16 Stunners In an English Garden Center

After a dry, benign winter in England, the weather fought in April. The country had the wettest April on record, and our gardens have endured. With the arrival of May, we’ve had a respite as well as a opportunity to repair winter damage and replant where required. The end result: Our garden facilities today are bursting at the seams with all the terrific colours of foliage and blossom to lure us.

We are fortunate to have such a range of plants available to us as a result of the mild Gulf Stream–influenced climate, the 19th-century plant hunters as well as the ongoing British passion for gardening.

So here are my notes from an English garden center, which highlight some crops which not only look their best in spring, but also pay their way for the remainder of the year.

Lately, lime green was the”in” colour for house decor and layout. Nature hasn’t missed out on this fad, with Golden Fullmoon Maple (Acer shirasawanum’Aureum’), zones 5 to 7, leading the way.

This acer forms a superbushy, spreading tree reaching 15 to 20 ft on adulthood and provides us rewarding colours at the ends of this year. The light yellow and lime-green leaves in the spring darken in the summer and shine gold in the fall.

Pregrown topiary balls and other shapes are extremely well known in English garden facilities. Box (Buxus spp.) And Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis), U.S. climate zones 8 to 10, are favorites, even though other species such as Photinia’Red Robin’ (Photinia x fraseri’Red Robin’), zones 7 to 9,will also be offered.

Box topiary is usually trimmed in May for the first time once the new spring growth has sprouted. To keep their tight contours, topiaries are subsequently clipped again in midsummer.

A fantastic favorite among annuals planted for borders and containers, as well as for instance, is your old preferred Cosmea. Cosmea Sonata Series (Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sonata Series’), all zones,are wonderful compact plants with feathery, dissected leaves and daisylike flowers with yellow centres. They may be grown from seed, but many anglers purchase young plants in early spring.

The low-growing, shrubby evergreen varieties of Euonymus, such as Euonymus fortunei’Emerald’n Gold’,zones 5 to 9, andEuonymus fortunei’Emerald Gaiety’, zones 4 to 9, have been fantastic favorites for many years as ground cover crops.

New to the marketplace and place to be an excellent favorite isEuonymus japonicus’Pierrolino’, hardy to zone 6. Pierrolino is a compact, dense and bushy evergreen tree which comes alive in spring with rounded white to mottled white leaves.

The Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens), zones 9 to 11,has turned into a fashionable plant in British gardens since the’60s, especially when grown as a standard plant on stalks 2-3 feet tall.

The charming white daisylike flowers (they also come in pinks, yellow and cream), are borne throughout the summer — though just with judicial deadheading. In moderate climates they may be left outside. I gather that includes zones 10 and 11 at the USA, but in Britain we overwinter them under defense.

Spirea japonica ‘Firelight’, zones 4 to 8, is really a firework of a deciduous shrub. In spring it warms with a bright mixture of red, orange and yellow foliage, but its leaves turn green with red young methods for the remainder of year. It provides just a little bonus in late summer with dark purple and pink flowers, but its own spring foliage is the real winner. Compared with a lot of spireas, it’s pretty low growing, reaching approximately 30 inches with about the same spread.

Nemesias are becoming a true favorite of British gardens as summer container crops, and in milder regions, in rock gardens and borders. Nemesia ‘Myrtille’ is possibly the bluest of all the recent introductions. It retains its generous violet-blue flowers from late spring to the first frosts of fall and is compact in growth, which makes an 8-inch mound.

The acid yellow foliage of Sweet Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius’Aureus’), zones 5 to 9, makes an ideal companion for crops such as the Common Hop (Humulus lupulus’Aureus’). The leaves glow in the spring sun and turn greener. This gives an ideal foil for the strongly scented, creamy white flowers.

Sweet Mock Orange’s arching habit implies it can reach a height of 8 ft over a five- to 10-year period, so it’s not a plant for smaller gardens.

Azaleas and rhododendrons are still very popular plants in British gardens. They prefer acidic soils and grow especially well in the southwest with its mild climate.

Plant breeding continues to give us types more suited to contemporary gardens. They are usually compact in habit, with a longer flowering period.

Situated in the 1900s on Yakushima, a little, windswept, mountainous island off the south east coast of Japan, Rhododendron yakushimanum was introduced to the West 50 years ago.

Rhododendron ‘Surrey Heath’is a hybrid of R. yakushimanum and has all the best features of their species. It is a dense, compact shrub with lovely deep green leaves. It has globe clusters of rose-pink flowers on yellow stems in spring. It requires lime-free soil or containers with an ericaceous compost.

For a bigger, spreading rhododendron, R.‘Horizon Monarch’ is a fantastic late spring assortment. It produces vivid red to pink buds in mid-May to early June, which available to large clusters of funnel-shaped, pale yellow flowers with little reddish stripes. This all occurs against a background of leathery, elliptical, dark green leaves.

Phlox divaricata ‘Clouds of Perfume’, zones 4 to 8, is a late spring-flowering phlox that conveys masses of scented light blue flowers above bright green carpeting foliage. It is sturdy and evergreen and should endure for many seasons. Plant phlox at a sunny place by your kitchen door to appreciate its superb cologne to the fullest.

