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Gently green conversations with Trudy Dujardin, FASID, LEED AP

About Trudy Dujardin, FASID, Leed AP

Trudy Dujardin is known for her passion for eco-elegance, demonstrated in award-winning interiors that combine sophistication and luxury with sustainable design. Believing that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury, she strives to integrate respect for historical preservation, the surrounding natural landscape, and the highest level of interior design. She received both the 2007 and the 2008 Award of Excellence for Green Design from the Connecticut Chapter of ASID and the 2007 Outstanding Alumna Award from Southern Connecticut University. Trudy has been an instructor at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., teaching the university’s first semester-length class on Sustainable Design. She serves on Traditional Home Magazine’s Green Advisory Panel, has written a column, Gently Green, for Nantucket-based Portfolio Magazine, and is a member of the advisory board of athome Magazine. Her breathtaking interiors have appeared in the most prestigious industry publications, including Architectural Digest, Coastal Living, Connecticut Cottages & Gardens, N Magazine, Nantucket Home & Garden, Nantucket Today and Traditional Home. She has been active for many years with the Design Futures Council, the International Board of the Joslyn Castle Institute for Sustainable Communities in Omaha, Neb., and has been a presenter at environmental conferences around the nation, including EnvironDesign 7 in Washington, D.C., and EcoSpheres in Lincoln, Neb. Trudy was involved in the formation of the first Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design and Architecture for the Design Futures Council, an Atlanta-based think tank for design professionals. Trudy has worked in sustainable design since 1987. She is a LEED Accredited Professional, recognizing her thorough understanding of green building practices and principles. From their offices in Westport, Conn. and Nantucket, Mass., Dujardin Design Associates creates interiors nationwide.

Counting Stars in Your Own Backyard

 

Summertime is perfect for travel, to see new sights, taste new foods, and refresh our spirits. Sometimes we return from a vacation, though, only to sigh with relief at the sight of our own front door.  There’s something to be said for a chance to relax without packing a suitcase, airport delays, and crowds of tourists. With a little advance planning, we can turn a stay at home into a luxurious retreat.

 

 

Start by thinking about what you love when you travel. If the feeling of luxury and being pampered is part of what makes a hotel stay desirable, then recreate that escape at home. Toss out old bedding, and invest in good quality organic cotton sheets. They’ll feel wonderful against your skin, and will support your health by being toxin-free. Buy new pillows, and add a soft alpaca throw at the bottom of the bed.

 

 

Rejuvenating your body as well as your mind and spirit should be your priority for this vacation. Consider purchasing a room air purifier. A HEPA filter will remove allergens and particulates from the air you breathe, then recirculate purified air back into the room.

 

 

I have a whole house air purification system that keeps the air in my home pristine, and my guests tell me they’ve never felt better or more energized.

 

 

Bring the best summer has to offer inside! I love the look of nautical throw pillows. Add shells and beach-inspired decor to keep you feeling like your toes are in the sand.

 

 

I love my collection of vintage sand pails, reminding me that this is the season to remember the delights of childhood, or enjoy them again with little people you love.

 

 

Plan a day trip (or three!) to places in your area that you just don’t have time to get to on a regular basis. One of my favorite destinations on Nantucket is Pumpkin Pond Farm. My good friend Marty McGowan is an organic farmer who blesses the island with gorgeous flowers and delicious homegrown produce. The recent Tomato Tasting there was a delight for all the senses.

 

 

Indulge in all the bounty of fresh summer foods–tomatoes, corn, peaches, plums, and fragrant herbs. Try a new recipe every night!

 

 

When the afternoon sun starts to make you drowsy, there’s nothing like a window seat where you can curl up with a book to read or to nap.

 

 

Since you’re staying home, family and friends may be traveling to see you. Arrange guest rooms with the kind of touches that help people feel at home. A small table or chair where they can place their luggage is appreciated. Fill a basket with books you’ve enjoyed, soaps and lotions, and extra towels. The best way to decide if your guest room is ready is to sleep there for a night yourself.

 

 

There’s nothing more romantic than a summer evening, so don’t stay indoors and miss it. Be sure to make your patio or deck as comfortable as the interior of your home, with tables, umbrellas, and lots of wonderful places to sit, with cushions and throw pillows so you can relax.

 

 

String white lights with vintage lanterns..

 

 

Light lots of candles.

 

 

Then listen for the owls, and count the stars in your own backyard.

 

 

 

Spring Beauty

 

We celebrate our New Year on January 1st, but Spring has been a symbol of new beginnings, and for some cultures, the new year, since ancient times. Our ancestors believed that there was a connection between the seasons, the moon and stars, and the magic of new life.

 

 

It’s easy for us to miss the change of seasons when we are busy commuting, working, and living indoors, unless we stop and pay attention. As an interior designer, I’ve always been inspired by the change of seasons, with new colors, fragrances, and the way the sunlight changes. Lately I’ve been inspired by the beauty of spring as I experienced it as a child.

 

 

On their winter trips to visit my grandparents in South Carolina, my mom and dad used to bring me back boxes full of camellia blossoms packed in soft green foliage to keep them fresh on the drive back to Connecticut. My grandmother had two camellia shrubs on the corners of her front porch. I loved the fragrance. They overlooked the Koi pond where the fish were dormant for the winter. That was always magic to me as a child–such a mystery when they came “alive” again in the spring!

 

 

One of my favorite places to experience spring is Middleton Plantation just outside of Charleston. Henry Middleton began the garden design in 1741, wanting to recreate the grand classic style popular in Europe at the time. The camellias bloom early there–red, pink, variegated–large shrubs bloom in beautiful walled gardens that even in winter hold the promise of what’s to come.

 

 

Grazing Sheep at Middleton Place – SC

 

I loved walking those paths and imagining the history of the antique house there, and the grand esplanade down to the river where the boats came in with supplies. There’s a little chapel there, too, and it’s a repository of Civil War history.

 

 

If you feel like taking a short road trip from New England, I recommend the gardens at Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware. Henry Francis du Pont’s museum there houses the finest American furniture and collections in the world–a lovely source of design inspiration!

 

 

Another beautiful spring trip to take is to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The legacy of Pierre du Pont, a relative of Henry Francis du Pont, the Gardens exist today to inspire people through garden design, horticulture, education, and the arts. They are a living expression of all that Mr. du Pont found inspiring, meaningful, and beautiful. If you’re interested in more botanical gardens to visit, a gardening site called sproutabl.com has a list of 50 gardens you shouldn’t miss!

 

The Pierce’s Woods Love Temple, a Pergola at Longwood Gardens

 

This is a wonderful time of year not only to enjoy the outdoors, but to use that inspiration to re-imagine your home! Think of using light, bright colors, bringing in fresh flowers from the garden, and refreshing the air in your house by opening the windows while spring cleaning.

 

 

No detail is too small to proclaim spring! The curtain tieback below is made from opalescent 1880s Sandwich milk glass in the shape of a flower.

 

 

Colorful artwork paired with bouquets of fresh flowers awaken all your senses.

 

 

Try changing your bed linens for a lighter weight and brighter look.

 

 

Floral prints remind us of the flowers outside our doors. This is a close up of a custom rug I designed for a Nantucket home.

 

 

A pattern doesn’t have to be floral to be engaging. Blue and white always sparkles, as in this beautiful Chinoiserie wallpaper.

 

 

Inspiration is everywhere! Take a walk outside and look around. Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Spring

 

It’s important to have plans for special times in the future. We all need something to look forward to: a place we haven’t yet gone, new experiences to open our eyes and hearts, people we haven’t yet met. Some people keep a “bucket list.” One of the beautiful trips I have yet to make is fulfilling my dream of going to the Chelsea Flower Show, held each May since 1912 in London.

 

 

This year, the show will be May 23-27. Sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society to inspire the best in gardening, the show is held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. If you can’t make it yet, you can do as I plan to do this year: watch the DVD of its first hundred years.

 

 

I know I’ll be there someday!

 

 

If you’re looking for a way to combine spending time outdoors in spring with enjoying the inspiration of stunning artwork, then you may want to head over to the New York Botanical Garden. From April 22nd through October 29th, the breathtaking work of Dale Chihuly will be on view. The photo above shows an installation of his work in the Atlanta Botanical Garden last year.

 

The Bridge of Glass in downtown Tacoma.

 

Chihuly is an American glass sculptor, considered unique in the field for moving glass into the realm of large scale sculpture. Three years in the planning stage, the Botanical Garden show features 20 installations as well as a display of his drawings at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Art Gallery. 

 

The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the world famous Space Needle.

 

He loves to go to the ocean and walk along the beach to find inspiration, something we have in common! “If you work with hot glass and its natural properties it begins to look like something that came from the sea,” he says. His work pairs beautifully with my beach house designs, as seen in the photo below. The magnificent blue glass pieces on the table are by Chihuly, intended to evoke the colors of the sea.

 

 

I collect Chihuly glass for myself, too. The beautiful Chihuly piece below is in a place of honor in my vestibule in my home in Connecticut.

 

 

Dale Chihuly has even had a rose named in his honor. As in his artwork, the colors of the rose are magnificent, with buds of pure yellow swirling open to a bright orange, with a finale of deep reds.

 

Rose named Chihuly, of the Floribunda class.

Don’t miss the Botanical Garden’s Chihuly Nights, when the installations are spectacularly illuminated. Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

Organic Spring

 

Many of us grew up playing on lawns years ago that were soft underfoot, cushioned our falls, and smelled delightfully grassy after mowing. They were different in several important ways from today’s lush green carpets, however. According to Chris Baliko, co-owner of Growing Solutions in Ridgefield, CT, they likely were a happy mixture of grass, crabgrass, dandelions, and clover. Perfect for their time, but less appreciated today.

 

 

People often prefer their lawns to be “golf course perfect,” a standard unheard of until marketing efforts from the chemical lawn care companies began to be widespread. “Before the 1940s to 1950s, the more clover you had in your lawn, the more prestigious looking your lawn was,” explains Chris. “Marketing helped to shift our perspective of what a beautiful lawn is.”

 

 

A lawn that is always richly green, without a weed in sight, is often the result of the frequent application of chemicals that present some environmental problems. Rain can cause nitrogen runoff into Long Island Sound and other waterways, encouraging algae bloom and seaweed growth. Algae and seaweed use up oxygen, killing fish.

Long Island Sound is an estuary, a mix of fresh and salt water, that is home to dozens of species of birds, 170 species of fish, and more than 1,200 species of invertebrates. Historically, it has supported fishing for lobster, oysters, blue crabs, scallops, striped bass, flounder, and blue fish. You can read more about the problem here.

 

 

I believe that a healthy home should be surrounded by a healthy garden. Chris Baliko has helped keep my property a pristine, but beautiful, oasis. His organic program supports a healthy ecosystem with less reliance on potentially harmful chemicals, as seen in the photo of my house, above. Here are his tips for a healthy, organic lawn:

 

1.Get a soil test.

You need to know what’s going on in the soil from a chemistry standpoint, says Chris. A soil test will measure your soil pH, as well as the calcium/magnesium ratio, and the nutrient composition, taking the guesswork out of fixing any problems. One thing that Chris warns about is liming your soil every spring and fall, without being aware of the alkalinity/acidity levels. “One client was liming every year, and had a lawn so alkaline we had to add sulphur to rebalance it,” explains Chris.

 

2. It’s not just about fertilizers. 

 

It’s not as simple as changing from synthetic fertilizers to organic ones. The soil also needs to be aerated, as compacted soil is not good for the grass root systems. Growing Solutions also recommends adding compost to build up the soil. “If you have good soil, you’ll have a healthy lawn,” says Chris.

 

3. Apply the right fertilizers.

 

Organic lawns companies are not supposed to put more than four pounds of nitrogen down for each 1,000 feet of lawn, although many commercial lawn care products have double or even triple that amount. That causes a lot of green growth on top, but a lot of that nitrogen goes to runoff, plus you have to mow more often.  An organic fertilizer has 10% or less nitrogen content. The other nutrients provide the strong root system your lawn needs to look its best.

 

4. Set your mower blades a little higher. 

 

Chris recommends grass to be cut at a height of 3-4 inches.  That height doesn’t stress the lawn as much, and it keeps the soil a little more shaded from the sun. Crabgrass and weeds like hot, dry soil. Cool, shaded soil offers less opportunity for weeds to grow.

 

5. Rethink weed control. 

 

Growing Solutions suggests using corn gluten products to control grab grass as a pre-emergent, as crab grass is the one of the only weeds Chris doesn’t find beneficial to the lawn. “My personal opinion about weeds is that they serve a purpose,” explains Chris. “Dandelions, for instance, have a deep tab root which helps to aerate the lawn, provides space for earthworms to travel, and acts as a conduit for other nutrients, bringing them up to a level where the grass roots can access them.”

In addition, dandelions are known to be the first food for bees in the spring, making them an important part of a thriving ecosystem.

 

Clover is also good, Chris says. “Clover takes nitrogen out of the air and delivers it to the soil in a usable form. Organic lawns are going to have weeds, perhaps 10-15% of the total lawn.” He emphasizes that we need to return to an earlier viewpoint of what a lawn should look like.

In addition, Growing Solutions brews their own “compost tea” and applies it to lawns to add essential micro-organisms. Although not a fungicide, it helps suppress fungal issues in the lawn.

6. Leave moss alone.

 

People often call to ask what can be done to remove moss, but Chris says the best thing to do is to keep it. It’s green all year round and doesn’t need fertilizing or mowing–the perfect compliment to grass!

 

7. Reduce the size of your lawn.

 

There’s nothing more high-maintenance than a lawn. Chris recommends creating more garden and planting beds, which helps to reduce runoff, offers food and shelter for birds and bees, and adds beauty to your property.

People love the look of a green expanse of grass, and it’s a delight for children to play on. There are ways to have a lawn and contribute to a healthy eco-system, too. It takes a little planning, and the right help.

You can reach Chris Baliko at Growing Solutions here, or search for an organic lawn care company in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Ode to New England

After touring Florida and the Carolinas a lot in the last few years, and trying to decide where to live ~ and our tax advisor letting the tax tail wag the dog, so to speak (as many of you know I was born in South Carolina and have family there) ~ we finally realized how much we love New England! It’s home.

Snow and ice welcome us home!

We love the change of seasons, and snow is a celebration of nature for us. So no one is complaining here! We’ve made our choice. We love all the changes and the beauty. One day when it was sunny with brilliantly clear, blue skies, and 63 degrees, I picked a snowdrop flower and brought it inside for my 93 year old dad. What a smile!

First snowdrops of the season!

For us, there is nothing like curling up next to the fireplace with a great book and watching the snow outside with our three little pooches. All cozy and protected.

Here I am with Frank, G.G., Tuffy, and Ellie

Our “green” home in East Norwalk was renovated by us with all non-toxic building materials and finishes ~ it took two years. The property hasn’t had a chemical or pesticide on it for over 22 years. That’s hard to replicate.

My Connecticut Home in Winter

Talk about stimulation! We’re only a one hour drive to Manhattan with all the culture, plays, some of the finest medical care in the country (we also like Cleveland Clinic), and incredible museums, not to mention the cuisine. Frank loves Arthur Avenue!

A New York City bakery!

This all feeds my soul, but we can retreat to Connecticut for peace and quiet and cleaner air.

My Connecticut Home in Summer

A winter vacation to a warm climate is always a treat, but we usually end up staying close to home with so much design work to do before getting our clients ready for their summer homes on Nantucket.

A window seat I created for a client to frame her view

Spring will be our next magical treat. The daffodils and croci are already pushing their way through the earth. God’s work. Renewal. I know it’s not for everyone, but New England is home for us. We’re grateful for all the beauty and excitement of nature–all 12 months of it.

A single crocus

Soon we’ll be back on Nantucket for the summer. Cooler temperatures and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We are only a block away from Madaket Harbor where Frank keeps his boat for fishing, clamming, and just plain being lazy.

Island evening

Plus, we have the Nantucket Whaling Museum (rated one of the top ten museums in the country), and all of the history of the island. I work on a committee for the Nantucket Historical Association and help with their fundraisers and often do design displays for them.

 

It’s a full life for a transplant from South Carolina. Did I ever tell you how one Fourth of July, I had to be medi-vacced off the island in a helicopter to Mass General for a gastric hemorrhage? Now that was a trip! All was fine in the end but I was there for two weeks. That’s part of the reason I don’t want to live on Nantucket full time, although we have so many wonderful friends there. Plus, I would miss Connecticut and New York City. Right now it seems as though we have the best of both worlds ~ for us, anyway.

Nantucket Harbor

Stay cool or warm, whichever you need right now. God bless you all!

My porch in Madaket on Nantucket

Flowers from a “Green” House

When our thoughts turn to love, we often turn to flowers. Long established as a romantic gesture, there is nothing like a bouquet of blooms to melt your loved one’s heart. Many people do not realize, however, that hothouse flowers are grown in greenhouses filled with pesticides, and the blossoms you bring into your home have been repeatedly treated with toxic chemicals.

There is a wonderful company that has changed the way we grow and buy flowers, however. Organic Bouquet is the largest online provider of organic floral arrangements and gifts. All of their flowers, from select farms in California, Colombia, and Ecuador, meet stringent standards for environmental safety, monitored by multiple certification agencies and associations.

Their eco-friendly flower arrangements include roses, calla lilies, tulips, gerbera daisies, hyacinths, sunflowers, alstromeria lilies and blue iris, and are shipped nationwide to all 50 states.

CEO Robert McLaughlin remembers the effect of synthetic chemicals on the environment and workers in the horticulture industry when he began his career in 1984. “I watched our head agronomist die at an early age from toxic chemical exposure,” he says. “He rarely wore protective gear and seemed to always return to the packing shed soaked in the chemicals that would eventually end his life. There had to be a better way.”

Today McLaughlin has created a company that positively effects the environment, the floral industry, and the people on the farms. They make choices every day to support responsible commerce, environmental stewardship, and the health of the people who work for them.

“All plants, flowers, vegetables, and livestock were grown or raised for thousands of years organically. Only in the last 100 years have we discovered synthetic chemicals and begun to overuse them,” he says. “This phasing out of synthetic chemicals and returning to natural methods proves that chemicals have been a brief but damaging fad, that hopefully will never be repeated.

Good things to know about Organic Bouquet:

  • Each time you make a purchase, the amount of carbon emissions from that shipment is offset by rolling funds into a project that reforests abandoned pasture land with native tree species.
  • Shipping boxes are made from recycled and recyclable materials.
  • Boxes are printed with water-based ink, naturally non-toxic.
  • Their glass vases are made from 100% recycled glass.

 

If that doesn’t convince you, consider this: the company is USDA Organic-Certified, follows America’s VeriFlora sustainability certification program, and is Fair Trade Certified, an international movement which ensures that producers in poor countries get a fair price for their goods.

For more information and to order your Valentine’s Day flowers, visit them at www.organicbouquet.com. 

 

 

East Coast Home + Design Article

We love when our projects appear in magazines, where we can share the beautiful photography and background on our design choices with all of you! This month, East Coast Home + Design Magazine featured one of my favorite houses on Nantucket: the Pavilion-style home by famous architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen. Open, airy, and light-filled, our task was to revitalize the interiors with gently green principles. Editor Shelley McCormick and writer Deborah Brannon did a wonderful job. I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall in Love with Your Bedroom

Trudy Dujardin

“When I woke up this morning, my girlfriend asked me, ‘Did you sleep good?’ I said, ‘No, I made a few mistakes.'”–Stephen Wright, American Comic

It’s hard to seriously imagine making mistakes while you’re sleeping, but if you’re designing a bedroom, there are good and better choices for your lifelong health. During sleep, your body works to remove any toxins that you were exposed to during the day.  A beautiful, serene environment that soothes you at the end of your day is best when it also supports your health.

Sleep is the time for cellular repair, for rejuvenation, for restoration of energy and health for both body and mind.That’s why, more than any other room in the house, you want your bedroom to be a pristine environment. You may be surprised to learn that your bedroom can be a repository of potentially harmful chemicals. Conventional mattresses, for example, are made with petroleum-based polyester and polyurethane foam, then treated with flame retardants. Those chemicals can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that become part of the air you breathe.

Pillows are also often made of synthetic materials that are treated with chemical finishing agents. Other sources of possible chemical contamination: Carpets, wall paint, wood furniture, even your cotton pajamas. With everything else you have on your mind, you don’t need worries about the health of your bedroom to keep you up at night.

Fortunately, there are products available to ensure your rest is undisturbed by allergens, toxins, or chemical vapors. For my interior design clients, I recommend using natural furnishings and finishes free of formaldehyde, VOCs, and petroleum-based products. Here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure a healthful night’s sleep:

Choose low or no-VOC paints for your walls and wood trim. Paints can emit VOCs over a long period of time, so just airing out the room may not be sufficient.

Choose hardwood floors (easiest to clean), finish them with water-based sealants (one of my favorites is Basic Coatings), and finally, cover them with organic wool or cotton area rugs.

Select an organic mattress, made with natural latex, wool or organic cotton. Be sure your pillows are natural as well. You can find pillows filled with organic wool or natural latex foam, and covered with organic cotton. Non-organic cotton is a heavily-toxin laden fabric. Cotton is grown in fields soaked in insecticides; dyes and color fixers use heavy metals such as chromium, copper, and zinc.

When choosing wood furniture, consider eco-friendly wood products that are FSC-certified, a designation from the Forest Stewardship Council ensuring that the wood was grown and harvested in a way that protects forests for the long term. Antique furniture is beautiful, and has the added benefit of no longer emitting harmful gases from wood or finishes.

Clear the air by adding a room air-purifier, or go one step further and install a central filtration system. Models are available that filter particulates (pollen, dander, and mold) and vapors (formaldehyde).

Remember that a good night’s sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. If you follow even one of these suggestions, you’ll be taking a step forward in improving the health of yourself, your family, and the earth. After many years of devoting my work to sustainable design, my clients tell me they sleep easy. I want that for you as well.

The Gift of a Blessing Bag

Young homeless man holding cardboard with painted house.

There’s a movement in the world toward helping the homeless in a very practical way. Many of us know the uncomfortable feeling of encountering a homeless person and wanting to help, but often, we aren’t sure how. Giving money is an option, although that’s discouraged by some mental health professionals and addiction counselors. Walking by and ignoring their plight doesn’t feel right.

 

Plastic transparent zipper bag isolated on white background

 

Someone along the way created a solution that I can embrace: the Blessing Bag. The idea is to take a extra large ziplock bag and fill it with essentials, then keep it in your car in the event that you encounter someone in need. It’s such a simple idea.

 

Toothbrushes in the drinking glass next to body lotion and neseser on the wet bench, outdoor shot, concept of travel

 

Items that you might put inside are basic tolietries: toothbrush, toothpaste, shavers and shaving cream, soap, shampoo, lotion, sunscreen, and deodorant.

 

Woolen clothes for woman on old rustic wooden background, womanly accessories, gloves cap shawl sweater, warm clothing for autumn or winter

 

Other welcome items are gloves, hats, scarves, and socks–maybe a few pair–always top of the list of requested clothing in charity drives! (Imagine having wet feet and not having warm, dry socks to change into.) You may also consider tampons and sanitary pads for women, diapers for babies, cleaning wipes, and even condoms.

 

Granola bar with dried fruit and nuts on white background

 

Adding small food items such as crackers, peanut butter, fruit, nuts and other non-perishables will be helpful. Some people add some cash for bus fares or to pay for necessities they haven’t covered.

 

New York, USA - May 16, 2013: homeless man sleeping with dog on sidewalk on 8th Ave and 42th Street, Manhattan, NY.

 

Since some street people have pets, a small bag of dog food or treats might be appreciated, too. You can donate to organizations that help, for example, the National Coalition for the Homeless. But this is one way to help the person in need before you, especially at Christmas.

 

Sleeping on the streets at Christmas time

 

“It is only with true love and compassion that we can begin to mend what is broken in this world.” –Steve Maraboli

A Decade of Christmas Trees

 

christmas-fourl

 

The Holiday 2016 issue of Review Nantucket includes a retrospective of a decade of Christmas decorations I’ve created for clients, showhouses, and the Nantucket Whaling Museum’s Festival of Trees. It was wonderful to look back on a body of work that was a joy to create, but truly ephemeral. I’m so glad to have captured the beauty of these holiday tableaus with photography. They inspire me again when I see them–I hope they bring you fresh inspiration, too!

 

review-christmas

 

There’s something so touching about Christmas trees. It’s not just the beauty of the lights and the ornaments. It’s the tradition of creating a magical display that stands for something bigger than ourselves: a renewal of light and love, and the memories of all the Christmases we’ve celebrated through the years.

 

christmas-music-room

 

For many years, my Senior Designer Price Connors and I have created a new theme for a Christmas tree at the Festival of Trees. Once we decide on an idea, we adorn a tree in a completely original style–we never repeat a design! One year, our inspiration was Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of Starry Night, so everything sparkled with stars.

 

christmas-starry-night

We recreated his night sky by draping a table in deep blue fabric, using wide gauzy star ribbon as table runners, with tiny silver stars sprinkled on the tabletop. We added glittering star boxes tied with bows, and even a dish filled with blue and silver star candies.

 

christmas-starry-night-two

 

I believe in expressing the spirit of Christmas differently each year. As important as tradition is, it’s also wonderful to let our celebrations evolve. It’s easy to fall back on decorating the same way every year, placing the same Santa’s on the mantel. But it’s also fun to create a fresh new look.

 

christmas-snow-maiden

 

One of my favorite tableaus for the Whaling Museum was the Legend of the Snow Maiden, a Russian fairy tale brought to life with the maiden silhouetted in a white cathedral between two glittering trees hung with icicles. That one was especially meaningful to me and to my father, because we are of Russian heritage.

 

christmas-russian-cathedral

 

Winter seems to awaken my imagination. As snow begins to fall, my thoughts to turn to twinkling lights, the sparkle of crystal in candlelight, roses and ribbons, and cherished china. One traditional decoration I love is the gingerbread house, which has appeared in my decorations as historic houses on Nantucket, and my own home. The most elaborate creation was made to my specifications by Colette’s Cakes in New York–a reproduction of the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow!

 

christmas-russian-tree

 

The tree that accompanied it was entitled A Russian Christmas Fantasy. The tree was a splendor in red and gold, with red glass balls, golden ribbons and over 50 handmade Russian ornaments. There were Russian Cossacks, snowflakes, Faberge eggs and matryoshka dolls (the traditional nesting dolls), all delicately hand painted in festive fashion.

 

christmas-cookie-stockings

 

The real blessings and bounty of the season, though, are found in family and friends. I love simple stockings hanging by the fireplace. For our family gatherings, we encourage each other to give generously to charities, saving the gaily wrapped packages for the children, Vidal and Baby Richard. I find Christmas everywhere I look in December, but mostly, I find it in our hearts.

 

gg-tuffy-ellie-christmas-bed

G. G., Tuffy, and Ellie snuggle near the fire

 

 

My Christmas at Caprilands

caprilands-institute

Photo courtesy of Caprilands Institute

Once upon a time, in the little town of Coventry, Connecticut, Christmas had a fairy godmother. Her name was Adelma Grenier Simmons. She’s gone now, but there were years when one of my most eagerly anticipated days during Advent was taking a drive with my dear friend Catherine Reischer to Adelma’s eighteenth century farmhouse, surrounded by fifty acres of fields and woods.

 

Herd of Sheeps and Goats on a mountain Road at Sunset

 

Adelma was the owner of the herb farm she named for the purebred milk goats once raised there–capra is Latin for goat. As time went by, she converted the rocky land to an herb farm, and her home became a cafe and visitor’s center. She was a bit of a character, almost like a diminutive white witch, a little rotund while standing only five feet tall, and always wearing a cap and a cape. Today, the farm she loved is in the process of being converted to a non-profit organization called Caprilands Institute, and is only open by appointment.

 

A Christmas Wreath on an old Farm Wagon

 

But years ago, December was the month to go visit if you loved Christmas. Adelma celebrated every part of what she called “the glorious Christmas season,” and studied to increase her knowledge of the legends, rituals, and plant lore that informed her elaborate decorations. She loved ceremony, and made a ritual out of “touching a flame to kindling and candles, and by fire and candlelight enjoying the pungent fragrance of fresh evergreens and rosemary.” She knew the stories behind the traditions she loved. She shared many of them in the dozens of books she wrote.

 

Dirt road and trees covered with snow after winter storm

 

Catherine and I made the long drive to Coventry into a celebration of our own. We sang Christmas carols as we drove through the countryside, sometimes even in snowstorms! Caprilands was a magical place to us. It was where I I learned to cook with herbs, inspired by Adelma’s delicious recipes served at the farmhouse luncheons and lectures. In December, I learned from Adelma that having a home beautifully decorated is a way of living life to the fullest. Like Adelma, I love to pull out all the stops, whether celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, New Year’s, or the Winter Solstice.

 

christmas-greenery

 

There’s so much to do to prepare for our largest festival of the year, but I achieve my dreams by not trying to get it all done in one day. I plan for weeks in advance, and then do a little at a time to pull together the theme I’ve decided on. I know that elegance is in the details, and there was no detail too small to be overlooked at Caprilands.

 

different kinds of spices and dried oranges with christmas tree

 

One of my favorite things about the farmhouse was seeing each of the trees that Adelma decorated. Although the decorations varied from year to year, there were always six fragrant cedars, each trimmed differently for her celebration that lasted from Thanksgiving to the end of January. Her Harvest Tree was trimmed with fruit and included straw figures and a Swedish straw star to emphasize the harvest theme.

 

 

Zweige vom weihnachtsbaum geschmückt mit Christbaumkugeln, goldenen Schleifen und Lichterkette

Her Spice Tree was trimmed with pomanders and tiny bells.

 

Golden bell on the tree

She believed that evil spirits were frightened away by the sound of bells ringing, so bells were tied to the ends of the branches to disperse the evil spirits and invite the angels in.

 

Festive Christmas close up of tree decorated with gold glitter robin, tinsel and holly berries. Bokeh copy space.

 

A Bird Tree was decorated with dried sea-lavender and little birds. She thought of the Bird Tree as her “Peace” tree, so the decorations were more minimal. It was topped with a green and silver sequin star. Her Jesse Tree was decorated with cards and quotations that foretold the coming of the Christ child. along with red and gold paper roses, little harps and crowns, and a lamb and a dove.

 

Christmas decoration background with felt ornaments

 

Her Gilded Birch tree was for children, and was covered with felt and wood snowmen, doves, hearts and horses. She hung spice cookies and handmade candies for the children to take from the branches. And last, she created an Artemisia Tree, made by wrapping a wire frame with the stalks of Artemisia albula, requiring the sacrifice of at least twelve established plants.

 

Gypsophila (Baby's-breath flowers), light, airy masses of small white flowers. Shallow focus.

 

I was always inspired by Adelma’s dedication to creating magic for everyone who visited. One of my own favorite decorating ideas I borrowed from her is tucking small bouquets of fresh baby’s breath into the Christmas tree branches and along the mantel, to simulate a fresh snowfall. It’s the tiniest touches that bring this beautiful time of year to life, and I never overlook a single one.

 

corn soup with sliced bread on wooden board

 

Another takeaway from my time at Caprilands is the delicious Curried Corn Soup she served at her luncheons. It’s not for the diet-conscious, but it’s perfect for indulging yourself on a wintry December afternoon!

 

Curried Corn Soup

1 /4 lb. butter

1 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp powdered freeze-dried shallots

2 1-lb cans cream-style corn

1 1-lb can whole corn

2 cups cream, warmed

1/8 tsp ground rosemary

2 tbsp chopped chives

Melt butter in pan, add curry, stir until smooth. Add shallots, then corn, stirring slowly; then cream and rosemary. Garnish with chilves. (Evaporated milk or half and half may be substituted for cream). Serves 8

I hope I’ve inspired you with some of what’s inspired me. However you celebrate, Frank and I, along with G.G., Tuffy and Ellie, wish you a very Happy Holiday Season!

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Living Zestfully!

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It’s been a beautiful and busy summer for Dujardin Design Associates: new projects, co-chairing the Nantucket Historical Association’s Nantucket by Design Week and creating a Pop-Up Lounge Design, sponsoring the Walk for Autism on Nantucket, and feature articles in Review and ONLY Nantucket, Nantucket Today, and Aspire Design and Home! We just had enough time to catch our breath and we’re off to a fabulous fall! Here’s a peek at all we did this summer:

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August 2-7 was the Nantucket Historical Association’s Nantucket by Design Week. Dujardin Design Associates was one of four designers asked to create a Pop-Up Lounge Design. Here’s ours–we mixed contemporary and vintage with a classic navy and white color scheme. Perfectly Nantucket!

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On August 20th, we once again sponsored an event near and dear to my heart: The Walk for Autism Speaks. The Walk was especially poignant this year as it recalled the life and contributions of Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright, a longtime client and friend, and beloved Nantucket resident. Suzanne used her time on earth to break the silence around a disorder that affects 70 million children, teens, and adults every day. In doing so, she not only gave a voice to Autism Speaks, but she encouraged everyone in her path to take compassionate action as well. That’s a legacy I admire.

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Also this summer we saw a compilation of beautiful outdoor spaces created by Dujardin Design Associates in Nantucket Today’s July issue, in their feature article Pretty Porches: A Private Pleasure.   I’ve always said that the joy of a summer cottage is partly to be found in fresh sea breezes and sunshine in a clear blue sky, which is why I love creating what I consider outdoor living rooms. There is nothing more relaxing than a sheltered spot that has all the best of the indoors and outdoors combined, including furniture designed for comfort and the weather, tables to hold an al fresco lunch, and beautiful blooming plants to make you feel like you’re on vacation, even with work in your lap.

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Review and ONLY Nantucket was home to three Dujardin Design articles. In July, readers enjoyed my favorite Dujardin-designed island homes that celebrate the natural world and engage all of our senses in It’s Only Natural. I often remind my clients that because we are part of nature, not separate from it, our homes enhance our health and wellness when we rely on nature’s beauty in our interiors.

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In August, an article in Review titled Bringing the Garden In shared my tips for adding beauty in color, texture, and form through fresh flowers. Flowers connect us to nature, and add a touch of grace to our rooms. I like to keep a small vase of flowers on my desk to brighten my day as I work. My favorite bouquets have always been white, in any combination of flowers, but truly any blooms work: snowdrops in teacups, peonies in pitchers, and anything at all in blue and white Chinese export porcelain.

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Before the summer season on the island was over, For Love of Whales appeared, a celebration of all things whale on Nantucket. Whether used as a subtle backdrop or a dramatic focal point in homes ranging from traditional to contemporary and everything in between, artwork celebrating the whale is one of my favorite elements of design, and many of my clients agree! Included in the article are facts about how to help whales, still under siege today from commercial whaling, drifting nets cut loose from large fishing vessels, toxic chemicals entering the ocean through run-off, and loud noises created by sonar testing.

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Trudy Dujardin

And with the beginning of fall, Aspire Design and Home published a Dujardin-designed Manhattan Park Avenue apartment, aptly named Orange Zest, for its sophisticated neutral color palette of grays and whites enlivened with accents of Hermes orange. Built in 1912, the 3,500 square foot apartment feels more like a house, with two living rooms–one for the parents and the other for their teenage children–that open together in a remarkable light-filled space in a 52 foot enfilade. Aspire Magazine is on stands now–don’t miss this one!

Sand house made with his own hands Children

Summer 2016 was fabulous, as are my wonderful memories of so many Nantucket summers. We were blessed with interesting projects, great clients, fun collaborations, and opportunities to give back to the island community we love. Now it’s back to life in Connecticut, ready for a new season. Thanks for coming along on our trip through June, July, and August. Happy Fall!

 

 

 

More than Skin Deep

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There’s great news from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in their mission to help consumers make healthy choices! From mascara to shampoo to toothpaste, more than 400 products will now carry the EWG VERIFIED mark. When you see it on a product, you’ll know that that item meets the EWG’s strict standards for health. Any item with the EWG VERIFIED mark has submitted a list of ingredients which EWG has tested for health hazards.

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Unfortunately, too many personal care products contain harmful or dangerous chemicals. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and anything placed on the skin is absorbed into the bloodstream, sometimes within seconds. According to a study by the EWG, most people use nine different products daily. These include shampoo, hair conditioner, soap, deodorant, body lotion, sunscreen, lip balm, make up and shaving products. Many of us feel safe, believing that product safety has been verified by the government. In fact, no pre-testing or health studies are required.

Hands holdings liquid lipsticks for the production

Personal care items are manufactured with 10,500 chemical ingredients, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens, or are known to disrupt the endocrine system. A listing called Skin Deep has long been available on the EWG website, representing the EWG’s attempt to rate products for safety.

Lavender moisturizer on bamboo with purple lavender flowers in the background. Lavandula anugustifolia

The EWG VERIFIED mark takes this work one step farther, allowing consumers to see on any product whether it has been verified by the EWG as having gone above and beyond the green standards set by the industry. That’s good news for all of us.

 

Encore Post: Dangers of Household Mold

photo of house drawing on beach sands by mediterranean sea.There is a drawing of sun on house which is positioned on left side of frame.The sea waves are on the right side.Focus is on house.A full frame DSLR camera was used to shot photo.

I’m often asked about maintaining a healthy home, and about how to ensure pristine air quality. With summer’s high humidity, mold has been part of several discussions. It is a serious health concern, so much so that I’ve chosen to republish this post with information on how to detect mold, and how to safely eradicate it. People who live in flood-prone areas, most recently those in New Orleans and now, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, must be sure to remove everything that that is water-damaged, including soggy floors and drywall, to be sure mold doesn’t get a start.

An Encore Post by Popular Demand: 

There are a few basic requirements for sustaining life; among them are moisture, food, and warmth. Our homes are replete with these three things, and thus, they can be breeding grounds for dangerous and allergy-causing molds.  Water damage in walls and insulation, and sustained moisture in heating and central air conditioning systems, can create the perfect breeding ground for microbial mold growth.

If you have water damage or a buildup of moisture from humidity or leaks, you may have the beginnings of a mold problem.

Beautiful abstract photography of mold in a pan

Aspergillus Fumigatus

You may not see mold spores, but even when invisible to the eye, they can be present in the air you breathe.  Asthma, coughing, sneezing and rashes may be a clue that something unhealthy has permeated your living spaces.  Stachybotrys, a celluphyllic mold that is frequently found on the paper covering of sheet rock and ceiling tiles, can be toxic when inhaled, resulting in flu-like symptoms, including sore throats and fatigue.

Mold beside and under new window, in the corner of the beige wall and along it.

Mold beside and under new window, in the corner of the beige wall and along it.

Toxic mold has become a growing problem in the U.S. in recent years.  Why?  As insulation improved and homes became more air-tight, exchange with fresh air from outside has slowed, creating perfect conditions for mold to flourish.  If you smell a musty odor, that may be a sign there is a mold problem.  You may see a slowly spreading stain across ceilings or walls, on shower curtain liners, or even books or clothing that have become damp from humidity or water leaks.

worker with helmet, gloves and mask spraying ceiling with spray bottle on wooden vintage ladder, bottom view

Remediation Options

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) divides mold clean-up into three sizes:  small, medium and large. Small mold remediation is where the total affected area is less than 10 square feet; medium is between 10 and 100 square feet; large is greater than 100 square feet, or when exposure to mold spores during remediation is a risk.

Mold spores are invisible when airborne, yet still pose a risk to your health, so if you’re going to tackle the clean up yourself, you should isolate the work area as much as possible.

  • Clear the room of any uncontaminated furniture.
  • Items that can’t be moved should be sealed in plastic.
  • Cover any open doorways with plastic sheeting.  You’ll need two sheets:  attach one to the left side of the doorway, covering two thirds of the opening.  Attach the other to the right side of the doorway, covering two thirds of the opening.  The overlap will provide a partial seal but will give you access into and out of the room.
  • If books, papers or other items have a musty smell but no visible mold, take them outside and vacuum them with a HEPA filter vacuum.  Anything that has visible mold should be discarded.
  • If items need to be carried through non-contaminated rooms on the way outside, place them in plastic bags first.
  • Small patches of mildew on walls and ceilings can be wiped with diluted bleach (one part bleach to ten parts water).
  • Even if you don’t think you are sensitive to mold, you should wear plastic safety goggles and a NIOSH N95 mask, along with latex gloves.  (Non-latex gloves if you have a latex allergy.)
  • For anything larger than 10 square feet, you should consult a professional.

Water stains on the roof of a house.

Seeking Professional Help:

Homeowners with water damage should call a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), and have their homes thoroughly investigated for microbial volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  A CIH is qualified to enhance the health and safety of people at work and in their homes by identifying hazards, and taking corrective action where necessary.  They have met stringent requirements for education and experience, and through examination, have demonstrated expertise in areas such as air sampling, bio hazards, ventilation and engineering controls, health risk analysis, toxicology and methods to mitigate these issues.

For More Information:

An interview highlighting the dangers of toxic mold in New York City is available at the New York Times.

You can go to www.epa.gov and read A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home.

I also recommend a book titled The Mold Survival Guide for your Home and Health, by Jeffrey C. May and Connie L. May, available through amazon.com

Don’t Underestimate This Serious Health Concern:

Like radon, lead paint and other chemicals we now know to be hazardous to our health, we are learning more about mold and its dangers all the time.  Mold can be found in multiple household locations that you might not expect, including the underside of furniture, interior window trim, bathroom walls and ceilings, underneath sinks and refrigerators, carpeting, and even around potted plants.

It’s much better to remove any possibility of mold spores along with moisture problems by being vigilant in your home. A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury. (TM)

Ornamental moulding in the corner of a white room

 

 


 

 

 

 

Inside Trudy’s Beach Bag

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I’m all packed for a day at the beach! Come take a peek inside my beach bag so I can share with you my ten must-have items for a fabulous island day in the sun.

 

nantucket beach

 

1.The Nantucket Beach: There’s nothing so beautiful, peaceful, and restorative in all the world as the gorgeous sandy beaches on Nantucket. I’ll never get used to how lucky I am to enjoy such a wonderful spot, even after a lifetime of summers on the island.

 

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2. Sunscreen: The most important thing we need for a day in the sunshine is a good sunscreen. Mine is made without nanoparticles from Nurture My Body. Made in small batches, their 100% organic sunscreens are made with non-nano zinc oxide and they never use any harmful petrochemical sunscreen ingredients. The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 10th Annual Guide to Sunscreens has more information on safe sunscreens.

 

coyuchi beach towel

 

3. Beach Towel: The beach towel I can’t live without is the organic beach towel from Coyuchi, made of 100% organic cotton, grown and made in Turkey. Coyuchi is part of the 100% Club, a group of 17 brands that exclusively use organic fiber in their cotton products. They also use low-impact dyes and non-chlorine bleach, and never use wrinkle-resistant finishes, which contain formaldehyde.

 

4. Things to Read: I may need to bring a second beach bag just for my reading material. After a week of busy days, my reading can pile up. Here’s what I can’t do without:

  • The latest copies of The Inquirer and Mirror, where the first page I turn to is Marianne Stanton’s column “Here and There.”

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nancy thayer

The Rumor, by Elin Hilderbrand

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Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

circling the sun

and for my educational reading, Environmental Psychology for Design by Dak Kopec

environmental psychology

5. Snacks:

I pack a jar of my favorite crunchy almond butter with a spoon, and a granny smith apple with a knife. I cut up my apple into slices and spread it with the almond butter for a delicious, healthy mini-meal.

Raw Organic Almond Butter on a Background

6. Water

Because I avoid drinking from plastic, I carry two glass bottles of Mountain Valley Spring Water with me. It’s refreshing and has no potentially harmful chemicals. Plastic is particularly unstable and can release BHA (among other dangerous chemicals) when it gets hot, as is it very likely to do on a sunny day at the beach. Why drink spring water? It’s been filtered by the earth and contains trace minerals the human body needs.

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7.A Baseball Cap

A baseball cap is essential to shade my eyes and protect my hair.

baseball cap

8. Doggie Comforts

My three dogs love to come to the beach with me, so I bring what they need for their comfort, too: homemade organic dog biscuits (recipe follows), raised dog beds to keep them off the hot sand, and tennis balls for playtime.

tennis balls

 

Dog biscuit recipe: Mix together rice flour, olive oil, chopped fresh parsley, eggs, and parmesan cheese. Roll into cigar shapes and bake them at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, depending on their size. I keep them in the freezer, then defrost a few at a time and wrap them in wax paper bags (not plastic!) for transporting to the beach.

 

9. A Beach Umbrella:

beach umbrella

We need more protection than sunscreen for a day at the beach. Plus with a brightly colored umbrella, you can find your way back after cooling off in the surf.

 

10. Prosecco and Champagne Glasses

champagne glasses

Once the sun sets, it’s time to break out the Prosecco, and champagne glasses–real ones, because you can’t properly toast the end of a perfect day with anything else.

 

 

 

 

A Healing Oasis Right in Our Midst

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The art of self-care and healing is something we should all learn from an early age, but unfortunately, too many of us don’t. That’s why places like the  Arogya Healing Holistic Center in Westport, Connecticut, can be an important part of our wellness plan. “It’s all nature,” Wei Bertram, Arogya’s founder, says, looking around her at the serene space she created. “Healing is about being in nature. It isn’t normal to sit in front of a computer all day, and drive through traffic to commute. Our brain is not made that way. Arogya is about living in harmony with nature, and bringing body, mind, and spirit into a new awareness.”

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“People get many things done in a day, and then there’s more to do,” she added. “I work on myself. I take care of myself. No one will take care of you other than yourself, but we have to be taught. More than what we say, people walk into Arogya and want this feeling in their lives.”

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Wei explains that she has always been fascinated by her traditional Chinese heritage, and the mystique of Chinese medicine. By founding Arogya in 2000, her intention was to bring the healing traditions of the east into our contemporary lifestyles, which she sees as being in desperate need for true balance and well-being.

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As a longtime believer in holistic lifestyle practices, I was delighted to find Arogya so close to home. It’s easy to forget self-care until our bodies are in a chronic state of dis-ease, but as I have learned and as Wei believes, the best time to support our health is before we lose it. Luckily for those of us in Connecticut or the greater New York area, Arogya is a healing resource right in our midst!

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Arogya means “whole health” in Sanskrit. In addition to integrative Chinese medicine, yoga and massage therapy, the center also offers a wide selection of organic teas, all natural skincare products and personalized herbal remedies. The beautiful store also offers natural candles, essential oils and artisan perfumes created by Wei.

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If you aren’t close enough to experience the beauty of a treatment at Arogya spa, be sure to check out their blog, which has dozens of articles on self-care and holistic healing. Here are five ideas from Wei and Arogya to help you be the best caretaker for yourself:

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1.The first step is to make a choice: Either you stay on the path of conventional, emergency-based medicine, waiting for serious symptoms to arise, or you make every day about your health and well-being, knowing every moment is an opportunity for wellness and wholeness.

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2. Making your life a wellness journey not only means feeding yourself nourishing foods, and taking care of your body, it means transforming every aspect of your life so you can truly be your most radiant, present, loving, and grounded self.

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3. Chinese medicine says, “It takes more than one night to freeze a pond.” Likewise, the accumulation of decades of poor nutrition, stress, negative feelings, etc. can result in poor health. If you want to thaw the pond, it will take more than one day or one treatment to magically transform what ails you. Though the road may be long, every step you take towards healing yourself ripples out into your life and relationships.

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4. In Taoist philosophy there is a saying: “It’s best to eat healthy food. And if you already do that, you still need to exercise too. And if you already do both of those, best of all is to meditate to nourish your heart, the core of your being.” With meditation, we can see the conditioning that keeps us falling into the same traps again and again. From a place of awareness, it’s easier to make better choices.

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5. Though stress is a real and valid experience, it need not run your life. Read Arogya’s blog post, Combating Modern Day Stress. From first recognizing where your stress is coming from to to getting rid of all kinds of clutter, including toxic relationships, to finding time for your own creative pursuits, Wei’s gentle guidance can help you transform your life.

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One of Wei’s final de-stressing tips is “find time to be in nature.” Understanding the limits of our own nature, and how we are part of the amazing world around us, is a wonderful way to live a deeper, richer life. As Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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And you must also be the change you wish to see in yourself.

Watch Wei discuss the importance of tea here.

 

 

 

Let the Sun Shine In!

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After a long, cool spring in the Northeast, the calendar–and the weather–have agreed that summer has finally arrived. Let’s throw open the windows and doors, and rethink the way we live at home. it’s easy to feel as F. Scott Fitzgerald did when he said, “I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

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Start with spring cleaning: To fully embrace the beauty of balmy breezes and abundant sunshine, we need to remove winter’s dry stuffy air from the house, and scrub the hidden spaces where dust collects. We don’t need to bring toxic cleaning products into our homes. It’s better to clean with baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar, or else choose environmentally friendly products, rather than dousing our living space with chemicals.  I’ve written about how to Clean Green before: read more here. 

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Think about re-establishing order. Stacks of books and blankets left by the fireplace should be put back where they belong, and then you can recreate the room for a completely different experience. Once the room has become a blank slate again, bring out the things of summer! Bright colors and garden stools definitely belong inside.

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Add beauty and fragrance with fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then you have a florist shop at your fingertips! Cut flowers early in the morning while the sun is still low in the sky and the dew has not yet dried. They’ll be fresher, and last longer. Immediately plunge the stems into a bucket of water, then put flowers or a flowering plant in every space you can, including the bathroom. Summer is a celebration of things that grow!

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The days of blocking our windows with heavy draperies are behind us. Make sure your windows are sparkling clean, then let the natural light pour in with minimal window treatments, or if you need the privacy, wooden blinds are a good choice. Simplicity is beautiful.

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Change your bedding from heavy down comforters and dark colors to light and white. Your spirits will be lifted each time you enter the room. Color affects our emotions in powerful ways.

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I love this room in my Nantucket fisherman’s cottage, decorated with vintage sand pails. Go ahead and celebrate what you loved about summer from your childhood, when the hours between sunrise and starlight seemed to last forever.

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Red, white, and blue always works in the summertime. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, let your patriotic flag fly.

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Don’t be afraid to have a little fun.

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Go nautical, and let your rooms remind you of  beaches, boats, and ocean breezes.

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The time it takes to change your home’s look to sunshine and summer shouldn’t be seen as work. Homes need to be loved, just as people do. By making your home a welcoming, bright and sunny space, you will effortlessly bring more laughter and joy into your life.

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So go ahead: let the sun shine in!

 

Guest Post by Robert Dane, Master Glass Artist

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I asked my good friend Bob Dane to share with us some of his inspiration and experiences as an artist and master glass blower, part of my continuing series on artists and their work. He kindly agreed. Please click on the link below to enjoy the music of Mongo Santamaria and Afro Blue while you read this post:

I have been blowing glass for over forty years, starting at Massachusetts College of Art in 1973. Over the years I have studied with many of the masters of the Studio Glass Movement, including Lino Tagliapietra, Pino Signoretto, Dan Dailey, Dante Marioni, and William Morris. My work is created in my studio in Heath, Massachusetts, in the northern Berkshires of western Massachusetts. My wife, Jayne, directed a high school music program until 1996, when we opened our gallery on Centre Street on Nantucket. The Dane Gallery shows my work, and the work of some of the top artists working in glass today.

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Heath Brook Studio in the Berkshires

My artistic evolution spans years of working in the studio and learning from colleagues. The themes I have always focused on are of a continuum revolving around life and growth. There is an inherent optimism in my work, which I have tried to reinforce in the face of a seemingly constant barrage of negativity and pessimism coming at us from many sources. The beauty of Nature in its many forms continues to inspire me and inform my work. We are often too absorbed by the day to day of our own small existence to visualize and recognize the grand scheme, which is transpiring around us. My aim is to celebrate the beauty of the progression of life as it ever unfolds and reveals itself.

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Raised Cane Vases

Another source of my inspiration is music. For many years I have studied Afro-Cuban percussion. The music of the community is reflected in my sculpture. Traditional, folkloric Afro-Cuban music and Jazz share the same spirit of improvisation as glassblowing. When I’m playing in a group, I respond to what the other musicians are doing to create a whole. Something of that improvisation is found in my glass studio, where I work with three assistants. We all have to respond to each other’s movements, timing, and actions to create the finished piece. The horn form, which I have used in many of my sculptures, is a tribute to the improvisational nature of the music and a potent symbol of our culture. The titles of these sculptures are taken from different Jazz tunes.

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Rejoice

My production work is influenced by the Italian tradition of glassblowing, but has a distinctly American flavor. Vibrant colors and the spontaneous improvisation of these unique designs distinguish my work in a two thousand year tradition of glassblowing. My “Tutti Frutti Goblets” are all one of a kind, spontaneous expressions of life’s pleasures. As in any group, no two are like. When they are together, they enhance each other’s presence, creating a unique and beautiful experience. My goblets are very functional, and they set a beautiful table. I celebrate the communion I share with the people who drink from my glasses.

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Tutti Frutti Wine Goblets

Glass is a very common material, but at the same time it is mysterious and exciting. It is made primarily from sand mixed with other chemicals,to make the silica melt at a lower temperature (2000 degrees F), and to give the glass certain working and visual properties. In the studio, the fire, the movement, and the need to be constantly focused on the process have sustained my love affair with this amazing material. I am constantly learning new techniques as I work. With glassblowing, there is always a sense of discovery that is truly endless.

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Tutti Fruiti Water Goblets

Another reason glass appeals to me is that the tools and the processes we are using today basically haven’t changed over the last thousand or more years. We’re living in a techno-industrial society, but we’re carrying on this tradition, perpetuating the culture of handmade things. A glass blower from a thousand years ago could sit at my bench today and know exactly what to do. Glass does not deteriorate. It is fragile yet strong. The pieces that survive are a record of our culture and history, as they have been for thousands of years.

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Three Birds Candelabra

This summer will be an exciting one for glass and art on Nantucket. The Dane Gallery is proudly sponsoring a return visit by the Hot Glass Roadshow of the Corning Museum of Glass. (www.hotglassnantucket.org) All of the proceeds from “Hot Glass Nantucket 2016” will directly benefit the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club, a vital island organization dedicated to the education and development of the youths of Nantucket. So far we have raised almost $200,000 to support the programs of the Club.

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The Hot Glass Roadshow is a portable glassblowing facility dedicated to bringing the artistry and education of glassmaking to the general public. “Hot Glass Nantucket 2016” will be a great opportunity for the Nantucket Community to experience the mystery and excitement of glassblowing firsthand. The focal point of the program will be “You Design It; We make it!” Children will participate by designing and drawing a glass object. Over the course of the weekend, designs will be chosen to be created in glass by the Corning glassblowers. This will be a unique and special experience that they will never forget. In addition, we will present glassblowing demonstrations by artists represented in our gallery: Raven Skyriver, Toots Zynsky, and myself. See their work at www.danegallery.com, and my work at www.robertdane.com.

Here are a couple of videos to get a sense of what we do in the hot shop:

 

Raven Skyriver: https://vimeo.com/96101947

Robert Dane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxwpLb16hpw

 

Our Planet’s Blue Heart

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“Why is it that scuba divers and surfers are some of the strongest advocates of ocean conservation?  Because they’ve spent time in and around the ocean, and they’ve personally seen the beauty, the fragility, and even the degradation of our planet’s blue heart.” –Sylvia Earle, American Marine Biologist

As spring turns to summer, many of us will travel to our island homes, or vacation destinations on the ocean, in diverse locations all over the world. The brilliant blue sea and its whispering waves speaks to something elemental in all of us, whether it is our playground for boating, fishing, scuba diving and surfing, or if we simply don a sunhat and relax under an umbrella with a tropical drink and a book.

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Although our oceans are our world’s largest natural resource, the human impact has been undeniable. From overfishing to manmade pollution, from coastal development to chemical runoff, scientists have identified many areas of decline. We must all be stewards of the water, just as we are of the land, to protect.our wild and healthy oceans. Here are some current concerns about ocean health, along with ideas about what we can do to help.

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1. Problem: A massive volume of plastic garbage now litters every ocean on the planet, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC):. Hundreds of species of marine life, including seabirds, whales, and sea turtles ingest or get entangled in plastic, as well as netting, fishing lines, and other debris. Fishing trawlers with huge drift nets can trap species other than the target fish, and lose the nets or cut them lose (ghost nets) where they spell death for any marine animals caught in them and unable to free themselves.

Solution: Public support for waste management measures, creating incentives for industry to use less plastic packaging, reduce single-use plastics, and encourage more recycling. On trips to the beach, carry out what you carry in. Retrieve all fishing line, lures, and gear. Because it will never biodegrade, nylon lines and nets will continue catching and killing turtles, dolphins, manatees, pelicans, and even human divers and swimmers forever. The European Union bans drift nets, as do the waters from Monterey, California to the Oregon Coast for part of the year, along with some other locations.

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2. Problem: The ocean is downstream of everything: Chemical runoff from land, including pesticides and fertilizers from farms, lawns, streets. and construction sites is a major cause of ocean pollution. Silt, nitrogen, and phosphorous can create “dead zones” in the sea where nothing can live, robbing waters of light and oxygen.

Solution: Use fewer chemicals and fertilizers. If you live on the water, plant a buffer zone of trees, shrubs, and grasses to filter runoff and provide shelter for shorebirds and other mammals. Decrease your water use at home, so you can decrease the amount of water that must be treated with chemicals before entering the ocean. Sweep your walks and driveway rather than hosing them off, as water transports chemicals to the nearest storm drain or waterway.

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3. Problem: Noise pollution threatens marine life: Loud noises created by sonar testing by the Navy have been linked to deaths of dolphins due to massive internal hemorrhaging. Noises from boats can interfere with whales trying to hunt for food or communicate with each other, blocking their hauntingly beautiful songs.  A particular problem is the noise created by large tankers cruising the oceans, and underwater exploration for oil. To the fish and other marine life, it can sound like the loudest day in New York City with sirens, horns, and traffic.

Solution: Now that we’ve recognized the problem, we must take all necessary steps to mitigate the noise we create. Marine mammal protection laws must be enacted in coastal nations around the world. Major shipping routes should be moved away from important marine mammal habitats. Ships can be designed so that the engine is isolated from the hull in order to reduce noise. Regular ship maintenance can reduce noise considerably.

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4. Problem: Additional issues impacting our oceans include oil spills, habitat destruction, and human sewage spilling into waterways. Marine scientists measure yearly changes in marine animal populations related to all of the problems outlined here, plus others.

Solution: Technology has given us the ability to monitor even small changes, and share information rapidly. Reading information from a variety of experts is important, as nature is highly complex and issues change with new developments. There are a number of wonderful organizations doing very important work to heal our oceans and protect them for the next generations.

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A Connecticut-based organization that’s doing a wonderful job is SoundWaters. It was founded in 1989 to protect Long Island Sound, a delicate estuary within 50 miles of 25 million people. Humans–and their activities which pose a threat to the health of the Sound–prompted Len Miller to found an organization to educate people both about the Sound’s wonders and the dangers it faces.

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SoundWaters began with a schooner that is a teaching vessel, a floating classroom where students –both children and adults–learn from a hands-on curriculum. Lectures and workshops are presented by ecologists, musicians, artists, and historians, in addition to land-based programs, a summer camp, community gardens and nature programs for older adults.

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“Try to consider having a healthy, viable community with unhealthy air and polluted waters. We cannot, and the connection of a healthy environment to a healthy community, and, in fact, to healthy people, will be one of the many premises we will try to teach at the SoundWaters Community Center,” said Mr. Miller, when the center opened. Today, their schooner, SoundWaters, conducts 250 experiential sails each season for school and community groups throughout the region.

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You can donate to SoundWaters here, or find out how to take an afternoon schooner cruise with your family and friends.

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Here are some other organizations working to protect our oceans that you might consider supporting:

Natural Resource Defense Council: The NRDC works to safeguard the air, the water, and the wild, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas Project: The Pristine Seas Project’s goal is to convince governments to protect more than 2 million square kilometers of ocean, and has financed ten scientific expeditions to remote areas of ocean around the world.

Oceanic Society: The Oceanic Society works to improve ocean health by addressing the root cause of its decline: human behavior.

See Turtles: A project of the Oceanic Society, See Turtles protects sea turtles through education, travel, conservation efforts, and Billion Baby Turtles, working to get turtle hatchlings safely to the sea.

Ocean Conservancy: Science-based solutions to tackle the biggest threats to our oceans.

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With all of our concerns about the health of the ocean, it’s good to remember that there are so many people doing so much good work to protect our beautiful blue waters. One of the best ways to encourage conservation is to gently love our waterways with your family and friends, so boat, swim, fish, or dive to heart’s content, and have a wonderful summer!

Creating an Oasis of Calm

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Good design is defined by the basics of scale, proportion, color, and contrast, among other considerations. To take the concept of a well-designed home one step further, though, is what I call my “tabula rasa,” the oasis of calm that envelopes us when we step inside our doors at the end of the day. Here are my thoughts on how to create that oasis, with simple ways to make your home welcoming, warm, and comfortable to live in.

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Repetition of design elements, such as the columns in this beautiful beachside home, mirror each other from room to room, and define a space. Repeated in subtle ways throughout a house, they are the details that subconsciously soothe with symmetry.

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In this New York City bedroom, the Greek Key is repeated in furniture, floor and bed linens, relaxing in its soft echoes.

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Simple ways to reduce clutter, such as window seats with drawers for storage underneath, keep a room open and serene. I often say that “the eye needs a place to rest.” So does the mind, and the body.

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Tradition is restful for many of us. Finding fine antique pieces to blend in with more contemporary furnishings is calming.

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Surrounding yourself with the things you love is an important way to make your home unique, and fill you with joy every time you enter a room. Billy Baldwin said, “Nothing is interesting unless it is personal.” I would suggest that your most personal treasures that truly express your essence will do so much to lift your spirits.

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Adding one stunning piece that is both eye-and heart-catching can be a singular focal point, another way to gracefully express your interests.

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The color palette that I turn to over and over again is white plus one color. There are so many whites to choose from: crisp white, cool greyed tones, soft blue hues, or rosy tints when the sunlight streams through the windows. It’s pleasing to the eye and the spirit.

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An invisible way to restore energy and help to clear your body of toxins you’ve come across during your busy day is by installing a good heat recovery ventilation system and a whole house air filtration system, for exchanging, filtering and conditioning indoor and outdoor air to lower VOCs.  Honeywell has some that I like that will work with your heating and cooling systems, and recover up to 80% of the heating and cooling energy. Choosing No-VOC paints and finishes keep our homes a haven where our families can enjoy good food, good company, and good health.

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At the very least, invest in a good bedroom air filter, as your liver detoxes during your sleep. Clean air is the best gift you can give yourself to feel your very best.

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Luxury and comfort are not mere indulgences in my mind. Bespoke bed linens, downy comforters, and lofty pillows all summon us to sleep in a place of refuge. An organic mattress filled with cotton and wool and made without chemicals, including fire retardants, is a good choice.

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Don’t forget the bathroom as a space for luxury and well-deserved pampering. Soft towels, natural shampoos and soaps free of irritating chemicals, and organic cotton pajamas waiting by the bath allow us to sink into a restful soak when the sun goes down. Take time for your own end-of-day rituals.

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Oscar Wilde wisely said: “I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”

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Make your home one of simple pleasures, and a place to savor the all-too-fleeting delights of summer. It’s the easiest path to finding peace of mind.

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Mentoring Young Designers

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Robert Frost once said, “I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” As an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, teaching Sustainable Design and seminars on The Business of Design to young design students, I’ve long been aware that one of my greatest joys  is passing along what I have learned. Fostering new students in the Interior Design profession is one way I can give back to the industry that has given so much to me. A side benefit is that I learn so much from my students, and their fresh, enthusiastic approach to the art of interior design.

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Here I am, on left, with DonnaJean Fredeen, on right, Dean Emeritus of Southern Connecticut State University’s School of Arts and Sciences

Unfortunately, too many young people today find themselves in mentoring relationships that are little more than glorified Gal Friday positions, where they’re filling coffee cups, making copies, and doing busy work. By contrast, I have always been committed to immersing my mentees into the life of the interior design world, giving them real work to do, having them shadow me and other designers in my firm, and taking them along on trips to the D & D Building and other design-related events.

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Part of fostering future interior design professionals for me has included conducting portfolio reviews and mentoring sessions at the Shintaro Akatsu School of Design at the University of Bridgeport. My great pleasure this spring is welcoming Sarah Dezelin to my office as my mentee from Southern Connecticut State University, my alma mater.

Sarah Dezelin

 

Sarah and I already have a lot in common! She’s interested in art and the environment, and I can’t wait to share my world with her. Another quote I love is “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” Looks like we’ll be a perfect match!

…to be continued~

Less is More

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My work as an interior designer has taught me how to edit. There is a world of beautiful colors, furniture, accessories, artwork and things that a designer can choose from. The process of saying yes to this and no to that is not very much different from how each of us must live our lives, choosing what to let in, and what, sometimes regretfully, to decline.

 

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When I’m at my Nantucket home in Madaket, I’m aware of editing my surroundings for function, comfort, and beauty. This is both a preference as well as a necessity, as my husband, Frank, and I have consciously chosen a beach cottage lifestyle there. We truly embrace the “less is more” experience after years of living in larger, grander homes.

 

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Our fisherman’s cottage by the sea is just the right size for the two of us, plus my dad, Bob, and our three darling Bichon Frises, G.G., Tuffy, and Ellie, who go everywhere with us. (With Bichons, more is definitely better.)

 

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Editing is a crucial responsibility of an interior designer no matter what the size of the home. A common mistake made by homeowners is to look at furniture, lamps, and artwork, and to see them individually, without considering the space around them. A credentialed interior designer, however, sees things differently. When I enter a room, I see a frame –the boundaries of a room, the positive space –space that is occupied, and negative space –where the eye can easily rest. Every room needs space for the eye to rest, but the question is where, and how best to use it.

 

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Rather than thinking of negative space as open space to be filled, negative space is integral to making a room interesting and alive. You can work with negative space when you group furniture together, or place a collection of objects on a shelf. My eye can see a rhythm between one item and the next, something not everyone can do. I often think that my training as a fine artist was critical to developing my interior design aesthetic.

 

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Juxtaposing one shape next to another creates one kind of negative space, as does placing items in symmetry versus asymmetry.

 

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Color is powerful, evoking emotions we are not always aware of when we enter a room. I love to use white plus one color, often hues from the sea. Blue, seafoam green, and pale shades from nature are soothing when used with white.

 

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What to place on a tabletop is another way to experience the power of less. Too many items can quickly become a cluttered mess that creates disharmony. Groups of items must be carefully considered for their impact on each other, especially when they are of disparate size or color.

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One of my professors impressed upon me the importance of saving something for the next room. You don’t need to show everything you know in one room. Excellent advice that I have used time and time again!

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Letting a room have space to breathe doesn’t always come easily, another reason an educated designer can be your home’s best friend. There are rooms that make us feel stressed and constrained, and rooms that make us feel expansive and relaxed. It can be difficult to see why each has the feeling it does, until you begin taking objects away.

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Suddenly, there is peace. And we can never have too much of that.

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A Window on Your World

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Many of us live in the homes we do because of our first glimpse of the house as we came up the drive. Perhaps it was the sound of the sea and the smell of salt water that led us there, and the drive through the dunes romanced us all the way. The creamy yellow daffodils bobbing along the borders, or the dignified old Sugar Maple spreading its arms across the lawn were like love letters from the property, delivered straight to our hearts.

 

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When the front door opens, if the house isn’t just right, well, that can all be fixed. Take down a wall here, widen a doorway there, refinish wood floors, replace sagging windows, and you’ve made it your own, which is one of the goals of interior design, and a very important one. As Billy Baldwin said, “Nothing is interesting unless it is personal.”

 

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No matter how beautiful the interiors are, however, I always feel that the room is blessed when there is a glorious view in sight. Particularly for a home on the water, whether its on the ocean, a river, or a lake, you’re aware of the view. My intent in a home on the waterfront is never to obscure the home’s setting.

 

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In this house, the center hall leads you right to the ocean. If you keep going, as the crow flies, the next stop is Portugal.

 

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Another signature of my design work is my love of window seats. They’re perfect for sitting in the sunlight with a cup of tea on a winter morning to watch the snow fall, or to catch the sea breezes as the day falls to dusk.

 

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They also are functional, as they provide extra seating for guests..

 

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…and in a bedroom, can be designed with drawers for storage underneath.

 

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Whether your view is a sandy beach, an English garden, or your children splashing in the pool, a seat by the window is the perfect spot to take a closer look at your world.

 

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Home ~ Health ~ Humanity

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A recent column by Nicholas Kristof entitled Are You a Toxic Waste Disposal Site? raised some disturbing issues. None of it, sadly, was news to me. The United States has delayed appropriate testing of industrial chemicals over and over again, largely due to the influence of lobbying groups. Mr. Kristof’s column said that “Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals–from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel–as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet.”

 

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Tractor spraying soybean field

 

As the pioneer of the sustainable design movement, I have spoken out for years in favor of non-toxic, chemical-free built environments to support our health, and the well-being of our families. I believe that your home, your health, and the future of humanity depends upon it. My clients know that whenever I can use a “green” alternative in fabric, upholstery, paints and floor finishes, wood furniture and cabinetry, that’s what I choose. I created the phrase “eco-elegant (TM)” to demonstrate to people that homes can be beautiful, sophisticated, and serene, and still maintain their health through clean air and furnishings that do not off-gas potentially dangerous fumes.

 

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My philosophy is simple: to live in a way that shows respect for all life on earth, we must be open to questioning the impact of our choices. One of my environmental heroes, Chief Oren Lyons of the Iroquois Confederacy, described to me the tradition of tribal leaders in making decisions: Not only do they consider the impact on the next generation, they also examine the consequences all the way to the seventh generation.

 

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I wrote my book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, to show a healthier way of living. I urge anyone who cares about their health and a holistic approach to lifestyle and the earth to read it. On pages 232-233, you’ll find an easy-to-reference listing of green products that is the culmination of my lifetime of work selecting the most eco-friendly products. It includes everything from bedding and carpeting, to duct work and adhesives, to vacuum cleaners and products for your pets.

 

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I promise you, there’s a healthier way to live, and the changes are not difficult to make. Ready to protect yourself and your family, friends, and companion animals from a poorly regulated industry? I want to help. Click here to take the first step toward the Eco-Elegant Life.

 

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Remembering David Hostetler

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David Hostetler 1926-2015

Part of a Continuing Series on Nantucket Artists

Art touches us in so many ways: it adds beauty, opens our eyes and hearts, helps us see our world in a new way, and not least, is a legacy to the artist whose work is left behind on earth for new generations. David Hostetler, who passed away in November, was a wood carver and bronze sculptor of works capturing the female form, whose career spanned 69 years. He and his wife, Susan Crehan Hostetler, spent the winter months on a 40 acre farm in Ohio, and summers on Nantucket. Nantucket is home to the Hostetler Gallery, which will remain open, where Susan will continue to sell Hostetler art..

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David played drums in his own jazz band on the island, too. That’s the wonderful thing about artists. It’s hard to pin them down. So often, they turn their hands and their talent to more than one discipline, as if the ideas that filled them had to spill over into other art forms or else overflow. Here’s how David explained it:

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Summertime Lady

“My life centers around artful choices, the life rhythms, shapes and spaces, and their infinite combinations. My lover, my nest, carving on a log, drumming, woodland meditation and archery are involved. The coming together of art, rhythm, forms and space can be magic. The quest for this magic gives my life purpose and provides my joy of being.”

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The IKON at The Sheffield on West 57th Street in New York City

David was the creator of a series of original works that were inspired by goddesses and celebrated women of historical significance, according to the artist.

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The Duo can be seen at Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City. Although the heads are looking in different directions, the fused bodies speak of total commitment.

David said he based his entire life’s work on capturing the spirit, romance, and earthiness of the feminine.

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“My 69 year art career has been a continuous quest of the nature of woman. It has led me from the contemporary woman as mother, wife, nurturer, to vamp, seductress, and queen. Now the journey harkens to the pre-biblical period, to ancient civilizations of women-centered societies. My focus is the Near East with Minoan, Cretin, and Cycladic imagery. Their ascendancy was from 12,000 to 500 BCE.”

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Guardian, in Zebrawood

In a world where women’s bodies, rights, and intelligence are not universally honored, its is wonderful to see ourselves through David’s eyes. “The goddess represents the all-encompassing power of woman, the manifestation of humanity as a part of a whole, part of the cosmos and part of nature: an image that men and women can embrace equally.”

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His ideals found beautiful fruition in his works, which appear in more than 25 museums and galleries, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. His pieces are found in public collections from Nantucket to New Mexico to the Netherlands.

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David’s Studio in Athens, Ohio

Born in Ohio, David had a close relationship with his Amish grandfather, an influence that remained with him throughout his life. After graduating with a BA in Education from Indiana University, he obtained a Masters of Fine Arts from Ohio University, then taught for 38 years. In addition to his artwork and teaching, he trained as an engineer, worked as a farmer and a salesman, owned a commercial pottery factory, and created an art commune.

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David and Susan Hostetler

His contributions to the world of art are many and diverse. David was an integral member of the Nantucket community. He will be missed. A memorial will be held to celebrate his life on July 17th at the Hostetler home on Nantucket.

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Downton Design

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One of the real pleasures of watching movies and television, especially for an interior designer, is the careful attention that is paid to the sets, allowing us to be transported to another world. As Masterpiece Theatre’s Downton Abbey series draws to a close this month, we’ll say goodbye not only to the characters and their fictional lives in Edwardian England, but also to Highclere Castle, the real life Georgian Mansion that dates back, in its current form, to a renovation in 1838.

 

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Part of my fascination with the series and its setting is based on my respect for historical properties. I’ve restored antique homes and designed interiors for historic houses on Nantucket, and have taken meticulous care to be sure that irreplaceable historic treasures have been preserved. The first renovation I undertook was the Captain Parker House on Nantucket. It’s not Highclere Castle, but its original owner held a place among ship captain “royalty” in his own time.

 

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I’ve designed interiors for another renovated home on Nantucket, this one from the Edwardian era. One of my favorite things in this house is the servants’ call box on the wall in the kitchen, allowing the mysterious Mr. and Mrs. Dustin, long lost to time, to summon their servants when they wanted them.

 

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Not quite as large as Downton Abbey’s, but still a vestige of another era.

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A new book, Downton Abbey: A Celebration, The Official Companion to All Six Seasons, has just been published by St. Martin’s Press, and takes us on a journey through the house and estate. We have the pleasure of traveling from the Great Hall to the servant’s hall, bedrooms to boot room, getting a glimpse of some of the gorgeous architectural details and lovely furnishings that were used for the show–and are still in use by the current (8th) Earl and Countess of Carnavon, the castle’s owners, seen below.

 

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Come take a walk with me through some of my favorite rooms. The photographs were provided courtesy of St. Martin’s Press, and the fascinating details are from the book by Jessica Fellowes, the niece of show creator Julian Fellowes.

As a Downton Abbey set, the Library functions as Robert’s study during the day. As Country Life Magazine described it in 1959, “it is full of rich plumpness and masculine opulence.” This room was decorated by Thomas Allom, an English architect and illustrator, who created a perfect setting for the master of the house. The shelves are home to more than 5,600 books, some dating back to the 1500s. Robert has a ledger in which everyone must write down the book they are borrowing–this way, he makes sure they are returned. Servants in the house were invited to borrow books, too.

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This is also the room where the family gathers for tea, in the late afternoon. A footman is on hand to pour the tea and pass out slices of cake, especially to the children, who are brought by the nanny to see their parents here once a day.

 

Typical English Afternoon Tea.

 

The dining room is the heart of the formal lifestyle for both the Downton Abbey cast, and the residents of Highclere Castle over the generations. The room is dominated by an equestrian portrait of Charles I, by Sir Anthony van Dyck, a Flemish Baroque painter who was the leading artist of court portraits in the 17th century. According the book, Downton Abbey’s food stylist prepares at least seventy servings of the family dinner while the cast is filming over ten to twelve hours, to keep the food fresh. After each take, levels of wine in each glass, amount of food on the plates and the heights of the burning candles are checked for continuity. The table belongs to Highclere Castle, and can seat 18.

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Of course, before the Crawleys can appear in the dining room, everyone must dress for dinner. Cora’s bedroom is a copy of the blue Mercia bedroom at Highclere, with eighteenth century four poster bed and silk hangings. The colors in this room are light and on the pale side, reflecting Cora’s sweetly feminine nature. Her dressing table is set between two large windows, with an oval mirror and two small lamps, her ladies’ maid, Baxter attends to her needs every morning and evening. Ladies’ maids were expected to plan their mistress’s wardrobe, remove jewelry from the safe when it was to be worn, and in many cases, have complete control over the bedroom: their special domain.

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Mary’s bedroom is an exact reproduction of another room in Highclere, with a four-poster bed and dramatic red print wallpaper. The paint is Green Smoke, by Farrow & Ball, and is more austere than her mother’s. That’s not to say that it skimps on luxury, though. The bed is made up with ivory linen sheets, commissioned by the Downton Abbey art department to have the monograms of the Crawley family crest on them. The set directors are strict about how the beds are made: bottom sheet, top sheet, ribbon-edged blanket of cashmere wool, and then an eiderdown. During the day, there’s also a bedspread. In the evening, there’s a special way of turning the sheets back.

 

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Mary’s dressing table sits between windows, too, and has a three-leafed mirror, flowers, and a photograph of Matthew and Mary on their wedding day, along with a handheld mirror, porcelain boxes and trays for trinkets. In keeping with the tradition of the age, however, the room is decorated for the house, not for Mary. She has few personal items there. Women today may be surprised to find out how small a typical wardrobe was in the 1920s: the costume department keeps Mary’s wardrobe as it would have been historically–ten shirts, five suits, some evening dresses, and pointy shoes with chunky heels.

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The Earl and Countess of Carnavon have a wonderful website created especially for Highclere Castle, with an entire segment devoted to Downton Abbey, including a video about what it’s like to film there. The six seasons of Downton Abbey will remain a classic for those of us who have loved being invited in, but as Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess says: “No guest should be admitted without the date of their departure being known.”

 

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So let’s just say our goodbyes here, shall we?

 

Chronicles of Downton Abbey

Photo of Violet courtesy of St. Martin’s Press

Photos of Highclere Castle and images from the Highclere Castle website are from www.highclerecastle.co.uk.Visit their website for information on tours, open days, and special events.  

Winter White

Cozy winter still life: mug of hot tea and warm woolen knitting on vintage windowsill against snow landscape from outside.

 

There are few colors that capture my imagination like white in the winter. The wind blows fresh snow into our gardens, and white frost greets us on our windows in the morning. The world slows down.

 

snowy day

In January, the color white is a promise of simplicity. I am enchanted.

 

snowy wheat

 

Even without a snowfall, white clouds in a winter sky have a stunning clarity.

 

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The purity of white, its neutrality and its ability to blend with any other color makes it perfect in design, and art, and architecture. A white house, for instance:

 

white house

 

A white bedroom is so very peaceful.

 

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I have always said that the most beautiful rooms are white plus one other color. That combination creates instant serenity, a feeling of airiness and openness that no other color can offer.

 

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Benjamin Moore chose their Simply White (OC-117) as their color of the year for 2016.

 

If you use white plus one color, a great tip is to choose one fabulous fabric, then repeat, repeat, repeat! Less is often more. The eye needs a place to rest.

 

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White has always been the color of new beginnings, a clean slate. It represents innocence, making it a perfect color for weddings. (At least here in the United States. In China, red is the color frequently chosen by brides!)

The tablescape, below, is from my wedding. I used white roses, white hydrangeas, white tulips and white lilies of the valley in silver chalices, along with white votive candles and white shells. It still takes my breath away.

 

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White is also associated with cleanliness, sterility, and safety, making it an excellent choice for kitchens.

 

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Dogs look marvelous in white!

 

047 8x10 email Trudy, Frank and dogs

G.G., Tuffy, and Ellie. Also Trudy and Frank

Although some people (Women on Fire founder Debbie Phillips and her husband, Rob Berkley) prefer white cats.

 

debbie phillips wilbur

Wilbur

I love my white bedroom on Nantucket.

 

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White is soothing in a place to sit and read.

 

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It’s perfect in a dining room.

 

blue and white vases dining room

 

I’ve always loved white sofas…

 

living room 2

 

white starfish…

 

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or starfish with white…

 

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the beauty of blue and white…

 

bedroom blue and white

 

White is the perfect color for marshmallows…

 

Gourmet Hot Chocolate Milk

 

for snow hares…

 

snowshoe hare

 

for outdoor furniture…

 

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for flowers…

 

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and lamps.

 

cake plate on desk

 

As someone who has always lived on the coast, either in Connecticut or on my beautiful Nantucket Island, I think I like it best in sand–

 

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and shells–

 

shells white

 

and sea.

 

stormy ocean

 

Luckily, I don’t have to choose.

 

sitting room

 

White is beautiful everywhere.

 

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Nous Celebrons Paris!

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Nous celebrons Paris!

 

Paris, France - February 9, 2015: The Louvre Museum is one of the world's largest museums and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, France.

We celebrate Paris: as the host of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, for her brave citizens who continue to live their lives in spite of the horrific acts of terrorism in 2015, for the inspiration the city has provided to all of us around the world as an example of beauty, elegance, and joie de vivre!

Here’s a look at some of what we love the most about The City of Light.

 

paris notre dame

“Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history; so she seemed in this age of Napoleon III with her towering buildings, her massive cathedrals, her grand boulevards and ancient, winding medieval streets–as vast and indestructible as nature herself.” –Anne Rice

 

 

Dramatic view of Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Black and white image, same film grain added.

“I like the Eiffel Tower because it looks like steel and lace”.–Natalie Lloyd

 

 

Paris, France - September 13, 2013: People resting in the street terrace of cafe Le Metro. Located on the place Maubert, the cafe provide the fine service for tourists

“I guess it goes to show you that you just never know where life will take you. You search for answers. You wonder what it all means. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for awhile.” –Amy Thomas

 

 

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“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.”–Victor Hugo

 

 

paris baguettes

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”–Ernest Hemingway

 

 

Alexander III bridge, Paris, France

“We’ll always have Paris.”–Rick, Casablanca

 

 

STRASBOURG, FRANCE - NOV 16, 2015: Je suis Paris - messages, candles and flowers are left around General Kleber statue in memorial for the victims of the Paris Attacks.

“Je suis Paris.”–the world

 

 

 

 

Small Shifts Cause Large Waves: Paris 2015

Gulls on the side of the Seine [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?action=file&lightboxID=4328606][img]http://www.erichood.net/paris.jpg[/img][/url]

The 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21 (Conference of the Parties 21) is the twenty first meeting of what is now a near-universal membership of 195 countries. Begun in response to climate change at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the “Rio Convention” included the adoption of the UN Framework on Climate Change. That was the first framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. 

The COP meetings exist to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995. COP3 was where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 produced the Montreal Action Plan, COP17 was in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

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Ed Mazria is the founder of Architecture 2030, an organization committed to protecting our global environment by using innovation to develop bold solutions to global warming. He has called COP21 in Paris “an end to the fossil fuel era.” The historic agreement signed there is a long term goal committing almost 200 countries, including the U.S., China, India and the EU nations, to keep the global average temperature increase to “well below 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees centigrade.”

According to Ed, “the Paris Agreement introduces a new world, one that envisions an end to fossil fuel emissions and secures a strong mechanism to address climate change.”

paris

photo courtesy of Architecture2030.org

COP21 attracted nearly 50,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates. Multiple forums were held on a variety of related topics. In addition, thousands of demonstrators were permitted to gather on December 12, in spite of France’s tightened security after the recent terrorist attacks. 

The following is a guest post by architect Veronica Schreibeis Smith, of Vera Iconica Architecture in Jackson, Wyoming. Veronica attended the Sustainable Energy for All Conference at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, held from November 30 to December 12, 2015. I asked her to share her thoughts here.         –Trudy

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photo courtesy of Architecture2030.org

We’ll begin with a few questions:

Q: Veronica, what part of the Paris Climate Conference did you attend?

A: I attended Sustainable Energy for All.

(Referred to as SE4all, “Sustainable Energy for All is a call for both revolution and reform; a radical vision where everyone can access and afford the reliable energy they need to live a productive, healthy, secure life, while respecting the planetary constraints that we all face as a result of climate change.” –Rachel Kyte, SE4All CEO/Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General)

Q: Why did you attend the Conference?

A: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Many times, our good intentions have unintended consequences. As the SE4All initiative focuses on powering the world, we need to simultaneously be working on initiatives that empower (people) to make the right decisions on how to use the energy once they receive it.

Buildings consume almost half the world’s power production. If we deliver power to exponentially more people, while only focusing on doubling the efficiency of the infrastructure and doubling the amount of of sustainable energy, we likely have not made a positive impact, but rather have continued on a track of more consumption.

My focus is how can we implement grass roots movements in Third World countries that educate people on how to have healthy and sustainable homes, and make healthy decisions for their families regarding consumption and preservation of culture, once they receive the energy.

