5 Keys to Great Movies and Great Rooms

I consider this a classic now since these design principles hold true on Oscar Sunday and every day. Incorporate these qualities in your home and live a rich, colorful, and winning life!

ImaginEco Design Blog

Since it’s Oscar Sunday, I was pondering what makes great movies and how those qualities are shared by great rooms.  Of course movie preferences and design styles are subjective. But I think we can all agree on these 5 basic qualities.

dezeen_Jaffa-House-by-Pitsou-KedemCaptivating movies and intriguing spaces must have an engaging story.  The story can be subtle yet it must be interesting.  In this former factory now a home designed by Pitsou Kedem Architects, the tale is told through the arches and the thick walls of stone, clay, and shells. The simple modern furnishings integrate softly and place the story in modern times.

Parisienne charmer Classic movies have engaging characters that draw you in to their world.  Like films, stunning rooms are a blend of characters, some are the stars and others support the star, or even steal the show. Combined they create a rich tapestry with depth, color, and personality. In this…

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Birds do it… .

I spend an enormous amount of time pondering, researching, and implementing methods to make the buildings that we occupy beautiful and beneficial. It’s been my passion and the work of my adult life. Everyone wants to live and work in beautiful spaces, though to many it feels like an enormous challenge that’s not worth the effort. So I’m always thrilled when I find research that proves the power of nature, even if it’s not for humans, but our feathered friends. It is worth it and even small things make a difference.

Recently I came across an article describing how birds build their nests out of beneficial materials. These specifically selected natural materials boost growth and survival rates while they ward off pests and diseases. Starlings use aromatic plants, such as yarrow, whose substances build up the chicks’ immune systems while lowering their bacteria. Eagles use insect repelling plants, such as pine boughs, to build their nests, which lessen parasites and increase the number of eagles that fledge.

A starling gathering nesting materials. Photo © hedera.baltica / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

A starling gathering nesting materials. Photo © hedera.baltica / Flickr through a Creative Commons license

Now back to us humans! It certainly correlates that if we build our own nests homes out of beneficial natural materials, wouldn’t we be healthier? And as one of the lucky creatures able to feel joy, wouldn’t we be happier as well? To that goal, I give you my top 3 beauties with benefits that will clean your air, reduce toxins, balance humidity, and they’re pretty.

1…It is worth repeating! Start with plants, just one, then one in every room! Most of us aren’t planning to build a new home from scratch or undertake major remodeling. But all of us can afford a living, breathing, green plant. The psychological benefits of them directly connecting us to nature are undisputed. And all this is done while they filter the air. In fact, NASA did a study to determine which plants do the best job of removing indoor air pollutants in confined spaces, like say, a space station. Here’s a photographic summary of the plants NASA studied. There is a plant for every person on the planet, regardless of gardening ability or time. Click to choose yours from my top 5 easy to grow plants.

Blatant self promotion of my partner business, Global Gardens!

Blatant self promotion of my partner business, Global Gardens!

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2…It’s summer here in Michigan though that shouldn’t keep us away from wool. The structure of wool fibers is remarkable. Because of its insulating kinky fibers that trap air, wool feels cool in the summer and warm in the winter. That crazy quirky fiber also moderates moisture and balances the humidity of a space. It cleans the air by absorbing contaminants and binding them, forever, within its structure so you’ll never know they were there. And, yes, there’s more, it’s easy to clean because its scaly structure doesn’t allow soil and grime to penetrate!

Canopy wool rug by Angela Adams...swoon!

Canopy wool rug by Angela Adams…swoon!

white space3…Clay paint naturally cleans the air. It balances the overload of equipment (you know tablets, phones, TVs, laptops) through negative ions, just like those that are abundant in nature.  Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D., states that “negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy. They may also protect against germs in the air, resulting in decreased irritation due to inhaling various particles that make you sneeze, cough, or have a throat irritation.”  Oh, and the static resistance of clay paint reduces the build-up of dust and allergens. Hmmmm, less house cleaning?

An artist’s studio enveloped in rich clay paint and designed by me!

white spaceWhen you’re making choices for your own nest, follow our feathered friends and go with nature. After all, birds do it…      For more beauties with benefits, follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,


Happy Earth Day!

In honor of your tireless efforts to protect and nurture our shared home, today I’ll take you outside through my photos. Some of these are my favorites and others are most favored by you readers and followers. These represent the reasons that I do what I do. Thanks for joining me.

alluvial fan in Rocky Mountain National Park

Alluvial fan at Rocky Mountain National Park


Michigan woodland chandeliers

Nature’s chandeliers in my Michigan woodland

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Alaska summer

Summer in Denali National Park

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pileated woodpecker pair

Pileated woodpeckers in my Michigan woodland.

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ImaginEco newborn fawn

Fresh fawn on the steps outside my Michigan woodland home.

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ImaginEco May apple blossom

May apples in my Michigan woodland.

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cardinal and deer

And one of your most favored photos, woodland pals on a spring day.

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Happy Earth Day to each of you. Keep up the good work. Now reward yourself and get outside! Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,


Great design starts with balance…1.1.

This is the second in a series of posts about how to achieve balance in design. You’ve approached or been inside buildings that just don’t seem right. Perhaps it’s the proportions, or the colors, or the furnishings. Some times it’s easy to determine while other times it’s subtly awkward and you can’t quite pin point the issue.

Balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Balance is equilibrium. Imagine a tall stack of books with small thin books at the base and thick coffee table art books at the top. It’s easy to see the imbalance and imagine it toppling over. Yet balance in architecture and interior design requires expertise to achieve.

In large scale 3-dimensional objects, imbalance can creep in quickly.  Follow classic traditional design and proportions and achieving harmonious and satisfying spaces is much more likely. Modern, informal design lends itself to freedom that can easily throw things off kilter. Yet this doesn’t mean that balance can’t be achieved without symmetry. It can and that’s often the tricky part. I see it on a daily basis and want to start with simple examples and build from there. And frankly, this is another of my pet peeves that’s very easy to remedy, so let’s start here!

Using multiple colors on your home’s exterior is admirable and refreshing. I live in Michigan where I thirst for the color palettes of tropical locales. Unfortunately, few of us are willing to go out on a limb and use colorful materials on our homes. For those who do, I say bravo! And with this tip, I hope more of you will feel armed with the proper tools to execute a colorful stunning home, outside and in.

This barn is rich in charm and character. The deep coffee tones enhance the caramel base, and vice versa. Yet the overall structure is top heavy. Now what would happen if you grounded the barn with the rich coffee tone and let the caramel color reach upward?

barn exterior balance (1)

Just that simple switch of color location makes a world of difference, creating a balanced structure with its weight set firmly on the ground. The caramel amplifies the beauty of the architectural details…it’s a win win.white space

I love this deep sea blue and the dove grey creates high contrast drama. Both colors were pulled directly from the stone accents. Yet something’s just a bit off here too. The upper level gets all of the attention but I have to believe the homeowners would prefer the front door was the focal point. And again it’s very top heavy.

home exterior after

By lowering the deep sea blue to the ground floor we’ve balanced the overall structure. The recessed entrance is now bright and attractive with the dove grey. And by mimicking the wooden bracket tone on the front door, the otherwise singular wood element is repeated and it oozes warmth. Of course, we blend the garage door color in to the design so that it’s not the center of attention.

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And finally, here’s a stunning modern home with a neutral but rich palette. It’s balanced by weight at the base and with a front door that sings!

mod home balanced color


Isn’t it remarkable how small decisions can have such a profound effect? Now go forth colorfully! Good design starts with prioritizing what’s important and keeping that in mind throughout the process to create harmony and balance. Read the first in this balance series then be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,


The Real Cost of Home Improvement

Last week a gentleman called me to inquire about my design services for a home remodeling project he was planning. After discussing his needs and how I could help him make the project a reality, I asked if he could share his budget. I can tell you that it was terribly unrealistic, and unfortunately, this is often the case. Before you get in over your head or find out you can’t achieve all of your goals, let’s get down to business to find ways to help you establish realistic budgets for your home improvement projects.

The wealth of information available on design is a double-edged sword. Frankly, the projects you see on TV are often the stuff of fiction, low-cost and faster than humanly possible. I’d love to be able to source their materials at those costs and build out a project in three days, but that’s just not the real world. Online design magazines and bloggers create exquisite transformations with the click of a mouse. Yes, you can buy new pillows and lamps and feel the effect of these changes immediately. Yet the truth of these design matters is that the most successful and satisfying renovation projects require enormous amounts of planning, thousands of decisions, and a team of professionals whose experience will guide you through the known and even the unknowns that always pop up in renovations.

ImaginEco family kitchen dining remodel (1)-crop

Just a few of the 1000s of decisions that are made on a project!

START BY HIRING A PROFESSIONAL    A licensed architect, accredited interior designer, or licensed builder can assist you with cost ranges for your project scope, be it an addition or remodeling your kitchen or bath. Invest in a consultation with one of these professionals to see if you’re on the right path for your budget and expectations. If you decide to move forward, keep the design pro on board to save you time, money, and headaches. Design pros provide expertise in solutions and materials that usually exceed your expectations. And they present options of which you may not have been aware. Instead of spending weeks wondering if that wall is load-bearing or selecting a faucet or door knobs or grout, yes, all those fun things, your design pro will present a few options to which you can say, yes, yes, and thank you very much!

ESTABLISH AND STICK TO YOUR BUDGET    You must have a budget…period.  It’s the same as buying a car. You wouldn’t go to the car dealer without knowing what you want to spend and what you can afford. When my clients don’t have a budget, I present potential project budget numbers (for example, kitchen remodels average around $20,000 but the sky’s the limit) until I reach the number where they become uncomfortable. I call this their fall-on-the-floor number which allows us to discuss and pinpoint a realistic number that will build the project and to which they’re comfortable making a commitment to spend and proceed.

Throughout the design and build-out, you must stick to this number, the most difficult part of any project. In renovations, typically at least 10% of the project budget is set aside for unknown conditions that will be found and must be handled. So if your project budget is $50,000, at least $5,000 will be set aside for these unexpected conditions.

Wanting the best of every thing is a common trait. Select the best products that fit your current budget and provide the aesthetics, maintenance, and durability that suit your family. I want a Viking stove too and maybe some day I’ll have one! Also, avoid scope creep. It’s not a scary person but it’s just as frightening. Remodeling your bath may not mean you have the funds to remodel the kitchen too. Upgrading every item by $100 can add up very quickly.  Another benefit of working with a design pro is that they will assist you in this, including anticipating areas of work that may be outside of the project scope but will require work. For example, an open kitchen remodel will likely require fresh paint and perhaps flooring throughout the open area, not just in the kitchen.

Also consider the costs you’ll incur indirectly. For example, will you be able to stay in your home during the construction? Or will you have to pay for a short-term rental or hotel? If you’re remodeling the kitchen you may need to plan to dine out frequently.

ADDITIONAL COST INFO RESOURCES    Your location is an influential factor in material and labor costs. Costs in Michigan are not the same as in Alaska due to local labor rates and material availability. Here in Michigan, our contractors who rode out the 2008 financial crisis are busier than they’ve been in years, so planning your project early is key as well. If you’re doing the work or creating a budget yourself, enlist your local shops for flooring, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, and window cost quotes.  There are thousands of online and print remodeling budget resources for you to peruse as you plan your project. Here are a few to get you started.

National Association of Home Builders has resources and will connect you to your local chapter.

Remodeling.net provides the average cost for 30 popular remodeling projects across the US and specifically by your broad geographic region.

HomeAdvisor.com provides average costs for remodeling projects across the US and specifically by your city.

RSMeans.com is in-depth dependable cost data that is locally relevant, accurate and up-to-date, typically used by pros only but is available online.

I’d love to hear your design project stories and your questions are always welcome. What are your home design projects for 2016? Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,


Warm up your Home without Breaking the Bank

When it’s this cold outside, even the smallest things can make a big difference in your home’s comfort. Try these fast and easy methods to stay warm, after putting on a wool sweater and socks!

ImaginEco Design Blog

It’s bitter cold here in Michigan now and I’m using all my tricks to stay warm in my home and home office. Of course, I want to save time, money, and the planet as much as you do. And I’m not going to take on any projects that require I work outside.  Try my tips that work every time and keep you inside!  Many of them cost nothing and the initial cost of others can be quickly repaid in energy savings and personal comfort.  Let’s start with no-cost and work up!

Switch your ceiling fan blades to rotate clockwise. This pushes warm air down to where you can enjoy it. Keep the fan on low so that it’s moving the warm air down without creating a nor’easter!

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Close the door on rooms that you rarely use. I do this in my own home. I close the guest room register nearly all…

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Design Predictions for a New Year 2016

The New Year is here and while many like to look back, I look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. It’s truly the best time to be alive, despite all the turmoil outside our doors and around every corner. There has never been more opportunity to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. Empowering our lives at home is the first step to become inherently happy and spread that basic need-fulfillment to others in our neighborhood and beyond. After all, we all share the basic desire for a comforting roof over our heads, food on our table, family and friends with whom to share, and health.

You know I don’t follow trends and I always say design for yourself…if you love it, then it must be right. On that note at the end of this post, I won’t be able to resist saying “buh bye” to a few things of which I’ve seen enough, or too much!

SIMPLIFY   More and more of us are evaluating our possessions and dreaming of downsizing, as is apparent in the popularity of tiny homes.  Yet mainstream culture continues to say that more stuff is the key to happiness. But we all know that new things bring a temporary satisfaction that’s often quickly replaced by guilt and emptiness.  While a home filled with only the items that you truly love is enlightening.

living room Victor Fretyan

Luxurious in light, volume, texture, and style, this minimally furnished room has it all.

This is not a fad! Clearing clutter and enlarging your room-to-live in the process is never going out of style and works for everyone, yes, everyone. There are a billion methods and books and guides to assist you. I suggest you implement tools that allow you to do this effectively and without panic. Taking on too much at one time will likely end in less than satisfying results and self-degradation. I personally try to stay on top of these things regularly and have found that a thorough room-by-room cleanse is the way to start. I’ll admit I have areas in my home that I’m still working to keep clear….junk drawer and receipts. Otherwise, I follow the take care of it immediately rule. This has become a very popular book for maintaining an organized home. I’ve used its methods on my junk drawer and it’s working!

NATURAL CONNECTION We’re all aware of the remarkable effects that proximity to nature has on our overall physical and spiritual well-being. Humans have an innate desire to be in contact with the outside world. After all, we’ve only recently, around 12,000 BCE, built structures for housing, compared to our million+ years of history as the humans we are now.  Erich Fromm, a German psychologist, coined the term “biophilia” to describe our urge to affiliate with other forms of life.

As we spend more and more time indoors, bringing nature inside is more important, and easier, than ever to fill that basic human need for intimacy with the outside world! Key elements that are the foundation for exquisite, empowered spaces are fresh air, light, texture, organic materials, color, and movement. These elements and others are easy to enlist to bring you the comforting benefits of nature. Find out how here.

ImaginEco air light texture

Ah, Mom Nature is ever inspiring…a few of my own photos representing air, light, texture, organic materials, color, and movement.

Adding natural touches is easy and affordable. Plants add color and clean the air and there’s a plant for every level of gardening ability. In the kitchen replace plastic utensils and containers with wood, stainless, and glass. Natural fragrances are right in your pantry waiting to be simmered in water on your stove. Cinnamon, orange, and clove are a magic combination. Natural materials for your floors, walls, counters, etc. provide an unsurpassed level of luxury and comfort through their appearance, their feel, and the added bonus of durability, low-maintenance, and even being anti-bacterial and air-cleaning. Check out my Beauties with Benefits to learn more.

Clay paint paired with wood and sparkly mica are natural beauties.

GET MOVING    An important and often overlooked element in our modern streamlined homes is movement. Imagine you’re outside and seated by a still pond. Even there you may feel a slight breeze, hear the clatter as squirrels race up a tree, witness a branch dipping under the weight of a tiny bird, and wish for a cloud to reveal the sun. For us to feel true comfort on a deep cellular and biological level, beyond that of just feeling warm and fed and happy with our wall color choice, our homes need movement in the play of light and shadow and contrast of scale and texture.

A sterile sleek neutral environment lacking in these natural attributes can actually cause anxiety. These spaces feel awkward, cold, and uninviting as they’re lacking anything naturally relatable. By adding layers of lighting, indirect, direct, and ambient, we begin to mimic nature’s depth, light, and shadow in our interiors. Wild spaces are composed of towering trees, billowing grasses, and delicate wildflowers. Combine large, small, and mid-size furnishings, always functional and beloved, to shape instinctively balanced and grounded spaces where we want to relax or entertain or care for our families. Texture is another necessary element for a home that inspires. Imagine you’re surrounded by only shiny hard surfaces. No matter the color it feels cold and awkward. Now add rich texture in warm wood floors, velvety cork walls, and thick cable knit fabrics. That cold room just became inviting and comforting!

Natural cork wallcovering with a splash of copper provides velvety texture, warmth, and subtle drama.

COLOR    This is the year to leave behind your color fears. Nature’s colors range from chilly whites to blazing hot reds. And even in the Arctic, there’s an amazing range of color. It is unnatural for us to be surrounded by a lifeless color scheme. And remember those bland all-white spaces actually make us tense. Start with pops of color as dramatic changes can be daunting. Color changes the entire mood of a space and we’re not often ready for the powerful effects color can bring.  Allow yourself plenty of time to truly acclimate to the positive effect of color change. Inspiration and how to get started are here.

Nature’s color palettes never disappoint!

The exterior of our homes deserves color love too. When I’m out and about, I’m always shocked to see endless beige and grey neighborhoods. Especially where I live in west Michigan, where right now we could certainly use some color outside. Yet in places where it’s generally warm and sunny, there’s no shortage of color on the outside of buildings. If exterior work is on your list, consider adding color, if only just a splash on your front door.

BUH BYE!    Let me repeat, if you love it, it’s perfect.  Trends don’t matter as long as you’re happy, in fact, avoid trends at all costs. Your home should reflect your personality, not be just like your neighbors home. And last but certainly not least, a few things that I won’t miss if I don’t see them again. All beige homes with black roofs. Front doors that are hidden by ancient shrubbery. Chevron…Window valances…best left to grand estates with 20 foot high ceilings and ornate detailing. Accent walls…demand all the attention in a room and usually create an imbalance.

In this New Year, I wish for you nature outside your window and shelter that inspires. What are you home design goals for 2016? Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,