Biomimicry , simply put, is the art and science of using nature’s perfected evolutionary inventions in creating our own. When you think about it, why do we really need to re-invent what nature probably already has? We are currently seeing some of the most exciting inventions of our time being inspired by nature. For example, Lotusan paint was inspired by the lotus plant which is self-cleaning, the dried paint surface mimics the peaks and valleys of the lotus plant to help the surface shed water and dirt.
So how can biomimicry be used in our homes? Here are some basic questions to keep in mind during the design process:
Nature gathers the sun’s energy efficiently, using only what it needs to support life. We can use passive solar design in our homes or position them so that south facing windows can keep a room warmer in the winter, and by using sun-blocking shades, cooler in the summer.
Form following function is not new to design, smaller chairs with backs work for dining, whereas upholstered chairs are more comfortable for a living room.
Sustainable design is not only a hot topic but it takes it’s own inspiration from nature. Your materials selections should be based on durability and longevity as well as aesthetics. There are multitudes of recycled and recyclable options available today. By imitating the life, death and rebirth cycles of nature, we can begin thinking in a less linear way and create a path of material goods from cradle to grave, from manufacture to landfill.
Cooperation within our living environments can be applied to the selection of materials and furnishings to make the most visual impact. Good design is always based on a mixture of patterns, textures, shapes, sizes and colors—all working together to create visual order.
When possible, use local materials to reduce shipping costs.
As always, beautiful spaces will reflect the personalities of those who inhabit that space. Beauty endures and thus has longevity.
“When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or a flower. If it clashes, it is not art."
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We currently rely too heavily on fossil fuels in the
United States. These energy sources are not renewable and will soon dwindle unless we begin using other forms of energy, such as the sun. Solar energy is infinitely available and can be captured and used for a variety of electrical needs. The benefits of solar energy include; environmental benefits, energy that can not be used up, job creation, improved economy and energy security.
The suns energy can be captured for use in lighting and there are several available options for solar powered lighting. Outdoor lighting is the perfect place to start. Solar lighting is quick and easy to install since there is no wiring and it won’t add to your electrical bill. Solar fixtures employ a photovoltaic cell that captures the sunlight and converts it into an electrical current which supplies the lamp.
Solar power is also surprisingly dependable; it’s never too cloudy to collect solar energy, even when it’s raining. The fixtures do not require any maintenance, and can be installed anywhere.
Vastu: The Ancient Science for Living
Vastu is the science of architecture and design that originated thousands of years ago along with yoga and ayurveda. The basis of Vastu is this; harmony comes from the proper relationship between a space and its occupants. Or, in other words, you must find peace in your surroundings before you can find peace within yourself. Vastu is a means of restoring a healthy balance to a home. Many are familiar with yoga and most are familiar with ayurveda, vastu shares the same philosophy but focuses on the surroundings as opposed to the body.
Vastu stresses the importance of valuing the human form within the architecture of a building. An environment that has been built to cater to the human form has been proven with contemporary sciences like ergonomics and anthropometrics to be both a pleasing and healthier space for us to be in. Interior design should also compliment and support the human form. We seem to react most positively to asymmetrical spaces. Although our bodies appear to be perfectly symmetrical, when examined more closely, we see that everything is slightly asymmetrical.
There are three core principles of Vastu.
The morning sun is believed to be healing and nurturing to the human body and the afternoon sun is intense and tiring. Vastu theorizes that a home should let morning light in but limit the amount of afternoon sunlight. This can also dictate the placement of furnishings to allow or block the sun at the appropriate times or possibly the use of window treatments to regulate light.
Bringing nature into the home goes hand in hand with the Green Movement. We all respond to our natural environment but often overlook the toxins in our own home, from construction materials to cleaning agents. Vastu encourages the use of natural materials in our surroundings.
Lastly, celebrating who we are means to create a design that honors the occupants of any space. Each space should uniquely render your personality while displaying photos, artwork and accessories. In doing this, you are creating the essence of home.
This is just a brief overview of Vastu, there are many aspects to consider. For more information go to www.vastuliving.com.
Isn’t it intriguing that after decades of trying to bring the outdoors in, we are now seeing the comforts of the interior being brought outside? No matter what part of the country you live in, you can help your clients to take full advantage of the exterior areas of their homes. With the use of fire pits and heaters, even northern climates can extend the use of these spaces from early spring well into the fall. So by bringing your knowledge of the interior standard of living to the outside, you will increase your value to the homeowner.
Homeowners are now looking to the outdoors to allow them to experience resort style living without the hassle of traveling. By blending outdoor spaces with the décor of the interior rooms that lead to it and its natural setting, this can be accomplished. The comforts of home can be maintained while creating a leisurely, relaxing area for getaways any night of the week. Appropriate lighting can help to set the mood, just as it does on the inside. Please reference previous articles on outdoor lighting and using lighting to enhance a space for more information.
Consider dividing outdoor areas into separate spaces according to use, like rooms. This will allow maximum usability of your outdoor environment and ensure enjoyment for all who interact there. Also, different spaces allow you to use different treatments, such as “flooring” like grass or pavers, “walls” such as fences and bushes, even “ceilings” or awnings and trees. Thinking of the outdoor areas in these terms can help you to translate the basics of interior design to the exterior successfully, thus making this space a true extension of the home. The elements of fire and water are also a natural for exterior rooms, including a fireplace or pit and a water fountain or feature can automatically set the scene for a “home away from home” feel.
Manufacturers are responding to the demand for products that can withstand the rigors of the outdoors with furniture, lighting, fabrics and even accessories. These new products have achieved a higher level of aesthetics, blurring the line between indoor and outdoor, while keeping comfort and low maintenance a priority. Above all, offering us an opportunity to give personality to a space previously furnished with plastic or PVC. Certainly, the products you do choose to complete your spaces must satisfy the aesthetics, safety, privacy, and security required. In the end, whether your project is new construction or a remodel, a well executed and beautiful outdoor living space will only add value to your client’s home.
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Universal design, as it relates to interior design, creates environments to be as functional as possible for everyone that utilizes the space regardless of size, ability or age. Universal design is a concept that stemmed from "accessible design” and it strives to be a flexible solution that helps everyone, not just people with disabilities. We can no longer justify designing for the 6 foot tall, 190 pound, 20 year old male, which has been the standard for decades. Moreover, it recognizes the importance of how things look.
The American population is aging and the baby boomers do not necessarily think that means changing their lifestyles. They are much more likely than the previous generation to not only want to stay in their homes, but to make provisions to ensure that it’s possible. There are also record numbers of us surviving serious injuries or illnesses making universal design essential to living independently.
Universal design is not only a consideration for interior design but also for other industries, such as, product design. Some universally designed product examples include cabinets with pull-out shelves, kitchen counters at several heights to accommodate different tasks and users, and cook tops with the controls at the front or side for easy access.
o Exposed Pipes and Surfaces - Hot water and drain pipes exposed under sinks should be insulated or otherwise configured so as to protect against contact.
· Faucets - Lever operated, push type, and automatic controlled mechanisms are acceptable. Faucets that require continuous hand pressure for water flow cannot be used.
· Mirrors - The mounting height for the bottom of mirrors is 40” above the floor. *Full-length mirrors that extend up to standard height (74” minimum) can serve a broader range of people, including children.
As professionals in design, we can lead the trend in universal design as it continues to be an important aspect of our living environments. For additional information, see the following sites:
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It has been said that the design profession will become the most important profession in the 21st century. No wonder when you consider that we spend about 90% of our time indoors. That means that making our environments both personally meaningful and healthy is more important than ever because consumers are constantly being bombarded with news of global warming, chemical contaminants, VOC’s and how each of these factors can contribute to their health.
That being said, we now have more options than ever before in making our spaces healthy and beautiful, and many choices are more economically feasible. Did you know that lighting accounts for nearly 25 percent of the energy budget for an average home? Motion sensors can help homeowners use 50 percent less energy per light and replacing commonly used bulbs for compact fluorescents can help to lower energy consumption as well. As a bonus, outdoor motion sensors help to deter unwanted traffic in you back yard.
Water use is another area where significant improvements can be made without an impact to your way of life. Water used in bathrooms accounts for 75 percent of the water entering your home. Repairing leaks is a simple and easy way to save water, as is installing low flow shower heads and faucets aerators. Most new technologies save water without sacrificing pressure. Dual flush toilets can also help us conserve water and have greatly improved in efficiency in the last few years.
Another way to look at green design is how useable a home is over a person’s life time. At INTERIORS 08 in
New Orleans, Rosemarie Rossetti stated that, “If it’s not universally designed, it’s not sustainable.” When you think about the life changes we all go through as we age, it is important that our homes provide us with a supportive environment in any situation. Otherwise, moving or remodeling to suit every life stage is very wasteful and not feasible for most.
These are just a few factors to look at when designing spaces for our clients, there are many more to be considered. The best way to help build beautiful and healthful homes is to do the research and listen to our clients concerns and their own special needs. Remember, what a home or building looks like, both the interior and exterior, greatly impacts green design as we will be encouraged to stay longer in a home that is beautiful.
With the supply of unsold homes rising to 11.2 months of inventory across the country, the number of homes on the market is at a record high. Buyer’s expectations are also high and home staging is a great way to make a home stand out from the rest. According to HomeGain.com, ninety-one percent of real estate agents recommend staging a home for sale.
Many buyers will preview homes online before planning a showing; therefore, a home that does not photograph well will not even get buyers to the front door. As design/build or experienced staging professionals, it stands to reason that we will be staging homes for sale for several months to come.
For those of us that are less experienced in home staging, here is a punch list to keep in mind.
There are certainly many things to keep in mind when staging a home for sale but by using these basic guidelines and your artist’s eye, more homes will be making a shining impression in the months to come.
As seen in Staging Standard Magazine
Several trends are holding strong in bathroom design. They include universal design, luxury or spa, and green design. Universal design is design that is user friendly, meant to make spaces functional, safe and beautiful for occupants of all ages and capabilities. Given that the majority of bathroom surfaces are hard, sometimes slippery, and often wet, it’s no wonder that many in home accidents occur here, so universal design is particularly important in this space.
