Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Remember that using a few green items is better than using none"

The U.K.'s Times reports that "a stylish and eco-conscious home can be created pretty cheaply." This article was very interesting, especially one VERY sobering quote that caught my eye, "According to The Ecologist, 2.5 million tons of timber is removed from libraries, churches, hospitals, pubs and homes each year in the UK." If that is JUST the UK, what are we doing in the US?

While we all know some resources for re-using materials (think Craigslist, salvage yards and friends/relatives), there are other great guidelines and sites forming for NEW eco-friendly materials.

According to "guidelines by the interior designers One Eco Home: (new)products should be made from recycled and recyclable materials, or they should be made from a renewable material and wood should have been grown sustainably (look for the FSC or PEFC stamps); they should be made locally." Also, look for "finish(es) on hard and soft furnishings should be free from chemical lacquers, preservatives, bleaches and if possible toxic flame retardants." The Times lists various means of obtaining eco-friendly products in the UK.

This brings up a great point, though (WARNING: Rant ahead). As Interior Designers, we are very concerned with the health, safety and welfare of the users or the spaces we create. Flame retardant coatings were created for a very specific reason: To protect the public. We have all heard of the nightclub fires where many people were killed as a result of extreme flame spread. Until there are viable natural alternatives to these chemicals, we have an ethical dilema on our hands. Okay, back to the articles...

So what about new products available in the USA? There is a great website called ecolect which is a "Community for Sustainable Design". And there's always Craigslist.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"The Future's So Bright..."

So we're not talking about the Timbuk3 song from 1986, but the bright and exciting future of LED lightbulbs. Lightbulbs, you say? Yawn....

Well, it its sustainable design and in fact, very cool technology. Just read on:

A great website that we found to explain, and sell the benefits of the LED revolution is

Some of the benefits of using LED bulbs:
  • LED bulbs offers a warmer glow, with better color rendering than fluorescents
  • LED's do not contain mercury, as fluorescent bulbs do
  • One LED bulb can last up to 60,000 hours (in comparison, one 60 watt incandescent bulb will last only 1,000 hours)
  • Uses only 2-10 watts of electricity (1/3rd of compact fluorescent or 1/30th of incandescent bulbs)
  • Cool to the touch, unlike halogen or standard incandescent
  • Very durable bulb with no filaments to break
  • Instant on-off, with no warm-up time
  • Fully dimmable
You say that you like your standard incandescent bulbs? Think about having to change the bulbs every year or so, the waste in our landfills, the energy you pay for every day...

Now who wouldn't want to try LED bulbs? Look at the initial cost as an investment, install the bulb and forget about it for the next 20-30 years...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Movement of "Small"

I received the March 2008 issue of Dwell in the mail yesterday, with the cover story of "Small Wonders: Homes Under 1,000 Square Feet" and knew I had to write about it. Instead of a new product, manufacturer or local find, I have chosen this design movement is worth of my "Latest and Greatest" designation. This subject has been a personal interest of mine for a while, so I apologize in advance because this is bound to be lengthy:

The thought of "Small" is so much more than just a design movement, it is in fact an entire philosophy, a way of life. It’s been practiced by many throughout history who have chosen to live simply (Walden, anyone?). Frank Lloyd Wright designed for "small" with his Usonian houses. FLLW himself wrote the following commentary about living simply within this famous house design:

In the recent past, it has really been Sarah Susanka who brought these ideas into the limelight. In her 1998 release of "The Not So Big House" (and six more in the series), she has started an entire "Not So Big" movement. If you don't believe she has been that influential, check out her website:

Logically, the smaller living space pushes you toward simplification in other areas of your life.

My husband and I have recently started our own quest for simplicity in life, smallness in a country of super-sized everything. We sold our house of 2400 SF that we'd been in for almost 7 years and moved our possessions and two dogs to a 1200 SF condo, while adding a baby and all of her corresponding stuff.

It has been amazingly refreshing to let go of all of the extraneous stuff that accumulates in our worlds. Now, don't get me wrong: it has been hard at times to get rid of possessions and we still have more than what we need and have room for, but it is less. And it is wonderful.

Now, we are looking at other areas of our lives and thinking where we can downsize, where we can simplify. We sold one of our two cars several years back. We evaluate everything that comes into our home (or that we want to purchase) with the following questions:
1.) Do we REALLY need it or just want it?
2.) Do we have space?
3.) What will we have to do to get rid of it some day? (Is it recyclable, does it retain value for resale, etc.)

Now, we still spluge and love the expericences of life. We get Starbucks on a regular basis and we love great food, travel and cultural events. We just don't want STUFF.

There are plenty of resources out there to learn more:

or just google terms such as “living simple”, “small homes”, etc.

So, what part of your world can you simplify in an effort to live ”Small”?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mercury Mosaics

Mercury Mosaics is an incredible handmade tile studio based in Minneapolis. They are not necessarily "new" but definitely a resource that cannot be overlooked. LLD worked with Mercury Mosaics on the 2007 Showcase Home Kitchen, where we designed a backsplash with the help of Mercury Mosaics' owner, Mercedes Austin. The backsplash was created to mimic a tile fireplace surround that was original to the 1889 house.

We created a custom design that will not be recreated. Ever. (Unless we want to, I suppose). Now that is custom! See for the great variety of designs and styles that their talented studio can offer.

Visit for more photos and information on this great 2007 Showcase Home kitchen and our award-winning Minneapolis Interior Design studio.