Cork is one of my favorite sustainable materials and I frequently try to squeeze it into design projects (after a short lesson on how great it is, it’s not too hard of a sell).  Add to this list versatility because cork is not just for coasters and flooring, it’s a great non-slip surface in general.  I love this easy project from Martha Stewart to transform a ‘plain jane’ table into an interesting, functional and green piece of furniture.

Cork-Top Table

I think this would look great on a round table or as a replacement for inlaid glass.

Click here for instructions.  You can find cork sheets at your local office supply store.

Happy Weekend!


Hello!  I’m Monica from Paper Cut Industries and I have been asked to be a guest blogger on this wonderful site. I hope to be able to share with all you the things that inspire me and bring beauty to every day. I’ll be covering  things like color, texture, festivities, fashion and so much more.  Here are a few of my favorite things.  I hope you enjoy them and look forward to reading my future blog posts!

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{ F A S H I O N }

Sometimes designing things and getting inspired feels forced, and that never works.  So when I’m “not feelin’ it.”, 1st dibs usually serves as a good muse.   I never leave their site without another pic in the inspiration folder.  It also provides some entertainment, because the prices tend to be stratospheric.  I realize that everyone is not a hands on type of person, but you could literally go to europe for a week, buy the stuff  at a flea market there, then have it shipped back home, for less than what most of the dealers are asking.

Below are a sampling of this weeks virtual shopping trip.  I didn’t include the prices, because you know what they say, “If you have to ask…”

a french bistro table

Wine basket chandelier

A near ancient, Andalucian bench.

All the rage these days, and old bench with linen upholstery.

A Russian armoire (1860)

found 03.01.10

I’m not much of a collector, but maybe I just haven’t found the right collection yet.  These antique architectural and foundry molds are a pretty good contender- I love the varying shapes and sizes and the wood on some of these are just gorgeous.  We’ve been picking them up along the way to put on the shelves at Redefine Home.  Some of them will be going on metal stands, like little architectural sculptures, and some are great just on their own (and some will probably be staying in my home .  Shopping for a living is fun, but better when you get to keep some of the goods!)

Anybody up for a science experiment this weekend?  Maybe you will be after seeing how easy it is to create nifty artwork from mushrooms.  Umm, yeah, it’s seriously cool.

So I found this image on Martha Stewart, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how you were supposed to make the darned things.  The description was like a poem, wordy with lots of lines to read between.  But they looked so cool that I had to persevere.

So I did what any modern day gal would do: I Googled it.

Here’s what I found:

You’ll need paper or illustration board, spray fixative and a bunch of freshly plucked mushrooms.

1. Pick your mushrooms and remove the stems.  If you won’t be doing the project right away, keep the ‘shrooms spore side down and cover them so they don’t dry out.  You’ll want them to be pretty moist when you start.

2. Lay them spore side down on your paper and leave for 24 hours.  It takes this long for them to drop the spores, so don’t move anything or it’ll get messed up (these are helpful hints designed for the impatient, like me…).  Spores either drop light or dark so you may want to test them before you pick a paper color.

3. When you remove the caps 24 hours later you’ll see the pattern of the spores, which will awe and inspire you.  Lightly use the spray fixative to save your creation and allow it to dry completely before framing it, or hanging it on your fridge like a proud kindergartener.

Note: I do realize that a fair number of you may have already done this project, in kindergarten, and if that’s the case just consider me a bit behind the times and take a moment to reminisce and relive those delightful art class days.

Happy Weekend!

To start, I’d like to thank Linsi and David for the opportunity to contribute to one of my favorite design blogs.  MYD’s monthly series will focus on case studies and analyses of buildings that are not only architecturally significant, but are ‘sustainable by design’, meaning they exemplify the basic principles that are fundamental in establishing a ecologically and socially responsible built environment.

For the first case study in this series, we’d like to present a project that has not only inspired us, but has informed and enhanced our understanding of what makes a project sustainable.

The Stryker Sonoma Winery exemplifies the concept of environmentally-responsive and contextually appropriate architecture that serves the needs of the program, while minimizing development impact on the site.  Designed by a local Sonoma firm, Nielsen:Schuh Architects, this project is a beautiful example of site-sensitive design.

Because minimizing a building’s impact on the environment is a critical preliminary consideration early in the design process, the existing conditions should be carefully evaluated with regard to location, programmatic needs and appropriate design strategies.  Stryker Sonoma Winery is responsive to these issues in a number of carefully planned and executed elements described below…

The existing grade of the site hasn’t been disturbed; walls, roads, and the buildings’ footprints follow the natural contours of the land, while the public and private buildings share the same road access.  This limits paving and allows for the preservation of as much natural landscape as possible, while minimizing stormwater runoff.

The interior layout utilizes the gently sloping topography efficiently, with the wine cellars located to take advantage of below-grade thermal efficiency, as seen in the section drawings below.

The existing vineyards have been maintained and are highlighted as a design.  The main building utilizes low walls, made from local stone, as a natural material to connect the occupied visitor spaces above to the natural setting below.  These walls extend into the vineyard, to further underscore a strong relationship to the site.

The buildings are oriented in order to take advantage of prevailing winds for natural ventilation and light, and the built forms respond to the elements by providing shade at the deep roof overhangs, concrete floor and wall systems where appropriate for thermal mass (where heat is absorbed throughout the day and slowly released at night).

Precast concrete louvers provide an architectural language that serves a number of purposes.  The color is derived from the natural stone terrace walls, while the form mimicks the linear nature of the vineyard.  These elements also provide screening for shade at both exterior and interior spaces and become guardrails at certain locations.

MYD had the opportunity to meet Amy Nielsen and Richard Schuh during a recent trip to Northern California and discovered that these architects not only design with sustainability in mind, but they practice a green lifestyle personally as well as professionally.

Their regard and respect for the environment and contextual issues are exemplified in this beautiful, unique, and inspiring project, making it truly ‘sustainable by design’.

For more information, visit http://nielsenschuh.com.

healthy home happy home

From my mother, I inherited a small bum, a sweet tooth and a penchant for a squeaky clean house. PineSol, Mr. Clean, Comet, Windex, Cascade and Mr. Snuggle. Ah, the eighties! From memory, I can freehand the labels for each.

Unfortunately, mom wasn’t aware that the products she used to keep a “healthy” nest were actually quite toxic. Undoubtedly, like so many other folks, she had put too much trust in:

1. the EPA’s ability to protect the US consumer

2. the willingness of companies to properly label their products (honestly, a nice pair of crossbones should be slapped on the lot of them)

Where are we now? The EPA openly admits that it is still WAY behind in the comprehensive investigation of several chemicals – “several” meaning tens of thousands of chemicals behind. Quick history lesson: Since the passage of the Toxic Substance Control Act in 1978 only five substances have ever been banned from the US despite heaps of evidence linking chemicals to disease and illnesses ranging from asthma to cancer. Scary!

And so it meant so much to me that my mom attended my Homemade Cleaning products class at The Ecology Center earlier this month. Homemade cleaning products are truly a cinch to whip up, costs pennies to make and work just as effectively as the toxic, hyper-branded, over-packaged stuff. And, since you make small batches at a time and only when you need them, they don’t take up storage space!

homemade cleaning class at the Ecology Center

Here are three of my most favorite recipes.

Glass Cleaner

1 part distilled white vinegar

8 parts water

* Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil if you’d like. I recommend verbena. Just a few drops goes a long way. Too much and your windows will look streaky.

Fill a clean spray bottle with water, add the vinegar and optional essential oil. Wipe away with a rag or newspaper.

Furniture Polish

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon olive oil

Mix together and apply with a clean cloth. If wood looks oily, simply reduce olive oil.

Non-Marble Countertops

1 lemon

1/2 cup baking soda

Slice the lemon in half. Dip face of lemon into baking soda. Yes, the lemon half is your scrubber. Follow up with a few spritzes of glass cleaner.

If going homemade is not for you, there are brands you can turn to keep your cleaning habits from being, well, so dirty. My personal favorites include Dr. Bronner’s (www.drbronner.com) , Biokleen (biokleenhome.com) and Mrs. Meyer’s (www.mrsmeyers.com).

Happy (Healthy) Cleaning!