Creating environments to meet your needs and suit your lifestyle.

Go “Green” In Your House This Spring

May, 2003

Source: Make it Better Magazine By: Kristina Tober

Go “Green” In Your House This Spring

         Environmental issues abound in the news and many people strive to find ways of living a more sustainable existence even amidst the many relative luxuries in our lives.  There are dozens of ways to make less of an impact on the earth by the choices we make every day regarding our homes, how we build them, furnish them, clean them and live in them.  Highlighted here are just a few ways you can begin to think about conservation in your home.  You might be surprised by how some simple choices can make a difference.

Buy Energy-Efficient and Energy-Saving Products

This applies to your heating and cooling systems as well as water heating, refrigeration/freezing, lighting, cooking and other light appliances.  Since the 1970s the government has put large “EnergyGuide” labels on appliances so the consumer can use the information for comparison.  Where a more efficient product is more expensive at the outset it will pay for itself over time.  This is true not only on the big purchase of a refrigerator but also applies to the most efficient light bulbs.

Consider Water-Efficient and Water-Saving Products

On average, a single person uses thirty thousand gallons of water a year indoors.  Thirty per cent of this water use is toilet flushing.  There are low-flow toilets readily available and now required by many City Building codes.  Faucet water flow accounts for fifteen per cent of household water use.  The amount of water that flows out of an unrestricted faucet is about fifteen gallons per minute.  A faucet aerator is easy to install if your faucets don’t already have them.  Even simpler, only run the faucet while you are actually using it.  Low-flow shower heads are readily available and though they are not consistent with the fashion of having the rain shower, a regular shower and the hand held shower, perhaps at least one of these could have a water-saving device.

Avoid Buying Toxic Products That Become Hazardous Waste

         Many house-cleaning supplies are actually quite toxic.  Items such as ammonia cleaners tile cleaners, chlorine bleach, drain openers, furniture polishes, lye, oven cleaners, metal polish and other items are all toxic and most have nontoxic alternatives.  Alternatives are available at Whole Foods and by catalog.  If you have these chemicals in your home and you want to dispose of them, take them to a local disposal center rather than pouring them down the drain.

Buy No or Low-VOC Products

         VOC is an acronym for a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds which, to simplify the chemistry, pollute the air we breath.  VOC emissions are regulated by state.  Two common products that are particularly high in VOCs and have their own regulations are paint and lighter fluid.

         Paint is made from solvents, resins, pigments and additives.  Paints are classified by the type of solvents they contain with oil-based paints containing 40 to 60 per cent VOC solvents and water-based paints containing 5 to 10 percent VOC solvents.  There are two European companies that make paint from natural and renewable ingredients and are sold here.  These are Livos Paints and Auro Paints.  Also, The Gliddon Company makes an interior latex paint, Spred 2000 that was tested and found to emit no VOCs from a one-liter volume.  Lifemaster 2000 is the professional series line by Gliddon.  Benjamin Moore also offers a low-VOC line of paints.

Sustainable Interior Furnishings

         The number of sustainable home furnishing products out there in the market is growing quickly.  This subject alone may be the topic of several future columns but, generally speaking, consumers should be aware that products such as flooring, carpeting, furniture, fabrics and solid surface materials (comparable to plastic laminate products) can and are being made in a sustainable way.  These products are made without toxic glues, are made from natural or recycled and recyclable materials.  Flooring and furniture is being made from sustainably harvested wood.  There is no compromise in the design aspect of these products either.  Quite the contrary, there seems to be new design energy about these new products.


         The earth’s resources are finite, and for that reason very precious.  The intense industrialization of the past two centuries has greatly increased living standards but continues to pressure those resources.  We all have different priorities in family obligations, jobs, and friends.  But everyone wants clean air, fresh water and an environmentally healthy planet.  To that end this very general, and by no means exhaustive list of simple steps is offered.  Somewhere in this list is an action everyone can take without great effort to contribute to conserving our planet’s life sustaining resources.

