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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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