Shifting Sands


The sea level is rising. That’s an indisputable fact, along with the increasingly dramatic storm forces that are part of climate change. The next century will certainly bring more significant erosion to coastal areas, particularly in New England.

Scientists have a wealth of information about the ocean and the tides, primarily because sailors and fishermen have kept weather logs and sailing records for more than two hundred years. We know for a fact that the average sea level has risen a little over 8 inches since 1880. That doesn’t sound like a lot, perhaps, but it contributes greatly to beach erosion during calm weather, and damaging higher tidal surges during storms.

It’s the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases that’s driving the change. The difficulty for coastal towns on the East Coast is that even while sea levels are rising, the land mass is actually sinking. All the way from southern Maine to northern Florida, and fastest in the Chesapeake Bay region, coastal flooding is getting worse, in part because of the lower land levels.

The New York Times published an excellent article, The Flood Next Time, identifying average sea level increases along the East Coast. In Norfolk, Virginia, as an example, neighborhoods are flooding even without storm surges. You can read the Times article here.

When I attended Greenbuild in Philadelphia in November 2013, architect and environmental expert Ed Mazria said that 2013 was the hottest year on record. His organization, 2030 Architecture, was established in 2002 in response to climate change, with a mission of changing the way the built environment and communities are planned, designed and constructed. Environmentalists first thought they could turn things around by 2030, but now they know that climate change is accelerating at a faster pace than thought. Read his thought-provoking Special Bulletin here. 

Top climate scientist James Hansen, retired from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City (1981-2013) and a spokesperson for the dangers of climate change, continues to warn us about the dangers of ignoring what’s taking place. You can watch his informative and persuasive TED talk here. He tells us we’ve passed the tipping pout of CO2 levels able 400ppm, but we must carry on and do the best we can.

The question is: what is our best? Attempts to mitigate the beach erosion and save homes on Nantucket aren’t always successful, or popular. In an article written for, Sarah Oktay, the vice-chairman of the Nantucket Conservation Commission, explains the problem with “beach nourishment,” which is the dumping of tons of sand on eroded beaches to slow their disappearance, as well as putting up retaining walls.

The attempts to slow erosion, she says, cause harm to someone else. “If you take beach bluffs or dunes and you cover them in rocks so it can’t go anywhere, then it no longer provides that feeder material to downdrift beaches, so you’ll lose the beach in front of those rocks, and you’ll lose the beach downdrifts. It’s basically telling your neighbors, ‘Well, I want my home more than you want your beach.’ That doesn’t mean it’s not sad.”

This photograph of the beach in Madaket on Nantucket Island shows the way the rising tides come in, and when they recede, drag sand back out to sea. There used to be a home on the site shown below.


A clear view of beach erosion. Baxter Road on Sconset Bluff has been hardest hit.


There are a number of homes that have been moved to higher ground, or farther inland, including some that have been island landmarks for generations.


The home below is jacked up on steel beams.


Here’s another home getting ready to be moved farther inland.


We’re facing the limits of human intervention in combating a situation we created. We’ve lost time arguing over whether or not global warming and climate change are real concerns. Rather than feeling helpless, however, we need to take what action we can to support a healthy earth, and protect our coasts. There are so many good people doing good work for the environment. I urge you to support the environmental groups of your choice. I believe in The Power of One. You and I together can make a difference for the generations yet to be born.


My Seaside Inspiration

lighthouse coastal ct

My life on two coastlines (Long Island Sound in Connecticut, and Nantucket Island) inspires my design work in a very personal way. I have always been drawn to the colors of sand, sea, sky and sails.  As I walk the beaches near my homes, I see exquisitely colored shells, small sea animals and picturesque harbors, all of which find their way into the interiors I create . Let me show you my seaside inspiration.


Horned Ghost Crab

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Conch shell on beach

blue bedroom

shells purple spiral copy

bedroom close up

shell white and blue copy

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Seashells close-up

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Rope Knot On Wood

Abstract shell

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“I felt the full breadth and depth of the ocean around the sphere of the earth, back billions of years to the beginning of life, across all the passing lives and deaths, the endless waves of swimming joy and quiet losses of exquisite creatures with fins and fronds, tentacles and wings, colorful and transparent, tiny and huge, coming and going. There is nothing the ocean has not seen.”–Sally Andrew

sea turtles




Preventable Anxiety


Life is busy, and often stressful. Anxiety is a very normal reaction to the kind of stress we all deal with: family issues, work deadlines, health challenges, and the smaller, relentless kind of stress that wears at us day after day, such as traffic jams, lost keys, and long lines at checkout counters. Mental health specialists encourage us to do what we can to manage stress, and to minimize its effects, with meditation, good nutrition and exercise, among other things.

My friend Dr. Richard Bloom has taught me another way to manage stress through his term, “preventable anxiety.” (He says the term was inspired by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop’s emphasis on Preventable Illness.) Preventable Anxiety simply describes the kind of situations where we could become anxious, but where we also have the opportunity to take control. Whenever we can actually prevent anxiety–and it’s different for every individual–it’s something wonderful we can do for ourselves. Here are a few of the ways I prevent anxiety in my life:

A Clean Desk Top

The best way for me to prevent anxiety first thing in the morning is starting each day with a clean, clear desk top. That means stopping work early enough in the evening so I have time to file papers, complete phone calls, and make a thorough to do list for the following day.  An uncluttered office goes a long way toward instilling a feeling of confidence for handling the day ahead. 

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Organized Closets

I love a linen closet that has everything lined up by size and color and season. It’s fun for me just to open the armoire and gaze at it all! Old sheets and towels are given to the local pet adoption agency, P.A.W.S. There’s less clutter, and I love thinking about those puppies or kittens having a cuddly towel to snuggle up to!

puppy in towel

No More Eleventh Hour

This is something I had to learn later in life. In my college days, I always stayed up all night and handed in the term paper at the eleventh hour. No more! Holiday cards are ordered in early November, shopping is done ahead of time, and work is completed before the deadline.

Wire desk tidy full of coloured pencils

Safety for Ourselves and Our Loved Ones

Another source of preventable anxiety for our family: our three Bichon Frises clowns are the light of our life. In our hometown, coyotes have been coming closer and closer to residential areas for food. They are no longer afraid of humans, and our little Bichons are just the right size for a snack. Two neighbors have lost their beloved pets to coyotes. Even though our yard is fenced in to 5 feet, we added 8 foot high deer fencing all the way around for further protection so the coyotes can’t jump into the yard. Preventable anxiety!

047 8x10 email Trudy, Frank and dogs


Having a plan (or a map) for special occasions and large projects, with all the tasks written down and dates assigned for when each detail will be taken care of can help clear your mind of worries. Delegating tasks is part of this, so write down who’s responsible for what, and when you expect them to complete their part of the project on an outline, and don’t forget to update it. 


Where in your own life can you employ “preventable anxiety?”
I’d love to hear!