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,

Denise

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,

Denise

Not to be missed fall home tips!

Ah, fall is officially here in Michigan and right on cue there’s a chill in the air. While the sun is still shining, let’s get ready for the upcoming cold. Check these off of your home care list and stay warm and dry this winter.

First call your HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) contractor to check and tune up your furnace, heat pump, or boiler for the heating season ahead. It’s a minimal cost that will prevent you from being caught in the cold with your furnace down. You can find a contractor to perform this work here. You’ll save time, money, and headaches by having the equipment tested for optimal performance and the prevention of carbon monoxide leaks.

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Make the most of the heating in your home by insuring your ceiling fan is turning the proper way. When the heat is on, your ceiling fan blades should rotate clockwise. This keeps the warm air circulating and not resting near the ceiling. Change the blade direction by flipping the switch located on the fan housing, where the blades rest.  

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It’s time to check the seal around your windows and doors. Sealing gaps can save you 10-15% on your energy bills. That’s money in your pocket and a warmer, cozier home!  On your home’s exterior, use silicone caulk to fill in gaps between window and door frames and siding.  Add weather stripping around doors to eliminate gaps. Old windows that can’t be replaced?  Check the glazing compound that holds the glass in place and seals the window and replace as necessary.  On the inside of your home, use rope caulk to eliminate gaps between window sashes and frames. Add foam gaskets around exterior wall outlet plates. Heck, even those silly door snakes can keep out cold drafts.

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Save time, money, and headaches by preventing ice dams on your home this year by taking these 5 steps.  Find detailed information here.

1. Seal     2. Insulate    3. Ventilate    4. Aerate   5. Pressurize

ice dams

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Save up to 20% on your heating and cooling costs by installing a programmable thermostat. The Nest makes your life easy in so many ways. It learns how you live and the temperatures you like. You can set it with your phone when you’re away and it even monitors extreme temps or furnace trouble and alerts you via phone.

nest t stat

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Check your roof for loose or missing shingles. Repair and replace as necessary.

Check your siding for peeling paint. Scrape, prime, and repaint to maintain the protective paint film.

Inspect your fireplace chimney, flue, and firebox.

After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters. Inspect the joints and tighten loose brackets.

Remove window air conditioners and store. Clean and cover ground units.

Share this with your friends, check these items off of your list, then get outside and enjoy the fall colors. Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Keep your home naturally pest free.

My home is in a woodland in western Michigan. It’s full of wondrous life in every season. The natural beauty of flora and fauna does come with a few challenges that keep me aware of the delicate balance of this complex system. In my work and my daily life, I try to live in ways that maintain that equilibrium. Delicate fragrant wildflowers, nesting feathered friends, and mating butterflies spring to life after winter’s long cold nap. Of course, they all require those pesky-when-they’re-in-my-house insects. So after 10+ years in my woodland home, I’ve developed natural, inexpensive, and effective methods to keep the bugs out and alive!  After all, they are here for a reason, but I do not enjoy ants on my desk!  Try this super easy to mix up, works every time, household insect repellent.

Gather your three ingredients, that’s right, just three!

3 citrus fruits – lemons or limes, or a combination

3 garlic cloves

water

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Chop citrus fruits in half and drop in to your blender vessel. Add the garlic cloves, skins and all. Fill the vessel with tap water. Pulse until well chopped and blended.

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Next pour in to your largest pitcher and stir in additional water to fill. Take the mixture outside and drizzle it close to but not touching your home’s foundation. Shake or stir it occasionally as the mixture may settle.  Be careful not to pour the acidic mix on your home, siding, or decking. I have a gravel maintenance strip around my home so it’s a breeze.

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Some years we’ve had an unbearable amount of carpenter ants and the occasional spider in our home in the spring. This year there have been less than 20 as opposed to hundreds!  I’m certain the reduction is due to many factors, but I’m counting my two applications of this inexpensive, non-toxic, DIY insect repellent as the top reason. So get out there and draw a lemony line that bugs won’t cross. Keep them away and alive! Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Warm up your Home without Breaking the Bank

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 of the way and keep the door shut. Our mechanical room door is left open just enough for the cat to access her litter box. Reduce your overall heating load by decreasing the area that requires heat, and maybe bump the temp up just a notch!

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Carlos Delgado ArchitectKeep heat vents and radiators clear. Allow the heat to flow freely by moving furniture and draperies away from the heat source. For forced air floor registers, purchase inexpensive air deflectors from your local hardware store. They redirect heated air that’s headed for the ceiling in to the room.  Install radiator deflectors to reflect heat in to your spaces and away from walls.

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Install outlet insulators on the switches and power outlets of exterior walls. These pre-cut foam gaskets are available at all home improvement centers. And they’re super inexpensive. They have made a big difference in my home, though they don’t seal the devices completely. Add the baby-proof outlet covers to fill unused outlets.

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Add weather stripping at leaky doors and windows. Weather stripping is an inexpensive way to greatly reduce air infiltration. It cannot compete with a well insulated building envelope with highly efficient windows, though the reality is that budget and weather may prohibit perfecting every building. Easy, affordable, and effective solutions increase your comfort, save money, and energy. In other words, every little bit helps! Check out this helpful guide on the best weather stripping types and where to use them.white space

Hoya bellaOur personal comfort is based on temperature and humidity, and many other factors that we’ll discuss in other posts!  In the winter, when the heat is on, moisture levels are reduced to a point of discomfort. Even when you have a humidifier on your furnace, as I do, and it can’t seem to keep up.  Adding plants to every room naturally increases our comfort by significantly increasing the relative humidity in rooms. Plus, plants are lush and lovely, they clean the air, and reduce dust!  Click here for my list of easy to grow plants.

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Pebbles rug by Piodao Group

Take the chill off bare floors by adding rugs, and wool rugs are fabulous for so many reasons. Because of the naturally insulating qualities of the fibers, wool feels toasty warm in the winter. It feels cool in the summer, if you can think that far ahead!  Wool fibers also clean the air and reduce allergens. On top of that they’re naturally stain resistant.

Tell me your secrets for staying warm in your home.  Share with your friends to keep them cozy, then follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Buh Bye, Drywall…Hello, Fibers!

Drywall, also known in the building industry as gypsum board, is used extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In the early 1900s, drywall began to gain ground over the use of plaster walls. The installation of drywall saves time and money on product and labor.  The gypsum, sandwiched between two layers of paper, does have inherent fire resistant properties. These properties and its sound absorbing abilities can be increased by layering or different facings.  Combine these qualities with drywall’s easy acceptance of any finish from paint to wall covering and it’s become the standard wall material in the United States. I must say, I appreciate the ability to dramatically change a room just by splashing on a fabulous new paint color. But wait, there are so many wonderful alternatives waiting to be discovered and used. This time let’s explore fibers, that’s right, fibers!

WallArt cellulose panels

WallArt is a sweet collection of panels made from cellulose fibers removed from the waste stream of sugar cane production.

white spaceFilzFelt Knoll San Francisco

 Okay, seriously, my favorite fiber on the planet, wool, as a dramatic semi-private wall panel from FilzFelt. Wool even cleans the air!

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Submaterial figure no. 2More incredible wool wall panels from Submaterial.  With its luscious texture and sound absorbing properties, what’s not to love?

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FilzFelt IDEOFilzFelt makes it easy to customize designs and colors to your interiors, residential or commercial.

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Submaterial dimensional 1Need depth and texture? Submaterial’s wool panels have you covered again.

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Submaterial dimensional

Let’s end with a slice of heaven, wool slices of heaven, that is…once again from the magicians at Submaterial.

I’ll be sharing many more exciting wall options so follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration. Check out my favorite exterior wall materials as well. It’s your turn to empower your life with exhilarating design.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Buh Bye, Drywall…Hello, Wood!

Drywall, also known in the building industry as gypsum board, is used extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In the early 1900s, drywall began to gain ground over the use of plaster walls. The installation of drywall saves time and money on product and labor.  The gypsum, sandwiched between two layers of paper, does have inherent fire resistant properties. These properties and its sound absorbing abilities can be increased by layering or different facings.  Combine these qualities with drywall’s easy acceptance of any finish from paint to wall covering and it’s become the standard wall material in the United States. I must say, I appreciate the ability to dramatically change a room just by splashing on a fabulous new paint color.  But wait, there are so many wonderful alternatives waiting to be discovered and used. Let’s start with wood, reclaimed, repurposed, laser cut, and even woven!

Bruag plywoodThese laser cut plywood panels, backed with color, make a powerful statement with energy, interest, and visual privacy.

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Plyboo durapalm

Woven panels made from reclaimed plantation grown sugar and coconut palm trees are curvaceous and lush. If that’s not enough, the screen they create can provide visual and acoustical disconnection.

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Antoni Associates

With just a little creativity, stock lumber creates a remarkably vibrant almost kinetic sculptural wall.

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Woven wall diyadventuresdotcom

Lean ribbons of rich dark wood weave through copper pipes to elevate them both for a partition with true texture and personality. Click for the DIY instructions.

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expozodotcom perforated panel bedroom

Giving new life to sun shade and separation, this open laser cut panel adds vitality and sophistication to a sleeping suite.

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bookshelf-as-room-divider

Display and storage are fantastic partners and allow light to penetrate in to an interior space while softly splitting room functions.

I’ll be sharing many more exciting wall options so follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration. Check out my favorite exterior wall materials as well. It’s your turn to empower your life with exhilarating design.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise