Design Predictions for a New Year 2016

The New Year is here and while many like to look back, I look forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. It’s truly the best time to be alive, despite all the turmoil outside our doors and around every corner. There has never been more opportunity to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. Empowering our lives at home is the first step to become inherently happy and spread that basic need-fulfillment to others in our neighborhood and beyond. After all, we all share the basic desire for a comforting roof over our heads, food on our table, family and friends with whom to share, and health.

You know I don’t follow trends and I always say design for yourself…if you love it, then it must be right. On that note at the end of this post, I won’t be able to resist saying “buh bye” to a few things of which I’ve seen enough, or too much!

SIMPLIFY   More and more of us are evaluating our possessions and dreaming of downsizing, as is apparent in the popularity of tiny homes.  Yet mainstream culture continues to say that more stuff is the key to happiness. But we all know that new things bring a temporary satisfaction that’s often quickly replaced by guilt and emptiness.  While a home filled with only the items that you truly love is enlightening.

living room Victor Fretyan

Luxurious in light, volume, texture, and style, this minimally furnished room has it all.

This is not a fad! Clearing clutter and enlarging your room-to-live in the process is never going out of style and works for everyone, yes, everyone. There are a billion methods and books and guides to assist you. I suggest you implement tools that allow you to do this effectively and without panic. Taking on too much at one time will likely end in less than satisfying results and self-degradation. I personally try to stay on top of these things regularly and have found that a thorough room-by-room cleanse is the way to start. I’ll admit I have areas in my home that I’m still working to keep clear….junk drawer and receipts. Otherwise, I follow the take care of it immediately rule. This has become a very popular book for maintaining an organized home. I’ve used its methods on my junk drawer and it’s working!

NATURAL CONNECTION We’re all aware of the remarkable effects that proximity to nature has on our overall physical and spiritual well-being. Humans have an innate desire to be in contact with the outside world. After all, we’ve only recently, around 12,000 BCE, built structures for housing, compared to our million+ years of history as the humans we are now.  Erich Fromm, a German psychologist, coined the term “biophilia” to describe our urge to affiliate with other forms of life.

As we spend more and more time indoors, bringing nature inside is more important, and easier, than ever to fill that basic human need for intimacy with the outside world! Key elements that are the foundation for exquisite, empowered spaces are fresh air, light, texture, organic materials, color, and movement. These elements and others are easy to enlist to bring you the comforting benefits of nature. Find out how here.

ImaginEco air light texture

Ah, Mom Nature is ever inspiring…a few of my own photos representing air, light, texture, organic materials, color, and movement.

Adding natural touches is easy and affordable. Plants add color and clean the air and there’s a plant for every level of gardening ability. In the kitchen replace plastic utensils and containers with wood, stainless, and glass. Natural fragrances are right in your pantry waiting to be simmered in water on your stove. Cinnamon, orange, and clove are a magic combination. Natural materials for your floors, walls, counters, etc. provide an unsurpassed level of luxury and comfort through their appearance, their feel, and the added bonus of durability, low-maintenance, and even being anti-bacterial and air-cleaning. Check out my Beauties with Benefits to learn more.

Clay paint paired with wood and sparkly mica are natural beauties.

GET MOVING    An important and often overlooked element in our modern streamlined homes is movement. Imagine you’re outside and seated by a still pond. Even there you may feel a slight breeze, hear the clatter as squirrels race up a tree, witness a branch dipping under the weight of a tiny bird, and wish for a cloud to reveal the sun. For us to feel true comfort on a deep cellular and biological level, beyond that of just feeling warm and fed and happy with our wall color choice, our homes need movement in the play of light and shadow and contrast of scale and texture.

A sterile sleek neutral environment lacking in these natural attributes can actually cause anxiety. These spaces feel awkward, cold, and uninviting as they’re lacking anything naturally relatable. By adding layers of lighting, indirect, direct, and ambient, we begin to mimic nature’s depth, light, and shadow in our interiors. Wild spaces are composed of towering trees, billowing grasses, and delicate wildflowers. Combine large, small, and mid-size furnishings, always functional and beloved, to shape instinctively balanced and grounded spaces where we want to relax or entertain or care for our families. Texture is another necessary element for a home that inspires. Imagine you’re surrounded by only shiny hard surfaces. No matter the color it feels cold and awkward. Now add rich texture in warm wood floors, velvety cork walls, and thick cable knit fabrics. That cold room just became inviting and comforting!

Natural cork wallcovering with a splash of copper provides velvety texture, warmth, and subtle drama.

COLOR    This is the year to leave behind your color fears. Nature’s colors range from chilly whites to blazing hot reds. And even in the Arctic, there’s an amazing range of color. It is unnatural for us to be surrounded by a lifeless color scheme. And remember those bland all-white spaces actually make us tense. Start with pops of color as dramatic changes can be daunting. Color changes the entire mood of a space and we’re not often ready for the powerful effects color can bring.  Allow yourself plenty of time to truly acclimate to the positive effect of color change. Inspiration and how to get started are here.

Nature’s color palettes never disappoint!

The exterior of our homes deserves color love too. When I’m out and about, I’m always shocked to see endless beige and grey neighborhoods. Especially where I live in west Michigan, where right now we could certainly use some color outside. Yet in places where it’s generally warm and sunny, there’s no shortage of color on the outside of buildings. If exterior work is on your list, consider adding color, if only just a splash on your front door.

BUH BYE!    Let me repeat, if you love it, it’s perfect.  Trends don’t matter as long as you’re happy, in fact, avoid trends at all costs. Your home should reflect your personality, not be just like your neighbors home. And last but certainly not least, a few things that I won’t miss if I don’t see them again. All beige homes with black roofs. Front doors that are hidden by ancient shrubbery. Chevron…Window valances…best left to grand estates with 20 foot high ceilings and ornate detailing. Accent walls…demand all the attention in a room and usually create an imbalance.

In this New Year, I wish for you nature outside your window and shelter that inspires. What are you home design goals for 2016? Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Make Your Home Your Get-Away

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

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

white spaceAmangiri resort suite

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

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N residence 2

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

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Stone-Respect-by-Dom-Arquitectura-03

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

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

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

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

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Living Spacious in Small Spaces – Step 2

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

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

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

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

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

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funky glamour new york city

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

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dining

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

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

Architectural Digest mirrored table

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

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Parisienne charmer (8)

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

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

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Living Spacious in Small Spaces – Step 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise