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.
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.
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!
3…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?
When 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.
In honor of your tireless efforts to protect and nurture our shared home, today I’ll take you outside through my photos. Some of these are my favorites and others are most favored by you readers and followers. These represent the reasons that I do what I do. Thanks for joining me.
Happy Earth Day to each of you. Keep up the good work. Now reward yourself and get outside! Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.
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.
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. Thishas 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.
Adding natural touches is easy and affordable. Plants add color and clean the air and there’s a plantfor 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.
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!
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.
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.
Once again, we’re in the delightful yet overwhelming season of giving. The pressure of finding that perfect gift is enormous and can easily drain the joy out of the holiday moments that pass by so quickly. The results are stress, exhaustion, and frankly a drain on our planet and wallets that leaves us feeling empty and disappointed. Also, there’s guilt in not truly appreciating the well-meaning gifts of stuff that now line our shelves or require our time to brave the stores to return. And more often than not, it’s stuff we never needed or desired.
Supporting local artisans and craftspeople whose lives are improved by purchasing their products is an important aspect of holiday giving. And gift lists and wish lists ensure that if you must buy a product, it’s something your friend or family member really wants to add to their life. Random impulse purchases based on spending a certain amount of cash or the irresistible last minute deal will always fall short of creating holiday magic.
This year let’s indulge in memorable experiences, instead of stuff that gets shoved to the back of the closet, then secretly given as a birthday gift to a sure-to-find-out friend, or donated to charity. And these experiences typically lighten the load of producing, distributing, and transporting stuff we likely don’t want or need. So skip the mall and give these stress-reducing, easy to implement ideas a try. They’ve worked for me and generally support local businesses, keeping dollars in your community. Time spent with friends and family is the best gift you can ever give!
take a friend to lunch, take your mom to a movie, take your sis to a play
give gift certificates or tickets to a movie, restaurant, massage, manicure or pedicure, facial, golf lesson, cooking class, yoga, museum, garden center…
spend an afternoon with friends making soup or cookies and sharing the goodies
call friends on your card list instead of sending a card in the mail
donate to a charity that’s close to your friend’s heart, in your friend’s name.
Yesterday, my mom, sister, niece, and great niece spent an afternoon at my house. We shared lunch and then hung the final personal ornaments on my Christmas tree. Of course, while listening to traditional Christmas carols. With four generations together, it’s a day I hope they’ll all remember as fondly as I will. Frankly, these priceless memories won’t be found in a store!
I’d love to hear your holiday traditions and creative gifts. I wish you holiday joy every day.
As Earth Day approaches, I’m pondering the disconnect between people and the incredible seasons of nature. Mostly we just complain if they’re not meeting our immediate needs…it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too wet, the snow will never melt. I’ve found when I stop for a moment to appreciate the power of nature, I learn to see the big picture and the incredibly fine details. Like this mourning cloak butterfly, who spends the Michigan winter hibernating under tree bark and then pops out when the weather warms to begin his routine all over again.
As the temperatures rise, I’m even more appreciative of the movement of species whose only focus is to live in the present, procreate, enjoy a bit of sunshine, or a tasty well-earned and deserved morsel. Today I watched a young robin meticulously bathe himself for the recognition of potential mates. And a few minutes later he was gone from my sight as a young lady enticed him away. He knows his purpose and is not motivated by ego or lining his pockets through fleeting meaningless temporary distractions. Though nest lining does need his attention!
The deer and all the wild life around my Michigan woodland home have endured seemingly endless months of record cold temperatures and snowfall. I’ve watched them struggle through leg breaking ice only to frolic, yes, frolic, as no other word properly describes their joyous antics, when spring sunshine and warmth actually appear. This morning a doe and a yearling drank together from my heated bird bath, even though fresh water is available in the thawed creek nearby. Ours is a mutually dependent relationship!
My knowledge and admiration of and my compassion for the natural world has increased immeasurably during my nearly 10 years in my woodland home. I’ve spent countless hours watching from inside and out and becoming accustomed to the rhythms of wildlife and plants. As they all work together in such awe inspiring ways they are a powerful force. Witnessing this has slowed my pace, aligned my priorities, and increased my passion to improve your lives through the use of nature and color and light.
So let’s all pull together to appreciate and care for nature, today and every day. If you’ll join me, share this with your friends. Take your own walk in my woodland by viewing the reasons that I do what I do.
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!
I 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.
This 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.
A 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.
In 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.
I have a long list of home improvement wishes and dreams, and I bet that you do too. In fact, we’re told daily to never stop improving. We want what our neighbors have, or better yet, what our neighbors don’t have yet! Of course, as an architect I’m limiting potential work by saying this, but I truly feel like we should take some time to appreciate the amazing building that we call home.
