Archive for July, 2011

Thinking Through Design II

Conclusion to last week’s contribution from Julie Laney:

Another subject that fits into the category of budgeting is whether or not a simpler and scaled down version of your dream room will still make a positive impact, if you’re not in a position to do a complete overhaul. For example, in your kitchen, if storage and counter space are lacking, do you have the space to simply add an island? Maybe this piece could really make a difference in how your kitchen functions, provided that the rest of the space is still suitable and to your liking.  Another example is a pantry cabinet.  You might have a wide but shallow space for a tall pantry type of cabinet (utilizing lots of vertical space), which might make things so much more accessible in terms of where you store your dry goods, small appliances, and anything else that requires a convenient location.  Updating your lighting along with these smaller changes can also make a big difference, and add some pizzazz to an otherwise “O.K.” room. There are lots of other ways to incorporate new components:  extra shelving, a counter/work space that can double as an eating counter, a moveable cart, or a small prep sink to accommodate extra helpers in the kitchen.  As for bathrooms, maybe your tiny room can’t be fitted for new cabinetry, but there could be room just outside of it for a nice tall built-in piece. Improved lighting and venting is a good start too.

With all that is available to us, it doesn’t make sense to have less than functional or beautiful living areas. So when your wheels start turning about those upcoming projects, start with having a well thought-out plan, a good reason to put it into action, and choose materials and products that truly deliver in quality, sustainability, function and style. Also – this goes without saying:  re-use and re-purpose things you might otherwise dispose of in the demolition process; they might come in handy for another purpose, for you or your neighbors.  Now – where shall we begin….

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Thinking Through Design, Part I

This post is brought to you by our friend, Julie Laney. She is an independent interior designer based in Oak Park and a member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Julie enjoys all design aspects of residential interiors and has assisted many GHE customers with their projects.

Chances are you’ve thought about some version of remodeling, updating, or changing at least one area of your home to accommodate your needs or taste, especially if you live in an older home, where often times, the layout or features might be inefficient or outdated for today’s lifestyles.  Making sure your remodeling decisions are sound and well thought out are key to a successful project, should you decide to transform your space into something more suitable for your needs.


One remodeling decision can impact your entire home, so making sure you’ve thought it all through, including why you wish to remodel, is a must. Really consider what your needs are: Workspace? Entertaining or gathering areas? Yoga, rest or meditation space? Storage? What features need careful consideration?  Well, everything, but just to name a few are function, lighting, scale, comfort –  keep in mind the value those changes will bring to the family dynamics and to the home itself – even for future dwellers. Your home is a composition of space in which to rest, work, play and enjoy the company of those dear to you; make sure you’ve covered your bases in the planning stages, and that the potential changes will make a positive impact on your life, and be beautiful at the same time. This includes traffic flow, properly lit areas, ease of use for all family members, and proper amounts of workspace and storage.

Avoid making short-term choices that may become a fleeting fad or trend; your wise design decisions should be as pleasing and functional years down the road, as when you installed it. Use quality materials and products that are right for the job! Home remodeling can be a huge generator of material waste if we’re not thoughtful about it.  The better we design and implement quality products into our remodeling projects the less waste we’ll be dealing with down the road. We know that there are some great new materials and products that are kind to the environment, and utilizing them to the best of our ability tells us that our homes, our health and our planet are important to us. I’ve found the products at Green Home Experts to be a well rounded collection of inspiring interior finishes, including flooring (have you seen the colors of Marmoleum flooring?!!), tile, fresh paint colors, and top quality custom cabinetry – just to name a few.

Truly thinking through the meaning behind the desired new space is a very important step in evaluating the project. In addition, planning a remodeling project based on available finances requires careful budgeting, but can often lead to choosing inferior materials to stretch the dollars if a good plan wasn’t set into motion right from the start.  Always have an idea of what the desired outcome will cost before diving in and taking a sledge hammer to those old cabinets.  You want to have a good experience and feel that your efforts will make a real difference – don’t get stressed rushing through the planning, and never try to skimp on something that requires quality materials – you’ll spend money needlessly on something that won’t do the job.  Reminds me of those commercials – “Could have had a V8”. You know – you’ve mindlessly eaten a snack that doesn’t have any nutritional value – then you’re sorry you didn’t go for the healthier choice.
Stay tuned for Julie’s second installation coming next week!

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Autre Monde Off to a Great Start

A while back I had the pleasure of meeting John and Christine Tully, owners of the newly opened Autre Monde Cafe & Spirits in Berywn, IL. I’ve been following their progress on Facebook and yesterday, got a behind-the-scenes look at this great new spot. Their menu features small plates from a blend of European influences, a bar with interesting and unique offerings, and farm to table sourcing.

I visited Autre Monde before their open time yesterday to discuss Operation Green materials. They will soon be our newest restaurant purchasing sustainable food service and janitorial supplies from Green Home Experts. I was so taken aback by the beautiful build-out, that I forgot to take pictures of the inside! But take it from me–beautiful lighting fixtures, enormous windows for lots of natural light, salvaged materials and a great bar all make for a wonderful sensual experience. That’s even before the food!

Christine took me behind the restaurant, where they are growing vegetables and herbs to supplement their farm to table concept. Most of the plants had been moved into the greenhouse yesterday, because they are about to pour a new concrete pad. I hope to be able to visit once it’s all complete! If you want to eat locally, then Autre Monde is a must for you.

A few times I’ve driven past Autre Monde, envious of the diners and folks imbibing at the bar. Hopefully soon I can leave the little one with my mom so my hubby and I can take in more than just the decor. In the meantime I’ll just fawn over these photos, which I hope you will do too!



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I Was Eco-Busted

Last week I failed at almost every attempt to get groceries for my family. On Tuesday I completely forgot to get my meat and eggs from my meat CSA. Fail.

On Wednesday I eagerly anticipated the organic fruit delivery that was to accompany my veggie box. That box was going to feed my son for the next two weeks, but when I arrived, someone had mistakenly taken my fruit. Fail.

On Saturday morning I packed up my husband and son, as well as the stroller, diaper bag, coffee, checks for the bank, rent check and paperwork for the shop, and my to-do list to guide us through the morning.

We left the market with nothing but bread for me to bring to my vegetarian supper club later that night. The only fruits at the market were berries, which my son is still too little to eat. Fail.

So we head to Whole Foods. I prefer to shop more locally than Whole Foods whenever I can, but I was out of options! I failed at the meat CSA. The fruit CSA failed me. No luck at the Farmers Market, so on to WF.

Upon entering the market, we realized we didn’t have any shopping bags with us. As I’m putting California-grown nectarines into a plastic bag, I see a customer from my shop. “Oh hi Cathi, yes I’m buying fruit from a million miles away and putting them in a plastic bag that I’ll use for total of about 2 hours.”

We talked about the weekend as I loaded up on faraway fruits, many of them making it into one-use bags. I felt like such an eco-phony! Then into the checkout line I enter, behind—of course—another customer. “Oh hey Scott, having a nice weekend? I’m enjoying destroying the earth with this one shopping expedition.” Fail.

Well, the moral of the story is that, just like with anything else, we can’t be everything to everyone everytime. I was embarrassed about forgetting my bags, but I had to give myself a break. I do the best I can, and last week was a rough one. Hopefully by recognizing my failures I don’t look like an eco-phony but just a normal human being. Let’s hope this week is a better one!

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Warm Weather Tips?

Earlier this week I planted 2 hypernicums, a pussy willow and some fescues in my backyard. My front yard got a coral bells hybrid addition, an evergreen whose name is escaping me and even a beautiful hosta. The frugalista in me says it’s unnecessary to buy hostas since folks are always giving them away, but this one got the better of me.

I also bought some succulents with the hope of building a vertical garden this weekend. We’ll see how that goes! I’ve been pretty good about keeping everything well-hydrated, which is especially important for me because most of my plants are new. What have you been doing to keep your garden happy about this heat? Share your tricks and tips, please!

I promise to get some pictures up one day soon. If I can muster up the courage, I’ll find some pictures of the garden post-fire so everyone can see my phoenix garden!

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