To date, my role has been as a participant in think tank type of discussions to brainstorm what initiatives and actionable steps could be viable for making this come true.

se4all

photo courtesy of SE4All.org

Q: What was your takeaway on the most actionable steps?

A: To get involved. Not just wait and see what others are going to do, but to donate your time or money; if you have an idea, to reach out to the United Nations Foundations and share (what) you want to put into practice and just need financing for; to promote and encourage yourself and others to get involved as a public + private relationship to make meaningful change.

What do you think were the key accomplishments?

A: For the Paris talks in general, the level of unprecedented participation from around the globe. There was a social media survey from the UN that was mostly electronic, but in some areas they had paper ballots hand-delivered to UN outposts, and tallied by staff there. For every one thousand humans on this planet, one person responded to the survey. That is 7 million people from around the world uniting to create change and a better life for a healthier planet. That alone is huge. Good will follow–in exponential increments!

From that survey, the UN defined the 17 top priorities for the 21st century. The top five are:

  1. Poverty
  2. No Hunger
  3. Good Health
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality

The movement asks all of us to become a global citizen. This video explains more:

Veronica continues:

  • Nature is integral to human wellbeing, and a shift in the realization of our interconnectedness to the environment is continually growing. We can see this vast change in only six short years since the unsuccessful climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. Last month, an unmistakeable belief in a successful outcome for the Paris Climate Talks was clear after the first week.

 

  • There is no doubt that alterations in timing and logistics played a part. Most notable was the change from the world leaders’ involvement as the negotiators in 2009 to their limited role as speakers and advocates early in the first week, followed by relinquishing final negotiations to environmental and policy professionals. The greatest contributing factor came from outside the closed doors, and even outside Paris.

 

Paris home_EN-975x650

photo courtesy of United Nations Conference on Climate Change

  • The Earth to Paris movement reached an unprecedented number of people across the planet. The Internet allowed access for all, which diminished the chasm that has distanced us in the past, such as residing in a developed versus developing countries, age gaps, social and economic backgrounds, and more.

 

  • Thousands of videos hosted by celebrities grabbed our attention on social media, surveys invited us to express our opinions, and finally, the call for Love Letters to Paris invited our thoughts to be hand delivered to leaders behind those closed doors. And it worked.

 

 

  • What keeps me going back to the United Nations Foundation discussions is the focus on how public and private sectors can unite to transform ideas into reality, to move from talk to walk. We heard success stories from Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, examples of how companies like Phillips Petroleum are leaping toward carbon-free operations and incorporating holistic, circular economy strategies, and how start-ups are innovating solutions, such as Mobilsol, which delivers off-the-grid solar energy via drones in Africa.

 

  • A subtle shift in perspective and an increase in awareness, followed by one actionable step after another is the catalyst needed to inspire individuals, companies, and economies of scale to make meaningful change, toward better husbandry of the earth.

 

  • Small shifts in perspective can cause massive ripples. After all, thoughts are things, and the unification of humanity’s thoughts will certainly cause waves. A connected world is powerful. A united world is power. Join in the efforts. Do your part. You make a difference as a collective part of the whole.

 

Veronica

Veronica Schreibeis Smith is the CEO and Founding Principal of Vera Iconica Architecture. Veronica’s entrepreneurial half is driven by the vision of creating company structures that support and empower individuals to reach their highest potential, while the architect in her is driven to raise awareness of the profound effects our surroundings have on our wellbeing. She has practiced architecture on four continents, and continues working internationally. She chairs the Wellness Architecture Initiative for the Global Wellness Institute, and recently founded Designed Developments, a B Corporation that invests in a new model of building to inspire and perpetuate the celebration of the richness of culture, pay homage to the natural landscape,and create environments that nourish our wellbeing and feed our souls. 

 

Merry, Bright, and Delicious

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It’s easy to fall back on decorating in the same way every year for the holidays, using the same treasures, heirlooms, and baubles. That’s part of what makes a tradition, and there’s nothing wrong with always putting your vintage Santas on the mantle, or filling a glass bowl with ornaments and greenery. Those looks are classic, and timeless.

christmas dining room

It’s also fun, though, to come up with a fresh new look for your home. I’ve decorated so many holiday venues–my own home, my clients’ homes, and showhouses galore! Here are a few of my favorite vignettes! I hope they’ll inspire you to create beautiful new tableaus this year.

russian folk tale

The display above was presented at the Whaling Museum on Nantucket. It’s one one I did several years ago for the Nantucket Historical Association’s Festival of Trees, inspired by a Russian Folk Tale called The Snow Maiden.  You can see her silhouetted in the white cathedral.  It celebrates my Russian heritage, which makes it all the more special to me and my family. Take some time to look into your own ethnic background and family heritage to see what legends and beliefs you can discover. Then introduce it to your holiday decor!

victorian christmas

A Victorian Christmas was the theme for this holiday house at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut, a National Historic Landmark dating to 1868.

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A custom-made sugar gazebo graces the mantle with sugar Christmas trees, and elaborate swags of fruit-embellished evergreens were in keeping with the traditions of the era.

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You almost expect to see Charles Dickens arrive on a visit from London, with his wife Catherine, and their ten children!

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The Dickens family was, sadly, no where to be found, though it does look as if they just left the table!

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Luckily for us, we didn’t need the Dickens family to have a wonderful dinner at this year’s Christmas Stroll on Nantucket. We have our very own Saint Nick–no, not that Saint Nick–I mean my stepson, Nick Fasanella, a fabulous chef and owner of two San Francisco restaurants who comes and cooks for us. It doesn’t hurt to start the dinner preparations with a visit to the Scallop Shack for fresh Nantucket Bay Scallops right out of the water.

scallops

Once Nick picked out the freshest, most delicious looking scallops he could find, he headed home to prepare this fabulous menu:

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Nantucket Scallops and Corn Chowder in a Mashed Potato Basket

(pronounced “scollops”)

(Serves 4)

Step One: Mashed Potatoes

6 Medium sized Yukon Gold Potatoes

1/2 cup whole milk

3 Tablespoons Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add potatoes that have been cut into quarters. Simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Puree with milk and butter until smooth.

nicky

Step Two: Corn Chowder

2 slices bacon, diced

1 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup celery

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 cups half and half

4 ears corn

Slower render bacon, and when brown, add onion, celery and butter. Sweat until translucent (3-5 minutes). Stir in flour and toast for two minutes. Stir in half and half, bring to a simmer, then add corn. Simmer for 15 minutes. Check for seasoning.

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 Step Three: Scallops

Bake 8 slices of thin bacon in a 350 degree oven until nice and crispy; set aside.

(Keep oven set on 200 degrees after the bacon is cooked. Put four large dinner plates to warm in the oven.)

1.5 -2 lbs of Nantucket bay scallops

2 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Work in two batches. Heat a large saute pan and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 of the DRY scallops (pat both sides in paper towels) and then add 1 tablespoon butter. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then shake, flip, or roll the little fellas onto the other side for 1 minute.If the pan is properly hot they should be golden brown on both sides. Slide onto a plate and keep warm in the oven. REPEAT.

To Plate: Place a nice scoop of potatoes in the center of the plate, working inside out to make a circle. Add the chowder, 1/4 of the scallops, 2 crumbled slices of bacon, and parsley.

YUM.

nick dinner

To see more of Chef Nick’s great food, check out www.tackosf.com.

 

The Story of Grace

praying hands with candle

 

There are several definitions of “grace;” they range from a sense of propriety to charming behavior, from a divine virtue to a prayer before a meal. Grace can mean a musical trill, or an act of kindness. To me, Grace will always be my mother’s name, and the legacy she left me of living a life filled with light, and love.

 

A maxi coat wearing mother, taking her little girl to school, finds room under the yards of material to shelter both of them from the icy snow flurries in London, England on November 29, 1969. (Photo by Express/Getty Images)

 

I wrote about her final gift to me one Christmas long ago in a blog post called  Christmas with Grace.  I have the love-worn and gently aging quilt that she made with her own steadily weakening hands in her last months with us. It is one of my most treasured possessions. Because we said goodbye to her in December, this month always brings the most poignant memories flooding back to me, and sometimes, more magical opportunities to remember her.

 

grace's quilt

 

On a cold Christmas Eve several years ago, I needed some last minute items from the grocery store before they closed, and had quickly done my shopping. As I was hurrying to my car, I noticed an elderly woman standing alone, holding a bag. She looked like she was waiting for someone, and I hesitated before stopping at her side. I didn’t want to bother her, but I had a feeling that something was wrong.

 

grace 3

 

“Hello,” I said to her. “I noticed that you’re waiting here alone. Is everything all right? Can I be of any help?”

She looked at me, and now I could see the worry on her face. “Oh, everything’s fine,” she told me. “It’s just that I don’t drive anymore, and I had called for a cab, and it doesn’t seem to be coming. Maybe if I just wait a little longer…”

Snow was falling, beginning to accumulate on the sidewalk and parking lot. The roads were not in good shape, and surely would be getting worse.

“I’m heading home and would be happy to drive you,” I told her. “Do you live nearby?”

She nodded, and said, “Only a few blocks, but I can’t impose on you. I’m sure the cab will be here soon.”

I started to walk away, but I wasn’t at all sure the cab would arrive soon, or at all. I turned back toward her. “Please, it’s not an imposition–at all. Let me help you. I’d like to.”

She peered at the quiet street, watching the swirling snow, then finally said, “All right, then. If you’re sure…”

I helped her into the car and soon we were turning from one dark and slippery street onto another, until at last we reached a small home in an older neighborhood. There was a light left on over the front door, but the rest of the windows were dark. I hated to leave her there alone.

 

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“Can I help you in with your bag?” I asked her. “I can help you get the lights on before I go.”

Suddenly I could see alarm in her eyes. She was an elderly woman, living alone, and she didn’t know me. She stammered nervously, reaching for the door handle. “Oh, no no no, I can do it myself. Really. I appreciate your help so much, but I’ll be fine–”

I knew she was anxious, so I didn’t press her. She gathered her things and had one foot out the door when I said, “Wait–I don’t know your name!”

She looked at me, and smiled. “Grace. It’s Grace.”

The walkway was white with snow, and she took her time on her way to the door. I remained in the driveway with my headlights on until I saw her safely inside.

 

Surprise!!

 

Grace. Her name was Grace. I turned on the radio, just as “O, Holy Night,” began to play. It was a peaceful night, and I felt warmth spreading from my heart all throughout my body, as if I were being held by someone, as if I were being embraced.

There are mysteries in life, things I can’t always understand, and things I can’t explain. But there are other things that I feel with a sureness that defies any logic that might explain away what I know to be true in the world:

We all have angels of our better nature, and angels by our side on earth who are our friends and family, just like the family I had waiting at home for me that night. And sometimes, there are angels around us who we feel rather than see. For me, there will always be one angel in particular who I am reminded of each Christmas.

Her name is Grace.

 

Winter snowy abstract background with pile of snow

 

Simple Giving

happy new year 2015 with christmas hat on sandy beach with wave - holiday concept

Each year, when the family is gathered together, we talk about our plans for the holidays. In recent years, inspired by how a friend and his family in Switzerland found a deeper meaning in Christmas,we have agreed to celebrate in a simpler way.

Skyline view of the old city center of Bern, Switzerland (an Unesco World Heritage Site) during a winter twilight. Some snow visible on the rooftops of the buildings. Between the houses, the spires of the most imposing churches of the city can be spotted, as well as the dome of the Switzerland's Parliament House. HDR Image.

My friend and his family live in a tiny storybook village. I’ve been there, and it’s magic. Their new way of celebrating began when their son, Theo, came home one Christmas Eve from college and told the family that he had heard the local village butcher was going out of business, and closing that night. As a family, they totaled up the cash value of their presents, and decided to return them. Instead, they brought the cash amount to the butcher and his wife in an envelope that very night. Their business was saved. They all cried with joy.

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And so it goes. Instead of the rush to buy gifts and spend money for things we don’t truly need, we focus on giving from our hearts. There are so many creative options! Last year, some people read aloud from passages or poetry that are favorites.

My aunt gave blankets to the Sioux Native Americans to help them get through the winter. One person crafted a lovely handmade ornament for our tree, others made donations to Greenpeace, or did acts of kindness, such as visiting shut-ins. We all shared our stories at the table, and it was a very uplifting and joyful time. Noisy, too!

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We do like to keep the tradition of giving gifts to the children, as a symbol of the gifts of the Magi to the Christ child in the manger. As they grow up, we’ll explain the significance of this. So our little Luke, Vidal, and Richard Thomas will all have gifts. That’s half the fun–watching them open things so joyfully!

Frank and I are gifting a live pig to a family through our favorite charity, Heifer International. Hopefully, he’ll be on his way soon. Livestock gives the village the gift of independence, and the piglets are shared in the village to spread the abundance.

heifer pig

We’ll also share photos of our “adopted” child in India, a little boy named Nik (just like my stepson, Nick!) through Childfund International. Not only does he share Nick’s name, but they share a birthday: September 10th! His father is so ill with diabetes that he can no longer support the family. Now they have money for insulin, and clothes for Nik so he can attend school. I’ll even show the family Nik’s report card.

childfund international

Watch a Childfund International video here. 

I chose the title of this post to be the same as the name of a wonderful book by Jennifer Iacovelli, the author of Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day

Simple_Giving_coverfinal copy

Jennifer began a blog, Another Jennifer, in February 2010, to explore the topic of philanthropy and what it meant. As a fundraiser for a non-profit organization for several years, she was getting frustrated with her progress in raising money to support good works, and urging legislators not to cut public funding.

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Jennifer Iacovelli

Her book, Simple Giving, takes her blog one step farther. She hopes to inspire readers to do more giving in ways that are meaningful. Giving doesn’t always mean writing a check. It can be taking the time to write to your legislator about an issue important to you, or bringing doughnuts to your local fire department. You might check on an elderly neighbor, or just write a thank you note to someone who has done something for you.

“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

–Henry James

In addition to Jennifer’s simple suggestions for daily acts of kindness, she shares some ideas for charitable giving to organizations you might not have heard about before. There’s Nearby Registry, a website that allows you to shop for unique gifts from local shops and nonprofits. Or To The Market, an online marketplace that showcases handmade goods created by survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease.

shopwithaconscience

Molly Bears makes weighted teddy bears –so they feel like you’re holding an infant–for families who have experienced any form of infant loss, free of charge. Climate Counts holds companies accountable for their influence on climate change. Ark Project Now is based on the movie Evan Almighty, when Steve Carell’s character asks Morgan Freeman, who plays the role of God, “How can we change the world?”

And Morgan Freeman replies, “One act of random kindness at a time,” and writes the abbreviation, A-R-K, into the sand with a stick.

Lovely young brother and sister write words in the sand together

One person can make a difference; one person can change the world. Let me know what you choose to write in the sand, and how you’ll bring hope to people who may have lost theirs.  I’ll share it here, and on my Facebook page.

Happy Holidays.

Word "Hope" handwritten in sand at beach.

 

Saving Our Antiquities

ancient assyrian relief of king ashurnasirpal

Our world is blessed with the awe-inspiring remains of ancient civilizations, cultures,  and ways of worship from centuries in the past. Although natural disasters, acid rain, and the ravages of time threaten some of them, others have been destroyed or are in peril due to human violence and wars.

Ruin in ancient greek town Hierapolis, Turkey

Ruin in ancient greek town Hierapolis, Turkey

If you’ve ever watched the movie The Monuments Men, you know the true story of a platoon in World War II, racing to save priceless artwork stolen by the Nazi’s. The idea of saving our cultural history and artifacts in times of war is not a new one, but the danger to some of the world’s most stunning Heritage Sites is reaching emergency levels of concern today.

Ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof train station in Berlin, Germany in 2013.

Ruins of the Anhalter Bahnhof train station in Berlin, Germany in 2013.

In what the United Nations is calling “war crimes,” ISIS fighters are attacking archaeological sites throughout Iraq and Syria with sledgehammers, power tools, and bombs. They are deliberately seeking out areas of cultural history, and systematically destroying them. Among others, they have targeted the Mosul Museum, Iraq’s second largest museum of antiquities, that was in the process of being rebuilt after being damaged in the 2003 Iraq War. Fortunately, many of that museum’s artifacts had been safely moved to the The Baghdad Museum for safekeeping, although there were roughly 300 rare pieces remaining. Thousands of books and rare manuscripts were burned from the Mosul Library.

karl stephenson

karl stephenson

ISIS has also bulldozed the ancient ruins in the nearby city of Nimrud. Nimrud was a city in the Assyrian kingdom, which flourished between 900 and 612 B.C. E. An unnamed fighter was quoted by CNN as saying, “These antiquities and idols…were from people in past centuries and were worshiped instead of God. When God Almighty orders us to destroy these statues, idols and antiquities, we must do it, even if they’re worth billions of dollars.”

bombed out iraq

In March of 2015, the United Nations issued a statement saying that neighboring Syria’s “rich tapestry of cultural heritage is being ripped to shreds.”

explosion

Sadly, ISIS has demolished the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria. In May, 2015, the world watched while the extremist group threatened to destroy it. Built 2,000 years ago, its columns and pilasters were reduced to rubble. Satellite images have confirmed its destruction, along with the Roman-era Temple of Bel and three ancient funeral towers nearby.

temple of baalshamin

The Temple of Baalshamin, Palmyra, Syria, no longer exists.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization, charged with “building peace,” has denounced the demolition of irreplaceable antiquities as “a form of cultural cleansing.” Their Unite4Heritage campaign was launched to protect the world’s treasures from extremists.

Temple of Bel

The Temple of Bel (also known as the Temple of Baal) has been destroyed. 

In addition, UNESCO has teamed with The Institute for Digital Archaeology (a joint venture between Harvard and Oxford Universities) to launch the Million Image Database Program. The organization hopes to distribute 5,000 3-D cameras in conflict zones around the world, allowing people to document important structures. If the sites are destroyed, they can perhaps one day be replicated.

unite4heritage

UNESCO has  a new website where you can learn about the global movement to safeguard cultural heritage and diversity worldwide. Unite4Heritage is encouraging everyone get involved in the following seven ways:

Post support to social media: Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to tell the world what cultural heritage means to you. Take photos of your favorite heritage sites and cultures and explain why they matter.

Explore heritage in your local communityFind World Heritage sites nearby, or visit your area’s cultural institutions and explore the role of cultural heritage. (There are 23 sites in the United States, including many in national parks.)

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

Organize a #Unite4Heritage eventStand in solidarity with heritage under attack around the world. Invite heritage sites, museums and cultural institutions in your area to participate, and work with local media to cover the event.

Let your government know why heritage mattersAct as a #Unite4Heritage ambassador in your community by contacting your legislative representatives. Let them know why our heritage must be safeguarded for future generations.

Volunteer to safeguard heritage: Get in touch with heritage sites in your area to see how you can assist in safeguarding them.

Yosemite National Park, Wyoming, USA

Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Donate to the Heritage Emergency Fund: The fund contributes to the protection of natural and cultural heritage from disasters and conflicts by preparing for and responding to emergencies.

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Unite4Heritage-launch

I believe in The Power of One. We can each make a difference! Let’s not give up our cultural memories without a fight.

Making Chemical Exposure Visible

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One of my favorite organizations, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), just published a list of their victories in 2015, and how they translate to their goals in 2016. One of the most fascinating items was a pilot project they funded with My Exposome, using silicone wristbands that measure the chemicals we encounter every day in the air, and in the products we use.

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For one week, research volunteers strapped on their wristband, which absorbed chemicals–from pesticides to flame retardants–making the invisible world of chemicals visible.

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The EDF plans to recruit more volunteers in 2016 to improve their understanding of environmental exposures. And then they plan to use that information to spur policy changes to reduce key sources of harmful exposures.

Want to sign up as a research volunteer? Help advance chemical science here!

Photo of My Exposome Courtesy of The Environmental Defense Fund. 

Dining Through the Ages

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The holidays have arrived, and we’ll all be spending time in dining rooms for the next several weeks. A well-appointed dining room is both functional and beautiful, encouraging relaxation and companionship, as well as the enjoyment of our food. The dining room is a relatively new idea, however. When people first began to inhabit built dwellings, they shared a common room for sleeping, cooking, and eating, and sometimes, invited their barnyard companions to share the space with them.

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The idea of a separate dining room began, according to historians, with the ancient Greeks, who gathered on stone or wood couches (men only!) to eat honey cakes and chestnuts in seclusion. The ancient Romans had a separate room called the triclinium for their meals, but women were invited.

A dining room-kitchen inside a medieval castle.

By the Middle Ages, wealthier people were eating in dining rooms, but comfort was still out of reach in the large, drafty halls. As the Industrial Revolution brought increased prosperity to the populace, more people could enjoy the benefits of a separate room for formal dining, along with silver cutlery, delicate china, and linen tablecloths. Author Bill Bryson, in his book At Home: A Short History of Private Life, says that when Thomas Jefferson put in a dining room at Monticello, it was quite a dashing thing to do. Elsewhere, meals were still being served at little tables in any convenient space.

An image of a dining room and fireplace in a primitive colonial style reproduction home. The home is built with materials reclaimed from structures built in the late 1700's. The styling is authentic primitive colonial, with modern amenities added to make the home functional and comfortable for a modern family. The furniture and decor are antiques fro the late 18th century.

So in honor of the holiday and the meals we’ll enjoy there, here’s to our dining rooms! And here are a few of my favorite Dujardin-designed dining rooms for you to enjoy.

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The table is a 20th century reproduction of an 18th century Irish lacemaker’s worktable, surrounded by a rare set of American spindle back chairs with their original black paint. 

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A wrought iron and rock crystal chandelier brings elegant light to this comfortable space.

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Hermes orange is this homeowner’s favorite color!

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The farmhouse table is surrounded by black-painted Windsor chairs. The hanging light fixtures are contemporary versions of 19th century Colonial “smoke bells,” designed to keep the candles from blowing out and smoke from marking the ceiling. 

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The hand painted floor is striking and adds another layer of interest to this beautiful room.

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The dining corner in this New York City apartment was created with curving walls and a dropped ceiling. The solid walnut table is by Hellman-Chang.

photos 88 old saugatuck 002 (2) copy This is my dining room in Connecticut, where I’ll be serving Thanksgiving dinner to my family. Wherever you spend yours, I hope it’s a safe and happy one!

 

Rooms with a View

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For 21 years, the Southport Congregational Church in Southport, Connecticut has hosted a wildly popular design show, Rooms with a View (RWAV). RWAV is unique in that it is not a full show house, but rather, a sound bite version of a designer show house. Each year, 12 designers are invited to create 6′ by 8′ vignettes, staged with 8-foot ceilings and three walls, and located in the library and great hall of the historic stone church. And this year, I’m one of the lucky designers!

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The theme this year is “Home for the Holidays,” so you’ll find my Nantucket-style take on the concept in the library.  I don’t want to give anything away–I want you to come see it for yourself!–but I will tell you that its designed to be a peaceful island retreat, overlooking Nantucket Harbor, and in an elegant room that’s ready for a loving reunion with family and friends.

Nantucket by Sondy Rexford

photo credit: Sondy Rexford

The show opens on Friday, November 13 at 10:00 a.m. There’s a Gala Party Friday evening, featuring cocktails and hot d’oeuvres from some of the best restaurants around. Saturday opens with a Fashion Show and a Royal English Tea, and the evening features a Champagne Tour of the Vignettes and Gourmet Dinner. And it’s not over yet! On Sunday, there’s a Gingerbread House Workshop in the main tent at 2 p.m.

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This spectacular event was created by the late, renowned designer Albert Hadley, and continues under the leadership of Parker Rogers. Thom Filicia is the celebrity Honorary Chairperson.

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Rooms with a View is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 13th to 15th, and in addition to the vignettes, you’ll want to visit The Shops at Rooms with a View, with more than 30 vendors selling crafts, antiques and decorative accessories. If you need a nosh, you can stop at the Marketplace Cafe.

rwav cafe

Sound like fun? The weekend promises to be one of the most festive events of the season. In addition, over the past 21 years, RWAV has raised more than $1.4 million. Proceeds support the work of the church and its many local and international missions, including Alpha Community Services, Bridgeport Council of Churches, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Burroughs Community Center, Center for Women and Families, Eagle Hill School Scholarship Fund, Emerge, Inc., Family Re-Entry, FSW, Grasmere by the Sea, Homes for the Brave, Horizons, Janus House, The Kennedy Center, Operation Hope, The Pilot House, Project Learn, Prospect House, Simply Smiles, St. George’s Soup Kitchen, and Visiting Nurses of Connecticut.

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Don’t miss it!

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Learn more here.

 

Design in Dallas

Dallas City skyline at sunset, Texas, USA

Dallas City skyline at sunset, Texas, USA

One of the greatest joys while traveling is experiencing the unique culture and architecture in a city. My recent trip to Dallas, Texas for the Design Futures Council’s Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design filled me with admiration for the mostly modernist and postmodernist skyline. Although the city has long been associated with cotton, cattle and oil, that was in its heyday of long ago. Today, you’ll find stylish professionals from all over the world, and the requisite shopping, hotels and restaurants a first class city is known for.

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Dallas has had a reputation for being made up of shiny glass boxes, as it succumbed to the craze for reflective glass in the 1970s. Drivers sometimes complain about the glittering reflection of the sun in their eyes during late day commutes, but the sparkling skyline has long been a source of pride for residents. I loved the views from my hotel windows, and the nighttime glow when the sun went down and the city lit up.

Dallas Skyline

Dallas Skyline

Today, some of the best examples of architecture are the Reunion Tower with its landmark observation deck and light shows–

reunion tower the JFK Memorial in the West End Historic District, by the noted architect Phillip Johnson–

JFK Memorial and I.M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall.

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The biggest new structure in Dallas is the bridge over the Trinity River, part of the Trinity River Project.

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photo credit: Aaron Morrow

A striking display in the Great Hall in The State Hall is a gold medallion, twelve feet in diameter. The star in the middle is the symbol of Texas.

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photo credit: Aaron Morrow

One of my favorite spots on this trip was the Nasher Sculpture Center, where a roofless building is home to one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the world. Nasher sculpture garden 3

Eviva Amore by Mark di Suvero

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Rush Hour by George Segal

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Bronze Crowd by Magdalena Abakanowicz

Dallas is still home to beautiful countryside, too, if you drive outside the city.  I can’t wait to go back.

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Marshall, Texas. Photo credit: Aaron Morrow

Tell the Good Stories

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There’s a wonderful quote by Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

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I felt doubly blessed after reading those words, because I’m convinced that what makes me come alive is also just what the world needs. I recently had the privilege of attending two multi-day conferences–The Nantucket Project, on Nantucket Island in September, and The Design Futures Council’s  (DFC) Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design in Dallas, Texas in October.

The speakers were among the most renowned politicians, business leaders, philanthropists and artists in the world. The topics they spoke on were self-selected, and reflected their deepest beliefs and best work.  It’s easy to become discouraged when we focus on the world’s problems, but it’s also possible to focus on solutions. Pete Seeger once said: “The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”

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At both conferences, I was completely captivated by the number of intelligent, thoughtful, creative and dynamic thought-leaders and life-changers on this planet, and the optimistic stories they told. I was uplifted, inspired, and re-invigorated in my desire to keep spreading the word about sustainable design. I want to do everything I can to help make the earth a cleaner, healthier place to raise our children and grandchildren, and take good care of our elders, too!

having fun in the waves

The Nantucket Project bills itself as a convener of thinkers and ideas, a think tank and an academy of learners. If you believe in being a lifelong learner, as I do, then I hope you’ll attend one of their annual island gatherings. Steve Wozniak was there, from Apple Computer, Inc., and Ben Carson, a Republican presidential candidate. Regardless of your political leanings, it’s always good to be exposed to the thoughts and ideas of people on the public stage.

nantucket projectBen Carson

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for ten years, spoke on the Africa Governance Initiative, designed to challenge the African continent with needed reform and reduce poverty. Neil Young introduced the concept of PonoMusic, bringing high resolution music to music lovers around the world.

After that experience, I couldn’t imagine anything that could compare to what I had just seen and heard, or that any other event could match that one for integrity. But then I headed southwest, to Dallas, and to the Design Futures Council’s Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design.

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The first Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design was held on Nantucket, 14 years ago. I had long had the desire to to have an “awareness-raising” conference for architects, landscapers, designers and contractors, to provide a platform for knowledge and understanding for an environmentally-conscious built environment. My friend and colleague Jim Cramer was the first to make that conference a reality by supporting it with his following in the Design Futures Council.

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I am deeply gratified to have been a part of this movement from the very beginning. At our first gathering we established The Nantucket Principles, offering a path for a strategic approach to sustainable design. Every year for the past fourteen, design leaders from around the world have convened to share their thoughts and ideas, to challenge outdated beliefs, and to make a positive contribution to the world.

DFC Sr Fellow right way up

At the Sustainable Design Summit, I was honored as a new Senior Fellow for the DFC, an unsought recognition that I treasure as a firm believer in the DFC’s mission.

DFC Sr Fellow 2

Here I am being honored as a Senior Fellow, with Scott Simpson, Managing Director, Greenway Group, and James P. Cramer, Chairman and Principal, Greenway Group, and President, Design Futures Council!

I was enthralled by the speakers there: Jason McClennan spoke on Living Buildings for a Living Future (watch his TED Talk here); Dame Ellen McArthur educated us on “The Surprising Thing I Learned Sailing Solo Around the World” (watch her TED Talk here), and we talked about the Building Blocks of a  Circular Economy.

dfc circular economy

Those two conferences changed my life, not by altering any of my values, beliefs or passions, but rather, by reaffirming what I already knew: that there is a world filled with possibility, that the right time to give up hope is never, and that together, we can create something beautiful. Both conferences told me a story that I could believe in: that we can change the world.

As Tom Scott, co-founder of The Nantucket Project says, “If you want to be good at making outcomes, you’d better get really good at telling a story. And you better make sure that story has integrity.”

We can all do this in our own lives. Let’s find the good stories, stories with integrity, and tell them to each other, every day.

This is Impossible Concept with Graffiti on Gray Cement Street Wall.

The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving. –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Design Futures Council: Senior Fellow

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This has been an especially gratifying year for me. In the past twelve months, I’ve published my design book (Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior), I’ve been named to the College of Fellows for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and I have just received word that the Design Futures Council has named me a Senior Fellow.

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Ed Mazria reporting on the climate, 2014

The Design Futures Council (DFC) is an interdisciplinary network of leaders in design confronting global challenges. I’ve been a longtime member and contributor, happy to join with my friend and respected colleague James P. Cramer, who became the DFC’s primary founder and facilitator of information and inspiration throughout the organization.

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To be named as a Senior Fellow by this highly esteemed group of professionals is recognition for “significant contributions toward the understanding of changing trends, new research, and applied knowledge that improve the built environment and the human condition.”

Jim Cramer says, “The leadership role of design is of critical importance toward the creation of a healthier and happier planet. The new Senior Fellows of the DFC have been selected for the tremendous impact they have had on our world.”

clean air post from istock

A happier, healthier planet is what I’ve worked for throughout my career. I’m proud to join the other Senior Fellows in that endeavor.

 

We’ve Launched Our New Website

new website home

It’s been several years since we’ve updated our website at Dujardin Design, and we have lots of new projects to share with you! Vacation homes that have picked up and moved across Nantucket Island…

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and colorful cottages that celebrate sand and sun and fun…

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and historic houses that harken all the way back to when Nantucket was newly found and barely populated, but everyone here had something to do with whaling, or was here in support of the people who did!

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We’ve created stylish apartments in New York City…

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and beautiful spaces to curl up in comfort with a book and a cup of tea.

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Come see what’s new!

Make a Fresh Start!

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From time to time, people ask me what it’s like to work with an interior designer. I can’t answer that for anyone but myself, although certainly there are industry standards that a properly credentialed interior designer adheres to. In January of this year I wrote about the inspiration for a house, and some of the design process in Every Room Has a Beginning.

work 1That post was about a very specific house, and the kinds of decisions we made with the homeowners to redesign a beloved home after it was moved cross-island to save it from eroding bluffs. Here are a few more things you should know about the design process:

Clients often say that working with Dujardin makes the design process fun again. What can become quickly overwhelming–the details, schedules, plans, and coordination, with architects, contractors, craftsmen and landscapers–are handled seamlessly, resulting in elegant and sophisticated interiors that immediately feel like home. We can incorporate varying degrees of sustainability or design a completely holistic “deep green” residence, always honoring classic tradition while achieving 21st century style.

blueprints

Whether you’re building a new home, renovating an existing building, or just designing interiors, it takes a village to create a house.  You may need contractors, architects, carpenters, painters, artists, landscapers, energy system installers, plumbers, tilers, electricians and more.

 

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Having the requisite training in a home’s structure, design and function is what makes me a full and welcome partner in team meetings that include any or all of those participants.

 

Architects and Designers Working in the Office

Architects and Designers Working in the Office

I’ve devoted my life to the study and practice of interior design. I’m a professional member of ASID, and a member of their very select College of Fellows. (That’s what FASID means when you see it after my name.) I’ve just been elected a Senior Fellow for the Design Futures Council, which recognizes my contributions to the sustainable design movement.

ASID Fellows Award

I am a LEED Accredited Professional, with a specialty in Interior Design and Construction. (That’s the LEED AP + ID + C after my name). I belong to a number of professional organizations, have spoken widely about interior design, am an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, and am a professionally trained artist myself. I have a published full-color book of my design work that outlines many of the design principles I believe in.

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Once we’ve decided to work together, the planning begins. We start with measurements, and a study of your home’s traffic flow, light sources, assessment of what the room will be used for, and by whom. We talk to you about what you love, and how you envision your home. The goal is to make your home an elegant reflection of your very unique lifestyle and family.  To help you “see” the finished product, we create a beautiful binder showing you what we suggest. Here’s an example of a page showing window treatment and lamp options.

window treatments

Let’s look at one specific room together. First, we show you a layout with all the furniture we suggest, and where it will be placed.

dining room

Next, our in-house artist creates a watercolor rendering to give you a feeling for the colors and furniture we think will be perfect.

dining room sketch

We present several different styles of breakfronts. You choose which you like best.

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And then we look at different chair styles.

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Other pieces to be included in the room are next.

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Finally, it’s time to look at fabrics.

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There are thousands of choices to be made in designing a home, and mistakes can be expensive. By breaking every decision down to carefully selected options, our clients quickly feel in control of the process. They have a partner who cares as much about their home as they do, and we have a great time shopping together, talking together, and making decisions together. After several discussions about what our client likes and prefers, orders are placed. Here’s a look at the finished dining room following this process.

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My education, training and credentials, as well as my professional team members, are all important in creating the home of your dreams. But I also believe that creating a beautiful, healthy, comfortable home should be FUN! My clients often refer to me as the “funmaker,” because I love designing homes, and we want the entire project, start to finish, to be something you enjoy. We take care of the hard work for you.

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Believe it or not, we’re still having fun! We love our work.

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Inspired by the Sea: Maritime Artwork

marine art 2 storm galilee

The painting above has been missing for twenty five years. Rembrandt van Rijn painted it, and titled it “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” It used to hang in the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but was stolen in an art heist in 1990, a theft that removed a billion dollars worth of art from the museum.

Art depicting the sea has been popular for centuries. Rembrandt painted “The Storm” in 1633, part of the Dutch Golden Age, when marine painting was a major genre. A little bit of history explains why: overseas trade and naval power were hugely important to the Dutch Republic, and so began the very first career marine artists, who painted almost nothing else.

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 The Battle of Trafalgar, J.M.W. Turner

The Romantic Age (roughly 1800-1850) saw marine painting surge in popularity. Detailed portraits of ships and the sea were sought from painters such as J.M.W. Turner, for whom painting the sea was an obsession. He was commissioned to paint “The Battle of Trafalgar,” a far cry from the kinds of coastal scenes that followed from other painters, featuring tranquil waters and soft light.

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Lake George, 1862, Martin Johnson Heade

America experienced its own romance with marine art when immigrants, mostly English, came to the U.S. in the 19th century. Their arrival coincided with the coast being regarded as a place of leisure rather than work and danger. Beach scenes, coastal landscapes and river views became more common, especially among the Impressionists.

New_York_Yacht_Club_Race_by_James_Edward_Buttersworth,_c._1871,_oil_on_canvas_-_New_Britain_Museum_of_American_Art_-_DSC09266

New York Yacht Club Race, James Edward Buttersworth

The poet Mary Oliver calls the sea “this enormity, this cauldron of changing greens and blues,..the great palace of the earth. Everything is in it–monsters, devils, jewels, swimming angels, soft-eyed mammals…also, sunk with some ship or during off-loading, artifacts of past decades or centuries…” No wonder we’re fascinated by it!

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 America’s Cup, by Michael Keane

I use marine paintings in many of my client’s homes. Coastal scenes are also found throughout my own home, several depicting places I’ve loved and lived. I’ve written before about some of my favorite painters, including many beautiful works by my friend, Michael Keane.

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Blue Horizon, Michael Keane

No matter where they’re hung, marine paintings bring peace and beauty to a space, lifting us somehow into another place, where we can almost feel the sea breeze.

marine paintings

The beautiful living room, below, has several fine examples of marine art, including pieces by Antonio Jacobsen and Michael Keane. The portrait to the left is of an 18th century sea captain, another way to bring the seafaring life to your home.

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Bedrooms are particularly good places to hang favorite pieces of marine art, as the soft blues and greens and even the white capped waves can add to the room’s soothing ambiance.

marine art bedroom

Painting over mantel is by American artist Tim Thompson

Any room can benefit from a striking marine painting. Here, artwork by renowned oil painter Tim Thompson enlivens the space.

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Another work by Tim Thompson hangs above the sofa in a Nantucket home on the harbor.

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Finding galleries with knowledgeable professionals to assist in buying art is an indispensable part of collecting any artwork. I particularly have loved working with Quidley and Company, both in Boston and on Nantucket Island at 26 Main Street.

quidley gallery nantucket quidley gallery boston

Another favorite gallery is Cavalier Galleries, with locations in Greenwich, Connecticut, New York City, and on Nantucket, at 10 Federal Street.

cavalier galleries

A famous gallery known nationwide is J. Russell Jinishian, in Fairfield, Connecticut. Tucked away on a quiet street outside of town, people who know marine art know about this very special gallery just an hour away from New York City. Its extensive inventory includes over 1,000 marine paintings, drawings, sculptures, ship models and scrimshaw, by some of the world’s leading marine artists. Mr. Jinishian will be speaking on marine art on April 24th at 7 p.m. at the Black Rock Yacht Club, Black Rock, Connecticut.

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J. Russell Jinishian Gallery, Fairfield, CT

The beauty of the ocean will always call to us, so maritime art and marine paintings will, likewise, always be sought after. Whether you are fortunate enough to own artwork by an old master, a revered artist who has passed on, or are enjoying the experience of collecting art by some of our wonderful living artists, your home will always be enhanced by your purchases.

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As Mary Oliver says, “…on the water we shake off the harness of weight; we glide; we are passengers of a sleek ocean bird with its single white wing filled with wind.”

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The Last Trap, by Michael Keane

Walk Now, Act Now, for Autism Speaks

A recent letter from Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, included a quote from Vietnamese author Thich Nhat Hanh: “Compassion is a verb.” Taking compassionate action is what makes a real difference in the world, and that kind of active support has allowed Autism Speaks to make great strides forward this year.

 Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi

A few of the organization’s achievements:Fifty thousand people honored loved ones with autism on April 2nd for World Autism Awareness Day, with rallies, candlelight vigils, and awareness games at professional sports events. The United Nations held a special panel on autism. As night fell, more than 18,600 monuments, buildings, places of worship and homes glowed with a beautiful blue light in 142 countries on every continent for Light It Up Blue.


There’s a genome project with Google to provide more data to scientists. The ABLE Act (Achieving a Better Life Experience) is now underway in all 50 states. The Autism Cares Act was passed and signed into law by President Obama in August 2014. And the first global conference on autism was held at the Vatican with an audience afterward with Pope Francis, where he called upon every Catholic to accept and support all people with autism.

 Pope Francis with Bob and Suzanne Wright at the Vatican

I’m a fervent believer in the work of Autism Speaks, which is why I wholeheartedly support their important work. I’ve written before about autism (you can read my posts here, here and here), and as a sponsor, I’ll be walking with my husband, Frank, and our three little Bichons, Tuffy, G.G. and Ellie again this year on Nantucket.

Walk Now for Autism Speaks begins at Jetties Beach on Saturday, August 15. It’s a two mile walk and community resource fair with lots of family and child-friendly activities, in addition to raising much needed funds for autism research, and generating awareness about the increasing prevalence of autism.

If you’re not on Nantucket, then go to this site to find out when there’s a Walk Now event in your area.


Autism Speaks.It’s time to listen.

Come See Me On Nantucket!

I’m excited to have two wonderful events coming up on Nantucket the first week in August. If you’re on the island, I hope you’ll come by and say hello. At both, I’ll be talking about my favorite topics: green design, healthy living, and being kind to planet earth. I welcome your questions and am looking forward to celebrating summer with all my island friends!


On Wednesday, August 5th,please come to the panel discussion on Eco-Friendly Building and Design, hosted by Audrey Sterk’s Nantucket Color & Design Studio at 18 Broad Street.


I’ll be appearing along with my good friend Tom Ayars, a renovation and restoration expert with 35 years of experience, from 5 to 6 p.m. Tom will talk about how restoration and renovation can be “green,” too. If it’s a nice day, we’ll be outside on the patio.


On Friday, August 7th, I’ll be helping to celebrate the Dane Gallery’s 20th Anniversary with a Comfort Zone book signing from 6 to 8 p.m. Please join us for refreshments and great conversations at 28 Center Street. I’ll be answering your questions about healthy homes and green design, and what I mean by “eco-elegant.” (You can have a beautiful, sophisticated home, and have it be “green,” too!)


Hope to see you all there!

Time Travel: Antiques in Design

Using antiques to create distinctive interiors for my clients is a longtime signature of Dujardin Design Associates, Inc. Striking, original looks can be achieved by blending old and new, traveling across time to access the most beautiful furniture, accessories, objets d’art, paintings and rugs.I believe that every room has space for something old, a one-of-a-kind treasure that speaks of our shared past. Above, we used a wall hanging composed of 18th century Tibetan Buddhist prayers written on bamboo to bring Far Eastern calm to a contemporary space.


My favorite thing about using antiquesin my interiors? They’re the ultimate in green! Repeatedly recycled over decades, these pieces have been made from old-growth wood, protecting today’s forests, have long ago completed any off-gassing from the finishing process, and slow the resource intensive cycle of new production. Above, contemporary lamps, sconces and tables blend elegantly with an antique German Beidermeier armoire and mirror over the mantle.


There is beauty in contrasts. Rather than trying to achieve a single, monotone look, give your living spaces the dash and dazzle of opposites. In this Nantucket home, we paired a 19th century gilt mirror with 21st century whale art in hand-blown glass by Raven Skyriver.


Just as you might add a fabulous piece of vintage jewelry to complete an outfit, your room can use some jewelry too. The room above is bejeweled with the Tang Dynasty horse on the shelf near the window and the 18th century Chinese cocktail table, along with other priceless Asian artifacts.


I love the look of this marine-encrusted, glazed stoneware storage jar, dating from the 15th-17th centuries and found in the South China Sea.

One way to showcase old pieces is to use them in unusual ways . Here we took an antique rug and hung it on the wall as a stylish piece of art.

Juxtaposing a sleek white bedside table with an elaborately carved antique bed from the West Indies is a beautifully soothing contrast.

Don’t be afraid to use color to enliven an old piece. Unless it’s a priceless treasure, go ahead and paint it, refinish it, change the drawer pulls, and make it your own. Or let it keep its timeworn patina. Either way, it’s a fascinating addition to your living space.

Let your antique collections add fun and a little surprise. These small articulated artists’ models are the whimsical touch that brings this space to unexpected life. Another wonderful thing about antiques is that they add a completely unique look to your home. You won’t find these models available in catalogs or at mass market retail stores.

Ready to go shopping? Don’t miss the The Nantucket Historical Association’s annual Antiques and Design Show, this year from July 29th to August 3rd. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Serendipity!

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What does Serendipity mean to you? It’s most often the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or fortunate way. That certainly describes my pleasure in meeting the Home Editor of Serendipity Magazine, Stephanie Horton, and her wonderful feature on a home I designed not once but twice on Nantucket Island. It’s in the June 2015 issue!

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If you can pick up a copy of the magazine, I encourage you to do so.

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If not, I tell the story here  of the house that was moved from its precarious location on a bluff three times to save it from the rapidly encroaching sea. Island erosion can be dangerous to homes, but this beautiful Edwardian-era house was successfully moved and brought back to new life.

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Take a closer look!

Nantucket Film Festival

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Nantucket Island comes to vibrant life in the summer. Beginning on Wednesday, June 24th and continuing through Monday, June 29th is one of the most highly anticipated events on the island–the Nantucket Film Festival!

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In My Father’s House

It began in 1997, when brother and sister Jill and Jonathan Burkhart  joined forces with Mystelle Brabbee to create one of the premiere destination film festivals in the world. People come from near and far to enjoy our island, so rich in history, beauty and culture, and the film festival has added to the island’s long list of world-class events.

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Peggy Guggenheim–Art Addict

Two very special examples from this year’s features are The End of the Tour, about literary sensation David Foster Wallace, and What Happened, Miss Simone?, about the high priestess of soul, Nina Simone. There are many more feature films, shorts, special screenings,documentaries, and a screenwriting competition and analysis for aspiring screenwriters.

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The End of the Tour

Signature programs include In Their Shoes –one with Beau Willimon and Robin Wright, and another with Robert Towne; a Screenwriter’s Tribute; Late Night Storytelling; and Staged Readings.

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A special program called Morning Coffee takes place Thursday, June 25th through Sunday, June 28th. Morning Coffee offers a chance to hear captivating and inspiring working tales from filmmakers’ perspectives. Each day has a special focus. Thursday: Comedy. Friday: Documentary. Saturday: Screenwriting/Directing. Sunday: Filmmaking on Location.

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It’s a chance to see fabulous,sometimes hard-to-find films, and engage with some of the most fascinating people in the filmmaking industry. Find out more here!

A Woman on Fire: Debbie Phillips

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For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of being a member of an inspirational, uplifting and supportive group of women called Women on Fire. My good friend, Debbie Phillips, a life and executive coach for many years, began noticing that many of her hardworking, successful coaching clients shared something in common: isolation. That was the genesis of her life-changing decision to devote herself to a new passion: providing support, strategies and inspiration for women who are “on fire” in their lives, or who want to be.

Twelve years later, Women on Fire is a group of thousands of women all over the U.S. and the world, who meet for small group teas in their cities, get inspiration through a monthly mailing from Debbie featuring empowered and accomplished guests (supported by an online phone chat each month), go on retreats together, and share a members Facebook page to get a little more personal with new friends from far away. I’m so pleased to share my conversation with the woman who inspires me to live a life on fire every day: Debbie Phillips.

Trudy: It’s the Women on Fire tradition to ask in interviews what your day has been like so far–what a typical day is like for you? So what’s your day like, Debbie?

Debbie: I happily wake up at 6:30 a.m. when my thoughtful husband, Rob, who’s been up since 5 a.m., brings me a cup of coffee!

I then spend at least 20 minutes reading inspirational material; I meditate for 3-5 minutes; and I write down five things I’m grateful for in my Grati-Pad (a specially designed notepad by R. Nichols).

Breakfast is most often a healthy shake. Some days I work out or take a walk before heading into my office. My workday usually starts when I check in on the private Facebook page for Women on Fire members to see how everyone is doing!

I travel a fair amount so my days are different. When I’m home in my office, I am usually writing, interviewing, planning, thinking or working with members of our extraordinary Women on Fire team.

With the exception of our assistant, Daren, our team is scattered across the U.S. In different time zones, which actually works out nicely for our work flow. Thank heaven for the Internet so we can all work virtually! It is a blessing to work with the best people possible and not be contained by location.

If Rob and I don’t have plans in the evening, we usually wind down our day by cooking dinner together and then watching a movie or TV series (our current favorite is “Lilyhammer“) or reading.

Trudy: You are an inspiration to so many women, and I’m sure an equal number of men! Who has inspired you? When you were first deciding who Debbie Phillips was going to be in this world (and then maybe redeciding), who did you look to for inspiration?

Debbie: In my late 20s, I worked for former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, and I was extremely fortunate to meet a lot of fascinating people but none more so than Gloria Steinem. I later became the press secretary to Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste, and I saw and spoke to Gloria on occasion because she was an Ohio native and, of course, very politically active. She grew up in Toledo, Ohio, 60 miles from where I grew up in Montpelier, so I felt a geographic kinship to her.

She had (and has to this day) the kindest, gentlest, sweetest way about her–and yet she is one of the strongest, most powerful and accomplished women in the world!

When you speak with her, she is focused totally on you and no matter what’s being discussed, she is positive and empowering.

Not too long ago, I had the great pleasure of attending a gathering in her beautiful apartment in NYC. Typical of the way she puts people at ease, she warmly greeted her guests in the bedroom before we moved to the living room.

It was said of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “good mind, first-class temperament.” I would say the exact same of Gloria.

I am–we all are–so fortunate she and her colleagues in the Women’s Movement blazed the trail to make so many powerful changes for women in the world.

What Gloria showed me is that I could go after my own dreams with strength, drive and determination–and still be feminine, kind, caring, generous and loving. She exemplifies everything in a human being I aspire to be.

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Gloria Steinem

Trudy: As an interior designer, I believe in the power of our surroundings to uplift us, relax us, and improve our health. Home is very important. How would you describe your homes, both on Martha’s Vineyard and in Naples? Have you approached the interiors differently because they are in different climates and cultures?

Debbie: I learned early on from a certain brilliant designer that “a Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury (TM)” (Thank you, Trudy Dujardin!)

So we’ve approached both of our homes with the idea of what creates the best and healthiest environment.

We consider our home on Martha’s Vineyard “our mothership.” We built it and moved into it in 2001. Before we even dug the foundation, we wrote a vision for each room in it.

We carefully thought through how we would use each room and the feelings evoked when people were in that particular room.

We wanted to bring the beautiful nature outside on Martha’s Vineyard inside. So we focused on having big windows with lots of light. We chose colors that are soothing and found in nature.

We wanted to create “visual surprises” in the house. For instance, when you in the master bath shower, if you look closely, you’ll notice a sprinkling of hand-painted tiles of dandelions. Or, if you study the wallpaper that appears to be rather formal in one room, you’ll see squirrels in it!

In Florida, we have a two-bedroom condo that we recently redecorated. We removed the carpet and installed wood floors. The decor is more modern than our house on the Vineyard–and more colorful to reflect more of a Florida feel.

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photo credit: Rob Berkley

Trudy: You work with your husband, Rob, and I know partnership in a marriage is very important to you. My stepson, Nick, is getting married this September on Nantucket. What would you tell a young couple just beginning a life journey together?

Debbie: Congratulations, Nick! Rob and I started our life together by establishing a vision and a set of values for our life. Our vision is: we are together in this world to help people express their gifts, strengths and talents.

That was nearly 20 years ago–and having a purpose together like that has kept us strong and served us well–both personally and professionally.

You don’t have to work together, as Rob and I do, to have a couple’s vision. As coaches, Rob and I once worked with a couple in our Vision Day program who came up with one of my favorite visions: “We are a couple who  makes our family’s dreams come true.”

Soon after establishing their vision, this particular couple transformed dream into reality! They had wanted to expose their 10-year-old twin sons to a bigger world–and they moved to Australia for two years.

Best wishes to you and your bride, Nick! I hope the two of you will take time to create a vision for your relationship that will enhance your marriage over time.

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Trudy: In your interview with Kristine Carlson, you said that maybe someday we can live to be 150. If you could, what would you do with the years between 100 and 150, assuming that you met your personal goals in the first 100 years. What would be your final gift to the world?

Debbie: Great question! On of my all-time favorite books is called Final Gifts by Patricia Kelley and Maggie Callanan, two Hospice nurses.

Grief has been a topic of interest in my life since my first loss of my beloved grandmother when I was 10; and Hospice has been important to my life since my late mother-in-law was one of its founders in Ohio.

I think often about what my “final gift” to the world might be. And, as I approach the Third/Third of my life, as we now refer to that period from 60-90, I wonder how I might contribute my talents to support families who are going through grief and end-of-life issues. I’ll keep working on it–and if I live to 150, I’ve still got plenty of time to think about it!

What I do know for sure is that with more than 3.5 billion women in the world, my work to create a world where women are supported, uplifted and valued for their gifts will continue as my life’s work.

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Trudy: A famous saying of Oprah’s is “once you know better, you can do better.” What’s something you had to learn to do better?

Debbie: I had to learn the importance of engaging in conflict with my husband! Marriages can die of still waters from failing to address conflict.

Ours was a second marriage and we both had a strong desire to create a great one.Having strategies for resolving conflict was essential to growing our relationship strong. It took skill-building, marriage counseling and therapy, study and practice to be able to have “good” conflict, which we can easily do now!

Did you know having conflict and being able to resolve it makes you grow closer? Well, I had to learn that! And it’s made all the difference in our relationship.

Trudy: Women have so many responsibilities in life, and as a result, a lot of commitments. What are some of your “must keep” commitments, to others, and to yourself?

Debbie: We don’t have children of our own. And yet we have many young people we love very much in our lives.

Our 21-year-old goddaughter Julia lived with us in the summers when she was growing up and she now lives and works full-time on Martha’s Vineyard where she’s opened Rosewater Market. Spending time with her and her inspiring group of roommates and friends is a “must keep” commitment that gives me so much joy!

My commitment to myself includes self-care such as exercise, massages, facials, manicures, pedicures–and a promise to keep my annual physical and medical appointments.

Trudy: What do you enjoy most in life? When you have a day off, what do you choose to do with your free time?

Debbie: At the top of my list, of course, is my husband whom I love to pieces and enjoy immensely–along with our 17 pound cat Wilber.

I also really enjoy my closest friends. Jan Allen has been my best friend for more than 30 years; and Holly Getty has been my close and dear friend for nearly 20. Any time I can curl up and chat with a great girlfriend, I am a happy camper!

When I have a day off, this is my idea of heaven:

I put on a pot of “stinky” coffee as my husband calls my favorite hazelnut blend; take a walk in nature; drive around Martha’s Vineyard and take in the ocean; relax in my hammock with a book; take an outdoor shower; call my mom for a long chitchat; and eat something decadent from Martha’s Vineyard favorites–a Chocolate Mousse Bomb from the Black Dog Bakery; toffee from Chilmark Chocolates; or a cream cheese brownie from Julia’s Rosewater Market.

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photo credit: Rob Berkley

Trudy: What books are on your bedside table right now?

Debbie: Poems from the Pond, an astonishing book, edited by Laurie David, about Peggy Freydberg who wrote amazing, powerful poetry from age 90-106!

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough; Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli; and a tower of magazines including Oprah, MORE, Town & Country, Rolling Stone, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Vanity Fair and Departures.

It’s not on my bedside table at the moment, but it is on my coffee tables on Martha’s Vineyard and in Naples, Florida:  Comfort Zone, by the fabulous Trudy Dujardin!

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Trudy: A recent blog post on Holistic House was about finding our “right place” for the next part of our lives–sustainable communities that support our best selves. You seem to have made a great choice for yourself with Martha’s Vineyard and Naples. Where else did you and Rob consider making a home? Is there another, different place you dream of in your future? 

Debbie: Such an intriguing question! I’ve seen your exciting prospectus for sustainable homes and communities and find it so inspiring–and it will be the future!

I strongly believe each of us has several, and at least one major “geographic home” that feels “right” to us.

The only other place we considered living was Woodstock, New York where Rob grew up, but in 2000 when we were looking for our home, it didn’t feel quite right to me. Since I was 23, I’d dreamed of living on Martha’s Vineyard, one of my geographic homes. Once Rob visited the island, the Vineyard felt right to him, too, and he said he wanted to make my dream come true!

The only other location at the moment we’d like to create a home in is New York City. We are just waiting for that particular dream to line up! I know it’s coming.

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photo credit: Rob Berkley

Trudy: And last, how has launching Women on Fire changed your life? What have you learned from the process, and from all the Women on Fire?

Debbie: Launching Women on Fire in 2003 changed everything! It combined all my past work and experience as a reporter, press secretary, business executive and coach into the one thing that brings me the most happiness and joy.

And it has fulfilled a very deep desire I’d had my entire life to do something to improve life for women.

My beautiful and talented mother had a dream to be a nurse. When her father refused to pay her $150 application fee for nursing school, she, like so many women in the 1950s, put her dream aside, got married and raised five children.

I grew up seeing how detrimental for her not being able to express in the world her greatest gifts and passion was–as well as not having enough support to live life.

She came through life just fine (and today is Women on Fire member #00001, I’m proud to say!) but it could have been so much better and easier if she could have pursued her dream, even while raising a family, and received support.

Women on Fire solves those problems by providing inspiration, strategies and support for a woman to pursue her dreams–and to live her best life while reaching higher!

The women in this community are warm, loving, caring, talented women who cheer each other on to success! Most join us by saying, “I’m not quite ‘on fire,’ but I want to be.”

I believe “a rising tide lifts all boats” and when we all support each other and help each other to be our best, the world changes in a positive way.

More than anything, I am deeply grateful that I followed my heart and my dream to create and launch Women on Fire.

It is now a large business with the issues that any entrepreneur deals with! There were many times I thought I might give up.

Then I’d receive a call or a card or an email from a woman saying “Women on Fire is my lifeline,” or “I couldn’t have done what I did without Women on Fire,” and I give myself a little pep talk to get over my momentary fear, frustration or block–and I get back to work!

Trudy: Thank you, Debbie, for taking the time to answer my questions. I’ve known you for a long time, but I learned some wonderful new things about you today. I love the generous, heartfelt work you do in the world. I’m so glad my world includes you, and all of our Women on Fire friends!

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Brittany Eaton, Jan Allen, Debbie Phillips, Kacy Cook, Tandi Phillips Musuraca, Andrea Junk Dowding

 

Remembrance on Memorial Day

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Memorial Day began as Decoration Day after the Civil War, a time to remember the soldiers who lost their lives, both on the Union and Confederate sides. Today, it is a day of remembrance for all American service men and women who have dedicated their lives to duty for their country.

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“Perform, then, this one act of remembrance before this Day passes–remember there is an army of defense and advance that never dies and never surrenders, but is increasingly recruited from the eternal sources of the American spirit and from the generations of American youth.”

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My father, Lt. Col. Robert W. Stefanov, US Army Air Corp, 1944

For all who serve, we thank you.

Small Wonder

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There’s a movement right now among people who want to live in smaller places. It ranges from Tiny House Nation–a fascinating television show that features homes built in as little as 300 square feet!–to couples simply downsizing and making do with less stuff, in order to have more time to do the things they love. Sometimes, a small home is built for other reasons. The house above is called the Hollensbury Spite House. The seven-foot wide, 325 square foot home was built by John Hollensbury in an alleyway next to his home in Alexandria, Virginia, to stop people from using the empty space.

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People used to live in smaller houses than are typical today, although the average house size in America is still only 2,300 square feet. We’ve gotten used to large, walk in closets, luxury-sized master bedrooms and adjoining baths, and family rooms that accommodate a large crowd. For empty nesters and older couples, as well as younger families living on a budget, or just for the aesthetic of living with fewer items and more open space, smaller can sometimes be better.

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You can trade a large traditional home for a smaller, renovated barn, or swap enough bedrooms for a houseful of guests for a country cottage that is perfect for two. Original farmhouses–the kind that haven’t been renovated and expanded over the years–can provide just enough space at 2,000 square feet, or less. They were built small to save on heat and maintenance costs, a consideration to appreciate then and now.

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Or if you’re not ready to move, you can create your own little getaway in your garden, as I did a few years ago on Nantucket. If you can imagine it, you can create it!

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If you’re ready to downsize, consider the following steps:

1. High quality furniture is more important than ever. Only buy the best you can afford. A small space doesn’t have room for extraneous, lower quality pieces.

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2. Measure carefully. Smaller rooms aren’t as forgiving, and both function and flow need to be planned. Small scale furniture is a must. This is where the services of an interior designer are invaluable.

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3. Make a fresh start, and put in the new house only things you would replace if you had to start over from scratch. You don’t need as much as you think you do to be happy. Less is often more.

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Becoming a Fellow

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In the course of a long career, there are many markers along the way, times when I’ve been able to step back and take stock of the path I’ve traveled. Certainly I’ve been proud of the many beautiful homes I’ve helped to create for clients, the talented professionals I’ve had the privilege to work with, and the awards my firm has won over the years.

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 With John and Chad Stark

Recently, though, I received word that I had been chosen by a committee of my peers at the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) to receive the designation of Fellow, the highest honor the group confers. To say that I am gratified to be selected is an understatement. I am more than proud to stand among the many, many fine leaders of the profession who came before me and inspired me. Among them are my dear friends Rosalyn Cama and Lisa Henry, as well as Honorary Fellows Wayne Ruga and Alan Siegel.

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 Dr. Wayne Ruga, founder and president of The Caritas Project

I am especially proud to be in the company of the other four 2015 designees: Edward Bottomley, ASID, Joan Kaufman, ASID, Jean Pinto, ASID, CID, and Patrick Schmidt, ASID, RID. We will be formally inducted on July 18, 2015, at an Awards Gala at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

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 photo courtesy of mfa.org

When I published my book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, last fall, I did so with the hope that I could help people live healthier lives, in sustainable homes that are also beautiful, and built without too heavy an impact on the earth. In the same way, I hope that by adding the Fellow designation to my name, the respected initials FASID, that perhaps I will have just that much more influence, that my voice will be heard in perhaps a little bit wider circles, that more clients will choose a home that is elegant and sophisticated as well as eco-friendly.

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I have practiced the art and science of interior design with the goal of bringing peace and beauty, health and well-being, to my client’s lives. With that as my legacy, and the very much appreciated recognition of my peers, I can hope to have made a difference with my work. I think that’s what all of us intend, and what many people achieve without public recognition. But it feels good when it comes.

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For that, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the ASID Fellows Selection Committee.

 

 

Clean Slate

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My commitment to living sustainably is a 365 day a year endeavor, and I know that’s true for many of you, too. Earth Day, though, provides us an annual opportunity to reflect on our connection to to the earth, and to make a fresh start with a clean slate. Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor and environmentalist, says, “We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say we’ve lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”

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One of the ways we lose that connection is through the use of pesticides and dangerous chemicals. Warning people about the dangers of these toxic materials has been a large part of my life’s work; you can read some of what I’ve written before here, and here. My book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, offers several helpful resources, from a guide to green products, to a recommended reading list, to my own personal stories of being exposed to pesticides and other chemicals, beginning as a small child. We have options rather than resorting to dangerous and toxic products. Learning more is the first step.

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The half life of some pesticides is over 500 years, and the drift when sprayed can be over a mile. There are surprising ways to be exposed to pesticides, for instance, an alarming number of pesticide ingredients can be found in ordinary house dust.

Pesticides and fertilizers can also find their way into groundwater over time, in one of two ways. Chemicals can enter groundwater through a stream after a rainstorm as runoff. Or they can reach groundwater by leaching, which is the downward movement of a substance through soil. Not only does this result in algae bloom, which removes oxygen from the water and results in “dead zones,” but the 75 million pounds of pesticides Americans spray on their gardens each year can be ingested by fish, who become diseased. Once we eat those fish, the cycle of pollution has come full circle.

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According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), pesticide use has increased over 50% in the past three decades, and today totals 8 pounds for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. Approximately 875 pesticide ingredients are formulated into 21,000 different products. Our children are most at risk, according to the The National Academy of Sciences, due to their immature systems and a more rapid metabolic rate. In addition, children frequently consume fewer different types of food, possibly leading to higher exposure through their diets.

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Good news! A highly toxic pesticide and known carcinogen used primarily in strawberry fields, methyl iodide, has been withdrawn from the market by its manufacturer.

If that isn’t enough to concern us, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has identified at least ninety six different pesticide ingredients registered for use that are potential human carcinogens. The link above will take you to a page where you can order the booklet that lists them.

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We also know more today about products that include parabens, known to be endocrine disruptors, that are commonly used as preservatives in many popular cosmetics. They are also used as food additives. Dr. Frank Lipman, a leading holistic physician, offers an overview of dangers and tips on how to avoid them here. We all need to read labels. Whole Foods has wonderful, safe, clean products for your hair, skin and face. I also like Nurture My Body products, available online.

I have been stirred to action by leading environmentalists, scientists and authors who have spoken out about the dangers we face. One of the books I often recommend is Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring, published in 1962, said, “Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called ‘insecticides,’ but biocides.”

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Rachel Carson

She went on to explain that the pesticide industry grew out of World War II with chemical testing. Once scientists realized they had the ability to kill insects, they envisioned a new and better world for people.

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A book titled Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated Our Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick, by Marie-Monique Robin, is also a film by the same name, a documentary that reveals a broken safety system. You can watch a three minute video about the film here.

Being aware of the dangers of pesticide use is not enough to protect us. Unfortunately, we can be exposed to very toxic chemicals without our knowledge or permission. Several years ago, I lived in a beautiful apartment in Greenwich, Connecticut with stunning views of Manhattan and Long Island Sound. My apartment was pristine and clean and chemical free, so at first I was puzzled about my dizzy spells.

When I spoke to other tenants in the building, they affirmed that many residents were being made sick by something in the air. I hired an Industrial Hygienist to investigate, and found that the building management was using a rodenticide that had been banned from use for over fifteen years, since it had been linked to kidney cancer. The force of air from the elevators was pushing the vapors of this toxic chemical from the basement onto each floor.

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On April 9th of this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an account of a Wilmington, Delaware family that was poisoned after being exposed to a banned pesticide at a vacation condo in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A couple and their two teenage sons were hospitalized after occupying a condo one floor above a space that was sprayed with an odorless pesticide called methyl bromide, that can cause convulsions and coma. It was banned for us in residential settings in 1984, but it is still marketed for some agricultural uses.

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Two weeks later, the EPA reported that there is evidence that methyl bromide has been used improperly at locations in Puerto Rico. In addition, Virgin Islands newspapers have reported that companies on two other islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix, had stocks of the pesticides.

It’s easy to become frightened and even overwhelmed by what’s happening on our planet, but knowledge is power. I have always believed in the Power of One, the ability each of us has to make a difference. By being informed, and by informing others, we can protect ourselves and our planet. Let’s start today!

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The Search for Sustainable Communities

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A hot topic among Baby Boomers, empty nesters, and my friends these days is the best place in the country to downsize and enjoy a freer lifestyle, perhaps more so this spring because of the long, snowy winter in the northeast and midwest. Some of those conversations have focused on the availability of not only beautiful places to enjoy warmer weather or have a second home, but communities that honor sustainable living and “green” practices. My husband, Frank, and I have made our own Connecticut property pesticide and chemical-free for over twenty years (the former owner kept the property chemical-free, too), and we’ve been searching for a completely green community for years.

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 The Inn at Price Tower, Bartlesville, Oklahoma.Bartlesville ranks high on the list of great places for affordable living with many cultural offerings.

Unfortunately, although you do hear about “green” developments, many of them simply have the word green in their name. Many others incorporate a few sustainable elements, but what I hoped to find, a comprehensive green community with LEED certified buildings, energy efficient air filtration systems, and chemical-free zones aren’t yet on the drawing boards. Perhaps the time is right to push harder for some of the eco-friendly features we’d prefer.

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Charleston, South Carolina: photo courtesy of Forbes.com. Charleston was voted America’s Number One City for the third year by Conde Nast Traveler.

Many publications offer a “best places to retire” list. Forbes Magazine recently published their own list of top 25 places that fits what most  Americans consider desirable features. Among them are a reasonable cost of living, a mild climate, a low crime rate, the ability to easily keep fit, with places to walk, bike and hike, good places to shop, and cultural activities. Of course, what appeals to one person may not appeal to another, which is the reason for lots of options. When you add a sustainable lifestyle to the mix, the options are narrower.

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Sustainable features may include water and energy conservation, access to public transportation or shops within an easy walking or biking distance, use of recycled or local materials, and indoor air quality. The LEED rating system offers points for walkable proximity to stores, schools, and churches, which is more common in urban centers. There is a movement back to the cities for empty nesters, to be closer to culture, restaurants and nightlife. A few places where walking is definitely part of the lifestyle are Capital Hill in Seattle, Short North in Columbus, Ohio, and Highlands in Denver.

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Short North Arts District, Columbus Ohio: photo courtesy of groupmv.com

Finding the perfect spot, sustainability aside, means choosing among the many welcoming towns scattered across America. Beaufort, South Carolina has gotten high marks from almost every magazine that has reviewed “best places to live,” including Coastal Living, Travel and Leisure, CNN Money, and Smithsonian Magazine. Located on Port Royal Island in the Intercoastal Waterway, its history reaches back 300 years, with the Historic Beaufort Foundation responsible for preserving much of its original architecture. If the Mandevilla-scented breezes don’t entice you, then perhaps the shrimp and sweet tea will.

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Beaufort, South Carolilna: photo courtesy of Coastal Living. Ranked America’s Happiest Seaside Town by Coastal Living, 

Nestled in between two of the South’s most beautiful and historic cultural centers, Beaufort and Charleston, South Carolina, is Spring Island. An island community in a 3,000 acre nature preserve and Live oak forest, Spring Island features unspoiled islands, undiscovered inlets, and stunning water views.

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Spring Island, South Carolina. Photo courtesy of spring island.com

Charleston, South Carolina offers Camellias blooming in February, fabulous low country food, historic buildings that have survived the Civil War and the marvelous Spoleto Festival that takes place for 17 days and nights every spring. It’s a natural choice for me, as many members of my family call South Carolina home, and it takes me back to the days on the family farm with my grandparents.

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Charleston, South Carolina: photo courtesy of harbourviewcharleston.com

With tides rising and more frequent, severe storms due to climate change, however, the fact that the Battery is one foot below sea level should be considered. But then there’s the  charming beach on nearby Sullivan’s Island…weighing pros and cons can be so difficult!

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 Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina: photo courtesy of city-data.com

Kiawah Island is only 23 miles from Charleston, and is another on the list of Coastal Living’s Happiest Seaside Towns in America. Open space abounds on the island, but so does luxury, with some of the country’s most stunning beach residences found there.  It’s ten miles of unspoiled beach, five award-winning golf courses, thirty miles of paved trails for walking, running and biking, and home to egrets, herons, and bald eagles, among other seaside wildlife. Sitting in the shade of a magnolia tree there could give a whole new meaning to relaxation.

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Kiawah Island, South Carolina: photo courtesy of frontdoor.com. Located only 23 miles from Charleston, and a popular choice for second homes. 

For year-round living, Rowayton, Connecticut has it all. I speak from experience since I lived there for nine years. Surrounded by Long Island Sound and Five Mile River, it’s a lovely waterfront community with all the related water sports, boating, and fishing. There’s an active Historical Association, a lovely church, and a civic center in a stone library. It’s a small town community just a short ride from the Big Apple!

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 Rowayton, Connecticut

 Of course, for me as for so many of my friends, “all roads lead to Nantucket.” With its history, charming architecture, and the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum, voted one of the ten places you must see before you die, it’s a destination for some of the most fascinating and accomplished people on earth. Its island setting makes it a very “green” community. Few pesticides are used there as people are aware of the fragility of the eco-system. What’s dumped in the landfill ends up in the water supply very quickly. A downside to any seaside community is mold growth, with the constant moisture in the air. Still, island living offers quite a trade-off.

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 Nantucket, Massachusetts

Another popular feature  is being surrounded by a wildlife-friendly habitat. Not only does it provide beautiful scenery, but it offers a green oasis for birds and other wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation recognizes eighty three communities that have worked to be certified as wildlife habitats.

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Charlotte, North Carolina has over 17,000 acres of parks, 21 nature preserves, and 33 miles of greenways. Photo courtesy of aga.org.

Sweetwater in the Foothills, Arizona is a planned community whose organizing theme was to create a community that is harmonious with its natural upper Sonoran desert setting. It provides critical habitat for birds, reptiles, rabbits, javelina, bobcats, and coyotes.  Landscaping is committed to low water usage and retaining the native desert plants.

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Sweetwater in the Foothills, Arizona

 As the second largest city located south of San Diego, Chula Vista has long been recognized for residential design and environmental innovation. There are over fifty miles of gorgeous coastal landscape, rolling hills, mountains and canyons. Hundreds of miles of trails attract hikers, bikers, birdwatchers and outdoor enthusiasts. There is a thriving downtown with a historic district known as Third Avenue Village, making this one of the most desirable places to live in the U.S.

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Chula Vista, California

Another lovely choice that celebrates progressive thinking and sustainable living is The Pinehills, a planned community of 1,700 homes in Plymouth, Massachusetts, located in the world’s third largest pine ecosystem. A commitment to environmental stewardship resulted in setting aside 2,200 acres (70 % of the total area) as preserved open space, homes are carefully sited to harmonize with the woodlands, roads follow–rather than alter–the natural valleys and contours, and a village green serves as the heart of the community.

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The Pinehills at Plymouth, Massachusetts

Powder Mountain, Utah, in development now by Summit.co, a group of young entrepreneurs with a modern vision for mountain living, is designing a number of homes limited to 1,000 square foot dwellings, and capping the size at 4,500 square feet. One of their goals is to stop the “mcmansionification of mountains,” according to Thayer Walker, Summit’s chief reconnaissance officer. Part of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, less than an hour from Salt Lake City, Summit is building their development on 10,000 acres on the southern side of Powder Mountain and leaving most of it open space. They plan to use locally sourced, reclaimed and recycled materials that conserve energy and comply with LEED specifications. When complete, it will consist of 500 ski-accessible homesites with cultural amenities and miles of walking, biking and nordic trails.

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A comprehensive guide to green retirement communities doesn’t exist yet, so it’s important to be wary of “greenwashing,” the practice of presenting a product or building as green when it doesn’t meet many of the requirements for a true sustainable community. Some of the features to look for include:

  • Meets the EPA’s Energy Star standards
  • Achieves high standards of indoor air quality
  • Uses locally produced or recycled building materials
  • Incorporates water conservation
  • Achieves a minimal footprint on the land
  • Has renewable energy sources or efficient building envelopes
  • Preserves natural resources
  • Built with non-toxic materials
  • Eschews the use of pesticides in favor of Integrated Pest Management

The original experiment in environmental accountability is Arcosanti, the self proclaimed “laboratory” of mixed-use buildings and public spaces where people live and work together. It operates as a not-for-profit educational organization devoted to urban planning research.

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Arcosanti: photo courtesy of the Cosanti Foundation

No individual town or development listed here should be taken as an endorsement of their suitability by me. I recommend that you carefully investigate any community before purchasing a home there. You may find that you agree with some practices, and disagree with others. You are the only one who can choose the right location for you and your family. 

I’m curious to know what places you’re looking into, and why. I’d love to know what pros and cons you’re considering. Let me know what you find!

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 Cape Coral, Florida: photo courtesy of Forbes.com

Our Brother’s Keeper

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It’s impossible to honor Earth Day without reflecting on the animals that share the planet with us. Although great strides have been made in animal protection and endangered animal conservation, we still have a long way to go. In our rapidly overpopulating world, where habitat is disappearing and animal species are declining, we have no choice but to see the animals as our brothers, and to do what is in our power to protect them.

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(image: fightforrhinos.com)

One of the more disturbing news items was reported by The Huffington Post on April 14th, with a story about Sudan, the world’s last male Northern White Rhino.The Northern White Rhino has been on earth for 50 million years, but poachers in search of their horns have reduced this once plentiful animal, a subspecies of rhino, to only five left on earth. The last male and two female rhinos of his subspecies are cared for under 24 hour armed guard at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Two other females live in captivity.

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To make Sudan less of a target for poachers, his horn has been removed, and he has been fitted with radio transmitters. It is hoped that the forty year old Rhino will one day be able to produce progeny, and save his species from extinction. Ground rhino horn is considered a health aid in Chinese medicine, and is particularly popular in Vietnam. There are just 1,037 rhinos of all subspecies still roaming wildlife parks and national conservancies.

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There are many ways to help animals this Earth Day, from contributing to Save the Rhino, the World Wildlife Fund, or The Humane Society. Or you can do something closer to home, perhaps even in your own backyard.

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If you’re using pesticides and herbicides on your lawn and garden, you’re using them on your pets, too. Whatever chemicals collect on your dog’s or cat’s paws and fur stay there until the next time you give them a bath, although unless you bathe them immediately, they have more than likely been absorbed into their bloodstream. Those chemicals also get tracked inside, where they don’t break down, due to the absence of water and sunlight. If you love the look of a vibrant, weed-free lawn, but you also love your companion animals, consider the following:

  • According to a study conducted over a six-year period at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tuft University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, a dog’s exposure to lawn pesticides–specifically those applied by professional lawn care companies–raised the risk of canine malignant lymphoma (CML) by as much as 70%.

 

  • Dogs at highest risk for acquiring CML were over 50 pounds, living in homes where pesticides and herbicides were professionally applied, and where owners used lawn care products containing insect growth regulators (killing agents).

 

  • A 2004 study from Purdue University showed that dogs exposed to chemically treated lawns had a dramatically increased risk of Transitional Cell Carcinoma (bladder cancer). Breeds at highest risk include Scottish Terriers, Shetland Sheepdogs, West Highland Terriers and Beagles.

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Many of our ideas about having a perfect, green lawn are leftovers from an era when pesticides were considered safe, and water was plentiful. The ideal of having a lawn like a green carpet began in the mid-1950s, but we’ve learned a lot about the dangers since then. If you don’t have pets yourself, consider that pesticide poisoning kills 60-70 million birds each year in the U.S. alone. Those chemicals also end up in our groundwater, through rainwater runoff, or by leaching through the soil.

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I love animals, especially my three Bichons, G.G., Tuffy and Ellie, and want to give them the best possible life that I can. Lawn chemicals aren’t the only way we can unintentionally harm our pets. There are dangers from flea and tick products, and the marketplace is full of low quality commercial food that is not only unhealthy, but can even be contaminated with toxic chemicals, or melamine.

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Here are my Ten Tips for keeping your furry friends healthy:

  • Instead of using commercial pesticides and herbicides on your lawn, hire an organic lawn and garden company that can feed your grass without endangering your pets or family. I use Growing Solutions, an organic lawn and plant care company that is dedicated to maintaining safe, healthy environments for their clients. The owner, Chris Baliko, is knowledgeable, helpful, and very responsive to his customer’s needs.

 

  •  If you choose to do it yourself, begin by establishing a base of healthy soil. Healthy soil has a high organic content that discourages weeds and disease. You may have a few weeds, but some are actually beneficial, such as clover, which adds valuable nutrients. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection offers helpful information.

 

  • Before you apply commercial flea and tick products, be aware that at least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot on treatments were reported to the EPA over the last five years. The EPA assigns risk levels to all pesticides, and has said that  some flea and tick preparations contain ingredients that are likely carcinogens to humans. Serious medical reactions for your pet can include heart attacks, seizures, and brain damage.

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  • Alternatives exist! The best pest repellent is a radiantly healthy dog or cat. Fleas are less attracted to healthy animals.

 

  • In the house, sprinkle floors with a borate powder (such as 20 Mule Team Borax), then sweep or vacuum it up. It kills flea larvae very effectively without risk of toxicity.
  • A bath with any kind of shampoo will drown fleas.  Just leave the lather on for 3-5 minutes, and you don’t need to use a flea preparation.

 

  • Comb your pet regularly with a flea comb to remove fleas from his fur, and dunk the comb in a glass of soapy water to drown any fleas you find.

 

  • One of my favorite stores in Westport, Connecticut is Earth Animal. Founded by Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein to offer products for pets that are pure and natural, they offer a complete holistic flea and tick prevention program. By simply adding powder and drops to your pet’s daily diet, a combination of vitamins, minerals and herbs will change the odor of your pet’s blood chemistry to repel pests. At the same time, it builds their immune system. And it’s available online.

 

  • The Goldsteins are also advocates of a home-cooked diet for your dog, and so am I. I like Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health Organic Pre-Mix. You simply add hot water, a protein source such as chicken, beef, turkey or even fish, and a small amount of quality oil. Add a daily vitamin supplement, and your pet will thank you for making her healthier than she’s ever been.

 

  • Animals can be easily sickened by toxic household cleaning products, too. You can clean with ingredients from your kitchen, such as lemons, vinegar, and baking soda, or use organic cleaning supplies, such as those made by Seventh Generation.

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I have many more tips for keeping your pets safe, including using Bucks Mountain Parasite Dust, among other methods. You can find my previous blog posts here and here. “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how its animals are treated,” said Mahatma Ghandi.  We can do a great deal of good by giving all animals the respect they deserve.

 

 

Light It Up Blue!

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An organization that has always been close to my heart is Autism Speaks, and their fabulous month-long campaign called Light It Up Blue.

I’ve supported Autism Speaks for years, alarmed by the rapid increase in children affected by the disorder. I have written about autism every year since I began this blog in 2011. My most recent post is here.

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My husband, Frank, and our Bichons at Walk Now for Autism Speaks

Autism is a general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. One in 68 children per year are diagnosed with disorders on the autism spectrum today, a forty fold increase in the last ten years. For boys, the rate is four to five times that of girls, at one in 42. The rate for girls is one in 189. I’ve walked on Nantucket to raise money and awareness (Walk Now for Autism Speaks: there are walks all over the country–check it out!), and in 2013 created a very special holiday tree to honor the families who struggle with autism and to help bring attention to their search for a cure.

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Nantucket Whaling Museum’s Festival of Trees, 2013

World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2, 2015, and kicks off a month of autism awareness with Light It Up Blue. Light It Up Blue (LIUB) asks everyone to honor people with autism worldwide. Buildings, landmarks, hotels, concert halls, schools, and thousands of homes will light it up blue. This year, even the Great Pyramid in Egypt will Light It Up Blue!

light it up blue pyramid

Here’s how you can help:

  • Light your homes, businesses and schools blue! Change outdoor and indoor light bulbs to blue bulbs.

 

  • Wear blue: ties, scarfs, shirts, shoes! Ask your family and friends to wear blue, too.

 

  • Post blue. Use Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram and Pinterest to share your support for Light It Up Blue. Use the hash tag #LIUB.

 

  • Distribute information about autism and Light It Up Blue in your community.

 

 

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The Cleveland Clinic is doing their part, too. Beginning Monday, April 13th through Sunday, April 19th, 43 participating Panera Bread bakery-cafes in Northeast Ohio will bake a specialty puzzle piece shortbread cookie and donate 100% of the proceeds to the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Center for Autism. Not in northeast Ohio? You can purchase a virtual cookie here. 

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Two Hearts and a Hospital

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I’d like to tell you a story about two hearts and a hospital. One heart belongs to a little girl from Honduras, named Ana Cristina Quevedo. I’ve never met her, but her story matters to me.  Little Ana had a congenital heart defect that caused her to struggle to breathe. She used to crouch down on the ground to conserve her energy, as she was often too weak to stand up.

The second heart belongs to my husband, Frank.

The hospital is the Cleveland Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic Miller Pavilion

Until two months ago, when my husband, Frank, suddenly needed open heart surgery, I was aware of the Cleveland Clinic, but only in a general, several-steps-removed way. Frank’s stress test and angiogram that showed an urgent (and unexpected!) need for bypass surgery introduced us to a world many others share, where we were caught up in a whirlwind of doctors, phone calls, questions, answers, and decisions.

Although we were blessed with many excellent options and caring medical professionals, we decided to go to the Cleveland Clinic, for their world-renowned cardiac unit, and some of the most skilled doctors in the world. I wrote about our journey to what we now call The City of Valentines here.

cleveland clinic campus

I will always have a love for Cleveland now, and for the Cleveland Clinic. When I learned that the Clinic is a non-profit institution that provides clinical and hospital care along with world-class research and education, in one of the largest and most respected hospital systems in the country, I developed a deep respect for the important work they do every day.

It’s impossible to overstate the incredible lifesaving surgeries and care they perform there. Frank returned home, whole and healthy, but he is simply one of thousands who come in through their doors, and leave to return to a full and vibrant life. The motto and mission of the Clinic is “Patients First.” Frank and I can attest to it. We experienced it first hand.

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The Clinic’s March email newsletter told a story of another heart surgery, for little 9-year-old Ana, accompanied from Honduras to the Clinic by her father, Juan Ramon Quevado. Her heart’s congenital defect meant her heart wasn’t strong enough to pump blood throughout her body.

“When we first saw Ana, her fingertips and lips were blue from lack of oxygen in her blood,” said Brain Smith, director of Strategic Project Development at the Cleveland Clinic. He’s also a board member and volunteer for Helping Hands for Honduras, which provides cardiac care to Honduran infants and children with congenital heart defects at no cost to their families.

HHH Logo

Ana desperately needed a complex surgery which would reconfigure her heart. It was impossible to perform the surgery in Honduras, so emails and phone calls were exchanged at a frantic pace, and soon Ana was on her way to Cleveland. Helping Hands for Honduras arranged medical visas and passports, and American Airlines contributed airline tickets.

On September 2, 2014, the pediatric cardiac surgical team gave her a second chance at life. Today, she has an oxygen saturation level of 97 percent, well within normal range, and has grown an inch and a half in two months.

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Frank and I have become contributors to the Toby Cosgrove Innovation Fund,supporting the clinic in the name of its CEO, Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, and in honor of Frank’s doctors, Dr. Donald F. Hammer and Dr. Edward G. Soltesz. The path we walk through life can open our eyes to  needs we never knew were there.

The best paths through life can also open our hearts. Frank’s heart is open today, because of the Cleveland Clinic. They have our lifelong gratitude. Eight weeks after Frank’s life-altering surgery, we’re back home and back to work: healthy and happy!

frank post surgery

Frank and Trudy at an installation in New York City

Our journey has included an exploration of wonderful heart-healthy meals.   A fabulous book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., has, in turn, inspired The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, by Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn. Here’s one of our new favorites. If you make it, let me know if you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ted’s House Salad

  • 3 cups spring greens
  • 1/2 jicama, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 purple bell pepper or red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced
  • 2 purple potatoes or red new potatoes, cooked and sliced
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 small apple, cut into thin horizontal circles with the beautiful center star featured
  • 1/2  cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Dressing

  • 2-3 tablespoons hummus, prepared without oil or tahini
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (to taste)
  • Splash of orange juice

Combine the greens, jicama, carrots, peppers, cucumber, potatoes, raspberries, apple, raisins, and pumpkin seeds in a funky bowl, dress, and serve with wacky tongs!

The wacky tongs are optional.

The City of Valentines

cleveland night skyline

There’s a saying on the island, that “all roads lead to Nantucket.” For me and for my husband, Frank, that’s mostly true. But out of the blue, life presented us with a detour to Cleveland.

As they say, life can turn on a dime.

nantucket sign

It was only a little over two weeks ago that Frank pulled me aside and quietly dropped a bomb into our lives. “My EKG and stress test weren’t good,” he said. “Will you take me for an angiogram tomorrow morning?”

And so it began. No warnings, no symptoms, just a routine check up. How could we not have known that something significant was wrong? We eat carefully, all organic, few fats. We are not overweight. We exercise. We meditate. We are happy. And still, the verdict comes: “You need open-heart surgery, a multiple by-pass.”

Heart Doctor Therapy

We weren’t sure where to turn, but there were caring medical professionals talking to us about our options. We did some research. We asked questions. Loving, concerned friends told us about their experiences. It was all so bewildering. We were in the middle of a whirlwind.

A measure of calm returned when we spoke to our friend from Nantucket, Dr. Delos M. “Toby” Cosgrove. President and CEO of the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic since 2004, he made everything simple. “Come to Cleveland,” he told us. “We do 4,500 bypasses a year. We’ll make all the arrangements for you. We have a hotel attached to the clinic by a skywalk.”

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And then, the magic words: “This is a low-risk surgery.”

What really convinced me, however, was when Toby said, “Trudy, I want you to know that once your husband has the surgery, he will have a normal life expectancy.” That was worth its weight in gold. We chose Cleveland Clinic, and before we knew it, we were on our way.

airplane in snow

The weather in the northeast took a turn for the worse just as we arrived at the airport in New York for our flight to Cleveland, but a series of serendipitous events began that day. All through the process, I felt the gentle nudge of good fortune, and perhaps, something more than that. Friends, family, co-workers, clients, peers and acquaintances were praying for Frank, cheering us, sending poems and notes and emails with encouragement and stories of other successful bypass operations.

It wasn’t a surprise, then, when we arrived at Cleveland airport and our driver, Mustapha, also seemed to have a deeper wisdom to share with us.  He showed us pictures of the many people who had had successful operations going home. How reassuring.

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The Cleveland Clinic campus is huge, stretching for 14 city blocks, with 44 buildings on 167 acres of land. The Miller Pavilion is an architectural masterpiece, designed by the Columbus architectural offices of NBBJ, and home to the Heart and Vascular Institute.

Cleveland Clinic Miller Pavilion

Outside the Miller Pavilion, also known as the J Building, is a wonderful fountain, designed by American landscape architect Peter Walker. Flat on top with a sheet of water three feet high, the moving water never stops, changing colors constantly. Electric heaters keep it from ever freezing, no matter what the weather.

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People travel here from every state in the nation and 133 countries to seek the very best medical care.

Cleveland clinic welcome

The Cleveland Clinic has 4,500 beds throughout all their medical centers, with 1,400 in Cleveland. More than 3,200 physicians and scientists guide the groundbreaking work, with 35,000 people employed nationwide. Each of the Clinic’s employees we met had a warm touch and a seemingly uncanny knowledge of what to say and do to help us through our journey.

cleveland clinic 9The Clinic is also home to more than  3,500 modern and contemporary art pieces, creating an awe-inspiring experience; the feeling is more like being in a world-class art museum than a hospital. Every where we look, our eyes, and hearts, are lifted.

It’s the work of the Cleveland Clinic’s Arts and Medical Institute, with the mission of integrating the visual arts, music, performing arts and research to promote healing. The Institute is based on the belief that fine art comforts, elevates the spirit and affirms life and hope.

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The suspended artwork shown above, Blue Berg, is by Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, a 30-foot sculpture of an iceberg in the Labrador Sea, made out of aluminum tubing. Visitors commonly believe the sculpture to be whatever body part they are there to take care of: a kidney, a tooth, a heart, according to Joanne Cohen, executive director and curator of the Arts and Medicine Institute Arts Program.

The photo below is Cleveland Soul, a sculpture by Jaume Plensa.

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As Frank underwent tests for two full days to assess his fitness for surgery, I had time to walk the halls and gaze at the beautiful art all around me. One of the most moving experiences was walking through an underground tunnel to the pharmacy. Softly changing lights in pastel shades of blue, green and pink illuminate the walls, making the passage almost ethereal.

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Everywhere, the architects and designers have given thought to the experience. The walls undulate and curve.

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Below is a video projection by Jennifer Steinkamp, an image titled Mike Kelly. Designed to reflect the seasons and the changing color of leaves, Ms. Cohen describes the tree as a whirling dervish that brings movement and nature into the static lobby space. By bringing the landscape in, the piece connects patients and visitors to life outside the clinic.

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I was glad to see that the Clinic has a wellness store that stocks only eco-friendly products!

cleveland clinic wellness store

When the two days of tests were complete (and Frank passed with flying colors), the surgery was scheduled for early the following morning.

We were due to check in at five a.m. By five thirty, they came to take Frank. Everyone involved in his care was also involved in mine, it seemed. I was given a binder with explanations of what to expect, spaces for notes and places to slide physicians’ business cards in for safekeeping. Someone placed a beeper on a cord around my neck, and instructed me that it would beep when the major surgery had begun.

So far that morning I’d managed to be brave, but all at once, I was alone.

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I wasn’t only alone. I was upset. I was angry. I cried for the first time since the bomb was dropped.

But this is the Cleveland Clinic. Not only do they have the world’s top surgeons, most highly skilled and trained physicians, the most effective nursing staff, and cutting-edge treatments, they have compassion. I found myself surrounded by three kind and caring women, Antoinette, Monica, and Manya, who run the family lounge of the hotel, where they comfort new families every week.

Deeply spiritual people, these three beautiful women embraced me and prayed with me. “Only think of good things,” Manya instructed me. Later, Jeanne Murphy, Toby’s invaluable executive liaison, found me in the family reception area for patients undergoing cardiac surgery. What a relief.

Comforting Hands

I wasn’t the only one treated with warmth and concern. All around me were other families, receiving the same kind of loving outreach. Although it seemed at times that I was on a very advanced foreign planet, I made friends with others going through similar experiences. I learned so much.

It’s been two weeks since the surgery, and it’s been a tough road. Recovery has ups and downs, but I’ve stayed by Frank’s side and in spite of the fear, the pain, and the set-backs, he’s getting better every day. Although I wouldn’t want to go through this again, our time here in Cleveland has brought us closer together. That’s the silver lining.

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We’ve had so much help. Dr. Toby Cosgrove and Jeanne Murphy made this happen. Jeanne has been by our side from the very beginning. Frank’s surgical team was fifteen strong, led by Dr. Edward Soltesz, all taking care of my guy.

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Thank you to all of you who kept the office humming: Price, Nicole, Sondy, Randi, Cheryl, and Lisa. Thank you to the lifesavers who kept the home fires burning: my dad, Bob, and Anna, Henry, Gordon, Anna Mae, Danutia. A special thank you to Nick and Emily, who were here by our sides. It meant the world to have you here.

This journey isn’t over, by a long shot. There’s rehab and more recovery. There will be continued adjustments as Frank regains his strength. Our carefully monitored diets will become even more Mediterranean, more heart health-centric. It’s been a journey of the heart, from start to finish.

Doctor holding heart

The first stage will end on Valentine’s Day, when we say goodbye to the Cleveland Clinic and fly back home to Connecticut. The significance of that day is not lost on us. We cherish every moment we have together, and the people who have given us a part of themselves, to strengthen us along the way.

Now that the worse is behind us, I think of all the other lucky hearts helped here, and all the lives saved. I think of all the other people who will go on living, with their quality of life undiminished, thanks to the team of heroes at the Cleveland Clinic.

Because of its location on Lake Erie, Cleveland is often thought of as the city on the lake. It is also the city of healing, the city of love, the city of friendship. For me and for Frank,  Cleveland will forever be our city of Valentines.

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Cold Comfort

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When the frost on the pumpkin has long since turned to ice, it’s time to consider turning up the heat at home. It’s not always wise–economically or environmentally–to crank up the thermostat, so here are ten heart and hearth warming ways to make winter your favorite season:

Bring Some Springtime Inside

 Flowers will always give a room a graceful breath of fresh air, either when they’re cut and delivered from the greenhouse…

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…or when you choose floral print fabrics to brighten up a drab winter vista.

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Dress Your Table in Crystal, Silver and Candlelight 

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Low candles work best for sociable dinners, so a cluster of crystal votive candles are perfect for adding light but allowing eyes to meet across the table. The sparkle of crystal combined with firelight is irresistible at a winter dinner.

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Crystal votives etched with compass rose available at Dujardin Home. 

 

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Let the Winter Sunshine In

The light slanting in through the window on a quiet winter afternoon can be beautiful.

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And when you take a moment to look out your window, you never know who may be looking back at you.

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Pick a Favorite Place for a Cup of Tea

 Your bedroom is the perfect spot to greet a cold morning with a pot of tea or a cup of coffee. The day gets off to a brilliant start when you share it with someone you love.

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Embrace Winter White

 It’s always refreshing to start your day with a brisk walk outdoors, especially when you can head down to the snowy beach.

cold sunset

Then head for home and continue the soothing color theme indoors. A white sofa, white flowers and a dash of blue in accents such as throw pillows will remind you of the gentle drifts of snow and the white capped waves.

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Be a Bookworm:

Most of us have a pile of books we’ve been meaning to get to, or magazines, or perhaps you’ve set aside needlework for a rainy day. When the thermometer registers “I don’t want to go outside in this weather!” it’s time to curl up with the things you’ve been promising yourself to do.

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Light a Fire

There’s nothing like a crackling fire to make you glad you live in a cold climate, or at least appreciate the smell of burning wood.

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Wrap Up

Warm throws were made for wintertime. Of course they add a soft visual touch to the foot of a bed or the side of the sofa, but it only takes a little draft to make you reach for the woolen comfort folded at arm’s length. My favorites are the baby alpaca throws we carry in my shop at Dujardin Home; I chose them because baby alpaca is the warmest fiber on earth.

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Try a Spoonful of Sugar

It’s just the medicine to help you endure the cold. Save the calories, though, and set time aside to browse through your treasured collections, ideally things that connect you to your heritage, the land around you, or some special part of your personality. 

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If you have a passion like I do, for antique sailor whirligigs or the history of whaling, the long hours spent indoors this winter gives you the opportunity to appreciate your keepsakes all over again.
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Then bundle up and head out for a day trip and go antiquing with your friends, stopping at a quaint cafe for a bowl of hot soup and homemade bread. (See Please Join Me for a look at New York’s Winter Antiques Show!)

End your day with a cup of hot cocoa

 There’s no better time to indulge.

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The Winter Antiques Show

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It’s no secret that I love antiques. Old furniture and objets d’art hold the secrets of our past, as well as reverence for our future: they are the ultimate in green! By reusing and respecting heirloom furniture, china, jewelry, paintings and ephemera, we help to preserve antiquity and the earth.

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That’s why one of my favorite destinations is an antiques show, where the number of exhibitors and antique experts gathered together under one roof offers a fabulous opportunity to browse, learn and buy. I love collections. A group of similar items, whether antique scrimshaw or Chinese Export porcelain can add a conversational sizzle to any room. I often begin a collection for my clients when I select something special to accessorize a space; they often delight me (and themselves) by falling in love with the fun pursuit of other examples of their treasure.

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From now through February 1st, you can enjoy some of the world’s finest antiques and meet some of the most respected antique experts and dealers in New York City at the Winter Antiques Show. Held at the Park Avenue Armory, at 67th Street and Park Avenue, a $25 admission fee brings you face to face with 73 exceptional exhibitors. One third of them are specialists in Americana; the rest feature English, European and Asian fine and decorative arts.

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It’s for a good cause, too: the show is a fundraiser for East Side House Settlement, a community resource in the South Bronx, offering education and technology as gateways out of poverty. Friday, January 30th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. is Expert Eye Evening, when exhibitors will share tips on collecting works from antiquity to Midcentury modern while you enjoy wine tastings and discussion.

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If you go, please be sure to visit with Peter Pap, of Peter Pap Oriental Rugs. Peter has been dealing in oriental rugs for more than 35 years, and is recognized internationally as a foremost authority on antique oriental rugs, carpets, and tribal weavings. His website offers a section called Learn, which offers information on the history of rugs, how to choose a rug, and more. There’s nothing like learning from an expert!

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Every Room Has a Beginning

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Have you ever walked into a room and wondered where to begin? Interior designers face this question all the time. There’s always a starting point, a moment of inspiration. It may be the window with the stunning view and the way the sunlight slants into the room, or a family heirloom or painting that helps define colors and style.

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In this case, the entire house we’d first designed and completed in 1995 was picked up and moved across Nantucket Island. Erosion on Sconset Bluff had caused the home to be moved from its precarious position first in 2008, and again only a few years later.

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When the house was carefully set down again in its new location facing Nantucket Harbor, it was time to take a new look at the Edwardian-era home. The owners still loved what we created almost 20 years earlier, but wanted an updated version, while still retaining their favorite pieces from the original design. As part of the design process, my team and I began with detailed scaled drawings that showed our concept of the space.

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In the living room, the owners loved the custom rug in their favorite colors, with a floral pattern reminiscent of their beloved gardens. The decision to keep the rug I designed in 1994 set the stage for everything that followed. Besides the “green” ideal of re-using existing pieces, it is so rewarding when a client loves what you created so much that they want to keep the feel of the original design from years ago.

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Renderings are particularly helpful with long-distance clients. A board was sent to the owners detailing the fabrics, the carpet runners and the faux paint wall treatments. The colors were updated. Celestial blue and white blended with soft touches of buttery yellow would make the home as inviting as a summer sky. The designs, though traditional, were clean lined and reflected the simpler tastes of the 21st century.

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Fabrics for the living room were sent for approval, along with the design for window treatment. An up-to-date tailored valance with panels replaced the floral English country house look. Both panels and valance were accented with a custom trim we created from a striped fabric.

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We also retained most of the original furnishings, which were reupholstered with new fabrics. The chairs were redone in indoor/outdoor fabric, with cording and tape trim for a touch of detail.

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Options for additional pieces of furniture were proposed for the living room. From the pieces submitted, the clients chose two conversation groups and a game table area to be placed by the windows.

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An artist created the unique wall treatment, with stenciled shells accenting important architectural features. The shell pattern related the home to the harbor and the sea beyond. The Blue Willow patterned fabric on the sofa pillows recalled Nantucket history and the days when sea captains brought back gifts of Chinese Export porcelain.

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In just ten months, we managed a comprehensive house redesign, incorporating favorite pieces from the original home and seamlessly blending them into a sophisticated, 21st century style for an expanding family of parents, grown children, new in-laws, and grandchildren. From a two- to three-month planning and selection phase to a six- to seven-month ordering and implementation phase, we completely redesigned a house with four floors and seven bedrooms.

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It was an amazing amount of work in a short time frame, but the clients were happy with every single detail of their new home, and so were we.

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Green Gifts

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Finding the perfect gift for the people we love is always a challenge, but so many of us enjoy the blessings of a good life that the task becomes more difficult. What to get for someone who has everything is a common problem, but no one truly has everything. On the contrary, even people who have many material comforts will always find their lives enriched with a gift that honors nature, wildlife, and the earth.

That’s why I love the Natural Resource Defense Council’s list of “Green Gifts.” They’re easy to purchase online, and come with either a print or online card sent to the recipient. Here are a few of my favorites.

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Bee a Hero: I’ve written about the plight of honey bees before, and I used to keep bees myself, so they’re near and dear to my heart. More important is the fact that they’re an indicator of the general health of our ecosystems, and today they’re dying at an alarming rate. One third of the human food supply depends on bees for pollination, which is why more beekeepers are being called upon to travel with their hives to orchards and farms to help the process along.

For $25, you can buy a “buzz worthy” gift offered by the NRDC in conjunction with Seedles, a company dedicated to promoting bee health. Seedles will donate bee-friendly wildflower kits, including seeds, pots, compost and instructions, to classrooms which will plant wildflowers.

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And in honor of these sweet pollinators, you can buy a Bee Love greeting card from Seedles for just $2.00, drawn by artist Sunny Solwind.

If things that fly are your gift of choice, consider Butterfly Beauty, and add a gift of a half dozen milkweed plants–

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the one thing Monarch Butterflies need to survive–for another $25.

Still feeling generous? Add $25 more, and save bees, butterflies and birds with Save a Songbird. Protect Canada’s boreal forest, our continent’s most important songbird nesting area.

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All that for under $100!

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The Nature Conservancy has their own program. One of the most popular is the “Adopt an Acre” gift. For $50 (or more if you choose), you can help protect some of the world’s most beautiful and diverse habitats. The Nature Conservancy has Adopt an Acre programs in Africa, Australia, Costa Rica, the Northern Rockies, the Appalachians and the Southern Forests of the United States. Pick one and your loved one will receive an adoption certificate along with a fact sheet listing the wildlife you’ve helped to protect.

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Still need convincing? According to RecycleWorks.org, household waste increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We throw away four million tons of gift wrapping and shopping bags in America, and buy 2.65 billion holiday cards. With an average of $800 per household spent on holiday gifts, imagine the good we can do if we support earth-friendly organizations.

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Don’t forget about your four legged friends! Since 1997, Planet Dog has been recognized as one of the leading socially responsible canine products providers. With their motto “Act locally, think doggedly” to guide their corporate vision, they develop and create premium non-toxic, recyclable “chomped” chews, squeaky toys, leashes and more.

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Make this the year that you give less stuff, and do more good. The whole wild world will thank you.

 

 

 

A Barnyard of Blessings

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Here’s how to make a difference in the world, the way Heifer International does it: Start a cycle of positive change. When you think about it that way, it’s simple, isn’t it? That’s why Heifer International has been my charity of choice for holiday gift giving for many years. I  celebrate all the goodness in my life and the success of Dujardin Design Associates by doing what I can to end poverty and hunger.

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None of us can change the world, but we can change the life of one person for a day, a week, or more. Heifer International’s mission is the same one behind “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” The way Heifer founder Dan West saw it nearly 70 years ago, don’t give a hungry child a cup of milk, give her a cow. Or maybe a pig.

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Heifer helps to bring sustainable agriculture to communities with a long history of poverty. Heifer animal gifts provide both food and much needed income, when turned into products such as eggs, milk and honey.

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This year, Dujardin Design Associates has purchased two Barnyards of Blessings, with gratitude to our clients and friends who have made this donation possible. If you’re looking for a charity to support this holiday season, I encourage you to consider Heifer International. The goal of every Heifer project is to encourage self reliance by providing the tools communities need to sustain themselves.

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We can’t change the world, but maybe we can change a village. I hope you’ll join me!

Christmas with Grace

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What does Christmas mean to you? For me, it is a season of secrets, of rustling bags filled with tissue snuck into the house when no one is looking, of cookies and candy canes, and everywhere the scent of pine. As a designer, I can’t help but decorate every room, adding fresh cedar boughs and glittering lights here and a crystal bowl filled with red roses there.

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As enchanting as this holiday is, it also brings with it memories, some delightful, some more painful to recall, and as the years go by, all stir my emotions, and fill my heart. My recent book signing at Holiday House in New York City brought me back to a Christmas long ago, the last one I spent with my mother, Grace.

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Holiday House, a designer show house, was founded by Iris Dankner, a breast cancer survivor, in 2008. Iris wanted to combine her two passions–interior design and fundraising for breast cancer research–when she saw a lack of high profile interior design events in the New York City area benefitting women’s issues. Thanks to her vision, talented designers from across the country arrive every fall to transform the historic Academy Mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into beautiful rooms highlighting a holiday or special moment in life.

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Me with Iris Dankner, December 2, 2014

I lost my mother when she was only 51, to breast cancer. I immediately knew I wanted to help the Holiday House mission in any way I could, even as my thoughts turned to a Christmas season long ago.

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My mother was in the hospital, and realizing that her time was growing short, she was focused on me with a singular intensity. On one visit to her hospital room, she greeted me with excitement, and showed me a gift she had painstakingly created for me the night before. I walked to her bedside, and she handed me  a simple brown paper bag.

“Look!” she urged me. I saw the bag was empty, and for a moment I was confused. Then I saw her handwriting on the bag, up one side, and down the other. From memory, in the dark hours of the night, my mother had written down our family tree on the only paper she had. She wanted so much for me to remember who I was, and where I came from. I gazed down at the names written on the bag, marking marriages and children, year after year after year.

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I found it hard to focus. There were tears in my eyes. We were members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, but that’s not what the bag was about. I understood that this was family, blood thicker than water, the people from whom I came, and the cousins, aunts, uncles, and other connections that surrounded me still.

I was an only child, and my mother knew that when she left my side, my world would be a little bit lonelier place. But she wasn’t finished.

“Over in the corner, there’s a gift for you. Bring it here,” she told me. I did as she asked, carrying a bulky package to her bedside.

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“Open it!” she urged me.

I shook my head, imploring her. “No, not yet.  Let’s wait for Christmas. You’ll be home by Christmas, and I’ll open it then, under the tree.”

My father stood by my side, and added his voice to mine. “That’s a much better idea! You’ll be home, Grace, and Trudy will open it on Christmas morning.”

I felt my mother’s disappointment, but to my relief, she acquiesced with a smile.

Mom didn’t make it home for Christmas. She passed away on December 6th, with me and my father by her side. In my grief, I had forgotten the gift that waited for me under the tree. But on Christmas morning, it was there.

I slowly unwrapped it, wanting desperately to stop time, knowing I was opening the last gift I would ever receive from my mother. As I pulled away the last bit of paper, a soft, warm quilt tumbled into my lap. Made by my mother’s hands in my favorite colors, and in her final days assisted by my aunt, Elysa Knight, she had sewn a Double Wedding Band quilt to cover my bed. I smoothed my hands over the fabric, amazed at her handiwork, already feeling the comfort she had left behind, and the love that went into it.

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I always thought of my father’s family as my “artistic side.” My dad was an engineer and inventor, his brother a furniture designer, his sister an artist. I had somehow lost track of the artistry created by my mother and her side of the family: the crocheting, embroidery and hand sewn goods that filled our home all through my childhood. I knew then that I was doubly blessed with artists on both sides of my family. I was already working as a interior designer, and cherished the creative work that filled me with passion and my days with joy. Now I knew more clearly where my gifts came from.

I only have one regret–that I didn’t open my mother’s last gift to me in that hospital room, where she could have witnessed my delight. But perhaps it was better that way. Instead of letting her watch me unwrap the gift, I think I shared with her my hope that she would return home one more time, to spend one more Christmas with my dad and me.

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Although she didn’t leave her hospital bed again, she was at home with me on Christmas Day. She had been with me every day since I was born, and on Christmas I was wrapped again in her love as surely as I was wrapped in her quilt. It was my last Christmas with my mom, and she taught me her last lesson. By making her final gift to me something that was unique, made with her own hands, she showed me more than I realized. As the years go by, I know that the last gift wasn’t only a quilt. It was how to live life, and how to fill it with light.

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It was how to celebrate Christmas. But even more than that. It was how to celebrate Christmas with Grace.

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Nantucket Christmas Stroll

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I’m not sure there’s anything more enchanting than the annual Christmas Stroll on Nantucket Island. It’s part of Nantucket Noel, which is a monthly long celebration organized by the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce. Christmas Stroll this year is from Friday, December 5th through Sunday, December 7th.

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My husband, Frank, and I will be there, as always, with our three little white Bichon Frises, and my dad, Bob! We wouldn’t miss the carolers in Victorian costumers, the bell ringers, the magical talking tree, and of course Santa arriving by boat!

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This year is extra special, as I’ll be at Mitchells Book Corner for a book signing on Saturday, December 6th from 12 to 1 p.m. I hope you’ll come by to see me if you’re on the island.

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My publisher tells me that my book, Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, makes a wonderful Christmas gift for anyone wanting a more beautiful, elegant, and healthier home. (And don’t tell anyone, but all my secrets are in there!)

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It’s such a magical time of the year. I hope you enjoy every minute of the holiday season, no matter where you are.

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Photos courtesy of the Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce; except first photo courtesy of www.hylinecruises.com 

Dujardin Home

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After years of planning and months of searching for exquisite, unique and elegant home accessories that truly deserve a place in your home, we’ve launched Dujardin Home! My vision was to create an online shop that offers an edited, curated collection of very special items, the kind of things that elevate your home, and your life, from the ordinary to the amazing.

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Just in time for the holidays, you can find fabulous gift ideas and items to elevate your parties to a stunning new level. Come take a peek at:

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Totes

Handcrafted in the United States with pre-consumer recycled sailcloth and marine grade fabric, this is the kind of tote bag you’ll take everywhere. The designers in my office use it to organize fabric samples, friends love how roomy it is when they use it as an airplane carryon, and of course it works perfectly for the beach! You’ll need one for yourself, but they also make the perfect, usable gift.

 

 

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Pillows

Our nautical pillows are custom-made for Dujardin Home, so you won’t find them anywhere else. Inspired by maritime signal flags, add one for a punch of color, or three or more to make a statement. They’re perfect for the beach house, or anywhere you want to dream of the sea.

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Throws

There are throws, and then there are our throws, made from Baby Alpaca wool. This is the softest, most luxurious fiber in the world, better than cashmere for warmth and comfort. It’s hypoallergenic, so it always feels smooth against your skin, without that wooly itching, and perfect for anyone with allergies or asthma. And of course ours are made naturally, with no chemicals or bleaches used during processing. Baby Alpaca refers to the very finest, most rare Alpaca fibers, not fleece sheared from babies. But it’s soft enough to wrap your baby in, no matter how young or old!

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Glassware

We had to go all the way to Prague for this heirloom quality crystal, made to our specifications with an etched compass rose. Mouth blown by Czech artisans, an old firm of established glassmakers created these exquisite pieces especially for Dujardin Home. You can set a sparkling holiday table with clear crystal, luminescent blue or deep sea-colored ink, or mix and match.  It’s no secret that I love the ocean, and the compass rose is one of my most treasured symbols to use when designing homes. It’s been used on nautical charts for centuries. Whenever I see it, I’m a sailor in my heart.

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One of a Kind

Home decor stores have proliferated in recent years, with the result that many homes are beginning to have a sameness from room to room. Designing your home is a very personal journey, but I always recommend that when your budget dictates that you choose mass produced furniture, add some pieces that are unique to you. Antiques fit the bill, but I’ve also included special “one-of-a-kind” items in my collection to help make your home uniquely your own. You won’t see these framed nautical prints or vintage sterling tableware anywhere else!

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Comfort Zone

To help you pull it all together and create the healthy, eco-elegant home of your dreams, I’ve written a book. Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior draws on my decades of work as a LEED Accredited interior designer. I’ve had the pleasure of designing some of the world’s most beautiful homes, in some of the world’s most stunning locations. I share what I’ve learned in my book, because I believe that A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury. (TM)

I want that luxury to be yours.

Come visit us at Dujardin Home. I can’t wait to show you around!

(And there’s more to come! We’ll be adding to our collection, so be sure to stop back frequently to check to see what’s new.)

Inspiration Starts Here

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On my new Dujardin Home website, I say that “Inspiration Starts Here!” I want to inspire all of you to see your home with new eyes, to be delighted with the very special items we’ve searched the world to find, and to find new ways to bring elegance, beauty and health to your lives.

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I thought you might be interested to see where my inspiration comes from. My life and my work have taken me to some of the most wonderful places on earth. I have seen so many beautiful sights just this year, from the shores of Long Island Sound where I make my year-round home…

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…to the harbor of Nantucket Island…

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…from the excitement of New York City…

Brooklyn Bridge and the New York Financial District at dusk

…to the town of High Point, North Carolina…

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… from the castles of St. Andrews, Scotland…

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…to the canals of Venice.

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Add to that the many showrooms I visit in the Decoration and Design Building and at 200 Lex in New York City, and in Design Centers in other cities around the country. I see and handle sumptuous fabrics, brilliantly designed lights and chandeliers, hand carved wooden case goods and deeply comfortable upholstered furniture. All of it becomes part of my thoughts and my dreams.

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Now I’ve realized one of my dreams, which is to bring this beauty and elegance to you. Our curated collection is inspired by the best of what I see and live every day, and the many creative and talented people I meet and work with.

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 Here I am with John and Chad Stark, of the Stark Carpet Corporation

 And we’re just beginning. Stay with me. We’re going to some wonderful places, and I have some more wonderful things to share at Dujardin Home!

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From Model-T to Model S

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Imagine if it was possible to drive a car without worrying about polluting the atmosphere, and what you were contributing to climate change. Imagine a country without gas stations, and without dependence on fossil fuels. Imagine more American jobs.

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Anyone who has made a commitment to living in an environmentally responsible manner has confronted the difficulty of everyday choices. As one of the first design professionals to embrace green design in the 1980s, I’ve seen huge changes in the building industry, and in the marketplace for sustainable goods and services. As a passionate environmentalist, I’m heartened by the number of manufacturers who are responding to the demands of their customers by making better, greener products available.

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I first wrote about electric cars in October, 2012. After highlighting a number of cars available at that time (the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i-MIEV), I ended with a promise: that my next car would be an electric one.

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I’ve kept that promise. I’m now the owner of a new Tesla Model S. I made that choice for a few good reasons, most of them outlined in the first paragraph of this post. Like other writers on this topic have said, I never would have spent this much for a car without Tesla’s advanced technology. I’ve driven a Toyota Prius for some time, and appreciate that hybrid car for what it offers. My new Tesla takes electric technology to the next level.

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Here are a few things I considered in making my decision:

1. Zero Emissions and no fossil fuels: This car is 100% free of pollutants, and frees us from dependence on foreign oil sources.

2. Quick recharging capability: A Tesla can be 50% recharged in 20 minutes, and 80% recharged in 40 minutes. If you’re driving a long distance, you can recharge at a supercharger station in the amount of time it takes to grab a cup of coffee and take a comfort break. And with its extensive range (up to 300 miles), most recharging happens overnight. Other electric cars can take hours to charge.

3. It’s Extremely Safe: With all the weight in the floor where the batteries are, the car’s center of gravity is very low, making it safer than many other vehicles.

4. It’s Recyclable: The car’s battery and motor use no rare earth minerals, and the car frame and body are recyclable aluminum. The battery pack is recyclable, too: One of the criticisms of electric vehicles  is that a battery pack, once exhausted, becomes waste. But there is a growing aftermarket for these batteries in static energy storage application. That will only grow in the months and years to come.

5. It’s Made in America: The Tesla Model S is made in Fremont, California, at a defunct plant once operated as a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors. At the time of my first post on electric cars, Tesla had 3,000 employees. Today, that number has grown to almost 6,000. I like knowing I’m supporting American jobs.

Other Options:

Other than the Tesla, you might consider the Chevrolet Volt, the Smart ForTwo Electric, the Nissan Leaf, or the Mitsubishi i-MIEV.

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It’s true that charging your car on the electric grid means that the environmental cost is transferred to the utility company. But battery powered cars are more efficient at converting energy into transportation. My Model S can travel almost 300 miles on a single charge of its battery, which equates to less than three gallons of gas.

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We may not have perfect solutions to all our automobile-based problems yet, but supporting new technology is one way to ensure that someone is working on the issues.

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My Whirlwind Book Tour

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It’s hard to pick the best part of the experience of writing and launching a book, but the chance to meet so many wonderful people, see my many dear friends, and share my message of sustainable design and green living has been very rewarding! Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior was first introduced on Nantucket, and then we were off to Boston and New York!  Join me for a look back at the friends who opened their doors to me and have helped to make Comfort Zone a success!

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First stop: 26 Main Street, Nantucket, at Quidley and Co.!  A beautiful summer evening brought friends, visitors, wine, and hors d’ouevres together for a festive introduction for Comfort Zone!

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A big thank you to Chris Quidley for hosting our first party. Here he is with Dujardin Design’s Sondy Rexford and Price Connors.

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Next stop: 54 Main Street, Nantucket, and Mitchell’s Book Corner! This is where I gave  my very first talk about what it was like to write Comfort Zone, and all the information inside!

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I explained to my guests at Mitchell’s that Comfort Zone could just be read as a beautiful design book, with more than 350 color photographs, or readers could drill down deeper and really learn about sustainable design.

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Then it was on to One Chestnut Street, Nantucket, and the beautiful Flowers on Chestnut.

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Comfort Zone and I were warmly welcomed by shop owner Michael Molinar.

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My longtime friend, renowned marine artist Michael Keane stopped by to see us. Here we are with my dad, (and my biggest fan), Robert Stefanov. For a look at Michael Keane’s incredible talent, see my blog post The Sea-Worthy Artwork of Michael Keane.

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We couldn’t launch a book without a stop to see our friends Ken and Deborah Withrow at the Union Street Inn. We’ve been entrusted with designing the inn’s historic common areas and guest rooms twice. It was a beautiful day to enjoy the inn’s back patio. Here I am with Ken!

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Before we knew it, it was September, and I was scheduled to appear at What’s New, What’s Next? at the New York Design Center, 200 Lex. This time I was welcomed at Calger Lighting, where Carmella Califano had arranged wine and hors d’ouevres (and some amazing brownies!) for all our guests that day.

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My husband, Frank Fasanella, is always there to support me (even taking care of business from our book tour!) Here I am with Calger’s Carmella Califano.

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Up for the drive to Boston, anyone? Come along for my panel discussion at the Boston Design Center!

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Kyle Hoepner of New England Home Magazine moderated a panel on sustainable architecture and design. I was joined by John R. DaSilva, AIA, of Polhemus Savery DaSilva, and Susan Brisk, a kitchen and bath designer and a faculty member at Boston Architectural College. The morning was sponsored by EcoModern Design and Cosentino. Eco-Modern’s David Sanborn and Cosentino’s Merry Leclerc joined us in this photo.

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A book signing followed at EcoModern Design’s showroom. They put out a delicious spread of appetizers to welcome our guests. A big thank you to David Sanborne and the staff at EcoModern!

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Then it was back to Connecticut, and a visit to Fairfield University’s bookstore on Post Road in Fairfield.

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Many of the university’s design students attended and we had a lively discussion on sustainable design.

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My thanks to Elizabeth Hastings for arranging such a lovely evening. Here I am with Rob Hardy, the director of Interior Design programs at Fairfield University.

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No time to rest yet! Next on the schedule: a panel discussion on why antiques are the ultimate in green. Hosted by de Le Cuona during Fall Market at the Decoration and Design Building in New York, Creating an Eco-Elegant Interior was the topic for moderator Kerry Howard, who led the discussion. My co-panelist was The Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines. I wish you all could have been there!

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Finally, the fabulous New York launch of Comfort Zone! Hosted by the gracious Stark family at Stark Carpet, we threw ourselves a wonderful fete, with Prosecco and wine, delicious bites and sparkling conversation. It was truly the celebration of the year!

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Our hosts for the evening: John and Chad Stark. My deepest appreciation for their warm support and beautiful showroom!

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Lots of books…

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and lots of signing!

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The party in full swing!

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It was truly an elegant and very special evening.

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And on October 20, here we are at Currey and Co. in High Point, North Carolina. On the right is company owner Bob Currey with his poodle companion, Reeves. My deepest thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this tour possible!

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Creating Comfort Zone

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Why write a book?

Writing Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior, the book that capsulizes my design work over the past decades and that shares my message on the importance of sustainable design and living, has been one of the most rewarding periods in my career. It has also been one of the most demanding, when combined with a busy professional and personal life!

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At an installation on Nantucket with Senior Designer Price Connors

Here’s why I did it: I have a story to tell. Part of my story is about the importance of creating a home that is a place where we can rest and restore ourselves, a place of comfort. Part of my story is about the importance of surrounding ourselves with beauty, because beauty elevates our hearts and minds. Beautiful, high-style design is intended to both soothe and inspire.

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Rooms in a home are not merely functional. When properly appointed, our home’s interiors provide a true background for all the important moments of our lives. How an interior designer assembles a room, piece by piece, is always unique to the individual, and combines the best training, background and experience, our own vision and feeling for a home, and the client’s dreams.

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Comfort Zone is a peek behind the curtain: a look at the process, and the results!

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And part of my story, a very large part, is about my belief that having the best means doing the best, for our homes, our health, and the environment.

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As a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in Interior Design and Construction, a public speaker at environmental forums, as well as an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, a large part of my career has been devoted to educating clients, students and friends about the importance of living “green.” I agree with the wisdom of author Rita Mae Brown, who said, “I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.”

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Comfort Zone shares my knowledge about how to create a healthy home, knowledge I’ve accumulated over a lifetime. There is a wealth of information, including step by step plans for renovating your own home sustainably. You can read it to find out more about why antique furniture is a surprisingly eco-friendly addition to your home, or why you should consider No-VOC paints, organic wool carpets and FSC-certified woods. You can learn how to make a home lightly green, moderately green, or deeply green. You can read it simply as a beautiful design book, but all the information is there to help you live more healthfully.

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Perhaps the most valuable page or two is a directory of green products and services, my carefully vetted list of sustainable resources.  An up-to-the-minute feature is an app called Layar, interactive print technology that adds a touch of magic. By downloading the Layar app to your smart phone or tablet, you can hover above any of six pages in the book and Layar will take you to additional on-line information. That information that will be updated regularly so that you will always have access to the latest ideas, products and thoughts on eco-elegant living.

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Of course Comfort Zone was created using acid -free, FSC-certified cotton cloth covers and interior vellums, and printed with vegetable-based ink from renewable sources. Next month’s posts will describe more about my trip to Venice to oversee the latest in eco-responsible printing processes there.

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Last, the book itself was designed to be a lovely piece of art. Book designer Stafford Cliff, part of the wonderful team at Pointed Leaf Press, publishers of Comfort Zone, brought my ideas to life with his intuitive understanding of my work, and my passion for the earth.

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He and the very talented Dominick Santise produced the stunning end papers, vellums, and details that make Comfort Zone the treasure that it is. I will always be grateful for the way their hearts and hands contributed to this work.

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A famous American architect, Daniel Burnham, said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.” I have aimed high in hope and work with Comfort Zone. I want you to aim high in hope and work in making your home a healthy sanctuary for yourselves, your families, your pets and your friends.

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Because A Healthy Home is the Ultimate Luxury. (TM)

Comfort Zone: Creating the Eco-Elegant Interior is available online at Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, or through Pointed Leaf Press. You can also find it at your own local book store, or ask to have it ordered there.

Happy reading!

 

So Long, Summer

Summer Is Over

Summer passes so quickly by. Join me for a last look at the season we love!

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Photo courtesy of David Fingerhut

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“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t, they should, for their feet are dusted with the spices from a million flowers.”–Ray Bradbury

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grass

“Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.” Deb Caletti

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“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” Jeannette Walls

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Meditating woman silhouette against seascape.

“The cure for anything is salt water–tears, sweat or the sea.” Isak Dinesen

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“A beach is not only a sweep of sand, but shells of sea creatures, the seaweed, the incongruous objects washed up by the ocean.” Henry Grunwald

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“Hark now, hear the sailors cry, smell the sea and feel the sky…” Van Morrison

Brant point wide

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So long, Summer. It’s hard to say goodbye but a new season is right around the corner, and there’s always something to look forward to. I have new things to share with you then.  I can’t wait to tell you about them!

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Don’t Just Sit There

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Whenever we sit down, to work, to eat, to meet with others, or to relax, we don’t tend to think much about what we’re sitting on. A sofa or a chair or an ottoman all have been engineered for our comfort over the years, with fabric, foam filling, and a sturdy structure to support our bodies as we rest. And since 1975, according to the Green Science Policy Institute, upholstered furniture has been designed for our (supposed) safety as well, with the introduction of flame retardant chemicals.

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The chemicals intended to keep our homes from going up in flames have been linked to cancer, neurological defects, developmental problems, and impaired fertility. Manufacturers first began adding fire retardants to furniture due to a California law that required foam cushions to withstand a candlelike flame for 12 seconds. A now defunct group known as Citizens for Fire Safety, led by chemical manufacturers, was instrumental in getting the law passed, according to a Chicago Tribune article. (Read it here.)

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In 2004, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) warned of high levels of toxic fire retardants found in house dust, in every single home sampled. The average level of brominated fire retardants measured in dust was more than 4,600 parts per billion (ppb). Like PCBS, the fire retardants known as PBDEs (polybrominated biphenyl ethers) are persistent in the environment and build up in people’s bodies over a lifetime. In minute doses they impair attention, learning, memory and behavior in animals.

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Recently the EWG released a new study done with Duke University, where they found evidence of exposure to a cancer-causing fire retardant, TDCIPP, in the bodies of all 22 mothers and 26 children tested. The children had an average of nearly five times as much as the mothers of a chemical formed when TDCIPP breaks down in the body.

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I’ve shared my concerns about chemically laden upholstered furniture before. In addition to PBDEs, your furniture likely contains formaldehyde, polyurethane and dioxins. All of these toxins infiltrate your home and the air you breathe through “offgassing,” the release of chemicals into the air through evaporation.

Today, we can choose soy-based versus foam cushions, recycled filling for pillows, water based stains and organic upholstery fabric.

In addition, the EWG shares these tips:

  • Do your homework before buying baby products. Many kinds of baby products still use harmful chemicals. Find out before you buy.
  • When buying a new sofa, choose one made without fire retardants. New regulations make it much easier for furniture manufacturers to sell products that have not been saturated with chemicals. Contact the manufacturer to ask if fire retardants are in its furniture.
  • Want to reupholster your sofa? Replace the foam, too. The old foam likely contains fire retardants. Ask your upholstery shop to find retardant free foam, or choose an organic filling.
  • Inspect foam cushioning for damage. Exposed foam can cause fire retardant chemicals to leach out more quickly. Items such as car seats and mattress pads should always be completely encased in protective fabric.
  • Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. These vacuums will remove more contaminants and allergens from your home.
  • Be careful when removing old carpeting. The padding is typically made of scrap foam that contains fire retardants. Old carpet padding can become somewhat pulverized by the time it is exposed for replacement. Isolate the work area from the rest of your home.

There’s a petition to the Consumer Product Safety Commission asking for national furniture flammability standards that do not encourage or require fire retardants. Find it here, and get toxic chemicals out of our couches!

Dominique Browning and Moms Clean Air Force

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There are many activists today who I refer to as my “environmental heroes,” individuals who are stepping out and speaking up about the important issues facing our planet.  I’ve long been a fan of Dominique Browning’s Mom’s Clean Air Force, founded in 2011 with the Environmental Defense Fund. Today, it’s a community 340,000 strong of moms, dads and others fighting for clean air and our kids’ health. The mission of MCAF is to show that air pollution isn’t just dirty, it is toxic. and that there is a connection between pollution and disease.

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photo courtesy of MCAF: George Washington Bridge in heavy smog before Clean Air Act; 1973

Now MCAF has a new free  E book , called Extreme Weather & Our Changing Climate. They’re requesting all of us to help promote the book and share it with each other. Here’s what they say about it:

“Everyone across the country is talking about how the weather is changing. And the weather is changing because the climate is changing. Our weather is unfolding in the context of a warmer earth, caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Climate scientists have shown that extreme rainfall, more likely as the weather warms, is already becoming more common across the country.”

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The book covers The Big Three, the main issues related to climate change: heat and mega-heat waves, heavy rainfall, and drought. We are breaking temperature records, worldwide, at unprecedented rates.

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A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture: there’s more vapor up there. So we get heavier rainfalls. And during a drought, the air bakes the soil, and the earth warms up even more.

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The heavy rain that eventually falls doesn’t help the soil at all: it just runs off, causing flash flooding.

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Dominique Browning also has another blog, the very lovely Slow Love Life, described as a place to share ways to practice daily mindfulness in the midst of our busy, productive days. That approach provides the perfect balance to concern for our planet. We all need to be restored and refreshed to do our best work in the world.

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Dominique kindly agreed to answer some questions about her motivations and passion for the earth. Her interview with Holistic House follows:

Trudy: What was the inspiration behind Moms Clean Air Force? You’re a mom of two grown sons, so there’s that, of course. it’s grown and developed so much since its inception. What were you hoping for when you began?

Dominique: The inspiration is my two sons–and a love of home, quite honestly. As I’ve gotten older, I have expanded my idea of what is “home” beyond the walls of my house. First into the garden and then into the natural world in which we all really live. I have so many moments during the day that I think, what a blessing, a gift, an honor it is to be here, to watch that hummingbird, or to stand in awe of what humankind has accomplished…and I think: I want my children to enjoy this. I’m really thinking a great deal about what we are leaving behind for our loved ones, whether they are our own children or nieces and nephews, or simply, other small beings who count on us to protect them.

Trudy: To borrow from your interview with Michael Oppenheimer: optimist or pessimist? Knowing how enormous the problems are that we face, how do you get out of bed in the morning?

Dominique: I have chosen to be an optimist, because the alternative leads to depression and paralysis. And I’ve learned: I have a choice. I have a choice in the actions I take, what I do–so whether or not in my heart of hearts I think, we’re cooked, I act in the belief that we can make things better.

Trudy: You spent much of your life immersed in the design world, you wrote beautifully about the house where you raised your children, your garden there, and how you felt when you sold that home. You’ve moved again recently. I know you said you could write a book on creating a new home at this stage of life! What creates a sense of home for you? How do you define home today, versus earlier in your life?

Dominique: For one thing, I haul fewer things on the moving barge. But, there are still WAY too many things that I’m attached to, or rather, there are very many things, not too many. The things I love tell the story of who I am, what I care about, and they hold memories of love affairs and friendships. This wasn’t true when I was younger. So my sense of home comes from the things I love all around me, and from having spaces that I can read and rest in, and cook simple dinners for friends and family; home is where I feel I can express myself. 

Trudy: You wrote once that you feared you were becoming a curmudgeon because you saw balloons and all you could think of is that they would end up gagging a goose. What small (or large) thing do you see that you would like for the world to change today. I am a fierce opponent of of pesticides and lawn and garden chemicals, among other things! What is your current pet peeve, or pet project?

Dominique: I agree with you, Trudy: We’ve gotten way too dependent on chemicals to do the jobs that nature used to do with various plants and bugs. We wipe out the creatures who would eat pests for us, for instance. But worse: I’m increasingly agitated about all the natural habitat we are wiping out. People buy houses in the country because they fall in love with the beauty of the place–and then they proceed to neaten everything up, cut down hedgerows, mow away meadows and lose Joe Pye and Milkweed, and manicure the lawns, and leave lights on all night. Pretty soon, we aren’t in the country anymore. And we’re losing, all over the East Coast, all those ground nesters: killdeer, meadowlarks, bobolinks, pheasants.

Let’s start seeing the beauty in a tangle of branches, and the vivid play of color in a stand of what we should not think of as weeds, but rather as native stands of plants! Let’s enjoy watching the grasses ripple in a meadow.

Trudy: You’ve given so much time, energy and talent to making this world a better place for all of us. Where do you find sustenance, and the desire to keep working for what you believe in?

Dominique: Love is my sustenance. I know that sounds impossibly cornball. It is. Every moment of love that floods me–in what I see around me, or in the voice of a child, or a friend, or when I gaze at a painting I especially admire, whatever it is, every breath of love makes me stronger. It does for all of us–if we stop long enough, those few seconds or minutes of being open, to let it happen…

Trudy: Thank you, Dominique! We’re so delighted to showcase you, Moms Clean Air Force, and the new e-book, Extreme Weather.

Dominique: I wrote the Extreme Weather book because, as a gardener, I started noticing how strange things were getting. All of us talk about the weather, and how it is changing because of the warming of our globe. I wanted to understand that, because it is a good example of how something as abstract as “climate change” touches our lives in a very real way.

Trudy: I want to help share the e-book and your message, because it’s so important. This interview has such deep meaning for me. I hope that all my readers take the opportunity to download the free book, and then share it, too.

Let’s all act in the belief that we can make things better!

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A Bookstore on an Island

mitchells books In the fictional bookstore in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, the author offers readers a glimpse into what it must be like to operate that endangered species, an independent, neighborhood bookstore. If you ever watched the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romantic comedy, You’ve Got Mail, then you’re familiar with the feeling of rooting for the small business owner, the bookstore owner whose heart and soul is tied to the community and the authors she serves.

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Bookselling, like most industries, is a complicated business, and I’m grateful for the many booksellers, large and small, that operate across the country. I’ve always been a supporter of my neighborhood bookstores, though, and as a constant reader who buys more books than I can read in a lifetime, I encourage everyone to support them. There’s something charming about the way each small bookseller arranges the world inside his door. Instead of working from a corporate merchandising plan, the lighting, shelves, books and comfortable chairs are one of a kind.

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Nantucket Book Partners, which operates both Mitchell’s Book Corner and Nantucket Bookworks, provides islanders and visitors with just that kind of experience . Both locations offer an enticing view into a wide-ranging inventory of books and boundless ideas for what to read next. As is fitting for an island bookstore, they have a wonderful selection of books about Nantucket, whaling and the island’s genealogy. And best of all, they are a true community resource, with book signings for local authors, advertised on their blog through “What’s on the BOOKS?,” a dedication to providing the best in customer service, a blog feature called “Meet a Nantucket Book Worm,” to let us look over our neighbor’s shoulder to see what she’s reading, and even offer space for a weekly Memoir Writing Group in the store.

As the faded sign on the porch of the Victorian cottage that is home to the fictional Island books says, “No man is an island; every book is a world.” A bookstore is a world, too, and we’re lucky to have two to call our own.

 

 

Battling the Autism Epidemic

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I’ve written before about my concern for for the 70 million people affected by autism worldwide, and their families. Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders–autism spectrum disorders–caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors.

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The numbers are rising, as confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control’s new statistics: 1 in 68 children, 1 in 42 boys have autism. It is an urgent public health priority that requires increasing global awareness, services and research. World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), celebrated each year on April 2, was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 to shine a bright light on autism as a growing health crisis. Autism Speaks recognizes that day with its international Light It Up Blue campaign.

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Thousands of communities participate, with iconic landmarks, businesses and homes across the globe uniting by shining bright blue lights in honor of the millions of individuals and families around the world living with autism.

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I’m doing my small part by helping to spread the word through my blog and Facebook page, as well as providing financial support and participating in Walk Now for Autism Speaks. The Nantucket Walk will take place this year on August 16th, starting from Jetties Beach. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across America. Please visit Autism Speaks here to find a walk in your area!

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Autism Speaks is a worldwide organization co-founded by Suzanne and Bob Wright. They are tireless in approaching autism from every avenue, and transforming lives, one person at a time. A new documentary, Sounding the Alarm, has been produced. The film follows autism families as they follow tangled rules and regulations, and steadfastly fight to find and afford the right care and treatment for their loved ones throughout their lives.

Autism Walks Bob and Suzanne Wright 2010

Watch the trailer here. It’s available now on Netflix.

Five New Ideas about Old Things

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As a design advisor for this year’s Nantucket Historical Association’s annual Antiques and Design Show, I’m excited to both participate with a Dujardin Design tablescape created especially for the event, and to attend to see what the world of antique dealers and designers have to offer this year. I love using antiques in my interiors, both for my clients, and in my own home. These treasured parts of history are beautiful mixed into traditional or more contemporary designs, and as I tell my clients and friends, they are the ultimate in “green!”

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1) Antique furniture can be a beautiful addition to a sustainable lifestyle, as well as a link to the past. Not only do carefully selected pieces add artistry and the patina of age, they help to maintain your home’s indoor air quality. Created with less-toxic products years ago, antiques have long since completed any chemical off gassing.

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2) By restoring and repairing fine furniture, the resource-intensive cycle of endless new production is slowed, as is the fossil-fuel based packaging and delivery system.

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3) Beautiful and sturdy, wood pieces made before the 21st century were constructed with timber with tighter growth rings, which simply doesn’t exist today, enhancing its value as a treasured collectible.

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4) Antiques are recycling at its best. Beloved family pieces, delicate porcelain, fine china and the softly faded colors of aged Oriental rugs do not belong in a landfill. Treasures from another time can be loved and used again. An item that has been passed from home to home and hand to hand brings history to life, and honors the work of artisans who lived long ago.

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5) Antique collections are a very personal expression. I often find that a simple gesture, such as placing an antique tea caddy on a mantel, can inspire my clients to begin a collection of their own. Learning about the subtle differences between artisans, the period of time when an item was made, or the materials that were used to make it, gives us a greater appreciation for life. Whatever you collect, it is unique to you and your home, and cannot be duplicated.

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I encourage you to spend a summer weekend looking for old and rare treasures of your own. Being “green” has never been so much fun!

 

 

Walking the Labyrinth

beautiful green geometric garden view from above

Labyrinths have been used for hundreds of years as a means of meditation, introspection and spiritual guidance. First appearing in mythology, in the story of Daedalus and the Minotaur, today you will find labyrinths in church and school yards, gardens, and in both public and private buildings. They are a means of finding balance in life, providing stress relief as well as a link to the past. In gardens, they are a beautiful, geometric arrangement that is soothing to both the mind and the senses.

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Part of living a healthy, holistic life is self-care on an emotional and spiritual level. If you live in a healthy home built on the latest sustainable principles, choose organic foods and exercise, yet don’t have a way to de-stress on a regular basis, you may find yourself still struggling to find balance. I have a busy, active life that demands I take good care of myself to maintain the energy to meet the demands of my daily schedule. When I had my garden designed, I added a labyrinth in the back yard. Whether walking its circuitous path or simply catching a glimpse of it from my kitchen window, I am soothed by its graceful spirals etched in the lawn, similar to the labyrinth shown below.

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Research by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard University has found that walking meditations are highly effective at reducing anxiety, blood pressure, and insomnia, invoking what he called the “relaxation response.” Labyrinth walking is a highly focused form of walking meditation. and is thought to enhance creativity by enhancing right brain activity.

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photograph from Pinterest

A labyrinth is simply a formalized spiral, evoked as a sacred form throughout the ages, and found in nature repeatedly through the Fibonacci sequence. I’ve written about the Golden Mean and the prevalence of spirals in nature and art before; you can read more about it here. One of the many natural spirals in my personal collection is the ammonite fossil, itself a labyrinth.

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Interior design incorporates the idea of the labyrinth in patterns, particularly one known as the Greek Key. The Greek Key is an endlessly running “meander,” a decorative border formed by one continuous line.

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You can lay a path for walking a labyrinth in your own garden, if you have the space and if the idea appeals to you. There are companies that provide templates or even weed and grass smothering cloth to help you in the task. One is The Labyrinth Company, which provides pre-shaped landscape fabric that you cover with stone, river rock, gravel or pavers.

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Once you begin exploring the mystery of spirals in nature, you’ll find that you see labyrinths everywhere you turn. The curves in the petals of a rose, the roll of the surf and the spiny center of a coneflower are all labyrinths leading you deep into the heart of life. A walk through a man-made labyrinth is simply another way to experience it.

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To read further, a book you may enjoy is Labyrinths: The Art of the Maze.