Monday, November 23, 2015

How Interior Design Has Helped Define the World We Live In

Through the years, interior design has both taken inspiration from the changing world and offered inspiration in turn. From incorporating new promising technologies to suggesting new intriguing color combinations, designers have partnered with culture to advance innovation and creativity the world over. Some interior designers have become world famous as a result of their impact while others have gone quietly with their legacy largely unrecognized.

Regardless, it has become nearly impossible to separate out culture and the design that defines it — so much so that historians often comment on the interior design customs of different time periods as a matter of routine. In this post, learn more about how interior design is even now helping to define the world we live in today.

Designing Accommodations for World Leaders
Perhaps one of the best known modern interior design artists is Philippe Starck. In 1982, Starck received a commission to design the interior of then-President of France Francois Mitterrand's apartment.

Suffice it to say he has been a recognized world leader in interior design ever since. As well, many of his designs have become incorporated into popular design trends of this century, most especially his chair and stool designs.

Integrating Design Elements from Different Fields
Another way interior design has helped define the culture of each time period is in its efforts to show how different fields complement one another in a design space. For instance, combining
sleek glass doors with flowing neon light tubes, translucent Lucite with minimalist architecture such as Egypt's Karim Rashid has done can take an average space and create an all-inclusive cultural experience.

From advances in lighting and art to developments in music and metals, taking different elements from various fields and bringing them together helps define what that period's culture is really all about.

Finding the Midpoint Where Divergent Materials Can Meet
Architects-turned-designers such as Federico Delrosso are modern masters of making divergent groups of materials work and play well together. By pairing concrete and glass, wood and metal, and other unexpected duos, Delrosso makes his own statement for finding ways to work together, get along and appreciate differences as cultural strengths rather than weaknesses.

This is a particularly important message as the influence of the internet grows and the world it connects begins to feel increasingly smaller and more homogeneous.

Saving the Planet One Eco-Friendly Design at a Time
Another way that modern interior design is increasingly helping to not just define but save the world we live in today is through incorporating eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable concepts into today's designs. Famous designer Robin Wilson, "designer to the celebrities," is just one such interior designer who is becoming well known for her commitment to using "green" materials sourced from the local communities where she lives and works.

Her own interest in such an endeavor began when she was a child plagued by allergies. Today, she is not just an ambassador to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America but a well-known interior designer who favors soy mattresses, rubber-backed tiles, non-toxic dyes and paints, organic linens and other planet-friendly choices.

Making a Political Statement Through Interior Design
One only has to take a tour of the White House to realize the vastly different preferences and tastes of various United States Presidents. Often termed a "living museum" for this and other reasons, many rooms bear the unique design stamps of both the historical period it was designed in and the reigning leader during that period.

In some sense, historians even view this as a type of "political branding" which helped that President establish and maintain consistency of message and policy during the term(s) served. Here, this view is inclusive of selected colors, rug weaves, furniture, curtains and even personal emblems.

Forecasting the Future Before It Arrives
Finally, interior designers play an increasingly significant role in helping to determine what the future holds in terms of cultural preferences as they play out in color, style and texture. For instance, this year's forecast includes rug types, metals choices, artistic/graphically influenced rugs and textiles, glass treatments and more.

In a similar way to how red carpet couture influences mass marketable fashions, world famous interior designers pave the way for commercial replication of the future's designs one "predicted trend" at a time.

With each of these factors at work through the efforts of each time period's reigning interior designers, the world we live in takes shape around us in color, form, shape, texture and other ways —and is thus preserved for future generations to study and learn from. As well, some facets of our shared past move forward with us as designers reference both the past and the future to create the designs of the present.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native who loves to save money and help others do the same. When I'm not writing, I'm chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym." 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shut the Front Door: Key Ways to Improve Home Efficiency

When it comes to thinking "green," few things are more important than the doors that lead into the home. In addition to serving as an entryway for the home's occupants and guests, doors almost always serve as an entryway for excess heat or cold air throughout the year. The result is a significant drain on home energy efficiency, increased home heating and cooling costs, and an unnecessarily large carbon footprint in virtually every season. There are some key changes that can be made to combat energy loss through a home's doors and entryways, however, and many of these improvements are cost-effective over the long-term. That's especially true when homeowners consider the long-term cost of energy savings versus the long-term cost of energy waste, just by making a few changes.

1. Low-E Coatings Keep Hot Air Out
One of the most important and impactful changes that can be made to a home's doors is to find glass with a "Low-E" coating on exposed glass. This coating is extremely thin. In fact, it's a microscopic coating that can't be seen, felt or noticed in any significant way. Despite its microscopic nature, however, the presence of a Low-E coating on an interior glass doors windows has a massive impact on how much heat is transmitted into the home from the sun.

The coating works as a UV radiation block, essentially creating a microscopic layer of "cool" glass, even when the door's glass feels hot to the touch after being warmed by the sun all day. Because the Low-E coating is on the interior side of the door's window glass, it actually keeps heat outside. In fact, homeowners might notice that the glass inside the home feels significantly cooler than the glass on the other side of the door. Over time, this lowers home cooling costs in the summer months and reduces the use of air conditioning. This can result in significant energy savings each year, helping the Low-E glass pay for itself in a relatively short period of time.

2. Cracks and Leaks Should Be Found and Blocked
The glass in a door is one of the easiest ways for outdoor weather conditions to significantly impact energy usage, but it's not the only way that doors could be making it harder to control the home's temperature and minimize its use of heating and cooling throughout the year. In fact, one of the biggest sources of energy loss each year is the cracks that often are found throughout the door's trim, molding, and mounting materials. These cracks may not be visible to the naked eye, either because they’re very small or because they're hiding underneath decorative trim. Even so, they're definitely letting outdoor weather conditions into the home and undermining the home's installed heating and cooling systems.

3. Fix Improper Door Hanging and Alignment
Another cause of home energy loss, and one that's easily fixed by a qualified contractor, is a door that has been improperly hung or aligned with the door frame itself. An improperly installed door often angles up, away from the floor, and fits poorly into the doorframe. This means that there will at least be a significant gap toward the floor, which allows cool or hot air to come into the home and waste energy. It also means that, more likely than not, the door is doing damage to the doorframe and creating several gaps on either side of the frame when the door is closed. The solution to this problem is to inspect hinges and mounting hardware after the door has been removed, making adjustments as necessary so that the door closes easily, creates a tight seal between the home's indoor and outdoor spaces, and stops damaging the doorframe in the process.

4. Replace Old or Faulty Hardware
An old doorknob could secretly be letting air into the home that produces a significant drain on heating and cooling systems. Old or faulty hardware often gets looser over time, creating cracks and crevices that undermine a home's energy efficiency. The solution is pretty simple: Uninstall old, faulty hardware and opt for a strong, attractive, reinforced doorknob instead. For example, old door hinges can cause home energy efficiency. Installing new sliding door hardware instead of hinges is a simple yet efficient way to improve your home's energy efficiency. New hardware will look great and be just easy to use, but it will block cracks and crevices that old hardware created, providing greater energy savings.

Excellent Opportunities to Conserve Energy and Save Money
It's natural for some cold or hot air to make its way into the home when a door is opened, but homeowners shouldn't expect this air to make it sway through the door's cracks and crevices all day long, every day of the year. By making a few important changes to a home's doors, energy loss can be stopped and real, substantive cost savings can take place. This can have important benefits to a home budget over the long-term, making each change recommended above into a major benefit for the whole family.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native who loves to save money and help others do the same. When I'm not writing, I'm chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym."