Category Archives

eco-design

Finding the Designed Pathway

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Architectural design has always attracted me, weaving aesthetics with function, all in 3D that you can walk through, sleep in, bathe in and even give birth in. A larger than human interactive sculpture that shapes our lives and becomes part of our deepest engraved memories.

This impact from manmade design seems to be branching out in a different slant these days.

As I sit composing on an ipad, switching from Facebook to Pinterest to blog, I am treading through the minds of those program designers who figured out this intricate pathway of circuits. They carefully guide us from observing something that inspires us to the act of sharing our findings with others. Sometimes I wonder if all this sharing is really necessary, but the shear magnitude and ease compels me forward.

There is a saying in the Buddhist tradition that when a thought is thought it continues forever. When I first heard this, I immediately felt guilt for all the bad thoughts I’d had. Right then I pledged to start thinking more lovingly with as much kindness as I could. And even though I’ve had my moments of angst, for the most part, I feel I’ve added to the positive side of the universal thought bank.

This www virtual matrix has confirmed what the Buddhist knew centuries ago. All these thoughts that we as humans are sharing on the web are now out there forever wrapped in a network of cyber connections. We’ve found the designed pathway from our individual spaces out into a world wide dialog that will be recorded for possibly eternity.

After all the design that has gone into this structure, I hope it winds up being a “good read.”

Kitchen Countertop Comparisons

Clients often ask me what kind of kitchen countertop is the best?

That depends upon 3 main factors. I call these the holy trinity of design.

  • how you use the space
  • the overall style
  • the budget

How you use your kitchen? Are you an avid chef who needs workhorse surfaces? Do you like to entertain and have guest gather as you make the final preparations for your feast? Or are you happy with popping something into the microwave?

What’s the overall style of your kitchen? Traditional? Contemporary? Country or mid century modern?

What’s your budget? Whether your are building a new home or renovating an existing kitchen, it’s important to determine your budget and what part of that you are willing to put toward your countertops.

Once you have answered the questions above, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of your needs as you read through the following descriptions of available countertop materials. Narrow your choice down and be sure to let your design professional know which you prefer. They can show you samples, which will help you make a final decision.

The good news is there are countertops that can fit every budget, need and style.

Found at Consumer Reports, here are comparisons of the several types, listing the pros and cons and price range of each.

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Quartz

Quartz

Best for busy kitchens and baths. It’s stain- and heat-resistant and low-maintenance. It doesn’t need sealing and is available in vibrant colors and in styles that mimic natural stone.

But edges and corners can chip. Rounded edges help. Stone finishes can appear more uniform than natural.

Price $50 to $100 per sq. ft.

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Granite

Granite

Best for a natural stone look. It can withstand heavy use in a kitchen or bath. It resists stains when it’s properly sealed and it also resists heat and scratches.

But it needs resealing to protect it from stains. Color and grain can differ from samples, so it’s best to choose at the stone yard.

Price $45 to $200 per sq. ft.

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Tile

Tile

Best for use near stoves because it’s heat-resistant. It comes in many colors, patterns, and prices.

But it chips. Grout between tiles stains and is prone to mildew, even when sealed. Poor installation can increase those problems. Thinner grout lines and darker grout might help.

Price $10 to $30 per sq. ft.

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Laminate

Laminate

Best for a wide variety of colors and patterns at a budget-friendly price. It’s excellent at resisting stains and heat damage and is simple to install.

But it’s easily scratched by kitchen knives and isn’t repairable. Most have visible seams, though post-formed (seamless) options are available.

Price $10 to $30 per sq. ft.

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Solid Surface

Solid surfacing

Best for seamless installations, especially in baths. Many colors and styles are available, including those that mimic concrete, stone, and quartz. It’s stain-resistant, and small nicks and scratches can be repaired.

But it’s easily scratched. Stone finishes can look more uniform than natural.

Price $35 to $100 per sq. ft.

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Stainless Steel

Stainless steel

Best for a modern kitchen. It repels stains and heat and doesn’t rust or discolor. The countertop can be made with an integral sink for a seamless look.

But it can look cold in a bath. It shows fingerprints and dents and scratches easily. Matte or grain finishes hide damage better.

Price $100 to $150 per sq. ft.

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Concrete

Concrete

Best for customizing. It can be dyed or textured.

But it can develop cracks. Its durability depends on the fabricator’s skill and the sealers used. Topical sealers, which resist stains but not heat, are best for bathrooms. Penetrating sealers resist heat but stain and must be reapplied.

Price $80 to $120 per sq. ft.

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Limestone

Limestone

Best for a natural stone look without heavy veining or graining in a guest bath, powder room, or low-traffic kitchen. It withstands heat very well.

But it’s a very soft stone that is easily sliced, nicked, and scratched. It’s also porous, so it stains easily even when properly sealed.

Price $60 to $100 per sq. ft.

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Butcher Block

Butcher block

Best for a country kitchen and for cutting produce. It’s easy to install and repair.

But it might need periodic sealing or refinishing to remove cuts, dings, and scratches. Its finish affects performance. Varnish improves stain resistance and penetrating oils decrease it.

Price $30 to $65 per sq. ft.

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Marble

Marble

Best for a classic stone look in low-traffic areas, like a baking zone or guest bath. It’s available in a wide range of natural colors.

But it’s more porous than granite, so it’s not as stain-resistant. It also scratches easily, isn’t very heat-resistant, and needs periodic sealing.

Price $50 to $140 per sq. ft.

