The use of mirrors may be one of the great trade secrets of interior design, designers have long utilized mirrors for years to reflect light and texture, to create interesting patterns, make a space feel larger, or simply to add drama to a room lacking in personality. The wonderful thing about mirrors is that they multiply whatever is placed in front of them; they enhance both natural and artificial light and actually add depth by reflecting textures. Mirrors come in all shapes and sizes, can be hung on the wall or even a ceiling, can be polished, antiqued, or distorted.
Feng Shui masters use mirrors to remedy many different problems presented in interiors, including hanging them over work surfaces where you could have someone “sneak” up on you from behind. This allows you to maintain a visual of the space directly behind you at any time. A mirror can also be used to bring nature in by being placed across from a window and reflecting the outdoors in. They can also be used to counteract design flaws, like a sharp angle that dissects into a space by being hung directly across from the flaw and reflecting it back.
Mirrors make an elegant finish for furniture, which continues to make a chic design statement. Mirrored screens can be used to brighten up a dark corner, or a mirrored chest can be used in a small space, like a foyer to make it feel larger. Mirrored tables of all shapes and sizes can enhance almost any décor.
A collection of mirrors hung on a wall create an eclectic look, frameless mirrors lend themselves well to more contemporary design and mirrors with heavy gilded frames are right at home in traditional spaces. To make rooms feel bigger, use tall mirrors spaced across the wall to brighten and therefore enlarge a space. Distorted mirrors, made from polished metal, create interesting reflections that will change with the amount of light within the room.
If lighting is insufficient for a space, mirrors can help to enhance the existing lighting. Placing mirrors in dark corners will both multiply the light and expand the space. Candle light is doubled by the reflection in a mirror and will create a festive environment, perfect for this time of year. With all of these, and many more applications for mirrors, designers can utilize them in virtually every space and every project.
What is Solid-State Lighting?
LEDs are part of a family of lighting technologies called Solid-State lighting. LEDs have the potential to revolutionize the efficiency, appearance, and quality of lighting as we know it.
Light Emitting Diodes are among the most energy-efficient light sources available on the market. LED lamps are already today more than five times more efficient than incandescent lamps and future technical achievements offer additional potential for the coming years.
At present, artificial lighting accounts for around 19% of global electricity consumption – that corresponds to 2.4% of worldwide primary energy consumption. 70% of the energy used for artificial lighting is consumed by lamps for which there are more energy-efficient alternatives. Simply replacing conventional light sources with LEDs would theoretically halve global electricity consumption for lighting. The potential savings are therefore enormous. From http://www.osram-os.com.
What should I know before buying an LED lighting product?
1. Look for the Energy Star logo to ensure a quality product with a minimum three year warranty
2. Make sure you have a compatible dimmer switch. Manufacturers can provide a list of approved dimmers.
3. Make sure you have the correct color of light, there are several options.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the quick adoption of LED lighting can:
1. Deliver savings of about $256 billion in 20 years.
2. Avoid building 40 new power plants.
3. Reduce electricity demand by 33% in 2027.
The entrance to your home should be welcoming and make a statement about who you are, even if it’s not the primary entrance to your home. The front entrance is a way of transitioning from the outside world into your space and can set the stage for the entire home.
Specifically, a well-lit entrance will help guests to find your home and help you to identify and welcome them. A wall lantern should be hung on each side of the front entrance (a single lantern for secondary entrances is fine). The size of the lanterns should be between 1/3 to 1/6 the size of the door, this can depend on the style and scale you want to convey. Lanterns should be hung approximately 66 inches above the threshold.
If you have a porch or an overhang use a lantern or a flush mount fixture if there are height constraints. It’s a good idea for the exterior to coordinate with the interior for a cohesive look. You also may consider installing a dimmer switch for the exterior lights. Just as is the case with your interior space, you may want to adjust lighting levels according to your needs.
Landscape lighting is also an important component. It can help with way-finding and increase safety. Make sure to light the pathway and any surface transitions or steps. Pathway lights can be spaced 8 to 10 feet apart.
On the interior, you can create a sense of drama or welcoming with the lighting. A beautiful chandelier can set the stage or for smaller entrances, a flush mount or semi-flush ceiling fixture will work. To determine the size, add the length and the width (in feet) of the foyer together. This number is the proper width (in inches) of the fixture you need. The bottom of the fixture should not be below 7 feet above the floor. If there is a window above the door, hang a chandelier or lantern to be centered in the window so it is visible from the outside.
You may also want to add wall sconces on either side of a mirror or artwork. Select a size and scale appropriate to the space and place these approximately 60 inches above the finished floor.
The proper lighting is the finishing touch to any design and will help to convey the feel and effect that you desire for your spaces, indoors and out.
Most of us by now realize the importance of reducing energy consumption, according to Energy Star, Americans prevented 37 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2006 alone––equivalent to the annual emissions from 25 million vehicles. And savings are on track to nearly double again in the next ten years. We can all help to further that goal by specifying Energy Star light fixtures from BellacorPro.com, every compact fluorescent bulb (cfl) can prevent nearly 500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime!
According to Energy Star, the energy used in the average home can be responsible for more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions of the average car. If every home in America replaced the five most frequently used light fixtures in their home with cfl’s or fluorescent fixtures, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the amount equivalent to nearly 10 million cars and save more that $65 each year in energy costs per household!
Here are some recommendations on the use and application of cfls:
1. Use cfls in open fixtures that allow airflow, such as lamps, wall sconces, and pendants.
2. For recessed fixtures, use a reflector cfl instead of a spiral cfl to evenly distribute the light down to your task area.
3. If a light fixture is connected to a dimmer or three-way switch, make sure to look for cfls that specify use with dimmers or three-way fixtures.
4. Choose a cfl that offers a shade of white light that works best for your project.
5. To choose a cfl with the right amount of light, find a qualified cfl that is labeled as equivalent to the incandescent bulb you are replacing.
Finally, while fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient, they do contain a small amount of mercury and require proper disposal in order to not pollute the environment. These bulbs should ultimately be recycled and the EPA is currently working with some retailers to create recycling programs. To find out how to recycle your burned out bulbs, or how to dispose of broken bulbs, go to http://www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling or http://www.earth911.org. For more information on Energy Star products and initiatives, go to http://www.energystar.gov.
Even though home theaters are a fairly recent addition to the American home, they are quickly becoming the standard in almost any new home or remodeling project. Granted, many are part of a multi-purposed space that may include functioning as an entertainment area for guests and a quiet den space as well as watching movies or playing video games. That being the case, it is very important to create a space with a lighting plan to accommodate every scenario.
The single most important thing in any room with multiple functions is adjustability. The dimming of the lights is often one of the most anticipated experiences when one goes to the movies. It’s a signal that the entertainment is about to begin and it’s time to find your seats and quiet down. This same experience can be created within a home theater; you just need to plan for it. A remote control with and integrated dimming system can help you to do this.
Ceiling mounted fixtures are generally not the best choice for an entertainment room; they may reflect in the screen or distract your attention by interrupting your view. Recessed fixtures can work but they should have black trim and the lamp should be further inside the fixture to eliminate glare. These can be placed either over the laps of seated guests or around the perimeter. Recessed and adjustable lights can be used to highlight artwork and displays too but should be programmed to turn off when viewing movies.
Another option is cove lighting to reflect off the ceiling and create ambient lighting that is dimmable and won’t cause glare. This can also be used to accent architectural details. Sconces are another great option but they should focus light up or down and be placed to either side of the room or behind the seating area.
For safety, you may want to add low lights to illuminate the pathway so that you can move within the space without waiting for your eyes to adjust. There are some great LED fixtures that would be perfect for this application.
Lighting is the one thing that could make or break the home theater experience. A good layout, adjustability and quality should get your clients well on their way to enjoying their first movie night with family and friends.
Our kitchens are going through transformations today as a result of the way we want to live and how we would like our homes to function. Kitchen remodels are increasingly looking to change the flow of older homes to be more open and rooms to be multi-purposed, new home construction is down-sizing from McMansions to a more ‘human’ scale and the interior spaces are smaller as well. As a result, designers need to use their best tricks to keep style and purpose at the forefront. Kitchen design is also increasingly customized to reflect a homeowner’s personality, use more environmentally friendly products and maximize space.
A good way to make use of limited space is to organize, using tools like drawer dividers or pot racks, will help keep items that are frequently used right at your fingertips. Also consider adding user friendly items like hands free plumbing fixtures or ergonomic hardware and self closing hinges on cabinet doors and drawers.
Lighting is an important factor in any design but especially in a multi-functional space. In these areas, task lighting gains even more importance in that each function needs to be supported by appropriate lighting. Don’t make the mistake of trying to light a kitchen with a single light source. Utilize under cabinet lighting, interior cabinet lighting and lamps to focus the right amount of light in the right place.
Home owners in all price ranges are coming to expect ‘custom’ details in their kitchens. This often includes exotic woods or paint finishes on cabinets, versatile countertop materials like concrete or beautiful blown glass pendants. Finishes like brushed nickel and bronze are still popular and dark wood finishes are still trending up. For all these reasons, and a million more, design professionals are in even more demand than ever before. Consumers need expert advice on everything they are bombarded with on a daily basis about their homes, the environment and new materials and products. Designers need to be prepared to help their clients make the right choices for themselves and their homes.
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Home offices are quickly becoming one of the most asked for features in a home, and not just for those that work from home. Millions of Americans now work from home full time and many more do on a part time basis. This has created a need for dedicated home offices that function efficiently, not just a multi-purpose space within a bedroom, den or craft area.
The most important thing to remember when designing home offices is that they need to be comfortable to be efficient. The way to do this is through ergonomics. A well designed work space helps you to work more effectively and without threat of injury. There are basic and easy rules to consider when designing a work area but many people never even think about ergonomics or even know what ergonomics are, that’s where a good designer comes in. Here are a few considerations when designing an office space:
A desk should allow the user to move his/her legs while working in a seated position. This simply means that there should be enough space to sit with your legs crossed or to move without banging your knees.
- A good chair should be adjustable, it should tilt, swivel, and the back and armrests should be moveable. There should also be a couple inches between the back of your knees and the front of the seat when you are seated. An ergonomically fit chair can save it’s user from back problems and user fatigue.
- Monitors should be placed so that the top of the screen is at eye level and at an arms length when seated. This will keep users from straining their necks.
- Use natural lighting when possible, avoid glare and utilize task lighting where needed. Sufficient lighting can mean less eye strain and headaches.
- Allow space for all equipment and storage for files so that the office can be organized and clutter-free. This will mean less stress and more functionality.
In general, make a home office fun. If an office is small, dark and cramped it will be no inviting or inspiring that an 8 foot by 8 foot beige cubicle in a large fluorescent corporate building.
As design and build professionals, it is important to be educated in all factors affecting the construction and/or remodeling of any structures we help to create. Green design and building is certainly one of those factors. So how do you get educated on Green? Try local Green building classes offered by local utilities companies or trade associations, trade conferences, the internet, books and magazines are all good sources for current information.
In order for you to get started, here are some basics; the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has created the LEED rating system to evaluate designs in six major categories, including:
- the selection, development and use of the site
- the effective use of water and reduction of wastewater
- the efficient use of energy, use of renewable energy sources, and reduction or elimination of ozone depleting refrigerants
- the reuse of buildings and materials, reduction of waste, use of recycled materials, and the incorporation of products made from rapidly renewable resources
- an indoor environment that supplies high air quality, eliminates noxious vapors, provides thermal comfort, introduces natural light, and offers exterior views
- innovative design and the use of a LEED certified professional
The USGBC has developed rating systems to evaluate all types of projects. Please refer to the USGBC website for specific information, www.usgbc.org.
Of course, finding the right products is important and can be challenging with all the “greenwashing” going on with manufacturers today. Here are some tips to help determine who is truly green from BuildingGreen.com:
1. Products that conserve natural resources – either using fewer resources than the conventional approach, more durable products, or rapidly renewable products.
2. Products made with salvaged, recycled, or agricultural waste content – the materials used to produce a product and where those materials come from can determine how green it is.
3. Products that avoid toxic or harmful emissions – products may be considered green because they have low manufacturing impacts, are alternatives to conventional products made from problematic chemicals, or because they reduce polluting emissions. Products to avoid in most cases: substances that deplete stratospheric ozone, conventional pressure treated lumber, and PVC.
4. Products that reduce the environmental impacts of construction, demolition, or renovation – This can include products that have fewer VOC’s or are recycled.
5. Products that save energy or water.
6. Products that contribute to a safe, healthy indoor environment.
For more detailed information, please visit www.buildinggreen.com. Keep in mind, some manufacturers claims may be misleading, for example, many manufactures advertise that they use a minimum of 25% recycled steel – steel is not available less than 25% recycled content and some manufactures advertise that the use recycled aluminum – aluminum is not available in any other form. Also, some products may be considered green by one criterion, but not by another, for example, the product may use less energy but the manufacturing process may pollute the environment.
According to the U.S. DOE Center for Sustainable Development, buildings consume 40% of the world’s total energy. Not only that, they also are responsible for 25% of its wood harvest and 16% of its water consumption. Green building tries to alleviate some of this burden on the planet as well as create spaces that are healthy for its inhabitants.
So get in on the green movement, start in an area you feel comfortable with, maybe low VOC paint, bamboo flooring or Energy Star lighting and appliances. Once you are comfortable, tackle another and before you know it, you’ll be a green expert!
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