Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Living Better With Less... or 'Green' Living

(photo courtesy of UNIFORM natural's flickr)

Although I don't call myself an eco-organizer, eco-friendly, green, or use any other catchy, popular phrases, I promote a sustainable, 'living better with less' lifestyle which is at the heart of environmentalism. I don't think you have to say you're something to be it. I'm not into gimmicks, tricks, or one-size-fits-all answers. I help people change the way they see the things in their life; to see them as tools to help live the life they want, not just consuming for consuming's sake. The term reduce, reuse, recycle is in that order for a reason; recycling isn't the first step, it's the last resort. With my process, reduced, conscious consumption is the end result which is the first and most important step to living a more environmentally conscious life (whether you're looking for that or not).

While there are a ton of obvious ways to be more earth conscious:
  • turn off electricity and water when not it's not needed like when you're not in the room!
  • take your name off junk mail lists
  • don't leave your chargers plugged in when not in use
  • use natural cleaning products
  • avoid using disposable products; silverware, razors...
Here a maybe less obvious way; watch how much plastic you consume:
  • get Q-tips with cardboard stems not plastic
  • tampons with cardboard applicators not plastic
  • eggs in paper cartons not plastic
Example, I opted for a metal scooper for my litter box instead of plastic. If properly kept it will last a very long time and when it's done it can be recycled rather than tossed in the trash.

Designing Small Spaces

(Jesse Carrier & Mara Miller, principals. photo courtesy of carrierandcompany.com)

(Jason Wu office. photo courtesy of carrierandcompany.com)

Williams Sonoma Home has a great feature on their website, 'Designer Series' and I wanted to share what Jesse and Mara of Carrier and Company have to say about designing small spaces:

Juggle big and little. It's important to vary the scale of furniture. Just because a room is small, doesn't mean everything in it should be petite. At the very least, there needs to be one key item that's human-size. If you live in a one bedroom apartment for example, your couch has to function not just for entertaining, but for watching TV and napping, so a loveseat isn't practical. You can balance the proportions of a larger sofa with delicate, lighter pieces like armless side chairs or a glass coffee table.

Do double-duty. It's all about flexibility when you're working in a tight area. Look for furniture that can multitask, like side tables with drawers or shelving underneath that provide extra storage. We sometimes suggest skirted file cabinets to our clients that can be used as console tables, and in our own home, we have chests of drawers on either side of our couch that hold our four year-old's toys. Stools are often underutilized but so useful. They work as extra seating, or as a cocktail table, or to rest your feet; plus, they're very mobile and compact.

Air it out. Negative space is what creates a sense of serenity and spaciousness. This applies to any surface your eye moves across. If you're looking at a wall that has media center, side chair, lamp, and artwork against it, make sure each object has room to breathe—otherwise they'll start to overwhelm. The same rule applies to a furniture floorplan or even objects on a side table. It's better to create clusters or vignettes rather than spread your belongings everywhere.

Tame the clutter. Editing becomes even more crucial when you don't have a lot of room. Attractive storage is always a good thing, though it also has to be easy to access or you won't use it. We're big on baskets for organizing things like throws or magazines or toys. Covered boxes are great for taming piles of paperwork, and look nice interspersed on bookshelves.

Don't be afraid of the dark. Certain colors are better for certain types of rooms, irrespective of size, though if you're short on space, it's best to stay relatively monochromatic. Dark colors can actually expand the feel of a room, and are great in dens and bedrooms, so they're more cozy and atmospheric. For daytime areas, a lighter scheme may be more comfortable, though even in a bright space you always have to throw in a dark component to add depth and keep the room from looking washed out.

Make it shine. Light-reflecting high-gloss paint can make a room feel bigger, but it's expensive and tricky to achieve, since your surface needs to be primed and perfectly flat as not to show imperfections. Wall mirrors are an excellent substitute to get a similarly sparkly effect, especially paired with polished accessories in chrome or lacquer.

Create a glow. We tend to avoid overhead or recessed lighting, which is not only unflattering on your face but draws walls in. We like the soft, ambient pools of light you get from lamping, which also helps train your eye out to the perimeter of a room. Mix things up with shaded table lamps, metal floor lamps and picture lighting. Uplights can also give a sense of a taller ceiling, and they're discreet, since they don't register as yet another fixture.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Reader's Questions: Ikea Pax Wardrobes

(images courtesy of MakingItLovely.com)
(images courtesy of MakingItLovely.com)

Leah asks: "Have you ever organized Ikea wardrobes for a client? We just bought a pair of Pax wardrobes (the largest size) and it will become my only closet (to hold, ahem, everythingggg for me). I am wondering how I can maximize every inch ... thinking along the lines of hooks in the interior doors and such. I just don't know how well Ikea furniture holds up to changes like that."

I LOVE the Pax wardrobes and have used them many times. I almost always install at least one hook on the side of the unit. Just make sure you use hooks small enough that they don't go through the wall. Here are some suggestions for you:
  • don't rush it; for maximum stability, it needs to be assembled correctly which means following the directions to the tee!
  • get it level; place a level on the top of the unit and use shims if needed underneath. Just know sometimes you have to go with what looks better to the eye than to what is actually level.
  • get it on the wall; once level, mount it to the wall for maximum stability.
  • planning is key; figure what you're going to store in it beforehand not after.
  • group like-things together; all pajamas, all workout, all t-shirts, all pants, or all work pants and then casual pants; whatever makes the most sense to you and your lifestyle.
  • drawer it out; especially when using the deep wardrobes, go with drawers from the bottom, going as high up as is comfortable for you.
  • don't be afraid to put anything and everything in a drawer including handbags, shoes, boots...
  • install one drawer at a time from the bottom up making sure you don't waste any space; and if you're doing shelves, install the shelf, put what you're going to put on it so you can place the next shelf up exactly where it should be so you aren't loosing as much as an inch of space.
In addition to the images above, check out Nicole Balch's original post for more shots on her blog MakingItLovely.com. And Lonny magazine's current issue (issue 3 feb/march 2010, page 21) has a great article showcasing Pax wardrobes for even more great ideas and gorgeous shots of Pax in action.

If you like, send me some pics of what you've come up. Thanks for reading and thanks for the great question Leah!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sorting the Laundry

I've mentioned how to lessen your laundry load, now I'd like to share with you a couple tricks for sorting the laundry.

The first two shots are from my previous studio apartment. The hamper is from Muji (can't find online) that's actually two short hampers I cut and stacked to make one tall one. Two wash bags are attached to the side with Muji wire clips, but a binder clip would work just as well. I used them for the first reason, but there are a few ways to use these:
  • sort out pieces that can go into the washing machine but not the dryer
  • sort out your hand washables
  • sort out your dry cleaning

The last photo shows a large double hamper marked for laundry and dry cleaning using my trusty label maker. If you don't have a label maker, you could easily use a Sharpie and a stencil (scroll down to see the letter stencil), write directly on it, use a piece of masking tape to write on...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Apartment Progress... Bathroom

Do you remember how I painted the back wall of my bathroom and it didn't look so great. Well, I finally repainted it... guess what color? White! I did want something dramatic but more importantly, I want to keep the space looking bright and open.

I removed all the shelves but not the brackets to make painting easier. Afterwards I caulked the edges to give it a finished look. For more pics, click here.

What do you think??

You NEED to Read This: Recycling In NYC

(click any image to enlarge)

So many people have no idea what the city accepts for recycling. Unfortunately, JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS RECYCLABLE, DOESN'T MEAN THE CITY TAKES IT. Check out the charts above and here for a few quicks points you may not have known:

Good news; they take paperback books, window envelopes, magazines, wrapping paper, food boxes including pizza boxes but without food on it!

Did you know they ONLY accept glass and/or plastic bottles and jars AND you must remove the lids? Metal lids can be recycled but plastic caps can not. Take-out containers, yogurt containers, and household glass are NOT taken by the city for recycling and must go in the trash.

