Green Meets Luxury in Downtown Bend

A few weeks ago I had the opportuunity, along with other members of the High Desert Design Council, to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the new Oxford Hotel in dowtown Bend. The Oxford in noteworthy for a few reasons. First it is only Bend’s second four-star property . Second, it is the first for downtown, bringing a much-needed element to the heart of this charming and historic district. Third and most interestingly, it was designed and built for sustainablility.

The Oxford is a small boutique hotel, 59 suites. The rooms are comfortable, well-designed and well-appointed with soy-foam Natura beds, high-quality linens, organic locally-made bath products (in bulk) from Dani and in-room coffee/tea service including organic teas. The lounge and restaurant feature locally-grown, organic ingredients whenever possible, wines from NW wineries and beer from local breweries. As you may or may not know, we Bendites take our beer very seriously and have more micro-breweries per capita than any other city in the Northwest. Many of them award-winning. But I digress…

The kitchen/bar areas feature concrete countertops and Energy Star appliances, the bathroom shower and vanities have recycled glass counters, the towels are a bamboo-cotton blend, sinks and showers reduce water flow and the guest rooms feature dual-flush toilets. The list goes on…

What I find most interesting about The Oxford is the electrolyzed water system that creates two salt water cleaning solutions – one acid, one alkaline. By charging it with either positive or negative ions, these two solutions are then used for sanitizing, degreasing and in washing machines eliminating the need for chemical cleaners. Detergents used for dishwashing and laundry are eco-sensitive. Imagine the amount of chemicals the average hotel…even a small one…uses on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. It adds up! That is a lot of toxicity released in to our sewers and atmosphere. At The Oxford this has been dramatically reduced. Amazing!

So Kudos to the owners, designers and managers of The Oxford Hotel. You’ve shown us that green can be luxurious even on a medium-sized commercial scale. And you’ve created a healthier environment for your guests and employees. I wish you success.

Come visit us our charming mountain town. You can experience The Oxford…and the beer…for yourself.

Note: The Oxford has applied for LEED certification and it will be used as a blueprint for all of Baney Corp’s future properties.

Top two photos courtesy of The Oxford Hotel

Holiday Decorating: Tips from the Pros

OK, I’ll admit it…I’m one of those that  doesn’t decorate my house for the holidays. What!?! you say. How can that be? You’re a designer, your house should be decked to hilt!

Truth is, I do so much holiday decorating for my clients that by the time I’m done, I never want to see another glittered ball again. That said, because I have done so much of this over the years, I’ve learned a few things. And thought I’d share a few ideas with you, my loyal readers.

Trees: Start with the lights (white, please.) Use LOTS of them, wrapping the branches from trunk to tip. This is what gives your tree lots of sparkle and depth. Add something to hide the tree stand. I’m not a fan of tree skirts so I use a white sheet – a local retailer here uses a lambskin. Then layer on the ornaments. I like to use a variety os styles, shapes and textures. If the branches on your tree have space between them, put some of your ornaments in towards the trunk. Try adding unexpected elements to a tree… branches, flowers, vintage jewelry…all add character and give your tree texture, let your imagination go. Finally, finish it off with beautiful trailing ribbon, sheer, shimmery fabric used as garland, strings of beads or some other element that can “wrap” the whole tree.

Mix Old and New: In a recent commercial installation, I used an antique sleigh, stuffed with wrapped packages and a mod, lime green tinsel tree. The effect was terrific.

What do you do with all of those old, random glass balls? My friend and fellow elf, Charmaine, made a wonderful piece for an entry. We had a bright red urn (formerly part of a pair), some lime green tinsel garland and a random assortment of glass balls left from previous jobs. “Borrowing” from the other Martha (that’s Stewart to most of you) we loaded the urn with the tinsel garland and then piled on the balls. The effect was spectacular. Tip: be sure to hot-glue the balls or they will be falling all over your entry.

Don’t want a tree? As I mentioned, I don’t decorate for the holidays, but I DO have an annual holiday dinner party. And yes, I decorate my table. Using things I already have – none holiday specific – I can create beautiful, festive table settings without breaking the bank.

  • Use a few pine or evergreen bows running down the center of the table with a little ribbon intertwined and a few glass balls. Add lots of votives and you have a beautiful table.
  • Suspend some glass balls, glittery snowflakes or other ornaments from the ceiling over the table – or anywhere else for that matter – they don’t take up precious table space and give your dinner a cosmic flair.
  • Bypass the florist and shop in your garden. I live in the desert and don’t have a garden to speak of, so I use juniper branches, dried sage and dear brush. Loading them into low modern containers, they become landscape of subtle texture and color. Quite beautiful.
  • Candles, candles, candles – you don’t have to have elaborate candle oberas or containers. Mix votives, glassware, plates, mason jars, basically anything that will keep wax from dripping on your table. The idea is to have the mixture be random and dense. It’s the quantity of candles that makes this setting spectacular. If you happen to have some mirrors, use them underneath your candle for added flicker.

Dress up Your Lighting.

Lighting is such an hugely important and often overlooked part of design…at least for the do-it-yourselfer. Professional designers know and understand the importance of lighting. Not just the function, but the art of lighting.

There is at least one place in most homes that would benefit from a really outstanding light fixture. That said I thought I’d share with you some of the more spectacular chandeliers and pendants out there. These are all contenders in a “Best of 2009” competition, sponsored by Interior Design magazine. They all fall into the “statement piece” category, meaning  they move beyond function and becomes a focal point, a statement,  in the space they occupy. Think of them as a fantastic piece of jewelry for your home.

I hope you enjoy browsing and realize you don’t have to settle for ho-hum lighting.

FireFarmSunset1950_th

Sunset from Fire Farm Lighting


GlobalLightingDada_th

Dada from Globe Lighting


GraypantsScrapLights_th

Scrap Lights from Graypants, Inc.
made from salvaged corrugated cardboard


3formLightArt_th

Light Art from 3-Form
made from 40% pre-consumer, recycled material


BermanHeat_th

Heat from Joel Berman Glass Studios, Ltd.


ABYUCumulus_th

Cumulus from ABYU Lighting
made from turkey and coque  feathers and crystal teardrops


DstyleOrganics_th

Organics Chandelier from D’style


CooperShaperFabrique101P_th

Shaper Fabriqué Pendant from Cooper Lighting


BodnerOrbit_th

Orbit1 from Bodner Chandeliers
steel with eco-friendly bronze finish


BodnerVenus_th

Venus from Bodner Chandeliers
steel with eco-friendly bronze finish


StudioVetroChandelier_th

Cascading Series from Studio Vetro
hand-cast glass ribbons on a steel frame

Energy Performance Ratings Coming to a Home Near You.

You may not have heard of an Energy Performance Score (EPS) rating for your home, but you will soon. Developed by Energy Trust of Oregon, it is the equivilant of the MPG rating on your car. It is a clear and quantitative way to compare a home’s energy use and costs. The lower the score, the more energy-efficient the home.

ENH_TP_EPS_Certificate_pg1The EPS allows homebuyers to compare new homes based on energy efficiency, utility costs and environmental impact. It also gives homebuyers a sense of how many energy upgrades were made to the house beyond code requirements. It provides a good picture of what the utility usage of a prospective new home will be. These scores are now available on the MLS listing so ask your real estate agent.

Many builders today voluntarily have newly constructed homes scored as a matter of course. But what about older homes? How do they get scored?

First an energy audit is done. The audit measures a home’s energy use through the structure itself, the ducting and windows. It looks at onsite energy generation for heating, cooling, lighting and the heating of water. It looks for energy-efficient appliances and lighting. All of this is calculated to create the EPS and compares it to the building code requirements at the time the home was built.

As a homeowner, this is valuable information that can be used to upgrade the energy efficiency of your home. From there you can look at federal and state tax incentives to determine what upgrades make sense for you. And don’t forget the added benefit of increasing the value of your home.

In the UK, homes that meet higher energy performance standards benefit from lower mortgage and insurance rates. We aren’t there yet, but Oregon has set a deadline of 2030 for new homes to meet a net-zero standard. Meaning that a structure’s energy consumption will be will have a net-zero impact.

There are so many options available now. Getting your house scored a good first step in evaluating what the next step is for you.

Is Carpet Really the Best Choice for Your Floors?

A couple of weeks ago I was giving a presentation on eco-friendly finish materials for residential use – covering products from flooring (including carpet) to counter tops.  A point I always try to make is that these products aren’t just easier on the environment, but they are healthier for us as well. We’re not living with and breathing all of the chemicals and toxins that are present in many building materials.

detail_carpet_plush_3_2During the Q&A, I was asked “If you could make one change in an older home to make it healthier, what would it be?” Without even hesitating, I said replace the carpet. I hadn’t realized how strongly I felt about this until then. Carpet can be nasty, especially if it’s older. Now before I get the carpet lobby coming after me, let me qualify this…not ALL carpet is nasty. Fortunately most carpet manufacturers now offer natural fiber carpets made from hemp or wool. They don’t off-gas, they’re durable, stain-resistant and feel good. Yes they may be a bit more expensive than carpet made from nylon or polyester, but in my opinion, the benefits FAR outweigh the additional cost. If you want to read a good article on carpet off-gassing, take a look at this one.

Why am I so adamant about carpet in older homes? It’s not still releasing toxins is it? The truth is, we don’t know. If you ask the carpet companies they will tell you the off-gassing isn’t a problem at all ,ever. If you ask an environmentalist or many health providers they will say carpets off-gas for many years, long after the smell has dissipated. But off-gassing is only part of the picture. Carpets, especially those that have been around awhile, contain all sorts of other nasty things like dirt, dust mites and other toxins that have been tracked in by us and our pets. This is of even more concern if you have small children. They spend a lot of time close to the floor. Their exposure is much greater.

There are so many good beautiful and eco-friendly flooring options available, take a good look before just replacing carpet with carpet. If you really want or need carpet, choose one made of  wool or other natural fiber, you won’t be sorry. And your lungs will thank you.

Photo: Empire Today, LLC

10 Budget-Stretching Decorating Ideas

We’re all watching our pennies these days…thinking two and three times before making any discretionary expenditures. Yet making our homes more comfortable and attractive will help us feel better as we weather these challenging times. So here are my top 10 ideas for spiffing up your space without breaking the bank.

MM_0022_crop1. Paint: You’ve heard me say it before…there is no faster easier way to get dramatic change in your home than new wall color. Without a doubt the biggest bang for your buck.

2. Refinish worn pieces: If you have some tired furniture, a fresh coat of stain and varnish can breathe new life into the most tattered of pieces.

3. Recover or replace old lampshades: This is an easy way to add some spalsh. Recover your existing shades with a bright, bold pattern or trim. If that intimidates you, purchase new shades at any store that sells lighting.

img94i4. Reupholster: You love you grandmother’s chair, but the upholstery screams “old lady”. Have it recovered in a bright new fabric and viola…instant fabulous! Consider an animal print or a really vivid color…bright yellow or hot pink…not only will it add punch to any room but it’s unexpected.

5. Change the shower curtain, towels and accessories in your bathroom…you can have a new room for less than $100.

6. Rearrange your furniture: We all get so accustomed to seeing our furniture in the same arrangement, it’s hard to imagine it any other way. Truth is, most rooms will accomodate more than one floor plan. Try looking at your room as if seeing it for the first time, without attachment or emotion. Then rearrange, you’ll think you have all new things!

7. Add an area rug: A bold stripe or graphic rug will update your space quickly.

8. Repurpose: Get creative. Is a door always a door? Can it be a table top? A great piece of ironwork can become a beautiful piece of wall decor. Wire a ceramic vase into become a lamp (most local lamp stores sell supplies and/or will wire it for you.) Most everything can be used for another purpose, it just takes a little creativity.

9. Buy used: Now more than ever you can find amazing deals at garage sales, consignment shops, flea markets, salvage yards and online sources like Craig’s List and ebay. It takes some time, but the rewards can be huge. Remember what I said earlier about refinishing, reupholstering and repurposing.

transform-chair-after-m-m10. Add a punch of color: Paint a piece of furniture a bold color, add some accent pillows or a collection of objects. If it’s bright and unexpected, you’ll look like a design genius.

Most importantly, have fun. Do you have other budget-stretching decorating ideas? I’d love to hear them.

Space Planning. Which comes first, the space or the furnishings?

floorPlans1bedA regular reader of this blog, recently asked if I would talk a bit about space planning. She and her husband are working with an architect on a remodel of their beach house. The question is…Does one plan a space around furniture or design the space and then determine the furniture placement?

The answer is neither and both. Let’s assume that the parameters of the remodel have been established, i.e. footprint of the house, budget, timeline, etc. The structure of the house really shouldn’t be driven by the contents. That’s a bit like the tail wagging the dog. You want to consider the function of the space, traffic flow and maximization of any available views, passive solar, etc. And of course you and your architect want to make sure that the space will accomodate your needs…how many beds, how many do you want seated at your dining table, or do you want/need separate living and family rooms? The physical space should allow for these functional considerations.

That said, you and your architect need to make sure that the the design will accommodate the obvious…a sofa, dining table etc. I know that seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen plans that don’t allow adequate space for the basics. Also if you have pieces that may need a specific type of space be sure to plan for them. Maybe you have an antique armoire or an art collection. Be sure to allow enough wall space to show these pieces off. Many open floor plans today have very little wall space, especially if you are lucky enough to have a view. Perhaps you have a large sectional sofa you really want to utilize in the media room. Will the room accommodate it and still allow for easy traffic flow? Once you and your architect have considered all of the options, you’ll know where you can compromise and where you need to redesign.

So JCM, have I answered your question? Feel free to contact me for more direction. Now what design challenges can I help YOU with?


Contact the Author

martha@mmdsf.com 541-330-5899 www.marthamurraydesign.com

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