There is so much talk about eco friendly and green products. Even with the best of intentions, they can be challenging to buy, as there are many factors to consider, and all products are not labeled the same way, making them hard to compare attributes. You may also hear different words used to describe them like organic or sustainable, however all these terms don’t always mean the same thing.
Let’s look at the various options for greening your home and office with fabrics, as well as the many considerations.
When a product is labeled eco, green, sustainable, or recycled it may mean that all or only some of it contains those properties. Here are some of the ways in which a product can be eco friendly:
- Created from recycled or renewable materials
- Sourced or manufactured locally
- Uses less electricity or materials to manufacture or operate
- Manufactured without the use of chemicals or toxins
Eco Textile Options
When it comes to furniture and accessories, there currently are a lot of options in eco friendly fabrics from organic cottons, linens, hemps and recycled polyesters and microfibers.
The origin of the fiber, surprisingly, doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to how environmentally friendly it is. Here are a few types of fabrics and their attributes:
Natural Fibers – these include Cotton, Linen, Hemp, Bamboo, Silk and Wool.
Cotton, for example, is a natural plant fiber which comes in different weights from lightweight for curtains and linens to heavier weight upholstery fabric. Surprisingly, cotton uses a lot of pesticides and a huge amount of water to process it and turn it into a fabric. With water becoming a more precious resource this can be considered an environmental concern. Organic cotton is grown without the pesticides, but requires just as much water.
Regenerated Natural Fibers – these include Rayon and Bamboo
Cellulose from the pulp of the wood is a very tough fiber; when softened by chemicals it can be turned into a very soft and attractive fabric.
Regenerated fibers are not considered environmentally friendly, even with the advancements that have been made over time as they use a range of polluting chemicals and heavy metals. There is one company manufacturing under the brand Tencel® that uses an extremely environmentally friendly process.
Synthetic Fabrics – these include polyester, microfibers and ultra-suede
Fabrics like polyester, microfibers [a finer strand polyester] and ultra suedes are fabrics made from a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. While the origin and processing of these fabrics may not be very environmentally friendly, there are many fabrics made from reclaimed and recycled polyesters in what is called a close loop cycle that helps the environment by keeping them from landfills.
Other environmental considerations of are whether chemicals and finishes are used on them in manufacturing, and if so, how toxic or environmentally friendly they are. Some textiles have an organic or eco label certifying them. This can be helpful in evaluating a fabric for your home or office, however the lack of a certification doesn’t mean ruling out a fabric; the certification process can be lengthy and expensive. Then again, a fabric may not be eligible for labeling if it doesn’t meet environmental standards
Fabric Choice Pros and Cons
While natural fabrics are appealing from both an environmental perspective, but also because they often have an appealing look and texture, they also have drawbacks as compared with some of the eco friendly options like polyester.
Fading – natural fabrics often fade from exposure to sunlight over time. Their synthetic counterparts are often color fast for their lifetime.
Stain Resistance – natural fabrics may stain easily, but also releases soil when properly cleaned. Most synthetic fabrics can be stain resistant.
Durability – Natural fabrics may stretch out over time, whereas synthetic ones have more stable and consistent fibers that hold their shape as well as having a higher wearability factor over time.
When it comes to decorating and fabrics, I recommend weighing your options and considering the look and feel of a fabric, its eco factors as well as your lifestyle before making any decision.
If you have children and pets in your home, synthetics may be a better option to preserve your investment in your furniture and design choices. Imagine your children or grand children jumping on your lovely sofa or chairs. With natural fabric upholstery this may result in sagging and discoloration over time, and should be a contributing factor in your design decisions. While you may prefer natural fabrics, in this example, going with a synthetic fabric, while not your ideal aesthetic is a small price to pay to keep your home looking good for as long as you want to enjoy the décor and your investment.
It can be confusing to try and decipher how green a product is, or to compare two different products against each other. A trained interior designer, such as myself can help you make selections that fit with your environmental concerns, design aesthetic and budget. Please feel free to reach out to me with any of your concerns.
ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER – AND I’LL SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER!
Almost any outdoor space can be transformed into an outdoor room that reflects your style; the choice is yours whether to use the style you have created inside your home, punch it up a bit, or change style completely!
The obvious choice would be to extend the style of your home right into the outdoor area. You are already comfortable with this design mode, and by keeping it consistent, the transition between spaces will be effortless. If your color palette is subdued or pastel, consider punching it up with bolder colors and accents. It actually will visually enlarge your interior space by drawing the eye outdoors!
Your outdoor space also offers a way to experiment with and experience a new style of decor, one that differs from your home’s interior. Walking through the doorway between the interior and exterior offers a natural feeling of transition, allowing a different style outdoors to work. To add some continuity and connection to your interior space, keep a few common elements such as one of your interior colors. That way, there is something that stays familiar and creates a bridge between the two environments.
Landscaping can become part of the outdoor design, defining both the physical space as well as composing part of the color palette. Consider shape and size, color and blooming time when selecting your plants and flowers. Keep in mind scent – a strongly scented flower may not be appealing right next to your seating area or dining table. It may also attract more bugs than a less fragrant plant.
There are many ways to add more color or accents to your outdoor room:
Landscaping – include flowers, bushes and trees. Plan for the entire lifespan of the space and vegetation – keeping in mind that the sapling you plant will grow, and may not enhance your space the same way in 5 years. Consider the blooming season; plants may only bloom for part of your outdoor season, so you will want to plan to have different plants flowering throughout the entire season.
Furniture – Outdoor furniture comes in a variety of colors and textures which can add color to your outdoor space. You can also repaint most furniture to the color of your liking; just make sure you use a paint that is specifically created for outdoor use. Wrought iron furniture can be completely transformed in a half hour using a can of spray paint! KIPS BAY Showhouse – Rich Heller . for Greener by Design.
Mill Neck Manor Showhouse, Long Island.
Be creative with furniture also – with wood and bricks or old metal carts repainted can become your beverage center – or old columns or fencing can create a defined seating or dining area – with outdoor drapery and lighting – you have now created a dining room! No longer stop at candles – use chandeliers hung from tall tree branches!
Accessories and Accents – flower pots and planters can add bold color splashes to accent and add a finished look to your outdoor decor. Pillows can add both color and patternern, as well as a sense of comfort to your room. Bring some of the accessories that you have used inside your home and repeat that theme outdoors!
Your outdoor space should be a wonderful addition to your home. Well designed it is a reflection of you, and a sanctuary to be enjoyed – differently and in addition to your interior space.
ITS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND – OFFICIALLY THE START OF SUMMER – Run and Have Fun in YOUR Outdoor Space!!!!
Today was a beautiful summery Sunday – I rented a car and hit the back roads of the glorious area known as the Gold Coast of the North Shore of Long Island.
Here were the great mansions that were built by the industrialists of the 1890s. I grew up on Long Island and always found joy in getting lost on these back roads filled with the old mansions, high vistas where you can see the waters of the LI Sound, passing the horse farms and country farm stands. I went today to view two Designer Showhouses, one that was featuring a room done by one of my previous assistants – it was her first time participating in such an endeavor. This showhouse benefited the American Heart Association. Vera used this small room to create an artist’s studio with its north light as well as a lovely view of a tree shaded garden from her window. It gave her the opportunity to show off her understanding of scale as well as her own talents as a painter and photographer.
Not far down the road, past the horse farm with horses starting to shed their winter coat, was the Mill Neck Manor – a turn of the century magnificent Tudor mansion, now the home to The Mill Neck School for Deaf Children. This house truly captures the essence of the Gold Coast, you almost expect the Fitzgeralds to greet you at the entry and have you join them in one of their great parties! At the top of the stairs was a bedroom done in all the shades of white – the hallmark of my friend, Beverly Balk. Her white interiors are known throughout the North Shore and beyond.
Since I had participated in a Designer Showhouse several years ago, I understand and appreciate the hardwork that goes into producing these rooms and being scrutinized by the many visitors that wander from room to room in these houses that have such history, that gives us a peak into how people lived in the past and why these homes can no longer satisfied the life styles of modern society.
