Transforming the High School Teacher’s Lounge

                             before: Hamilton Wenham Teacher's Lounge

Would I be interested in helping to update the high school teacher’s lounge? That was the initial email regarding the “surprise” make over that a group of parents wanted to provide to show the teachers/staff how much they appreciated the work they provided for their children and within the community. I received this email on November 17, with the intention to execute the transformation over the Christmas holiday break (December 27 – 30). Basically, one month to raise funds, make selections/specifications, order/purchase and install during the busiest time of the year: between Thanksgiving and New Years. Naturally, I said I would love to help in any way I could. I have two children currently in the high school as well as a graduate, so I figured this was a volunteer effort that was within my comfort zone.

before: Hamilton Wenham High School Teacher's Lounge             before: Hamilton Wenham High School Teacher's Lounge

A small group of us met with the principal to clarify any conditions that we needed to be made aware of and any restrictions. He informed us that we needed to use low VOC paint and that was about it. I thought it would be a great opportunity to also bring in a recycled flooring option that I have specified, FLOR carpet tiles. After assessing the situation, my thoughts were to:

  • paint the walls, trim and bookcase (Sherwin Williams: Harmony)
  • stain doors and cabinetry woodwork
  • remove the existing carpet and install FLOR carpet tiles
  • reupholster the chairs surrounding the large conference table and make upholstered seats for the wood chairs
  • purchase new sofa and loveseat (since the existing ones were hand-me-downs that were falling apart)
  • purchase new end tables
  • purchase new table lamps
  • accessorize the wall unit shelves

An initial email went out to as many families as all of us knew sharing our intent and asking for donations of money towards the cause as well as time to volunteer to implement the design. We were stunned by the response within the first few days. As I had begun making selections and pricing out the costs, it looked like the donations would cover most of the expenses. I would pass my design discounts on where possible to help us reach our projected budget goals. I was able to do this on the paints/stains, FLOR carpet tiles, fabric for upholstering and labor costs for reupholstering and even on the tables from Bed, Bath and Beyond when a woman handed me a 20% discount coupon while in the check out line when she heard what the tables were going to be used for. The table lamps were donated by Timeless Interiors.

With everything specified and ordered before Christmas, we planned the schedule of installation. The carpet tile had been delivered to the custodial room and were being hidden under blankets. I had picked up the fabric yardage and was storing that along with the lamps at my office. I spent Christmas weekend assembling the end tables. The plan was that on Monday, the carpet would be ripped out and the walls and woodwork would be prepped for paint/stain (to be the messiest day of the week), Tuesday we would paint/stain, Wednesday we would install the carpet tiles, and Thursday we would have the sofa/loveseat picked up at Jordan’s and delivered and do final clean up and accessorizing.     

Well- Mother Nature decided to throw a rather intense snow storm that Sunday into Monday – so the whole schedule was thrown out the window and we came in Tuesday to do our best to make it all come together with whatever volunteers showed up. The first issue that day was that the carpet was glued down for so many years – it took two very strong teenage boys along with some strong Dads to pull most of it up. There was an 8’x 8’ patch that would not budge. Luckily, the custodian walked in and mentioned a flooring company the school uses and perhaps they could help us out. Wednesday morning, Paul Ritchie of Paul Ritchie Flooring in Beverly and crew showed up to remove the remaining carpet patch and INSTALL the carpet tiles for us. I had intended to spend the day, along with volunteers doing this task. I am forever grateful that professionals did it!

during: Hamilton Wenham High School Teacher's Lounge             during: Hamilton Wenham High School Teacher's Lounge

Everything was coming together beautifully. A few on-the-spot decisions regarding paint vs. stain when the old wood would not stop absorbing the stain and it wasn’t looking any better than when we started. Apply paint!

I ran to Christmas Tree Shop on Thursday to see what I could find for adding some colorful accessories (on a strict budget!) to put on the shelves. As soon as I walked in, I hit the jack pot. $70 for all the decorative pieces of glass, ceramics and metal baskets. Sofa/Loveseat delivered Friday morning along with a handful of volunteers to move in all of the other furnishings. Chairs will be reupholstered in the coming weeks. (My upholsterer was on vacation.) Coffee table will get a crackle/antique finish applied in the coming weeks as well. Otherwise, we were able to make this transformation happen on time and within budget.

The added bonus: Monday morning, when the teachers returned from vacation – they entered their lounge in awe. I received wonderful emails and phone calls throughout the day expressing their gratitude for the time and money donated to this project. They said, “This gesture of kindness has improved morale, fostered collegiality and provided a space that is comfortable, welcoming and professional.”

after: Hamilton Wenham High School Teacher's Lounge                            after: Hamilton Wenham High School Teacher's Lounge

                             after: Hamilton Wenham Teacher's Lounge

A rather nice way to end 2010. Here’s to a new year of rewarding projects. Always feel free to contact me at lmk interiors, ltd.

 design@lmkinteriorsltd.com or (978)335-1140

Happy New year!

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De-cluttering

I’ll get to it when I have time… just keep re-organizing the piles…procrastinate…overwhelmed… we are having friends come over– hide everything! Oh yeah, perhaps we should just de-clutter.

                       CLUTTER

At some point, is it possible to have everything in it’s proper place and have the home or office close to what we see in the magazine? Yes, the photos showcase staged environments at their best. But, with some planning and lots of organizing, I believe we can live and work in a space devoid of clutter.

As a designer, I sometimes find that what I design for my clients does not always translate into my own living space or office area. I create cabinetry, cubbies, shelves, closets, organizers and storage capabilities so that there is a place for every item in their kitchen, living room, bedroom and bath. When I look around my house, I find the pile of bills, the items I have read, but am not sure whether to file them or keep them out to review yet again, the clothes from the day before draped over the chair at the foot of my bed, the basement a receptacle of items that simply “can not” be discarded just yet. And that is just me, there are four other people plus a dog and two cats living in our home! The list goes on and on. In a perfect world, one would move into a home and have a pre-determined place for everything. Well, I am here to share that even I do not have this mastered.

That is why we have Professional Organizers, the Fly Lady, blogs to help us learn how to de-clutter, Container Stores and lots of books on de-cluttering as well. I would like to share a few bits of information that I have gathered to assist all of us with our battle against stuff.

                            NoClutter2

www.flylady.net:

According to Marla Cilley (aka The fly Lady), “Taking 15 minutes each day to de-clutter an area and clearing your hotspots are among some of the most powerful tools you can use to create a more peaceful home. Remember: You cannot organize clutter – you can only organize the things you love!”

  • When to De-clutter: Decide how often you are going to de-clutter a zone. Do a little every day – use a timer. But be warned – this can become compulsive! Once you get started you will want to clean like a banshee! Don’t burn yourself out! Only do small amounts at a time. The house did not get dirty overnight and it will not get clean overnight. When you set the timer you can only do two sessions at a time. This goal may seem unattainable right now, but you can do it in little pieces. In a couple of months, the whole house will be de-cluttered.
  • De-cluttering Equipment: You will need garbage bags, boxes, magic markers, and a dust rag. Label the boxes “Give Away”, “Throw Away”, and “Put Away”. Line the “Throw Away” box with a plastic garbage bag.
  • Set your timer: for 1 hour (or 30, 15, or 10 minutes – it doesn’t matter how long). Just do the job as fast as you can and do not pull out more stuff than you can put away in that length of time. This means just one drawer, one closet (or even one shelf in one closet), one magazine rack, or digging under just the furniture in the zone. Not all of them at once!
  • Start at the entrance to the room: Then, work your way around the room clockwise. Do not skip a spot. Whatever happens to be next, just do it.
  • De-clutter Away! With boxes at your feet and dust rag in your waistband, start off by cleaning out and getting rid of the things that do not belong in this room. Put garbage in the “Throw Away” box, donations in the “Give Away” box, and stuff that goes somewhere else in the “Put Away” box. Don’t worry that you do not have a place for everything right now. By the time you finish you will. That’s a promise from FlyLady!
  • What to de-clutter? Things to ask yourself as you get rid of your clutter:
    • Do I love this item?
    • Have I used it in the past year?
    • Is it really garbage?
    • Do I have another one that is better?
    • Should I really keep two?
    • Does it have sentimental value that causes me to love it?
    • Or does it give me guilt and make me sad when I see the item?
    • Cleanse this room of everything that does not make you SMILE.
  • Sing this song: “Please release me, let me go” as sung from the stuff’s point of view. It needs to be loved by someone and if you don’t love it – GET RID OF IT!
  • Get rid of the garbage! When the “Throw Away” box gets full, pull out the garbage bag, close it, and put it in the trash can, the pickup truck, or wherever you keep your garbage. Put a new garbage bag in the “Throw Away” box and keep on Flying until the timer goes off.
  • Donations: When the “Give Away” box gets full, seal it off, and put it in your car. The next time you are out, you can donate to the area thrift shop. Do not save your clutter for a yard or garage sale, you will be blessed by giving it away. The value can be deducted on your income tax. Remember you are trying to get rid of clutter – not relocate it somewhere else in your home. Now, grab another box, label it “Give Away”, and get back to work.
  • “Put Away” Stuff: When the “Put Away” box gets full, take the box in your arms and run around the house (good thing you have shoes on – right?) and put the items in the room where they belong. If they have a place, put them there, if not put them in the room where they logically belong. By the time you have finished you will have a place for everything and everything will be in it’s place.
  • Timer Goes Off: When the timer goes off, you have to put away all the boxes, but first you have to empty them all. Go as fast as you can.
  •  Another great website overflowing with information on de-cluttering and getting your life organized is www.zenhabits.net. Leo Babauta shares his personal story and provides simple steps to follow that are similar to the Fly Lady’s but add a Zen flavor.

    David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done (GTD) has some insightful methods of de-cluttering at www.zenhabits.net/the-getting-things-done-gtd-faq/ as well as his book: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

    Some of my clients have asked for initial help by a professional to get them started when planning to organize and de-clutter. I often refer clients to Professional Organizer, Nancy Black of Organization Plus to assist. She offers an initial 3 hour consultation service that helps when taking the first steps to achieving a more balanced existence. http://organizationplus.com/03_threehourtransfomration.html

                            home_20081022_clutter_banner

    With the holidays upon us, this is the time when most of us put forth a great effort to clean and organize our homes with the added incentive of company coming to visit. If that is what it takes to motivate us for the big push, then so be it. But for the every day living amongst our possessions, I do recommend finding that balance with some of the tips mentioned above. Happy de-cluttering and if you find you need someone to share your situation with, please feel free to contact me at design@lmkinteriorsltd.com or (978)335-1140.

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    Creating healthy and healing environments

    My intention last month was to read a book I had recently purchased and then share my findings on my blog. I would be travelling with my daughter to Washington, D.C. for 10 hours each way. It would be the perfect opportunity to spend time reading, snoozing, munching and just looking out the window while listening to my iPod. Well, I was able to do everything but the reading. I realized I get car/bus sick.

    So, here we are a month later, work has been busy (fantastic), and I still have only gotten about 1/3 of the way through the book. I decided that I would share what I have learned regarding the subject matter. The book is entitled, Homes that Heal and those that don’t (how your home may be harming your family’s health  by Athena Thompson. I learned of this book through a series of conversations with various people. www.homesthatheal.com

    A friend from high school posted a comment on Facebook about how impressed he was to see my involvement in “greening” my interior design business. He asked if I had heard of the movement known as Bau-Biologie or Building Biology. I admitted I had not heard of it and began my research.

    Definition of Building Biology:

    Bau-Biologie® is the holistic study of the man-made environment, human health and ecology. The intrinsic aspect of IBE is to hold nature as the golden principle. Bau-Biologie®, or Building Biology, is not a narrowly specialized subject, but is a living subject that brings together fields of study that are otherwise only taught in isolation. IBE was started in North America in 1987, with a mission to raise awareness that buildings can abide by the laws of nature. The principles of Bau-Biologie, or Building Biology, & Ecology are based on the premise that what is healthy for the occupants (biologically compatible) will also be good for the environment (ecologically sustainable). These principles which emerged in Germany due to problems with post-war housing construction are relevant today. After World War II, new houses were quickly built in Germany to accommodate the growing population. Studies of these new houses found a pattern of illnesses not characteristic of the population, but characteristic to the commonalities of the living environments. The new housing, being quickly built, and unable to properly air out (“outgas”, or “offgas”) provided for an environment where the occupants were the recipients of every volatile organic compound (VOC) emitted from the construction materials. Along with this, other irritations became manifest because of the electrical systems. These two major irritants set to work simultaneously, and enhanced effects arose.

    From these discoveries a study began among a few individuals to catalog and characterize the offending components. What emerged was a Standard of Baubiologie Method of Testing, with recommended threshold guidelines for sleeping areas (the space where and when one is most susceptible to biological irritation and damage). A small group of individuals was formed among whom Dr. Anton Schneider, Wolfgang Maes, and the Institut für Baubiologie und Ökologie Neubeurn (IBN) started a training system to educate those that were willing.

    One of the architects, Helmut Ziehe, took the program and its possibilities to the USA. In 1987, he founded the International Institute of Building Biologie and Ecology (IBE) which presently offers seminars across the U.S. Two certification streams are available, the Building Biology and Environmental Consultant (BBEC), and the Building Biology Practitioner (BBP).

    The three groups of most sensitive individuals that reap the greatest benefits are: infants, the elderly, and the immune-compromised. Some people become environmentally hypersensitive, and although conventional medicine suggests that the problem(s) may be psychological, there is growing acceptance that there is an environmental cause. http://buildingbiology.net

    According to Wikipedia:

    Building Biology (or Baubiologie as it was coined in Germany) is a field of building science that investigates the indoor living environment for a variety of irritants. Practitioners consider the built environment as something with which the occupants interact, and believe its functioning can produce a restful or stressful environment. The major areas focused on by building biologists are building materials/processes, indoor air quality (IAQ) and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radiation (EMR). Building Biology is a holistic approach to the built environment. It is concerned with the interaction between the built environment and the health of the occupants. This can be in residential, public, or commercial buildings.  There are 25 Principles of Building Biology, which govern the decision making of Building Biologists.

    The 25 Principles of Building Biology

    © Institute of Building Biology + Ecology Neubeuern IBN

    Natural Location

    1. Building site without natural anomalies or human-made disturbances
    2. Residential homes away from sources of emissions and noise
    3. Human-oriented housing with sufficient green space
    4. Personalized and family-oriented housing or settlements

    Balanced Electromagnetic Radiation

    1. Lowest possible interference with the natural balance of background radiation
    2. Without exposure to human-made electromagnetic and radiofrequency radiation
    3. Lowest possible level of radioactivity in building materials
    4. Natural color selection, daylight exposure, and shielded full-spectrum lighting

    Clean Indoor Air

    1. Without outgassing toxins, but with a pleasant or neutral smell
    2. Lowest possible levels of fungi, bacteria, dust, and allergens
    3. Good indoor air quality with natural ventilation
    4. Natural regulation of indoor air humidity through humidity-buffering materials

    Thermal Comfort

    1. Low total moisture content of a new building that dries out quickly
    2. Well-balanced ratio between thermal insulation and heat retention
    3. Optimal air and surface temperatures
    4. Heating system based on radiant heat

    Healthy Design

    1. Natural and unadulterated building materials
    2. Best possible drinking water quality
    3. Human-oriented noise and vibration protection
    4. Application of physiological and ergonomic findings to interior and furniture design
    5. Consideration of harmonic measures, proportions, and shapes

    Environmental Protection, Energy Efficiency, and Social Responsibility

    1. Causing no environmental problems
    2. Minimizing energy consumption and utilizing as much renewable energy as possible
    3. Building materials preferably from the local region without promoting exploitation of scarce and hazardous resources
    4. Building without causing social burdens

    According to Paula Baker- Laporte:

    considered one of the top ten green architects in the U.S. and a certified Building Biologist: “The natural building movement championed by the theories of Building Biology and a small but growing sector of environmentally concerned builders, designers and homeowners is gaining momentum. I believe there is a synthesis at hand between the two seemingly opposite approaches to healthy building. A natural home equipped with all the amenities of modern life faces many of the same indoor environmental qualities as does a sealed construction, and ventilation systems are becoming more common in natural buildings. On the other hand manufactured, code pre-approved permeable wall systems such as aerated autoclaved concrete are being introduced in to the mainstream market place. Straw bale construction has now been tested and codified in many locations. More and more construction products now advertise being “environmentally friendly” and “non-toxic”. Green building rating systems that reward healthier building practices are springing up all over the country. Regardless of the starting point we are moving towards healthier homes that are freer of toxic chemicals, more energy efficient and kinder on the environment.”      http://www.healthyhouseinstitute.com/a_968-Building_Biology_and_the_Healthy_House http://bakerlaporte.com/index.htm

    Carol Lloyd, on special assignment to San Francisco Gate:

    “Bau-Biologie originated during the 1970s as a way of researching the factors involved in healthy and sick buildings and educating the public on ways to improve the healthfulness of existing buildings and future construction. In Europe, Bau-Biologie is an established discipline distinguished by research laboratories studying the issue and a well-known profession of healthy-home inspectors hired by homeowners and business owners alike.

    When I complained that when we’d first moved into the house, which features refinished floors, new carpet, and new double-paned windows, I sometimes went upstairs and felt as if the whole second floor were filled with poison gas, the building biologist I had hired hardly seemed surprised.

    “You’ve got a classic situation with a tight building,” he explained. “If a building isn’t getting air in, then all the chemicals in your home just stay there, and you have to dilute it. You can do that with an expensive ventilation system, or you can do it the old-fashioned way — by opening the windows.”

    And even though I didn’t go in for a lot of laboratory testing, just seeing my home through the building biologist’s eyes allowed me a glimpse of a more holistic understanding of our relationship with our built environment. Seeing the whole as a system changes everything. For instance, he recommended running the ceiling fan for 10 minutes after showers and the hood fan while cooking to prevent mold growth. But that practice, he noted, would trigger another need: to replace the air that is being sucked out. “If you don’t allow the fresh air to come in, the fans end up sucking air from attics and crawls spaces and places where you’d rather not be breathing,” he said. “Thus, when you turn on a fan, you should also open windows.”

    Likewise, it’s not simply the original off-gassing of my carpets that presents health concerns but the fact that synthetic fibers in carpets bond with many pollutant molecules. Without suggesting I rip the carpet out tomorrow, he observed quietly, “If it’s a pollutant, it will probably bond with the carpet, and if it’s on the carpet, it will go in your child’s mouth.”

    By the time he described the presiding metaphor behind Bau-Biologie — that every building is a living organism — I realized I would never look at buildings in quite the same way again.”

    Matthew Waletzke, a Certified Building Biology Environmental Consultant (BBEC):

    Neighborhood Environmental Site Evaluations – Some of the most dangerous or costly hazards exist outside and can contaminate a home through pathways to human contact such as vapor intrusion, soil and groundwater. Even if an area appears pristine it does not mean that issues are not present. This report will help to protect you and your family’s health, ensure a sound investment and understand nearby risks.

    Healthy Bedroom/Nursery – The rooms that we sleep in are by far the most important when it comes to our health. Not only do we spend almost one third of our lives in this environment but it is also a time when our bodies are most vulnerable to outside stressors. Those stressors can come in the form of electromagnetic radiation, allergens/bioaerosols from the air and even from the beds that we sleep on. Expectant parents should be especially concerned when setting up a nursery as newborns and children are much more susceptible to these stressors.

    Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR) – EMR is a much misunderstood subject and is also a much understated subject when it comes to our health. There are many common symptoms which have been linked to EMR, including fatigue and difficulty sleeping to much more serious conditions as fibromyalgia and other various autoimmune conditions. Through this evaluation, you will find where high EMR exposure exist both inside and outside of your home and how to eliminate or avoid them. In this evaluation we will discuss industry “best practices” related to use of common electronic equipment and cellular phones to keep your exposure to a minimum.

    Moisture Intrusion/Mold – High humidity and moisture is not only uncomfortable for those living in a home but it also promotes the growth of biologicals, such as dust mites and molds. Controlling moisture intrusion into or onto building materials is the key to controlling many problems that adversely affect health, as well as, preventing damage to building materials. 

    Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – Indoor air climate has a seemingly limitless list of possible pollutants. Building materials, furnishings, mechanical equipment, occupants and occupant activities all create these pollutants. They can travel through the building as air flows from areas of positive pressure to those of lower pressure. We will identify how these air movements flow and pinpoint the source of pollutants.

    As you can see, there is a great deal to read and learn about this subject. I will continue to read the book, seeking solutions to the issues and perhaps learning more about becoming certified as a building biologist. If you would like to learn more about this subject, please visit the websites I have highlighted or feel free to call my office at (978)335-1140 or send an email to design@lmkinteriorsltd.com.

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    Commercial Kitchen Gone Organic

    I have retained a new client. She came into my office a few weeks ago with a signed contract and retainer and said, “I can not wait to get started working with you on designing my dream kitchen!” How exciting, so far this New Year has brought three kitchen renovations into the office. I would like to explain how I met this woman and also how she has come to be a client.

        Wicked Local Photo by David Sokol 04/03/10 A child reaches to touch the foot of a new born chick during a "Meet the New Baby Animals" event held at Green Meadows Farm.    sheep   chickens              

                              green meadows farm                             

    Eight years ago, I became acquainted with Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton, MA. It had just become a certified organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and they were seeking members. I noticed that they offered a work-for-share membership in addition to a paid membership. It excited me to know that I could work four hours per week in exchange for organic produce that could sustain my family for that week. From April through October, I worked in the fields for our weekly produce pick up. I arranged my business schedule to accommodate this addition to my work day. It really wasn’t a problem, except for the days when I had a client meeting scheduled on an afternoon after working the fields and couldn’t clean the dirt out from under my finger nails! After three years of field work, I was promoted to working on the retail side. I worked and continue to work in the farm stand on Saturday mornings to better fit with my design business schedule. It has been a great experience. I have learned a lot, met some interesting people and made some lasting friendships.

    One of the friends I met was the organic baker, Kim Gregory. She had previously owned a cafe that provided organic foods and baked goods to her customers. She had scaled back her business and was now providing local establishments with her wonderful baked goods. Whoopie pies, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, scones, brownies, etc. All made with 100% organic ingredients. She provided baked goods to Green Meadows Farm for the first several years I worked there. She then took her business in another direction and we would occasionally run into one another around town.This past spring while Juli, Matt and I were manning our Connect-The-Dots booth at the Hamilton Wenham Green Living Fair we reconnected and had time to talk about the changes she had made within her life. She had known about my business, but hadn’t really thought about how I might be able to help her until she saw several images of kitchens I had designed posted at the Fair.

    She shared with me that she had recently obtained approval from the town of Beverly to build a commercial kitchen at her residence. She had pages of ideas, but needed assistance to make it all happen. Between myself and a trusted contractor, we agreed that we could construct her kitchen. She had one major requirement for going forward – to use as many reclaimed, recycled, repurposed and eco-friendly materials as possible in this design. The space she planned to use was her existing four car garage that had been originally built to accommodate her ex-husband’s custom bike shop. The structure was sound and the space was large enough to allow for a functional and creative environment.

    We have had our initial meeting with the contractor and I have taken measurements of the space. I will begin design development in the coming weeks along with researching equipment, cabinetry, flooring, counter surfaces, lighting, and various other requirements. Currently from her rear windows, there are views of her backyard where there is a micro apple orchard, honey bee hives, egg laying chickens and a sustainable garden filled with vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers. She would like to continue to grow her business by providing her delectable creations to restaurants and local businesses as well as provide a unique environment for offering cooking/baking classes sharing her skills with the local community.

    My goal over the coming months is to share through my blog the progress of this project, including the trials and tribulations of creating an eco-friendly kitchen with Kim. It is interesting for me to reflect back eight years ago when I began my residential design business. I don’t think I ever would have envisioned designing an eco-friendly commercial kitchen for a friend! How fortunate to have this opportunity and experience.

    With thoughts of kitchens, cooking and baking, what better way to end this blog than by sharing a family favorite recipe. My mother-in-law would make this wonderful strawberry pie as soon as the first strawberries of the season were ready for picking. It’s great to have at home or to bring to a pot luck. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipping cream!

        pie with cream           strawberry pie

    FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

    EASY AND GOOD PIE CRUST

    • 1 1/2 cup flour
    • 2 tsp. sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 cup cooking oil
    • 2 tblsp. milk

    Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix in an ungreased 9” glass pie pan. Flute edges. Prick shell with a fork and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes until lightly brown. Let cool while making the filling.

    STRAWBERRY PIE FILLING

    • 1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and cleaned, keep whole or slice
    • 5 tblsp. strawberry jello
    • 4 tsp. corn starch
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 handful of cinnamon heart candies

    Boil until thick: cornstarch, water and sugar. When thick add candy hearts and jello. Stir well until all are incorporated. Cool glaze, on counter or place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Arrange strawberries in cooled pie shell and pour cooled glaze over entire pie. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour or more, serve with vanilla ice cream and/or fresh whipping cream. 

    Here’s to a wonderful summer season! If you have any questions about eco-friendly kitchen inspiration, please feel free to contact me at (978)335-1140 or email at design@lmkinteriorsltd.com

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    What Is That Wonderful Scent?

    My Mother would spray Lysol® in our home all the time while I was growing up. It’s purpose is to clean, disinfect and remove odors. I remember getting a headache if I walked into the “cloud” as she sprayed. I also remember the perfume my Mother wore, Chanel #5 and later Liz Claiborne. I know that if a stranger walked by wearing either fragrance today, I would stop and thoughts of my Mother would bring a smile to my face (and then I would probably sneeze!). When I think of Christmas time, I immediately have aromatic thoughts of the scent of cookies baking, applesauce on the stove top simmering with cinnamon and the smell of the freshly cut pine tree in our living room. Whether I smell the fragrance or think of a setting, scent is a very important aspect of my memories and feelings regarding my surroundings. When I am designing spaces for my clients, I like to think that I am helping to create beautiful visual spaces for them to live in along with touching upon their other senses for a full experience.

    As I have shared in past blog postings, I have learned that I have chemical sensitivities to certain products out-gassing within my living and working environments. I have also realized that “perfumes” and certain fragranced products give me headaches as well. Once I discovered essential oils about 6 years ago as an alternative to perfumes, I was able to wear scents again and I also learned how to incorporate these essential oils into my environments through aromatherapy.

    aroma-oil                aroma-sprays             15ml_Bergamot153x200b

    Aromatherapy may have origins in antiquity with the use of infused aromatic oils, made by macerating dried plant material in fatty oil, heating and then filtering. Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person’s mood, cognitive function or health. Distilled essential oils have been employed as medicines since the invention of steam distillation in the eleventh century. The effectiveness of aromatherapy is yet to be scientifically proven, however some evidence exists that essential oils may have therapeutic potential.

    The modes of application of aromatherapy include:

    • Aerial diffusion: for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection
    • Direct inhalation: for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects
    • Topical applications: for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care 

                                oil diffuser

    An essential oil diffuser enables you to diffuse essential oils throughout your home or office. Diffusing is a simple and effective way to use essential oils. I use an air pump diffuser model for diffusing oils in my home and office. With a diffuser, oils are dispersed in a micro-fine vapor, allowing them to remain suspended in the air for extended periods of time. The diffuser disperses the oils without heating them so they retain their natural benefits. You can leave the diffuser on for a few minutes or for several hours. When inhaled, the oils are easily absorbed through the lungs. Depending on the oil used, diffusing can cleanse the air of odor, calm one’s mood and possibly help in one’s health regimen.

    Essential oils that are inhaled into the lungs offer both psychological and physical benefits. Not only does the aroma of the natural essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but when inhaled into the lungs, naturally occurring chemicals may supply therapeutic benefits. Diffusing eucalyptus essential oil to help ease congestion is a great example.                           

    Essential oils are natural and contain the true aromatic essence and other naturally beneficial properties of the plant the essential oil was distilled from. Essential oils are not the same as fragrance oils, perfume oils or potpourri oils. Essential oils contain only the distilled essence of a plant, perfume and fragrance oils are artificially created fragrances, containing artificial substances or are diluted with carrier oils and do not offer the benefits that essential oils offer. Look for products that contain pure essential oils on their ingredient list and avoid those that have words like fragrance. Some sellers of good-quality aromatherapy blends do not list their ingredients because they are worried that others may copy their creation. Good suppliers should be happy to provide you with a list of the ingredients. They understand that some individuals must avoid particular oils due to health problems.

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    General Household Freshening – Add a few drops of essential oil to your trash can, laundry wash, drain, vacuum bag filter, or on a tissue for placement in your drawers.

    Bug Repellent – Many essential oils including citronella, lavender, and peppermint act as a natural repellent against insects.

    When thinking about the interior air quality of our environments, I believe that using products that employ natural essences compared to artificially created fragrances are a must. If you are interested in learning more about aromatherapy, purchasing an oil diffuser, or other questions related to interior design, please contact me at design@lmkinteriorsltd.com or call me at 978-335-1140. 

    Here are a few of my favorite companies for essential oils and their other offerings:                                 

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    Eco-Friendly Interior Finishes for Kitchen and Bathroom Renovations

    This past month I participated in the Hamilton Wenham Green Speaker Series which took place at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library.  My focus was  Eco-friendly interior finishes for kitchen and bathroom renovations. As I was preparing this presentation, it became evident that I could stand before my audience and provide them with factual information presented in a power point format or I could share my personal story of how I became interested in specifying less toxic finishes for my clients along with the facts. The later seemed to offer a more interesting venue.

    I have shared in a past blog about how I became ill after moving into two of the homes we had lived in. The focus of that blog was about the outgassing of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) when paint dries. (Smelly walls, what’s that all about? July 2009) Upon learning about VOC’s and outgassing with respect to paint, I was then interested to find out what other items may have contributed to my  illness.  Through the process of Google searches, speaking with experts in the field of Green Design and reading accounts of similar chemical sensitivities, I was on my way to learning how to create healthier environments for myself as well as my clients.

    The first home my husband and I purchased was in Lynn, MA in the late 1980’s. It was a Victorian that had been gutted and was in the process of being  renovated when we first saw it. Not only did it have fresh paint on the walls, but there was new nylon carpeting put down with toxic adhesives, restored wood flooring with polyurethane, plastic laminate kitchen and bath cabinets and countertops with formaldehyde  and toxic glues.  I was ill for 3-6 months. The doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me. Could it be sinus or  neurological? They gave me medication – but I think my system eventually just adapted to the environment.

    Our second home was in Georgetown, MA in the early 1990’s. It was new construction. Of course, we were excited to have a new home! What we didn’t realize was that I was going to get sick again for an extended amount of time due to the finishes applied throughout this home as well. Since it was new construction, we also had a very tight house. The only difference between this home and our previous one was instead of newly finished wood floors, we had vinyl flooring and adhesives to deal with. We had the same plastic laminate cabinets and counters, nylon carpeting on the second floor bedrooms and lots of painted walls.

    In 2000 we move to Hamilton, MA. The home was a Victorian summer home that had been converted to year round living in the early 1930’s. When we moved in – nothing had been done to the interior of the house for years. There were painted plywood cabinets in the kitchen, beautiful hardwood floors throughout that had an older finish on them, the paint on the walls was several months old and there was ceramic tile on the floors of the bathrooms. I was healthy for the first time after moving into a new home! I was too busy at the time to put much thought into questioning why I wasn’t getting sick with this move. That light bulb would go off in a few years.

    When I decided to begin my own interior design practice focusing on residential design, I knew that I had wanted to work with clients to provide beautiful and functional spaces for them to enjoy, but I also knew there was something more.  In the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure what that was, but I trusted that eventually it would come to me. The aha moment came when I started hearing about Green Design and how it was more than just specifying sustainable products, it was also about specifying healthy products. That was it: I would learn as much as I could about how to bring healthy products into my clients homes. Not only in terms of finishes, but cleaning products, fabrics, air purifiers and humidifiers and even food.      (I have been a work for share/CSA member for 8 years at Green Meadow Farms in Hamilton, MA. They share with the community organic produce/meats and lifestyle choices)

    Through my interior design business, I have had the privilege of designing and working to date on two Green Kitchen renovations. Here is a listing of some of the features we were able to introduce into these spaces (they go beyond just finishes): Energy Star appliances, organic wall paint, no VOC (volatile organic compounds)paint, recycled glass/ceramic wall & floor tiles, LED (light emitting diode) for under cabinet and cove lighting, energy efficient dimmable CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) lighting, Richlite (compressed paper based) countertops, poured concrete countertops, radiant heat under the flooring, cabinetry: FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) cherry and maple cabinetry, with a water based natural finish, no VOC painted finish on office, bathroom & island cabinetry, flooring: Marmoleum, linoleum product, backsplash: reclaimed tumbled stone with recycled metal and crushed glass accent tiles.

