Shades of Green

Tony Lucas, the designer for Palm Harbor Homes and I had a great conversation when we were in Las Vegas for the MHI Congress and Expo. We were talking about the green revolution and what consumers are willing to pay to “do the right thing” and Tony used a great term – Shades of Green. We all want to make a difference, we just do it in different shades.

Living and working in a 1942 factory helps you find out quickly how important energy efficiency is, and amazingly enough there were some ideas that were designed into my home that make a lot of sense today. I always wanted a concrete home, and the Idea Factory is made of cement blocks and stucco. It really helps with sound and it does tend to keep the heat in during the winter and the cool in during the summer. We had no insulation anywhere and with a flat roof it was hard to add but we did.

The Idea Factory came complete with a 1956 Carrier air condition that used water cooled freon – similar to what many commercial buildings still use. the water takes the heat away from the air by the freon, travels outside and is then cooled by traveling across fins that let the air cool off the water. The cooled water is then returned to the system and the process starts over again. This is a very amateur description of the process, but I knew nothing when I bought this place but after the first summer I quickly found this system was worth keeping.

Imagine doing the inspection of your new home and having the inspector see this wood, falling apart structure that is a main component of your air conditioner. Obviously they were not very excited – water and raw wood are not a great combination. I saw it as a Lifestylist® Designed challenge, signed all of the papers and it was mine! Fortunately I have great team members that are used to my ideas, and we came up with a new design sculpted out of concrete and metal that is not only functional but a work of art as well. With hard work, a lot of head scratching and even more creativity today we started it up and it is purring like a new machine!

This is my shade of green – incorporating form, function, elbow grease and paint to come up with a system that has cut my cooling bills by over 60%.  Plus it looks great and I love the sound of it outside my kitchen window. I can’t wait to do more green projects to my home, but until I can afford more I am very conscious of  how shade can help my bills and letting the trees overhang my roof, keeping the cooling up or heat down to save on utility bills when I’m not there, and turning off lights if I’m not in the room.

What is your shade of green?

Celebrating Summer in Style

Summer is definitely here, and I decided to celebrate this Memorial Day weekend by trying out my Lifestylist® skills making something I’ve been craving – homemade ice cream. Lucky for me JC Penney had a great sale on so I got a great deal on my new Cuisinart Flavor Duo and it’s exactly what I wanted – easy prep and cleanup and you don’t need a bunch of items that you already wouldn’t have around the house. No rock salt needed – this uses two freezer bowls that easily fit and can stay in your freezer. I LOVE that it has the two separate bowls so you can make two different flavors at the same time without making more than you can eat in a weekend.

For my test run I opted for a fresh peach ice cream using peaches grown at the wonderful Lemley Farms in Tyler. They have a stall at our local Farmers Market and I couldn’t pass them up. I like a custard style ice cream which means you have to do some cooking but it was well worth it. There are some recipes in the instruction manual for ice cream where you just add ingredients – no cooking necessary.

The entire process could not have been easier, and sitting on the porch eating fresh ice cream brought back such great memories of the times our family shared when we all got together of all of the holidays. Now I can’t wait for my grandkids to visit so I can make some ice cream and memories with them as well.

Buying Local

Today was a great day – I got a lot of work done on my gardens then we went to our local farmers market to pick up some goodies for the week.

The Home Idea Factory is in an area of Dallas called Oak Cliff and we are very fortunate because we are close to town but it’s an older established area that is really coming into it’s own. Some amazing restaurants have opened, I’ve heard there is now an organic coop and now we even have our own coffee company – Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. So today we picked up some coffee, and sampled our way through the local farmer stalls at the Dallas Farmers Market. Local peaches were just coming into season and there also was a bounty of tomatoes, onions, squash and cucumbers. It’s going to be a healthy tasty week around here!

Some vendors are only there weekends and we discovered the Lucky Layla Farms which had amazing cheeses. I bought the Fresh Campesino which was perfect with my tomatoes, avocados and cucumbers for lunch. I’m going to make some homemade ice cream to use with the peaches for dessert.

One of the best things about being a Lifestylist is getting to explore what’s out there and figure out how to make it approachable and accessible. I was amazed how much I saved by buying at the farmers market vs. a typical grocery store – I got 5 huge beautiful tomatoes that were picked that morning for $1 each! My goodies helped me make a quick and healthy lunch for under $1.50 per serving.

We have got to support our local farmers and businesses. The Lemley family has been bring exceptional tomatoes, peaches and other produce to the farmer’s market for over 30 years. I know that a lot of the better restaurants in town also buy from them and I can’t imagine a summer without their goodies. It’s exciting to have all of these choices now and I plan on supported them so they are here for years to come.

I’m Feeling Blue

The Preserve
Bedroom Before
Bedroom After
Bath with Target Accessories

Earlier this year Pantone named blue, or turquoise to be exact the color of the year. I’m wondering if the winter Olympic committee had consulted with them because blue is definitely a color we are seeing a lot of as we watch the winter games.

I love the shades of blue and green that were chosen for the Olympics -it just goes to show how much of a difference the right colors can make in the appearance of an event, branding campaign or even a room. Using navy vs. aqua on a wall makes all the difference, even though they are both blue.

@home Builders hired The Home Idea Factory to merchandise a new model for them, and shades of blue were used in various rooms. This home was around the corner from the previous model which was in different colors, but the challenge was to use as much from the old model in the new one to keep costs down. Everything from the old bedroom was recycled in the new one but we added new bedding and headboards. The kids bath was merchandised with accessories from Target that were on trend and budget conscious. Buyers could actually go out and buy the items they saw and fell in love with in the model home. This new model home has character and personality and lookers became buyers – a community which only sold a few homes a year had 8 sales in snowy November and they now have a waiting list for the next phase.

Color  can affect your mood, and happy colors create happy customers.

Falling In Love on a Budget

Using color is one of the least expensive, most terrifying but also most rewarding ways to change a room. When I’m designing a new model home most builders will encourage me to use memorable colors, but when they first paint the room and see it without any accessories or furniture I often get a call wondering if they have the right information.

These rooms are a perfect example. You can imagine the call the builder got from the superintendent the first time they saw these! This is a model for Canoa Homes in Tucson, and they trusted me enough to wait and see what happened. This is also a great example of designing for your buyer, not yourself – we were targeting families with school age children. A Lifestylist targets in on what the buyer is really looking for, even when they may not realize it themselves.Once we had a few families go through the home we found that almost every female from 2 – 50 wanted that room with those paint colors. It was something the buyer might not have been brave enough to try on their own, but when they saw it completed they loved it.

This is also a great example of Partnership Merchandising. The Home Idea Factory had a great relationship with Home Interiors and Gifts – a direct sell company that we had done styling and product development with. Many of the accessories and “wallies” – the decals on the bath wall – we theirs and we identified them as such so buyers could reproduce what they saw in the room at a price they could afford. The bedding was from Bombay and the furniture from Ashley so all could be bought at local stores or from a Home Interiors and Gifts consultant.

Let your child have a say in what they want their room to look like. It might not be a color you would chose or a style you would like but by letting them be a part of the decorating decision they’ll take ownership of their decisions and be even more proud of what they accomplished.

Happy Valentines Day from all of us at The Home Idea Factory!

Sweet Treats for Valentines Day

One of my favorite, easy to make sweet treats is toffee. I’ve been entering variations in the State Fair of Texas for years and this is the version that everyone asks for.

The key to candy making is having a good thermometer, and when I invested in a digital one it made all of the difference in the world. As soon as the temperature gets up to around 250 degrees start watching very closely – it will get to the optimum temperature quickly and if it heats to even 5 degrees more than it should it will burn. Enjoy!

For a great way to package for gift giving, I found these great baskets in the Target Dollar Aisle. It delivers a lot of look for pennies, and the mat under it was from the same area. It was meant to be a bath mat but works really well in a tabletop display as well, and the best part is they were only $2.50!

Texas Butter Pecan Toffee

Ingredients:
1 lb Texas pecans
1 lb butter + 2 tablespoons butter for pecans
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb chocolate chips

Directions:
In a skillet, stir butter and pecans together – cook over a low heat until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.

In a medium saucepan combine the rest of the butter, sugar, water and Karo syrup. Stir until mixture comes to a boil, then continue to cook without stirring until mixture reaches a temperature of 290 degrees. Stir in half of the pecans to mixture and turn out onto a 12” x 18” baking sheet. Sprinkle top with chocolate chips and spread after they melt – then sprinkle rest of pecans on top and allow to cool. Break into bite sized pieces.

Window Dressings

Window treatments are something that is needed in every home, but few people know where to find the right treatments for their needs at a cost that they can afford.

Great news! This is a design area that had become much more affordable in the past few years, and now you can get beautiful treatments without breaking the bank. One of my favorite sources is Country Curtains. The name is deceiving – much of what they offer really isn’t “country” but styles that would fit in any decor. their fabrics and colors are also very on-trend and I’ve used them in many of the model home interiors that I’ve done recently as well as the Homearama House for @home Builders in Rochester, NY. They have stores around the country, but you can also purchase them on their website or from their catalog. One of the services that help take the guesswork out of finding the right treatment for your home is that they will send you swatches of the actual fabrics at no charge, and they also offer suggestions of Sherwin Williams paints that coordinate.

JC Penney is another favorite, and you can’t beat the quality or price. A great service is that they use different color pallettes every season and you can find coordinating linens, towels, bath accessories – you name it – that making your decorating decisions stress free.

Whatever your price range or style is, now you can do it your self from the comfort of your new home.

Let’s Give This Room a Hand

Paint and color can make all of the difference in a room. This is a model home that The Home Idea Factory merchandised for @home Builders in Rochester, NY and we put the builder’s kids to work – with adult supervision we had the kids dip their hands in water based paint and apply their handprints to the wall. It added lots of personality to the room and was an easy, inexpensive way to make it unique and memorable.

It Takes a Gingerbread Village to Fight Homelessness and Abuse

GBH Village  1288GBH Cat Detail  1287GBH Judging  1290GBH Details  1291Builders, chefs, and community members teamed up today to start the “Home Sweet Gingerbread Home” competitions at NorthPark Center. Lifestylist® Suzanne chaired the event which looks like it will become an annual favorite.Chef and cookbook author Karel Ann Tieszen teamed up with Shared Housing board member Mona Lincoln and TX State Fair Celebri-chef Peter Clarac (he was a winner in the Oprah cook-off) to decide which of the houses would be awarded the coveted blue ribbon. Pastry Chef Instructor at the Art Institute of Dallas Nina Hunter amazed the judges with her beautiful victorian home complete with playful penguins enjoying the pool in the backyard and was awarded first place.

Thursday the “Builders and Bakers” competition will be taking place from 12pm to 4pm also at NorthPark. Teams comprised of members from the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas will be creating homes on-site with celebrity chefs from Stephan Pyles, Sambuca, Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Texan, DC’s Catering and The Cupcakery. They will then be judged and awarded various prizes in different categories.

The competitions will benefit two great organizations – Shared Housing Center and HomeAid / Homebuilders Care, both which break the cycle of homelessness and abuse in the Dallas area.

Shop and Save at Green Markets

FM LessonVegetable Soup03FM Brussel SproutsJBF SoupTouring New York City with a James Beard recognized chef is a treat in itself, but going to the Union Square Green Market with that chef and learning how to shop at a green market is the chance of a lifetime. One of the things that Chef Joanne got me excited about going home and experimenting with again is soups.

Our household meals are full of vegetables and we come close to living a vegetarian lifestyle. I tend to go back to the same favorites, but Chef Joanne showed us how many vegetables we typically wouldn’t try can be fantastic additions to our daily diets, especially when we buy from farmers at a green market and are able to take advantage of the fresh, seasonal offerings. Some of the vegetables she showed us how to use in the James Beard dinner she prepared were baby bok choy, tomatillos, and my new favorite brussel sprouts.

I’m now determined to make a vegetable soup at least once a week from scratch with fresh vegetable from my local farmers market. This probably isn’t the way a true chef would do it, but I love using my Crock Pot and using just water, carrots, celery, potatoes, celery and corn. I let these cook on high for a few hours, then because we like things with a kick, I add Adobo seasonings that I get from Penzeys and a can or two of Rotel. Couldn’t be easier or healthier.

If you think you can’t cook, or that you don’t have the time to do a meal from scratch, give this a try. Just substitute whatever vegetables are in season for your region and you’ll be in for a great treat!Shop and Save at Green Markets