Working with White

In a business where we end up talking about colors a lot, white can feel like an afterthought, but white needs as much care and attention as any other color choice—as this slide show from Houzz explains. Luckily, you can find plenty of design inspiration out there for white paint, tile, and furnishings:

There’s more to white than meets the eye!

Energy Fixer Series from PGE


How many of you actually read the inserts in your utility bills? Probably not many, but we often find at least one item of interest in each mailing. For example, this year PGE is publishing an “Energy Fixer” series in their Update newsletter and on their website:

Sarah, a PGE employee and mother of two, recently purchased a 1,500 square-foot, all-electric ranch house built in 1960 that retained much of its original style — along with many outdated energy features. We’ll check in throughout 2015 as she works to shape up her new home and get it energy fit. We’ll also share ideas that you can use to shape up your home.

So far, Sarah has done some research and completed Energy Trust’s online home assessment questionnaire. (Past installments of the series are available on the Energy Fixer page—just look in the right-hand sidebar.) This month, she’ll be conducting in-depth home energy assessment and blower-door test to pinpoint where she needs to seal air leaks and add insulation.

Follow along for some easy lessons in home energy use.

(For those of you who use natural gas and get it from NW Natural, they offer an assessment tool called Energy Analyzer; you must be logged into your account to use it. Pacific Power provides online energy calculators.)

Holidays the Wright Way

Just a little something lovely to look at as we head to the end of the year. Happy Solstice (belated), Happy (Last Day of) Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year!

An Annual Interval for Perennials


According to the article cited in our earlier post, A Year’s Worth of Sales, August is the month for purchasing perennials and shrubs. But what does that mean for us here in Portland? According to the much-missed Dulcy Mahar, a longtime columnist for the Oregonian‘s Home & Gardens section, “to forgo perennials in a climate such as this is tantamount to a botanical felony.”

Some articles we’ve read strongly advocate planting perennials in the fall as a matter of course for some key reasons: it gives the plants a chance to establish strong roots; soil is typically warmer than in the spring (good for plants) and may be easier to work with (good for your back); and, of course, ongoing watering will be less of an issue than in high summer.

Here are some great resources:

  • Portland Nursery has many guides available for downloading, including a Perennial Bloom Calendar tailored to Portland.
  • Check out the Wild Garden’s list of native perennials, organized by either common name or botanical name.
  • Consider this “six-pack” of perennials as selected by Brian Bauman of Bauman Farms, or Mahar’s other columns, such as one where she picked her favorite perennials for the Pacific Northwest.
  • The book Five-Plant Gardens: 52 Ways to Grow a Perennial Garden with Just Five Plants may offer good guidance. A review in the Oregonian concluded that it “provides novice gardeners as well as time- and design-challenged gardeners with an excellent road map to perennial gardening . . . plant-by-numbers plans encourages successful gardens, which, in turn, encourages life-long gardeners.” Note that the author’s focus is on long-established cultivars, not the newest trends, as the latter can be higher priced or harder to find.
  • Gardenista picked some tough perennials for urban environments or, equally important, the parking strip (we’re filing away the term ‘hellstrip’ for future use!).


Image: “Helleborus orientalis 20070226-1505-10” by Keith Edkins – Own photo. Botanic Gardens, Cambridge, England. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Picnic Daydreams

This week’s monsoon weather here in Portland makes the idea of a sunny picnic seem like a distant dream, but we’re officially past the solstice, so maybe it really is time to start planning for an outdoor gathering. In addition to Houzz’s tips for summer entertaining, here are some seriously stylish picnic picks from Remodelista:

Planning Summer Travel


This month’s client letter include tips on travel deals — like you can find through social coupon sites or wholesale clubs — but what if you just want to hop in your car and go? Here are a few sites that can help you find or create an itinerary:

  • Travel Oregon’s Trip Ideas: Oregon’s tourism bureau has great ideas for itineraries, scenic byways, points of interest, and seasonal attractions.
  • Roadtrippers: Apart from stories and guides, this site has an interactive map that lets you highlight features (accommodations, nature, shopping, food, etc.) between home and your destination. The image above shows part of the route from Portland to Spokane with hiking spots and monuments highlighted.
  • Nerdy Day Trips: Does just what it says on the label. The site originates in and defaults to the UK, so search for Portland to see a local map of nerdy excursions, most submitted by fellow site users.
  • Drives of a Lifetime: This National Geographic tome is on the shelves at Multnomah County Library, and the British Columbia road trip sounds wonderful.
  • Travefy: There are plenty of apps out there to coordinate group travel, but this is one we’ve heard recommended. If you have another suggestion, leave it in the comments.

Safe journey!

Displaying Art

galleryIs this true for you? Spring’s arrival makes you feel like changing your clothing, your pantry, your exercise routine, your home — everything!

Sometimes you shouldn’t listen to that urge (no, really, don’t throw your entire winter wardrobe on a big bonfire), but other cravings are worth satisfying. For example, one quick change that will make a big impact at home is relocating or adding artwork.

Sunset magazine has a home decorating guide, “15 Fresh Ways to Display Your Art,” full of bright ideas.

Last year, Bridget Otto of the Oregonian shared some great advice about choosing and displaying art from the director of the annual Affordable Art Fair.*

Decorator and designer Lauren Liess has described how sketching can give you the feel of a particular art arrangement, an intuitive plan rather than a prescriptive grid.

If you need new artwork to display, maybe one of these sources will help?

Of course, there are plenty of local artists and shopping opportunities, too, including weekly fairs like the Saturday Market; annual or seasonal art shows such as the Art in the Pearl, Buckman Art Show & Sale, Crafty Wonderland’s Colossal Sales, and the Audubon Society of Portland’s Wild Arts Festival; and shops too numerous to name.

* This year’s dates have not yet been announced, but last year the Seattle leg of the fair took place in November. Sign up for their mailing list, if you want to stay in the loop.

Color Forecasts

COY2014Each year, we see more and more hype around Pantone’s selection of a color to characterize the upcoming year. If you managed to miss the coverage this time around, 2014 is supposed to be all about Radiant Orchid.

It can be hard to know how to use this sort of fashion-forward hue when making decoration choices for your home, though design magazines certainly have suggestions — see, for example, Pantone’s spring 2014 palette as styled by Elle Decor contributors.

Paint manufacturers also preview color trends; these can be somewhat less driven by runway fashion and therefore more user-friendly:

  • Benjamin Moore is talking up a New Neutral palette for 2014. Compare their lovely and very livable selection for Color of the Year, Breath of Fresh Air.
  • Sherwin-Williams highlights a four color families with evocative names like Diaphanous and Curiosity.
  • Behr’s also has four bold sets in their 2014 Color Trends. Perhaps you will be intrigued by their Seaside Harmony or Natural Avocation palettes?
  • Dunn-Edwards goes a step further, investigating colors that are trending for the holidays (!).

When all is said and done, however, you want the colors in your home to make you happy and comfortable. For most of us, these trend reports are simply fun ways to think about the possibilities.

Stay or Go


Our most recent letter was about a question a lot of homeowners ask themselves whenever the real estate market is good: should I remodel or move? An Oregonian article from earlier in the year made it into our scrapbook because it asks that exact question.

A sidebar lists some key considerations when making the decision to stay or go.

It’s great to see how some creative thinking resolves an awkward layout — shown here in the architect’s plan of the first floor — giving the owners the home they want while letting them stay put in a neighborhood they love.

Otto, B. (2013, March 22). When it pays to stay: couple finds it makes better sense to remodel than to move. The Oregonian, Homes & Gardens pp. 8-12.

Image: Emerick Architects