    My intention is to share the information I have gathered with my clients, friends and family. There are so many products demanding our attention, why not purchase those that are not harmful to us nor our environments. I will be posting the video recorded at the library within the coming weeks that shares more information about specific companies and their products. If you are interested in viewing it now, go to: HWCAM.org, type in Lisa Kawski, it will bring up my show, click on the title, it will show the schedule, click on WATCH NOW.

    As always, if you have any questions regarding green interior finishes, please feel free to contact me design@lmkinteriorsltd.com or call (978)335-1140.

     

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    Integrated Building Design

    When Matt Ulrich and I decided to share an office three years ago, I don’t think we imagined that our teaming up would lead to the current publication of our          Connect-the-Dots e-newsletter (along with fellow architect, Juli MacDonald) nor the potential for combined project work. We saw it as a great opportunity to move our home-based businesses into an office space where we each would gain valuable “curbside” exposure with our location on a main street in the community. We had spoken about how beneficial it would be to pass referrals to each other through our client bases, but our main goal was to grow our businesses.

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    Three years later, not only have we grown our businesses, but we have also had the pleasure to work together on a major kitchen renovation that incorporated Integrated Design principles. At the time, my thought was to bring a team of trusted building trades together to provide great service for my client. I assumed that task as part of my project management responsibilities. I hadn’t realized there was a term other than working in collaboration to tie us all together.

    Integrated Building Design Residential Project

    I had been working for several years with a client on various rooms within their home; formal dining room, living room, master bedroom/bathroom, various guest and children’s bedrooms and bathrooms, so I was very excited when they said they were ready to renovate their kitchen. Not only to redesign the space, but they wanted to incorporate green design building principles, practices, materials and interior finishes. I had asked if I could introduce them to several professionals that I knew that would be able to design and construct this project. They agreed to meet with the various disciplines.

    I introduced them to:

    Along with myself, Lisa Kawski of lmk interiors, ltd., we formed the the design and construction team. We began working as an integrated group from the onset of the project.

    exterior entry    e. rose kitchen 9-2008 035 

    You may be wondering what the difference is between Integrated Building Design and the more traditional design process. Let me first define my views of the traditional design process and follow with Integrated Building Design.

    • Client hires an architect to design their renovation. Architect designs the space and may introduce the client to builders, engineers, specialists during the initial design process, or they may not. Eventually a builder gets involved, bringing in their various subcontractors. Space gets built. The client may engage the services of an interior designer to assist them with finish and fixture selections, but often the builder will direct the client to some of their sources for this stage. If the client had initially allocated specific monies, they may hire an interior designer and possibly hire a landscape designer for the exterior. Often, these two professions do not get hired until several years later. Money was not budgeted at the onset of the project to allow for a complete renovation.
    • Integrated building design (according to Wikipedia) is “a collaborative method for designing buildings which emphasizes the development of a holistic design.” This is teamwork at its best. Multiple disciplines (architect, interior designer, builder, landscape designer, engineers, etc.) come together in the initial planning stages of design to achieve a cost-effective, resource-efficient and comfortable result for the client. There is no script for the perfect integrated design process, but there are several levels of decision making that must take place at the start of conceptual design, while the design is being refined, during design development, and during construction. Because every design decision produces a multitude of effects, integrated design requires an understanding of the interrelationship of each discipline. It requires all of the participants to think holistically about the project, rather than focus solely on each individual part.

    Whether it be new construction or a renovation, approaching the design/build of a building as an interdependent system; where the goal is to make sure that all facets work in harmony rather than against each other, benefit both the client and all of the disciplines involved.

    Integrated Building Design, Our Outcome

    Out of that project; Matt, Juli and I established Connect-the-Dots. Attending networking events and building trade meetings, we realized we enjoyed working together as well as learning more about sustainable building practices. Our desire to offer clients a one-stop resource to assist them with their design needs would prove beneficial through this pairing. Our mission is: We are a professional collaboration between three friends who share a passion for green design, each from our own perspective: architecture, landscape design and interior design. Our goal is to share useful and up-to-date information on green design, filtered through our distinct, but connected points of view. Through our e-newsletter, which we have been sending out since last May, we connect the subscriber to our individual blogs. We are very excited to announce the launch of our micro website this month: www.ctdcollaborative.com. Please share this web address with those that you think would enjoy it. They can subscribe to receive our e-newsletter on the site.

    As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at                   (978)335-1140 or design@lmkinteriorsltd.com.

    Hamilton Wenham Green Presents:

    GREEN SPEAKER SERIES

    I am a member of the Hamilton Wenham Green Business Group. On March 3rd, Wednesday, at 7 pm I will be presenting Eco-Friendly Interior Finishes:         ideas for implementing eco- friendly materials in the redesign of both kitchen and bath.     

    location: Hamilton Wenham Public Library @ 14 Union Street South Hamilton – (978)468-5577, lectures are free and open to the public, please come.

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