Today was a beautiful summery Sunday – I loved my ride – loved wandering through these mansions and seeing the accomplishments of my dear friends – I loved the memories that this ride conjured up for me – but like the mansions – this is a life I left to live in New York City where I have my design practice. But its the experience of growing up in this area that I hope I bring into each of my own designs in the concrete jungle I now call home.
One of the biggest challenges I encounter in my interior design work, with both prospects and clients, is around budgets.
A prospect or existing client will meet with me about a design or renovation project they would like to work with me on. Here is how the conversation typically goes:
Prospect: We’d like to hire you to redo our kitchen.
Me: Great. Tell me about the project and your budget.
Prospect: Well, we’d like to totally renovate our kitchen, take down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, all new cabinets, appliances, floors, counters… We’re not sure about the budget.
Me: Great. Based on what you are telling me, I would put the project in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.
Prospect: Wow, that is a bit higher then we had in mind. Can we do it for $35,000?
Me: Not likely. Let me break out how we arrive at the budget.
While a prospect may say they have no idea of the budget, they have usually spoken to friends and family who has been through a renovation or redesign project, as well as watched a few HGTV home renovation shows, so they have thought about it to some degree. They can still get sticker shock when they hear the costs involved in making over a space, especially in New York City; it is a unique environment due to fact that it is more challenging and expensive to undertake construction projects in a crowded urban environment.
How much will this improvement add to the value of my home? According to US News and World Report: Surprisingly, much of the time the answer is not as much value as it costs to actually make the improvement.
To get to a realistic design budget here is a breakdown of what you have to factor in:
Project plans and permits– Projects requiring changes to layout and structural elements of your interior space or exterior building will need building permits and associated project plans. The fees will depend on the type of project and its complexity.
Building permits are often required by local governments before any type of renovation and construction can begin. Your contractor and interior designer will be familiar with local building regulations and can handle preparing and filing your permits. Fees will be determined by the costs of the permits, if any, as well as the time your professional has to spend on securing them.
Materials, Labor and delivery charges– your existing office or home’s age and original materials will shape what types of materials are needed to create the proper build out for your current project. Construction related materials are comprised of pretty fixed costs; your selection of finishes is an area where you can potentially save money, or increase your costs.
One of the biggest expenses in doing a renovation or design project can be the labor. While a project starts out with an estimate of labor costs, it can’t possibly factor in the unforeseen things that come up in the course of doing your construction. In a congested urban area such as New York City, there will be additional contractor hours and fees for travel time and parking.
From building materials to furniture and accessories, there is a cost to have them delivered to your site. In today’s world, we are able to source the best materials and designs from around the globe. However, without careful attention to where a product is produced or shipped from, your budget can quickly accrue larger delivery charges, which are based on distance. Your design professional will be able to save you money by making better sourcing selections; keeping delivery costs down wherever possible.
Design Fees – Your designer is much more than just a creative advisor. They are a true professional who wears many often-unseen hats to get your dream office or home created with minimal hassle or problems. These additional roles include project manager, price negotiator, troubleshooter, and project champion. Interior designers work hard behind the scenes to keep your contractors honest and on schedule, as well as waiting on site for deliveries, which they then inspect for correctness and quality. Their fees are typically based on calculations of time and staff required to successfully complete your project; and according to my clients “are worth every penny in the problems they avert and solve without you ever knowing about them”. Their fees are not typically negotiable
Furniture and accessories – Your furniture and accessories are often an area where you don’t want to scrimp on your budget, as it’s these items that are seen and help define your space and its style. Buying less expensive, knock down [IKEA] furniture, can end up being not so inexpensive after you factor in the labor costs to assemble the furniture.
After tallying up all these project component and fees, we now have a realistic project budget.
Before you consider doing a renovation or addition to your home or office, I encourage you to speak with a design professional and run your project costs before getting attached to a number that may not be accurate for what you have in mind.
As an interior designer, I work with clients to help them create spaces they love while making the most of their budgets. If your budget and your dream project don’t seem to be aligned, I am able to show you the available and best options; ones you may not be aware of or considered on your own.
