or for a fee that’s a percentage of the value if you need something in writing, say for settling an estate, or divorce.
Ebay sellers or consignment shops will share the sometimes brutal truth quickly, and for free…most specialize, and they are in the business of recognizing value, and make their living by being able to move things quickly, but work on a percentage basis, so they have your best interests covered, too.
If you decide to donate, it’s green AND greater good. Most charities are 501c3, meaning they are recognized by the IRS, and can give you a receipt for tax purposes. Understand the valuation is not up to the charity. The IRS has guidelines of accepted values for different items. If you feel the value of what you are donating is beyond that, you will need documentation, speak to your accountant before you do anything.
Libraries often have book sales in the spring and fall, which means they collect donations for a brief, pre-determined time period beforehand. You’ve got to time it right, but it’s a great fund-raiser-check out your local libraries online for details.
Donating clothes and other household goods you no longer need or want can be a win-win-win situation, but you’ll need to take some time, to plan and sort things out, so your items get to their intended destination(s).
Make sure your donations fit the needs and criteria of the charity-call ahead and ask, before you start packing things up. Items should be clean, and in gently used. Regarding business clothing, and baby items like car seats -being current is important.
Remember, some items do have specific life/use expectancies, and just wear out. Do not confuse your ‘cleaning out’ with ‘donating’.
LAST-plan ahead, and be patient. Most charities are run by volunteers, serve a specialized need, and on a shoestring budget; they might have limited hours, and an office that consists of an answering machine and an email address. But if time is not your friend, consider a eco-concious clean-out service like Junkluggers, where they will remove, sort, donate and recycle on your behalf. There is not a shortage of good causes, or people who are in need, seeing this through is a good thing.
August 13th, 2012
Over the winter of 2009-20010 homeowner Gerry Angel paid about $1000.00 per month to heat her 1850 square-foot ranch. This coming winter she’s thinking around $100.00 a month for her newly re-designed, now 2900 square foot house. Maybe.
Today starts a mini-series about a local project that is very exciting. Gerry’s passion for green and sustainable, combined with the vision of Hastings-on-Hudson archtect Christina Griffin and her team, and the work of uber-contractors Mamaroneck’s Murphy Brothers have merged to bring the eco-transformation of this house to almost completion.
Today the photo-taking starts, and The Refreshed Home has been brought in to help style them. More to follow-can’t be late for the first day!-but here’s the exterior B&A just so you can see how cool this is going to be.
August 10th, 2012
As an institution, The Refreshed Home holds an individual’s right to vote very dearly, and decries anyone who wants to mess with that. ANYONE.
As we journey through the last weeks of summer, November seems oh-so-far-away. But anyone who treasures this right as much as TRH does need not be concerned about November at the moment. It is the here and now.
Deadlines to register to vote are fast approaching. Do it now, or lose it. Here is the link to get you started in NY State.
Realtors and Movers: Want to reach out to your clients in a meaningful way? Anyone who has changed addresses in the last few years should hear from you on this, send them the link to your local Board of Elections with info on how they might register in a new area.
College-bound? Citizens who will turn 18 by Election Day can register. Use your FB page to remind your peers to register before they leave-and also to inquire/make arrangements NOW about absentee ballots. Post links, and ask others to like and share.
Friends, parents, neighbors: Know anyone whose status/address might have changed? How to quickly and easily register in your municipality is one google search away. Your one tweet, your one post can make a difference.
Similarly, your own status as an eligible voter is not to be taken lightly. Even if you are a regular voter, the rules in your state may have changed without you being aware of it. In the last two years, a whopping 16 states have made changes in their voting laws. That’s right, it’s not just about Florida and Pennsylvania.
At this writing, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Carolina Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin all have changes on the books; Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas have laws that are being challenged.
Legal challenges to these laws will certainly continue after the election. But if you want to make your voice heard in November, you need to be prepared in the way your state now requires. Is there any greater reason to make sure you are able to vote now, that your future interests will be protected??
If you have any reason to question your status, now is the time to check with your local Board of Elections. PLEASE. Here in Westchester County, a quick phone call to the Board of Elections (914.995.5700) can confirm your eligibility on the spot.
Deadlines are fast-approaching: Do it now, or lose it.
President Lyndon Johnson delivering remarks in the Rotundra of the US Capitol after signing the National Voter Registration Act, August 6th, 1965.
LBJ Library/Photo by Frank Wolfe
August 7th, 2012
Many possessions are difficult to part with, but having another place where said possessions can go and be loved and utilized often eases the distress.
Unwanted pianos though are notoriously difficult to adopt-out. They are big, and difficult to move; often in need of some restorative work. Hyper-local facilities like churches, schools, Boys/Girls clubs have usually been the best options.
There was a helpful resource article, Where A Condemned Piano Can Win An Appeal in this mornings NYT. Stagers, Realtors, and Movers-should take special note.
A follow-up actually, in response to comments to an earlier article about old pianos being destroyed because of lack of options-For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump
The resources are all over the country-Sacramento and St. Paul are named, as is an online clearinghouse and even an artist in Maine who gives new life to old piano parts (all links in article)…it’s still not going to be like dropping a shopping bag of clothes off at the local thrift shop, but for the passionate and the determined, if all local avenues fail, something else to try. Good luck!!
August 4th, 2012
Adult children moving back home was the topic of an article earlier this week in USA Today. It was the latest in a parade of commentaries, citing the obvious. Multi-generational living arrangements is neither news, or a trend. For many people, for many reasons, it’s been reality for a while.
But it’s not just adult children-or financial need at play here. NY Magazine’s look at extended child-bearing years (you know, with the demurely nude, pregnant sexagenarian on the cover!) made me think about how all the blurred lines and out-of-sync life markers have necessitated these changes.
Extended and blended Westchester and Fairfield County families have been part of my client base for years. Yet in 2005-6, while organizing my 30th High school reunion, I was stunned to hear how many of my classmates were raising children of every age…their step-children, or grandchildren. Hosting grown children or parents. Tending to ill or recovering loved ones. Their stories-and their stresses- were a real eye-opener
Look-when life changes and the household size grows, re-thinking where the TV goes, or how the office is set up is probably not high on most people’s priority list-might even seem frivolous. But if your space has become suddenly over-crowded and under-organized, re-evaluating these things is precisely what will bring peace, and a better quality of life to the household.
The same approach works when you are selling a house in Westchester or Fairfield County. The more USE you can demonstrate, the more FUNCTION a buyer sees-the more VALUE your property will have in their eyes. It is the yellow brick road to SOLD.
Neither situation automatically means a mass purge, just putting all the similar stuff together, or filling it with things that just look good. But in all situations you need to drill down and find out exactly who are the people who’ll be using the space. When preparing a house for sale, I ask lots and lots of questions of the Realtor. When considering changes in a home you are already in, getting everyone on board should happen first.
- Decide who gets to vote Decision by committee lends more toward harmony and compliance than dictates or ultimatums.
- Address wants and hopes as well as needs and frustrations Living together can be dicey…consideration of others’ feelings helps foster cooperation.
- Keep the big picture in mind Remember this is about change for gain, not just punitive or subjective calls to give things up.
Tomorrow: How to re-work and modify space, whether you’re staying or selling your Westchester County home
May 23rd, 2012
When I was in school and desperately broke, I decorated with plants because it was cheap.
Later, I included plants in my floor plans for my clients largely for aesthetic value-there was always a plant or tree out there that could fill in an odd space, or add balance to a room; place an up light underneath it, voila-sculpture!
But who knew plants could also genuinely, simply, dramatically, inexpensively and immediately improve the quality of your own personal air? NASA, that’s who!
Photosynthesis takes carbon dioxide out of the air, and combines sunlight and water to provide energy for the plant to grow, releasing oxygen in the process.
Extra oxygen is good, but better is that the plant AND the microorganisms in the dirt also scrub the air of known carcinogens. NASA has been studying this for years- sending plants up in the space shuttles, as a way to extended stays in space stations by cleaning the air… but the science works just as well in our earthly digs.
B. C. Wolverton was the lead investigator in one 1989 NASA experiment where harmful gases were pumped into a sealed greenhouse. Over a 24 hour period, Gerber Daisies removed 35% of trichloroethylene (dry-cleaning, adhesives, varnishes), 50% of the formaldehyde (cigarette smoke, particle board, insulation and fire-retardant), and almost 68% of benzene (plastics, inks, dyes, detergents) particles from the air.
Gerber Daisies!! I don’t know if that is more startling info, or that this is known science for over 2 decades. His widely-acclaimed 1997 book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office at under 150 pages is an easy read, concise and helpful.
Don’t let the Latin names throw you: you’d recognize many of them by photos; Gerber Daisy, Chrysanthemums and the Peace Lily-3 of the most effective plants tested-are all sold in the floral dept of my local Stop and Shop.
And you don’t have to live in a terrarium, either; experts say as few as 2 tabletop plants per 100 sf will do the job.
Brown thumb? Many species originate from the rain forest, and are used to low light, so are very well-suited to office and home application, where the natural light might not be so abundant.
Young kids or pets? The more exposed dirt, the better; but a fine mesh screen on top will discourage cats and toddlers from digging. One caveat: some plants are toxic if ingested, so pet owners or parents of small children need to do the research.
Mother Earth has taken some big hits lately, who knew it’d be so easy to give back?
January 30th, 2012
Well, it’s official, the buying orgies of the 80s and 90s have finally caught up to us, there is just have too much stuff in our collective lives.
Do you know about Freecycle? Green, SAFE, thrifty and fun, you can find a home for the stuff that still has life in it, and find other stuff you want/need/could really use, all for free.
Freecycle was born almost 9 years ago, in Tuscon AZ. It started as one person doing this for the community, them looking for a way to connect other communities is what grew it to a a national organization with over 5000 chapters, almost 9 million members.
Free to sign up, free to belong, and no spam. Each chapter is moderated by local volunteers, who first check out your application (no crazy, anonymous posts, a’la Craigslist-it’s a closed system, members only!), then monitor posts that all culminate in daily e-newsletters to chapter members. Who has, and who wants. If you have or want, you submit the details, and someone within the chapter who can can answer that with their own want or have responds to that member, and arrangements are made for goods to be picked up, usually ASAP.
Here in Westchester, (13,500+ members!) I get 2-3 e-blasts a day, have seen the standards-baby stuff, clothing, household and electronic goods, here’s a sampling of the blast that came through about an hour ago:
- Offered: a light wood Eddie Bauer high chair, a Sears car top carrier, two Razor scooters and a bedroom set (Queen sleigh bed, dresser, night tables).
- Wanted: were lamps, a SONY phone charger, a walker, board games, a sewing machine, a piano keyboard and BBB coupons.
- Previously offered and now taken included 3 boxes of kids games and videos, snowboard boots and a bag of assorted crafts materials.
I, myself am the proud new owner of a Happy Bunny accent lamp from a recent offering…just the right bit of fun for a dark corner in my office. Free, safe and local, check it out, www.freecycle.org
December 27th, 2011
Welcome back to my latest series, Give Yourself A Gift in 2012: good ideas and smart people who can help you enter the new year purposefully, with a clear head and lighter heart.
When comedian George Carlin first debuted his routine on “Stuff” in 1981, he observed that sometimes we have so much stuff, that we pay to store some of our stuff…’ IMAGINE< an entire industry based on keeping an eye on your stuff!! ’ The audience was hysterical-what a concept!
Several years earlier, Business Week made some predictions about business in the future, one was the computer would render us to be a paperless society. HA! A lesser-known-but correct prediction was our having a computer on every desk, but it has been ‘paperless society’ that we remember. (Fact is, the boom of affordable desktop copiers-and consumer-oriented retail stores that sell them- helped to more than DOUBLE the worldwide use of paper from 1980 to 2000!)
What was out there and funny then is all too real now. There are a number of things that have brought us to this glut of stuff, but one big question-how to deal with it?
At the least, excess stuff is annoying and inconvienent. It weighs us down, affecting our concentration and productivity; in more severe situations, it can be unhealthy, even life-threatening….sadly, three Westchester residents lost their lives in recent years when fires started in their over-loaded homes…they couldn’t get out, and firemen couldn’t get in.
As our lifestyles have changed, businesses have grown to meet these needs and provide solutions for for these issues. Organizing is one of those services.
Marcia Sloman was one of the first professional organizers in our area, and her company Under Control Organizing has been helping Westchester get organized since 1992. I’ve known of Marcia for years, but it was only after a series of phone calls and emails that we finally, recently met. Minutes into the conversation, it’s easy to see why she has been so successful: she is warm and friendly, precise and very focused, but with a light touch.
Numbers on how much time we spend looking for things vary, but all of them give pause: Online I found surveys quoting anywhere from 16 minutes a day (or approximately 1 year of your life) to 55 minutes a day (a mind-numbing almost 14 years of your life!).
Even at the lower end, it’s still a lot of time lost…wouldn’t that be a great burden to have lifted from your shoulders in the New Year? Getting cleared out and organized not only will save you time and energy, again, you re-claim some valuable real estate in your home. Marcia’s services run the gamut, but some of her specialties are managing paper and stuff, and making the most of two finite entities: time, and spaces.
Solutions or systems mean little if they’re unrealistic, or, frankly if you don’t trust or respect the person coming up with them…it’s that way with Staging, too…one great, very user-friendly mindset Marcia recommends to deal with a big project: Divide things into the following groups: Trash, Recycle, Sell, Give Away or Donate.
Organizing styles-especially as far as paper is concerned-also figure strongly into her approach. Marcia creates filing systems for the “In-nies”-those who need stuff to be out of sight, but easily accessible; and can have specialized storage spaces made for those “Out-ies”-folks who need an open, visual display to keep things orderly and find-able.
Bottom line-while having someone help you clean out your closets, your garage, or set up your office might seem like an indulgence, ask yourself: so how’s doing it yourself working out for you?
If the answer is not so good, start a conversation, give yourself a gift, and get on with your life!
October 20th, 2011
Medical Equipment Drive At Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, White Plains NY 10605
October is Physical Therapy Month, and to mark the occasion, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains is holding a medical equipment drive.
Now, through October 31st your unneeded crutches, walkers, manual wheelchairs, canes and braces can be dropped off at any one of their five area collection points.
Things many of us have accumulated in our garage and attics can now be put back to use, and genuinely make a difference in someone elses’ life.
Once all good, working equipment is collected and checked, it will be redistributed free among their patients in need, and to AmeriCares, to aid and assist people in need both domestically and internationally.
Note equipment must be serviceable and in usable condition; anything requiring batteries or electricity will not be accepted. For questions, or more information, please contact Sandra Alexandrou, PT at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 14th, 2011
Home Is Where There’s Furniture… And Lamps... And A Rug: Furniture Drive Coming To Armonk This Saturday 10/15 9am-3pm
OK< we all know it’s where the heart is, too; it’s just darn hard for the heart to be happy if there is no place to sit, put your clothes away, do homework, or have a family meal.
If you have unwanted furniture that’s clogging up your home, let me tell you how you can make a meaningful difference in the life of a neighbor this weekend.
As part of the Town of North Castle’s (a.k.a. Armonk) Zero Waste Day, Furniture Sharehouse will be behind Town Hall from 9am to 3pm, accepting your donations of clean, basic, average-size usable furniture, as well as working kitchen appliances, lamps, mirrors, and rugs.
Furniture Sharehouse is Westchester County’s non-profit furniture bank. All-volunteer, it’s the Robin Hood of average, basic, clean unwanted furniture (and some furnishings). Nothing is sold, and it’s not open to the public. Furniture is collected, then re-distributed free of charge ty appointment, to clients of almost 40 social service agencies in Westchester. This video, filmed in 2008 as part of a pitch to PBS captures the entire experience; the updated numbers of families furnished is hovering around 1500.
While the basics like kitchen/dining tables and chairs, dressers, as well as upholstered sofas and mattress/boxspring sets are always the most in demand, there are limitations on size, and the types of things that can be accepted, so before you load up the SUV< please check out these guidelines:
Donors will not only be reclaiming some real estate in their home, they will be keeping things out of the waste stream, and helping all our tax dollars go further, both from reduced debris removal costs, as well as supporting services that support the less fortunate. Lastly, as a 501c organization, receipts for tax purposes are given,.
If you can’t make the drive, have too much to bring, or will have a donation to make at another time-pick ups are available. just follow the above link to the website for more information.
Stop by the drive and say hello if you’re in the area, but remember Furniture Sharehouse is open year-round, so even if you’re drawing blanks on how to help with this drive-telling your friends, and remembering it exists is a wonderful contribution in itself.
And REALTORS: if you would like more information on how Furniture Sharehouse can be a helpful resource for your office/your clients who are moving-please be in touch with me directly.
October 13th, 2011
What’s New In My Staging Kit This Week?
Whenever I ‘find’ anything new/different-or think of something unusual that really does a great job at helping me do my job, I always like to share it.
Nothing extraordinary, just simple things that either entertain and engage buyers , or take care of the ordinary, stupid stuff that happens when you live in a house: Fingerprints, pet hair, that sort of thing.
This week I found a new and invaluable tool. Not for the house, or their stuff…but for all the humans in the equation…
Have been a fan of W.S. Badger products for a while….soothing, all natural body care products, their balms are formulated with different botanicals for each task. Sleep Balm? Snooze City! Sore Muscle Balm? Moving again in no time. So it was with great delight I found the newest addition to my Staging Kit:
Cheerful Mind formula: How could you not love this?? Honestly, I’m already happier just carrying it around-I mean, look at that cute chubby little guy on the tin!
But open it, run a little on your wrists, temples, even just a touch on the underside tip of your nose, and the scent of fresh orange and lemon combined with spearmint will lift you-or anyone else-out of the cranky-pants doldrums in no time.
Seriously, it’s subtle and gentle, and for about $8.00 a tin, you can’t go wrong. Available at most health-and whole-food stores, keep one in your car, at your desk, wherever there is stress, and you need a smile to be an arm-length away.
To paraphrase Yogi-selling a house is 90% mental, and the other half physical, I am seriously considering making one of these part of each Staging proposal I do.
Double-bonus-it’s a family-run business, and the products are made right here in the northeast-YAY, Badger Balm!
September 3rd, 2011
PAINTING? Why Color Is NOT Your Biggest Decision
(VOC’s: What They Are, And Why You Should Care)
This is a long post. It came from my not finding this information in a single, comprehensive source. For you and your familys’ health and well-being, please read it through, and share it with anyone else you know about to paint.
If you’re thinking about doing some painting around the house, you have a bigger decision to make other than color. Not what you’d expect to hear from a Decorator and Stager, but it’s true. Good news, it’s an easy decision.
“VOC” entered most of our consciousness about 6 or 7 years ago, primarily as in paints that were marketed as low-to-no VOC. You may even know VOC = Volatile Organic Compounds, or that low to no VOCs have fewer fumes.
At an AIA/ASID CE course I recently attended, and my eyes were opened a lot wider, let me share, in lay terms:
VOCs are carbon-based molecules that escape into the atmosphere, many as off-gases from building and home products…that new vinyl shower curtain? new carpet? Yup. Odors from upholstery, paint, even that much-treasured new car smell-all VOCs.
VOCs have several impacts in our lives, none of them good. Depending on the type, concentration and length of exposure, VOCs that are inhaled can be carcinogenic, cause serious respiratory and neurological issues, even death.
Studies show that interior concentrations of VOCs are anywhere from two to five times higher in homes than they are outdoors. Awareness is key, but better to avoid. Minnesota Department of Health has compiled an excellent list of other sources.
Once outside, VOCs wreck another type of havoc. When they mix with nitrogen oxides (gases most commonly found in automobile exhaust) and sunlight, ozone is formed.
Ozone in the right amount blocks about 97% of the harmful UV rays coming from the sun, while regulates earth’s temperature. In the wrong amount, ground-level ozone is formed, which traps pollutants and creates smog; or it goes to the upper atmosphere, keeping harmful gases in, while throwing our built-in thermostat out of whack.
“Global warming” and “ greenhouse gases” sound so…LARGE and impossibly complex. If you are thinking “It’s just me, I’ll get what’s on sale, it’s only a couple of gallons”, keep reading.
Bob Upton is an Architect and Designer Representative for Benjamin Moore, and presenter of this AIA/ASID approved course. According to Bob, in a gallon of today’s typical latex paint, up to 1/2 of it can be solvents that evaporate when applied. Shockingly, that’s a big improvement on what most of us grew up with…when up to 2/3 of the gallon were these solvents!!
On their own, the enviornmental (no fumes, easy clean up) or economical (covers better, dries quicker, more actual ‘paint’ in each gallon)implications are startling enough; when considered together, you have to ask why even consider anything besides a no, or at least low VOC paint?
Some more environmentally-friendly decisions are pricier than others, no VOC paint is minimally so, compared to decent quality regular latex paints. Going forward, it will be the only thing I spec out. And now that I see the economy moving again, watch for future posts on better choices on other home/building products.
Service, and education is the way to run and grow a business these days. . Sharing info that will help you live better, be smarter, healthier, or keep some bucks in your pocket is what the refreshed home is all about, and I respect and support business that do the same, so a few shout-outs, for an ongoing job well-done:
Westchester’s design trade has few better friends than Michael Murphy, and Murphy Brothers Contracting in Mamaroneck. On a regular basis they organize and sponsor to-the-trade CE events. I may not always write about them, but I attend many, and am always smarter for it.
Long before I knew of Murphy Brothers, I had several connections to Majestic Kitchens and Baths, also in Mamaroneck. The Luceno family has also extended themselves, hosting two events I attended, in their beautiful, state of the art showroom.
LAST…there are a lot of paint companies out there… and sure, NOW they all want to help the designers; but ten, fifteen years ago, Benjamin Moore was the only one that did. IMO, they continue to bring the smartest products, and the most user-friendly services to the table for both consumers and the trade. Thank you, to Bob Upton and Benjamin Moore!
July 22nd, 2011
(a.k.a. 945 East Main Street, Shrub Oak NY, Part Deux)
As a Decorator, making the most of unusual spaces was always my forte.
As much as I enjoy the classical proportions of a center hall colonial; the challenge of bringing sense to a stumper of a floor plan makes my heart beat just a little faster.
Not too long ago I wrote about the transformation of a building’s exterior on a commercial project I was involved in, now more about its interior.
Commercial spaces are really hybrid projects: you’re making it look good and work well for those who work there, but you’re also creating a visual that reinforces the brand that “sells” the company.
The building was a former diner. Built from the ground up about a dozen years ago, it looked like a casual, contemporary restaurant. It was about to become the Yorktown Funeral Home.
The inside was gutted, and the original architect was engaged to re-work the space for the new owner, but the challenge was to present a brand new, and very different face to the community; after creating an appropriate exterior a striking entry was needed to set the tone.
Here is the original, angled front counter. That had to go, but note the elaborate wood soffit with picture mouldings.
My very first thought when I saw this space was “GREEN WALL”.
Green walls are essentially living walls, an architectural element made of plants. For this project, there were several objectives:
-Create a serene and soothing aesthetic
-Make a strong statement that erased any connection from the previous purpose
-Design a healthier working enviornment using green plants
Beyond the basic carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange-always a good thing- NASA has proved that some very basic green plants-even the dirt they are potted in-scrub the air of harmful gases.
Diane Dreier-friend, and landscape architect was brought into the project, and a design was chosen. Meantime, the counter was gutted, and a wall was constructed, dropping down from behind the newly-painted sofit.
A knee wall faced with river stone was constructed, and if you look closely you can see a black metal grid on the back wall, painted black. There are several ways to construct a green wall, this system involved pots set into this metal grid.
It’s Installation Day!
Diane and her assistant Bernadette unpack,
sort and wipe down the plants.
The plan starts to come together… plants are placed in the grid to match up with Diane’s design
After all the planning,
SO exciting to finally see it all unfold !!
Have a property in need of making a statement? Now is the time to start the conversation.
April 22nd, 2011
Thought yesterday’s post was enough, that I was frustrated over all that happens in April.
But this morning I read a post on Active Rain by Richard Weisser that got me all sorts of agitated. In a good way. Well, at least I THINK it’s in a good way.
Richard is a very smart Realtor with Coweta Fayette Real Estate in Newnan Georgia, and every day, in about 250 words or less he has something important to say.
Today he posed the question: Earth Day 2011: Are we as green as we think we are?
Not a unique thought, but Richard was both passionate and rational-a position I support, but personally find hard to maintain on this matter.
There are very few things I cannot see both sides of, but the dichotomy of how we get our collective panties in a knot over Earth Day, then go right back to our wasteful and over-consuming ways the next week makes me absolutely nuts.
One day at time, we are poisoning our environment, and threatening our very existence. It is not enough to talk the talk, we need to walk the walk, and make every day Earth Day.
Here are my passion-driven wish list:
-Dig up your dandelions I grew up in a neighborhood called Indian Village, on Susquehanna Road in Ossining, neighbors actually went from yard to yard, en masse. I remember it was fun, you got to see people and everyone had a nice lawn.
(I’m told the greens are delicious-but it’s also very therapeutic, pulling one of those deep-rooted suckers out the the ground!)
-Buy a bunch of BPA-Free water bottles and have them at the ready in the fridge. Fill one up with ice every morning and take it with you in the car. Or, take a thermos if you prefer hot beverages.
-STOP buying convenience packs of things. If you want to only eat 100 calories worth of cookies, buy the regular package and pre-package them yourself in re-usable containers-they make them to fit in the tiniest of hands.
-If you smoke, OWN IT! There is a reason automobiles have ashtrays.
I am not judging you, or your habit. But let’s be real-tossing a butt out the window-so it’s out of sight, or so you don’t stink up your car will not make you a non-smoker.
But it COULD though blow into someone else’s open window,,,or dry grass nearby. ALSO-it leaches an unbelievable amount of poisons into groundwater. SORRY-this is first-degree selfish.
-Investigate and support alternative energy suppliers. At the Earth Week fair last week at Kensico Dam, our Furniture Sharehouse booth was sandwiched between 2 of them. Yes, NOW it MAY add some $$ to what you pay…maybe what you now pay for all those water bottles?? More subscribers now will send the right message to suppliers, all the way up to people who invest in alternative energy producing technology.
-Maintain your car. Now, more than ever: keep tires properly inflated, and get it tuned up for maximum efficiency.
-Plan your driving, and don’t be too busy to carpool.
-Keep your re-usable bags in your car at all times. Better yet, decline a bag if whatever you’re buying is able to be carried by hand, or in your pockets/purse. Science has determined it takes 400 years for one of those bags to de-compose.
OK? Now go and do good works!!
April 9th, 2011
Tomorrow, the WP High School will be the scene for a furniture drive, to benefit Furniture Sharehouse.
To be held from 9am to 1pm, in the North Street parking lot, opposite the “Y”, the furniture drive will be run by the High School’s Interact Club, and sponsored by the White Plains Rotary.
(Pictured at left are students from Pace University, from a previous drive).
Interact is the world-wide high school arm of Rotary International; Nick Wolff, a Realtor with Rand Realty in White Plains is the Rotary mentor/liaison.
As regular readers will know, Furniture Sharehouse is very near to my heart. It is Westchester County’s furniture bank.
Non-profit, not open to the public, and not selling anything; Furniture Sharehouse collects clean, basic furniture in good condition, and some home furnishings (like rugs, lamps, mirrors, and small kitchen appliances), then re-distributes them free to clients of almost 40 different Westchester agencies.
Two-and-a-half years ago, independent producer Polly Kriesman of Larchmont filmed ’A Day in the Life’ type segment at Furniture Sharehouse as part of of new series pitch to PBS. Very graciously she has allowed it to be shared, click here to see.
While the story is unchanged, the actual numbers have: As of March 31st, about to start the fifth year of operation, nearly 1300 Westchester families have been furnished with almost 17,000 donated items, worth roughly $1.3 million dollars.
18 months ago, 3 or 4 client appointments a day were the norm; now it’s 6, sometimes 8 appointments. Open year-round, and making pick-ups throughout the county, furniture drives help to keep the aisles full to meet the increasing need.
You have read this far because you know, understand and appreciate what having a home for your family means-a table to eat a meal on, a dresser to put your clothes away in, a bed to sleep in.
Every spring, in the Archdiocese of New York, seminarians from nearby St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers visit local parishes, to speak of their vocation, and ask for your support. They outline 3 simple points, and I will take a page out of their book:
First- consider donating furniture/ furnishings you no longer need or want. Your donation would not only go to Westchester neighbors in need, it’s green and you would get a receipt for your taxes as well.
Click here for details, inc. donation suitability guidelines. Drop-offs are always encouraged, but if you aren’t able to make the drive, or just have no way to transport, pick-ups are available.
Second-maybe you have some extra time, talents, or services you would like to share? Volunteers keep the heart of Furniture Sharehouse beating strong, please email email@example.com to have that conversation.
Third-remember Furniture Sharehouse is a year-round organization, and tell your friends…your neighbors and co-workers…your book club and lacrosse parents…your social action committees and professional organizations.
By sharing this post, or forwarding these links, you will be giving the greatest gift of all, 365 days a year. Thank you!!
NOTE: Next drive is Saturday, April 30th, part of Town of North Castle’s Zero Waste Day
March 28th, 2011
Without hesitation, let me say Westchester County does an amazing job of establishing and running recycling events throughout the county; many thanks to County Executives, past and present for establishing and continuing this support.
BUT-it is not enough that we get all whipped into a frenzy in mid-April. Think thoughtful choices year-round, and plan ahead for the stuff you no longer need.
Here is the direct link for the entire 2011 Recycling Event Schedule, and here are some suggestions you can do to make a difference:
Open link and save as, or cut/paste and make link part of your email signature
Mark your calendars NOW of all the events
Send it to your clients or co-workers; submit to any company newsletter, or e-bulletin board
Share with the lacrosse moms, book club, PTA, scouts, etc.
Top/right on menu has link to Treasure Hunt, a free service to post and give-away-or get-unwanted, but usable items.
Link will keep you apprised of the upcoming events, like the launch of the facility that can process #3-7 plastics, and the opening of the permanent household recovery center, sometime later this year.
For out of the area friends/family/colleagues-suggest they go to their municipality’s website and get/forward that info to their friends…remember…we’re all in this together!!
February 7th, 2011
Saturday’s talk at the Ossining Library went really well: thank you to James Trapasso who schedules the programs, Edgar, who helped with the set up, and to all of you who made it there, and for your thoughtful questions.
Sunday’s 40 degree temps inspired a few email inquiries, so those getting a head start on Staging their home or their Spring Cleaning, here are some resources I like to recommend…
REALTORS: Please take SPECIAL NOTE-as your clients get closer to moving into-or out of a property, their usable, unwanted goods can make a world of difference to a local family in need. Please pass this around within your office.
Furniture Sharehouse takes your gently used, average-sized unwanted furniture, some furnishings, and working small appliances, and re-distributes them free to clients of 3 dozen Westchester agencies. Click here for link to site, and check donation and pick-up guidelines. Also here is video clip that was filmed as part of pitch to PBS.
Northern Westchester Shelter, also known as Hope’s Door has been providing safety and support to survivors of domestic abuse since 1980. Their space is small, and their needs change from week to week, but new to gently -used clothing (all different sizes) and baby items are usually high on their priority list.
Please email them or give them a call 914.747.0828 to check and see (they also keep an email list for when there are multiple, or especially great specific needs, if you’d like to subscribe)
Pets Alive Westchester (click here) in Elmsford, and SPCA in Briarcliff (click here) are both no-kill animal shelters that welcome towels and bed linens to make their animals’ lives easier, softer, and warmer. Check sites for guidelines of other needs.
No matter where you live, there are thrift shops that use your donations to raise funds for good causes; and any 501c3 charity will give you a donor receipt for your taxes.
Even though tossing may be the quickest/easiest thing to do, your donation could make a real impact by considering taking this extra step. Check the phone book, google around, or call me if you are stuck/in need of a good recommendation-and thank you!!
January 12th, 2011
Recycling and re-purposing are words we generally start hearing around spring…you know, when we start feeling alive again, and want to change the world.
Recycling statistics for Westchester are very impressive, and IMHO a lot of credit goes to both past-and present-county administration for making, then keeping recycling front and center to county residents.
But sorry, I still think we can all do more. Could there be a better New Year’s resolution than to make greener living a bigger part of your and your family’s life?
To get a quick start in the New Year, here are links on Westchester County site to recycling info, Curbside Recycling Guide, and Household Material Recovery Guide, including schedule of events for 2011.
If some of your ‘stuff’ has outlived it’s useful life cycle, please do look into arrangements for breaking it down/re-purposing it responsibly.
If you are in possession of goods that seem to still have some usage in them, but just not needed in your life or household, re-purposing them could be the answer. Here are some links to check out and get more info, and donation guidelines.
United Way of Westchester and Putnam has the 211 program that serves as a clearing house, connecting people with stuff to county agencies that need them.
Freecycle is probably best described as a free, online swap meet. You need to register, but free of cost and spam. Simply people who have-or want- stuff post it, people who can help respond.
Furniture Sharehouse accepts your basic furniture and some furnishings to be re-distributed; free to clients of about 3 dozen local agencies.
Pets Alive (previoulsy Elmsford Animal Shelter and SPCA of Briarcliff are both no-kill shelters, and will gratefully accept your sheets, towels and blankets to lend warmth and comfort to the animals they rescue.
Even if you are already lean and green, please consider bookmarking and sharing/forwarding this info to others in your circle…every little bit adds up.
December 20th, 2010
Of all the posts I planned for this series, this has been the hardest one to write. Have you ever had so many thoughts that all want to be heard at the same time, where there’s gridlock in the brain?
Have written about my fondness for whimsy before, and the simple truth is, I am crazy about this place. Don’t want to have this read as blather; but just can’t imagine a more aptly-named gift store than Whimsies Incognito.
Whether you are scrambling for a last-minute hostess gift, or just haven’t found that something special for that someone special, there is something wonderful here for everyone.
After outgrowing 2 different storefronts on Main Street, they are now located around the corner at 35 South Broadway in Tarrytown, their biggest location since first opening in downtown Tarrytown almost thirty years ago.
Jacqueleen Golabek, the owner explains, it just evolved as she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do ‘when she grew up’.
My pictures don’t do the store any justice, but it’s a sensory feast. There is vibrant color and textures everywhere you look, and thoughtful, creative displays that beckon, and draw you in.
Unusual, finely hand-crafted gifts are their specialty. Whimsies represents about 500 vendors; some local, but most in the US, the others through Fair Trade. Recycled, and creatively re-purposed materials are prominent.
From the upper right: a hand-painted wood fish clock with lovely pewter details ($105.00), wooden cheese tray and slicer sets with laser-cut details at either end ($28.-38.00) and quite an array of multi-colored hand-blown glass hummingbird feeders ($65.00).
Look closely at left and you’ll see hand-strung bottle-cap garlands on the tree ($22.00 for 3 feet). At right, figures of all nationalities holding hands encircle a round mirror, laser cut, then hand-detailed Hatian oil drum art ($100.00 )
Colorful weathered turquoise shutters have been re-purposed to display the handmade pewter and ceramic switch plates (starting at $20.00 for single switch/ceramic), and depression-glass plates are set into stained glass and framed ($98.00).
The printed word is also very important here. A 2011 quote-a-month calendar starts the New Year boldly proclaiming ” HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF, AND IN THE FUTURE”. ($13.00…I bought 6-how could I not??).
Ceramic squares with simple images that proclaim ‘peacable’ ( 3″ x 3″, $30.00 each), a metal switch plate cover that states, in all different fonts-”Home is where you are happy” ($28.00).
Books with titles like “Today is Super”, and local son Benjamin Cheever’s … umm…whimsical “The First Dog”, the story of Adam and Eve’s dog.
Handmade jewelry, crewel belts from Guatemala, the list goes on.
I have shopped at stores that have tried this model before, but none ever came close to succeeding like this.
Walking through, the store is a balm to the jangled-out soul. The care that has gone into selecting and displaying the merchandise is palatable, but never overdone or cliched.
Go-even make an afternoon of it-there are so many great places nearby to relax and have a bite to eat. Your gift worries will be over, and your heart will be happy.