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
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.
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.
December 5th, 2010
Today’s local news broadcast covered the numerous area Christmas tree lightings, including the stories of where many of these trees came from. Local donor families were interviewed, and the countdowns to the actual lightings were shown.
One of the stories involved a gentleman who owns a tree firm, but was also described as a tree-hunter. He looks for and helps procure mature, photogenic trees for high visibility locations in the area. He estimated one tree to be approximately 65 years old, planted as a 5 year old sapling on the property of new homes built in the 50′s.
Is it that at 52, 65 does not seem so old to me now? Perhaps the metaphor of a live and vibrant entity taken down, only to be shortly disposed of is just too strong of a visual.
YES>of course, some trees just need to come down. YES>I understand the economic implications of all the tree-growing/harvesting industry, and YES evey year more and more municipalities pick up and recycle the spent trees. And oh yes, I am a Decorator, so I get all the sensory and traditional elements.
But did you know that the average live, intact tree supplies enough oxygen for 18 people?
Can an enviornmentally sensitive adult come to terms with their lights and glitter mesmerized-inner child?
Yes!! While plastic/otherwise artificial trees have some good points, but here are a few other other greener alternatives:
Consider investing in, and decorating a typically indoor tree-like a ficus or hibiscus. Unconventional, but effective especially if you are of limited space/funds. Plus it’s a year-round boost to your indoor air quality, and your decor.
Loved this idea, too.
If you have the property-and an existing tree-consider decorating it with lights and treats for your ‘other neighbors’-strung cranberries and popcorn, and hanging suet baskets for the birds and squirrels. No semi-mandatory January 1st clean up, and if you have small children, it’s safer than glass ornaments and can be refreshed and still awe-inspiring, throughout winter.
Last, going to a local nursery and buying a live tree with root ball intact and wrapped in burlap, then re-planting come spring is always a good idea; there are many how-to guides out there, my favorite is almost 30 years old. And if you don’t have the property, consider making it a donation to your local parks dept or garden club.
This is the busiest week for Christmas tree procurement, please make it a green one if you can.
May 20th, 2010
Glorious color, gracing the front of River Rock Supply on Rte 9 in Sleepy Hollow 5.20.10
March 20th, 2010
Art in general makes me feel like a more complete person. It’s not a scholarly viewpoint, but an emotional one. I’m sure others have a much more eloquent way to express it, but to see and feel a little bit of another’s’ heart and soul expressed visually- makes me happy.
Have attended local craft and trade shows for years, and been uplifted both personally and professionally by what I’d see, and the good karma I’d feel from being in the midst of happy and creative people.
On Thursday I attended the trade-only first day of the Architectural Digest show down at the Piers. Each year there’s a different feeling, and this one, while delightful as always, had a very genuine, attainable while still semi-out-of-the-box feel to the artwork.
Organic and crafted were 2 words that kept coming to me. Solid, and most with natural materials, the presence of both artist and their talents were apparent. Two of the artists I connected with were happily both reasonably local, and very approachable.
Amy Eisenfeld Gesner is based in West Hartford (but has exhibited right here in the County Center in White Plains) creates dimensional wall art using tightly-rolled paper, with her pieces ranging from $300.00 to $6000.00.
My amateur photos do not do her pieces justice; in particular, I was absolutely mesmerized by this piece on the right.
Jamie Harris has his studio in downtown Brooklyn, and creates in glass. Modern, but not hard or edgy; his designs are colorful, flexible, and full of energy. In particular I liked his free-form glass bubble installations-a lot of movement to them, they can be designed and placed to compliment whatever space you have.
I’d use them to soften an overly-contemporary space, or create more of a flow in those long, deadly hallways you find in commercial spaces. These pieces are priced individually, $400.00 for a single/solid element, to $1400.00 for the carved/multi-color ones.
Spring brings an explosion of local Art events, and I will make continued mention of them as the season progresses. Amy and Jamie (sorry, really didn’t see that coming!) are two of many who have much to share. Art is subjective and intensely personal, but in the months to come, give yourself a treat: go to some shows, and see what can make you happy.