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

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

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

5 Keys to Great Movies and Great Rooms

Since it’s Oscar Sunday, I was pondering what makes great movies and how those qualities are shared by great rooms.  Of course movie preferences and design styles are subjective. But I think we can all agree on these 5 basic qualities.

dezeen_Jaffa-House-by-Pitsou-KedemCaptivating movies and intriguing spaces must have an engaging story.  The story can be subtle yet it must be interesting.  In this former factory now a home designed by Pitsou Kedem Architects, the tale is told through the arches and the thick walls of stone, clay, and shells. The simple modern furnishings integrate softly and place the story in modern times.

Parisienne charmer Classic movies have engaging characters that draw you in to their world.  Like films, stunning rooms are a blend of characters, some are the stars and others support the star, or even steal the show. Combined they create a rich tapestry with depth, color, and personality. In this Parisienne home, designed by D. Mesure, the lapis lazuli velvet sofa spars for the win with the mesmerizing portrait above. Your home should reflect your character. Use only what you love, and it will work, and show your personality, life history, and style.

George Nunno home Elle DecorEvery movie must have drama and so must every inspiring space.  I always say that each room needs a statement piece, a piece that takes it from drab and dull to vivacious and interesting.  George Nunno has created a perfect balance of drama and subtlety in his own home in Manhattan. Start by fearlessly adding one piece that makes you a bit nervous in style or color to bring drama to your rooms.

Roogiem house desiretoinspireEvery great movie has at least a sliver of humor and my favorites tend to place it where you least expect it, and it’s truly original.  Jean Philippe Demeyer restored this Belgian moated manor with an incredible story, characters with depth and their own tales, a wealth of drama, and a genius sense of humor.  You’ll want to see more by clicking the image. Armed with that inspiration add one unexpected amusing and playful piece to bring delight to you and your rooms.

Marie-Olsson-Nylander-House-3To maintain the vision and bring it to life, every memorable movie and each glorious room needs a great director.  Designer Marie Olsson Nylander took a vacant for 30 years Swedish villa and transformed it in to a sensational home.  That story is brought to life by characters of every color, culture, and style. The perfect amount of drama enlivens every corner and all of these elements share a bit of whimsy.

Use these five basic principles of first rate films and award winning homes to lead your rooms down the red carpet and make you the ultimate winner. You can thank me in your acceptance speech!

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise