Creating environments to meet your needs and suit your lifestyle.

Create Your Own Treasures of the Season

December, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

Create Your Own Treasures of the Season

The holiday season adds another dimensions to our lives and so we are not just working and caring for our families but thinking of ways to bring joy into the lives of others.  As we hurry about in our efforts the air is festive in shops, offices, even on the sidewalks people are smiling for no apparent reason.  Can’t we package this holiday spirit up somehow and take it home with us?

Of course we all have our traditions and these usually include the annual hauling out of the holiday china, special candlesticks, the menorah, the dried herb wreath, holiday dishtowels or, heaven help you, the plastic light-up Santa.  Traditions are great for many reasons but not the least of which is to build memories fort he younger generation.  Still, try something new and different this year.

Update Your Table Décor

Holiday china creates an instant festive atmosphere.  “Holiday” china doesn’t have to mean the type that has a Christmas pattern running around the rim, though that can be quite nice.  It can be as simple as using solid white or off-white china and mixing it with very festive serving pieces.  This can easily be done no matter which holiday it is you celebrate.  There are a number of great looking seasonal designs for platters and bowls that would add a holiday spirit to any table.

Add a new twist to your existing table linens with beaded cloth napkins or napkin holders.  The beads and linen fabric are an elegant touch for any table.  If you want to keep it yet simpler, buy a few spools of really nice quality ribbon, wired or unwired, and use these to tie around cloth napkins.  The ribbons, especially on all white table linens, make a nice statement all on their own.

A clean crisp way to add a hint more color is to use a set of tinted crystal.  If this sort of investment is not for you, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrell offer some colorful alternatives.  Another twist on the regular tableware is to buy a few unusual serving utensils either something very artful that you wouldn’t use everyday or some antique silver.  They needn’t match each other and collecting different patterned ones over the years may be a fun new objective.

If you like hands-on projects, create your own table center piece with some smaller greenery pieces, pinecones, etc. in a foam block and then add fresh flowers on the day your are entertaining guests.  These items can be found at a nursery like Chalet, Smith & Hawkins or, for much less at Frank’s Nursery.

Other Ideas for the House

When decorating for a holiday season a few carefully chosen items are better than several decorative objects that either displace or crowd existing items in your home.  If it’s appropriate, tie a ribbon around that piece of sculpture that sits on the living room shelf or coffee table.  Put holy around the candle in a votive or drop in a few blue and silver balls to add some sparkle.  Put a fabric runner on the top of the dining buffet.

Children do love the excitement of the season.  A cozy set of flannel holiday sheets, used just during the holiday season is something they are sure to remember and look forward to year after year.  Lush holiday hand towels for the guest bath is another annual touch the children will look forward to.  If you have only grandchildren or regular young visitors, they’ll appreciate it too.

A wreath is one of the most common holiday decorations.  (The wreath has its origin well before the beginning of Christianity. The wreath is a celebration of the season and the winter solstice, and not historically connected to any particular religion.)   Try using grapevines to create a wreath.  If you have access to woods near you, you can easily find the grapevines yourself.  Short of this, buy a grapevine wreath and have your children add dried herbs or flowers to decorate it.  Make some smaller ones and give them away as gifts.

There are some pretty fun and festive doormats for inside or outside and these are useful to boot!

Exterior Ideas

More people see the outside of your home than will ever see the inside so why not extend the cheer outside.  Garland is one typical holiday dressing for your light post or porch railing.  Another idea is to use a large pot, painted bucket or even a galvanized or copper tub to hold an arrangement of greenery, tall twigs, pinecones and red berries.  One nicely done container by the front door is all you would need to share the spirit of the season with passers-by.

The Gathering Place—Furnish it Wisely

November, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

The Gathering Place—Furnish it Wisely

The gathering place—every home has one. If any place in your home should be smartly furnished, it should be the space where family members come together. After all, this place, above all others, is where life’s big issues get discussed, decisions about the future are made, laughs are shared, and tears are shed.

As we head into the autumn season and the holidays loom, the significance of family is highlighted. Take the opportunity to think about the space in your home where people tend to gather and whether it is all you want it to be.

The Kitchen

In some homes, the gathering place is the kitchen table. During food preparation and cooking time, children and spouses come and go talking about their days. Or, maybe dinner guests are milling about, wine in hand talking with the cook. In order for people to stay in the kitchen, it must be a space that can accommodate them and be comfortable enough for people to spend time there.

A kitchen can accommodate family and guests graciously and comfortably without being huge. In fact, last Thanksgiving I observed something very interesting; the home where my extended family gathered to spend the holiday was not large at all. The kitchen was 9 x 12 with an eat-in table in the center. The table was a drop-leaf table that opened to a 42” round. I marveled at how many things happened at that table in the four days we were there.

The small table served as a buffet, dining table, dessert table, craft station for grandchildren, manicure table for the young ladies, writing desk for grandma, a place to tell stories and listen, a spot to sip coffee and discuss the future of family members, our country and the world. That’s a tall task for one small table. All of this happened at that table because the space was comfortable, appealing and flexible enough to accommodate the variety of activities that people demanded of the space. The furniture fit perfectly and an extra bonus was the lighting, which allowed for several options. There was bright task lighting, softer conversation lighting, direct lighting and combinations of the above.

Dining Room

In other homes, the gathering place is the dining room table. The dining room table has had a long tradition as the homework base or, at least, school project command central. These activities are opportunities for good family interaction.

If this is your family gathering place, the table and chairs should be comfortable and user friendly (or made so with slip covers) so that every family member feels welcome to use them. If the table is highly finished, you should have protective pads made for the table. Use an inexpensive tablecloth over the pads when the table is used for projects so you don’t worry about it and neither do your family members.

Where the dining room is only the gathering place for family and guests to enjoy good meals and good times, it still should be comfortable. If you want people to linger in a dining chair, it must be up to the task. In fact, the whole room should be an appealing, inviting space where people want to sit back and enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. This is all done with the right furniture, the right colors, and the proper lighting.

The Family Room

The family room is also among the more common gathering places in a home. This is most likely the case when there is not an eat-in kitchen and the dining room is either too formal or just not a place to settle into for long discussions.

The key to a great family room is to have the furniture arranged for conversation. Arrange it around a fireplace first, if you have one and for the television secondarily. Here you want to create a coziness and warmth so family members and others will linger. There should be enough seating to accommodate your family members and four people beyond that, if possible. Ottomans, which are great with reading chairs, can act as extra seating. Throws are another essential family room accessory.


The architecture and layout of your home will strongly influence the hub of the house. But you can influence where your family’s gathering place is by how you furnish the spaces. Whether your gathering place is in the kitchen, dining room or family room, furnish it with comfort, warmth and style!

The Sustainable Gift

July, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

The Sustainable Gift

Parties! Parties for wonderful people and for a variety of occasions have inspired today’s column. This summer I have been to parties that celebrate wedding anniversaries, a house warming, a send off for friends moving away, and a party to celebrate the return of a friend from a year abroad. At each party, the guests brought gifts either for the honored guests or for the hosts, or both. This got me thinking.

Many gifts were given at these parties to people who probably didn’t “need” a thing. Yet, the idea of a gift is a very nice thought and people want to give them. I began to think about how people could give gifts without creating more “stuff” in the world or, perhaps a gift that didn’t simply gather dust.

The Consumable Gift

A consumable product is almost always appreciated and is often the “greenest” gift. The gift of a nice bottle of wine is a wonderful gift for those who enjoy it and, when it’s finished, the bottle is recyclable. There are wonderful specialty gourmet foods available that make nice gifts, and all the better if they are organic products. I would put body products in this category also because they get used up and the container recycled. This idea isn’t just for grandma’s hand lotion or lip gloss for the young teenage girl. If the friend for whom you are getting a gift is a gardener, for instance, there are wonderful gardener’s soaps and lotions on the market.

The consumable gift you give doesn’t have to be an expensive purchase at a swanky gourmet shop or from the organic shop located way out of your way. Often the best gifts are simpler than that. Homemade jam, cookies, or other dish along with the recipe that you know the person will enjoy, might be perfect.

Other types of consumable gifts are things like gift certificates to the movies, restaurants, tickets to events you know the person will enjoy or, better yet, that you can do with them. There are a number of places along the North Shore that offer cooking classes (where you can take a specific one-time class) or arrange an in-home wine tasting party as a gift.

Sustainable Products as Gifts

The truth is that no matter what stage of life we are at, there are things we use everyday that inherently wear out over time. Gifts that fit this bill are both terrific to give and receive. If these items were made in a sustainable way, all the better.

One such item that caught my attention recently is a bamboo cutting board. Bamboo is harder than maple, does not need to be stained or painted, and is harvestable in 3 to 4 years. Bamboo has an extensive root system that continually sends up new shoots so it does not need to be replanted. The cutting boards made from bamboo come in a variety of sizes, are beautiful as well as useful. So whether you want a major cutting board for all the kitchen prep work or a small board to cut lemon and limes for summer refreshments, you can find them locally at Dinner at Eight in Wilmette.

Another item that gets lots of use and needs replacement is the kitchen towel. Colorful and fun towels are readily available and make a very useful gift. You can buy towels of organic cotton, without dyes in the Gaiam Catalog (800.869.3446) and at Whole Foods. Tie a colorful piece of fabric around a set of these for a handsome package.

For other sustainable gift ideas look through Organic Style and Natural Home magazines. People want to feel good about the gifts they give; that they are liked, appreciated and useful. Now you may have the added satisfaction of knowing that the sustainable gift you give is a gift to the Earth as well.


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

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.

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.