Category Archives: Interior Design

Outdoor Spaces at High-End Residences Are Going Green

Eco landscaping is producing exteriors that are beautiful and sustainable


Outdoor Spaces at High-End Residences Are Going Green

In the same way drivers of luxury cars are trading in their Mercedes for Teslas, owners of high-end properties are abandoning their lush lawns and exotic outdoor plants for ecologically sustainable, environmentally conscious landscapes.

Across the U.S., landscape architects are being asked to create outdoor spaces that reduce water and energy consumption and utilize more locally sourced materials.

While some of this is driven by regulation, in many places it is simply seen as the right thing to do.

Russ Greey, a principal at the landscape architecture firm Greey|Pickett in Scottsdale, Ariz., said that 10 to 15 years ago, people migrating to the Southwest sought to re-create the green, ornamental landscapes they had back home in the North and Midwest. But over time, people have become more environmentally aware and are embracing water-wise desert plants native to the region.

More:Michelin-Starred Residents-Only Restaurants: Flash in a Pan or the Start of a New Trend?

Instead of water-intensive lawns, Mr. Greey said, clients are installing synthetic turf, man-made paving materials that are cooler to the feet and locally sourced building materials that don’t have to be shipped halfway across the globe.

“People aren’t saying that they can’t afford stone imported from China,” he said, “but that it is the right thing to do.”

Water and energy issues

Even in non-desert climates, Mr. Greey said, clients are increasingly concerned with the water consumption on their property. Coastal regions in Northern California and Oregon, for example, are surprisingly dry, and native grasses are gaining in popularity over box hedges and other traditional types of plants.

Other sustainable elements in his landscapes include permeable paving materials that allow water to soak in and down into the aquifer, rather than creating runoff and erosion, and LED outdoor lighting systems that use less energy and wiring and last far longer than incandescent bulbs.

It’s not only the materials that must be environmentally conscious, but the labor as well: Some high-end clients have requested landscape contractors who use electric mowers, hedge clippers and blowers, rather than the fossil fuel-driven variety, Mr. Greey said.

What happens outside could affect the entire house

Mr. Greey noted that trends in exterior design are having an impact on the design of homes themselves. Desert plants, he said, lend themselves to sleeker, more sophisticated contemporary architecture–their spiky, interesting forms can silhouette up against a wall–and he believes this is pushing architecture as a whole toward a more contemporary style.

More:In New L.A. Tower, Renters Can Run Errands in a Bentley, Relax in Their Own Private Park

John Feldman, founding principal of Ecocentrix Landscape Architecture, a landscape architecture firm in Santa Monica, Calif., agreed.

“Classical architecture, from Cape Cod to Spanish Colonial, has a very defined look, an Italian or French garden with clipped and manicured hedges, low border plants,” he said. “The water issue is a game-changer,” as contemporary styles are more tolerant of innovative uses of materials.

He said he is seeing a definite nod toward contemporary landscapes and housing in Los Angeles, with 15,000- to 30,000-square-foot contemporary homes being built in the Hollywood Hills at a rate he’s never seen before.

Like Mr. Greey, Mr. Feldman is experiencing client demand for exterior LED lighting that is ecologically friendly and easy on the energy bill. Other popular features: fire effects, bocce courts, outdoor theaters with projectors and sound systems, and pools or spas that are themselves water features.

What he’s not seeing anymore are big, luxurious lawns. In fact, much of his business now involves turning clients’ water-hungry estates into sustainable gardens and grounds.

In some cases, it’s the law

Starting this past Jan. 1, any new home or significant remodeling project in the State of California must undergo a strict environmental review for water consumption that takes in the entire property and includes a point system that ranks every type of plant. The City of Santa Monica, Mr. Feldman said, has its own environmental regulations and sends inspectors out during installation to make sure the plants on the plans are actually going into the ground.

Some high-end buyers have purchased new homes whose exterior design plans do not comply with the law. In effect, he said, they end up buying something they can’t have. In those cases, he said, high-end landscape architects have to come in late in the process to adapt the project, at considerable cost.

More:Beyond Wallpaper: 3-D Wall Treatments That Transform a Room

But for clients who still want green, there are options. Large trees and a smaller, artificial lawn produce a shady effect that can trick the eye, and some of the material is a plush muslin-y weave that is soft underfoot, Mr. Feldman said.

One upcoming project in Santa Monica, he said, takes environmental awareness to a whole new level—it is designed as a net zero house. In addition to low-water-use plants and subsurface irrigation design, it will use graywater –recycled from the home–to water a portion of the grounds.

A similar trend takes hold in cities

Katherine Gauthier, of Douglas Elliman in Manhattan, said the desire for a reduced impact on the environment “is translating to outdoor sanctuaries” in the city, too.

One property she is selling—a $37 millionpenthouse on the Upper East Side—has a 2,900-square-foot terrace that was redesigned taking ecological principles into consideration. Cement was replaced with recycled wooden planks, one section has artificial turf and most of the plants were specifically chosen because they don’t need excessive water.

When she shows the property to prospective buyers, “we want them to know we worked with a landscape architect to use materials that didn’t tap the water supply,” Ms. Gauthier said. “It’s become part of what more people are expecting.”

As Mr. Feldman put it, “The way people luxuriate is being rethought.”

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Improving project outcomes through a customized process

Michelle LaBrosse

Friday, August 12, 2016

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Improving project outcomes through a customized process

The first step to success in your projects is to be sure they are the rightprojects for you at this time. A project is “right” when it moves you closer toward achieving your long-term goals, aligns well with your unique strengths, and is achievable given the resources and people you have available to you.

Once you’ve identified the right project for you at this time, you need to follow a systematic process for carrying it out.

In this article, I’ll show you how to develop a customized, quality process for doing your projects. First, I’ll help you recognize your own unique strengths and challenges for doing projects. Then, I’ll talk you through the essential elements of writing a project plan — a document you can use over and over again for any type of project.

1. Your strengths for doing projects

A customized process for doing projects begins with identifying your own unique strengths and challenges for doing projects. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses will help you create a project schedule that is realistic for you, more accurately estimate project costs and risks, and identify the right people to bring on board to help you.

Let’s say, for example, that you have an ENFP Myers-Briggs personality type — extroverted, intuiting, feeling and perceiving. Some of your project management strengths are likely your resourcefulness, willingness to take risks and ability to problem-solve creatively. Your challenges likely include attending to details, meeting deadlines and establishing a realistic project scope.

Each of these tendencies is crucial to keep in mind when you move on to your next step: creating a project plan.

2. Creating a project plan

After decades of teaching project management to both new and experienced project managers, I have honed in on what I believe to be the most effective project plan template. The project plan is adaptable to any professional or personal project and consists of five major parts: scope, tasks, risks, constraints and team rules.

As mentioned above, howyou plan out each of these areas depends on your personality’s strengths and weaknesses for doing projects.

In the scope section of our project plan, you spell out three major elements of your project: the objective (your goal), the boundaries (the start and end dates) and the rationale (why you’re doing this project and who benefits from it).

Next, you’ll need to define the project tasks. An ENFP project manager may be tempted to rush through this section, jotting down several major components of the project without specifying any deadlines. This won’t do for a project plan. In this stage, you’ll need to break down your project into specific task, assign them to a team member, and — most importantly — set a deadline.

The next two stages, estimating risks and constraints, are the most likely to be affected by your personality type. Simply put, if you’re an optimistic kind of person, you’ll likely underestimate the project’s risks and constraints, while if you’re more cynical, you may overestimate these.

Being honest with yourself about whether you tend toward optimism or pessimism is crucial to generating accurate estimates of project risks, resources needed and possible roadblocks.

Lastly, you must establish some team rules. Even (or maybe especially) if you see your project team as a tight-knit family, you will achieve more success with your projects if you spell out a set of rules for each and every project you undertake.

Granted, many of these rules will stay the same across projects — what matters is that you and your team revisit them each time you start on a new project, and make sure everyone is one the same page before you hit trouble.

Following a consistent process that is specifically adapted to your unique strengths as a project manager will bring you high-quality results time after time.

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About the Author

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse, CCPM, PMP, PMI-ACP, is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. Michelle also has a BS in aerospace engineering, MS in mechanical engineering and Harvard OPM. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors and licensees worldwide. To date, more than 50,000 people have become “Cheetahs” using Cheetah Learning’s innovative project management and accelerated learning techniques.

MultiBriefs readers can use the discount code “Multi10” for exam prepand “Multi20” for the PDU classes.

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Home Depot sees record sales as U.S. home construction rises

August 16, 2016

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The Home Depot posted record sales and earnings during its second quarter and raised its profit expectations for the year as the U.S. housing market continues to warm up.

The Atlanta home improvement retailer’s profit jumped 9 percent, to $2.44 billion, or $1.97 per share, edging out Wall Street expectations by a penny, according to analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

Sales surged 6.6 percent, to $26.47 billion, also slightly better than expected.

Home Depot operates more than 2,250 stores, including four in Indianapolis and one each in Carmel, Noblesville, Greenwood and Greenfield.

Home Depot and its rival, Lowe’s, sailed through a downturn in the retail sector this year as a whole, with more Americans funneling money into the homes they own, or putting personal touches on new ones. Lowe’s reports its earnings on Wednesday.

The U.S. reported that new home construction jumped 4.8 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.19 million. That was the highest since February, when an unseasonably mild winter pulled builders out of hibernation early.

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That trend appears to be continuing.

This week, the National Association of Home Builders with Wells Fargo released its builder sentiment index, showing that optimism among homebuilders is on the rise.

“We had a solid quarter, achieving the highest quarterly sales and net earnings results in company history as housing continues to be a tail wind for our business,” said CEO Craig Menear in a company release Tuesday.

Same-store sales jumped 4.7 percent, in line with expectations.

The company boosted its full-year profit outlook to $6.31 per share from a previous per-share projection of $6.27.

Home Depot shares are up almost 4 percent this year and edged higher Tuesday morning.

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The during is as important for remodeling as the before or after

Brian Paich

Thursday, August 11, 2016

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The during is as important for remodeling as the before or after

Homeowners who have never been through remodeling focus on the “before” and “after” of a project — rarely do they think about the “during.”

They get caught up in the glitz and glam of the impending project completion and what it will look like when their kitchen is redesigned or their living room is expanded. Homeowners who have been through a previous remodel know better. They tend to be a bit more skeptical because they have experienced some of the inconveniences that can occur during a project.

Research conducted by MMR Research Associates shows that homeowners who have previously completed a remodeling project are most concerned with how they are going to live through a remodeling project again. Homeowners beginning their first renovation project are more concerned with how it is going to look.

These insights provide you with an opportunity to differentiate your business. Not only will you deliver the quality results all clients expect, but you’ll also make sure they are as comfortable as possible while you’re working in their home.

You can demonstrate this to potential clients by tailoring your bidding and planning conversations. First-timers and those more experienced with remodeling projects each require different discussions.

A few tips for closing the deal and keeping clients comfortable:

1. Manage expectations before the contract is signed

This may sound like a no-brainer, but you need to remember that first-project homeowners likely don’t know what to expect. Showing them before-and-after pictures of your work can be an effective sales tactic, but if you don’t talk to them about what happens between those pictures (the during), you could end up with an upset client.

Seasoned homeowners are more aware of the pain points from past experiences and will be more upfront about their concerns. Discuss the timeline, temporary living spaces, scheduling, logistics, and the dirt and dust. Explain how you manage all of these remodeling issues.

Proactively addressing common pain points will set you apart, leaving potential clients wondering why the “other guy” didn’t warn them. While you can’t predict every obstacle that will arise on a job site, you can help homeowners be prepared for setbacks. Having this conversation will also help you understand the needs and attitude of the potential client, whether they’re new to home remodeling or they’re on the umpteenth upgrade.

2. Make it livable

Work with each customer to develop a livable remodeling strategy that fits their lifestyle. For example, dust is one of those things first-time home remodelers typically don’t think about. However, more experienced homeowners who have gone through living in a dust bowl for months on end will know to ask you about your dust control procedure.

Avoid customer dissatisfaction by following best practices: isolate the work area, close and seal vents and the HVAC system, and capture airborne dust using a HEPA air scrubber.

3. Make communication convenient

It’s surprising in today’s connected society that a lack of communication creates so many challenges. Communication should make the project run smoother, for both you and your client. This means you need to understand your client’s preferred contact method and be willing to adapt your preferences to meet their needs.

Historically, baby boomers have been the primary home improvement spenders, but Generation X and millennials are gaining ground as they age. So while some clients may prefer face-to-face check-ins or phone calls, younger generations demand digital communications, including invoices and status reports, in almost real time.

Going the extra mile by proactively managing expectations of both experienced and inexperienced home remodeling customers saves a lot of grief and builds trust. It all comes down to exceptional customer service, which makes all the difference for your clients and your business reputation.

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About the Author

Brian Paich

Brian Paich is a business development manager at ITW BuildClean. Brian has worked directly with contractors and homeowners across the country for several years, learning what is most important to both audiences. He can be reached at

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“Action Always Beats Intention”

By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Having just returned from our 2016 IDS (Interior Design Summit), I thought that the advice and encouragement shared throughout the Summit was worth reinforcing and sharing with everyone – as action does always beat intention.

Ask yourself how many notes you have filed away from seminars and/or conferences you attended – intending to set the world on fire with what you learned – and those notes have remained filed away ever since that event.  Personally I have been there!  I have cleaned out files and come across great information 10+ years after the event, having never looked at it since that event!  I remember having such great intentions and thoughts of how I would apply whatever I learned, without ever setting a plan of action and identifying priorities.  Consequently as soon as I returned to the office I set those notes on a shelf or put them into a file and let myself get caught up in OPP’s (other people’s priorities) and nothing changed.

A number of years ago I decided I needed to replace intentions with actions.  I hate waste and I was wasting time and money.  It is a waste of time and money to invest in attending events without putting the key nuggets you identify into action, and similarly it is a waste to attend and then ignore the possibilities to make positive changes in your business. Another plus to being proactive is that usually those changes you make in your business will transfer into your personal life.

So, to all of you, whether you attended IDS or not, I want to challenge you to replace intentions with action!  If you are serious about making some changes, then let’s set up a plan of action.  Remember if you fly to events, you can use the time flying home to start on your plan of action and if any team members are with you, all the better to be able to use that time away from the office.

1.    Make the decision to turn intentions into action.

2.    Immediately calendar at least 2 hours per week for planning/thinking time – then use the first

3.    Use bullet points to make a quick list of all that you learned that you want to apply in your business

4.    Quickly prioritize that list – you may think you need it all immediately but you need to identify an order in which you can make changes.

5.    As we always encourage – identify just 3 items that you will address immediately.

6.    Calendar/schedule action!

7.    Remember, you must energize your team to “own” and accelerate those actions/changes and be sure those changes become rooted into your business to be sure they do not become a “flash in the pan”.

Finally, once you have set these 3 changes in motion, move down the list, identify the next 3 items you want to address and follow the same process to continue to drive your business forward.

To paraphrase from Gandhi:  “Be the change you wish to see”

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A Small Dose of Black Decor Is All You Need

Lessons from Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein inspire Dan Mazzarini’s interior design

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Millennial Preferences Are Reshaping U.S. Cities

18-hour cities’ lure millennials with better career and lifestyle options and a mix of housing, retail, entertainment and green-space options.

Millennials, like historical American city dwellers before them, are migrating to locales where job opportunities are concentrated. Embracing a diverse urban lifestyle in large numbers, they are also directly affecting the revitalization of long-dormant urban areas in Detroit, downtown Los Angeles, Brooklyn, downtown Houstonand Uptown Dallas– among other locales.

Millennials have also played a part in the rapid urbanization of smaller and less dense (but growing) metropolitan areas like Austin and Nashville. Additionally, resolutely urban cities, such as San Franciscoand Boston, are seeing further densification and the resulting transformation of their urban-core neighborhoods.

This is according to a new study from the Canadian global commercial real estate services firm Avison Young, which is based in Toronto. The executive summary of the study, entitled “Millennials and Re-Urbanization of the City – Closer to the core: Millennials’ preference for amenities and connections reshaping communities in the U.S,” can be accessed here.

“Our research shows that millennials are transforming America’s cities in unexpected ways,” said Mike Kennedy, Avison Young principal and managing director of the firm’s Austinoffice, who co-authored the report. “At the same time, millennials are creating challenges – and opportunities – for owners and occupiers of commercial real estate, including investors, landlords and tenants.”

The report also finds that “urban-burbs” are effectively creating confluences where walkable amenities, efficient and accessible transit, high connectivity, and city-center conveniences intersect with lower-rise density and improved affordability. Furthermore, it is likely that companies will find their workforces and tenants to be largely millennials who wish to live, work and play in denser communities than the outlying neighborhoods preferred by their parents and grandparents.

“This report demonstrates that, by offering their talents and skills for the benefit of their communities and peers, millennials will continue to come together and, ultimately, reshape our urban and suburban neighborhoods,” said Andrew Alizzi, an associate in Avison Young’s Austin office and a co-author of the report. “Accordingly, employers of millennials and real estate developers would be wise to review the historical cycles, as well as economic and demographic drivers, of American cities – and strive to remain relevant with the diverging lifestyle choices of this highly innovative generation.”

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30 Colorful Wallpaper Design Ideas That Bring Personality To Any Space

These rooms are patterned to perfection.

wallpaper design ideas

Francesco Lagnese

There are few design elementsthat are as engaging as colorful wallpaper. The simple addition of a wallpaperin a fun pattern or unexpected motif can liven up a space in an instant. See 30 of our favorite wallpaper design ideas, from fully-papered rooms to spaces with bold statement walls. Whatever your decorating style, there is a gorgeous wallcovering to match it.

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Design for Life

Fashion and interiors help tell the story of who we are.


Sandy Gordon, FASID, LEED AP

Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake said, “Design is not for philosophy. It’s for life.”

He had it right. Whether talking about the runway or a striking interior, the thoughtfully creative end product is an interpretation of what’s happening around us in life. It’s how we tell our story.

I recently had the opportunity to dedicate my graduate project to developing a retail environment for fashion leader Eileen Fisher. This mega-brand, headquartered in Irving, N.Y., embraces simplicity, sustainability, and great design through an ethos born of passionate individuals who work as they live and use good design throughout their spaces and products to inspire creativity, cultivate connection, and instill confidence. Part of my assignment was helping customers understand what they were buying in store. Yes, it’s obvious they were purchasing clothing, but where did the fabric come from? Were the products sustainable? To Eileen Fisher, sharing this information was—and is—a part of sharing their story.

Fashion intersects with interior design in many other ways. In fact, one could argue that both exist for a similar purpose. Style, whether it be in what you wear or the environments in which you live and work, is a way to say who and what you are. Walk into a well-designed corporate office, restaurant, or home and you can feel and see a larger, defining vision.

Fashion really is a marker of sorts, the same as a thoughtfully designed space. Both require creativity and critical thinking, with more than a little consideration for the practicality of experiential living. Both often also reflect what’s going on in the world—societally, economically, and more. We as designers look to fashion as a major source of information. While it’s true that we don’t change our interiors as often as we change our fashion styles, each comes from a similar—perhaps subliminal—quest to say who we are in our lives.

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While it’s true that we don’t change our interiors as often as we change our fashion styles, each comes from a similar—perhaps
subliminal—quest to say who we are in our lives.

Luna Textiles, founded in San Francisco in 1994 to introduce new style to commercial interiors, is a great example. Recognizing interior designers’ intelligence and innate creativity, they showcase their fabrics as fashion objects: tennis shoes, raincoats, shoes, hatboxes, yoga bags, dresses. What do these have to do with furniture textiles?

The company explained, “Luna appreciates the savvy and intelligence of our audience, who is shown how the fabric will tailor, how it will upholster, how it visually translates when it is given shape, all with a nod to fashion, one of Luna’s greatest inspirations…It’s about design—not only the design of our textiles, but also the design of the Luna brand as a whole.” Fascinating. And true. In fact, Luna co-founder Michael Vanderbyl shared in a recent conversation with me that, quite simply, fashion is a part of their company’s DNA.

The interiors in which we live, work, play, and heal express our personal brand in very real ways. The strategy, creativity, vision, and guiding principles found in both the interior design and fashion industries make a difference in people’s lives—individually as a living expression, yet flowing into one another to inform meaningful outcomes.

Sandy Gordon, FASID, LEED AP, is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Society of Interior Designers and Principal of SGI Interiors in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about ASID at

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13 Things Interior Designers Notice In Your Home

It only takes minutes for them to reshuffle all of your furniture in their minds.


Getty Images

The first rule of design is: everyone’s taste is different. But interior designers know so much about trends and style that they can’t help but make some judgments (good and bad!) when they enter someone’s home. In case you have a design expert roaming your halls, or if you are just curious how to make your house completely designer-friendly, we put together a list of what professionals actually notice when they walk through the front door.

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