More good news; they take anything made of all or mostly metal like kitchen utensils, pots and pans, metal hangers, keys, small metal appliances...

For more info check out NYC website here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Organizing A Kitchen Drawer

A few suggestions when using modular drawer organizers like the metal mesh ones pictured above:
  • Pull everything out of the drawer sorting into prep and serving pieces, editing out anything you don't use or need.
  • Look at what's left to see what size organizers you'll need; extra long or wide.
  • Using your drawer's measurements, draw it out on paper to see how many organizers will fit.
  • To make it look its best and not cluttered, create a symmetrical pattern.
  • For the organizers in the back of the drawer, angle them from back to front for easy access.
  • Group things by use to limit searching for things.
  • If you have an inch or so left in the back of the drawer, wedge cardboard from a toilet paper or paper towel roll to make it nice and snug.

Baby / Linen Closet

Since the last post was about making room for a baby, I thought I'd show you the walk-in closet I converted from a clothes closet to a baby/linen closet. For before photos, check out my Flickr page here.

We cleaned the existing 12"D shelf and hanging rod with the Magic Eraser, which is THE only way to clean wire shelving. To take advantage of the high ceiling we added an upper wire shelf and at 16" deep it easily holds large blankets and comforters.

The dresser (mounted to the wall for safety) holds clothes and other baby essentials. It's low enough that pieces can still be hung on the rod if necessary. The fabric on top of the dresser is a piece the client wants to frame and display somewhere in the apt, I thought it looked nice there in the meantime.

To the left of the dresser is a hanging hamper and the cotton garment bag holds the wife's off-season and special occasion dresses. I'll show you what we did with her closet when we finish this weekend...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reader's Questions: Making Room for Baby

(jenna lyon's home via domino. photo by melanie acevedo)

Sayedeh asks "Since you helped us fix our apartment, I have furthered the endeavor, gotten rid of more stuff and continued the organization process. Now we're expecting our first baby and trying to carefully plan how to fit things into our one bedroom. If you have any suggestions on how to manage 'baby stuff' in a small space that would be great! Fitting a crib is a challenge."

Congrats on your pregnancy! Here are a few tips to help you keep the 'baby stuff' explosion at bay...

My theory with organizing is to clear out what's not important in your life to make room for what is. Take this time to go through my process to edit your things down to help make room for the new things about to come in.

Figuring where to put the crib should be thought in terms of practicality. How close do you want it to be to where you sleep is the first step. Then think of what can be easily moved in your space to make room for it. Think also if there's anything you already have storage wise that can be repurposed to hold the essentials.

People tend to go overboard when having a baby, getting everything on the market, and then their friends and family give them so much. Talk to your friends and family members who have a child(ren) to find out what they agree are the essentials, and what isn't worth getting. Knowing what you'll need will make creating proper storage that much easier. And having a place for things is more than half the battle.

Set up a savings account (or similar) for your new one and ask those people who feel the need to give you something, to give to your child's future and not clutter it's present. This isn't always the easiest sell at first, so make sure you get at least one person on your side with the idea so he/she can convince others to go along with it.

Toys are usually an issue and most of the moms I know agree that the more is NOT the merrier. Not only is it a pain to store but it seems it doesn't benefit your child to have so many things to choose from. I thought this article about toys limiting a child's imagination pretty interesting.

Even when you limit what comes in, there's still a need for a system to deal with the clothes, toys, etc that your little one will eventually grow out of. If you want to save certain things for the next one that's great but you must have a system for taking those things out of the mix and storing them in a way they'll be clean and available for if and when the times comes. Mark your calendar for every month or three months to quickly go through things to see what is still relevant. The Container Store Clear Boxes are great for storing what you'll be keeping for later. Be sure to label it properly so you know what's in there (clothes sizes 0-6 months). Just make sure you weigh the cost of storing something vs the cost of replacing it; just remember that you pay for things not just with money but in time, energy, and space.

I hope this helps! If anyone out there has any other ideas, let us know :O)