Why having a budget is good for your design project, Reason #3- You will appreciate what you get

In the current economic climate many people are facing a gap between what they want and what they can afford. It is easy to see this as a beastly problem, or even a reason to throw up your hands and avoid needed design changes, (Please, not this!) But the reality is that every project has a budget. Even clients who have the ability to select more luxurious materials and furnishings end up bumping into dreaded compromises. Most people cannot afford everything they desire, and perhaps that is a good thing. Interestingly enough, I have found that many of the projects with strict budgets end up being the best designs when finished. I actually like working within a budget, it gives a structure to the many decisions that need to be made when redoing a space. So, to give hope as we enter the economic recovery (we are recovering, right?), over the next few blogs I will give you the reasons your design project will be better if you are working within a budget.

#3- You will appreciate your finished project more. As you work though a project, especially a remodel, there are many little things that you must fit into your budget. Many of them do not offer that much of an opportunity either to splurge or to economize- a 2x4 stud costs what it costs- but for many items there are solutions in a range of costs. Working within a budget causes you to consider the lowest cost item for each choice, in addition to the first pretty thing you fall in love with. You might want a subway tile backsplash in your kitchen, and think that Lanka hand molded tiles are fabulous, rich with variation. This might be the detail that will make your heart sing each time you look at it- but your budget will make you aware that the machine made tile is 1/3 the price. If you backsplash is 60 sf, and the cost savings is about $6/sq.ft, you will probably have one of two reactions- either “That handmade tile is so delightful, it was so worth the extra $360 out of my budget.” Or,“I am so glad I could afford that gorgeous modern faucet, because of the money I saved on the tile.” Either way, you are happier with the final result, because of the research that your budgeting made you do. The reality is that there are lovely products in every budget category, and that expensive things are only worth it if they add value that you appreciate. A budget forces you to be conscious of what you truly love and value in design.

Nice topics, exciting locations, a little learning, and free food, what's not to like?

  The SC Solar Decathlon house in Wasington DC

How exciting, it never rains but it pours.  I was a little discouraged because my Green Interior design class was under enrolled.  I (of course) started thinking that no-one cared about greening their interiors, or selecting heathy materials.  Then a couple of more speaking engagements came up, and they should be exciting!


They both primarily focus on green interiors.

First, I am speaking on my part in the 2007 Santa Clara Solar Decathlon House, which took 3rd in this international solar home contest. I will describe this exciting contest, and the space planning and design of the interiors.  This little house was designed to make an energy independent house look comfortable and easy to live in.  The best compliment I overheard when the house was in Washington  was "I just want to pick up this house, put it by the beach, and move in!" :

Thursday, June 11th, 2009, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

City of Redwood City Council Chambers 1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City


Second, I am speaking in the Portola Valley Local Heros on Local Issues speaker series, about the challenge of deciding what green materials are right for your interior projects, and the beautiful green materials that are available ( This series has a lot of good speakers!!! And it is held in an award winning green building complex, one of the AIA top 10 green projects of 2009)

June 23 - Green Interior Design • Green Building Comes Inside - Decision Making for Interiors with Kirsten Flynn

Portola Valley Green Speaker Series: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Town Center, Community Hall

765 Portola Road, Portola Valley, CA 94028


Learning is fun, and Dolphins don't need to be fireproof!

Once again I am teaching through Palo Alto Adult School.  I really love spreading the word about the many healthy furnishings and finish options now exist, but worry I will not get enough folks enrolled to run the class.   I feel so passionatly that everyone who might even buy a storage cabinet at Ikea, or a sofa, deserves to know what effect that product might have on their health or the environment.  Often, just by asking the right question, you can get a healthier product, but you need to know what question to ask.   I think we all would like to think that nothing unhealthy, or unsafe could be in our furniture, and I hope that will be true some day.  

I was reminded this week that there is a long way to go, when I read this article about Brominated Fire Retardants building up in the bodies of dolphins in Florida.  These fireproofing agents are one of the chemicals that I have worked hard to eliminate in my practice, as they are currently found in the body fat of most animals, and in human breast milk around the world.  YUK!  It is associated with thyroid disease in cats, and is bioaccumulative- meaning it builds up in one's body over time.  I help clients limit their exposure by upholstering without foam, and searching out fabrics that are not treated with these chemicals.

If you are curious about these kinds of issues, please consider taking my class.  You’ll leave the class with a solid understanding of how to select materials for home interiors and the theory behind green building.  I have made it sound very serious, but we do have fun.  And we look at a lot of gorgeous and green tiles, fabrics, paints, coutertops and more!

SPRING QUARTER ONLY 2 wks: May 27–June 3 Wednesday: 7–9 p.m. Palo Alto HS Rm 306: $35 http://www.paadultschool.org/html/home_and_garden.html
Sadly, the class will be cancelled if I don't get 10 people to sign up, so let your friends know!

No on California proposition 8- proudly supported by SH

I usually try and steer clear of politics in my blog, it is a design/sustainability blog, not a soapbox.  However I do contribute out of my company's profits to political causes that move me, usually environmental issues.  I did support the No on 8 campaign, opposing adding an amendment to the Californian Constitution that would define marriage as having to be between a man and a woman only.  However I kept it quiet, figuring it was no body's business but my own.  It is hard enough to have a committed long-term relationship that supports both partners, and even harder if you are raising a family.  I happen to be married to a perfect man, but I have seen frighteningly destructive male/female relationships and heartbreakingly beautiful same sex relationships.  Commitment, kindness and ceaseless hard work on a partnership have little to do with your sexuality.  I heard something this past week that I found so outrageous that I had to let a political opinion into the blog.   The "Yes on8" campaign has sent letters to corporate contributors to "No on 8",  They say if the company did not contribute the same amount to support "Yes on 8" they would publish a list of all the companies that are in "opposition to traditional marriage."  Now sadly, I did not contribute enough to merit this kind of scare tactics, but many of the companies that did, like Apple and Google, swiftly made public their opposition of Prop. 8.  Essentially preempting any threat.  "If you are going to out me, I will just go public myself, neener, neener."

Now I might be a tiny, tiny company, but I will publically state that Sustainable Home is a proud supporter of the effort to defeat proposition 8.  It would write a bias into a state constitution, and thus is bad law.

Upholstery choices getting easier!

Just had a long phone and email exchange with the smartest Crate and Barrel employee. (Her name is Meredith Anway, hope she does not mind being outed) I had called to follow up on a question about fireproofing agents used in upholstered furniture sold at Crate and Barrel Furniture.  (Now you know what I do for fun in my free time!)  The bottom line is that Crate and Barrel is doing a great job at moving beyond Brominated Fire retardants.   A little back ground, Brominated fire retardants are use in many consumer products including plastics and the foam used in upholstered furniture.  They are bio-accumulative  which means the more you are exposed to, the higher the level is in your body.  They are found in human breast milk in concentrations 10 times higher in North America than in Europe where they have been banned.  They are found in the fatty tissue of animals through out the food chain, and even in animals in the arctic circle, even though most polar bears don't use sofas.  At this point you are probably saying "Creeeeepy", in a freaked out voice.  The good news is that I am not the only one who hates this chemical compound, now I have made you hate it too.  And in addition to the two of us, Crate and Barrel has put some of their sourcing and buying power into creating products that are PDBE free.  Here is a quote from Meredith's email "Upholstery are completely PBDE free.  Our cushioning does not contain formaldehyde."

Does this mean that Crate and Barrel is my favorite furniture vendor?  Well I still have a couple of issues: The fabrics might still contain formaldehyde or heavy metals.  The frames are SFI certified, with some that are FSC certified.  I think SFI is a weak wood certification scheme, although better than nothing.  And finally, I am a bit paranoid about what they are now using as a fire retardant.  But I am obsessively concerned with the environment, someone has to push the envelope!

However, I do think that they have hit a sweet spot that combines: quality for price, aesthetics, healthy component materials (if you are careful with fabric choices.) and more sustainable wood use practices.  And they are willing to share the deets about what goes into their pieces.  Cool.

Is this my 15 minutes of fame?

My local Weekly newspaper, the Palo Alto Weekly, profiled me last Friday in an article about the Green Interior design class I am teaching this October.  If you live on the San Francisco Peninsula pick up a copy, if you live elsewhere- you can read it online here, Or view the PDF of that section Here.  It feels surprisingly affirming to have my business in the paper in my home town.  If you are interested in learning more about green interiors, sign up for the class!

More design from the Solar Village

This is a picture of the ramp transition as it turns the corner to go back to the Darmstadt house. I loved the way the stairs form a "short cut" to the house. Ramps are very greedy of space, and I enjoyed the integration of the ramp and the stairs. Clean and functional, a natural looking solution. Carnegie Mellon's house is in the background, and off in the distance the Washington Memorial.

I love these creative little textile companies

There are some really fun printed organic fabric companies springing up in the last year or so. One that I just discovered is Oliveira textiles. They have some great classy prints for home furnishings, www.oliveiratextiles.com/oliveira-textiles.html

Mod Green Pod mades groovy designs in both fabrics and vinyl free wallpaper, and recently started a kids line,


Harmony Art is a wonderful company, organic textiles in weights that could be used for bedding, home sewing and perhaps some light upholstery. The founder is the kindest person, and is very supportive of the industry, and also has a fun blog.