Rarely do we get such vivid yellow foliage in perennials, but this Spiderwort (Tradescantia’Sweet Kate’), zones 5 to 9, is certainly the best. Happiest grown in a moist, fertile soil in full sun, it will flower throughout the summer, with magnificent blue blossoms adorned with its gold foliage.

How to Acquire the Cottage Garden Look

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Iconic San Francisco Victorian Remodel

After surviving two major earthquakes — including the catastrophic one in 1906 — and many homeowners, this 1890 Victorian in San Francisco was in need of some TLC. Homeowner John Clarke Mills purchased the house with the intention of restoring and decorate it with sustainable materials and high tech capabilities. With four years of hard work, he has transformed the home to a beautiful mix of old and new.

at a Glance
Who lives here: John Clarke Mills and housemate Brian Harris
Location: San Francisco
Size: 2,500 square feet; 3 bedrooms, 2 baths
That’s intriguing: After the 1906 earthquake and fire, virtually all of the home’s records were destroyed.

Alex Amend Photography

Mills knocked a wall down between the library and the front parlor to allow light stream through the front part of the house. White columns help visually define both of these spaces.

The house is part of a set of five identical Victorians on the block. “I love that the neighbors compare notes and help each other in sharing personality details for renovations,” says Mills.

Wallpaper: Dhongia; chandelier and sconces: Victorian Lighting Works; columns: Pacific Columns; couch: Craigslist

Alex Amend Photography

During the remodel, a number of the original crown molding at the front parlor has been damaged. Mills was able to fix the segments by hand using clay from an art supply store.

This front parlor remains a work in progress. Mills is having new Victorian-style windows made to your room and intends to complete the decoration afterwards.

Wallpaper: Dhongia

Alex Amend Photography

The traditional Victorian library is decorated with a combination of antiques and Craigslist finds. “The history of the pieces I find are incredible,” says Mills. “Some of the things I have are even older than my house.” The roll top desk at the library is just one of Mills’ favorite finds. Regardless of a local estate sale, it still had its original receipt indoors.

Wallpaper: Dhongia; chandelier and sconces: Victorian Lighting Works; couch: Craigslist

Alex Amend Photography

Custom oak shelving has been stained by Mills (with assistance from his friends and family) to match with the oak banister from the entry and the fireplace in the front parlor. A projection display retracts into the ceiling so that it doesn’t disrupt the home’s decor.

Wallpaper: Dhongia; chandelier and sconces: Victorian Lighting Works; ladder: Putnam Rolling Ladder; wood moldings: San Francisco Victoriana

Alex Amend Photography

Originally the home has been split into two separate units — an upstairs and a downstairs, divided by a wall at the very small entryway. Mills opened the entry and restored the original banister with the assistance of San Francisco Victoriana.

Banister and woodwork: San Francisco Victoriana; newel post: The Woodworks Company

Alex Amend Photography

Although Mills could have preferred natural wood from the dining room, the walls were made using a shiny plywood that couldn’t be refinished. The only option was to use several coats of paint. A bold red was chosen as a sharp contrast to white molding.

Wall paint: Old Flame, Behr

Alex Amend Photography

Mills tore out the brick fireplace at this top living and inserted a new Carrara marble unit to better fit the home’s original design. Although he almost tossed the chandelier, a buddy suggested giving it a fresh coat of paint. The bright orange and custom colors gave the item a fresh appearance.

Fireplace: Valor Fireplaces; chandelier lampshades: Lamps Plus; wall paint: Garden Path, Behr; Weston Flax, Benjamin Moore

Alex Amend Photography

Mills utilized clean-lined, midcentury-inspired pieces in the parlor as a bright and colorful contrast to the traditional first-floor parlor.

Art: Another Shop

Alex Amend Photography

The kitchen was transferred up into the next floor through one of the home’s many renovations. “The former owner needed the kitchen close to his bedroom for some strange reason,” says Mills. “One day I’ll need to move it downstairs.”

Alex Amend Photography

The newly finished backyard was designed by Adam Wooley Landscape Design and Construction. Blue slate tiles operate diagonally to split up the square space. Floating benches and clean horizontal fencing are made out of warm and durable ipe. Low-maintenance grasses, vines, succulents and a tree fern were planted for colour, height and solitude.

Alex Amend Photography

Mills shares his answers to some popular questions:

Your final dream-home item? I have everything I have ever wanted and more. That said, I’m excited about constructing a roof deck.

Four famous people that you’d love to have for dinner? George Nelson, Ray Eames, Charles Eames and Buckminster Fuller.

And that which could be in your soundtrack? Stan Getz.

Your proudest moment? Correcting my dad’s mathematics when he makes mistakes in my endeavors. That doesn’t happen often.

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The Ecofriendly Kitchen: Light Your Kitchen Right

Smart kitchen lighting goes beyond replacing your old bulbs with more efficient models. Reducing energy consumed by lighting doesn’t have to be hard with a kitchen that’s designed for flexibility and uses their very energy-efficient lighting of natural daylight.

Look to your light switches as an important place to conserve money and energy, because turning unnecessary lights off or dimming them reduces energy intake.
Dimmers provide flexibility and conserve energy. Dimming a light by half may cut electric use by 40 percent. Dimmers also extend the life of the bulb. Note: Dimmers don’t utilize most fluorescent bulbs. Multiple switches provide flexibility, allowing you to turn on just the right amount of lights. At minimum, your general overhead lighting, accent pendants and undercabinet lighting should be changed separately. When planning your switches, also consider how you may use lighting for different times of day and various events.

Chr DAUER Architects

This kitchen is an top-notch example of fantastic lighting and certainly illustrates the three types of interior lighting:
Ambient: In this kitchen, the more recessed can lights and the hardly detectable uplighting in addition to the upper cabinets will be the ambient (or general) light source, which delivers an area with general lighting. Task: Here the pendants over the table and the undercabinet lighting will be the task lighting, which helps you perform specific tasks, such as cooking and preparing meals. Accent: This kitchen’s pendants also act as accent lighting, which generates visual interest.This kitchen additionally incorporates natural daylight with a skylight and a bank of windows at counter level.

Paul Davis Architects

Natural Daylight

Reduce your need for artificial light and benefit from natural daylight as a free method to illuminate your kitchen during daylight hours. Besides, who doesn’t love a stunning light-filled space?

North- and south-facing windows are optimal for bringing in natural light. Northern light is thicker and unaccompanied by glare or direct light (which brings with it heat). South-facing windows can present direct light, but that light isn’t hard to control with brief exterior overhangs designed to maintain direct light out during hotter months. The daylight (and related heat gain) from east- and west-facing windows is the toughest to control but may be counteracted with exterior window or plant coverings.

Smith & Vansant Architects PC

Natural daylight with no top cabinets. Among my favorite kitchen layout moves is the removal of top cupboards in exchange for more windows. I avoid conventional upper cupboards because the space below them even with undercabinet lighting — is often dark and less usable. Without upper cabinets in the kitchen, the full depth of the perimeter counters is more usable and the work surfaces are bathed in natural light during the day, meaning light fixtures can be kept off.

Moroso Construction

Natural daylight with top cabinets. Smart designs, like this kitchen, can avoid the openings of top cabinets. This kitchen employs bright, reflective surfaces and also an undercabinet window to maintain work areas bright during the day.

Tracery Interiors

Natural daylight with skylights. Introducing natural light doesn’t require investing in wall space for windows. Look (up) into skylights for a wonderful means to deliver daylight for your kitchen work surfaces. This kitchen includes no lights turned on, and the island is beautifully awash with bright all-natural light.

Feldman Architecture, Inc..

Natural daylight from remote sources. This kitchen doesn’t have access to windows or a skylight, but it’s light stuffed thanks to a clever design that borrows daylight from another story.

Venegas and Company

Light-Colored Surfaces

Surfaces, especially countertops, which are light colored and reflective will make the maximum use of the light cast upon them.

Charlie & Co.. Design, Ltd

Bulbs for Kitchen Lighting

Three types of bulbs, or lamps, since they are known in the lighting industry, are most typical in current kitchen layout:
Incandescent: Thank you, Thomas Edison, for allowing us to relegate candles to birthday cakes and intimate evenings, instead of having to use them for our primary lighting. Although incandescents were the lighting standard for decades, the lighting industry is fast moving away from multicolored bulbs — even creating some bulbs illegal. And for good reason: a 100-watt bulb is 2.1 percent efficient, generating about 2 g of light and 98 levels of heat. Compact fluorescent: CFLs are everyone’s go-to efficient bulb however, similar to eight-tracks or compact discs, their time together with us may be brief. While these bulbs use about a third or less of their energy an incandescent utilizes, CFLs are not simple to dim, contain mercury (although some mercury-free choices are available) and are being outperformed by LEDs. LED: Light-emitting diode lamps and fixtures need to be your brand new go-to for efficient artificial light, with increased efficacy over CFLs and a life span that’s six times longer. Costs have been plummeting as demand has risen.

The Federal Trade Commission is making it easier for consumers to compare lightbulbs by requiring labels on bulb bundles which are similar to nutrition labeling. The straightforward label offers everything you need to know, such as brightness (lumens), estimated operating costs, expected life length and light look (color temperature).

Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy


Lighting Lumens (Brightness)

With newer lightbulbs made to use less energy, wattage is no longer an effective way to gauge a bulb’s brightness, so the industry is changing from watts to lumens. This graph gives a simple guide to lumens based on equal incandescent bulb wattage.


Lighting Color Temperature

Color temperature is the way light seems to us warm, natural or cool. You can dramatically alter the character of a room with a lamp’s color temperature. Look for color temperature, known as “light look” on the brand new lighting fact labels.

12 Ways to Light Your Kitchen With LEDs
Kitchen Islands: Pendant Lights Done Right
LED, CFL and Other Green Lighting Options
How to Choose and Use Ecofriendly Kitchen Appliances

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How to Rent Your Downstairs Apartment

It’s becoming more common to observe that a garage or first floor of a home turned into an apartment for lease income. These types of flats are often called in-law units, named after a location for your own mother-in-law to stay when visiting. Usually an in-law unit is a studio or one bedroom that has its own entry, a simple kitchen and small living room. Renting your in-law unit can allow you to pay your mortgage and stay on top of your monthly expenses. Renting these types of units is much like renting any different sort of housing.

Learn the legalities of having an in-law unit on your city or community. Laws regarding these types of apartment change by city, especially concerning issues like rent control. In-law units, guest houses and so on may signify that you’re turning your property into a multifamily construction; Assess the city codes to ensure your region is zoned appropriately by consulting with a layout contractor or contacting your local city’s Building and Inspection Department.

