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

Make Your Home Your Get-Away

I do a lot of writing about resorts and retreats and modern getaways.  And over the holiday weekend I was pondering why our homes, where we spend most every night, can’t be a daily getaway. Shouldn’t our homes make us feel like we’ve just arrived at a resort? Don’t you love a retreat and how you feel when you arrive? Or better yet, how fabulous you feel after a few days there! Those qualities can be brought in to your very own home and the benefits as well. Leave your worries at the door. Feel pampered in the comfort. Shake off all distractions. Allow yourself to relax.

stylish shoe organization Step 1. Clear all the clutter. Have you noticed how the best hotels, resorts, and spas are completely free of clutter. They have all the amenities you could ever wish for, yet they’re discreet. In your home, create concealed organization for mail, your keys, shoes that you kick off at the door, books, magazines. I find that putting things in their place immediately is so much easier than trying to organize when it’s grown in to an enormous stack of stuff! Address one room at a time so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. Or manage even just one item at a time, such as the mail. Don’t let clutter weigh you down emotionally and physically.  Take control and take a stylish vacation from clutter, as done here.

white spaceAmangiri resort suite

Step 2. Create a sense of privacy. You know the best resorts make you feel like you’re the only people on the planet, at least for the duration of your stay. They create a sanctuary for only you and your companion. And once inside, your haven is invitation only. Distractions don’t exist, again, unless you request the presence of say music, or room service, or a spa treatment. We’re all so connected all of the time that privacy and quiet are pure luxury. Create a private serene space in at least one room of your home, or even a corner of a room in your home. No fancy remodel required, just clear out the electronics, gadgets, TVs, and phones.  Or it can be as simple as asking your family for an hour of quiet time without interruption.

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N residence 2

Step 3. Maximize the comfort level. You deserve to live in an environment that surrounds you with comfort. I’m always surprised to learn how we deprive ourselves of the simple keys to our own joy. Years ago, one of my friends was building a new home. She told me she had always dreamed of living in a yellow house, but she was afraid that color might not be accepted.  Well I’m delighted to say that she’s still happily living in her yellow home. Be fearless and use colors that you love, on the walls, in your furnishings, and your art. Break every rule and use an eclectic mix of styles and furniture that fills you with delight.

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Stone-Respect-by-Dom-Arquitectura-03

 Step 4. Add just a touch of luxury. Fabulous resorts are guaranteed to have simple luxuries that we often deprive ourselves of at home. From a bold color in the decor to the always plush terry cloth bath robe, the small gestures that take a space from bland to grand. You can splurge, or just be adventurous. Add a touch of the glass bead wall covering that made you swoon. A heated floor may be within your reach and a purchase for which you’ll pat yourself on the back daily. Or treat yourself to the luscious terry cloth robe or even just plush slippers. You deserve it and life is just too short!

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Nature-Living-Room-Canvas-Wall-Murals muralsprodotcom

Step 5. Add nature. Nature is a cure-all and, unfortunately, seems to be a rare luxury for many. The most rejuvenating hideaways are nestled in to nature, whether in a jungle, a rocky seashore, a soaring mountain, or a deceptively rich desert. Bring nature inside by uncovering views you already have, also known as move the furniture away from the windows and ditch the heavy draperies. Open the windows and let fresh breezes inside. Plants bring nature in and are low cost and available for all conditions, including those ridden with black thumb disease. Click for more ways to connect with nature. Use natural materials such as stone, wood, and cork on surfaces or in accessories. Don’t have a view? Create your own with nature photos and art.

Tell me what you’ve done to create your very own retreat at home. Share with your friends and follow for more design tips.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Living Spacious in Small Spaces – Step 2

Many of us, by choice or by fate, are living in smaller spaces.  My clients are scaling down or staying put and revamping to maximize their lives within a smaller foot print. As the owner of a very small first home and as an architect for many years, I’ve learned a few tricks that can work for you too! Let’s bring in the incredible power of natural light.

“Also marvelous in a room is the light that comes through the windows of a room and that belongs to the room. The sun does not realize how beautiful it is until after a room is made. A man’s creation, the making of a room, is nothing short of a miracle. Just think, that a man can claim a slice of the sun.”  Louis Kahn

A genius at using light as a key element in his designs, Kahn recognized our dependence on “…the touch of a finger to a switch.”  I invite you to join me in enlisting “the endlessly changing qualities of natural light, in which a room is a different room every second of the day” to enhance and enlarge our spaces.

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If you have the means to bring in light by cleverly replacing a slice of your roof with glass or adding new windows, please do so. Here I’ll show you how to maximize the natural light in your space through less intrusive and still highly effective methods.

All of the movable furnishings in this reclaimed barn are lifted off the ground on delicate frames. This allows precious day light to easily dance through the room. Even the stair to the loft above is formed of seemingly floating wooden treads that enhance and contribute to the bright atmosphere, instead of weighing it down. Tip: choose furnishings that are light on their feet.

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funky glamour new york city

Lighten up by saying buh bye to the age-old tradition of lining your furniture up against the windows and walls of every room. Even in a smallish space such as this, you can create an interesting and perfectly-suited-to-relaxing-and-entertaining seating area in the middle of a room. This trick lightens rooms by creating space for the light to roam and breathe. If space is an issue then move your furniture even a few inches from the walls for a smaller scale effect. Trust me, try it!  If privacy isn’t an issue then ditch the heavy draperies or replace them with sheer billowy drapes that keep your secrets, but not you, in the dark. Tip: create a light and airy atmosphere by moving furniture and heavy draperies away from the windows and walls.

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dining

Fortunately for all of us, day light has an incredible support team, of which my favorites are glass, mirrors, and metals. They all bring out the best in natural light, just in different ways. Glass, as in the shelves above, is day light’s brutally honest best friend. She lets her bestie shine through with only the slightest alteration.

STELLAR Console and Mirror designed by Jake PhippsMirrors are natural light’s press rep. They double her sparkle and always make her look good, even when she may be fading.

Architectural Digest mirrored table

Metals are like day light’s adoring mother. Always subtly promoting their brilliant off-spring, metals, dazzlingly paired with mirrors here, put light in, well, her best light. Tip: use glass, mirrors, and metals to enhance natural light.

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Parisienne charmer (8)

At last, this brilliant bath brings all the tricks together for a bright escape that glows. The floating angled tub is featured by the light splashing around it. A burnished metal vanity is light on its feet. A copper horn pendant’s glossy center glows without power. Brass lamps and chrome faucets show that a variety of metals is the spice of life.

Love to hear your tricks to lighten up your spaces.  Then share this on so your friends aren’t in the dark. Don’t miss Step 1 to Live Spacious.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Living Spacious in Small Spaces – Step 1

Many of us, by choice or by fate, are living in smaller spaces.  My clients are scaling down or staying put and revamping to maximize their lives within a smaller foot print. As the owner of a very small first home and as an architect for many years, I’ve learned a few tricks that can work for you too!

Alaska summerI like to mimic nature’s exquisite balance in a room because she’s an expert at expanse.  Think of the strong foundation of the earth’s bedrock, soil, and mountains.  Above that the forests begin to open and lighten in to vast endless skies. You can create this graceful comforting balance in your rooms with a solid base of color, texture, and density. Furnishings and accessories above your solid groundwork are lighter, more open, less dense and heavy. Finalize your interior with a ceiling color or treatment that creates a complete volume.

John Lum ArchitectureThis San Francisco home, remodeled by John Lum Architecture, perfectly illustrates a strong foundation in texture, color, and scale.  Notice the grounding effect of the high base boards. The window lined alcove’s arch is outlined by delicate plaster moldings.

Robert Nebolon ArchitectsA floating home in San Francisco, designed by Robert Nebolon Architects, is grounded by wood floors with character. Crisp and clean silvery blue cabinets ease up toward generous walls of windows. Black cabinet pulls and window frames stabilize the space.

Park Ave. Residence by Rafael de CardenasIn this luxurious New York City apartment, Rafael de Cadenas uses color and texture as the grounding elements. Curves, reflections, transparency, and nature prints and wallcovering travel delicately upward in the room. The translucent soft green light mimics a feathery limb over head.

Remember, you can’t go wrong when you follow nature’s lead. Share with your friends and stay tuned for more tips to live spacious in your small spaces.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise