As an interior designer my focus is usually inside but the thought of Spring pulls me outside like a moth is drawn to a flame, and I find my spirits lifting and immediately feel better. But we can’t always be outside so let’s focus a little on how we can improve our inside environment.
Fresh Air Inside and Out
I am sitting writing on what is to be the warmest day so far this year and even though it’s early morning I have opened all the windows. Not only can I smell the fresh air coming in but now I can hear the birds too. A reminder that life is happening everywhere, even outside!
Some may say that they can’t go outside because of seasonal allergies but we often create far more allergic situations inside. It has been a known fact for some time that new homes are sealed tight so it stands to reason that we should be careful with our indoor air quality.
Here are a few things you can be doing now:
Bring in a professional technician to check your central air system for leaking hoses, dirty air filters (you should change these at least quarterly if not more often) and to check if the system needs refrigerant. Regular maintenance will save money in the long run.
If allergies are a concern, or if you suspect mold in your home, call an indoor air quality professional who can evaluate and assess your needs. You may not think this is necessary but according to the Environmental Protection Agency over fifty percent of illness is caused by indoor air pollution.
Consider contacting an HVAC professional or environmental energy to run a home energy audit. This will show things like where you need insulation, if your windows are leaking, whether appliances are leeching power, and much more.
Clients often wonder why we insist on daytime appointments to see their homes for the first time. They’re thinking of having to leave work early and how inconvenient it is but to interior designers and decorators, lighting is one of the first things on our minds and we need to evaluate your home in daylight hours.
This important part of the design process happens at the same time as the floor plan is developed. You may have heard that a room needs several layers of light and if executed correctly a lighting plan will establish a warm and inviting atmosphere while simultaneously addressing specific needs for the tasks you wish to accomplish.
Some methods of increasing natural light into your home are more obvious such as by adding larger windows or skylights, but a cost effective way to achieve the same thing is by adding a solar light tube which slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down into the living space.
Reverse Your Rooms
During a recent project a client complained how her family room was very dreary with little natural light. It was truly a dismal room and only cheered up in the evening when it would suddenly become brightly lit and attractive due to a great lighting plan!
The solution was to swap with a bonus room over the garage that was only being used as a guest room. The best thing about the bonus room was that it has windows on two sides and gets light for most of the day. This simple change has made a huge difference and the client now has a light, airy family room with no need for artificial light during the day, and a darker bedroom where guests can lie in undisturbed.
So coming back to the layers of light you need in your home and lets ask why we need multiple light sources. Lighting is generally broken up into three distinct layers; ambient, task and accent. These layers add depth and dimension to each room and are achieved with overhead or ceiling lights, wall lights or sconces, and table lamps. In addition, use specialty lighting for illuminating wall art, bookcases or statuary.
To assess your needs write down all the ways you want to use the space and the tasks you want to accomplish such as reading, sewing, or doing homework. What is the room like in daylight? Are there dark corners? Does it work well at night? Draw up a rough floorplan with furniture placement and then mark where you think light is needed. Use it as a road map to produce multiple light sources that will give even light throughout the room and create a warm, comfortable environment.
If you are building a new home, work with your architect, builder or designer on the lighting plan well in advance of the actual construction as once walls have been dry walled it is an expensive exercise to retrofit additional lighting.
This Spring, really think about how you live and try for balance. Improve your lifestyle with additional lighting inside the home, ensure your HVAC system is working efficiently, but most of all make time to be outside enjoying natural sunlight and breathing fresh air.
While still in the throes of winter, it’s a good time to find out why you should be interested in window treatments.
Imagine living in a medieval castle with no glass in the windows! The first windows were often slits in the walls perhaps covered with wooden shutters which would still have been very drafty so our ancestors tried to keep out the cold with skins, then heavy brocades and tapestries. Glass for windows has been around since the Romans but until the 20th Century it was very expensive for the rest of us. Fortunately today’s windows offer more protection from the elements with multi-pane glass and coatings to deflect the sun.
We tend to think that with today’s multi-pane windows we don’t have to worry about window treatments but in fact, up to fifty percent of your home’s cooling and heating energy is still lost out the window! Putting it bluntly, that means that half of your heating and cooling bills are literally lost out the window.
Thermal imaging cameras highlight heat against cooler backgrounds and firefighters use this technology to see through smoke, find people, and localize the source of a fire. The image shown here emphasizes in red where heat is escaping the house and one can clearly see that heat loss is greatest from the windows and roof. Many reputable home inspectors will perform an energy audit and those with thermal imaging capabilities can prove how best to improve your home with insulation, repairs and products such as window treatments.
Conversely, in warmer climates like Florida it’s not the heat that escapes, for which your electricity bill for the cool air is just as expensive. The same rules apply to both when conserving energy.
Blinds and Shades
The next best way to reduce energy costs are with window treatments and the first choice should be with blinds or shades. Some of the factors to take into account are:
Light source: Where is the light coming from? How does it change during the day? How does it change seasonally?
Privacy: Do you need full privacy from neighbors and passers-by or do you just want to screen the air-conditioning unit?
UV protection: Built-in ultraviolet protection will reduce the harmful rays that fade carpets and upholstery. Did you know that your wood floors will also fade?
Style: Do you prefer a traditional or contemporary look? Do you want your shades to stand out or fade away?
Shape: Many new builds have specialized windows that require custom shapes from arches to Palladian’s. Tall ceilings with high windows will require either a permanent solution or motorization.
Within reach: For tall windows or those you can’t reach, there are many motorized options that operate with battery remote control or can be hardwired (see my article Control at your Fingertips, August 2008.)
Safety: Look out for operating systems without long cords that can cause accidents with children and pets. The Safety Standard since last year is that products used to cover windows must either be cordless or have short, inaccessible cords.
Hunter Douglas Hunter Douglas has long been a favorite of architects and designers because of their research and development, and the broad range of product and color/fabric choice. They are the nation’s leading manufacturer of custom window fashions and the only company offering an exclusive Lifetime Guarantee. Products can be purchased through interior designers, dealers and architects.
Draperies are for beauty and energy conservation!
Draperies are generally seen as being part of home decorating and tend to get purchased last as they can be an expensive addition for your home. I try to dispel this myth with clients because to me they are a vital part of energy conservation as well as looking beautiful. There has been a trend to highlight windows with stationary drapery panels that nicely “frame” the window but provide no functionality at all.
Custom drapes should provide privacy, control light and frame the view. They should enhance the architectural elements of the space and establish the decorative style. Have your draperies designed to overlap when closed, have “returns” to the wall to stop drafts at the sides. The draperies should sit on or close to the floor. Drapes that “puddle” on the floor have some downsides: people trip over them, pets like to curl up in them!
An investment to enjoy
Look at window treatments as an investment in your home that will provide comfort and beauty for decades to come. Be guided by your personal taste and your home’s practical requirements. And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help as there are so many options available to get to the correct solution.
I had a lovely weekend. I worked most of Saturday to update a client’s website with awards that she’d won at her annual conference. I had that feeling you get after a good day’s work. On Sunday I went out for brunch with friends and we enjoyed visiting an orchid house and a butterfly habitat. I came home and watched the last hours of the US Open (golf), then went to bed and read a book – rested up for a new week .
I woke up this morning to a gray day threatening to rain and was thankful I work from home and didn’t have to face the rain. Taking the dog for a walk you could cut the humidity with a knife but what can one expect of a Florida summer? I was raring to start work and settled at my desk with a cup of tea and my Yorkie at my side. All was well.
I had decided to work on two new clients today, to get them started. I logged in with the credentials for WordPress that I’d been given and immediately got told the password was incorrect. I tried several more times but no luck. So texting the client that I couldn’t get going she then spent hours determining what had happened. It appeared she had changed her password and hadn’t written it down. We’ve all done that haven’t we? In the end I was sent a new username and password and logged in successfully. That was the first hour of my day. Nothing that hasn’t happened before.
I then started with the second client. I logged in successfully and started a series of tests so there was a baseline analysis from which to work. Then I started making changes to the home page which is always a good place to start. I worked happily for a couple of hours then saved my changes. My day deteriorated from there. After saving, I hit the View Changes button and guess what? Nothing. No home page. I went back into WordPress and everything was still there but no matter how many times I saved the page it still wouldn’t show up online. Oh, what to do?
Of course the client decided to phone at that moment so I had to tell them what happened which isn’t very good for client confidence is it? This website belongs to a franchise who have built their own templates so I put a call into my franchise tech contact who of course wanted to know what I’d done! I didn’t do anything…
Within an hour he had it up and running again, and sent me a screenshot of a settings page that had turned the home page off. What? I’ve never even seen this setting before. How did it change? He told me to keep the image in case it happens again. Well I sincerely hope it doesn’t. Was it the fairies that changed this setting? I still don’t have a clue and feel very frustrated. There are plenty of things that can go wrong and you learn from it and move on but this?
So I’m finishing for the day, I’m going to have a nice glass of wine and try to forget today. Tomorrow has to be better.
I am fortunate enough to have a double garage and an extra single garage. Over time the single has become that place you never want to enter — a storage room. When I moved from Philadelphia to Florida I cleared out containers full of the extraneous junk that many of us acquire but there were many things that I couldn’t part with. And of course one can’t forget the Christmas decorations that need to be stored all year.
Having lived here in my new Florida home for five years, my “storage room” has become a place I seldom enter as the contents seem to quadruple each year. I dislike untidiness, my home is always kept ultra tidy and most of my friends are shocked when they see my little garage. Most of my neighbors keep a golf cart or a sports car in their single garage. Me — I’ve become a hoarder.
Last year I closed my interior design business. When you have a design business there are always odd pieces of furniture, art and accessories that somehow never get sold, are damaged and the vendor doesn’t want it returned, or the client simply didn’t like it. So you end up with an awful lot of things which have minute damage. Lots of us in the industry laugh about how we furnish our own homes with client rejects. It’s true.
As an interior designer you also end up with tools, light fixtures and even a miter saw. You need to have every spare part for hanging blinds and curtains, dozens of light bulbs for lamps, recessed lighting and chandeliers. You need a lot of stuff!
So here I am on a Sunday morning, waking up to beautiful weather with a whole day ahead and nothing to do. But my wife Ashleigh is missing. I call and she’s not within earshot. Where is she? My Yorkshire terrier and I drag ourselves out of bed and start calling and a faint noise is heard on the other side of the house. “Ashleigh, where are you?” “I’m cleaning out the garage.”
Ashleigh has decided that now that I have stolen her home office for my new fledgling business, she needs a new place of her own and what better place than the single garage. Some of our neighbors have converted their garages into playrooms, home gyms, and other useful spaces. We have already had the garage insulated, carpeted, and air-conditioned so it is an ideal space for her to set up a very comfortable office except… what do we do with everything that’s in it?
It’s not totally disorganized. Two long wall are shelved and are full of boxes and plastic containers. Then there are all the items I insisted on buying after the last hurricane — paraffin lamps, bottles for gas, first aid kits, and much more. The floor space is the main issue and of course, first you have to get in and turn around.
On TV they tell you to organize things into sections so we’re trying that. It seems that half of what we own can be sold on e-Bay or Craig’s List. So that is my task and I’ve spent all day photographing everything from fake plants to DVD’s because we no longer have a DVD player. I have enough to sell, that I could start an eBay business.
Then there are business papers going back to 2005 – that was “easy” as Ashleigh took the whole lot to be shredded and it cost $300.00. That was a shocker.
So here we are at the end of the day and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. She has a space for a desk and chair, and her computer is in situ. But what about the normally tidy house? My office is full of boxes containing all the office stuff that came home from the old business. My living room is full of things to sell on eBay. My kitchen has all the things from the old office kitchen. The garage appears to have moved into the house. Best of all, everything that is going to the garbage on Tuesday has been put into the double garage as apparently it’s going to rain. I’ve been told that my car will have to sit outside until Tuesday.
Tomorrow is Monday. I’m so glad I can go back to work.
Feeding your new puppy If you have purchased your German Shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder, your pup will have been weaned from the mother and has already experienced a first change of diet. Going home with you will be an exciting adventure and you do not want a tummy upset due to a combination of distress, travel, excitement and a change of diet. Always remember that this exciting day for you, is the day your pup is taken from everything they have known. You are taking them away from their mother and litter mates. Imagine how you would feel! How would your child feel?
Instructions on how to feed your German Shepherd Puppy Your pup’s breeder should have given you instructions on how to look after your puppy for the first few weeks at home. If they don’t offer the information, ask them for a list as this information will ease the pup’s transition and give you a guide for the next few weeks to make the transition seamless. If you decide to feed a different diet then transition slowly so not to upset your puppies’ sensitive stomach. Use the breeder’s food for a week, then slowly take out about 10% and replace it with your own. Gradually increase the new food and decrease the original food over a period of up to six weeks.
How often should you feed your puppy? Most puppies should be fed little and often as their tummies are still small. Your twelve-week-old puppy will probably be having four equal meals spread throughout the day. At this time, you can start to give the same amount of food but over three meals, and over the course of a month cut back to two meals a day. You will be feeding a food made specifically for puppies and as they get older you can transition to adult food. This will be at approximately nine months, but all dogs are different and like humans their individual needs will differ.
How much food should you give your German Shepherd Dog? Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule of how much to feed. You will have to watch your dog carefully and also feel under their thick coat to make sure they are well-covered but not obese which will cause health issues. Start by reading the instructions and feed the recommended amount for your type and weight of dog. If they are not gaining weight add a little extra, if they start to look chubby, reduce the amount. If you are not sure that your dog is eating properly, ask the advice of your vet.
German Shepherds can have sensitive stomachs Our favorite breed has a reputation for being prone to having sensitive stomachs, therefore choosing a diet that will encourage a healthy gut and great health is vital. The market is saturated with brands of dog food, all touting that theirs is the best. Even foods recommended by veterinarians should also be checked carefully as they are selling to the public for profit and may not read labels to ensure they are offering the best food for your dog.
Having stated that a German Shepherd can have a sensitive
stomach, it should also be pointed out that they are gluttons and will eat just
about anything! One German Shepherd’s owner was preparing steak for guests and
had to leave the kitchen. Knowing the dog’s reputation for thievery, the steak
was placed on top of the wall cabinet for safety. Of course, because we know
our breed is smart, the steak was soon gone. The dog had jumped up onto the
kitchen counter and reached up to take down the plate from the wall cabinet.
Who knows what the guests ate that night, it wasn’t steak!
German Shepherds have been known to eat anything. They
should be kept in a fenced-in yard with no access to garden equipment,
weed-killers or any other potentially harmful objects. A German Shepherd who
lived on a farm started to lose weight even though she was being well fed, and
was taken to the veterinarian who did studies on her stomach. When the tests
came back, the stomach contents were found to hold plastic, rope and even parts
of a tin can. You can never be too careful.
Learn about Bloat – it can kill your German Shepherd! You may never have heard that German Shepherds are particularly at risk for Bloat or Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) which is a serious condition that can kill your dog in hours. Bloat is prevalent in all large dog breeds but especially in those that have a large, deep chest cavity. Learning how to prevent Bloat is important in the care of your precious pet.
Bloat can be caused by:
Eating or drinking too fast
Eating or drinking too soon before or after
Eating from a raised bowl
Eating one large meal a day
Stress – this could be from being in kennels, or
the addition of a new baby or a puppy.
Bloat not only causes your dogs stomach to expand and
harden, but the stomach may also twist, which is even more dangerous as it will
cause internal damage to organs and lead to death.
When Bloat occurs, you will have very little time to get
help, so keep the phone and address of your closest Emergency Vet close by –
program it into your mobile phone.
Wolves and Wild Dogs Before we make any recommendations for your German Shepherd’s diet and nutrition, let us first look at how wild animals, similar to the domesticated dog, get their nutrition. Both Wolves and African Wild Dogs hunt for food in packs and run their prey to exhaustion often feeding before their prey is dead. They attack the soft stomach first, ridding it of the grassy intestines, then eat the meat and bones. This is the antithesis of how our domesticated dogs are expected to survive. According to Shawn Messonnier, DVM, published in the American Kennel Club (AKC) website, “In the wild, dogs prefer animal-based protein. I think it’s important that they eat the diet most closely resembling what they would eat if hunting on their own.”
Modern Canine Diet The market for dog food in America offers the opposite of a wild diet with the majority of popular dry foods (kibble) based on a mixture of meat, grains, vegetables with the addition of fillers, synthetic vitamins and preservatives. As human food has become processed for ease of use, so has dog food. There are hundreds of dried dog food brands, the ingredients (whatever the mix) are ground down, reformed into pellets then baked. Some dogs eat this type of food all their lives and thrive but many suffer from skin conditions, tooth decay and general bad health. Tinned dog food has the same effect, causing dental issues, sometimes before the dog is three. And what will happen next? You’ll take your dog to the vet and spend fortunes to cure disease that could have been avoided from the beginning. The question then is what should you be feeding your German Shepherd for optimal diet and nutrition?
Some interesting statistics:
In 2006, the National Research Council confirmed
that dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates.
In 2010, the Association of American Feed
Control Officials concluded that carbohydrates are not essential to a healthy
The American Kennel Club state on their website that “as
carnivores, they (dogs) have no need for fruits and vegetables as part of their
diet, but an occasional fruit or veggie as a treat is OK.” Some fruits and
vegetables are totally unsuitable so find
out more here.
Dog Trainer Kelly Whitescarver Kelly is a dog breeder, dog rescuer, and trainer of Belgian Malinois (similar in stature and temperament to a German Shepherd) and spoke to us about what she feeds her dogs. “I feed a high quality, dry food from family manufacturer Fromm. The Beef Frittata Veg does not contain grain, and has a protein level of 30%.” This particular food contains a mix of vegetables and fruits, including cranberries and blueberries that wolves have been known to snack on in the wild. Kelly feeds her dogs twice a day and says “if I had fewer dogs to feed, I would only feed raw meat as I am a firm believer in a carnivorous diet. When I have fewer dogs, I feed raw and add in sardines and sweet potato for extra protein.”