My goal is to work with you to achieve your desired outcome, in the most cost effective way that also protects your real estate investment.
To schedule a design consultation contact me at 212 532 2569 or at email@example.com (And yes, there is no e at the end of my name in the email address!) That’s a story by itself.
Last evening I attended the performance of Verdi’s opera, Ernani with Placido Domingo as Don Carlo, King of Spain. I will admit that my appreciation and understanding of opera is limited at best. As a designer and painter, I’ve come to appreciate what the arts have for each of us. One evening offered the experience of what architecture can create to house music, a plaza designed to offer an open space in a crowded concrete City. To enter this building your eyes fall on the murals of Chagall along with the crystal chandeliers to light the path into the magnificent stage. I was transported to the 16th Century Courts of Spain with the period dress worn by these musical artists. It didn’t matter that I did not know the foreign words that were sung so beautifully – Its the richness of art and culture that is the equalizer for all of us – its the bridge that connects our past with our future. It helps us to understand the world around us – we can no longer see ourselves as individual countries, but rather as a global whole- The weekend is coming up – find joy and experience your choice of music or art or a completely new adventure. May we all take the chance to stop and smell a new rose!!!
Farrow & Ball, Old White
That ultimate dream home is the feeling viewer’s often cite when speaking of the homes seen in moves like Something’s Gotta Give and Father of the Bride, both of these films are set in the kind of house that most dream of living in. One of the appealing things about those homes are their wonderful, yet subtle color palettes which remind me of a paint called “fawn” by Farrow and Ball. It is a color that is so soothing and sophisticated – and it changes with the light and the seasons; a paint chameleon if you will. It can be a soft sage, or a mellow bronze, but it works with any color scheme – soft blues, silver, charcoal gray, and bar browns.
As a designer, I don’t believe in “go to color” – color should be used to evoke a mood and is balanced with natural light, as well as the surrounding materials – color is the partner in a dance!
Neutral colors can provide a great backdrop for your more dramatic furniture and accessories; at first glance they may sound boring – but they are anything but! Think of them like the supporting ase of your home’s movie. In the brown and beige range ou can go from creamy latte to a deep coca. Shades of grey can range from silver to slate, and from cool to warm, depending on its undertones. Called the new brown or the new black, grey can also provide a nice alternative to white.
For warm neutrals – Farrow & Ball’s Old White is one of my most favorite neutrals – this is a color that can work with anything, as it “will look white in any ‘old’ situation” according to it manufacturer. It’s midtown undertones play beautifully against natural stones like field stone or slate, woods whether they are deep wenge or red oak, it is fabulous with rich colors – charcoal grays, reds, and blues. It brings balance without boredom.
Whatever neutral you choose, you can create a defined, crisp look against your earthy walls by adding white trim. With a neutral canvas to build on, you can them accent your space in any number of color ways ranging from cool blues an grays to warm orange and red tones or any other colors on the spectrum. Each will evoke its own feeling, modd and ambiance transforming your base neutral palette into a more dynamic and dramatic space and experience.
When it comes to white, there are at least 135 shades to choose from. I love the freshness of Benjamin Moore’s China White – it has a crisp undertone of grey and it just grounds a room! Combine two or three different whites in the same room such as for walls, ceiling and baseboards, and you can create a feeling of dimension, layers and texture to a space simply using different shades of a color.
Think of your paint color as the canvas, and your furniture and accessories the brushstrokes and make up and complete the picture that is your home.
It may be hard to envision how a color will look once your home is decorated and accessorized .
As an artist and designer, I can help you select the perfect color canvas to build your dream home around!!
Will be hitting the Showrooms at The Design Center for the Outdoor Month Event.
Always keeping my eye out for new products and innovations for my clients! These are great fabrics from Kravet!
Whether you live in a center hall colonial, cottage by the sea, a ranch in the high sierras, or a midtown apartment, there are ways to keep the romantic fires burning under your roof, every day of the year.
Yes, I know Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and with it, short-lived romantic gestures and much anxiety. There will be tons of chocolates and dozens of roses bought – and by the next morning, half eaten chocolates end up in the fridge and the resulting guilt sends you running to the gym as your roses are dropping petals on the floor and the water in their vase is already turning murky!!!
