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

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

Top 10 Outside Tips for a Fresh Spring Home

Spring officially arrives today, and most of us have been eagerly awaiting her. It may or may not feel like spring, yet let’s get ready for warm breezes and sunshine using my Top 10 Tips. Then you can enjoy the spring weather with your family and friends, when she really emerges.

1. Inspect your roof for damage. Clean your gutters and down spouts, make necessary repairs to insure water is moved away from your home.

gutter cleaning

2. Inspect your siding for cracks, breaks, buckling, and rot. Repair as necessary and perhaps give it a wash.

buckled siding

3. Inspect your home’s foundation for cracks and repair to prevent water from entering your home. Ensure that the grading around the home slopes away to move the water away.

cracked foundation

4. Sweep porches, patios, side walks, and drive way.  Inspect these for cracks or breaks and repair to avoid falls. This is extreme though even small cracks can be hazardous.

sidewalk.cracked2

5. Inspect and replace any failing or missing caulk around windows, doors, and where different materials meet.

Caulk_Exterior_Windows

6. If you had ice dams this winter, now is the time to take these five steps to avoid them and their damage and costly repairs next winter.

ice dams

7. Wash window exteriors and their screens. Time for new windows? Read my Window Selection Guide first.

wash window interiors

8. Check your wood decks for wear and exposed wood. Repair and refinish if necessary using my Top 3 Exterior Wood Coatings.

earth friendly deck finishes

9. Call a professional to inspect and service your air conditioner.

air-conditioning

10. Bring out your patio furniture, give it a wash, relax.

Loll Designs

Take some time to implement these tips to get your home fresh and worry free for spring.  Read my Top 10 Insider Tips for a Fresh Spring Home. Then be sure to share these with your friends.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Top 10 Inside Tips for a Fresh Spring Home

Spring officially arrives tomorrow, and most of us have been eagerly awaiting her. It may or may not feel like she’ll appear tomorrow, but let’s get ready for warm breezes and sunshine using my Top 10 Tips. Then you can enjoy the spring weather with your family and friends, when she really emerges.

1. Keep your home’s air and water clean by changing or cleaning these filters: furnace, air conditioner, water faucets, frig water dispenser, vacuum, range hood.
3M furnace filter change
2. Turn off the furnace humidifier when you’re no longer heating your home.
ImaginEco furnace humidifier

3. Maximize the day light by giving your windows a wash on the inside if the weather’s still chilly. Then wash the outside when the weather warms up. Download my natural and healthy DIY cleaners here.
wash window interiors

4. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, change their batteries if necessary.
replacebatteries photo from fema.gov

5. Clean your dryer exhaust duct and remove lint from under and around the dryer. Click here to learn how.prettyhandygirl.com dryer duct cleaning

6. Clean your heat and air conditioner registers with a vacuum.  It’s an easy way to keep the air in your home, whether heated or cooled, clean, and it helps reduce allergens. Do this on a regular basis, or at a minimum when you change from heating to cooling your home.

clean register with vacuum

7. Steam clean your carpets or use a healthy method recommended for your carpet type. I have a home carpet cleaner and use Earth Friendly Products carpet shampoo. Set up shoe storage stations at each door and kick off your shoes when you get home to keep bacteria out.

How-to-steam-clean-carpets

8. Turn off the power to exhaust fans, remove their covers, vacuum the interior housing or carefully clean them with a soft cloth. You’ll be surprised at the amount of dust and debris that hides there. Remove it to keep your home’s air clean and keep your family breathing easy.

exhaust fan from family handyman.com

9. Check the seals on all of your doors to keep your conditioned air inside, and tiny pests outside. Repair or replace them as required.

check door seals

10. Change your ceiling fan direction to spin counter clockwise when your air conditioner is on or clockwise if you’re heating your home.  There is a switch on the fan housing to change the blade direction.

Modern-Fan-Eclipse

Take a few minutes to implement these tips to get  your home fresh for spring. Then be sure to share these with your friends.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise