Make Your Home Your Get-Away

I do a lot of writing about resorts and retreats and modern getaways.  And over the holiday weekend I was pondering why our homes, where we spend most every night, can’t be a daily getaway. Shouldn’t our homes make us feel like we’ve just arrived at a resort? Don’t you love a retreat and how you feel when you arrive? Or better yet, how fabulous you feel after a few days there! Those qualities can be brought in to your very own home and the benefits as well. Leave your worries at the door. Feel pampered in the comfort. Shake off all distractions. Allow yourself to relax.

stylish shoe organization Step 1. Clear all the clutter. Have you noticed how the best hotels, resorts, and spas are completely free of clutter. They have all the amenities you could ever wish for, yet they’re discreet. In your home, create concealed organization for mail, your keys, shoes that you kick off at the door, books, magazines. I find that putting things in their place immediately is so much easier than trying to organize when it’s grown in to an enormous stack of stuff! Address one room at a time so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. Or manage even just one item at a time, such as the mail. Don’t let clutter weigh you down emotionally and physically.  Take control and take a stylish vacation from clutter, as done here.

white spaceAmangiri resort suite

Step 2. Create a sense of privacy. You know the best resorts make you feel like you’re the only people on the planet, at least for the duration of your stay. They create a sanctuary for only you and your companion. And once inside, your haven is invitation only. Distractions don’t exist, again, unless you request the presence of say music, or room service, or a spa treatment. We’re all so connected all of the time that privacy and quiet are pure luxury. Create a private serene space in at least one room of your home, or even a corner of a room in your home. No fancy remodel required, just clear out the electronics, gadgets, TVs, and phones.  Or it can be as simple as asking your family for an hour of quiet time without interruption.

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N residence 2

Step 3. Maximize the comfort level. You deserve to live in an environment that surrounds you with comfort. I’m always surprised to learn how we deprive ourselves of the simple keys to our own joy. Years ago, one of my friends was building a new home. She told me she had always dreamed of living in a yellow house, but she was afraid that color might not be accepted.  Well I’m delighted to say that she’s still happily living in her yellow home. Be fearless and use colors that you love, on the walls, in your furnishings, and your art. Break every rule and use an eclectic mix of styles and furniture that fills you with delight.

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Stone-Respect-by-Dom-Arquitectura-03

 Step 4. Add just a touch of luxury. Fabulous resorts are guaranteed to have simple luxuries that we often deprive ourselves of at home. From a bold color in the decor to the always plush terry cloth bath robe, the small gestures that take a space from bland to grand. You can splurge, or just be adventurous. Add a touch of the glass bead wall covering that made you swoon. A heated floor may be within your reach and a purchase for which you’ll pat yourself on the back daily. Or treat yourself to the luscious terry cloth robe or even just plush slippers. You deserve it and life is just too short!

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Nature-Living-Room-Canvas-Wall-Murals muralsprodotcom

Step 5. Add nature. Nature is a cure-all and, unfortunately, seems to be a rare luxury for many. The most rejuvenating hideaways are nestled in to nature, whether in a jungle, a rocky seashore, a soaring mountain, or a deceptively rich desert. Bring nature inside by uncovering views you already have, also known as move the furniture away from the windows and ditch the heavy draperies. Open the windows and let fresh breezes inside. Plants bring nature in and are low cost and available for all conditions, including those ridden with black thumb disease. Click for more ways to connect with nature. Use natural materials such as stone, wood, and cork on surfaces or in accessories. Don’t have a view? Create your own with nature photos and art.

Tell me what you’ve done to create your very own retreat at home. Share with your friends and follow for more design tips.

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Living Spacious in Small Spaces – Step 2

Many of us, by choice or by fate, are living in smaller spaces.  My clients are scaling down or staying put and revamping to maximize their lives within a smaller foot print. As the owner of a very small first home and as an architect for many years, I’ve learned a few tricks that can work for you too! Let’s bring in the incredible power of natural light.

“Also marvelous in a room is the light that comes through the windows of a room and that belongs to the room. The sun does not realize how beautiful it is until after a room is made. A man’s creation, the making of a room, is nothing short of a miracle. Just think, that a man can claim a slice of the sun.”  Louis Kahn

A genius at using light as a key element in his designs, Kahn recognized our dependence on “…the touch of a finger to a switch.”  I invite you to join me in enlisting “the endlessly changing qualities of natural light, in which a room is a different room every second of the day” to enhance and enlarge our spaces.

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If you have the means to bring in light by cleverly replacing a slice of your roof with glass or adding new windows, please do so. Here I’ll show you how to maximize the natural light in your space through less intrusive and still highly effective methods.

All of the movable furnishings in this reclaimed barn are lifted off the ground on delicate frames. This allows precious day light to easily dance through the room. Even the stair to the loft above is formed of seemingly floating wooden treads that enhance and contribute to the bright atmosphere, instead of weighing it down. Tip: choose furnishings that are light on their feet.

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funky glamour new york city

Lighten up by saying buh bye to the age-old tradition of lining your furniture up against the windows and walls of every room. Even in a smallish space such as this, you can create an interesting and perfectly-suited-to-relaxing-and-entertaining seating area in the middle of a room. This trick lightens rooms by creating space for the light to roam and breathe. If space is an issue then move your furniture even a few inches from the walls for a smaller scale effect. Trust me, try it!  If privacy isn’t an issue then ditch the heavy draperies or replace them with sheer billowy drapes that keep your secrets, but not you, in the dark. Tip: create a light and airy atmosphere by moving furniture and heavy draperies away from the windows and walls.

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dining

Fortunately for all of us, day light has an incredible support team, of which my favorites are glass, mirrors, and metals. They all bring out the best in natural light, just in different ways. Glass, as in the shelves above, is day light’s brutally honest best friend. She lets her bestie shine through with only the slightest alteration.

STELLAR Console and Mirror designed by Jake PhippsMirrors are natural light’s press rep. They double her sparkle and always make her look good, even when she may be fading.

Architectural Digest mirrored table

Metals are like day light’s adoring mother. Always subtly promoting their brilliant off-spring, metals, dazzlingly paired with mirrors here, put light in, well, her best light. Tip: use glass, mirrors, and metals to enhance natural light.

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Parisienne charmer (8)

At last, this brilliant bath brings all the tricks together for a bright escape that glows. The floating angled tub is featured by the light splashing around it. A burnished metal vanity is light on its feet. A copper horn pendant’s glossy center glows without power. Brass lamps and chrome faucets show that a variety of metals is the spice of life.

Love to hear your tricks to lighten up your spaces.  Then share this on so your friends aren’t in the dark. Don’t miss Step 1 to Live Spacious.

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.

sidewalk.cracked2

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.

air-conditioning

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

5 Keys to Great Movies and Great Rooms

Since it’s Oscar Sunday, I was pondering what makes great movies and how those qualities are shared by great rooms.  Of course movie preferences and design styles are subjective. But I think we can all agree on these 5 basic qualities.

dezeen_Jaffa-House-by-Pitsou-KedemCaptivating movies and intriguing spaces must have an engaging story.  The story can be subtle yet it must be interesting.  In this former factory now a home designed by Pitsou Kedem Architects, the tale is told through the arches and the thick walls of stone, clay, and shells. The simple modern furnishings integrate softly and place the story in modern times.

Parisienne charmer Classic movies have engaging characters that draw you in to their world.  Like films, stunning rooms are a blend of characters, some are the stars and others support the star, or even steal the show. Combined they create a rich tapestry with depth, color, and personality. In this Parisienne home, designed by D. Mesure, the lapis lazuli velvet sofa spars for the win with the mesmerizing portrait above. Your home should reflect your character. Use only what you love, and it will work, and show your personality, life history, and style.

George Nunno home Elle DecorEvery movie must have drama and so must every inspiring space.  I always say that each room needs a statement piece, a piece that takes it from drab and dull to vivacious and interesting.  George Nunno has created a perfect balance of drama and subtlety in his own home in Manhattan. Start by fearlessly adding one piece that makes you a bit nervous in style or color to bring drama to your rooms.

Roogiem house desiretoinspireEvery great movie has at least a sliver of humor and my favorites tend to place it where you least expect it, and it’s truly original.  Jean Philippe Demeyer restored this Belgian moated manor with an incredible story, characters with depth and their own tales, a wealth of drama, and a genius sense of humor.  You’ll want to see more by clicking the image. Armed with that inspiration add one unexpected amusing and playful piece to bring delight to you and your rooms.

Marie-Olsson-Nylander-House-3To maintain the vision and bring it to life, every memorable movie and each glorious room needs a great director.  Designer Marie Olsson Nylander took a vacant for 30 years Swedish villa and transformed it in to a sensational home.  That story is brought to life by characters of every color, culture, and style. The perfect amount of drama enlivens every corner and all of these elements share a bit of whimsy.

Use these five basic principles of first rate films and award winning homes to lead your rooms down the red carpet and make you the ultimate winner. You can thank me in your acceptance speech!

Imagine the possibilities,

Denise

Living Spacious in Small Spaces – Step 1

Many of us, by choice or by fate, are living in smaller spaces.  My clients are scaling down or staying put and revamping to maximize their lives within a smaller foot print. As the owner of a very small first home and as an architect for many years, I’ve learned a few tricks that can work for you too!

Alaska summerI like to mimic nature’s exquisite balance in a room because she’s an expert at expanse.  Think of the strong foundation of the earth’s bedrock, soil, and mountains.  Above that the forests begin to open and lighten in to vast endless skies. You can create this graceful comforting balance in your rooms with a solid base of color, texture, and density. Furnishings and accessories above your solid groundwork are lighter, more open, less dense and heavy. Finalize your interior with a ceiling color or treatment that creates a complete volume.

John Lum ArchitectureThis San Francisco home, remodeled by John Lum Architecture, perfectly illustrates a strong foundation in texture, color, and scale.  Notice the grounding effect of the high base boards. The window lined alcove’s arch is outlined by delicate plaster moldings.

Robert Nebolon ArchitectsA floating home in San Francisco, designed by Robert Nebolon Architects, is grounded by wood floors with character. Crisp and clean silvery blue cabinets ease up toward generous walls of windows. Black cabinet pulls and window frames stabilize the space.

Park Ave. Residence by Rafael de CardenasIn this luxurious New York City apartment, Rafael de Cadenas uses color and texture as the grounding elements. Curves, reflections, transparency, and nature prints and wallcovering travel delicately upward in the room. The translucent soft green light mimics a feathery limb over head.

Remember, you can’t go wrong when you follow nature’s lead. Share with your friends and stay tuned for more tips to live spacious in your small spaces.

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