Not to be missed fall home tips!

Ah, fall is officially here in Michigan and right on cue there’s a chill in the air. While the sun is still shining, let’s get ready for the upcoming cold. Check these off of your home care list and stay warm and dry this winter.

First call your HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) contractor to check and tune up your furnace, heat pump, or boiler for the heating season ahead. It’s a minimal cost that will prevent you from being caught in the cold with your furnace down. You can find a contractor to perform this work here. You’ll save time, money, and headaches by having the equipment tested for optimal performance and the prevention of carbon monoxide leaks.

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Make the most of the heating in your home by insuring your ceiling fan is turning the proper way. When the heat is on, your ceiling fan blades should rotate clockwise. This keeps the warm air circulating and not resting near the ceiling. Change the blade direction by flipping the switch located on the fan housing, where the blades rest.  

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It’s time to check the seal around your windows and doors. Sealing gaps can save you 10-15% on your energy bills. That’s money in your pocket and a warmer, cozier home!  On your home’s exterior, use silicone caulk to fill in gaps between window and door frames and siding.  Add weather stripping around doors to eliminate gaps. Old windows that can’t be replaced?  Check the glazing compound that holds the glass in place and seals the window and replace as necessary.  On the inside of your home, use rope caulk to eliminate gaps between window sashes and frames. Add foam gaskets around exterior wall outlet plates. Heck, even those silly door snakes can keep out cold drafts.

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Save time, money, and headaches by preventing ice dams on your home this year by taking these 5 steps.  Find detailed information here.

1. Seal     2. Insulate    3. Ventilate    4. Aerate   5. Pressurize

ice dams

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Save up to 20% on your heating and cooling costs by installing a programmable thermostat. The Nest makes your life easy in so many ways. It learns how you live and the temperatures you like. You can set it with your phone when you’re away and it even monitors extreme temps or furnace trouble and alerts you via phone.

nest t stat

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Check your roof for loose or missing shingles. Repair and replace as necessary.

Check your siding for peeling paint. Scrape, prime, and repaint to maintain the protective paint film.

Inspect your fireplace chimney, flue, and firebox.

After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters. Inspect the joints and tighten loose brackets.

Remove window air conditioners and store. Clean and cover ground units.

Share this with your friends, check these items off of your list, then get outside and enjoy the fall colors. Be sure to follow my blog, twitter, and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Warm up your Home without Breaking the Bank

It’s bitter cold here in Michigan now and I’m using all my tricks to stay warm in my home and home office. Of course, I want to save time, money, and the planet as much as you do. And I’m not going to take on any projects that require I work outside.  Try my tips that work every time and keep you inside!  Many of them cost nothing and the initial cost of others can be quickly repaid in energy savings and personal comfort.  Let’s start with no-cost and work up!

Switch your ceiling fan blades to rotate clockwise. This pushes warm air down to where you can enjoy it. Keep the fan on low so that it’s moving the warm air down without creating a nor’easter!

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Close the door on rooms that you rarely use. I do this in my own home. I close the guest room register nearly all of the way and keep the door shut. Our mechanical room door is left open just enough for the cat to access her litter box. Reduce your overall heating load by decreasing the area that requires heat, and maybe bump the temp up just a notch!

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Carlos Delgado ArchitectKeep heat vents and radiators clear. Allow the heat to flow freely by moving furniture and draperies away from the heat source. For forced air floor registers, purchase inexpensive air deflectors from your local hardware store. They redirect heated air that’s headed for the ceiling in to the room.  Install radiator deflectors to reflect heat in to your spaces and away from walls.

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Install outlet insulators on the switches and power outlets of exterior walls. These pre-cut foam gaskets are available at all home improvement centers. And they’re super inexpensive. They have made a big difference in my home, though they don’t seal the devices completely. Add the baby-proof outlet covers to fill unused outlets.

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Add weather stripping at leaky doors and windows. Weather stripping is an inexpensive way to greatly reduce air infiltration. It cannot compete with a well insulated building envelope with highly efficient windows, though the reality is that budget and weather may prohibit perfecting every building. Easy, affordable, and effective solutions increase your comfort, save money, and energy. In other words, every little bit helps! Check out this helpful guide on the best weather stripping types and where to use them.white space

Hoya bellaOur personal comfort is based on temperature and humidity, and many other factors that we’ll discuss in other posts!  In the winter, when the heat is on, moisture levels are reduced to a point of discomfort. Even when you have a humidifier on your furnace, as I do, and it can’t seem to keep up.  Adding plants to every room naturally increases our comfort by significantly increasing the relative humidity in rooms. Plus, plants are lush and lovely, they clean the air, and reduce dust!  Click here for my list of easy to grow plants.

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Pebbles rug by Piodao Group

Take the chill off bare floors by adding rugs, and wool rugs are fabulous for so many reasons. Because of the naturally insulating qualities of the fibers, wool feels toasty warm in the winter. It feels cool in the summer, if you can think that far ahead!  Wool fibers also clean the air and reduce allergens. On top of that they’re naturally stain resistant.

Tell me your secrets for staying warm in your home.  Share with your friends to keep them cozy, then follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Buh Bye, Drywall…Hello, Fibers!

Drywall, also known in the building industry as gypsum board, is used extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In the early 1900s, drywall began to gain ground over the use of plaster walls. The installation of drywall saves time and money on product and labor.  The gypsum, sandwiched between two layers of paper, does have inherent fire resistant properties. These properties and its sound absorbing abilities can be increased by layering or different facings.  Combine these qualities with drywall’s easy acceptance of any finish from paint to wall covering and it’s become the standard wall material in the United States. I must say, I appreciate the ability to dramatically change a room just by splashing on a fabulous new paint color. But wait, there are so many wonderful alternatives waiting to be discovered and used. This time let’s explore fibers, that’s right, fibers!

WallArt cellulose panels

WallArt is a sweet collection of panels made from cellulose fibers removed from the waste stream of sugar cane production.

white spaceFilzFelt Knoll San Francisco

 Okay, seriously, my favorite fiber on the planet, wool, as a dramatic semi-private wall panel from FilzFelt. Wool even cleans the air!

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Submaterial figure no. 2More incredible wool wall panels from Submaterial.  With its luscious texture and sound absorbing properties, what’s not to love?

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FilzFelt IDEOFilzFelt makes it easy to customize designs and colors to your interiors, residential or commercial.

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Submaterial dimensional 1Need depth and texture? Submaterial’s wool panels have you covered again.

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Submaterial dimensional

Let’s end with a slice of heaven, wool slices of heaven, that is…once again from the magicians at Submaterial.

I’ll be sharing many more exciting wall options so follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration. Check out my favorite exterior wall materials as well. It’s your turn to empower your life with exhilarating design.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Buh Bye, Drywall…Hello, Wood!

Drywall, also known in the building industry as gypsum board, is used extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In the early 1900s, drywall began to gain ground over the use of plaster walls. The installation of drywall saves time and money on product and labor.  The gypsum, sandwiched between two layers of paper, does have inherent fire resistant properties. These properties and its sound absorbing abilities can be increased by layering or different facings.  Combine these qualities with drywall’s easy acceptance of any finish from paint to wall covering and it’s become the standard wall material in the United States. I must say, I appreciate the ability to dramatically change a room just by splashing on a fabulous new paint color.  But wait, there are so many wonderful alternatives waiting to be discovered and used. Let’s start with wood, reclaimed, repurposed, laser cut, and even woven!

Bruag plywoodThese laser cut plywood panels, backed with color, make a powerful statement with energy, interest, and visual privacy.

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Plyboo durapalm

Woven panels made from reclaimed plantation grown sugar and coconut palm trees are curvaceous and lush. If that’s not enough, the screen they create can provide visual and acoustical disconnection.

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Antoni Associates

With just a little creativity, stock lumber creates a remarkably vibrant almost kinetic sculptural wall.

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Woven wall diyadventuresdotcom

Lean ribbons of rich dark wood weave through copper pipes to elevate them both for a partition with true texture and personality. Click for the DIY instructions.

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expozodotcom perforated panel bedroom

Giving new life to sun shade and separation, this open laser cut panel adds vitality and sophistication to a sleeping suite.

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bookshelf-as-room-divider

Display and storage are fantastic partners and allow light to penetrate in to an interior space while softly splitting room functions.

I’ll be sharing many more exciting wall options so follow my blog and Like ImaginEco on facebook for daily design tips and inspiration. Check out my favorite exterior wall materials as well. It’s your turn to empower your life with exhilarating design.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Design for Yourself…Now!

Okay, I’ve been away for a long time and I’m excited to be back and discuss one of my favorite topics – designing for yourself!  Recently my hair stylist told me that she and her family decided not to sell their home. They purchased it 14 years ago and planned to stay there five years. Most importantly she shared how free she felt that she could at long last customize and decorate her home for her family! I could see the joy and relief in her eyes.

You see we’d discussed this on many occasions! She lamented using lifeless neutral tones so that, she believed, she could easily sell her home.

beige beige and more beige

You’ve seen the typical new spec home colors…boring!

I suggested that no matter the future mystery buyer’s taste, they would begin to personalize it the minute they got the keys. And I recommended that her family’s needs and wishes and tastes should drive their choices. Unknown future buyers must not stifle her home design on the interior or the exterior, rendering it unsatisfying for 14 years!

My hair stylist attributes the delight in her newly grasped home design freedom to my repetitive urging and proclaiming the glorious benefits of surrounding yourself with your very own definition of beauty. Wrap yourself and your family in the colors, materials, and furnishings that fill you with joy. The energy imparted from the things that you appreciate fills your surroundings and you with vitality.

So go ahead and cover your home with the colors that you love. Start small as color is powerful and adjusting to the drastic positive changes can be overwhelming. I’ve seen it happen with clients who believe the new color isn’t just right. But it’s really just that sometimes we’re not ready for the dynamic transformation that color brings. Give yourself time to appreciate your new surroundings and to finalize the details of a space to make it harmonious.

Okay, let’s get started! First determine the mood you want to create. Then find colors that impart the feeling you desire – calm, nurturing, energizing, cozy, creative, happy.

ImaginEco nature color inspiration cherry blossom

Nature has an endless source of colorful inspiration…go outside!

For inspiration look to nature, a favorite art piece, or browse the myriad of online color resources. Check out one of my very favorite Design Seeds.

Now test your chosen colors with art, fabrics, accessories – items that won’t break the bank. When you’ve tested and proven your color prowess, select your paint colors to tie every thing together and reflect the mood you want to achieve. Your paint for the walls and ceilings will unify the elements in your room, either new or remaining. Be fearless and follow your instincts. Avoid asking friends and relatives as they’re certain to disagree and bring their own taste to the discussion. This is your home or office and they’re sure to love it when they see how it has empowered you.

ImaginEco colorful city home

In this home my client wished for a cheerful room. She’s delighted with the sunny results.

ImaginEco artist studio 1

Fearless color dramatizes her paintings and energizes my artist client in her studio.

ImaginEco office color

Even offices can have subtle yet energizing color! Say buh bye to beige cubicles.

Good luck and remember to follow your instincts! Your home should make you feel as good as your favorite outfit does. Now share this so your friends can be fearless too.  For more tips and inspiration Like ImaginEco on facebook.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Top 10 Outside Tips for a Fresh Spring Home

Spring officially arrives today, and most of us have been eagerly awaiting her. It may or may not feel like spring, yet let’s get ready for warm breezes and sunshine using my Top 10 Tips. Then you can enjoy the spring weather with your family and friends, when she really emerges.

1. Inspect your roof for damage. Clean your gutters and down spouts, make necessary repairs to insure water is moved away from your home.

gutter cleaning

2. Inspect your siding for cracks, breaks, buckling, and rot. Repair as necessary and perhaps give it a wash.

buckled siding

3. Inspect your home’s foundation for cracks and repair to prevent water from entering your home. Ensure that the grading around the home slopes away to move the water away.

cracked foundation

4. Sweep porches, patios, side walks, and drive way.  Inspect these for cracks or breaks and repair to avoid falls. This is extreme though even small cracks can be hazardous.

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5. Inspect and replace any failing or missing caulk around windows, doors, and where different materials meet.

Caulk_Exterior_Windows

6. If you had ice dams this winter, now is the time to take these five steps to avoid them and their damage and costly repairs next winter.

ice dams

7. Wash window exteriors and their screens. Time for new windows? Read my Window Selection Guide first.

wash window interiors

8. Check your wood decks for wear and exposed wood. Repair and refinish if necessary using my Top 3 Exterior Wood Coatings.

earth friendly deck finishes

9. Call a professional to inspect and service your air conditioner.

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10. Bring out your patio furniture, give it a wash, relax.

Loll Designs

Take some time to implement these tips to get your home fresh and worry free for spring.  Read my Top 10 Insider Tips for a Fresh Spring Home. Then be sure to share these with your friends.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Top 10 Inside Tips for a Fresh Spring Home

Spring officially arrives tomorrow, and most of us have been eagerly awaiting her. It may or may not feel like she’ll appear tomorrow, but let’s get ready for warm breezes and sunshine using my Top 10 Tips. Then you can enjoy the spring weather with your family and friends, when she really emerges.

1. Keep your home’s air and water clean by changing or cleaning these filters: furnace, air conditioner, water faucets, frig water dispenser, vacuum, range hood.
3M furnace filter change
2. Turn off the furnace humidifier when you’re no longer heating your home.
ImaginEco furnace humidifier

3. Maximize the day light by giving your windows a wash on the inside if the weather’s still chilly. Then wash the outside when the weather warms up. Download my natural and healthy DIY cleaners here.
wash window interiors

4. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, change their batteries if necessary.
replacebatteries photo from fema.gov

5. Clean your dryer exhaust duct and remove lint from under and around the dryer. Click here to learn how.prettyhandygirl.com dryer duct cleaning

6. Clean your heat and air conditioner registers with a vacuum.  It’s an easy way to keep the air in your home, whether heated or cooled, clean, and it helps reduce allergens. Do this on a regular basis, or at a minimum when you change from heating to cooling your home.

clean register with vacuum

7. Steam clean your carpets or use a healthy method recommended for your carpet type. I have a home carpet cleaner and use Earth Friendly Products carpet shampoo. Set up shoe storage stations at each door and kick off your shoes when you get home to keep bacteria out.

How-to-steam-clean-carpets

8. Turn off the power to exhaust fans, remove their covers, vacuum the interior housing or carefully clean them with a soft cloth. You’ll be surprised at the amount of dust and debris that hides there. Remove it to keep your home’s air clean and keep your family breathing easy.

exhaust fan from family handyman.com

9. Check the seals on all of your doors to keep your conditioned air inside, and tiny pests outside. Repair or replace them as required.

check door seals

10. Change your ceiling fan direction to spin counter clockwise when your air conditioner is on or clockwise if you’re heating your home.  There is a switch on the fan housing to change the blade direction.

Modern-Fan-Eclipse

Take a few minutes to implement these tips to get  your home fresh for spring. Then be sure to share these with your friends.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

The Art of Fire by Elena Colombo

When grace, elegance, and purpose unite, it is rare magic.  In Elena Colombo’s creations, this trio starts an exquisite fire.

Elena Colombo stainless fire trough on lake-cropElena’s love of nature, and particularly the fire element, is deeply rooted.  She tells me that her naturalist mother was always collecting nests and rocks and stones.  Their suitcases were heavy with nature’s bounty of pebbles when returning from family vacations. A self-proclaimed pyromaniac, Elena credits her father for passing on that gene, a gene that her mother and sister do not share.

Her education is thorough and diverse, and she has earned Bachelors of Arts in both fine arts and art history.  Additional studies of architectural design, sculpture, etching, and one year in Rome studying sculpture, painting, and the Italian renaissance are impressive tools for a classically trained sculptor and designer.  These multiple talents led her to a varied and successful career in television and print until opening her own company, Colombo Construction Corporation, in 1999, followed by Fire Features in 2002.

At her Greenport beach house after the tragedy of September 11, Elena was wishing for a fire on the beach. Wood fires are not allowed there, and she longed for an approved outdoor fire that she could control.  Her creativity filled that need.  She made her first hand-made fire feature with concrete and a burner built by her father.

Elena credits the success of her fire bowls to the nation’s need for a place to gather as a community.  And what better place than “a fire which is a destination”?  She shares that around a fire you put your phone away and talk face to face with others. “People will all come when you have a place to gather, it’s an automatic party.”

Her sculptures are “art that works to honor nature.” The pure vessels contain and enhance fire yet they “don’t compete with the fire.” Elena also finds inspiration in Chinese pottery, Japanese painting, her painting professor George Chaplin, painter Mark Rothko, her mom, and her team of in-house and outside experts and artisans.

This talented team works closely to craft beautiful vessels that evoke nature and function as a convenient modern gas appliance.  A 3-dimensional computer model is developed to work out all of the intricate details prior to fabrication. Nic Spitler, head of design, coordinates the parts that make the art work.  The burner, the control panel, all the constraints of these fire appliances are orchestrated to provide peak performance, ease of use, convenience, and of utmost importance to everyone, safety. Of course all of this is exquisitely manipulated with minimal visual effect on the vessels. Tim Kohchi, metal smith and master welder, brings the pieces to life.

Elena’s excitement was apparent when I asked what her favorite material is.  She loves bronze because it molds to a form that looks exactly like what you’re casting.  You can buff the raised parts of a log, for example, and it “shines like pink gold.” Currently she’s working on cast bronze log sets molded from drift wood that she’s collected from all over the world. And you’re among the first to see her new fire screens, above in cast bronze and below in stainless steel.

Elena Colombo understands our inherent desire to extend our living spaces in to the great outdoors and be close to the natural element of fire.  Her fire vessels prompt us to do that in the most naturally elegant way.

Share the warmth, build a fire, invite your friends.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Stop Improving!

I have a long list of home improvement wishes and dreams, and I bet that you do too.  In fact, we’re told daily to never stop improving.  We want what our neighbors have, or better yet, what our neighbors don’t have yet!  Of course, as an architect I’m limiting potential work by saying this, but I truly feel like we should take some time to appreciate the amazing building that we call home.

My home was built in the early 1970s.  It’s a walk-out ranch with ochre colored aluminum siding.  Nestled in to a woodland in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the best feature is the site, which seems to go on forever in the nature preserve it joins.  I’m not thrilled that all you see from the street is the garage. Yet that’s a small price to pay for daily immersion in to the world of deer and bunnies and foxes and ducks…you get the idea.

ImaginEco deer

Inside our home we, my husband of over 20 years and I, have made many cosmetic improvements and added our personality where our budget would allow.  And we’ve even made improvements when spurred by fun events like a sanitary sewer back up. When we purchased the home nine years ago we painted virtually every wall and ceiling after removing wall covering.  We quickly eliminated carpet from a bathroom and replaced it with a luxurious heated tile floor. Over the years we’ve replaced all of the flooring, and have three types of Marmoleum linoleum, including the planks in my lower level shown here.  My endorsement of Marmoleum is unsolicited and unpaid.  It’s one of my favorite gorgeous and sustainable flooring materials, made from linseed oil, pine rosin, and wood flour.

ImaginEco Marmoleum plank 1

And I recently painted my bathroom a delicious hot pink that makes me feel giddy every time I walk in to the room. It’s Sherwin Williams Eros Pink Emerald paint in their velvety matte finish that intensifies the stunning color. So though we’ve significantly modified our home over the last nine years, we still have aesthetic goals, on top of the maintenance.

ImaginEco pink bath

Your house, the building, is a complex system designed to keep you warm and dry and sheltered from the weather.  The structure, walls, roof, insulation, floor slab, doors, windows, plumbing, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and electrical have all been carefully researched, tested, designed, built, and approved to provide for your health, welfare, and safety. All of these systems need to be maintained regularly, upgraded, or replaced to keep this house, this system, functioning properly.  These items are not optional.

Your home is you, your family, your dog, your cat, your fish, your kids doing home work at the dinner table, your friends dropping by unexpectedly, your favorite food in the oven. Your home is a symbol of you through the lime green walls in your kitchen, your grandmother’s wing chair, your kids’ drawings on the frig, your sunflower yellow front door, and your dog’s enormous bed in the corner.

So please take a moment today to stop improving.  Instead appreciate the immense group of talented individuals that have crafted and maintained our homes and who have created their contents for us to enjoy. Then pat yourself on the back for every single decision that you’ve made and every joyful and painful step you’ve taken to nurture yourself and your family and friends in your very own home. Well done, well done!

Tell me what you love about your home!

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Simply Hot Fireplaces

Baby, it is cold outside!  If you’re feeling it too I bet your fireplace is working overtime. The function and style of fireplaces has advanced far beyond their humble origins. No longer destined to wear just brick (not that there’s any thing wrong with brick!), cozy up and see what the hottest modern fireplaces are wearing.

concrete faced full view fireplaceConcrete offers a variety of low maintenance finishes from raw to burnished to polished.  The surface lustre of highly polished concrete can reflect and amplify day light. Add recycled glass aggregate and hone the finish to create a sparkle that rivals the fire.

Mendota Hearth full viewLet the fire do the talking.  This full view fireplace by Mendota Hearth allows you to bask in the fire’s glow without any distraction. The fire base can be natural river rock or even glass. I’ll show you the glass below. The tantalizing burnt orange wall color leapt right from the flames.

Town and Country FireplaceTile lets you make a purely personal design statement…colorful, subdued, or even a monochromatic scheme as shown here.  Tile can also be very economical, and the large format tiles (5′ x 10′) available now can provide a seamless face in many spaces.

ImaginEco fireplace with mica wallIn this artist’s studio I used a concave brushed stainless steel fireplace with a glass pebble fire base.  The surrounding wall covering is mica, a shiny crystalline mineral, that glimmers like the fire.

Mendota Hearth steelCor-Ten steel seems perfectly suited to frame a fire, the force that enabled its creation. Also known as weathering steel, its durability and personality make it one of my favorite materials.

Stay cozy and share the warmth with your friends.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise