Posts Tagged interior design

NYC–International Contemporary Furniture Fair

This past weekend, I attended ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) held in NYC at The Jacob Javitz Center. I also attended Wanted Design (an International Design Event) at The Tunnel down the street from the Javitz Center.

Initially, I planned to attend Wanted Design to view my son’s senior project he had created for his industrial design program. He, along with several other students had been selected to present and display their products created for a competition sponsored by Corning Museum of Glass. When I went to register, I discovered that the ICFF was happening at the same time. Perfect opportunity for a business trip!

I met up with a friend once I arrived in Manhattan Friday afternoon and we ventured to FishsEddy and ABC Home & Rug down near Union Square.

       

     

These were two places I had heard of and had wanted to visit for quite sometime. Both have great accessories for use in the home. FishsEddy, more practical and somewhat understated, playing off of themes from the past. ABC Home had an eclectic variety of everything from light fixtures to vases, trivets and cutlery to jewelry, seating and area rugs of amazement. I look forward to returning again.

Saturday morning was spent at The Tunnel for Wanted Design. Located across from a Porsche/Ferrari dealership, I was able to see my son’s project presented along with his classmates in a professional environment. It was great to see them in their element, engaged in conversation with fellow designers/professionals as they begin their journeys into their careers.

        

As I walked the length of the hall, I came upon unique designs for lighting, furniture, wall papers, jewelry and functional home products. It was just a taste of what I would see in a few hours down the street at the ICFF.


I traversed the rows of the Javitz Center with my husband for 2+ hours. Each aisle presented something new and unexpected. Whether it be a unique wall clock, use of a color in an interesting way, rug designs or seating that appeared to be sculptural rather than a functioning piece of floor dressing or furniture, I was captivated by the amount of wonderful designs I was encountering. I was like a kid in a candy shop – I wanted to be able to use most of what I saw within my clients homes or businesses! For now, I took many photos, business cards, postcards and literature for the office. I am looking forward to connecting with several designers via Facebook to see their new product launches and updates.

   

   

   


            

            

            

   

If you hover over an image – you can click on it to connect you to the designer’s website or a larger image.

Here are a few websites to other designers that you might enjoy:

www.jujupapers.com  –  www.modernmaine.com  –  www.debrafolz.com  –  www.davidtrubridge.com  –  www.akkefunctionalart.com  –  www.motawi.com  –  www.graypants.com

The shows were fantastic. I am looking forward to attending next year and perhaps venture to some other venues to gather more resources. The weekend proved to be not only inspirational for my business, but we also happened to catch an off, off Broadway show in Union Square purchasing RUSH tickets!

I LOVE NYC.

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Spring Cleaning the non toxic way

It appears we get to open our doors and windows a few weeks earlier than usual this spring. With the mild winter we experienced as well as the unusually higher temperatures the last several weeks, transitioning into spring is on everyone’s mind. Not only does that mean searching for lighter clothing options, but in many households with colder winters it means cleaning the home to welcome the warm temperatures.

One might be tempted to reach for cleaning products off of grocery store shelves. That’s okay, as long as they are not the toxic/chemical laden products that shout out to us with promises of doing this and that. By purchasing some basic ingredients at the grocery store you can make all of the recipes to follow to create natural cleaning products for your home. You might also find them to be more economical as well. I have selected some of the following recipes from Natural Home and Garden’s March/April Issue.

house clean

Ingredients for creating your own cleaning products:

  • baking soda – bicarbonate of soda can be found in the baking supplies aisle
  • citrus seed extract – powerful antimicrobial agent, often sold as grapefruit seed extract, available at most health food stores
  • essential oils – available at health stores, my favorite oils are Young Living Essential Oils. (contact me if you would like to purchase this brand). Make sure that you purchase pure oils and only use what the recipe calls for,  do not add more – it will not make the formula stringer, if anything it may cause skin irritation. Common ones used for cleaning are citrus (grapefruit, orange, lemon or lime), rosemary, eucalyptus, tea tree, thyme, citronella and peppermint.
  • lemon juice – available at grocery stores
  • liquid castile soap – this is an olive oil based soap available at grocery stores or health food stores
  • salt – kosher salt for scrubbing
  • vinegar – purchase vinegar labeled grain alcohol or neutral grain spirits, you want to avoid buying one with petroleum byproducts.
  • washing soda – sodium carbonate or soda ash, can be found in the laundry detergent aisle
  • plastic or glass spray bottles – you can purchase 24 oz. plastic bottles at Staples or smaller one are available online
  • plastic squirt bottles – reuse from another product or can be purchased online

orange oil

Let’s start in the kitchen –

Sink Cleanser for Stains

  • 1/4 cup washing soda
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 8 drops of essential oil – rosemary, eucalyptus or tea tree
  • 3/4 cup vinegar for rinsing

Combine washing soda, baking soda and essential oil in an airtight container and shake well to blend. Sprinkle a small amount in the sink and scrub with a damp sponge. Rinse the sink with vinegar, then with hot water. For stubborn stains, allow the formula to sit on the stain for several minutes, then scrub and rinse with vinegar and hot water.

Citrus Dishwashing Blend

  • liquid castile soap
  • 20 drops lime essential oil
  • 10 drops orange essential oil
  • 5 drops citrus seed extract

The wonderful lemony/citrus aroma is not only great to smell but it has benefits as a natural degreaser. Fill a clean 22 ounce bottle with castile soap (dilute according to directions if using concentrate). Add the essential oils and extract. Shake bottle before each use. Add 1-2 tablespoons of liquid to dishwater and wash as usual.

Automatic Dishwasher Powder

  • 3 cups washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda

Combine all ingredients and store in a sealed container. To use, add about 2 tablespoons to the soap compartment of your dishwasher. If you find your glassware has a residual buildup, reduce the amount in each use to 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Herbal Disinfectant

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 10 drops thyme essential oil
  • 1/4 cup washing soap

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray on surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.

Kitchen Wipes

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ounce liquid castile soap
  • 6-8 drops of favorite essential oil

Instead of using paper towels to wipe up spills or clean counter tops, store multiple squares of cotton cloth (old T shirt or pajamas). Fill a container with all of the ingredients (you may want to use a large glass jar), shake when ready to use, pull out a cloth, ring excess liquid back into jar and wipe surface. The cloths can be washed and returned to jar for reuse. Cap jar between uses.

Tough jobs:

  • For very greasy dishes, add 1/2 cup vinegar or lemon juice to dishwater.
  • To loosen baked-on foods from pots and pans, immediately add some baking soda to the dirty dish and wait 15  minutes before cleaning. If the pan has cooled before you have had a chance to add the baking soda – boil a solution of 1 cup water, 5 drops cedar (or other essential oil), and 3 tablespoons baking soda directly in the pot or pan. Allow mixture to stand until food can be scraped off easily.

Controlling Kitchen pests:

  • Ants – wipe cabinets with a damp sponge and 6-8 drops of peppermint or citronella essential oil. Then place 3-5 drops of the same oil on window sills, doorway cracks and in the corners of cabinets under the kitchen sink.
  • Centipedes, Earwigs and Silverfish – Place several drops of peppermint, eucalyptus or citronella essential oil in the areas that collect moisture – basements, garages and cabinets with plumbing fixtures.
  • Mice – place sprigs of fresh peppermint between pantry items in your cabinets, or make a solution of 2 cups water and 3 teaspoons peppermint essential oil and spray it wherever you find mouse droppings.
  • Mites and Weevils – Place a few whole nutmegs in flour containers.
  • Other insects – place loose bay leaves in kitchen cabinets.
Moving on to the bathroom –

Germs-Be-Gone Toilet Cleaner

This antibacterial spray cleaner is specifically formulated for cleaning the general surface area of the toilet, and under and behind the seat.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup liquid castile soap
  • 1 teaspoon tea tree essential oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray on toilet surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.

And Let’s Not Forget The Laundry Room –

Talk about chemicals and artificial ingredients – let’s talk the laundry aisle at the grocery store! I can not walk down it without a sneeze attack. The fragrances alone trigger a reaction in me. I began using fragrance and dye free laundry soap years ago. I don’t use fabric softeners nor dryer sheets with fragrance. Here is a simple recipe for washing powder and some additional tips.

Simple Washing Powder

This recipe makes enough powder to last a typical family of four for one year. You can easily reduce the amounts to make a smaller quantity for your use.

  • 16 cups baking soda
  • 12 cups washing soda
  • 8 cups castile soap
  • 3 tablespoons lavender, lemon or grapefruit essential oil

Combine baking soda, washing soap and soap flakes. If using, add essential oil and mix with a whisk. Use 1/8 cup per load.

Helpful tips

  • Eliminate the use of fabric softeners by using 1/2 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle.
  • Pre-treat stains with a combination of washing soda, water and baking soda.
  • Forgo dryers sheets. For fragrance, add a few drops of essential oil to a damp rag and throw it in the dryer with laundry. Use dryer balls (www.ecosisters.com) to reduce drying time, wrinkles and static.
  • Make sure your dryer vents outdoors and clean out the vent periodically.
  • Rid the washer of bacteria, soap scum and grease by running a cleaning cycle with white vinegar and hot water.
  • NEVER combine bleach with vinegar or ammonia – it produces a toxic chlorine vapor.
  • line dry your clothes. They smell great and don’t use any energy!

laundry

If you don’t want to make your own recipes for cleaning products, there are several nontoxic lines that you might want to try:

Keep things simple and healthy – we are bombarded by so many chemicals and toxins, keeping our cleaning products as natural as possible within our living space is essential. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at design@lmkinteriorsltd.com or 978.335.1140. Happy Spring!

 

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Interior Design: Interior Plants

I grew up in a home where my parents enhanced our interior living spaces by bringing in the vibrancy of our outdoor gardens. My father had built a rock bed in our family room to have the cluster of potted plants sit in (although I think it was also meant for catching the bird droppings from our caged finches). I wish I had an image to share, I don’t recall the names of the plants, I just remember tree-like plants, cacti, and seasonal flowering plants and perhaps a fern or two or maybe it was a spider plant that made me feel – even in the dead of a Rochester, NY winter – the life, color and warmth that these plants provided.

When I moved to my first apartment with my husband, we incorporated all of his plants that he had collected from his places of residence, including some from his parents home. I do remember that we had many spider plants, they were indestructible! Once we acquired our first cat that decided the dirt in the base of the planters would make a perfect liter box, we removed live plants from our living environments. We didn’t have plants until we owned a home – and those were outside in the gardens! (We still do not have any interior plants, only the occasional vase of flowers on the table) Currently, between the design of our home and the lack of direct sunshine on the first floor and the additional two cats and dog – we maintain exterior garden beds for our flowering plants, shrubs and enjoy the sugar maple trees that line our property.

I got a call from a client the other day asking me if I had any advice about bringing in the plants they had maintained throughout the summer on their back deck and front porch and creating a space for them inside of their home. It got me to thinking… I can name only two clients in the past ten years that have plants in their homes! Again, an occasional vase of flowers or a small counter top plant may have been spotted, but nothing like the “jungle” that I was familiar with in my childhood home. I had never been asked to design for or with interior plants. I wasn’t quite sure how to guide them. Here are some of my thoughts that I shared with them.

I first gave them the name of an old acquaintance to contact: Susan Harvey of Susan’s Interior Plantscaping, Inc.. I had met Susan about 9 years ago at a networking meeting. She has a great business and I mostly thought of her as a resource for commercial clients. Corporate office, lobbies, restaurants, hotels and such. I had been in touch with her several years ago when I was contacted for services of redesigning a large corporate lobby. But now, I thought she also might be able to provide some guidance for this client. She could be consulted to assist my client with the variety of their existing plants and the needs of each plant in an interior setting. To be honest, my main thought was that the plants might need to be repotted into coordinating planters to match the interiors I had designed for them.

I now am planning to share with my client the article I came across this past week while reading my Natural Home & Garden magazine: Living Design: How to Decorate with Plants. (click on the title of the article and it will bring you to the article on-line) My take away from the article was:

  1. “Consider using houseplants to accentuate areas of architectural interest in your home”
  2. Plants help purify indoor air. Ask local garden center if they spray their plants with pesticides; if possible choose a grower that does not. It turns out that the pesticides are what emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Not helping your interior air quality at all!
  3. Purchase planters made of natural materials such as clay and ceramic and not plastic.
  4. Don’t think of plants as an afterthought – they can be an integral part of the design.
  5. Repeat colors or forms from your exterior plants in your interior plantings to connect both of your environments.
  6. Know how to best care for your plants to make them flourish and last for many years.

I also consulted a book I had purchased a few years ago entitled: Homes That Heal and those that don’t  by Athena Thompson. She speaks about research that NASA had conducted in the early 1980’s about indoor air quality and how plants can affect this. There are several plants that can be used in our environments that can clean the air in a sealed space containing pollutants of ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene. These are products that are often found in our cabinetry, carpeting, flooring and wall coverings. Below is a list of the top fifteen houseplants recommended by NASA:

1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’, heartleaf philodendron
2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’, cornstalk dracaena
4. Hedera helix, English ivy
5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’, Janet Craig dracaena
7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’, Warneck dracaena
8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’, peace lily
11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm
14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena

Here is Athena’s top ten houseplant recommendation:

  1. Bamboo palm (Chamaedores seifrizii)
  2. Rubber plant (Ficus Robusta)
  3. English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
  4. Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix Roebelenii)
  5. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
  6. Peace Lily (Spathi Hyllum)
  7. Corn Plant (Dracaena Fragrans)
  8. Kimberly Queen (Nephrolepis Obliterata)
  9. Florist’s Mum (Chruanthemum Morifolium)
  10. Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera Jamesonii)

I also realized that I have seen many interior photographs of kitchens with potted herbs growing on the window sills. Were those plants placed in that location just for the photo or can one really grow herbs on a window sill? Again, I turned to my Natural Home & Garden magazine and there was an on-line article regarding herbs. Four Easy herbs To Grow for an Indoor Garden. Not all herbs can survive let alone grow next to the chill of a pane of glass. This article shares which are the hardiest as well as some recipes.

I am not an expert on interior plants, but I do know that plants can greatly improve our indoor air quality as well as add significant texture, color and visual stimuli to our interiors. If this blog encourages you to purchase some interior plants, please choose organic and locally cultivated varieties. As always, if you have any thoughts or questions you can email me at design@lmkinteirorsltd.com.

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Observations & Inspiration

Almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning you can find me walking around my town between the hours of 6:30 am and 8:30 am. I do this as my form of exercise, but it also is an opportunity for me to “see” the things in my neighborhood and town up close. I am usually driving to most of my destinations and attempts to keep my eyes solely on the road fail me as my eyes wander off to look at things I had observed earlier in the day. An addition being built on a house I have admired, a new garden being planted, a house getting a fresh coat of paint color, a fence with a very attractive detail, the seasonal changes of the foliage and flora, etc. It makes me feel connected to my environment by being observant.

This past month, I travelled to Paris, France to visit with my son who has been studying in Germany since April. He flew to Paris to travel around with my father and I for the better part of a week. I had planned the trip as a whirlwind museum tour  to seek inspiration. We had been to Paris for a few days about 18 years ago and seen the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arch de Triomphe and a few other destinations, but this time around I had created an excel spread sheet of all of the additional sights I wanted to visit. Each day was packed with visiting at least three destinations: museum, Cathedral or monument. My intention for this trip included: being able to spend some valuable time with my son and father, to enjoy being in Paris in the summer time, walking the streets of Paris and being able to take in all that it had to offer and seek inspiration from my observations to bring back to my personal and business life.

Day One:

Saint Chapelle – gorgeous stained glass windows and golden statues.

Notre Dame – of course, the stained glass rose windows, but also the magnitude of the structure both inside and out impressed me yet again.

Centre Georges Pompidou – I loved all of the contemporary artwork. I was surprised as we ascended to the top of the museum on the exterior escalator and found we were listening to Mickey Hart’s (of the Grateful Dead) recording of Sacred chants of the Gyuoto Monks Tantric Choir! It fit the environment so well. I think I photographed every piece in the museum!

Musee des Arts Decoratifs – Ralph Lauren’s car exhibit (August and I sneaked in as we did not have a special ticket) and the amazing jewelry display upstairs.   

   Saint Chapelle    Doors of Notre Dame                         

   Centre Pompidou    Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Day Two: 

Seine Cruise – the best way to get a feel for all of the buildings and sights along the river. We even witnessed an intense work out class.

Musee Quai Branly – the most interesting contemporary/organic structure with an amazing collection of indigenous art from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

Eiffel Tower – where I had the best chocolate croissant EVER! Oh yes, and the views were breath taking…

Palais de Tokyo – another contemporary museum. They were in the process of installing new exhibits, so we did not go into the museum. However, we explored their great bookstore. I purchased a book on Paris Design.

             Seine Cruise  Musee Quai Branly

            Eiffel Tower  Palais de Tokyo

Day Three:

Musee d’Orsay – Beautiful and inspiring! The building, the Tea Room and the artwork were just wonderful. (No photos allowed).

Espace Montmarte – Salvitor Dali – I LOVE DALI! What a wild man.

Sacre Coeur – We arrived to hear the nuns singing and afterwards sat on the steps watching street performers and looking at the views of Paris. I purchased a small watercolor painting by one of the talented artists in the square which I must get framed.

Musee d'Orsay Salvador Dali Sacre Coeur

Day Four:

Arc de Triomphe – the elevator was not working, so August and I climb the 250 spiral stairs to the top! Talk about a cardio work out first thing in the morning.

Musee Jacquemart and Andre – over the top residence of famous art collecting couple. The interiors were spectacular, the artwork – amazing and the furnishings – incredible.

   Arc de Triomphe  Musee Jacquemart and Andre

Day Five:

Versailles – Spent the entire day enjoying the Palace (amazing), eating the best lunch in my life at Angelina’s, and then touring the gardens (with classical music playing throughout).

  Versailles - Hall of Mirrors lunch at Angelina's

  Versailles - gardens Versailles - gardens

We dined at wonderful cafes and bistros enjoying French onion soup, cheese platters, hot chocolates, crepes, foie gras, escargot, macaroons, champagnes, decadent desserts, and even pizza. We travelled on the metro and bus to all of our destinations. We stayed near the Louvre in a boutique hotel with a very personable staff that were helpful when we needed guidance. Paris is an easy city to navigate, so it made seeking our destinations uncomplicated.

I can only speak for my visit, but I had a fantastic time and returned home filled with inspiration not only from the sights we saw, but also the experience of travelling to a foreign country (where I don’t speak the language) and really engaging all of my senses and being open to the experiences that unfolded. I look forward to incorporating some of my observations into client projects and to another visit to Paris. Perhaps this next time will be spent just walking the city blocks and observing, the way I do each week here in my own hometown.

If you would like to see more images from my travels to Paris, check out my FaceBook page  lmk interiors, ltd. or email me at design@lmkinteriorsltd.com.

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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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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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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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