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Your Internal Color Compass

Isolated coloured pencilsWe all have our favorite colors.

The ones we’re drawn to instinctively in the way we dress and what we surround ourselves with in our homes.

Me, I like blue, especially a faded blue, one that leans toward blue-grey. Other days I might be more in the mood for yellow.

Speaking of moods, who among us hasn’t had ‘one of those days’, the kind where you look in your closet and nothing suits your dark mood but black.

So you dress yourself in black, head to toe, and head out the door.

That’s a good example of your Internal Color Compass dictating what you should wear, based on your mood.

Of course, this internal compass can serve you just as well when you’re feeling sunny and upbeat, and it can also help determine the color palette in your home.

The following four Color Palettes were shared at a recent Sherwin Williams Color Forecast presentation.

If you’ve never thought beyond your favorite color and considered your Internal Color Compass, this might be fun for you to play with.

I’m sure you’ll recognize yourself in one of them.

 

Restless Nomad

You’ve only to think of all the journeys you’ve taken, imaginary and otherwise, to recognize your inner nomad.

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Recycle Days

You’ve probably heard the mantra:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Last weekend, the city where we live sponsored a local Recycling Day, on what happened to be the first warm & sunny weekend so far this Spring. At the recycling station, the most popular spot was Household Goods. Furniture (in various states of repair), lamps and endless household items dotted the pavement, and workers scrambled to keep up with the stream of cars dropping off more supplies. If any items were beyond repair, there were recycling stations for that too. 

I find these events very freeing, in that they give us the perfect opportunity to unload a lot of ‘stuff’ which we don’t use, or need, anymore. As long as the items you are parting with are in good condition, there is always someone else who could benefit from your donation. Plus, it feels so rewarding when you’re done!

Whether or not your neighborhood sponsors these types of events, there are usually other organizations that accept donations, especially for furniture in good condition. In our area, we have Hopelink, which helps families get back on their feet after dealing with personal crisis, financial or otherwise, and they do accept used furniture. Check your local government listings to see what is available where you live.

Green Design

When it comes to Interior Design, what does it mean to be ‘Green’? 

Green design is primarily about providing a healthy, non-toxic living environment. As a rule of thumb, anytime you notice that ‘new car’ odor in a product, what you’re smelling isn’t something that is good for you. Primary sources of toxins in the home come from paint and carpeting, but off-gassing also occurs in fabrics, wood and wood finishes (think furniture and cabinetry).

Fortunately, there are many alternate choices available on the market today, from low-VOC paints (highly recommended), to water-based finishes and formadelhyde-free particleboard for use in cabinetry.

Aside from toxicity, consider using renewable resources such as bamboo, or recycled products, and supporting the local economy for lower transportation costs (i.e. reducing your carbon footprint). Also important to consider is the ‘end of life’ cycle. In other words, will the product end up in a landfill, or can it be re-cycled for another use?

Happy Holidays

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season!

It is feeling very wintry today, in our part of the world. That’s right, the Seattle area has been hit with snow, and as typically happens in such weather, many of us are snowed in and going nowhere. Gazing out the window, I see a picture-perfect Winter Wonderland!

Greening the Holidays

Once again the holidays are upon us, so it seems like a good time to review my post from a year ago, which explored various ways to make your holidays ‘green’..

Let’s begin with the Christmas tree. You may be asking yourself which is kinder to the environment, a real tree or a fake one that can be re-used from year to year? Keep in mind that an artificial tree is made almost entirely from plastics – nonrenewable petroleum by-products that can’t be recycled. Many are imported from China, which affects transportation and consumption of fossil fuels. Ideally, the preference is for using what’s grown or manufactured locally.

One alternative is to plant a living tree, one that grows in a pot and can be re-planted later. So remind yourself that while it can seem wasteful to have a living tree from one year to the next, it is actually more beneficial to the environment.

Then there is the matter of our energy-consuming holiday lights. I highly recommend switching to LEDs (light-emitting diodes) which are at least 90% more energy efficient than regular incandescent bulbs. Cool to the touch, they also pose less of a fire hazard, and will last for thousands of hours longer than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are now widely available in many different colors, shapes and sizes, and can be found at your local retailer.

As an added bonus, you will save electricity and enjoy a lower electrical bill!

Last but not least is the issue of gift wrap. Should you buy new, or re-cycle wrappings and gift bags from previous years? The choice is entirely yours. I recently came up with what I thought could be a terrific idea for wrapping gifts, which is to purchase in-expensive, re-cycled plastic or fabric shopping bags – the kind you buy at most grocery stores to haul your groceries home instead of paper bags or plastic. The recipient would receive two gifts in one, the gift inside the bag, plus the bag itself.

Yet is seems my idea wasn’t so original afterall. If you visit the Whole Foods website, you will find the exact same suggestion.  

The bottom line with all of this:  do what feels comfortable, and what makes sense, for you!

Is Design A Luxury?

This just in:  during the week of December 1 Harmony Design Studio will be featured on  www.avaliving.com . Look for us under Ava’s Choice, which highlights a select group of Interior Designers and their work.

This week, I offer a quote, courtesy of Stephen Drucker, who answers the question ‘Is Design a Luxury?’ in a very thought-provoking manner:

‘To everyone who hesitates that decorating is a luxury at this unsettled moment, I’d like to say that I think home is more important than ever, not a last priority in your budget, but a first. Now is the time to set a beautiful table and invite friends for dinner, rather than go to a restaurant. Now is the time to get a deal on that big TV and create your own home theatre, rather than go to the movies. Now is the time to paint a room a pretty color, or buy some pillows for your sofa, or dress up your bed in new sheets…Home isn’t a luxury; the money you spend, you’ll enjoy every day.’

Beautifully said, and if you think about it, very true. It doesn’t work for everyone, especially if money is very tight, but if you can afford to do something nice for yourself in these trying times, even on a small scale, then by all means do so.

Aljoya

In case you haven’t heard, Aljoya – a brand new retirement home – has recently opened on Mercer Island, just outside of Seattle. I am pleased to have participated in the completion of a sixth floor unit for an elderly client, who was thrilled with the entire process of color and fabric selection, and planning out the new space. The final outcome has been immensely rewarding.

It is a common assumption that this elderly demographic no longer gives much thought to the appearance of their homes. However, I know from personal experience that this is not true. To date, I have worked with a number of elderly clients, all of whom were downsizing from the family home, to a much smaller apartment, or condo, in a retirement facility. Without exception, every one of them was very excited, and involved in planning every aspect of the new home’s design. For me personally, it has been a joy to work with them and assist with this important transition in their lives.

Slowing Down

At times, the pace of our lives seems to ebb and flow with the seasons. We speak of the lazy days of summer, yet for others, the cooler, shorter days of autumn are a time to slow down and settle into the long winter months ahead.

Sometimes life slows down for other reasons. For example, two weeks ago, I was sidelined by an injury, which knocked me down a few pegs. I’ve been taking Life slow ever since.

Not that I had a choice. Mentally, and physically, my body was telling me to slow down, take it easy. So, for about ten days, I did very little. I read. I rested. Watched TV. I wasn’t up to doing much else. It was time to focus on healing; everything else could wait. Much to my surprise, I found that I rather liked the pace (although it may have been a bit boring, at first). I was more relaxed, and in tune with my surroundings. I felt no need to hurry. I would still get where I was going, it would just take a minute or two longer. Once I fully accepted that I needed to allow myself time to recover, I simply resigned myself to the healing process. In the end, I gained a new perspective. 

Trust me, this is not my usual state of mind. I, like everyone else, typically believe that there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything I would like, or need to do. Always rushing, thinking about what to do next, rather than just savoring the moment. 

I’m sure there’s a lesson here somewhere. Perhaps, if we are more aware throughout the day of what’s really important, what really requires our time and attention, we can better focus our energies. 

We can simply learn to say ‘no’.

Organic This & That

I didn’t always believe in organic products, especially way back when the concept was still pretty new.

The idea of paying more for food didn’t make sense to me, because I believed that what I was buying was just as healthy and tasty. I continued to believe this for a long time. What about the use of pesticides, you might ask, which is certainly a valid question and one that warrants consideration.

Long story short, my opinion has changed. I actually purchase organic produce now, but I pay attention to the list of foods that are grown with more pesticides that others, things like strawberries, potatoes and peppers. Cost continues to be an issue for me, as it is for many people. What changed my mind? I have grown more concerned about my health, and that of my family. Plus, as I’ve been exposed to more and more of the issues concerning sustainability and the environment, I’ve simply evolved.

Not only to I often purchase organic produce, I have become increasingly aware of what other toxins might inadvertantly be introduced into my home, whether in furnishings, fabrics, cleaning products or personal care items. While I am by no means 100% converted, I have made small changes where I can and I have increasingly incorporated eco-friendly, sustainable products into my work.

While organic isn’t necessarily ‘green’ the two are closely related, because they share a common concern over what goes into our bodies, our homes and the environment. For an item to be labelled organic, it needs to meet certain federal regulations; the term is generally applied to food products (i.e how it is grown, or prepared) and household items such as organically grown cotton or linens which have been fabricated into bed linens and bath towels.

Which is where it can get interesting. I recently purchased a wonderful, plush set of organic towels for the Master Bath. They are truly luxurious. Yet here’s the catch:  they are so thick and plush that they require two separate loads in the washer (instead of just one) and extra time in the dryer, which means a higher electric bill. At a time when many of us are trying to reduce our energy usage, and our impact on the environment, it seems I’ve done the opposite. Which means this purchase, while organic, was not exactly ‘green’.

 Then again, there are many ‘levels’ of green. Small steps are often more realistic and easier to achieve, such as buying organic products, or switching to compact fluroescent bulbs. You are still doing your part to help the environment. Of course, this doesn’t address the issue of what to do with those compact fluorescent bulbs when they need replacing – and this is a big issue! (Because they contain mercury, they are considered a hazardous waste item and can’t be disposed of in the regular trash; your local utility can advise you on proper disposal).

Speaking of the home environment, as an interior designer I have personally seen how the green movement has affected the field of interior design. Initially dubious that high standards could still be maintained while ‘going green’, the industry has seen more and more new products come on the market that are not only beautiful, but good for the environment, and the health of our clients.

Which brings me to an important point:  many people believe that being eco-conscious means sacrificing beauty and comfort in order to save the environment, which is simply not true. Yes, organic and/or eco-conscious products may cost more intially, but the long-term savings are potentially huge. If you are faced with choosing between paint, carpeting or furniture that will off-gas toxins into your home, versus a healthy option that will not affect the well-being of your family, which would you choose? It’s a personal choice, yes, but one wth a long-term impact.

Awakening the Senses

A recent vacation to Hawaii left me exhilerated, and was rejuvenating to the senses!

On a daily basis, we were greeted by new sensory images, not to mention the exciting array of foods that thoroughly awoke my taste buds.

From the taste of tropical fruits such as papaya, mango and pineapple, to the daily fresh fish from the sea and the crunch of macademia nuts, it was a delight. Not to mention the exquisite tastes of  thirst quenching drinks made from passionfruit juice and sparkling wine, or cucumber juice mixed with lime & mint, I was in heaven. As an interior designer, I appreciate beautiful design no matter where it shows up – a luscious presentation of food, for example, with a unique or clever combination of tastes –  this can be a work of art in it’s own right.

We woke each morning to the song of the myhna bird – loud and cheerful already at 6:30 a.m. Greeted by a sumptious buffet, we breakfasted on an open terrace, with a view of the pool and the ocean beyond. We ate all our meals outdoors with the warmth of the sun on our skin and the occasional cooling breezes ruffling through the overhead umbrellas. We explored the local tundra of volcanic rock and coral, and deep red earth, and pristine beaches.

We snorkeled in the warm ocean waters with an colorful array of tropical fish and swam with the dolphins. From afar, we watched the spinner dolphins leap from the water and spin on their tails.

It was a total immersion in Nature, with new sights and sounds capturing our attention each day.

So often, as we get caught up in our daily routines and schedules, we forget how important it is to our well-being to include a bit of Nature in our lives. Now that summer seems to have finally arrived in Seattle, we can spend more time outdoors and enjoy this beautiful part of the country that we live in. It may not be Hawaii, but in the Pacific Northwest we have a paradise of our own. Think of the spectacular sight of snow-capped Mt Rainier, or the Cascades, on a clear day – you don’t see that in Hawaii!

So, with the long weekened approaching, take time to stop & smell the roses and see what Nature has to offer. Have a wonderful and safe 4th!