Why should romance be only once a year! Your home, your private sanctuary from the gruel of everyday living need not be devoid of romance all the time. Here are my top tips for creating a romantic atmosphere in your home:
As I’ve talked about before in my blog and in conversations with my clients, lighting can break or make a room. It sets the tone for relaxation and comfort as well as creating a pleasing atmosphere. It is the easiest, way to change your ambiance and create romance. Here are a few of the most effective ways to use lighting in your home:
Dimmers can be added to all the light switches in your rooms. From dining rooms to bedrooms, dimmers can change the mood of a room in the second it takes to move the dial, changing bright light into a soothing, romantic feel.
Under cabinet lighting can transform utilitarian rooms like the kitchen into pleasing, warm spaces. Once this room has served its purpose for the day, switch to under cabinet lights and enjoy their effect on decompressing you from the day’s tasks.
Candles are the standard and obvious choice for romantic dates and special occasions in restaurants and at home. I believe they should be on display daily to lend atmosphere and romance to your home. One of my favorite ways to use candles is with large lantern style holders; they should be part of the décor and can be placed in every room. Pottery Barn and West Elm are two places where you can find affordable options for these candleholders.
A group of lanterns can take the place of a fireplace when there isn’t one – they can be used as a source of light when watching your favorite movie and a great relaxer for simply enjoying a conversation. Set up a trio of candles in every room of your home.
While it’s always lovely to receive beautiful flowers that make us feel special – this treat should be shared by everyone under your roof – make it part of your weekly shopping ritual and bring home a bouquet.
You can get more mileage and pleasure out of a bouquet by utilizing a variety of arrangements from a single bud in a small vase, a flower or two floating in a small bowl of water, or the full bouquet. Unusual and unexpected floral displays add variety and a sense of play. Everyday items can make for attractive and unexpected floral containers – from mason jars, simple drinking glasses, to metal water cans. Every room can become more romantic with the addition of even a single flower, from your bedroom nightstand or dresser, the bathroom vanity or your kitchen counter.
Flowers are always appreciated, and bring a smile even on the dreariest, rainy day.
Not just for Special Occasions
Treat yourself specially every day. Two things that are always underutilized in a home, because they are thought of for “special occasions only” are formal dinnerware and formal dining rooms. I’ve always wondered why do we wait to have a special occasion to use our “special stuff”?
Treat yourself as though you are special, and every day is a special occasion! So many people have kept “special things” in boxes and rarely get to enjoy them, when they can provide joy and romance on a regular basis. While it is not always relaxing to enjoy these moments when we have small children – they can serve as part of the special occasion – we use them to teach a lesson in social graces, as well as treating oneself well – two concepts that are sadly getting lost in our fast paced high tech world.
To insure the feeling of calm and romance, keep cell phones and chargers in your home office or entryway. Never in the bedroom or living room; there is nothing that is that important to disturb the most private and serene rooms in your home!!!
Your home should be treated as your sanctuary – a shelter from all the frenzy created in this fast paced world.
Make Valentine’s Day everyday in your home.
This exhibition for New Members opened this Monday and runs until Friday, January 16.
I am proud to be exhibiting two of my paintings: one is a still life titled “Makings of Cabbage Soup”.
This piece recently won a Bold Award in the 2014 Summer Bold Exhibition at the Northern California Arts Council Exhibition. A new landscape titled “Hiking Trail to Munson Creek Falls, inspired by a photo I took while in Oregon this past summer.
A reception will be held this Friday evening at Salmagundi Art Club, 47 Fifth Avenue at 6:30 pm.
The Thumb Box Exhibition, made up of small works no larger than 108 sq. inches opens today through January 2.
All works in this exhibition are for sale at prices that would make someone a lovely gift for the holidays.
My piece, “Morning at Bow Bridge”, has been accepted into this exhibition and the reception will be held on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 6 pm.
I hope you can stop by and join me at the reception.
www.Salmagundi.org 41 Fifth Avenue.