Greener Lives loves to share ideas about healthy and sustainable interior design, creating greener homes, discovering amazing eco-friendly products and exploring a bit of all things green.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The 2013 colors of the year are brought to you by … vampires

It’s (almost) true, and why not? Sometimes it seems like the colors of the year were chosen by a psychic channeling the 1960s, or a cabal meeting secretly in a fashion designer’s studio. The truth about how the colors of the seasons and year are selected is more complex although it does have an element of the psychic and the cabal.

Two industry organizations - the Color Marketing Group and the Pantone Color Institute - forecast color trends. Both groups predict color palettes that will be used throughout the design industry, in fashion, interior design, industrial design, even the colors of plastic iPhone covers. 

Remember the year of the purple car? That color had to have been based on one of CMG’s or Pantone’s forecasts for automotive design. The purple car is a good example of the virtues of selecting a classic color for large purchases. On the other hand, using a trendy color for less expensive items like paint and accent pillows is a great way to spruce up a space.

CMG and Pantone base their forecasts on everything from the colors being used now by couture designers to pop culture to social, economic and cultural forces in America and abroad. 

CMG's 2013 color of the year is "Re-Blue." According to CMG, "'RE' plays on several key lifestyle trends: REcycling, REnew, REmember, REwind, REcalibrate, REward and is REliable." The color has an "upbeat vibe ... reminscent of clear skies and warm seas." This sample of the color is from Pratt & Lambert Paints and is included in CMG's blog:

As for Pantone's forecasting, according to its executive director Leatrice Eiseman, "Colors for 2013 will need to coax and cajole, soothe or astonish, renew and replenish." Pantone has nine palettes of colors for interiors in 2013.

And what about the vampires? This week I went to a seminar on color trends for interior designers and architects that was presented by Laurie Clark, a Sherwin Williams senior designer account executive. Sherwin Williams develops its own paint color palettes based on CMG colors. For 2013, the company offers four palettes based on the theme “Opposites Attract.”

Their “Midnight Mystery” palette reflects the human attraction to the dark side. As the company’s forecast material says: “The colors are moody, the vibe is masculine and the aesthetic is both Victorian and futuristic.” The sources for these colors include the return of “Dark Shadows,” Sherlockian hound’s-tooth tweeds and the sci-fi, fantasy and horror combo of Steampunk. The saturated colors are seductive.

The interplay of time and nature inspires the “Honed Vitality” palette with its chalky and earthy colors. While environmentalism has inspired many color trends in the last five years, these colors reflect the lifestyle linked to environmentalism with its embrace of artisanship, home baked goods and natural products.
“Vintage Moxie” is a palette of pastels pushed to deeper, bolder tones. “Mad Men,” the return of Twiggy and vintage Vespas are sources cited for the colors.
The “High-Voltage” colors are virtually neon. They obviously draw on electronics and digital technology, but part of the fascination of color forecasting is that it’s not that straight forward. It references sources as disparate as Lady Gaga and India’s Festival of Colors, which have little in common - except color.

Finally, here's some eye candy for you fashionistas: Pantone's forecasts of the fashion colors for the spring of 2013.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Get rid of those ugly mini-blinds - economically

If you've rented an apartment or bought a house that came with window coverings in the last 20 years, chances are good that it came with the most annoying window coverings around: metal mini-blinds. They are really dust-collection sites in disguise as window coverings. They're impossible to clean, and the individual blinds are easily bent. Their one virtue is that they're cheap, and a houseful of any other kind of window coverings can be expensive, very expensive.

If you want to dump those mini-blinds, but you can't afford to replace all of them, what can you do? If you can, replace the mini-blinds in your public rooms (great room, living room, dining room) with something more attractive: drapes, shades, valences, even wide wood blinds. Try hiding the rest of your mini-blinds behind valences.

During the daytime with the blinds pulled up, you won't even know the blinds are there. At nighttime, who's going to be looking at the mini-blinds when the blinds are topped with valences in great colors and patterns?

There are a lot more options to valences than just fabric gathered on a traverse rod. Here's a contemporary look with grommets from Smith+Noble, an online window coverings vendor.

Valences with blinds are a great choice for kids' bedrooms because you can replace and update the valences when the pony phase is replaced by the pink princess phase. You can be creative with kids' valences, too. Interior designer Lisa Reeves and I came up with this valence made of University of Arizona pennants ($10) plus an inexpensive rod for one of our Habispaces' home designs. It was a big hit with the 11-year-old Arizona Wildcats fan who had just moved into a Habitat for Humanity home.

Valences that use swags complete with tassels and fancy trim are not going to look good with inexpensive metal mini-blinds, so I'd pass on formal valence styles. Formal valences also look odd without drapes. Even with drapes, it can be hard to carry off a swag look without rich fabrics and decorative accents. This one (also from Smith+Noble) looks formulaic.

Ultimately, there is nothing like the unique look of custom window coverings designed by an interior designer who has access to thousands of fabrics, including fabrics made of recycled materials and other green options. Of course, you're getting that opinion compliments of an interior designer.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shut off that car alarm - please!

Everybody can hear it and nobody's listening. We're just too used to alarms going off. Dogs barking, motorcycles gunning it down the road, planes rattling the windows, refrigerators humming - noise pollution is everywhere. Even if you didn't blow out your ears from dozens of rowdy concerts, a lifetime of lower level noise can be just as bad, even worse.

The list of side effects from noise pollution and the side effects from the side effects goes on and on. Noise pollution raises our stress level, which has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Kids from very noisy homes have delayed language skills, reduced cognitive growth and increased anxiety. For seniors with hearing loss, white noise makes it even harder to hear.

Of course, you can ask your neighbors to stop their dogs from barking - if they can or will - but a great way to reduce your indoor noise pollution is by saving energy. Actually, you need to do the things that will save energy: caulk windows, weather strip and add rubber thresholds to doors, insulate walls and attics. What keeps the cold air outside in the winter and the hot air outside in the summer keeps the noise out, too. (If you're replacing your windows, go for double-paned windows filled with argon gas.)

Take a cue from medieval decorators who hung tapestries on drafty walls to keep out the cold and improved the castle acoustics, too. Think of soft surfaces instead of hard ones: drapes, fabric shades and upholstered furniture. Carpeting is a great sound absorber, but if you've ever replaced a carpet, you know it's not a healthy choice. Dust, pollen, mold and more collect beneath the carpet. Standard carpet off gases many toxic chemicals, too. Using a rug that you can pull up and wash is a better way to cushion hard flooring.
The best flooring choice for acoustic control is cork because its spongy texture absorbs sounds. Some sound studios use cork tiles on the walls for acoustic control, and so can you. Today's cork wall tiles and flooring don't look like they were made for pushpins.
Expanko's patterns are anything but cork board style.
Unicork even has a collection of metallic cork tiles.
When it comes to plank flooring, U.S. Floor's Natural Cork is the thing.

Of course, if you want the cork board look, it's around from Expanko and others.

Even as I write, my computer is whirring, a car is driving past my house and, yes, a dog is barking and barking and barking. I have two reasons to replace the rest of my 1951 home's old casement windows: my electric bill and my sanity. For now I need to take a deep breath and enjoy the mountain view out my window.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Corrugated cardboard - it's not just for boxes

What do I do with my corrugated cardboard boxes? The same thing that you do (I hope): throw them in the recycle bin.  A few companies have realized that corrugated cardboard can be something more than boxes to send via UPS. They're upcycling it into furniture - cardboard furniture.

I've seen cardboard furniture before, and it's looked like what you would expect: cheap furniture for dorm rooms. Kubedesign, an Italian company, is making stylish furniture with upholstery and cheerful colors. It's modern with a dash of fun. I love the way they use the cell shapes of the corrugation as design elements.

The designer is Roberto Giamucci who has a wonderful website. It's in Italian, but you don't have to read the language to enjoy the web design, which uses artist's sketchbooks.

Some of Kubedesign's furniture does look like assemble-it-yourself (as you do) cardboard boxes - with a touch style, of course. But why look at those when these dining chairs are more fun.

Finally, if you want to try your hand at making cardboard furniture, Eric Guiomar will show you how. You can watch him making a cabinet from cardboard and get the plans on YouTube. This fun piece with its spirals and curves is anything but a cardboard box.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Don't give until it hurts

If you follow the news - in print, on TV or online - like I do, it's easy to become discouraged about human nature in the abstract. But in my personal life, I'm continually amazed by people's generosity.

Another interior designer and I design and furnish kids' bedrooms for low-income families who are moving into Habitat for Humanity Tucson houses. Our friends, colleagues and even strangers have helped us by donating furniture and contributing funds to the Habispaces project. Everyone is helping us to create healthy, fun home environments for kids whose lives have been hard in many ways.

Just yesterday my husband Mark and I stopped in Broadway Pizza for a slice while we waited for AAA to come jump our car's battery. The small restaurant is decorated with colorful paint and posters of University of Arizona sports players and their game schedules. I asked the new owner where he got the posters because I was looking for some UA posters. The 11-year-old boy whose bedroom we are designing wants a bedroom with a UA sports theme, and the only posters I could find for the room's artwork were pricey for a low-budget design project.

When I told the owner about Habispaces and my search for UA posters, he reached under the counter and came up with three posters and a suggestion for where I could get some more for free. He was surprised when I shook his hand and thanked him for the posters. The posters hadn't cost him anything, but he had been hanging on to them. I didn't expect him to donate anything, but he didn't think twice about giving the posters away. That is the beauty of generosity. Whether it means donating a small item or making a substantive contribution, generosity is a gift, not a burden.

For this Habispaces project, we are also designing a bedroom for a four-year-old girl. And guess what she wants?  A pink, princess room, of course. She loves Belle, the princess in "Beauty and the Beast." If you have any furniture that would work in kids' bedrooms or any pink, girly accessories you could donate, we'd love your help. All of the little things add up to a home that can change children's lives.

Stop by Broadway Pizza, too. (They're in a strip mall on the south side of Broadway Blvd. between Columbus and Swan.) They make a good pepperoni slice, according to Mark, and the new owner is a really nice guy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Aging-in-place - design with the future in mind

Aging-in-place design - talk about bad word choices. This is America. We’re not getting older, we’re getting better. Sixty is the new 40. They’re all clich├ęs but, hey, I believe them. If you or someone you love is the new 40 or older, then you should read this article. That sounds like an ad for an insurance policy, but it’s true and it includes pretty much everyone.

Ask anyone who’s retired where they want to be living in a decade, and the overwhelming majority of them will say, “Right here – at home.” Aging-in-place design is a way to make that desire a practical reality.

I’m not saying that when you turn the old 6-0, you should remodel your home with old age in mind. I am saying that if you remodel your home and you want to keep living there for years to come, remodel it with the future in mind.

You don’t need to install grab bars before you need them. But if you’re remodeling your bathroom, you can add blocks to the framing when you pull the tile on the shower or bath walls. Then if you do need to add a grab bar, you can just drill it in, and you won’t have to tear out that beautiful new tile to install the grab bar. If you never need those bars, so what? It didn’t cost you much at all, and no one will ever know how smart you were. Maybe that’s a bad thing.

Aging-in-place design doesn’t mean institutional design. It can and should mean beautiful, stylish and functional design, which is what all interior design should be. What else does it mean? Check out the award-winning bathroom rehab that I designed for a couple in their 50s and 60s. The rehab was completed last year, and last week I won the first-place award for Specialty Design in the American Society of Interior Designers, Arizona South Chapter competition. (Cheering is appreciated.)

The shower does have grab bars, but they’re not that old, massive, ugly style. The beautiful faucet has a single-lever handle, which is easy to operate. My client said that she felt like she was washing her face in a fountain when she used it. I’m imagining a fountain in Italy….

The shower has a seat, textured flooring in the guise of chipped stones and a flush shower entrance. If this were a larger bathroom, the design would include a wider shower entrance and a larger space in front of the vanity.

The bathroom design also includes a number of green features designed to save energy, conserve water and improve indoor air quality. LED and CFL lighting fixtures promote energy efficiency while a Water-Sense certified faucet and toilet reduce water consumption. The Greenguard-certified quartz countertop and no-VOC paint reduce toxic emissions.

A last word: No matter what age you are, if you (or someone you love) have mobility issues and are in danger of falling – rehab your home now. Don’t wait for the fall and broken bones that can change someone’s life forever and not in a good way. Falling isn’t the only issue that aging-in-place design addresses, but it is one of the important ones.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The test tube chandelier has arrived

Several weeks ago I announced a contest to find recycled lighting fixtures for my own dining room. Suggestions are starting to trickle in. Since I received these fixture suggestions via Facebook, I want to share them here.

Christopher, my (computer) scientist friend, sent me a link to an amazing chandelier made of test tubes. They come in everything from clear, elegant tubes to brightly colored ones. Christopher suggested putting LED lights in this one.

The manufacturer Gang Design also suggests using the tubes as flower vases, which looks weird to me. Besides, would you have to take down every tube and wash it out when you tossed the flowers? You definitely wouldn't want to leave the flowers in until the water developed that gross, green slime....

Carol sent this lighting fixture made of corrugated cardboard by Greypants. It's amazing how companies can make beautiful products out of such banal, disposable materials. Their website photo of an entire ceiling hung with different cardboard pendants reminded me of the temples that I saw in Hong Kong and the gigantic spirals of burning incense dangling from the temple ceilings.

Last, but not least, here's a fixture that I discovered called "Pinwheel." It's made of twists of recycled aluminum. The manufacturer Veraluz is a great resource since all of their fixtures use recycled steel, recycled glass or other recycled materials.

There are so many green fixtures available now, so join in the fun and send your link to a lighting fixture that uses recycled materials.

Friday, January 20, 2012

And the 2012 Color of the Year is – ta-da – two colors

Actually, this is nothing new. The “Color of the Year” typically is two colors because the two, important color-forecasting groups usually predict different colors. Sometimes their colors are similar, but most of the time, like this year, they choose different colors for the same reasons. Confusing? Yes.

Both groups – the Color Marketing Group (CMG) and the Pantone Color Institute – forecast their colors of the year, as well as multiple color palettes, based on a slew of factors: the colors being used by high-end designers; color influences in media, music, art and digital design; current and predicted social, economic and cultural forces in America and abroad.

Pantone sends its employees out to research the world in pursuit of colors while CMG holds semi-annual conferences for their members, who are color designers. The end results of the CMG conferences are their color trend forecasts.

Pantone and CMG’s forecasts are used for consumer goods, fashion design, interior design, graphic design, entertainment, transportation (remember the year of the purple car?) and more. Individual companies usually choose either Pantone or CMG to develop their colors.

Not surprisingly, the economy has played a big role in color forecasting for several years. Both groups have chosen bright colors to foster optimism in trying times. Environmentalism also has been a factor in both group’s palette predictions, off and on since at least the mid-2000s.

Pantone’s 2012 Color of the Year is “Tangerine Tango.”

Pantone chose this year’s color, as they did last year’s color, to perk us up in the face of our continuing economic woes although they don’t say it quite that way: “The 2011 color of the year, PANTONE 18-2120 Honeysuckle, encouraged us to face everyday troubles with verve and vigor. Tangerine Tango, a spirited reddish orange, continues to provide the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward.”

For 2012, CMG is predicting “Boyz-n-Berry” as its “NEXT” color (aka its color of the year).

Boyz-n-Berry is already turning up in fashion. Here’s Sasha Obama sporting Pantone’s Color of the Year in the presidential family portrait. Her dad’s tie looks like a paler version of Boyz-n-Berry, too.


CMG describes their reddish purple as an optimistic color that will foster health in people. They also have something darker to say about Boyz-n-Berry in relation to other colors: “Simply, with black it (Boyz-n-Berry) is warm and darkly evocative, offering richness and depth, even if it takes us to the dark side of the imagination with vampires and the cosmic black hole. When paired with white, Boyz-n-Berry plays well with ermine furs of royalty, with stark white sand beaches, and the brightness of the bright lights.”

I just hope that color-forecasting groups are not getting into predicting vampire trends.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lighting with driftwood and pebbles

There's nothing like having something on your mind and then seeing it everywhere. Yesterday I received an email about a new catalog from a French company that uses recycled products, mostly reclaimed wood and pebbles, for their products. Bleu Nature designs furniture, lighting, accessories and textiles (not made of pebbles or driftwood).

Part of what's unusual about their designs is that they're using rustic materials to create pieces in a contemporary (aka modernist) style. They're not the first company to use that combo, but it's hard to carry off, and they're not exactly successful at it. Some of their indoor furniture is interesting, and I can imagine their outdoor folding screen in a commercial setting. I've seen similar pieces in art galleries.

So here's one of their driftwood chandeliers.

Here's one of their chandeliers made of "pebbles" although the pebbles seem big enough to be stones.

My home may be eclectic, but I don't think rustic modernism will fit in. Eclectic design doesn't mean using everything you find on a beach.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The light fixture hunt (aka contest) is on

It’s the 12th of January, and I’m still planning on keeping one of my new year’s resolutions. The resolution in question: To replace three ugly lighting fixtures in my home, which isn’t as simple as it sounds.

My husband and I bought our house 10 years ago, and I’ve been living with lighting fixtures that I hate all this time. Why didn’t I just replace them when we bought the house? The project involves more than just swapping out the fixtures. The main problem is one that I see in dining room construction everywhere.

The dining room lighting fixture is mounted in the center of the room instead of over the center of the dining table. If I wanted recessed lighting or a light fixture that hugged the ceiling, this location wouldn’t be a problem. But I want a pendant light over my dining table, and we designers are a picky lot, especially when it comes to our own homes.

Changing the fixture location means cutting a hole in the ceiling drywall, patching the existing hole and repainting the ceiling. Although my living room, dining room and entryway are discrete areas, they share the same ceiling, and I only had time to paint the room walls, not the big ceiling, before we moved in. Since then, I’ve been busy designing other people’s homes and spending my discretionary time and money on traveling and a backyard renovation.

I also want a dining room fixture that uses recycled materials. There are plenty of them around now, but many of them are by artists or very small companies that make one-of-a-kind designs. I’ve seen fixtures made of everything from soda can pop tops to plastic spoons to bicycle chains. Many of them are too big, too expensive, too hard to clean, too fragile, too whatever for my home.

This is my current dining room fixture that needs to go:

So how do you and I find the right pendant light fixture for my dining room or for anyone’s dining room when the center of the room is not the center of the dining table? Start with the size of the space where the fixture will hang. The ceiling height and the size of the table matter, too. You don’t want a gigantic chandelier above a small table in a small space. You also don’t want a fixture that hangs so low that the fixture and its light annoy the diners.

I won’t go into how I calculated my lighting fixture size, but I would like a pendant-style, dining room fixture that is approximately 24” wide with a drop of about 34”. (The drop is the height from the ceiling to the bottom of the light fixture.) The style of my home is eclectic, so pretty much anything is a possibility in terms of the look although I do want something reasonably durable (not made of playing cards, for example) and something that can be cleaned – periodically. I can’t spend the world on it either.

Oh, I also want a smaller pendant light for my entryway. It needs to go with the dining room fixture although not necessarily match it. I’m also going to replace my kitchen light fixture, but it’s not part of this search.

My current entryway fixture matches the dining room fixture, but it's smaller, much smaller. This must be one of the ugliest lighting fixtures around:

So post your suggestions for my dining room light with links to photos of the fixtures and information about them in the “Comments” section of the blog. If you see any great fixtures with recycled materials that wouldn’t work for my dining room, post those links, too. They may work for someone else, and looking at creative fixtures is always fun.

This is a contest, of sorts. If my husband and I end up buying a dining-room lighting fixture that one of you submit, you’ll win a copy of the 2012 “National Green Pages,” a great resource for goods and services provided by certified green businesses nationwide. If I end up buying a fixture that I find, I’ll hold a raffle among all of the people following my blog and award the “National Green Pages” to the raffle winner. Yes, my husband does have a voice in the fixture selection, but I’ll vouch for his taste.