With the baby boomer population aging and many of them wanting to stay in place, design features that can help them to do so and do so safely, will be in high demand in the months and years to come. All research points to this segment, both new construction and remodeling to suit aging consumers, remaining strong. Generally though, clients are not willing to give up style and luxury for safety, thus we are seeing more creative ways of implementing safety features. Consumers are more likely to purchase grab bars, for instance, when they coordinate with the rest of the bathroom hardware. Thankfully, we are seeing that manufacturers understand this and suitable products are becoming available.
The spa or luxury trend, comes from our experiences in spas and luxury hotels and the desire to have the same accommodations in our homes where we can enjoy them all the time, not just for a special treat or on vacation. Features of these bathrooms include; sleek upscale vanities, stone countertops, vessel sinks, stone tiles, beautiful but sufficient lighting, towel warmers, and finishes like oil-rubbed bronze or polished nickel.
And, of course, Green design is gaining importance all the time. Bathrooms are one space that many green products can be implemented, such as, water conserving fixtures, energy saving lighting and low VOC paints and adhesives to name a few. Consumers are beginning to demand these green features and many more as they are remodeling or building. As professionals, it is essential that we know what products are available and can guide our client’s decisions to fit both their lifestyle and budget.
The wonderful thing about these trends is that they are not mutually exclusive. They can all be implemented in one harmonious space! And with the new technologies and the desire to have high end features, our clients will rely on us now, more than ever before.
It is true that trends are cyclical, everything eventually comes back around again but they are updated and refreshed to make them more appropriate for how we live today. In trying times, like our current environment, we tend to take refuge in our own homes. Many of the current trends convey this as well as the move towards a more global society and environmental consciousness. Some of these may seem to be contradictory and that is often the case but we usually manage to find ways of reconciling these contradictions to create an eclectic and compelling if not cohesive environment. Here are a few trends to look for in the coming year.
The first trend is one that has been gaining momentum for a while now, it has been tagged ‘New Classicism’. This incorporates a classic ideal with a contemporary flare using layers of design elements with a ‘less is more’ goal; using fewer and finer things with simple details. When budgets tighten consumers favor classic silhouettes, familiar time periods and comforting materials. But we still crave something new. Typical elements include fine, high touch fabrics and finishes, dramatic architectural details, and an opulent but approachable luxury. Mosaic tiles are ever popular with colorful textured or polished stone and glass or metal detailing, old and worn finishes on wood, hand crafted furnishings and finishes or natural finishes where imperfections are apparent.
This is a rich and authentic but comfortable style.
The Spa bath continues to be of utmost importance to consumers who are nesting more than ever before. Hotel-like amenities are being incorporated into peoples homes in increasing numbers. Things like steam showers, body sprays, whirlpools, bidets and warming floors are as popular as ever. Calming, natural colors are a perfect match for this spa trend.
A trend towards linking the indoor and outdoor spaces is not new but is continuing to be strengthened by a more natural palette of colors and materials. There is an abundance of products meant to invoke a natural look as well as those made from natural materials. This will also increase in popularity as the Green Movement takes precedence in creating our living environments.
Along those same lines, conservation of natural resources is highly important as we try to be as environmentally friendly as possible. But how do we conserve natural resources as we are understandably more drawn to them? The answer is to use natural resources that are more rapidly renewable, like bamboo or to re-purpose furnishings instead of throwing them away. This is where many of these trends tie together, using familiar items to create a new aesthetic.
Some details will emerge along with these trends, elements that will add to the duality of these trends. Such as feminine details like beading, floral prints and dressmaker details tempered with masculine details like simpler lines, tailored upholstery, neutral colors and metallic accents.
Colors that are emerging are softer but more complex than we have previously seen. Grays are continuing to be important and vary from cooler to warmer tones. These neutrals pair well with the more energetic tones like lime green and orange or pink and are inspired by stainless steel and concrete. We are seeing fewer beiges but those that still exist are complex and tinted with yellow or are earthier.
Purples and blues continue to be a strong influence in ’09 in all shades from violet to aubergine but are leaning a bit more to the reddish side. Colors that represent a sunset and range from deep purple to rosy reds are important. The red and orange palette is softening to more earthy shades. Think of the spice tones and tropical fruit. Pinks stay strong but may have hints of other hues like orange or violet. These colors are both exotic and enticing.
Organic colors will be sweeping in with tones like lime green and gold. Natural elements from beach, forest or mountain have a calming effect. Green is the most restful color to the eye and evokes a feeling of safety which means it will remain an important color in the coming year. The apple green of 2009 pairs well with aubergine. The chocolate brown that we have seen so much of is giving way to softer tones inspired by wood and natural fibers.
Remember these colors are all becoming more complex than in 2008, and the old rules for combining colors are disappearing with the growth of technology. Metal finishes will follow a similar path. Silver tone finishes will continue to be popular but more complex like aged silver. Gold and copper tones are still gaining in hammered, burnished or foiled finishes. New technologies are evolving and the creation of new pigments and finishes are keeping metallics fresh and new. Metallic finishes are also the perfect foil for neutral color palettes.