Repair any damages in the unit. Renting any type of apartment comes with a legal obligation, such as in-law or guest spaces. Carpeting has to be set up properly to prevent someone from tripping over a loose corner, the ideal amount of smoke sensors should be included, loose staircase or planks need to be fixed and anything such as mould or peeling paint ought to be addressed immediately.

Check with your insurance coverage to find out if it covers a separate unit or renters. Though the downstairs unit may be technically in precisely the same building as your residence, the insurance carrier may see it as a separate entity and require extra coverage.

Verify that your home will be able to manage the additional plumbing and electricity requirements. It’s quite different to have out of town guests stay in the unit once in awhile than to have a renter living there full time. Plumbing backups can be expensive and electricity overloads may be dangerous, even causing fire. Have a certified plumber and electrician, respectively, do a comprehensive inspection.

Cost the unit in accordance with market value. Research what additional in-law and guest units go for in your area. These units tend to be slightly less than conventional studio or one bedroom apartments since they are usually on the ground and often toward the back of the main home. In-law units also tend to be compact in accordance with smaller than normal kitchen and bathrooms.

Choose tenants with caution. Though you’re renting out the unit yourself, you will still be a real estate manager. The tenant will need to be answerable, which means minimal damages and paying the rent on time. Have all potential tenants fill out a rental program with employment information and references. The candidates must also provide you with a credit report. Pick the tenant who will be able to pay for the rent, based on his income, and one who is held in high regard from previous landlords.

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How Many Kitchen Recessed Lights Do I Need?

When calculating the amount of recessed lighting fixtures you require, you need to take into consideration the square footage to be illuminated and the angle of the light pattern projected by each fixture, which depends on the type of bulbs you are using. The height of the ceiling is a third variable, but you can often compensate for a higher ceiling using slick bulbs, not adding more of them.

Bulb Identification

Recessed lighting bulbs are usually identified by one of four sets of letters followed by two numbers. The letters describe the form of the bulb, and options include PAR — parabolic aluminized reflector; BR — bulged reflector; MR — multifaceted reflector and R — reflector. The numbers indicate the bulb diameter in eights of an inch. As an example, the amount 30 means that the arc diameter is 30/8, or 3 3/4 inches in diameter. The most frequent bulbs are PAR and BR lights; PAR bulbs are far concentrated and will be the better option for fixtures.

Use an Online Calculator

Besides a measurement of the flooring area, you also need to understand the angle of the projected light in the fittings you intend on using. This angle is usually given on the packaging, but, otherwise, use a default angle of 55 degrees for BR-type bulbs. Plug these numbers into an internet calculator, like the one available at RecessedLighting.com, which saves you the trouble of creating the detailed mathematical calculations yourself. The calculator requires the type of room you intend to light into consideration, which is difficult to do yourself.

A Sample Calculation

To perform the calculation, you have to assess the width and length of the kitchen and then convert the numbers to ins. If your kitchen is 25 feet long by 20 feet wide, that’s 300 ins by 240 inches. You’ll also have to assess the height of the ceiling in feet. In case your 20-by-25-foot kitchen includes 9-foot ceilings, then you will need 18 to 20 BR-type lights. A 10-by-10-foot kitchen, on the other hand, would require only four bulbs.

Placement Pointers

Although PAR-type bulbs are best used outside, they are sometimes recommended for ceilings greater than 16 feet. Even though they have a tighter beam, you don’t need more of them because they’re brighter. Once you understand the number of bulbs you require, you can decide on a pattern that best illuminates the space. The layout doesn’t have to be rotating — a concentric circular or triangular arrangement frequently works better than the usual rectangular pattern.

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How Soon to Plant After Tilling?

Tilling turns and mixes the soil to aerate it, improve drainage and also make it simpler to plant in. Tilling can also free buried weed seeds and also disrupt the delicate balance of microorganisms that keep the nutrients in the soil. When to till your garden is located in part on the number of months you grow vegetables. You’ll need to wait at least a few weeks prior to planting, but waiting a few months is better. A comprehensive tilling once a year typically is enough to keep your lawn soil healthy, so select the time that works best for the gardening program.

Why Fall or Winter Are Best

Benefits from many fertilizers, dirt correctors or compost aren’t immediate. It often takes weeks or even months for the nutrients to break down, spread through the dirt and become available for plants to absorb. If you garden mostly in the spring and summertime, tilling in autumn gives these nutrients that the time they need before spring plantings start demanding food. If you keep growing cool-weather crops in autumn, wait till you crop them before tilling in the beach. In the case of compost or manure used as additives to produce soil less dense, this allows time for the dirt and additive to mix fully. Also, tilling turns grass seeds nearer to the surface, frequently allowing the exposure to the winter elements kill them so they won’t sprout in spring. Tilling in the autumn or winter means you can plant vegetables earlier in the spring without the requirement to await spring tilling delays.

Spring Touch-Ups

Tilling thoroughly in the autumn or winter means your lawn needs only a mild tilling to prepare for a new round of plants since the weather starts to warm in spring. This helps combat any compaction that happened once you harvest your summertime or late-fall crops. If you until the ground nicely in the autumn or early winter, the spring demands a shallow, fast pass with the rototiller immediately prior to planting. Utilize a lawn rake to smooth the ground slightly to keep your rows even prior to planting.

Tilling in Spring

Tilling in spring may delay your planting marginally, but it’s still possible to have a wholesome garden if you don’t take a lot of break in growing vegetables. Till the soil once it reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit, using a quick-release fertilizer as opposed to a slow-release one if you would like to fertilize while tilling. Wait two to three weeks after tilling before planting seeds or seedlings. This gives helpful microorganisms disrupted from the tilling period to reestablish and begin developing nutrients in the soil. Tilling in spring exposes weed seeds, like tilling in the autumn or winter, but in lieu of heat them away, it warms them up and helps prepare them for germination. This could mean much more weeds than when you until later in the year.

Tilling Tips

Whether you complete a thorough tilling in the autumn, spring or winter, work additives about 6 to 8 inches into the ground. Watering the area for approximately an hour per day for two to three days before you until makes it easier to get the job done. The soil should be damp enough to hold its shape when squeezed into a ball, but not soggy. Place the tiller to a medium depth first, like 3 to 4 inches, then until the lawn in parallel rows. Establish the tines to dig deeper , down to 6 to 8 inches, then make passes perpendicular to the original rows. The ensures you work the additives evenly and deep into the dirt, and that it is loose heavy enough for all vegetables, including root vegetables, which are often some of the first vegetables to plant in the spring. At Mediterranean-style climates, where it is possible to garden the majority of the year, pick the time when you plan to take a break at least fourteen days long between removing spent plants and planting new ones, often in early January.

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DIY Vintage Kitchen Decor

The small things make the biggest difference in a customized vintage kitchen. An authentic vintage kitchen, over time, would inherit accents, accessories and fixes which were distinctive and one-of-a-kind. Make your very own clever decor items — which each have an individual postage — using cast-offs, recycled cookware and unexpected juxtapositions to function functional as well as ornamental purposes.

New “Old” Knobs

“Theme” the knobs on your kitchen cabinets using a simple decoupage trick that looks like a customized accent. Remove the old cabinet hardware and buy some bare wood cabinet knobs. Paint the knobs to coincide with a walk-in cabinet or built-in cabinets. Print pictures to match on the flatter front of the knobs, or cut designs out of novels or gift-wrap paper — fleur-di-lis, stars, shells, cameo ovals of old-fashioned botanicals, or a different design that picks up on your kitchen theme. Spray the newspaper decals with matte clear fixative to prevent color bleed or tearing when you affix them to your knobs. Then decoupage the layouts to the knobs and spray a few coats of the clear sealer over the full knob so it will be simple to wipe clean once it’s attached to the closet.

Spinning Platters and Record Time

Disguise a cheap plastic Lazy Susan with old vinyl. Paint a 33 rpm album with clear polyurethane to protect it. If it dries, use industrial adhesive to ensure the record to this Lazy Susan base. Park it on the countertop to hold spices or on the breakfast bar for condiments. Attach the battery-operated workings of a clock to the rear of a vinyl album, with the fingers on the record face connected through the spindle hole. Hang your rock-around-the-clock timepiece over the sink.

Primitive Pendant

A vintage grain sieve, using its around wood frame and screen surface, becomes a new pendant lamp for a rustic kitchen nearly as quickly as you’re able to change a light bulb. Simply salvage the working guts of a trash-ready pendant — the wire and lighting socket — and screw the lamp wire through a length of hardened chain sprayed with clear fixative to stabilize the rust. Spray the sieve screen with clear lacquer too, as it’s either hardened or soon will be. Cut a crosshatch hole in the center of the screen using a wire cutter, and thrust the lamp wire through so the lighting fixture is on the interior of the sieve. Connect the lamp wire to the ground wiring and hook the chain to the joist or brace, then replace the ceiling medallion or pendant canopy, and screw in a vintage-style light bulb.

Wash-Up Board

A vintage cutting board along with an old teacup would be the ingredients for a handy soap and towel station beside the sink. Leave the stains and scratches on the old board as-is, and give it a couple of coats of matte polyurethane to prevent mold and make it simple to wipe down. Or whitewash the board, then use a small crackle glaze to trend some of this paint, and sand the edges to simulate wear. Cut the cup in half using a tile saw and paste it to the cutting board using industrial glue. Beneath the tea cup, then screw a painted ceramic or curved wood cabinet knob in the very board. Hang the cutting board to a wall, set a bar of soap in the teacup, and curtain a kitchen towel over the knob.

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Antique Sewing Machines: Tailor Made for Nostalgic Decor

My maternal grandmother, Nana, would have been 100 years old this season if she had been still with us. She was a master carpeting sewer before the late 1960s. A few years after retiring from the trade, she began having grandchildren, and her lifelong sewing skills were transferred into an yearly tradition of making us kids some of our most memorable Halloween costumes.

Around the time that my brother was born, Nana decided to replace her newfangled Sears sewing machine using a simpler model, similar to those old carpeting sewing machines she understood so well. She discovered the 1928 model you see at a secondhand shop in San Francisco for $15. She felt that cost was a ripoff for what was then only an old machine.

Today this 85-year-old classic is among my most prized possessions. My mom gave it to me when I showed interest in making Halloween costumes for my own children about 10 years back. While my sewing abilities are underwhelming, my passion for giving my kids what Nana gave me fueled me to persevere. I resorted to attaching neighbors who have any kind of sewing skills inside my dining room to help me finish a catchy princess collar or a confusing pair of genie pants.

Today my kids have moved on to more complex (read: store-bought) costumes. I am OK with this, since I do not have the hours to dedicate to this yearly action. But that precious Singer nevertheless has a prominent role in my dining room, today as a meaningful decorative piece on the credenza.

Sarah Greenman

Waxing nostalgic. There is something about an old sewing machine which stops many people in our tracks to ogle its beauty and to question exactly what it created in somebody else’s hands decades ago. Employing an antique sewing machine and its parts to decorate the home creates a dichotomy using the high tech, fast lifestyle we lead now.

Let’s see how other ers are utilizing classic sewing machines and their accompaniments to decorate. Perhaps you, too, will be motivated enough to pull out that old sewing machine which was bequeathed to you long ago. Halloween or not, an antique like this requires no specific season to be valued.

Colleen Brett

The residents of the home chose to showcase an old Singer on its original table in the entryway. This original impression sets the stage for other vintage treasures guests are very likely to find in the house.

Frank Shirley Architects

This sunroom has an antique sewing table minus the machine. The colours nicely offset the whites that are resounding.

Jennie Hunt

A Singer treadle (the part of the sewing machine run by the foot to produce a rotary motion) has been topped with a slab of rock to make a helpful garden feature.

Restyled Home

Another idea would be to use the treadle for a foundation to get a terrace table.

Sarah Greenman

This homeowner did something similar by placing a piece of scrap marble beneath a Singer treadle near a banquette.

Southern Traditions Window Fashions

Sewing machine tables could be upcycled into bedside tables. A wooden headboard in a similar tone with black metallic details creates visual continuity in this furniture arrangement.

Rikki Snyder

Smaller racks can result in excellent writing desks or makeup tables.

It’s possible to leave the racks in their normal state or provide them a coating of paint which is most suitable for their new home.

On the lookout for a new bar console? One of these smaller sewing machine stands makes a fine low-profile setup.

Lands End Development – Designers & Builders

The bathroom may appear to be an unlikely place to find an old sewing machine, but this homeowner makes it appear so right as a one-of-a-kind vanity.

Sharon Charboneau, RESA Guru, Interior Stylist

Or do something crazy and use a table the way it’s intended. It is paired with a contemporary machine here in order to emphasize the different eras.

Jeanette Lunde

Do not forget about the other tools which have classic sewing machines, including the beautiful boxes which maintain the thread, bobbins, needles and other accoutrements.

Sarah Greenman

When emptied of the original contents, these accordion-style expandable boxes can be a trove for TV remotes, tablets or whatever you need alongside a bed, desk or sofa.

Dianne Sheridan Designs

Where to find classic sewing machines and accompanying parts. Craigslist and eBay are all great places to start, because of the numerous areas they cover. On a local level, hit up antiques dealers and flea market vendors, who are constantly getting finds from home.

Heather Merenda

Do not forget about your local sewing repair shop. Shopkeepers may have old machines which were never picked up, or they could be conduits to other people interested in offloading what they’ve found in Grandma’s attic.

Your turn: How have you used a sewing machine or its parts to decorate?

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Championing the Solar House

Based on author and teacher Anthony Denzer, a solar house — one which deliberately utilizes the energy of sunlight for heating spaces — is often considered as a product of the 1970s: “An eccentrically shaped structure using oversized sloped glass walls and also diagonal bamboo siding … an earth berm … a Volkswagen van neighboring”

He admits that this picture is not completely untrue, since many architects tackled house designs in that period that could minimize the use of fossil fuels, ravaged by the petroleum and financial disasters. But it’s an incomplete image.

Denzer’s The Solar House (Rizzoli, 2013) corrects this oversight by forecasting the growth of solar houses in the 1930s to today. It is a narrow subject, but the book is a fun, accessible read. Denzer has created a story of those architects and architects who devoted much of their lives to searching for houses that could utilize less energy, as social and political currents ebbed and flowed with and contrary to them.

A general story of solar houses could be painted because the contradictory attitudes of two fields: the architects’ aesthetic and fascination with passive heating versus the engineers’ technological and busy (mechanistic) focus. This is a place which Denzer spends some time and it is an especially important one, considering that we have not reached a reconciliation that might enable more widespread appreciation of solar houses. This isn’t to say that the story is about a duel of 2 groups. But it is indicative of broader strands in American society — especially concerns of how things seem and how things perform.

Denzer starts the novel with Fred Keck, called the first solar architect. Keck worked with his brother William at the firm Keck + Keck, designing a number of residences in and around Chicago. Many focused on the development of the solar house as a special type. The characteristics they share are linear east-west plans using big, south-facing windows and roof overhangs to block the high sunlight.

Howard Sloan commissioned Fred to design a prototype solar house from the North Shore Chicago suburb of Glenview in 1940. Sloan opened the house to the public, charging a dime entrance to more than 5,000 visitors in four months. He hoped that the cozy interior on cold winter days would persuade people of the virtues of solar houses.

Keck would keep working for Sloan, integrating new materials and technology (triple-pane glazing to decrease heat loss from inside to outside during the nighttime, radiant heating etc.) at a 24-house subdivision they called Solar Park. Keck had developed operable and insulated louvers which were often beneath the south-facing glass; these assemblies permitted for ventilation throughout the day while helping keep the interior temperature during the nighttime when closed.

Pictured is the Duncan House in another Chicago suburb, Flossmoor. It included the very same components (linear plan, south-facing windows, roof overhangs) but also exterior “wing walls” using adjustable vertical louvers for cutting back on the late-afternoon sun in the months when overheating of the interior occurred.

The Keck brothers were not really known for its solar houses they developed from the 1940s (they had been omitted from Sigfried Giedion’s influential Space, Time and Architecture although he toured their houses). Instead it was a few houses Fred Keck made for the 1933 Century of Progress fair in Chicago, both glass houses rather than solar. The House of Tomorrow (photograph) and Crystal House both featured all-glass outside walls with blinds and drapes, respectively, for shading.

The houses were extremely popular, but their intent and appeal were formal rather than practical; they pointed to an alternative future through the use of glass. However, Keck did recognize the benefits of solar heating, which led him to develop houses within the next decade using much more selective glazing. With so much single-pane glass, the House of Tomorrow would overheat during the day and lose heat during the night, something which didn’t dissuade Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson from producing ineffective glass houses almost 20 years after.

The solar houses that pepper Denzer’s book consequently resemble the 1970s stereotype, rather than glass houses, but they’re the 1970s typology in the making. There is a Frank Lloyd Wright “hemicycle” house, a similar but inverted curved house by the Keck brothers, amid work by less-known architects that created houses inside academic institutions or for companies which would benefit from the implementation of solar houses. In the latter vein, Libby-Owens-Ford commissioned notable architects to design solar houses for each of the 48 states at the time; at the end just a publication of these designs was produced, not the actual houses, but the initial hopes were high.

Architect Henry Wright’s renovation of this Ramirez House at Pennsylvania (photograph) employs the same principles as the Kecks’ pioneering work. However, its wood floor didn’t allow for the sun’s energy to be saved and released later, as happens in concrete flooring. From talks of the house came an emphasis on thermal mass as an significant part solar houses.

Many schools worked on developing solar house designs, especially MIT using its own numbered series of house designs starting in 1939. As can be viewed here, Solar House I, developed by engineer Hoyt Hottel, concentrated on technology over architecture.

The south-facing roof was covered in flat-plate collectors, or heat traps, which Denzer defines as “a shallow vessel, comprising three glass places split by airspace, a black-painted copper plate backed by copper tubes of water, and 51/2 inches of mineral wool insulation” The sun would heat the plates and so the water, knowingly heating the distances through mechanical way.

Maria Telkes an engineer at MIT who developed an alternative scheme to Hottel’s, worked with architect Eleanor Raymond to a house using a similar reliance on technology but one whose kind and aesthetics would likewise benefit the layout. The Dover Sun House positioned Telkes’ collectors (created with phase-change salt containers) above south-facing windows, so the residents could have views and the sun’s heat will be saved to heat the interior via bins above the ceiling.

A testament to the popularity of this Dover Sun House, in addition to the desire for houses that could use less energy at the postwar years, can be seen at a cover story of Popular Science at 1949. Unfortunately the system lasted just two years, because of the sedimentation of the solid and liquid sodium and the corrosive effects of the component on the bins.

The attempts on the part of engineers and architects growing solar houses in the years before and after World War II culminated from the 1955 World Symposium on Applied Solar Energy and the 1957 Solar Energy exhibition at Greece. So many solar houses were built after 1955 that, as Denzer states, “documentation could be impossible,” but it wasn’t enough to stave off the low cost of electricity and the growth of air conditioning in these years.

Nevertheless, Denzer presents some novel projects from such years, such as engineer Masanosuke Yanagimachi’s Solar House II in Tokyo. The interior resembles that of a traditional Japanese house, with tatami mats and translucent panels, but in addition, it has radiant ceiling panels functioned by rooftop heat traps, as in Hottel’s MIT design.

Yanagimachi’s Solar House II is among many projects documented in the publication with architectural drawings. This building section illustrates how the systems are tied together, in the rooftop heat sink and radiant ceiling panels to the innovative heating tank in the cellar.

The latter was used for both heating and cooling; in the case of heating, the heat pump created ice during the night which was used the next day to cool the water pumped through the house. The idea of off-peak ice storage has become increasingly common in green buildings, even in skyscrapers.

Denzer calls for the late 1970s a “Solar Renaissance,” suitable given that Jimmy Carter mounted solar hot-water panels atop the White House in 1979 (to be removed by Ronald Reagan seven years later). Among those jobs from this time period is Saskatchewan Conservation House, that resembles early solar houses in form but departs from them in important ways: It’s smaller and fewer windows, it doesn’t rely on most of the engineered technologies in the prior decades, and it is superinsulated. The latter feature is its most lasting, influencing the current Passivhaus fundamentals and Canada’s R-2000 app.

The basic idea of the superinsulated and supertight house is that the heat inside the interiors (some of it coming from solar gain) is not lost to the exterior. Fresh air is brought in by an air-to-air heat exchanger, as is the case from the Conservation House. The house performed so well — attaining what could be referred to as net-zero status — which the solar collectors mounted above the second-floor windows could have been omitted, as they were not needed for space heating.

