The overall state of interior design in America

I attended the World Market Center Furniture Mart and Design Show in Las Vegas recently, and wanted to share with you my observations about the status of the current interior design market.

The interior design market is adjusting to the current economic environment and parallels the housing market. For the last twenty years or so, people associated success with housing. Status was determined by zip-code and scale of housing. Some in the industry call the type of house that this time spawned the “McMansion.” Who could argue? We all have seen the huge houses in our neighborhoods or those down the streets. I don’t want to get into a discussion of why this period in American housing came crashing down, but, instead give a glimpse as to where the current interior design market is headed.

If the period of the “McMansion” has passed, what does that mean? Can you recall walking down the aisle of your local furniture store about three or four years ago? What you would have seen in most places were over-sized pieces of furniture. The reason for this was that many consumers don’t get a good a sense of the true scale of their room when shopping in big-box furniture stores and they figured they needed huge furniture to fill these huge spaces they were living in. The idea was that if they had four pieces of furniture in a room that was two-hundred square feet previously, then they should have four, much larger pieces of furniture for their new room which now measured six-hundred square feet.

We could spend time discussing the design flaws of that argument, but that is a different conversation for a different time. For now, we are trying to discuss how furniture and design are following the housing market. Since people are buying smaller homes, and the builders seem to be leading the charge in this regard, the scale of the furniture must follow suit in order to fit into the space that people are going to have. As I write this, I am thinking about an article I read this morning that Michael Jordan is building a home that is about 38,000 square feet (There’s always an exception to every rule).

So, what I picked up on at the show in Las Vegas is that the size of furniture for the common customer is scaling back a bit. I guess that is no surprise, but if you are waffling on whether to purchase a slighter sofa or chair, current design trends indicate that smaller is the way to go for the next several years.

Another major trend that reflects the country’s current housing market is a tendency for homeowners to select more neutral palates for their upholstered goods. People are a bit unsure what the future holds, and therefore they are a bit more conservative in their design and fashion choices. I don’t speak to clothing fashion, but based on the climate of the country, it would not surprise me if hemlines lower and necklines rise. Much of the palate that was shown in Las Vegas was based on tans and naturals. There is still a call for big color, but more often than not it was shown as accessories like throw-pillows and accent rugs.

If you are looking to build, remodel or redecorate your home and you are looking for assistance, make sure the design professional you hire understands the colors and textures you will be using may need to be the right ones for several years to come.

A good design professional will understand how the current trends can be reflected in your space and will help you make the right choices for your individual space and your preferences in style.

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Happy Days are Here Again!

Are you tired of bad news from the economic forecasters, the fed chairman, the talking heads in the media, and your neighbor down the street bemoaning his problems or any other naysayer? Here is a current update from the real world as I’ve been seeing it lately.

Yesterday, I was thinking about how busy I have been. Over the last week I have been to Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville, South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village, all over Reno and Sparks and I am probably forgetting a place or two. I called one of my fabric suppliers to place an order and asked how business was; he said that things had really picked up. I stopped at one of my art suppliers and asked how business was; she said that things were picking up. I called my drapery workroom and asked them how business is and they were happy to say that things are picking up.

I have no idea why things are changing, but if you are like me, you don’t care. We are just happy that the phone is ringing and we are able to provide our services to the people of the area.

There are some benefits that come from these economic downturns, namely, a refining of the businesses that survive it. When business was fast and furious from about 2002-05, it seemed like anyone and everyone was hanging a shingle and making a pretty good success of their business. When things turned around, the opposite was true. My manufacturer’s representatives were constantly telling me that their clients’ businesses were shutting down. Only the strong survive. Since we have been in a recession for quite a while now, the market has been sifted, and probably only those who are professional and responsible are still in business.

As a result, customers and businesses are well positioned to find each other. The customers are finding a newfound sense of confidence in the market and the businesses are fine-tuned in their ability to really respond to the needs of their customers. The market has adjusted from a price focus to a service focus, and smart businesses are making sure that they are providing the exact services that their clients want.

I am sure that the end of turbulent times is still a ways off into the future, but I for one am very glad that things are changing for the better.

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Window Coverings Recalled Over Child Safety Issues

We wanted to make everyone aware of this safety recall regarding window coverings, especially those of you with young children.

Tina4homedesign is available to do free, in-home reviews of your blinds if you’re concerned about whether or not your current window treatments pose a safety hazard to your children. We can also show you the current offerings of window coverings that provide maximum safety for your family.

The following come direc from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and The Window Coverings Safety Council:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) are announcing an industry-wide voluntary corrective action plan covering roman-style shades and roll-up blinds to prevent the potential hazard of strangulation to young children. The recall involves window coverings that can form a loop and cause strangulation. According to information provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, since 1990, more than 200 infants and young children have died from accidentally strangling in window cords.

Consumers can obtain free retrofit kits for roman style fabric looped and flat panel shades and roll up blinds online at www.windowcoverings.org or by calling WCSC’s toll-free phone line at 1-800-506-4636 or 1-800-372-5715.

Parents and caregivers are being reminded of potential window-cord dangers and are urged to make the right choice and only use cordless window products in homes with young children. Owners and renters should replace all window coverings in the home made before 2001 with today’s safer products.

To maximize window-cord safety when young children are present, consumers are urged to follow these safety guidelines:

  • Install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children. Replace window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with today’s safer products.
  • Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
  • Keep all window pull cords and inner lift cords out of the reach of children. Make sure that tasseled pull cords are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall. Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of inner lift cords.
  • Lock cords into position whenever horizontal blinds or shades are lowered, including when they come to rest on a windowsill.

The Window Covering Safety Council is a coalition of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers of window coverings.

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The evolution of the mobile design center

When I show up at a client’s home or office, I usually make a point of showing them the vehicle that I arrived in. I drive what I call my “Mobile Design Center.” It is a 14 foot box truck that carries all of the samples that I might need for the job at hand. It is completely shelved and stocked with fabrics, window covering samples, bedding lines, drapery hardware and other various interior design product samples. I have never counted, but I would guess that I carry something like 10,000 different fabrics with me at all times. As far as window coverings, I carry full lines of many different manufacturers like Hunter Douglas, Graber, Levolor, B & W, Century Blinds and many more. KDBoxTruck

It is funny how things change over time in a small business. When I first started, I worked out of a Subaru wagon. That did just fine for the few things that I carried. Then I moved on to a cargo minivan, which was much more convenient for the growing samples that I was carrying. Because of the length of product I was installing, sometimes as long as fourteen feet or more, I decided to get a longer van, and moved up to a full-sized cargo van. I liked it! I kept that one, called “Big Bertha” because she was an old gray battle axe with a smoking problem, for a year or so. Later, I got a much newer model because I knew that the full-sized option was working for me.

Eventually, like with a growing family, my product lines, especially the fabrics, were growing exponentially. I therefore started to explore the option of getting one of those big box trucks that you may have used to move at some time in your life. What a great boon that was to my ease of doing business. I bought a used diesel box-truck, and ran that for a couple of years, until I determined that I needed more power, and less hassle with diesel fuel. I bought a new gas powered box-truck, and that is what I serve my clients’ needs out of currently. It’s size allow me to serve clients from not just Reno, Sparks and Lake Tahoe but also the eastern Sierras of California to Gardnerville, and even east to Fernley and Fallon and everywhere in between.

The most common comments I hear from my clients when they see my truck are: “Wow, you are serious about this, aren’t you?” “That thing is a driving billboard!” “I guess I see why you don’t bring in any product until you talk to us first.” (Because I have too much stuff in there to bring in everything.) “What kind of gas mileage do you get?” (Answer, 10 mpg) and “Nice truck.”

I personally feel that the only way to serve my clients needs at Tina4home design is by using a “Mobile Design Center.” I just thought that you might enjoy hearing the story of the evolution mine. Stay tuned in the near future for a video tour of the Command Center itself. By the way, if you ever get to this part of the blog, I would love help in picking a nickname for the truck. If you pick a name that I use, I will provide you with a very nice gift in thanks and appreciation.

 

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How do I clean my window coverings ?

How do I keep my window coverings looking as good as the day they were installed?