Bathroom Storage Improvements

April, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

Bathroom Storage Improvements 

You may never have to leave the bathroom again wrapped in a towel, dripping wet, looking for some item you need. It is possible to have everything you need to complete your toilette at your fingertips. You can gain more storage in your existing bathroom without knocking down walls.  Here are some tips.

New and Funky Bathroom Storage Improvements

Imagine a plastic medicine cabinet that comes in colors.  It is available through Leif Petersen Inc. in San Francisco (415.925.2701).  Pair this with polypropylene stacking cubes on metal legs known as Jelly Cube by Duravit.  It comes in snow white or ice blue.  If these colors don’t do it for you, The Container Store has other options.  This pair would make a very hip kids’ bathroom.

The High Tech Style

A narrow wall shelf with a metal panel that folds up or down but conceals what is behind it is a stream lined way to keep bathroom items organized.  This system is designed by Marcel Wanders and is available through Boffi in New York City.  This storage shelf is sold by the linear foot so you can specify the length that meets your needs.

If mobile shelving works better in your space, there are a number of possibilities.  Restoration Hardware offers the Spritz Stainless Steel Bath Cart on wheels.  It can be moved out for when you need it but tucked away when you don’t.  If you are familiar with the catalog Chambers by Williams and Sonoma, you probably don’t associate their products with high tech style but their Chrome Taboret with two drawers and a cabinet below also set on casters  certainly leans in the high tech direction.

An updated medicine cabinet is offered by Sno Cabinet for Asplund, available through Totem in New York City  (212.925.5506).  This design takes a cabinet face and creates a wide frame of heavily frosted glass around a mirror.  This cabinet is so handsome it can be used as a decorative piece in addition to a standard medicine cabinet over a sink.

Another company that makes innovative and nicely designed medicine cabinets is Robern (800.877.2376).  Many of the styles are sleek and modern, but can be seen as retro with a twist.  The features such as lights are great and the products are well made.

Timeless and Traditional

Have you noticed that wherever you see an old, wood medicine cabinet it is often accompanied by the smell of damp wood that is reminiscent of a damp summer cabin.  There is good reason for this.  The things that are stored in a bathroom medicine cabinet are often wet after they are used.  Then, they are put away on a wooden shelf and closed in tight by a door.  Improvements on the old standard have been made.  Robern makes a cabinet that looks like the classic wood medicine cabinet in a paint finish but it isn’t actually wood.  It’s made of aluminum.

If you are committed to the real McCoy, check out Wood Essentials medicine cabinets at  The styles are simple and classic and come in four hardwoods.  If the painted look is what you are after and your budget is under $1,000 , look at Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn.  The styles are basic, functional and affordable.

If you need a quick additional storage fix, buy a basket for display and fill the basket with rolled bath towels, the items that take up the most storage space.

To fit as many of the bathroom necessities as possible in the drawers you already have, buy an organizing tray.  You can get them in wicker, wood or, perhaps most practical, plastic.  A simple system like this will help you to keep three toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste from overtaking an entire drawer.

What Makes a House Green

April, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

What Makes a House Green

Some sources suggest there has been a 70 per cent jump in the last year in new green building starts. The interest in green buildings and green design is definitely on the rise. So, what exactly are the components of a green building?

It may be easier to begin with what a green building is not. In an article by John Carroll, the life sciences editor of, he suggests that we can lay to rest the tie-dyed, nuts and granola images you may have lingering about living green. No more straw bale walls. You can even set aside what was once thought of as a key element of living in a green house, the costly passive solar panels. You can be green without abandoning the electric grid, washer/dryer combo along with the microwave and other power-hungry appliances you may want to keep plugged in.

Live well and live green. Of course it’s a matter of degree, but think about the adage “one person cannot do everything but everyone can do something.”

The U.S. Green Building Council has developed a rating system for green building standards. These standards address six areas:

  • Sustainable Site
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy and Atmosphere
  • Materials and Resources
  • Indoor Environment Quality
  • Innovation and Design

Let’s consider some basic examples of how these areas are addressed. Even though some of these examples are directed toward new construction, many of them are not.


Green architects would agree that the single most important factor in energy efficiency is site selection. Natural shade can cut down on air conditioning needs dramatically. A home that is set up high can also catch prevailing breezes which further decreases energy needs in warm climates. Wide overhangs designed to provide maximum shade is another way of keeping heat out during the summer while letting the sun in during the winter. The material used for the roof can also reflect heat away from a structure. Other considerations that fall under site selection are erosion control, storm water management, and access to public transportation.


Green materials choices include rafters made of recycled wood, and synthetic trim made of recycled plastics. It may be possible to recycle the building material waste from construction as well.


While the trend in luxury homes is to increase the number of shower heads, body sprays and hand-held showers, the green trend is to create a very nice shower without overdoing it. It is a significant savings in energy and water usage to have one water heater instead of two. Networking gutters systems to direct rainwater into above-ground tanks or barrels is also suggested. This water collection can be used for watering plants, gardens and yards, even washing the car.


Windows are another important element in green architecture. The placement of windows can cut down on daytime lighting needs and window treatments can be used to help regulate temperatures.


If you are interested in more information on green building guidelines go to the U.S. Green Building Council website

Shades Your Windows Wear Well

March, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

Shades Your Windows Wear Well

A window shade is truly dressing for the window that enhances the window and shows off the molding. Blinds, shades and simple fabric panels provide the privacy you want and can make a small or big statement–whatever you desire.

The Minimalist

A solid or tidy geometric patterned fabric tucked into the inside of a window opening (inside mount) makes a sleek and stylish impression.  This treatment can take the form of what is essentially a roller shade with updated hardware or a roman shade.  The roman shade has two forms. One is a flat roman style where the fabric lies completely flat when the shade is down but gathers into horizontal pleats as it is pulled up.  The other is a pleated roman shade that has horizontal pleats even when the shade is all the way down.  There are other variations on these styles.

The fabric selected for the window treatment will be a major factor in the effect the shade or panel creates.  For the modernist style, the most typical fabrics to use are linen, cotton, silk and materials akin to rice paper such as polyurethane-coated woven fabric. Even a metal-plated nylon creates a striking contemporary line.

Also, whether or not the fabric should be lined is an issue that must be taken into consideration.   A lining will help create privacy and can add a visual (and real) weight to a fabric giving it a very different effect.  Silk should always be lined particularly of it will be in direct sunlight since sunlight will affect it quickly.  Finally, if you are concerned about the uniformity of your windows from the exterior, a point about which many designers feel strongly, a lining can certainly accomplish this.

The Traditionalist

For the more traditional home there are many possibilities.  A balloon shade is a classic traditional style which can be done in any number of fabrics and doesn’t have to be heavy looking.  With a translucent fabric the balloon shade can be an elegant yet light statement at the window.  There are a number of other styles that are variations on the roman shade with an element that softens the line.  Some of these are referred to as relaxed roman shades, London shades and the Brighton-style shade.  There are variations on these variations these as well.  Adding a trim to any of these shades or fabric panels can make a big difference.  The trim can turn a perfectly fine shade into an elegant statement.  This is particularly true of the roman style shades.

Don’t discount the roller shade that can be dressed up with the simple addition of a tassel or a row of fringe.  Natural material shades like wood and woven grasses may be right for a study or library.  These can be trimmed in fabric as well which can be coordinated with a fabric-covered valance.


If you are unfamiliar with shad e styles, you can get yourself up to speed by going to a shop like Calico Corners or any fabric store and ask to look through their catalogs.  The bookstore or even the library will have reference books.  If you have access to the web, go to Smith & Noble’s Windoware website at or call them for a catalog at 800.248.8888.  They have a multitude of styles that will surely give you some good ideas.

Once you know the style you are interested in you are ready to select the fabric.  Selecting your own fabric from the universe of fabrics is always a nice if you can swing it.  Sources for this include anything from showrooms at the Merchandise Mart to  more economical showrooms such as Off the Bolt at 1333 N. Kingsbury in Chicago.  Fabric stores are another way to go.  An alternative source for silks or linens can be found in Chicago’s Indian neighborhood on Devon Avenue.  One such place is Regal Traders Inc. at 2616 W. Devon.  The fabrics are gorgeous and the prices terrific.  The sari fabrics are also stunning.  I once made fabric window panels from two coordinating saris to create a light, soft covering.  This has the added benefit of a cultural experience where you can feel a world away but be close to home.

These simple style window treatments will not mask undulating wall plaster, crocked window trim and the like.  They are best in places where showing off the window, its frame or molding is a highlight.

I once read that “if heavily draped windows with puddling hemlines are the ball gowns of window couture, then graphically constructed blinds and shades are the little black dresses—they’re almost always elegant, appropriate and chic.”  Enjoy selecting your little black dress.

Keep Your New Year’s Resolution And Get Organized

January, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

Keep Your New Year’s Resolution And Get Organized

Invariably there are small household projects we would find great satisfaction in completing.  Yet, sometimes these projects linger either because there isn’t time to attack them or, more likely, we just keep putting them off.  Who wants to spend a week or more of evenings organizing the basement or the garage?  The better question is who wants to feel guilty for months for not doing it?

Now is your chance to attack a long awaited household project.  Get it over with during the dark, cold days of January when the holiday celebrations are over and there appears nothing to look forward to except, perhaps, the joy of getting that organizational monkey off your back!

Make A Plan

First decide what project(s) you want to complete.  Second, make a list of items you may need to actually complete the project.  For instance, if your project is to organize your garage, look around and see what kinds of hooks, shelves or storage cabinets and bins would be best suited for the things you need to organize.

Next, consider the price, quality and function that are right for you.  Where to buy these items depends on the scale and type of project undertaken.  For large-scale projects like the garage or basement, consider Home Depot, the Container Store, Hold Everything or your local hardware store.  For smaller areas like a closet or pantry, consider World Market for baskets, the Container Store for plastic or metal bins or Target.

The other alternative is to call your trusted handyman who would be happy to help you get organized.  If you are planning to tackle a project like organizing your family photographs from the past decade, get an Exposures catalog and review the possibilities.  Target may be a good alternative source for basic photo albums and storage boxes.  The Container Store also has a good selection.  Even Office Max may be worth a visit.

Make A Schedule

Make an implementation schedule for your project.  Be realistic about how much time you can devote to a project given  your regular obligations.  Figure how much time you will have in one week.  Next, estimate how long the project should take.  Break the project down into various stages or parts and determine how many parts can be accomplished in one day or one week.  The stages might include cleaning, sorting, labeling and assessing what would best hold certain items. If you will need outside help like a cleaning service, painter or handyman, make these arrangements.

Lay out your project schedule and put it on your calendar.  Don’t give yourself too generous a time frame.  The point is to be disciplined about this process so that you can accomplish your goal and be done with it.  The quicker you can get this task behind you, the longer you’ll have to gloat about it.

Put Your Plan Into Action

Buy any items you need to complete your plan.  Make any other arrangements that may be necessary for you to put your plan into action (like calling the handyman for those who are not do-it-yourselfers).   If you have young children at home, this might be the time to cash in on any play-date credits you have or ask grandparents to help out on a day or two.

Now you are ready to go.  If at all possible, complete the project in the next two months.  This will give you the month of March to wish spring would come by the calendar.  Most important, you will have actually kept one of your New Year’s resolutions.

Make Room for That Memorable Piece of Furniture

December, 2002

Source: Pioneer Press

Make Room for That Memorable Piece of Furniture

The holidays evoke strong and vivid memories for many of us, hopefully most of them fond memories of sharing time with friends and family.  Maybe the holidays were the one time of year you were sure to see some favorite relative who lived a distance away.  Our memories of spending the holidays or anytime with relatives and family friends almost always include not just the people but their home as well.  After these dear ones have passed on, we are lucky if we have a favorite object that belonged to them and one that we can remember and associate with them.

Notwithstanding the fact that you may have worked hard to achieve a specific furnishing style for your home, you may receive Aunt Gert’s favorite rocker or Uncle Marvin’s worn footrest, which has a warm spot in your memory but fitting it into your living room is another matter all together.  Perhaps you have a sleek, contemporary style and inherit a Victorian armchair.  Should you cast these treasures off because they are so, well, “yesterday?”

Often, items that once belonged to someone special easily find a new home among our things.  If your home isn’t furnished in a style that is extremely contemporary or strictly furnished in a period style, chances are you won’t have much trouble at all.  How nice it is to have some thing, however small, that once belonged to say a grandparent.  These items may have very little monetary value and yet, they can add warmth and interest to a home.

Other times, we may not be so sure that the object is a blessing, even if you and Uncle Ed did sit at that big desk and play cards.  So, how do you fit the unusual item in?

In design, there is something referred to as the “unique element.”  When creating a space that is primarily rectilinear for instance, a designer may decide to introduce a “unique element” that takes on an entirely different shape.  The designer may introduce a curved wall that cuts prominently through the structure.   The same is true for interiors.  In the contemporary ranch house Uncle Ed’s nearly medieval desk will be absolutely wonderful, not to mention unique, in the den on the oriental rug.  It may take some time and thought to work an object into your current furnishings, especially if it is quite different from the style you have created.

Blending the old with the new is tricky.  Consider whether you want to highlight the item or you want it to blend in.  If the item is functional, even if it cannot be used for its’ original purpose, consider putting it to work.  An old crock or butter churn can make a nice umbrella stand, a wooden tool chest refinished and lined is an interesting jewelry box.  Even Grandma’s end tables that you may not have been fond of can be put to good use covered with framed family photographs.

If you want to use an inherited piece but don’t want to mix it in with a room’s furnishings, consider giving this piece of furniture a place in the entrance way or a second floor hallway.  Put it in some common space where it can be seen and enjoyed by all but where it’s obvious that you aren’t attempting to merge its’ style with your own.  Again, let it be the “unique” element.

Truth be told, my family owns Uncle Ed’s desk.  It is a large, dark, intricately carved desk with a leather top.   It is like nothing I have ever seen before.  It reminds me of the bow of an old ship.  Uncle Ed was a favorite of the family.  He came over every Christmas Eve to put up the tree and set up the electric train.  He didn’t leave until the last present was wrapped and everything readied for the next morning.

We had to find some way of making his desk work in our house.  After the locksmith opened it up for us (whereupon he declared he had never seen anything like it either), we hauled it up to our second floor only to discover that it wouldn’t quite fit through any doorway without the removal of the door stop and casing.  Finally, we got it all situated. I understand that Uncle Ed had a great sense of humor and I suspect he would have found the whole scene pretty amusing.  It makes us smile every time we think about it.  It is nice to have this piece that we know meant so much to a wonderful man.

Tone Down the Lights and Warm up Your Space

October, 2002

Source: Pioneer Press

Tone Down the Lights and Warm up Your Space

How to Create Warm and Inviting Spaces in Your Home

Fall is upon us and we’re losing our light earlier every day!  If the temperature isn’t an indication that the season is changing, the sunlight sure is.  Gone is the long, slow, golden light of the late summer afternoon.  By six o’clock you need to turn some lights on.

It’s easy to provide sufficient lumens to light up a room with an overhead ceiling fixture or with several recessed cans.  This arrangement provides good, general lighting to make a living space functional, however; it will not create a very interesting, warm or inviting place to sit and read, visit or ponder the world.  Beyond that, lighting can be used to accent artwork, highlight table top objects such as photographs, or used to set a mood.

Any place where there is an upholstered piece of furniture there is an opportunity to create an inviting vignette for you and other family members to enjoy.  The soft, intentional light from a table lamp or a floor lamp cannot be achieved by general down lighting, even with dimmers.  Not only does the warm light from a lamp look appealing, this more direct light is much better task lighting for reading, etc. as the light is closer to what you need to see.  End tables that sit among furniture groupings are natural locations for lamps.  Sofa tables are also good locations for direct lighting.

That same warm lamp light will create a nice effect on a hall or entryway table or on an accent table.  This is in part due to the warm glow of incandescent light and its effect on color.  Color cannot exist without light but once light is introduced, colors begin to emerge.  How bright a color reads depends directly on the brightness or intensity of the light.  This is obviously true for wall color but equally true of artwork.   There are special lights available to accent artwork on the wall.  Most places that frame art will offer appropriate information for lighting a particular piece.  Lamps that sit on a table surface just under a piece of art should have a three-way setting which is always a good option where you will want something more than accent or mood lighting.

When light is used as an accent, that is to say when it is not used solely for function or task, it can highlight an adjacent object or the lamp itself can be a highlight.  We’ve all seen lamps worthy of being referred to as art, and price tags too.  But there is always something in between inexpensive dreck and the sculpted burnished copper lamp available to the trade only.

Lighting is an area a specialty.  The dramatic effects created by lighting are amazing.  The most effective lighting schemes are those that use a sophisticated combination of a variety of light sources from recessed lighting and pinspots to lamp light, cove lighting and up lighting.  Lighting is a required course in design school—a whole semester of calculating lumens taught most of us enough to know where to find a lighting specialist when we needed them.

This article is not an attempt to discuss all lighting options.  It is an attempt to get you thinking about what kind of light you use and whether it is as appealing as it can be.  If you rely on general lighting, there are ways to improve the lighting in your home.  Do an experiment and add a lamp to a sitting area that currently doesn’t have one.   It will change the tone of the room.  Now you have created the mood that is, “come in, sit down and relax.”

Create Walls That Wear Well

September, 2002

Source: Pioneer Press

Create Walls That Wear Well

Create walls that wear well where you need it most–in the high traffic areas of your home. The entry areas, both front and back, stairways and hallways of a home take a great deal of wear.  This is where things are hauled in and out and where young children tend to transfer remnants of their latest activity from hand to wall.  It can be a constant challenge to keep these walls clean especially where the walls are painted a light color.  In addition to wearing well, any of these treatments also provide an opportunity for some exciting change.

Paneling and Beadboard Treatments

One durable wall treatment is to use wood on the lower portion of the wall.  The style of this treatment will depend upon the style and character of your home.  For example, a panel treatment might be an appropriate choice for colonial architecture or other traditional styles.  This could be either recessed or raised panels depending on other cabinet details throughout the home.  Because wood is usually painted in a semi-gloss or a gloss finish, it is much easier to wipe clean than a flat or even an eggshell paint finish.

Beadboard, a narrow vertical paneling, is another option for a durable wall treatment.  Depending on the style of the home, it may be appropriate where a more durable wall treatment is needed, especially for the back entry or mud room area given its relative casual appearance.  Again, this paneling would be finished in a semi-gloss paint making it easy to care for.

Faux Paint Finish and Wallpaper

Another wall treatment idea in a high traffic area is a faux finish on the lower portion of your wall.  Use a chair rail or similar molding to create a transition between the lower and upper wall areas.  Paint the molding piece the same color as the other trim in that area of the house.  For the faux finish, choose a color that compliments the upper wall color but is somewhat darker so it will be a better camouflage for handprints and dirt.  If the walls are not conducive to lower and upper areas, consider painting the entire wall with a faux finish.  At least, use a more medium hued color in these areas with an eggshell finish that is more wipeable than a flat paint finish.

An alternative to faux paint finishes is wallpaper.  Wallpaper can hide many things and can be as dramatic or as subtle as you like.  It need only provide enough texture and visual interest to hide the little things.


A good carpenter is required for the paneling and beadboard installation.  A carpenter or a good handyman can add a piece of molding to separate two different paint finishes.  If you elect to paint an entire wall with one finish, you’ll only need the good painter required to finish any of the wall treatments suggested above.

Picture This: Turn Your Own Photographs into Objects of Art

August, 2002

Source: Pioneer Press

Picture This

Turn Your Own Photographs into Objects of Art

Few of us can afford, or indeed want, a piece of fine art for every wall space in our home. And, though it is nice to have a piece of art that can be enjoyed for its pure aesthetic value, how nice it is to have a piece of art that has a personal connection to us. It is very likely that you already have such a piece. It is something you or your children have created and you haven’t yet realized how wonderful it will look on your wall with just a little careful attention.

For instance, in your collection of photographs from the past year or two, whether from travels or family photographs, chances are there are some great pictures. Go through recent photographs that you are fond of. Set aside those that attract your eye. In the travel photographs, look for two or three that have a similar feel in content, theme or color. Consider how they might look as a group if they were enlarged and thoughtfully matted and framed.

Family photographs and portraits can be terrific additions to a wall or on top of a piece of furniture such as a piano or chest when framed in the right way. Black and white photographs of family members often have a special artistic quality about them and when matted and framed properly, are every bit the piece of art a painting is. Vintage family photographs are unique and almost always interesting to look at as well as to talk about. How much more personal can a piece of art be?

Beyond Photographs

Children’s art is another source of decoration for a room. Much of the work done by children is very upbeat and colorful. Consider matting and framing it to highlight its essential elements. Hang it in a place where you will see it often during the day, like the kitchen or by the back door and it will have a sunny effect on the space where it is hung.

Framing collections of various kinds is also an interesting way to create personal art. For example, coin collections, collections of shells or vintage buttons can all be displayed in frames in colorful and fun ways.

Beyond Frames

Some collections that are worthy of display as art are not conducive to framing. I know a woman who collected small, interesting purses that dated from the early 1920’s through the 1950’s. One day she decided to display her collection rather than keep it packed away. These purses hang from hooks on her living room wall, adding their interest and color to her space.


Every neighborhood has its own frame shop, many of them are very good. As your friends and neighbors which shop they have used to frame art that you admire in their homes.

Create a Kitchen Island with Furniture

June, 2002

Source: Pioneer Press

Create a Kitchen Island with Furniture

Do you like the idea of a kitchen island or peninsula but think matching your existing cabinets would be problematic?  Maybe you just don’t want everything to look the same.  Consider adding a piece of furniture to function as an island or peninsula instead.  Contrast the style of the furniture piece with the existing cabinets.  For instance, if your kitchen is fairly contemporary and yet you like antiques, one thoughtfully selected old table will add warmth and interest as well as functioning as a work-surface or buffet.  If you have traditional cabinets, an old table is an easy fit.  If the table has a shelf below, it will be a nice place to display a few pieces of your favorite ceramics.

If you’d like more storage space in your kitchen, select a few nice sized baskets to hold kitchen items and place them on the shelf below the table or, if there is no shelf, put the baskets right on the floor.  This option doesn’t have to create a cluttered look but can be very clean and simple to go with a contemporary kitchen.  This newfound storage can hold kitchen items or vegetables and fruit that can be left at room temperature.  And, you have created it at a fraction of the cost of new cabinets.

For other kitchens where an antique piece just isn’t going to work, there are a host of other options.  There are several styles of stand-alone furniture pieces made from butcher block, steel wire, stainless steel and other material combinations.  With these furniture styles, metal storage bins or wooden boxes painted to coordinate with your kitchen color palette would be nice options for additional storage on the floor beneath.

One issue to consider when deciding between furniture styles for this kitchen piece is that an old table will be at table height.  This can be nice especially if you have space to put even one chair at the table where you could sit and work.  It would be reminiscent of a time when we actually sat down in the center of the kitchen.  If the table will be largely decorative and function as a buffet and for the storage beneath, then the table height need not be a concern.  You should know that many places will retrofit longer legs on a table if you would rather have it at counter height to be used with taller stools for instance.  The advantage of the contemporary style island or peninsula pieces is that they are designed at counter height.


Many neighborhoods have their own local antique shops and this is a good place to find an old table.  House sales and, in this season, garage sales are another place where interesting items can be found.  Remember, you only need one “gem” so don’t be influenced by the garage junk that may surround your treasure.

In Chicago, Vintage Pine is a great source for a variety of antique styles.  Pine and Design, also in Chicago, is a good place for ideas.  For more contemporary pieces look at Room and Board, Crate & Barrel and the mail order catalogs of Williams and Sonoma and Pottery Barn.