Denzer finishes the book with a few snapshots of solar houses today. These fall to the superinsulated camp of houses created to Passivhaus fundamentals, like this 1991 house in Germany by Wolfgang Feist and others; and the biennial Solar Decathlon contests, where student teams design and build houses that vie to be the roughest at a number of measured manners. The latter more closely resemble the pioneering work of this Kecks, however, the work from the competitions also attempts to synthesize architectural and engineering considerations, arising through multidisciplinary teams and incorporated layout.

The Solar House

It is apparent from Denzer’s publication that there is more to solar houses than previously known or imagined. However, it’s also obvious that there is still lots of work that should be performed to synthesize the aesthetic and the technological, and also to persuade the people that solar houses are viable and desirable.

Increasing energy prices may create solar houses more desirable in the last few years and decades to come, so it’s time for architects and engineers to work together on producing solutions that tap into these Denzer so eloquently presents.

More: Back to the Future of the Home

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Portrait of a Terribly Good Neighbor

Years ago my friend Billy called me, distressed. It was summertime, and he had been feeling overwhelmed trying to take care of his lawn and gardens. Billy had been a homeowner for only a year and had been looking forward to planting heirloom tomatoes, herbs and cherry trees in the large plot the prior owner had tucked behind the doorway, but flowers? He didn’t know where to start.

I’m his only friend who gardens, and he wondered if I’d come over and help him out. I was happy to help.

Billy had purchased his house by an older woman called Ronnie, who died a few months after she moved. What amuses the pleading telephone call was a remark from his next-door neighbor, Diane, who said, “Ronnie will be rolling in her grave if she could see what you’ve done for her garden, Billy.” This has been spoken in the robust baritone most women can attain only after at least 50 decades of smoking. Believe Patty or Selma from The Simpsons.

Amy Renea

Billy and I laughed about that later, however, he’s a good guy and wanted to become a great neighbor. The yard didn’t look terrible, however Ronnie, with the help of her daughter at the next decades, had kept up everything so meticulously, anything less than ideal was a mess by comparison. I gave the gardens a good weeding and redug the borders so everything was neat and clean. Billy stayed on top of mulching and mowing the yards, and kept everything in fairly good shape for many seasons.

He gave gardening a shot, planting some shrubs and trees, and also for a couple summers he put in enormous vegetable gardens with over 30 varieties of berries. But he found it hard to maintain. He travels a lot, sometimes for weeks on end. The flower gardens he dismissed entirely. We talked about my coming again to form through the plants he wanted to eliminate and those that he wanted to maintain. I was prepared, but he had been gone so much, and I had been busy with three kids, not to mention preserving my own yards and gardens. A few summers passed my coming over to help him out.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

The gardens were already looking scruffy when one of those two towering pines at the back of Billy’s house was hit by lightning. The best 20 feet fell over but not entirely off. Billy owns a portable sawmill and believed milling the boards but not got around to it, so almost half of the shrub dangled there with a mess of branches beneath it for a couple years.

In the meantime Diane, his neighbor, had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Billy took over meals and often checked in. Even though Diane kept up her spirits up, the prognosis was grim. One afternoon, when she and Billy were outdoors, she pointed into the pines and said, “I am afraid I’m going to expire and that tree will still be there.”

Billy was preparing for the weeks-long excursion he takes every summer for work. It had been the worst time for him to take care of a large project, but he called a tree support to decrease the top of the tree along with a friend to help him haul away the brush. He then begged me to come over straight away to handle the gardens again.

It was a steaming-hot moment. I knew he had been about to leave on his big trip. Additionally, I knew the beds had been failed all summertime, at least, and it was already August. I thought that he may as well wait a couple more weeks before the weather cooled and do a large drop cleanup. I was happy to lend a hand, but what was the rush?

He clarified about Diane. He didn’t know if she would continue to be alive in a different month, and he wanted to do anything he could to help her. As ridiculous as it seemed, getting his lawn cleaned up was likely her dying wish.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

The following morning my daughter Eden and I must do the job. I introduced a tarp and weeded ruthlessly, pulling many of those plants I knew Billy didn’t like. It was a hot afternoon and the dirt was hard, so it was lots of work. Eden was only 5 years old, but she worked like a champ, hauling debris away and laying mulch. Billy mowed and trimmed some of the shrubs that were overgrown. It was not long until what was shaping up and looking great.

Diane detected and came out to observe, dragging her oxygen tank and smoking a cigarette. Billy tried to introduce us, but she cut him off — she recalled me from the last time. She came over to where I had been in my knees weeding and shook her head.

“Alison, don’t bother,” she said. “You’re going to do all this work, make it looking so great, and Billy’s only going to destroy everything.” She took a long haul and shot him a look of disdain.

I smiled. “I know what it’s like to make a mess of things, also Billy’s been there for me many times over time. I am happy to help.”

“You’re a great friend.” The clear implication: better than Billy deserved.

She stuck around to watch while we ended up, and it was apparent she had been delighted with the outcome.

Diane expired a few weeks later. In the funeral her husband advised Billy how much she loved hanging out in the yard while she was able to leave her bed. She commented several times how glad she had been Billy had gotten everything cleaned up.

You may be asking yourself, did he keep up the garden? No, he didn’t. Diane was right; he ruined everything. A case could be made which Billy is a terrible neighbor, however I believe there’s an equally convincing argument to be made that he’s one of the very best.

Next: Billy’s strategy to housekeeping

More: The Unsung Power of a Good Neighbor

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