If you are not sure about how to care for your window coverings, don’t jump in and clean them with just anything. Get the facts first. To make it a little simpler, I will lay out some different cleaning options below.

Dusting –

This time tested method is a good way to clean most of your window covering products. There are a couple of things to be aware of though.

First of all, if you are using a wand type duster, make sure that it is a dry dusting type. The ones that have lanolin, or furniture wax, or any other type of additive may leave residue on your coverings making them harder to clean in the future.

Also, if you were to use this type of additive on a cloth shade or drapery, you are actually minutely staining your coverings, which over time can turn into a permanent stain as the sun reacts with the additive and discolors your products.

Secondly, if you have any type of pleated shadings, like a cellular shade or something similar, be careful that you don’t press too hard on the pleats as they can become misshaped, leaving a permanent crease.

A special note on dusting. Please remember to dust the back of your window coverings. Over my many years in the industry, I have noticed a trend in how people care for their window coverings. Often, they are fastidious in maintaining the front of their coverings, but lax in caring for the back. This is especially true in shadings.

What happens, especially in localities that have a high UV index, is that any dust that sits on the back of the shades eventually bonds to the shade itself after reacting to the sun’s powerful rays, and creates an ugly dinge that is extremely hard to remove. If this dust is untreated, it can actually break down the chemicals in certain cellular shades, causing the cells to delaminate.

Under certain circumstances, the manufacturers may refuse warranty claims on such a shade due to negligence.

Submersion –

For certain types of window coverings, submersion is a viable option. I remember going to a seminar once where they took a bright white piece of shading material and squirted it with Ketchup. We all watched as the representative submerged the fabric, and wiped it off with soapy water and the fabric came out spotless. There are a couple of things that we can learn from this.

First, if you get a stain like this, try to get it out immediately. If you let it sit, especially if the sun hits it, it will set up in the fabric. The next thing to keep in mind is that you verify that ALL of the shade can be submerged.

For example, wood blinds, motors, any specialty lift system and many other types of window coverings, should never touch water at all. Verify with your original paperwork as to the proper care and cleaning of your product, and if you can’t find it, search the internet for the manufacturer’s website, where these instructions should be found.

Spot Cleaning –

This is the type of cleaning that many people think to use after some sort of accident. These are probably due to splashing from a sink, or kitchen accidents or even pet stain removal. We are all probably picturing the two year old in their high-chair flailing their arms wildly with food flying off of their spoon onto the window coverings.

Aughhhh! Never fear, spot cleaning is here. Your best bet: water. Next: soapy water. Next: spot cleaning solution (think Shout Wipes, Tide Pen or similar. Do follow the manufacturer’s instructions as some solutions can fade colors and cause other damage). Act quickly, and be gentle.

Some materials are very delicate, and heavy scrubbing can erode the fabric quickly. Even the paint on wood blinds or shutters can wear through very quickly causing a bigger problem than the original stain.

Vacuuming –

For many types of window coverings, namely shades and draperies, vacuuming is an excellent option for cleaning. Some of the materials that you will be cleaning are delicate, as mentioned before, and if you don’t take precautions, you run the risk of sucking the material into your vacuum hose, and ruining the material.

Most manufacturers recommend using the brush attachment and running your cleaning pattern in the direction of the pleating. On horizontal shadings, this means moving your hand side to side, and on vertical shadings, this means moving your hand up and down. If you vacuum, just like dusting, don’t forget to do the back side of the product.

Ultrasonic and Dry Cleaning –

These are excellent options for cleaning your window coverings. They are pretty easy to research on the internet, and I suggest that you consider these options when looking for a deep and thorough cleaning of your draperies, and window coverings.

Keep in mind though, that these options have drawbacks too, and that you are best served having all of the facts before you jump in.

In the future, I will discuss how to clean specific products, for example the Hunter Douglas Silhouette Shades. This is a generic list of options for cleaning window covering products and not an exhaustive guide. For specific instructions on how to clean your window coverings, see the manufacturer’s instructions or contact a window coverings professional near you.

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Landscape Maintenance – What You NEED To Know!!!

Great Landscape Maintenance Takes Time

Maintaining the landscaping on your property can be a bit of a nightmare if you don’t know what to do or how to do it. Let’s face it, to do the job correctly you need the right kind of tools and equipment. Plus, you need some basic knowledge of pruning and plant care.

When we took on the responsibility of a house and a pool sitting on almost an acre of land, we had no idea how difficult it would be.

Difficult? Translate that into hard work frequently done during the hot days of summer.

We didn’t know how to take care of our trees and shrubs, and we didn’t have the right kind of equipment. To top it off, we let it go too long before we took effective action. That said, we’ve learned a lot and love our home and property!

I hope you will enjoy learning from our mistakes because our journey in landscape maintenance is still a work in progress. Enjoy my photos of our landscaping and home.

The First Year – Learn the Lay of the Land

Just before we moved into our new home, the previous owner took us through the property to show us what was there. I made notes so I could remember the names of shrubs and trees and their locations. I highly recommend this if possible.

We discovered there is a cherry tree, already quite large. There were two pear trees, a plum tree, and two apple trees, all producing more fruit than we knew what to do with. We also had several Rhododendrons, azaleas, burning bushes, lilac bushes, forsythia, and some I still can’t identify.

A large tree on the side yard is a Linden tree. The Linden flowers are used to brew a tea and are known for the medicinal properties. We also have very large spruce trees, several varieties of pine trees, maple trees, hemlock trees, and hickory trees.

The previous owners had put a lot of thought into the landscaping, and I hoped we would be able to keep it up.

We followed all the rules that first year. It was a time of discovery. Every season brought new joy as we watched each shrub unfold its beauty. It was so nice having a mature landscape, with everything in its place. It was truly delightful to discover some new plant or tree displaying its glory.

We performed the basics of cutting, mowing and weeding to keep things looking nice. For awhile, all was well. Drought conditions were in full swing when we moved in so it took some time for the landscape to recover. When the recovery period was over, plant life began to flourish.

That’s when we began to get ourselves into trouble.

Tips – Some Do’s and Don’ts

After living in several homes throughout my life, I’ve learned one crucial point about landscaping. What is it?

Don’t tear out, cut down, or uproot anything unless you know for sure what it is!

Unless you are a horticulture pro, it is best to leave the landscaping alone for the first year, with the exception of mowing and pulling weeds. If you don’t, you run the risk of destroying the landscaping.

Some of the dangers…

  • *Pruning at the wrong time of year can ruin the chances of spring blooms.
  • *Uprooting “weeds” that turn out to be the new spring bulbs and perennials.
  • *Digging in seemingly empty flower beds uproots bulbs and displaces perennials.
  • *Pruning improperly can ruin the lines of a beautiful tree or damage the tree.

Some good ideas on learning what’s growing in your yard…

  • *Walk your yard, every inch. Mowing is a good way to learn the lay of the land.
  • *Examine the plantings to see their condition and try to identify them.
  • *Check with neighbors to discover what’s growing in your yard.
  • *Go through the four seasons to see how your house looks before beginning new landscaping projects or making major changes.

A Selection of Common Landscaping Shrubs

This is a list of shrubs that make up our landscape. There are more, but I don’t know all the names. Some of these were familiar to me when we moved in. Others I have come to learn since our move many years ago.

Of course we all know the type of plantings in a yard depends on where you live. When we lived in Florida, we were introduced to a variety of tropical and sub-tropical plants we were unfamiliar with. Another new learning experience! We were helped a lot by a friendly landscaper, this is his website,  vancouvertreeservices.ca that vacationed in Florida during the winter months. So I can’t say we didn’t have help.

These listed here are common varieties of shrubs found in the United States. Before you plant, check with local nurseries to see what they’re selling or check a planting guide to see if these plants will thrive in your locale.

  • Forsythia
  • Lilacs
  • Burning Bush
  • Azalea
  • Rhododendron
  • Barberry
  • Juniper
  • Yew
  • Hemlock
  • Honeysuckle
  • Arborvitae
  • Cinquefoil

Identify by flower or leaf…

  • Forsythia blooms in the Spring on old growth, so don’t prune until after flowering.
  • Rhododendrons bloom profusely on old growth providing a showy plant for spring.
  • Snowball Bush blooms in late spring with loads of showy snowballs.
  • Honeysuckle is one of my favorites!
  • Weigela blooms in late spring or early summer. Hummingbirds love it!
  • Barberry is beautiful, but has thorns and grows out of control if not pruned.
  • Lilacs are so fragrant and pretty! Prune after blooming.

Flowers! Groundcovers!

After all the hard work of maintaining shrubbery and trees, it is refreshing to have something simple to manage like flowers or groundcovers! I particularly enjoy some lovely perennials in my few flower beds. I even adore the blooming weeds!

My rule is: “if it blooms, it can stay”. Otherwise it’s liable to get chopped down, dug up, or mowed. The photo here is of a groundcover called “vinca”.

Annuals usually find themselves nicely arranged in a lovely pot or not so lovely pot I can bring inside when the weather gets cold. I hate spending all that money on flowers that get killed at the first sign of cold.

So I try to bring in as many as I can, placing them on boot trays so when I water them, they don’t leak all over the place. I am quite pleased that several have weathered the winter season quite nicely!

Flowering Plants

  • Columbines come in a variety of colors and reseed themselves each season.
  • Daylilies are hardy and multiply like crazy!
  • Bleeding hearts prefer some shade, and come back each season.
  • The white bleeding heart is rather rare I’ve been told.
  • Hostas are hardy, prefer shade, and have a tall lavender flower.
  • Dainty violas are favorites. These grow wild each spring forming a beautiful ground cover.

Poison Ivy

A lot of people have no idea what poison ivy looks like. In fact I was one of the blissfully ignorant until a neighbor came up to me one day and commented that I must not be allergic to poison ivy. I asked what did he mean because I didn’t know we even had poison ivy. He laughed and said my dogs were rolling in it frequently, then I was hugging them. He and his wife were extremely allergic so were amazed when I seemed unfazed.

That all changed when we moved into our home. We have tons of the stuff growing everywhere! It grows up the side of our spruce trees, pine trees, fruit trees, and along the ground mixed in with Virginia Creeper.

Not only do we have poison ivy, but poison oak as well. You will know them by their three leaves. If a plant has a three leaf formation, assume the worst and don’t touch it.

I finally met my match a few years ago when I foolishly decided to prune back a rather large poison ivy vine i.e. shrub growing next to the house behind the rhododendron.

I cut and sliced and DID NOT WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR. Since I had never had an allergic reaction, I assumed I never would. I ended up with a good case of poison ivy rash that just about drove me crazy with the itching!

So don’t touch the poison ivy unless you wear gloves and long sleeves, long pants, and shoes. Clean all tools and handles on carts etc., anything you touch while contaminated. I took this photo to help you make the identification!

Fruit Trees – Fruit AND Flowers!

We are fortunate to have several varieties of fruit trees on our property. They have produced well, and the blooms in the spring are sweet-smelling and beautiful! I’ve learned to dry the fruit, make jelly, and share with friends.

We have a large white cherry which faithfully produces a bounty of white cherries each year. These are a favorite of the local birds and squirrels, meaning we have to rush to get any before they do.

Another favorite is a pear tree. It is rather old, but produces the best pears. Unfortunately, we lost another variety of pear last year due to some sort of blight.

An Empire apple tree is next on the list. It too is very overgrown, but it produces a bounty of apples and beautiful blooms in the spring. We have removed some low growing branches to make mowing easier.

Fruit trees require regular pruning if you do it right. We have always had the philosophy of leaving well enough alone, which is our problem. One year my husband decided to prune one of our apple trees, but he pruned the branches from the middle. The idea was to encourage new growth. The next year the plan was to trim the sides.

Unfortunately, the snow settled heavily in the middle of the tree during the winter, causing it to split down the main trunk. In the spring it bloomed profusely and even had tiny apples starting to grow, but sadly there was no way to save it. We had to take it down.

We have made a practice of not spraying our trees, and suffered the consequences of pests, particularly ants. However we are pleased we do not have to worry about chemical contamination of our fruit.

So there you have it, a good starting tutorial on Landscaping Maintenance. I hope this personal account can help you a bit. If you still have more specific questions, feel free to ask.

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