Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Buy Blinds

Sometimes you need blinds or shades for you windows, not curtains or drapes. Making a choice is tough. So, here is how you do it.

Write down a list of the things you want from your blinds. For example - they must block all light, or they must provide privacy when down, or they must control heat coming in and heat going out. 

Make a list of the things you do not want. You may not want vertical blinds; or blinds with vertical rows of cords, or slatted shades.  A word of caution here - slatted shades have come a long way in the last few years, so try to keep an open mind about them.

Look at your window and decide where you want the blinds to be hung.  Most blinds require a minimum of 2 to 3 inches for a blind to be fully recessed into the frame. Consider window frames and handles on opening windows. If the handles interfere with a blind falling straight, consider replacing the crank handle with a butterfly or collapsible handle.

Think about the style of your room. Seriously think about it. If you have a lovely traditional room, filled with antiques and old rugs, do you really want hard blinds on the windows? There are soft shadings on the market that will fit any decor style. Perhaps incorporating a fabric valance or side panels is the solution to bridging the modern shade to the traditional room.

And now we come to the budget. The stinker is that unless you get some quotes you won’t have any idea of the possible cost - there are no square-foot averages in this business. But, come up with a figure of how much you are willing to spend. Total.
The trade guideline is that a window covering budget, for the whole home,  should be about 10% of the home value. This would be a higher budget, but it is a place to start.

After all this is done, do your homework. Go to the stores and look at the blinds, taking your list with you. Call a window treatment pro and get a consultation. The money you spend on a consultation may well be saved if you don’t have to re-do your coverings because they weren’t right for you.  A pro can advise you on how to get what you need and stay within your budget.

Up Go the Heating Costs

Don’t know exactly why, ( I have a good idea, but can’t be sure ) but my electric bill has increased 50 percent over where it was this time last year. My condo is heated with electricity, so this is a substantial increase. I know many of you are in the same position because I am being asked more often than ever about insulated window coverings. So, here is a bit of information I have mentioned before, but bears repeating now.  Think about this: the correct window coverings can reduce your heating bill by up to 25 percent.

Hunter Douglas, one of the largest manufacturers of window coverings, have produced a variation on the honeycomb shade, the Architella with an R value of 7.7.  (R-value is a measure of resistance to heat transfer.)This is believed to be the highest insulating value of any manufactured shade. Yet.

A new home with 4” studs probably has R-20 insulation, older homes less. If you have a double insulating glass window with 1/2” air space between the layers, the R-value of the window is about 2. Add a single layer of fabric and a typical lining for an increase to a total R- value of R3. Add a black out lining; R-value is up to about R5 or 6. Add an interlining, and the R-value jumps to about R9. Add an insulated roman blind and valance and the R-value of the whole window treatment becomes about R16. Remember that the window treatments must be snug to the window and layering will provide the best protection. Consider side panels over blinds to counter the gap between the blind and the window frame. If you have a blind inset into your window frame and the gap on each side is 1/8”, over 80 inches (40 inches on each side) this equates to a 3” x 3” hole in your coverage.

As a full service drapery workroom, I will add lining to existing drapes, either a permanent or removable liner, or you can find pre-made panels on-line or at Fabricland.
If they are blackout liners you will get the most protection against heat going out in the winter and coming in during the summer. In addition to blackout lining, I use a thin cotton quilt batting - works like putting a quilt on the window.

I can tell you how much of your heating bill is actually going out your windows. Call me for more information. 250-833-1120.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I was confronted head on this last week by a service company that promised and didn’t deliver. I expected a product that would work the way they said it would. I expected a quality product.  When I complained I was met with “well, that’s just the way it is.” I got a refund, but at what cost to me, and to the company? 

I was reminded, again, of how simple this whole quality issue is. If you ask the person sitting next to you, right now, the chances are he or she will not define quality exactly the same way you do, but a workable definition comes from the “Quality Initiative.” It states that quality can be defined as simply what the customer wants. If the item does not meet the customer’s requirements, the dollar cost of this non-compliance to requirements can be measured. This applies equally to products or services, and we all know that dollars talk. 

An example: Suppose my company makes shirts.  One of the shirts falls apart in the wash and is returned. I sold the shirt for 10.00 and it cost me 5.00 to make. I made a 5.00 profit. I have to give back 10.00, but the shirt still cost me 5.00. So now the second shirt I sell has no profit at all, what I thought I was making as profit has to go to pay for the cost of the first ‘non-conforming’ shirt. So, what is the cost of not complying to my customers idea of quality, which is a shirt that could be washed? At a minimum I lost the profit on two shirts and the cost of my employees time to manage the error, and it cost my customer time (money) to return it. Might have been a lot simpler to wash a few samples before I sold them, check that the quality was there and make any necessary changes. How much more careful would we have been if we knew that each mistake would require two to three more sales to cover the cost of the error? 

The paycheck that is short hours, the burger that has onions, the shirt that falls apart, 
the matches that don’t work, the advice that is wrong, the appointment that starts late - all of these add to the overall cost of production and to loss of customer loyalty.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the people and businesses we deal with understood this simple idea?

Monday, October 1, 2012

The October Newsletter

The Width of Curtains

Good window treatments should first and foremost fulfill the requirements of the homeowner. If one of those requirements is that they make the window look bigger, or more important, the fix is very easy. Make the curtains and valances wider than the actual window. 

For example, if the living room window is 60 inches wide on a 12-foot wall, it may appear a bit puny.Create an illusion by installing drapes 108 inches wide. This  makes the window appear a lot larger and more in proportion to the wall.  When opening the drapes, they are pulled back to the edge of the glass  only--- creating the illusion that the window continues under the drapes for an additional 24 inches on each side. 

Stackback: If the window is 60 inches wide, and you want it totally exposed when the drapes are open, the whole curtain must be wider than 60 inches. It must be about 25 to  to 30 percent wider. For example, in order to clear the 60-inch window, the drapes must actually be a minimum of 75 to 78 inches wide; the lining and fabric thickness determine how much extra you actually need. 

Now, if you make the drapes quite a bit wider, the valance needs to be deeper in proportion. A 12-inch  valance on the 108-inch drapes would get lost and look far too skimpy. A valance of 16 to 18 inches deep would be much more pleasing, and a valance this deep would have to be hung higher on the wall. 

This is one of the most common but easily fixed mistakes I see in home decor. Just moving the valance up the wall and increasing the drape width often fixes the perception issue without the need for new curtains.  Many of us have  blinds under the drapes and seldom actually close the drapes, so re-positioning them as side panels creates the same perception illusion. 

I am pleased to tell you that I am now a Hunter Douglas Select dealer. This means that I can supply you with any Hunter Douglas window treatment product and because  I’m also a Hunter Douglas Certified Professional Installer, I can install them for you. I worked at the largest Hunter Douglas retailer in Alberta for a few years, so I know these products to be some of the best on the market. When you asked me for blinds, it just made sense for me to become a Hunter Douglas dealer.

How High to Hang the Valance

Recently I added some side panels to a client’s lace valance after I re-mounted the valance up the wall about eight inches. The result was an opening up of the window that, even with the side panels, made the window look much larger. (See it on my website.) I had a client several years ago who insisted on mounting her 16-inch valance on the window frame itself. The result was she lost about one-third of the window.  I recently saw this window and was, again, struck by how squished the whole thing looked. The side panels puddled on the floor, further adding to the squished look. When I asked her if she still liked the treatment, she admitted that she had made a mistake. I’ll be moving that one too.

I see this a lot. So, here is the guideline. The higher you mount the window treatments, the longer the window will appear.  There are some qualifiers, of course. A valance must be long enough to cover the top of the window frame and any blind hardware. It must be long enough to cover the blinds when they are in the up position. The valance length should not ever be less than 20 to 25 percent of the perceived window length. Perceived window length is the measurement of the area covered by the valance and window. If you add ten inches of valance above a 60-inch window, the window is now perceived as 70 inches long. Allowing four inches for the window frame, this valance should be 14 to 17 inches long. A 16-inch valance would  be just right. 

A side note: The width of a window or a window treatment  is the measurement from the left to the right. The length is the measurement from the top to the bottom. These measurements are always, always, always written as width by length.  So, if you write that a window is 25 by 40, it is 25 inches wide and 40 inches long. It is a vertically-oriented rectangle. If you write that the window is 40 by 25, it is 40 inches from side to side and 25 inches from top to bottom; a horizontally-oriented rectangle.

A valance less than ten inches long can look skimpy unless it is on a door window. My personal guideline is minimum 12 inches for window valances. Remember that perspective will make it appear smaller.

Next column I’ll talk about width. 

 How to Choose the Correct Table Lamp Size

First of all, technically speaking, the lamp is the bulb itself. The base and socket thing is called a fixture, upon which rests a shade. 

Sit on a chair beside the table and measure the distance from the table surface to your eye level. Purchase a fixture whose measurement from the table surface to the bottom of the shade does not exceed the table to eye measurement. If the fixture is for a bedside table, the length should still be to sitting eye level from the bedside table surface.

The shade length should not exceed 65 to 80 percent of the base length.  For example, if the base length is 16 inches, the shade should measure 10 to 14 inches long. This will result in a fixture about 24 inches tall. Another way to calculate this is that the shade is about 1/3 of the total length or height of the total fixture.  

The shade diameter should not be be 2 inches or more less than the base length. For example, on the fixture with a 16 inch base, the diameter (or width) of the shade should not be more than 14 inches.  Shades are listed as length, from top to bottom and width, as the diameter or widest part of the shade. 

The shade material determines the amount of wattage for the fixture. If you need a 100 watt bulb you must buy a shade that will accommodate that or risk fires or damage to the shade. 

If you have a tiny table and you need reading light for that table, these guidelines  still apply but you will have a more difficult time finding a small-scale fixture that is tall enough with a shade large enough to accommodate a bulb ( lamp??) large enough for reading. A floor fixture may be more appropriate.

The shape of the shade should be in the same general shape as the base. This is a guideline, not a rule. You can put any shade you want on you fixture, but please make it long enough to cover the bulb and socket. 

Tip: Place your elbow on the table, extend your forearm and fingers perpendicular to the table surface.  Measure from the table surface to the tip of your longest finger and use this measurement as a guide to eye level when impromptu shopping.

There you go. If in doubt; go to a professional lighting store and ask questions. They want you to be happy and are generally willing to share a bit of knowledge.

And, here's to 4 years of Design Dilemmas. 105 of them. Thank you to all of you for your continued support and comments. You make my day when you tell me you have read the column and share what you think about it. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What to Put on the Patio Door.

This is how the pros do it. Function, mood and harmony will lead you to the right decision. 

What do you want the window coverings to do? Is total privacy the issue, or is it blocking the sun from damaging your furniture or floors?  It could be keeping heat in during the winter and out during the summer. Or, it could be that you just want window coverings to soften things up a bit. Writing down the required functions of the coverings is the “Do Not Skip” first step.

Stand at the entrance to your room and look at the overall decor style. Is it a formal, antique-accented traditional-styled living room,  or perhaps a master bedroom sanctuary in a contemporary style? Or it could be a hodge-podge, which we snoots in the design industry refer to as ‘transitional’. You need to determine the mood of the space.

Look through ‘shelter’ magazines specific to the mood of your room. Traditional Home, for example, will have wonderful examples of window treatments that suit that style. Get some education on what style of covering fits the mood of your room.You may love  a particular window covering but find that it doesn’t really work with in your room style.  For example, shutters don’t typically work in a traditional living room.

Now make a list of what the covering must do and what style it should be.  The next step is to find a window covering that meets all your criteria, and enhances and fits with the overall scheme of the room;  It will be in harmony with the room. You can do this with internet searching. It will take a bit of sleuthing, but the information is out there.

Or, you can call a professional window covering person and make an appointment for a one hour in-house consultation. Pay the money. If you forge on alone and make a mistake, it can very easily cost you more in replacement than the house call fee. Call a designer or decorator and ask if they are knowledgeable about both fabric and manufactured window coverings. Look at their website and ask for a reference.   Do not call someone who represents only a particular blind company.  What you need is information and suggestions; not a blind salesman.

Take two or three suggestions that most appeal to you and get the installation specs for each style. Make sure that you can physically place that covering on your door.  Choose the one that meets all your requirements (function), is in the style of the room, (mood) and works with all the other furnishings (harmony). 

If you follow this path to the final choice, you will have made a good, considered decision and the possibility that you made an error will be very, very slim. 

Mirror Mirror

I was cleaning the BIG mirror in the living room the other day and realized that the reflection of moi in that mirror was much clearer, much crisper and not as distorted as the reflection I see in the spare bedroom mirror. We all have one of those distorting mirrors that doesn’t do us any favors. I bought it to use in my alterations business when I first started and was on a budget, but soon realized that it was not a good thing to have my clients look like anorexic criminals when they were trying on clothes. So the mirror got relegated to the back of the door in the spare room.   

This household item is something we all have and we all take for granted. I had no real idea of how it is made, what it is made from and why some offer realistic reflections and some don’t.  I went sleuthing and found some answers.

The big mirror in your bathroom is a plane mirror.  (No, not plain, plane.) A thin layer of aluminum is applied to one side of a sheet of glass, through a chemical process, and paint is applied over that. In it’s very simplest form, that’s it.  The quality differences come mostly from  the sheet of glass. The glass must be flat, free from imperfections and be consistent in thickness throughout. So, this is one of those instances where price will dictate (usually) the quality of the product.  Good quality glass, which exhibits all the necessary attributes of a good mirror, is more expensive to produce than poor quality glass. 

The modern (well since 1600, anyway), mirror was invented in Germany and developed in Murano and silver was the most common backing material, although gold was also used. In an effort to save money, the backing layers of the precious metals were often very thin and cracked easily. Hence the paint.  Mercury replaced silver and gold but these were replaced, for the most part, by aluminum in the 1940s’. The original application process was a closely guarded secret and became available to the English and French in the 17th century only through industrial espionage. 

Now for a fun fact: Mirrors were believed, in medieval times, to be a reflection of the soul. This is why a vampire has no reflection --- because it has no soul. Didn’t know that.

A Few Ways to Stay Cool

One of my great big pet peeves is T-shirts in the summer. I know I might sound like a bit of a snob, but when I see people sweltering in the heat, pulling their T-shirt away from their body, I just want to go over to them and give them a bit of help. T-shirts are knits. Sweaters are knits, as are socks and mittens. One yarn is twisted around itself in such a way as to create a fabric that is several yarn depths thick. This is one of the reasons sweaters, socks and mitts are so warm. There are thick sweaters that are really warm, and thinner sweaters that are not as warm, and T-shirts are really thin sweaters.  A woven fabric, on the other hand, has - in the simplest form -  one thread going one direction, another going the other direction, and there are spaces between the threads. Sometimes you can see through the spaces and air will move between the spaces. A  shirt made of a  woven natural fiber will be much, much, cooler than one made of a man-made fiber, like polyester, and will be a bajilliion times cooler than a poly-cotton T-shirt.
100% cotton sheets will feel cooler through a hot night than poly-cotton woven or jersey knit sheets. 
Install solar film to the outside of your windows to eliminate up to 90 percent of the UV rays entering through the glass. The UV rays are heat-producing and will also bleach your floors and fabrics. 
Line all your fabric window coverings with blackout fabric. Add a ready-made blackout lining to existing window coverings by attaching it to the existing drapery. Alternatively, place it on a separate rod situated between the drape and the window.
Close your drapes or blinds before the sun hits the window. Open doors not on the sun side to create a cross-breeze.  Movement is the key, keep the air moving with stand-alone fans, if necessary.
Paint your rooms a cool color to make the perceived temperature of the room up to 10 degrees lower than a warm-colored room. Think of a south-facing room, with yellows walls, at sunset. Now think of the same room at sunset with blue walls.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer. Where??

Have you noticed that the gray skies are manifested in the gray moods of the residents of this city? I know it’s hard to bear the rain and gray skies, day after day, day after day. We are all  getting  grumpy and just a tad snippy at times. I see it in your faces and hear it in your voices.  So. What to do.
I think the easiest thing we can do is take a page from Mother Nature’s handbook and put some color in our lives. As I walk down Okanagan , I  admire the hottest pink flowers  happily co-existing with a vibrant purple neighbor, both surrounded by several shades of green , with maybe a bit of yellow thrown in for good measure.  The assault on my  visual sense makes me smile.  No, this is not a color scheme I would want in my house all the time, but for just a while, like until summer actually gets here, I think I’ll go see Dave at Salmon Arm Florist and get a bouquet of flowers for my kitchen table.
I went to Vancouver recently; I’ve found a supplier of slipcover-weight fabric at prices that are quite fantastic, so I went to pick up enough for 3 sofa projects. Of course I had to take a walk down Main Street  to  Little India. A quick walk, I thought, because it was rainy and miserable  and I was cold. Three hours later I was still there, going store to store, chatting with the ladies, fondling the silks, admiring the colors.  Colors. There it was again, the effect of  bright colors – they  make me smile. I bought a sari.
The color of the year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango. While I don’t particularly like orange, this one is a glorious color. Maybe  a hit of bright color needs to find a place in my home. I think I’ll opt for fuscia. It could be in a small cushion, or a new coffee cup, or a single Gerber daisy .  Maybe we  all just need some bright color that make us smile every morning. Then we won’t take the gray skies out on the nice ladies behind the counter  at the Pie Company.
Let me know what your favorite color pick-me-up is. I’ll put some of your answers on my website Contact me at

Picture Framing 101

As you know, “Interior Decorating” is fraught with guidelines. Not rules, but gentle reminders of the tried and, usually, true ways of doing, displaying, painting, and coloring that tend to bring out the best in the item and your interior. It shouldn’t be  any surprise that “Picture Framing” also has guidelines.  
In the spirit of writing about decor things that you have  asked me about, I went to talk to Kevin Watson of Earth Art Studios  the other day, to get some first hand info on how to frame a picture.  While waiting to talk to Kevin, I had a look around his gallery, which is a jewel box of local artisan treasures. I am always awed at the variety and quality of the art produced in this area, and Kevin’s gallery showcases some of the best.
You know that the eye goes to the area of greatest contrast first.  It seems that this guideline is pervasive, it appears in Picture Framing as well as almost every aspect of Interior Decorating. When  framing a picture start with the matting. A mat in a high-contrast color to the image itself can draw attention to the mat and take attention away from the image. Just because there is a lot of green in the image does not mean the mat should be green too.  It seems that gentle, neutral mats  that offer a peaceful transition from the image to the frame are the most effective overall. Remember, please, this is a guideline. Remember too, that art is subjective and it is your art and your wall, and you can do whatever you want. 
Frames. Well, the scale of the frame should be similar to the scale of the image. For example, an image of large flowers would look rather silly with a tiny little frame. If the image is a traditional-style still life, a substantial traditional  wood frame is suggested. If the image  is a bouquet of impressionistic flowers, a more modern -- perhaps metal or flat-painted wood-- frame would be more appropriate. 
I learned about glass too. Regular glass allows reflections. Not good. Non-reflective glass doesn’t allow reflections but is more expensive and will blur the image if the glass sits too far in front of the image. Then there is conservation glass. You can’t see it. Period.  
A professional picture framer will ensure that your beloved art is framed with care and consideration and that it will withstand time. A professional picture framer who is also an artist, like Kevin,  will help you choose the frame that is the best for your image.  
Stop in to Kevin’s gallery, 380 Alexander - enter from the Ross Street parking lot side.


How to sell your home 30% faster.
Well, that caught your eye, didn’t it? ‘Days on the Market’  can be a huge problem for homeowners anxious to sell - usually because they are trying to buy another property and must sell the current one. Oh, and suppose we could get you 8 to 10 percent more money for your sale. If you are a home-seller, caught in the hurry-up and wait whirlwind that is real estate sales, you might want to read further.  The cost of staging could very well be less than the first price reduction you will face if your home sits on the market too long. 
Staging is the process of making the home ready for sale.  Staging is  not so new -- been around since 1975 -- and, if done correctly, will produce the results it claims. Consider, too, that 90 percent of prospective home buyers look at listings  on line and they make the decision to continue looking at the listing within 10 seconds. A well-staged home will show better in photographs. Period.
A friend is selling her home and has been looking at what is on the market to purchase. We had a little chat about the process the other day, actually that conversation is the reason for this article. She had removed a lot of pictures from her walls --- a start in the staging process --- but she didn’t like the feel that resulted, she felt it was too impersonal, and she put the pictures back up. This little exercise inadvertently showed her the exact value of staging. A staged home allows the prospective buyer to envision her possessions in the space, there is room for her own personal touch. A home that is not staged showcases the current owners personal taste.  My friend mentioned that homes she was looking at all seemed so impersonal.  A light bulb went on as we talked. She was going to take the pictures down.
Talk to your realtor, or call me,  if you are looking for a stager. I know a few good ones in the area who know what they are doing. I’ll post links on, connect to the Archives.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How  Loosing  My Voice Made Me Clean Up The Office.

About 10 days ago I felt a cold coming on - the sneeze and the scratchy throat were typical warning signs. I prepared to do battle. I can usually nip these in the bud but one little germ got through the defense line of power vitamins and, heaven help me, oregano oil. I got sick. Not too bad, but sick.  I thought I was on the mend until Wednesday at three in the morning when the cat woke me up. I tried to tell him off and had no voice. Nothing, nada, zip. Not even a scratchy hoarse squeak.  Nothing. And I felt just fine.
It’s very odd to loose your voice. No telephone is the first thing you miss. Running a home-based business makes the phone crucial to your livelihood. I had calls to return, supply orders to place but I thought I’d just wait a day. Surely my voice would be back by Thursday. I put the radio on and went to work. It was very disconcerting to hear the phone ring and not be able to answer it. Worked a full day and fell asleep on the couch a few hours before bedtime. But I felt fine. 
Thursday - repeat of Wednesday. On Friday morning, still voiceless, I went to my Doctor who, bless his heart, told me to shut up for at least three days. A friend made my return phone calls for me and ordered the supplies I needed, and I went home.  It’s no fun being out and about when you can’t communicate with anyone. But I felt fine.
By Sunday morning, Day 5 without a voice, I was so well rested I couldn’t stand myself. The cat woke me early, again,  and I was surprised that when I said  good morning to him a sound actually came out. I took a minute to think about it all and realized that what I had just gone through was a full-on manifestation of the ramifications of not listening to my body and keeping my life in balance. I hadn’t and mine wasn’t. I had burned myself out, but I felt fine.
So, while I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I  decided that I needed to get rid of the nagging things in my life that I could,  but wasn’t,  controlling. Step 1: clean up the office. Three hours later the job was done, my office looked great, my voice was obviously coming back and I felt fine. 

What Size Centerpiece?

Ever been to dinner and the centerpiece was so high you couldn’t see across the table? Or it was so large there were leaves in your soup?  Even if your centerpiece is stunning, if it isn’t functional --- which means it fits into the plan of the table, it can ruin the whole mood of the table, and the harmony of the tablescape is out the window. So, here is  a bit about centerpieces.
Mimic the shape of the table.  A round table, is well suited to a round arrangement,a  rectangular table is best with an oval or rectangular arrangement.
Clarify the type of food service to determine the space available for the arrangement on dining tables. Family service will necessitate room for serving bowls, for example, plate service will not.
Choose the style of table setting before finalizing the arrangement size. Formal style requires several glasses and side plates per person and may leave little room for a  centerpiece.
Select the height of the arrangement as below the sight line of guests on opposite sides of the table if the table is narrow enough for them to talk to each other, or above the sight line if the table is too wide for conversation.
Set the table with all the required plates, bowls, glasses and stem-ware and test the size of various vessels in the available space. Stand back and look at the table and possible arrangement size and if it is pleasing to your eye, it is probably the right size.
Rule of thumb is to start with a 12-inch vessel  for a table 54 inches wide and let the arrangement extend 2 to 4 inches past the vessel.
Dave Barritt, master florist at Salmon Arm Florist, shares that eye level is approximately the distance from the elbow to the tip of the fingers. If preparing an arrangement away from the table where it will be used, set your elbow on the work surface, extend your fingers, and use this span as an approximation of the sight line level.

A tall arrangement will be less likely to tip over if the height of the arrangement is less than the circumference at its thickest part. This last bit of information comes from my days as a bartender. If the glass is taller than it is around, it will fall over easily. Remember Singapore Slings? Like that.
I recently received some new foam for outdoor cushions. Visit the Archives at my website for more information.

How to choose the right size air conditioner

Summer is coming. I know the robins are here and I saw a blackbird at  my friend’s house the other day. There is green poking through the nasty ‘lawn’ thingy in front of my condo. I moved bedrooms this winter and my current one faces west; that means I may need an air conditioner this summer. I like my sleeping area cool but don’t want to cool down the whole house just for one tiny room so now I have to decide what to get. So, here is how to choose the size of air conditioner for your space.
Start by calculating the square footage of the space to be cooled.  (I know we use meters, not feet, but no one seems to have told the air conditioning manufacturers). For example, if the room is 24 by 24,  the square footage is 576. You need an air conditioner that will cool a minimum of 576 square feet. 
The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). So are your bar-b-ques, by the way. The capacity required per square foot  varies from 30  for a small room down to 20 for a large, open-concept space. For example, a 200 square foot room requires 6,000 BTUs, which is 30 BTUs per square foot, but a 600 square foot room requires 14,000, which is 23 BTUs. 
If the room is a shaded, subtract 20% from the number of BTUs required, if it gets a lot of sunlight, add 20%. If the space has a kitchen, add 4000 BTUs, if more than two people use the room daily, add 600 BTUs for each person. 
Still with me?  Now if you decide to throw caution to the wind and just buy the biggest one you can carry home from the big-box store, consider that a unit that is too large for the space will cool too quickly, shut off frequently and not remove enough moisture from the air, resulting in freezing. Not good. One that is too small will run continuously and cost more to operate than the specs say. Read the box.
So, now that we are all totally confused, take heart and contact a professional. Not only will they be able to determine the size of air conditioner you need, they will advise you on the type of system--- which is a whole other discussion.  Good luck. Check my website, connect to the newspaper archives, for references and more information.

Just The Facts.

I get asked about these things a lot. Especially at this time of year.  Each year I write a bit about these things and hope that those of you who have not paid attention in the past will do so now.  I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t want to reduce their heating and cooling bills. So, listen up, group. Here are the facts:
1. Putting solar film on your windows will reduce the heat transmitted though the windows by at least  68 percent.  This is heat transmitted in both directions. 
Window Film and More: window-film-lower-your-cooling-bills.aspx
2.Just adding blackout lining to your existing window treatments can reduce your heating and cooling bill by at least 15 percent.
Thermal Curtains Lining Efficiency:
University of Wisconsin: Energy Conserving Window Treatments:
3. While risking the wrath of some, I am going to quote the  U.S. Department of Energy and tell you that the proper window treatments --- including manufactured shades and blinds --- can save you up to 25 percent on your heating and cooling bill. 
U.S. Department of Energy: windows_doors_skylights/index.cfm/mytopic=13530
4.The sun will damage your window coverings, furniture and floors. Even if they are on a north-facing window, even if they are under an awning. cat/window/aboutdrapery_linings.htm
There, now you know. Call me if you’d like me to bring you samples and talk about this further. 

“Porcelain” Tile: ??

I learned some things this last week. Always good to learn something new and what I learned may be if interest to all you weekend-warriors, or wives of would-be-weekend-warriors, or husbands thereof, I suppose.
Porcelain tile. Sounds rather exotic, doesn’t it? When I hear ‘porcelain’ I immediately think of the figurines on my Grandmother’s dresser. These were the pieces the grandchildren were forbidden to touch. I really don’t think about floor tiles. So here is what I learned this week:
Porcelain is ceramic. This means it is made from clay. Porcelain is made from a very particular, refined, and usually white clay. This Kaolin clay is  mixed with quartz ferrous sand and fired in a very hot furnace. The heat causes particles in the mixture to turn to glass. That is an incredibly simplified version of the process, but I think it provides insight into the finished product. 
Porcelain doesn’t absorb much moisture. It is ‘impervious’, which means that it has an absorption rate of .5 percent or less. Compare this to cement at 5 to 10 percent. Minimal moisture absorbency does not mean it won’t stain, but it does mean it resists cracking at low temperatures.  
If the porcelain is polished, the pores on the surface of the tile are opened, and the tile becomes more susceptible to staining. So, this tile is often glazed, which involves an additional firing and a product added to the surface of the tile.  If the porcelain is left natural, it is considered “unglazed,” “unpolished,” or  “through-body.”  The color of the tile is through-out the whole tile, chips and dings are much less noticeable than on glazed tiles.
Keeping porcelain clean involves frequent vacuuming with a soft brush attachment or  dust mopping. Warm water and mild cleaning products only, please, and do not allow these products to dry on the floor - they may stain natural porcelain. Don’t use bleach, ammonia  or acids, oil-based detergents or wax cleaners. 
You will pay more for high-quality porcelain tile than box-store ceramic but the advantages are durability, resistance to staining, and resistance to chipping and cracking.
Every wonder why we call the dishes made of good porcelain ‘China’? Because that is where the process was developed. 

Care of Your Shades and Blinds

OK, first off, shades are usually made of fabric or a fabric-like product. They are manufactured as pleated, honeycomb or Silhouette-type coverings and are considered a ‘hard’ window covering. As opposed to soft window coverings, such  as custom-made drapes and Roman shades --- which I make.  Blinds are coverings made of slats of wood, metal or plastic and these are also considered hard window coverings. For ease, in this article, I’ll just say ‘shades.’
Whether custom-made or purchased from a big-box store, shades  can be expensive.  Keeping them in optimal working order will increase their longevity and keeping them clean is the first step.  Dust accumulation in the lift mechanisms will interfere with the smooth operation of the shades and dirty cords tangle more easily.
Please don’t assume that because the coverings are made of a fabric-like product they are washable. Water may stain the product and  the cords could shrink if they contain cotton. So, spot clean with a damp cloth, no detergent or cleaner. Do not use  pre-loaded cleaning sheets on any window covering; they contain products that can stain and damage the shades.  One of the largest shade manufacturers states that use of these sheets will void their warranty.  If your shade becomes heavily soiled have it professionally cleaned;  please don’t try to wash it in the bathtub. 
Vacuum your shades regularly, using a clean, soft brush attachment. Lower the shade and, starting at the top of the covering, vacuum in a cross-wise pattern.  Moving the brush up and down the covering may damage the folds.
 Between vacuumings, dust  the coverings with a wool duster.  Man-made dusters simply move the dust along the shade. Dust sticks to the wool and is moved off and away. Buy a wool duster with a removable head that you can take off and throw in the washing machine.  Non-removable head dusters come with cleaning instructions, but the removable ones are the best.
Spray your covering  with a spray static inhibitor.  Lightly cover both sides.  This will help prevent dust from sticking to the shade and make the vacuuming easier. This is the big-deal tip for those of you who hate all the dust that settles on your venetian blinds.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What you need to know about your outdoor cushions.

Spring is coming. I don’t really care what Punxsutawney Phil said.  I know because I am getting lots of requests to re-cover outdoor  and RV cushions.  A lady I know was telling me about the waterproofing spray she was going to buy to spray her outdoor cushions.  We had a bit of a conversation about this, and I thought I should share some of it. 
First of all, if you expect the covers to be totally waterproof, you will be  disappointed. Unless you seal each line of stitching, glue the zipper shut, and evenly apply multiple layers of waterproofing, the cushion will not be totally impervious to water collection.
Walter collecting in the inner foam will mold and mildew.  Hence ruined cushions.
The clever DIYer will make her outdoor cushions so the water runs through them and does not collect in the filler. Makes a  lot of sense when you think about it, doesn’t it?
If you are making your cushions yourself, or having them made, ensure you use a foam or filler specifically designed for outdoor use. The most common outdoor cushion  material is a quilt batt-like product. (Often made from recycled plastic bottles.) Water passes through the product, inhibiting mildew growth. Available one or two inches thick, it is stacked to the required depth and can be cut easily with scissors. It is available online and in large do-it-yourself home decor stores; it is priced about the same as high quality foam. Fabricland carries it as  Fiber Form-Ext.
My current favorite is Dri-Fast. Thick polyethylene fibers are spun into a sheet typically 2 or 3 inches thick to create a product that is firm, does not support mildew growth and can be cut with an exacto-knife.  Water passes through the material quickly and does not accumulate. It is about twice as expensive as foam, but some varieties are guaranteed for at least five years of outdoor use. It is available through upholsters and drapery workrooms. 
The fabric used to cover outdoor furniture foam requires consideration as well. Good-quality outdoor fabric resists sun-bleaching and allows moisture to pass. If the filler is wrapped with a batting, it should not be glued in place as the glue will inhibit water passing though. Spend the extra money on top-quality materials now and you won’t be replacing the cushions in a few  years.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

5 Reasons to Hire a Decorator

 A decorator will save you money. If a gallon of paint costs $65.00 and you buy two in the wrong color; you have lost $130.00. Plus all the time it took to choose, shop and paint. The smaller your budget, the less room you have for mistakes - you need help to get it right the first time. 
A decorator will help you clarify your vision - she can take all the pictures you have in your ‘wish’ folder and make sense of it. She will work with you to help you get the elements just right, in the right proportion and in the right place. She should have some formal training;  it is indicative of a serious dedication to the profession. She should be able to provide you with a scale drawing of the finished room.  Think about it, who would you prefer to have working in your home- a self-taught plumber or one who has taken some training? Training will help a decorator help you. 
A decorator will  help you make a plan. A decorator should provide a plan that meets your vision and your budget  and details the steps to take, and in what order. With her knowledge and training, she will be able to devise a plan that fits  your budget and your timeline.  You can then schedule your time and expenditures to fit your life. 
A decorator can provide scale floorplans of a new space. Downsizing, renovating, moving, or buying new furniture is much easier, takes less time, and is much less stressful if you know where each piece is to be placed. A floorplan will show you possible trouble spots for using existing furniture, and will  clearly show you the size that new furniture should be.  Floorplans will also reveal such elements as the size of the rug needed, the size and shape of coffee table,  bedside tables, and lighting.
A decorator can help you solve design dilemmas.  A good decorator brings a wealth of knowledge of interior fashion and function and will be able to help you with such diverse problems as how to deal with an off-center window or how to maximize storage  Often just having a trained set of eyes look at the problem and discuss it with you will show the solution.

If you need help, or just want to talk, call me. And.. Happy Belated Birthday to Art, my ‘Biggest Fan.’

Friday, January 27, 2012

Trim Colors

Unless you are David Letterman,  you wouldn’t wear white socks with a nice brown suit. 
You know that they would draw attention to your ankles and take focus away from the nice brown suit and spectacular shoes. 
Its the contrast rule. Again. The eye will go to the area of greatest contrast first. If your  socks are the most important element in your outfit, then white is great. If, however, you would like them to stay in the background, socks in a color that blends with the suit or shoes is better. Unless you are David Letterman. 
Using this guideline with regard to baseboards and window trim will help you determine what color to paint. Or to paint in the first place. If the trim is wood, and it is exceptional in some way, it may be appropriate to treat  it as a focal point in the room and use the contrast rule to your advantage. 
 Stand at the end of a hallway that has several doors. Look at the number of horizontal and vertical lines created by the contrasting trim. When looking down the hall, your eye will stop and start at each contrast point. Imagine the hallway with all these contrast points negated. The hallway will appear much larger and less confined. Pictures or furniture in the hall will become the focus; not the trim and doorways. 
Contrast will make an area appear smaller;  lack of contrast will help an area appear larger.  Trim on doors, walls and windows that is a contrast color will make the entire room appear smaller. Trim that blends with the surrounding wall will blur the edges, the walls will appear taller, the floor wider and the windows larger.
Decide what place you want the trim to take in the design scheme  and paint accordingly.  You can always re-paint if you make a big boo-boo. But, by understanding the contrast rule and with a bit of planning, this shouldn’t happen.
I have the facility to take a picture of your room, load it into my system  and change the wall and trim color. It’s lots of fun to see what the effect will be before painting. 
Update on colors for 2012. As mentioned, Pantone has selected an orange as color of the year. Benjamin Moore has selected Wythe Blue HC-143  (a very soft gray-blue) as theirs.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Colors for 2012

For all of you who have been anxiously waiting for the color forecast for 2012, sorry to disappoint but I just couldn’t do it.  I did my research. I looked at all the ‘important’ magazines and web sites. But I gave up.
I really wanted to summarize what one of the most popular paint companies was saying about color for the year but they wanted $75.00 for the report. That’s like buying a T-shirt with the designers name splashed across the front.  They should be paying me. I found a blog that was ‘sharing’ the report and it took a me 45 minutes to figure out that the new way of categorizing color was quite convoluted, but when it all boiled down, it seems they are saying that anything goes. Lots of introspective, metaphysical, socio-economic jargon. Simply put: muted colors; grey is big and reptile prints, as in snakes, are ‘important.’
Pantone, the absolute color poo-bah, has determined that the color of 2012 is Orange - or, in their lingo, Tangerine Tango, color 17-1463. These are the folks who told us that fuchsia/honeysuckle was the interior color of the year for 2011. I saw this color in pillows in home dec stores, but did not once see it in anyone’s home. Not once. Well, except in my closet because it is my favorite scarf color and has been for years. On the cutting edge, me.
Most of us know what our best colors are, as clothing, and in our surroundings.  We tend to stay with these colors, changing only when our lives change.
An acquaintance did a closet purge and was left with grey, black and brown clothing.  In the summer she adds beige and off-white. No surprise there - these are the same colors as her  (beautiful) homes interior.  I know she gets a bit of grief now and then about her ‘fear’ of color but she has found what works for her, where her comfort level is, and she sticks with it.  She won’t be asking me to whip up any orange pillows for her living room. Of this I am sure. 
Just as little black dresses never go out of fashion, classic colors and styles help create easy living spaces. That should be the goal. So. Once again. Put the magazines down and use the colors YOU like in YOUR home.

Trust Yourself. Please.

I was doing my due diligent reading in preparation for the color forecast column and I came across a blog talking about interior design trends for 2012. Interesting stuff. But what caught my eye was a comment, way down the comments section, from a gal who said  she had seen some blown glass lamps she loved but was hesitant to buy them. However, based on what the blog said, she was confident enough that the lamps were OK, trend-wise, and that she would go ahead and buy them. 
I had a client whose entertainment unit was in the wrong place in the room; the sun shone on the TV screen and everyone who passed through the room had to walk between the TV and the sofa. She said that the unit had to stay where it was because that is where the cable connection was situated. After I asked her what Interior Design training the cable installer had, she realized that she had allowed the installer to  dictate furniture placement in her room.  We got the cable connection re-located, moved the entertainment unit and  the room became much more user-friendly.
I know a young professional couple who have a beautiful home. It could be right out of Elle Decor and it is stunning in its minimalist esthetic. It’s disquieting, though, when one realizes there are no books, other than the three carefully chosen  coffee table books. There are no pictures of family or friends anywhere. The wall art is all of the same genre, all the same mono-chromatic color scheme. All the frames and mats match. There is no evidence, in the public spaces, that two children live in the home. There is no personal style evident anywhere. The decorator created a show home but the young couple don’t have a family home. 
The most important part of my job is to listen to my clients. Most of the time, all you really want is someone to listen to you, and help you define your vision. I tell you all, over and over, that you need to trust your instincts and do what is right for  you and your family. It is your home, not mine, not another decorators. I will help you attain your vision, but it must be YOUR vision.
As we start another year, I wish you all the very best that life can bring.

How to hem pants

I would not be exaggerating to say I have hemmed over 1000 pairs of pants, in my time, --- everything from jeans to astoundingly expensive custom made mens wool pants.  Some, like  jeans and the expensive dress pants, should be taken to a professional - for lots of reasons. But, for the young wife, mom or GUY, you should know how to hem everyday pants, and by extension, skirts and shorts. So here is the quick version.
Put the pants on inside out. Turn the bottom of the pants up to the correct length, just form a cuff around the bottom. Pin this in place at the center back. Pin one leg only, and at this point only. The assumption is that  both of your legs are the same length, or reasonably close to the same length, and that the pant legs are the same length to begin with. 
Take the pants off; keep them inside out. 
Measure the amount you turned  up. Remove the pin and turn the pants up, by this amount, all around the pant leg. Press this ‘new hem’ fold.
Open the fold. Remove the previous hem stitching. The easiest way to do this is to use small sharp-tipped scissors and snip the threads on the surface of the hem,  on the inside of the pant.   Snip every third or fourth stitch. After snipping all the threads on the inside, the outside thread will easily pull away from the pant leg in one long piece. 

Open the hem out and iron, being careful not to iron over the new hem fold. 
Mark the cut line, from the new hem fold  down toward the bottom of the pant leg,1 1/2 inches.  Use a fabric marking pencil - or if you are confident, use a pencil and a light hand.  Cut the pants off along this line.
Turn the cut raw edge up to meet the new hem fold line and press all around. Be careful not to press the new fold line. Turn the hem up again 3/4 inch. You have created a double hem, 3/4-inch wide. Sew around the pants, close to the folded edge.   Done.