My home was built in the early 1970s. It’s a walk-out ranch with ochre colored aluminum siding. Nestled in to a woodland in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the best feature is the site, which seems to go on forever in the nature preserve it joins. I’m not thrilled that all you see from the street is the garage. Yet that’s a small price to pay for daily immersion in to the world of deer and bunnies and foxes and ducks…you get the idea.
Inside our home we, my husband of over 20 years and I, have made many cosmetic improvements and added our personality where our budget would allow. And we’ve even made improvements when spurred by fun events like a sanitary sewer back up. When we purchased the home nine years ago we painted virtually every wall and ceiling after removing wall covering. We quickly eliminated carpet from a bathroom and replaced it with a luxurious heated tile floor. Over the years we’ve replaced all of the flooring, and have three types of Marmoleum linoleum, including the planks in my lower level shown here. My endorsement of Marmoleum is unsolicited and unpaid. It’s one of my favorite gorgeous and sustainable flooring materials, made from linseed oil, pine rosin, and wood flour.
And I recently painted my bathroom a delicious hot pink that makes me feel giddy every time I walk in to the room. It’s Sherwin Williams Eros Pink Emerald paint in their velvety matte finish that intensifies the stunning color. So though we’ve significantly modified our home over the last nine years, we still have aesthetic goals, on top of the maintenance.
Your house, the building, is a complex system designed to keep you warm and dry and sheltered from the weather. The structure, walls, roof, insulation, floor slab, doors, windows, plumbing, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and electrical have all been carefully researched, tested, designed, built, and approved to provide for your health, welfare, and safety. All of these systems need to be maintained regularly, upgraded, or replaced to keep this house, this system, functioning properly. These items are not optional.
Your home is you, your family, your dog, your cat, your fish, your kids doing home work at the dinner table, your friends dropping by unexpectedly, your favorite food in the oven. Your home is a symbol of you through the lime green walls in your kitchen, your grandmother’s wing chair, your kids’ drawings on the frig, your sunflower yellow front door, and your dog’s enormous bed in the corner.
So please take a moment today to stop improving. Instead appreciate the immense group of talented individuals that have crafted and maintained our homes and who have created their contents for us to enjoy. Then pat yourself on the back for every single decision that you’ve made and every joyful and painful step you’ve taken to nurture yourself and your family and friends in your very own home. Well done, well done!
Happy New Year! I wish you all a year filled with nature outside your window and shelter that inspires you. I try to live in the present and avoid forecasting or living by trends. So let’s start the new year with design elements that are timeless, nurturing, and always in style. Oh, and they’re gorgeous too!
Metallics reflect your personality and day light and add vibrancy to any space. The movement as the light and shadows play around them is magical. Be fearless and mix them up to create a captivating balance of shiny and worn and gleaming and weathered.
Color is always inspiring or nurturing or energizing or calming, whatever your heart desires! Close your eyes and visualize your favorite things and the colors within them. Now transfer those colors to your walls or ease yourself in with colorful furnishings.
Texture’s tactile qualities add depth and reality to rooms. Here I used cork wall covering, with splashes of metallic copper running through it, creating soothing texture with a funky sparkle. Layer gossamer with ribbed and velvety with knotty, as nature does, to create a rich composition.
And there’s always glass – stunning and timeless in every incarnation. It’s one of light’s best friends as they enhance each other so well. Add clear glass tables and lamps to bring a bright airiness to any space.
No material touches each of us as wood does. It affects us most in its living form while providing shade and shelter and year round beauty. When crafted by artisans and gracing our home as an integral part of our lives, wood fills our innate need for nature. Bring it inside with reclaimed wood or with wood that’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Always choose woods with natural finishes.
Share the info and the love with your friends…pass it on!
Wheee! This is my first blog post, and I hope you’ll enjoy this and many more to come. I’ve decided to finally join this arena so that I can easily give you more in-depth info to use in your very own world of design. This first post is a salute to, and a request that you join me in my love and respect for, nature. I’m eager to learn your needs and answer your design questions, and I’ll focus on those design topics in future posts.
In this season of giving, I ask you to put Mother Nature on your gift list. She’s been looking out for us our entire lives, so let’s show her how much we care by…
giving an experience instead of an item. Take a friend to lunch, take your mom to a movie, take your sis to a play.
giving gift certificates or tickets to a movie, restaurant, massage, manicure or pedicure, facial, golf lesson, cooking class, yoga, museum, garden center…
giving to a charity that’s close to your friend’s heart, in your friend’s name.
giving a gift that keeps on giving – bird bath, bird feeder, wind chimes, house plant, music…
spending an afternoon with friends making soup or cookies and sharing the goodies.
calling friends on your card list instead of sending a card in the mail.
Please share what meaningful gifts you’re giving this year. Thank you for reading and please sign-up to follow via email and share with your friends. I wish you holiday joy every day.