Sunday, May 16, 2010

Small steps with big impacts to improve your home and your wellbeing

I recently read an interesting article in the recent April issue of Money called "Get the Most Out of Your Home" written by Elizabeth Fenner, Assistant Managing Editor at Money Magazine.

Fenner writes about the rising importance of evidence based design on shaping how we think about remodeling our homes.  As she explains, it's research "backed by science that studies the effects of built spaces on our brains and our bodies- indicate that neither tons of space nor high-end furnishings are keys to home satisfaction."

For the article, Money Magazine and Lowes jointly funded an online survey in 2009 where 2,240 Americans aged 25 to 69 who own a single family free standing house which provides a good deal of the information shared in the article.  The article covers improvements which can be made in every room of the house which can improve homeowner satisfaction and a sense of wellness. (As well as help with possible resale value).  It doesn't cover much about the energy efficiency measures and using sustainable, environmentally friendly materials in any remodeling work.  Let's just say that's an untapped aspect of this article.

Some article highlights: ( I'll cover only the living room and kitchen to spark your learn about the recommendations for other rooms of the house go to your local library or order a back issue) 

Many of the suggestions ring true as good solid design strategies, while some are new to me and are worth further thought.

Living Room:

  • Paint your walls soft yellow, this apparently helps make the living room more animated and comfortable to be in. (We have have soft yellow walls in our house.  My wife and I smiled when we heard this recommendation)
  • Put your sofa in the right spot with a view to the door and through windows hopefully with scenes of nature of some sort.
  • Build window seats to create social nooks.
  • Add shelves to organize your chaos more neatly.
  • Hide the TV within built-ins so you don't focus on it. Let the sun, drop the drapes or curtains.
  • Open up your dropped ceiling.  It's more dynamic and creative.


  • Install a center island with built-in cook top.  We like having social connection to the rest of the room, not having our backs to people etc.
  • Put your sink under a window or at least have a picture of nature and or a mirror if you can't over the sink.
  • Use a variety of light fixtures to highlight counter work surfaces and the island.  Not just a single light fixture overhead for everything.
  • Paint the walls a cool color.  Apparently this well help psychologically turn the down the room temperature a little bit by fooling the mind.
To help with gathering some of her insights, Fenner wrote about a the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, a group which joins research scientists and design folks together to further efforts in evidenced based design and research.  So often design can seem extremely subjective.  It's hard to pin down and agree on what are indeed effective and sound design strategies when remodeling or designing homes or in other areas of architectural design. Thus identifying more objective ways to describe and study design sounds great to me. Peruse their resources pages for more insight on the ideas behind design driven research and research driven design. 

Meanwhile, dig deeper into this article and maybe stir yourself into action leading to some big impacts on your home without breaking the bank.  For more information on energy efficiency and conservation turn to my friends at Efficiency Vermont and it's residential home team.  They have some very helpful Q&A with tips on everything to do with your home and shifting towards more green behaviors.  Enjoy these resources.  

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Link to USGBC LEED Platinum Buildings

I was looking for a way to see all of the current LEED platinum rated buildings in all in once place.  I found a blog from a progressive green oriented residential community in Portland, Oregon called Cyan PDX which has a great list with images, project links and a brief project overview with highlights.  

Please check it out and use it as a resource.  It's really helpful for those in the design community to see these buildings all in one place.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Barre Granite Inspiration

I visited a local granite quarry in the Graniteville area outside of Barre a number of weeks ago right when the snow was finally melting.

I really appreciated the dark and light striations along with the ice sheets in the quarry image.  Fantastic patterning. The force it must have taken to separate the stone block from the mountain!

The closeup of a recently quarried large stone block received grazing sunlight to really expose all of the rough edge variations.  It's a visual feast of texture. Both images inspire on many dimensions.