Great design starts with balance…1.2.

This is the third 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 move inside today and orchestrate the details.

Let’s be honest, just one decision can throw an entire room off balance. You’re right, it’s not the end of the world or cause for losing sleep! And as you’ll see in the following examples, your spaces will likely still be gorgeous. However, when you’re actually thinking about these things and planning or rearranging, keep these ideas in mind.

Start with a focal point. What do you want to be the center of the space’s attention? For you it may be a fireplace or a painting or the seating area where you’ll gather with family. For your friends it may be their collectibles or the dining table with seating for best friends.  In this inviting dining room, there’s so much to love. Yet personal photos, vibrant art, a delicious lemon yellow buffet, and cut velvet upholstery just can’t compete with the burnt orange light pendant. Like an overbearing guest, it’s just a bit too much! Even lowering the pendant closer to the table will make it welcome at this dinner party.

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Ground the space with weight or color. What a bright and dreamy kitchen, right? From the graphic black and white wall covering, to the industrial pipe and slab wood table, a stove to envy, and the vintage chandelier, it’s perfection…almost. I can’t even take my eyes off of the elephant range hood in the room! Perhaps a light grey wash would make it more friendly. Then those ebony Tolix Marais chairs can command the room.
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Choose your center of attention wisely. What an interesting living space with texture on the walls and in the fabric. Mid-century modern furniture always makes me swoon and a teal velvet chair seals the deal. Unfortunately the black painted brick wall steals the show. Painting the brick to match the wall color will give it a supporting role and  make the other elements shine.

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Keep it light up top. What a luxurious calm sleeping area. Muted tones, herringbone floors, and plush linens are all you really need with day light flooding the room. But wait, what’s that over the bed? A large animal is probably not what you want looming over you while you sleep. Just moving the trophy down and away from the bed will give you sweet dreams.

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Enjoy these beautifully balanced rooms. Take note that you can achieve harmony without symmetry!

Fun and inviting, this dining room is rich in color, pattern, and texture. Can’t you imagine enjoying a meal there with friends?

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irastar galvanized kitchen

That lush view of nature takes center stage, though I’m certain that at night the monochromatic kitchen gives a warm glow. It’s perfectly balanced with the weight on the lower portion of the room. And even the ceiling is painted a soft sky blue.

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With a mix of vintage, new, and reimagined, my client’s living room is colorful, personal, and warm. Her antique glass-topped tables keep the space light and functional.white space

attic bedroom

The architecture of this attic bedroom is very dramatic and requires little extra, save pops of color, to make the room send you off to dreamland. Deep blue linens balance the exclamation point of the antique table. And a pale lime green Bertoia Diamond chair is sublime.

Isn’t it remarkable how small decisions can have such a profound effect? 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

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

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,

Denise

Great design starts with balance.

This is the first 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 is more difficult to grasp.

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 one of my pet peeves that’s very easy to remedy, so let’s start here!

Recently I was hired to make exterior color recommendations and design the landscape for clients who are remodeling a 1970s brick home. They had selected dark stained wood garage doors. Seen on their own in a brochure, the dark doors are rich and inviting. However, when installed they would dominate the home’s facade. It happens all the time, the dark gaping maw of deeply colored garage doors dominates the exteriors of homes. Next time you’re out walking or driving, take a look and you’ll see it every where. My clients, and I’m certain other homeowners, prefer that their front door be the focal point of their home.

Here’s a sketch of my clients’ home with dark stained doors. Notice how the garage doors are the center of attention? And the home is unbalanced with all of the weight on one end.

client facade before and afterAnd here is a sketch of my clients’ home with garage doors in a color that allows them to blend in to the facade. Now the bright front door will be the center of attention.

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Here’s another traditional facade where the dark garage doors dominate. It feels like the weight is all on the left side of the home.

By lightening the garage doors, the red front door becomes the focal point.

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And finally, here’s a stunning modern home whose garage door is blended in to the facade by color yet subtly defined by its recess. (Architect: Atrium)

exterior-contemporary-young-family-house-exterior-design-ideas-with-sloping-shape-building-and-bricks-also-wooden-wall-layer-and-combine-with-glass-windows-also-doors-and-car-garage-also-green-gr

Isn’t it remarkable how small decisions can have such a profound effect? Now what color is your garage door?!  Good design starts with prioritizing what’s important and keeping that in mind throughout the process to create harmony and balance. 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