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

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

Let’s get personal…and healthy!

If you know me at all, personally or from my work, you’re well aware that I’m on a mission to create spaces that empower our lives. Creating beautiful, healthy, colorful, nurturing places is the reason that I get up every single day. I share all of my tips and tricks on my website and facebook page for you to begin this journey with me. It’s important to rid your home of toxic products and equally important to keep those nasties out of and off your body. Today I want to share how I take care of myself with naturally remarkably personal care products. Yes, I do make all of these and have for several years. There’s a wonderful comfort in knowing exactly what’s in my shampoo, face lotion, and other things that I apply every single day. It’s also a delight when I run out of something and I just head to my kitchen to quickly make what I need. Oh, and the cost savings is nice too!

Here’s how I make my own lotion which I use on my face and body. I even use a dab on my dried hair for a final shine and control. Used regularly your skin will be soft and moist. Of course, it’s a perfect lip cream.

Gather your four ingredients. That’s right, just four!

1 cup organic coconut oil

1/2 cup organic olive oil

1/4 cup beeswax, shaved

10 drops organic essential oil

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Place the beeswax, coconut oil, and olive oil in a small sauce pan. Melt over very low heat, stirring gently to combine.  When melted, turn off the heat, add the essential oil, and stir to combine. Adjust the amount of essential oil based on the type you’ve chosen.  I use lemon as it has skin brightening qualities and 10 drops is perfect for the benefits and a light fragrance. Jasmine and lilac oils are very strong and you’ll need only a few drops.  You can always add more essential oil, but you can’t remove it!

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Let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Stir again and pour in to clean, wide-mouth glass jars. Cover loosely and allow to cool completely.

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After cooling completely, your new multi-purpose lotion is ready to use. I also keep a small jar in my car’s glove compartment. This mixture will liquefy on very hot days. You can make it more creamy by adding additional beeswax. It’s easy to modify the recipe to suit your personal preferences.

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Here’s a recipe card that you can save and share with your friends. Make them a small jar of lotion and print the recipe for them to use and pass along.

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Here are four more DIY healthy and, may I add, inexpensive, fabulous personal care products that I’ve been making and using for years. Give them a try too!

It’s your turn to empower your life! Take control of your house and your physical home. 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

Holiday Magic That You Won’t Find In A Store

A cookie decorating party at my home…

Once again, we’re in the delightful yet overwhelming season of giving. The pressure of finding that perfect gift is enormous and can easily drain the joy out of the holiday moments that pass by so quickly. The results are stress, exhaustion, and frankly a drain on our planet and wallets that leaves us feeling empty and disappointed.  Also, there’s guilt in not truly appreciating the well-meaning gifts of stuff that now line our shelves or require our time to brave the stores to return. And more often than not, it’s stuff we never needed or desired.

Supporting local artisans and craftspeople whose lives are improved by purchasing their products is an important aspect of holiday giving.  And gift lists and wish lists ensure that if you must buy a product, it’s something your friend or family member really wants to add to their life. Random impulse purchases based on spending a certain amount of cash or the irresistible last minute deal will always fall short of creating holiday magic.

This year let’s indulge in memorable experiences, instead of stuff that gets shoved to the back of the closet, then secretly given as a birthday gift to a sure-to-find-out friend, or donated to charity. And these experiences typically lighten the load of producing, distributing, and transporting stuff we likely don’t want or need.  So skip the mall and give these stress-reducing, easy to implement ideas a try. They’ve worked for me and generally support local businesses, keeping dollars in your community. Time spent with friends and family is the best gift you can ever give!

  • take a friend to lunch, take your mom to a movie, take your sis to a play
  • give gift certificates or tickets to a movie, restaurant, massage, manicure or pedicure, facial, golf lesson, cooking class, yoga, museum, garden center…
  • spend an afternoon with friends making soup or cookies and sharing the goodies
  • call friends on your card list instead of sending a card in the mail
  • donate to a charity that’s close to your friend’s heart, in your friend’s name.

Yesterday, my mom, sister, niece, and great niece spent an afternoon at my house. We shared lunch and then hung the final personal ornaments on my Christmas tree. Of course, while listening to traditional Christmas carols.  With four generations together, it’s a day I hope they’ll all remember as fondly as I will.  Frankly, these priceless memories won’t be found in a store!

I’d love to hear your holiday traditions and creative gifts.  I wish you holiday joy every day.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Naturally Clean – AKA How Not To Catch Your Spouse’s Cold

For the last two weeks my husband has been a walking cold virus. He believes that he has to ride it out and eventually it will go away. This is despite my efforts to help him overcome it quickly and naturally, not just mask the symptoms.  Nevertheless, it’s a challenge this time of year for me, and I’m certain for you, to avoid the common cold and flu viruses. Try my easy and natural methods to disinfect your home, instead of complicating matters by using cleaners that weaken your immune system. And I’m pretty certain you already have the most effective ingredient in your kitchen.

Vinegar kills 90% of bacteria though there is debate on whether it actually kills the cold and flu viruses. I trust it to clean my surfaces, door knobs, light switches, basically anything my husband has touched in the last few weeks! Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant and just a few drops go a long way. You can also add a few drops of your favorite pure essential oils. Mine are anything citrus such as lemon and orange as they really brighten the air.

Bleach and ammonia, on  the other hand, are dangerous, corrosive chemicals that cause respiratory problems and weaken our detoxification organs, such as our liver, kidneys, and lungs. They actually weaken our ability to heal. Read more about what’s in common household cleaners and why to avoid them here.

Remember, I’m an architect, not a medical doctor! I can help you keep your home healthy, though advise that you see a physician for medical issues.  Click for more healthy, effective, and inexpensive cleaners. Share this to keep your family and friends healthy! Follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise