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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Remodeling, here we come!

Finally, the old house is sold and we can focus on the new house. Feels like a huge burden lifted, and I can't wait to start thinking about new ideas for the new house. We have a lot of plans -- back patio, kitchen, bath, floors . . . .

For the 1st floor powder room I'd like to enlarge the window (which looks to the back of the house) and install an electrochromic window which could be transparent until a switch is flicked, and then it instantly darkens. More than half the time we're just washing our hands in there anyway, and the backyard is completely private, so the number of times I want to shade the window will be small. But when I want to shade it I'd like it to happen instantly. And I really dislike the look of anything -- blinds, curtains, anything -- hanging from my windows. So I'm out to explore the world of electrochromic glazing. I'll write back with what I find.

And by the way, the Benjamin Moore Aura paint is still holding up well -- even to markers and crayons!

Monday, March 3, 2008

New home, new paint!

We've now purchased the new home and are on our way to selling the old. While the new home isn't our modern, green dream, we're looking forward to the renovations we'll do to make it so. Our first step is to brighten the home with some new paint -- and our paint of choice is Aura by Benjamin Moore. We've been thrilled with the paint so far, and even more important, our painter loves it. It's been very true to its advertising -- covers quite well, and I can hardly smell the paint even a few hours after painting. We haven't had an occassion to wash it yet, but I'm looking forward to it holding up to the washing claims too! I want to publicly thank the folks at Ace Paints and Unfinished Furniture in Mt. Lebanon for their kind help with the Aura paint.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Control Your Lights and Shades

This week I received a packet of information I had requested from Lutron. Lutron makes systems which allow full control over your lighting and shading solutions. Not only can lighting and shading be programmed for automatic operation during your absence, but you can control both from keypads at home or from your auto.

I am mostly intrigued by Lutron for the energy savings it could provide. When home, I manually control my blinds and lights all day to maximize energy savings. Seems like automating this would maximize the energy savings from these controls. Similarly, having a control to turn off all the lights in the house, instead of hoping that my children remember to turn off their lights, would help us waste less energy.

While all of this technology seems best suited for new construction, Lutron has made technological advances to make installation possible in older homes.

If we decide to look into using Lutron in our renovation, I'll be sure to report back on our findings.

Monday, September 17, 2007

20x200 Art

Art collector? Art collector wanna-be? Jen Bekman's new project, 20x200, answers your need for good art at affordable prices. Her philosophy was that plenty of artists want to sell their art, collectors and regular folks would like to buy art, and the internet would be a great place to connect them. Fresh art will be offered for sale on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Each piece of art will be sold in three sizes. 200 of the smallest size will sell for $20 each, 20 of the medium size will sell for $200 each, and 2 of the largest will sell for $2000 each. A simple, beautiful plan!

I first read about Jen's project in Dwell, and received my first e-mail this weekend. I love the idea, especially for residents of smaller cities where art opportunities may be somewhat limited. Texture and quality are always key to my purchasing decisions, so when I make my first purchase I'll be sure to report back to you on my experience.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Windmill in Every Yard

Wind power -- what a beautiful thing! I'm fascinated by renewable energy sources, particularly sun and wind. I think the newest windmills are beautiful, graceful, and an amazing way of meeting our energy needs. I do understand that some controversy exists about windmills in the paths of migratory birds, and agree that we need to be sensitive to the placement of windmill farms.

Did you know that some windmills now are residential-sized? Basically you need at least 1/2 acre of unobstructed property, wind speeds which average 10 mph, a cooperative zoning board, and an interconnection agreement with your local power authority. Install a windmill, and you can power your house! You can even sell back your extra electricity! I find it absolutely amazing that we have potential energy resources which don't injure the environment, and yet we're not using them! We need a windmill on every house! I'd love to put one here -- we have the property, but apparently we don't have enough wind -- but it would make such a statement and then others would see it and want their own windmill. . . . next thing you know . . . . we'd have residential windmills all over suburbia . . . .! (Okay, so is someone working on the next generation of residential windmills which can run with less wind?)

Southwest Windpower makes Skystream 3.7 which is a residential wind generator. Andy Kruse and David Calley, who co-founded Southwest Windpower, shares my dream of windmills in backyards everywhere. I subscribe to their e-mail, and you can too by visiting their website. Right now they're trying to encourage people to write to their US Respresentative, to help encourage the addition of a tax credit for wind power -- thereby reducing the break-even time for homeowners which will encourage more purchases of wind turbines.

A windmill in every yard -- a beautiful thing!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Never Too Young

We often talk of environmental issues at home, and we were very thankful when Janice at ARTEMIS Environmental Building Materials took the time to introduce interesting properties of green materials to our children. Seems like getting kids excited about green ideas (just like fast food restaurants hook kids with their kids' meals) could have such a lasting impact.

My children just received the National Geographic Kids October 2007 issue. It's a special "Green Issue" and includes great kid-friendly tips. Here are a few of my favorites for kids:
1. Take short showers
2. Ride a bike or walk instead of using the car
3. Take a reusable bag to the store (maybe this could be a "chore" for a child -- remembering the cloth bags for grocery store trips)
4. Turn over used paper and use it for artwork or scrap paper
5. Scrape leftovers off the dishes instead of rinsing (another kid-friendly chore)
6. Share these tips!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Wow! And it's been right there under my nose all along! Intrigued by some rain-screen cladding by Paper Stone -- the same Paper Stone which can be used for countertop material -- I searched for dealers in Pennsylvania and found . . . right on Butler Street in Pittsburgh, ARTEMIS Environmental Building Supply!

My husband and I hauled our three children there the following Saturday and we were very impressed both by the materials which were available and the knowledgeable, helpful employees there. Janice took us under her wing, showing us all around, introducing us to great materials and always including our children in the conversation.

Artemis inspired us -- our children carried on a lively discussion during the drive home about conservation, while I tried to figure out how to promote Artemis and the products they carry -- how do I spread the word to everyone in Pittsburgh considering a remodel or construction? Guess I'll start with the blog.

Considering that last spring our family drove to Washington, D.C. to the National Building Museum to see a green building exhibit featuring Michelle Kaufmann's "Glidehouse" (and so that I could actually touch all of these materials I had read about in Dwell, Architectural Record and Metropolitan Home), I consider Artemis, who has the same materials right here in Pittsburgh, to be a fantastic source for all Pittsburghers!