Find the Right Store Even before purchasing your German Shepherd puppy, learn where you can shop locally for the best food. This is probably not going to be a big-box store but rather a smaller specialized store that can answer your many questions.
Dry Foods of Choice Dry foods are easy to store and when choosing a brand look for the highest protein content. Read the labels – every brand has a website and discloses the content of their foods. Some are better than others. Brands that have a better reputation for using high-quality ingredients are:
Fromm Family Foods
– there are a large selection to choose for all stages of life. Most are grain
free and some have brown rice which can be helpful with dogs that have
Blue Buffalo – another family
concern that sell foods for all life stages. Free from grains and additives
with a broad range of proteins.
The Honest Kitchen – another
family owned company who say “A vast majority of pet food makers use stuff we
never use from places we don’t trust.”
Each of these brands have many tempting flavors and protein
types. Don’t think that because you like a varied diet, that you should feed
your dog in the same way. A regular diet of the same food with maybe a few
leftovers from the table will keep your dog’s stomach stable. Too much variety
will cause an upset stomach which is why if you are changing foods it should be
done gradually as discussed earlier.
If your German Shepherd has sensitivities to any foods, they
could be corn or gluten intolerant. Information about gluten intolerance is
easy to find but many people are ignorant about corn allergies. It is not
widely known that most added vitamins are corn-derived and that most
ingredients that include cellulose or anything ending in -ulose are also from
corn. Corn is the hidden ingredient in many of our own and our pet’s foods.
Fresh and Freeze-Dried Dog Foods The owners of For Footed Friends, a natural pet food store in Florida, agree that many pet nutritionists and veterinarians believe natural foods are better for your pet than highly processed ones, and that common ailments can be alleviated by providing a nutritionally sound diet for your dog.
A brand sold in the store is Primal, from a pet food company
founded by Matt Koss in 2000 who had a dog that was displaying early signs of
renal failure. Eventually turning to a holistic veterinarian, it was
recommended that his dog be fed a diet of bones and raw food which mimics how
your dog would eat in the wild. After a short time, his dog rebounded and he
decided to bring this food combination to the market with Primal Pet Food.
Every ingredient for Primal
is on the website, foods are either organic, farm raised and humanely sourced. Primal
comes as raw/frozen ingredients or freeze-dried, and are available all over the
U.S. The website has a helpful calculator and a search box for where to
A huge benefit to our dogs is that with many popular
grain-filled brands our dogs tend to expel (poop) huge amounts of the food but
with good quality food the ingredients are used within the body and they expel
How do you know the right mixture of food? The chart below is helpful if you want to know the best mix of protein to vegetables for your German Shepherd:
In addition, you can give your dog a full spectrum of
essential vitamins and minerals. A holistic product range is made by Only
Natural Pet’s who have daily
multi-vitamins that are available as tablets, powder to mix in with
food, and chews which could be used as a bedtime treat.
There are hundreds of dog foods and finding the right one
for your German Shepherd is important for health and longevity. Take time to do
your own research, talk to your breeder, discuss it with your veterinarian and
find a pet food shop that is in sympathy with your dog’s needs. You want your
German Shepherd to live a long, healthy life and good food is a key ingredient.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Alex Basinger recently about his work in product development and sales with FreeFit®. With my many connections to Interior Designers, I felt that I had to tell everyone about his wonderful product.
FreeFit floors are a great solution. Although luxury vinyl has been around for some time, here is an opportunity to design your own flooring with an additional twist – the floor can be floating and is therefore easily changed or can be moved. Another aspect that appealed to me is that the product is environmentally friendly. These quality custom floors have “been embraced by the Architectural and Design Community for the best and most realistic visuals in the industry, quality, and the extreme durability of the product.”
FreeFit floors have many applications and can be used in restaurants, office environments, hospitality, healthcare, sports venues and in the home. You can utilize their standard designs but the most exciting part is that you can design your own! They will take your design and make it work in the best way.
If you have a passion for cooking and like to spend time in
your kitchen, the industry has never been in a better position to give you an
idyllic space for your creativity. If your wish is to create a home where your
kitchen is the shining jewel where friends and family congregate, look no
further than today’s trends.
The kitchen is often in full view as open plan homes are always
popular. The kitchen should be integrated into the whole, giving pleasure to
the beholder and creating a luxurious scene from any aspect.