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Paperstone

Paperstone 100% post-consumer recycled paper that has been saturated with PetroFree™ phenolic resins and selected natural pigments.

Best for its warm look and feel. If scratched it can be lightly sanded like wood. Can be sealed and refreshed with a light application of natural sealer. Great eco-friendly choice.

But it can scratch and get rings. And it is expensive.

Price $85 to $95 per sq. ft.

Point of View

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One of the most important qualities architecture can give us is a point of view. Windows frame our everyday world and give us an essential connection with Nature.

On a trip to Austria a few years ago, my husband and I stayed in a lovely 1800’s hotel on the village square in Hallstatt. Each morning we would look out the window across the cobbled square to view the morning rituals of the town locals. Merchants opening their shops with familiar routines that seemed to shape their lives in remarkably comfortable ways. A stray dog sniffing about to see what was new from the day before. Children running to school.

All were entertaining to watch but the most intriguing was the sight of an elderly man. Every morning he sat at the same window, in the same position gazing out to the lake. His countenance was gentle and soft as he sat motionless, totally engaged in his observance. His arm rested on the sill with such grace, they seemed to embrace each other like good friends.

I wanted to see what he saw. I tried to imagine what his point of view was, but could not fully grasp it. When I watched him, I felt a calmness come over me. Each morning I found myself thanking him for these shared moments.

I think of that gentle man often when I catch myself gazing out my window, with a softness that offers me a moment to just observe with appreciation.

Refrigerator Comparisons

When clients are designing their kitchens, one of the most important decisions they make is what style of refrigerator to get. Each style has its distinct advantages. The best way to make this decision is to first determine how much space you have, not only to fit the refrigerator width, height and depth, but also how much clearance you have in front of the fridge. This can influence what door style will work best. Below are some brief descriptions of the styles to help you determine which will be the best for your lifestyle.

1. Top-Freezer
Traditional top-freezer refrigerators feature a smaller freezer section placed above a larger refrigerated section. They are one of the most common and least expensive models. Most top-freezer models offer more usable space per cubic foot than other styles and have wider shelves that are easier to access. Repair costs are typically lower than other styles of refrigerators and the doors open wide to allow shelves and bins to be removed and cleaned easily.

 

2. Bottom-Freezer
Increasing in popularity, bottom-freezer models are built with the refrigerator on the top. They are one of the most energy-efficient styles. Bottom-freezer styles owe much of their popularity to placing the most frequently used levels of the refrigerator at eye level. While bending is required to move items in and out of the freezer portion, it is not necessary for use of the refrigerator section, which is typically used much more often than the freezer.

 

3. Side-by-Side
Side-by-side refrigerators offer a freezer that runs the entire length of the unit on one side, usually the left, and a refrigerator unit on the other. Most side-by-side units also have additional popular features such as ice makers and water and ice dispensers on the front of the freezer door. This makes them especially popular with large families. Side-by-side units often offer more space and better organization of the freezer section. The doors are not as wide as top-freezer and bottom-freezer units, so they can be placed in tight spots where wide doors could pose a problem.

 

 

4. French-Door
French-door refrigerators have a lower freezer like bottom-freezer styles, and double doors on the top, like a side-by-side. They combine the eye-level convenience of a lower-freezer refrigerator with the space-saving narrower doors of a side-by-side. They are also generally more energy-efficient than side-by-side units and offer more storage per cubic foot.

 

 

5. Under Counter Drawer                                        This contemporary invention has revolutionized the concept of refrigerators. Because they are installed below the counter top, they can integrate seamlessly into any kitchen style, contemporary and sleek or covered with wood panels for a more traditional setting. They free up vertical space allowing for more counter top and freedom of placement. Using several drawers within a kitchen layout, gives the homeowner the ability to centralize areas for specific tasks, such as having the vegetable drawer near the cutting board and sink. This style is generally more expensive than the others and usually is best suited in larger layouts.

 

Eco-Friendly Oven Cleaning

In my quest to bring more eco-frinedly finishes and products into my client’s homes, I keep finding that “the simple-old-fashion” way is sometimes the best ecological choice. That’s what happened when I went in search of a more ecological method for cleaning my oven. It’s not a task I ever look forward to and mostly because of the obnoxious smell of the cleansers. And when some ordinary task, like cleaning the oven can be both non-toxic and easier – I’m game for giving it a try.

So here is a very simple and natural method for cleaning those splatters in our oven. It really is as easy as I had heard.

Simple household minerals such as baking soda can clean like magic. The key is using enough of the minerals. Sprinkle baking soda all over the bottom of the oven until it is covered completely with about 1/4 of an inch of baking soda. Then, using a clean spray bottle, spray the baking soda with water until the baking soda is thoroughly damp but not flooded. After that, go off and do other things. When you think of it, dampen the baking soda again if it is drying out. Before you go to bed, do that again. When you wake up in the morning, the baking soda can effortlessly be scooped out of the oven with a sponge, bringing all the grime with it. That’s it!

Now if your next delicious dish creates havoc in your oven, you’ll be ready!

Three Tips for Saving Water

1) Taking a 10 minute shower saves about 1/3 of the water over taking  a full bath.

2) Install a Dual Flush Toilet which has 2 separate buttons for liquids or solids. This toilet can save about 200 gallons of water a year.

3) Invest in a Grey Water Systems that reuses water from your bathroom sink to flush the toilet. You can save 40% of fresh water used.

Saving water with good bath design.