Archive for the ‘The Earth Friendly Room’ Category

Between a rock and a hard place. Yup, I think that is it.  Right now, that is where we are in terms of our kitchen remodeling project.  We are nearing the completion and the return to having running water in the actual space, something that I promise myself I won’t take for granted for at least a couple of days. 

When I tell you that I’m beyond ready for everything to be back to “normal” that might be the understatement of the year.  Phew boy, 2011, you surly bastard, you.  

The lingering issues aren’t so horrible, but everything feels so much more intense when it means more days without being able to cook meals, clean dishes or have stupidly easy water access.   In the grand scheme, we are so amazingly lucky.  Truly.  

This is a small sample square of our granite countertop that will be installed tomorrow.

When we initially picked out this particular granite out in the store, it read more gray/white, but the slab we picked has hints of green to it.   I’m happy about that.  I think a little color will warm up the room nicely. 

I was a pretty avid rock collector when I was younger.  We lived near some woods and I would come back from hikes, pockets filled with mica, quartz or some oddly shaped stone that looked cool.   They would live on my bookshelf until I forgot about why I had picked them up in the first place.  

I’ll fully admit that I think granite counter tops are trendy and that to be a homeowner these days,  there is this unspoken pressure to update to granite for the sake of potential future resale.  From  a leftover childhood wonder perspective though, there is something amazing about all the  different natural elements that combined millions of years ago to create what will now be our counter tops.   Very cool.  

So that’s where we are at right now.  Being grateful for granite!


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When I got home from work the house was dark and quiet.  There was a noticeable absence of boxes, which could only mean one thing!  Duty called first though, and Ms. Piper needed to go to the bathroom.  After a quick w-a-l-k (you have to spell it around these parts), I came back into the house and threw on every light that hasn’t been shut off in the fuse box.

The center cabinet will have glass doors and HOLY LORD does that pantry closet need some organization.

THEY’RE HEEEEEERE!!   Or at least most of them are here.   During my youth, the Christmas morning tradition was to wait on the stairs while my parents plugged in the tree, started the coffee and warmed up the flash on the camera (this was the 80′s).  The anticipation was nearly as exciting as the gifts themselves.  Turning on the lights today and seeing the form of our new kitchen starting to come together reminded me distinctly of that great Christmas morning feeling.

So far I’m really happy with how they look.  I’m an occasionally inspired cook, but lately I’ve had visions of trying out new recipes in the space.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but we picked Kraftmaid Cabinets in their Montclair Maple style in dove white.  Wow.  That’s a mouthful.  They are full overlay doors because once you start paying attention to whether a kitchen door is a partial overlay or a full overlay, you’ve already lost your damn mind and well, trust me, full overlay is lovely.

Want to know why we went with Kraftmaid?  Easy, soft close drawers.

I took one more picture so that you could see the contrast of the white cabinets and the Whitewashed Pine Pergo flooring.

I really love it and it isn’t even done yet!  I think that is a good sign.


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In the most exciting news of the week, I harvested my first edible container garden item. Without setting myself up for naughty google search traffic, it was a cucumber and it was delicious. Everything else is growing like crazy too. All in all, I would definitely recommend trying container gardening and next year I would probably take a crack at some other vegetables.






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A few years ago our condo complex bullied us into redoing our patio.  At the time…annoying, but now I’m grateful that we were forced into it.

You can see the twin terrors in the door.

Justin and often take our weekend coffee outside to the lounge chairs.  The doggies join us until they act up and then back inside.   I wish that we were able to let them roam around but as you can see, we are very close to the parking lot and as much as they drive me crazy sometimes, I’d prefer them to not be pancakes.

My jade plant that lives inside during the cold and long Connecticut fall and winters gets a primo spot for the summer.  A strong storm a few weeks ago knocked the original pot off the table.  The new pot hopefully has enough weight to keep it from a similar fate.

My pride and joy this summer is our container garden.  My parents always had a summer garden.  I have such fond memories of all the great veggies that we could eat right off the vine.  In the past, I’ve attempted a tomato plant but after a heart to heart with Justin, we both agreed, we don’t really like tomatoes.  Any basil I planted would dry up from neglect.  The New England weather has been like living in the rain forest and for once, everything is growing like crazy.   This year we are trying out some basil, cucumbers, green peppers, lavender and sage.  If we have one edible cucumber or green pepper, I’ll consider that a victory.

I think some outdoor lights drapped in the trees would be very pretty and provide some nice ambient light in the evening.  Something to add to the list…

So once all of the sports championships are over, you can find us out here!


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Justin and I just celebrated our first anniversary.  We decided to get out-of-town for a week.  We spent most of the spring and summer planning and saving for a multi city trip in Europe.  The trip itself isn’t what I would call restful or relaxing but it did give us both tremendous insight into other cultures and we got some amazing pictures.

My husband Justin collects glassware, specifically, beer mugs.  He typically tries to pick one up in each new place he visits, whether it be somewhere here in the United States or on a rare trip abroad.  While he was buying his mugs I thought to myself, should I also be collecting something?

Collections are tricky.  They add a feeling of obligation to any trip you take because you find yourself looking to pick up a new piece, but at the same time, they give you a tangible memory of your travels.  They also take up space, which, as I start to gain control over clutter in our space limited condo, I’m starting to realize is just too valuable.

Justin can have his beer mugs, I think that I am going to be a collector of digital memories.

Do you collect anything on your vacations?


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Joseph DeRisi is the owner of Urban Miners which is located in Hamden, Connecticut.  Urban Miners “provides cutting edge, environmentally smart services in the areas of building deconstruction and materials salvage to residential property owners and commercial enterprises regionally.”  


Joe is truly an embassador of the earth with a big beard, friendly smile and endless enthusiasm about all things architectural.  The Urban Miners warehouse is a tribute to the quality workmanship of the previous generations.  In many ways, to walk through the warehouse is to walk through our collective past and with Joe as a tour guide, what was once just a simple door in your eyes, suddenly has a rich history dating back decades before you drew breath.  

Shona and I had the opportunity to visit Urban Miners.  


We arrived at the warehouse at about 8:30 am on what was shaping up to be another hot summer Saturday.  Tucked away on a side street off Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, the warehouse is unimposing from the outside. 



When you start to look around, you do notice a theme: bottles.  They are everywhere and in every shape, size and color. It makes sense because Mr. DeRisi caught the collecting bug from his father and grandfather who were both ‘Bottle Diggers’ and coin collectors.  


There are also more doors than you can even imagine and Joe could tell you where just about each one came from.  His favorite is the industrial door on the left.  


When we found out that there was a whole room dedicated to mantles it was hard to contain our perma-grin.  Fireplace mantles make me think of holidays, chilly nights in front of a fire and family.   To be in the presence of so many in one place, it was easy to let your mind wander to the experiences had around each one, especially if you think back to the not so distant past where they were used as a sole source of heat and for cooking.   


Urban Miners also has lots of accessories like door knobs (Shona actually bought a few). You could easily spend hours and hours going through each of the aisles finding treasures.  


Urban Miners definitely gets the Redefining Décor seal of approval and we recommend you go check it out for yourself the next time you have a house project to tackle.  Say hi to Joe for us, too!  

Urban Miners  - 30 Manilla Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut 

Wednesday: Open by appointment only
Thursday: 8:30 to 8:30 

Friday, Saturday: 8:30 to 4:30
Sunday: 12:00 to 4:30
Monday, Tuesday: Closed 

Internet Shopping: 24 hours/ 7 days a week 

Phone: (203) 287-0852     www.urbanminers.com  

-Kate & Shona 

(All photographs courtesy of Shona!) 



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Chances are if you ask me my plans any night between May and September, my answer will include “sitting on the patio”. There is nothing that makes me happier than sitting outside with family and friends. Whether it’s just waking up and having my coffee, sitting in the sun, or at night by a fire drinking sangria…it’s just comfortable, beautiful, and most importantly easy!

Part of my love for patios and outdoor spaces are their personalities! Just like any room in a home, if it is loved and lived in it will have this feeling. For me, the key is that they are used just as much as any indoor space this time of year and that adds so much to their beauty.

Living in the Northeast, we have to take advantage of these few nice months we get and be outdoors! Check out some outdoor living spaces that I love and what makes them work!

What I love about this patio is the mixture of fabrics.  We aren’t looking at a matchy-match set.  We’ve got stripes, in fun, summery colors along with a neutral love seat.  Obviously, one of the best parts about summer furniture is being able to swap out the cushions year to year, but for right now, these colors really work.  The rose-covered trellis adds a natural barrier to keep prying neighbors eyes averted but is also my favorite feature.

On those hot summer nights, you really want to make sure you and your guests are hydrated and what better why to accomplish that goal then by having a stylish tray of wine goblets and a fresh pitcher of ice-cold water (or sangria) at the ready.  Finished off with a small vase of hydrangea and you’ve got a set up pretty enough to keep out all of the time.

Potted plants (and their containers) are another way to add dimension and interest to this outside area. These galvanized steel planters are masculine and add a definite contrast to the brick (well, stamped concrete) patio and all the green surrounding it.

Here the focus is on the accessories…whether  it is a glass lantern hung from an umbrella or a simple bird house, it can add instant ambiance!

How could you not be excited about heading to your summer patio if you were heading down this gorgeous walkway?  The lanterns and stone walls mixed with the overflowing cat mint create an english garden feel right here in New England.

Secret outside seating area behind the beautifully manicured bushes.  This is where you want to have those wonderfully naughty conversations with your best friends.

After a day at the beach or  spent in your garden, what better way to relax than a family dinner and a nap!


If you want your home to have a special piece of green furniture, created with your needs in mind or need a room staging consultation, contact us by email at RedefiningDecor[at]gmail.com for more information.

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During the process of re-doing the Green Dressers, I thought to myself, how cool it would be to create pieces that would work in a nursery (sorry, Mom, not for us).  What if every new baby born in the United States (approximately 4 million), was treated to well made, low or no chemical, recycled furniture and accessories from individual craftsmen and not from half a world away?  Think about the impact that would have on landfills, our wallets and our economy.  How great would that be? Your children would grow up with the subtle lesson, evidenced right in their own bedrooms, that recycling is important.

{This is me stepping off the hippie soapbox.}

More often than not most furniture made 20-40 years ago was just constructed better than the inexpensive  particle board furniture commercially available now (yes, I’m looking right at you, Ikea).  A recycled piece you lovingly recreate with new knobs and a fresh coat of safe, low-VOC paint now could literally be with your kid until they finally move out of your house at age 26.

Well, as luck would have it, someone inquired about nursery furniture.  So hold onto your hats, we are about to embark on the first of what will hopefully be a continuing series here at Redefining Décor: Creating Earth Friendly Spaces in Your Home.


I did a quick and dirty search to see what kind of goodies were ripe for makeovers on my local Craigslist and right off the bat, I found an excellent contender.

Listed as part of a set for $35

Eight drawers, inexpensive and wide enough to be converted into a changing table/dresser hybrid.  You could go a number of different directions; shabby chic, beachy, high-end gloss, etc…And for a nursery, I found tons of great vintgage knobs.  How cute would these be?

Cast Iron Bird Door Knobs

Imagine these painted to match the cast iron birdies!

Not sure what I mean when I say changing table/dresser hybrid, well, feast your eyes on this:

A standard dresser converted into a changing table

By using a standard dresser and designating half of it as space for a changing pad, you save yourself having to buy a dedicated changing table.   As soon as your precious wee ones are out of diapers, just remove the changing pad and voila, a perfectly functional dresser.

For those traditionalists out there who want a separate piece, I did find other options for changing tables out there (and keep in mind, I limited my search to the New Haven County Craigslist, who knows what might be available in your area):

For $100, a little pricey, if you ask me, but you could totally make it work.

Straight up changing table available for $20

Only spending $20 makes it a whole lost easier to spend some money on quality (read: safe, low-VOC) paints and polyurethane.  You then have a piece that is unique to you.

(Ed. Note- Due the constantly changing safety regulations concerning cribs, I do recommend buying those new and checking to make sure they fit all national safety guidelines.)

Etsy Accessories!

If you haven’t heard of Etsy, then you should head over there right now.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Etsy is a virtual marketplace of homemade and vintage goods.  If there is something that you think you want, you could probably find it on Etsy.

When it is your time to put together a nursery space, Etsy is an amazing resource.  Nothing makes me feel quite as warm and fuzzy as supporting a person pursuing their creativity in their own way.

Here were a few items that would be excellent additions to any kids room and all from Etsy vendors!

Butterfly Mobile Kit

Organic Cotton Bamboo Terry Fitted Crib Sheets

Decals are a great way to accessorize the walls of your nursery without being permanently committed. These are typically made of vinyl and are easy to put up and just as easy to remove.  Great for all of my renters out there too.

Available for purchase from http://www.etsy.com/listing/48867767/kids-nursery-vinyl-wall-sticker-decal?ref=v1_other_1

Kids Nursery Vinyl Wall Sticker

Kids Grow Chart (kid not included).

Worried about children’s toys possibly containing harmful chemicals like lead?  Put that fear to rest with handmade stuffed toys from Etsy dealers like this one below.  I actually went to high school with her, too!

Stuffed Fish, not the kind to eat though

For more information on any of them items presented above, click on its image.

Check back soon for Part 2 where we will cover how to find room inspiration, linens and color.


If you want your home to have a special piece of green furniture, created with your needs in mind, contact me by email at RedefiningDecor[at]gmail.com for information.

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