Desert Mountain Home Delights

Lovers of color, Mike and Colleen felt delighted when Sesshu Design enhanced their Desert Mountain home’s connection to its North Scottsdale, Arizona, environment.

desert mountain golf course home

The views of the golf course are a focal point of this great room.

After 15 years of very part-time use of this golf community second home, the couple had decided to make some changes. To start, they decided to split their time evenly between Scottsdale and their primary residence in Tahoe when they retired. The Desert Mountain house had been built in the ‘90s. Mike and Colleen had purchased it furnished in fairly bland colors and … Colleen felt that the master closet was too small. It was time for some upgrades.

Creating a larger, more luxurious closet involved a renovation that added more space to other areas as well, but that was only the beginning of the interior changes. Throughout the property, Mike and Colleen wanted more of an indoor-outdoor connection. To accomplish this, the living room got large glass doors that could open completely into “pockets” so they are concealed. The couple and their guests can now step out onto the new patio, which overlooks the golf course.

Desert Mountain Contemporary ClosetThere would be changes to the exterior, too, with some of the same materials added there incorporated into the living room fireplace as well. The original exterior had been very light, almost white, so it stood out too much in the Arizona landscape. With the addition of regionally sourced stacked stone and a softening of the exterior colors, the home blends more into the site and environment. In the living room, around the stone of the fireplace, that favored Arizona metal, copper, gives a local feel and enhances the outdoor-indoor connection.

All of the finishes on the inside got updates as well, with new furnishings in the living room, dining room, master bedroom, his office and her office.

Mike and Colleen wanted color – red, purple, teal. This was accomplished in accents and the occasional bold splash. The major pieces remained more neutral because it can be overwhelming to see bold colors everywhere. Plus, this makes for easy updates as tastes change.

Then there was comfort. They have family and friends visiting often, so they wanted to be able to entertain easily as well as enjoy just hanging out together. Natural materials were the order of the day, keeping chemicals and toxic materials out. Some of the major furnishings were re-covered rather than replaced when they worked with all of these goals.

Collaborating with Mike and Colleen was fun because color is such a big thing for them and for Sesshu Design. Done right, color – even very strong colors – adds interest. Color makes a home feel warm and welcoming.

See the rest of the project here

A Rainbow of Emotion: Color Psychology for Interior Design

Color is an important piece of the interior design puzzle. I’m fascinated by color’s influence on the feel of a room. You’ve probably heard that red is invigorating, but most people don’t want a lot of red. Greens and blues soothe the nerves. Yellow is cheerful and inspires creativity, but, like red, can come across too strong. This is how color psychology for interior design comes into play.

Color choice comes down to personal preference and how colors affect people. I love red; it energizes me! I often ask clients their favorite colors and the colors that they hate. (If you can’t figure it, out go look in your closet.) With some clients, we’ve even done wonders with purple.

Shades of blue and lavender with bold splashes of color in the artwork make this office a fun space

At the start of all my projects, I ask each client, “What is your favorite color?” “What is your least favorite color?” Both are equally important. This comes down to: “What colors do you use?” We start with that. Then, frequently there will be something that they show me – a piece of art or a travel memento. One time, clients brought in handcrafted ceramic dinnerware they loved. There’s usually some little piece that inspires their color scheme.

The bold yellow and blue palette shown her carries throughout the house – interior and exterior

I delve deeply into color psychology for interior design. We each have psychological associations to color. These feelings typically stem from childhood environment and culture.

I’m not surprised by many of my clients’ aversion to red, but I am surprised that few people like green. Green permeates our natural world. I recommend that if you want the organic effects of green, you explore the variations.

A common mistake is to go too pure, too bright. Look at the paint swatches and go 2-3 shades darker or more grey. Going darker is always better than lighter because it tones down the room. Always paint samples on your walls. Lighting and color are two peas in a pod. A teal green can look blue during different times of day, depending on how the sun shines on it.

A soft, creamy yellow is a cheerful hue for a master bath

Color choice affects how we feel throughout the day. Color psychology for interior design proves that greens and blues promote concentration; they are good shades for an office. Calming, darker tones of blue and green make a bedroom feel like a cocoon. Generally, a darker color is more conducive to helping you sleep, and a brighter color for waking up.

Rich terracotta and deep blues are a complementary color scheme that works well for a guest bedroom

Clients care about color. Subconsciously, color psychology for interior design influences our everyday lives. We always have opinions on color, whether for car or shirt. We are affected by colors and gravitate toward the ones we like and away from the ones we dislike.

Which colors are prevalent in your life? How do they enrich your soul?

The People’s Bank in Verona: Attention to Detail

The People’s Bank in Verona (known as Banco Popolare di Verona) was designed by architect Carlo Scarpa in the early 1970s. I traveled to Italy for business, as the guest of the luxury window company, Brombal, in late September. One of the incredible locations we visited was this little bank. It’s a contemporary building sandwiched between two historic buildings, which is itself an interesting juxtaposition that you see regularly in the historic towns. However, what really struck me was its interior, and the architect’s attention to detail.

Everywhere I turned, another little detail made the whole design just so much more unique and interesting. One of the things I noticed was that Scarpa used the theme of pairs, in both significant and small details. For example, columns were done in pairs. Even between each set of two columns, at the very top was a tiny little detail — two brass balls. I can only assume this was some sort of private joke. The recessed canned lights were done in pairs … he paired them off so there would be a set, then six feet away were another set. The theme went down to the coupled rivets on the (obviously custom) window frames. All of the walls were done in Venetian plaster, but that’s just what they do in Italy (what we think of as a luxury, is the norm there).

Pairs of columns and recessed lights

Hidden details only seen by the design devotee

The architect’s attention to detail was obvious in his use of color, too. Taupe-colored walls matched the limestone floor tiles nicely. The base along stair treads was a simple inset of limestone tile, flush with the wall. When the wall color was taupe, it was subtle. But when the wall color was dark, it stood out as a bold decorative as well as functional element.

I noticed quite a few areas where Scarpa used bold colors. I loved the boldness of the bright red plaster on the sweeping curved staircase.

Lipstick red plaster highlights the primary staircase


Bronze handrail with paired rivet detail

A secondary, more private staircase in deep blue, teal and indigo caught my eye. At the corner, a small geometric cutout added a tiny bit of interest.

Geometric cutout detail

Juxtaposition of color delineates form

Some details went beyond decoration to also provide a beautiful level of functionality. To protect a vulnerable corner of Venetian plaster, a flat piece of bronze metal was inset onto the wall, flush with the plaster, so that it doesn’t protrude at all. It creates an interesting visual, without being distracting or ostentatious. Many of the details in ceilings and on railings were also done in bronze. Scarpa seems fond of reveals and gaps to create interest.

Even mundane items like valves were placed in pairs

I love this space because it was so carefully planned; it didn’t just happen by accident. Like any well-designed space, the details weren’t just tacked on as an afterthought. As a designer, when I notice details like these, they are really special. What’s more, it’s an experience that unfolds and stays with me.

I’ve not really experienced a building that was designed to that degree, or that the client allowed to be designed to that degree. It takes a lot of thought, time and craftspeople who take pride in their work. Even though they may not be in-your-face details, the cumulative effect is stunning.

The People’s Bank in Verona is one of Scarpa’s last stamps on Italy’s built environment. Generations of tourists and locals will admire this architect’s attention to detail for many years to come. As for me, my delight in this space is near and dear. I strive to include similar materials (Venetian plaster, limestone and bronze) and pops of color (I just can’t get that lipstick-red staircase out of my mind). Color should delineate a space, not overwhelm it. As in Scarpa’s interior, I encourage bold color alongside neutrals. I always say: If you’re using color on walls, use it judiciously and thoughtfully.

Interior Designer Tanya Shively Blends Green Living, Luxurious Lifestyle

Tanya Shively, ASID, LEED AP, is Arizona’s foremost authority on green design. She is the principal interior designer and founder of Sesshu Design in Scottsdale, Arizona.

sesshu designers working with builder

Her mission – to create innovative, sustainable and timeless designs that improve people’s health and well-being.

“I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them to create a beautiful home that is healthy for them and healthy for the planet,” she says.

Tanya brings to life homes that are beautiful and sustainable. Her lifestyle mirrors such eco-friendly designs. Her favorite place is in the mountains where she’s often hiking, skiing, sketching and meditating.

Tanya’s green designs stem from her creative, outdoorsy childhood in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The view from Tanya’s childhood backyard motivated her desire to design sustainably

Early on, she loved to create. The way she played enriched her passion for design. Gravitating toward Legos and Lincoln logs, she would have rather built a dollhouse than played with dolls.

“The design aspect was more important to me than playing make believe with it,” she says.

Tanya made a hobby of rearranging the furniture in her bedroom. When her parents asked what she wanted for her 12th birthday, she requested materials to redecorate her room. It was originally her aunt’s, who grew up in the 1960s.

Characteristic flower power paintings covered the door amid stark white and lime green walls. Tanya was not satisfied. It was 1980 now – she transformed the room with a cream color palette, pink accents and ruffles.

Then she expanded her ambition to the whole house. A modest older farmhouse built by her grandparents offered the budding designer a unique canvas. A rancher had designed the home, definitely not an architect. She tried every arrangement she could think of, learning basic planning by trial and error.

Recalling the living room, she says, “I had fun playing with how to place furniture in this somewhat odd-shaped room … and my mom let me do it!”

She loved riding horses on the family ranch. Grand Teton National Park was just across the way. Tanya rarely took these natural wonders for granted. Amazed by the sweeping scenery, she’d often stop her car and admire the sun peeking through the mountains.

She felt enveloped by the down-to-earth atmosphere, absolutely in awe of the wildlife, lakes and fields – all coming together to create stunning landscapes. Her gratitude for nature inevitably inspired her designs.

Tanya’s home environment motivated her design in another way. Because her father suffered from severe asthma and allergies, the family was always aware of any dust around the house. At the time, society didn’t recognize how a person’s home could affect one’s health. Tanya, however, realized the impact of indoor air quality on a personal level.

Tanya’s path through schooling offered her some exposure to interior design. She took art classes throughout high school, then an interior design class senior year. By then, she was sure that was her career path.

Her art teacher followed her class during elementary school, junior high and high school.

“I already had the natural inclination in art, but having him as a teacher cemented that for me,” she says.

Read more here

When a house is like a car & answers to other frequently asked questions

A chance comment lately made me realize that some of what we take for granted about high-quality home design, especially eco-friendly features, can be daunting for those just starting on that path. Because I want to raise awareness, I’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions below.

Isn’t eco-friendly design expensive?

Let’s think about your car for a minute. Upfront, a Tesla might cost you more, but it only needs maintenance once a year, far less than is typical. Because of the energy savings and maintenance savings, in the long run, a Tesla can end up costing you similar to a mid-range luxury car (Lexus) or even less.

tesla model s

Also consider potential savings from a cleaner environment –– anyone with asthma or allergies will relate. If your eco-friendly features also lead to saving energy or conserving water, we’re looking at a higher quality home with better durability.

What are your fees and process?

You will find the best design process is very collaborative. Due to time demands, that can be hard and some flexibility helps. So in my practice, for example, the clients are as involved as they want to be. We prefer more involvement, with feedback and input through multiple meetings and about all selections –– appliances, cabinetry, furniture. This helps make sure we are on track and that you like the choices.

Firms vary in how they structure fees. Mine are completely tailored to your specific situation. This will not be hourly or on a square foot basis, but on project, results and value basis.

Why shouldn’t I just have my architect or builder make selections of finishes and materials?

sesshu designers working with builder

Your architect or builder can certainly help and guide you. Talk over with them what they customarily do. You will find they have a lot of other tasks and responsibilities, so if making finish selections is not routinely part of what they do, you might not feel satisfied.

Often, selecting materials and finishes is not their area of expertise. Sometimes they don’t even want to give this direction, even if they will agree to it. If that is the case, you won’t be getting the best service or ideas because they are not fully engaged in this part of the process.

When you have a full team, including a designer, each person focuses on their strengths and areas of expertise. With more engagement, more personalized service and more personalized results, you will be happier with your choices and your house will feel more like your home.

Using Perforated Metal in Your Home Design

modern design with perforated metal detailingI came across this great article that shares the beauty of perforated metal as both a decorative and structural element in you home. It follows the old adage to let form follow function, and let the materials speak for themselves rather than adding decoration for its own sake.
In a contemporary home this is a wonderful solution, but you might be surprised by how it can be incorporated into more traditional or transitional homes as well.

Tesla Solar Roof Tiles Now Available For Sale

solar roof tiles teslaAfter debuting to the public last October, Tesla’s customizable Solar Roof panels are now available for orders. The company claims that the glass panels, which are embedded with photovoltaic cells, are “affordable, durable, beautiful, and integrated with battery storage.”

Prospective customers can estimate their return on investment using the Solar Roof calculator, to compare the cost of installation with the energy saved. The panels will cost $21.85 per square foot for a 3,000-square-foot roof and are available in four glass finishes. [Cnet]

Different styles of solar tiles are available such as Tuscan glass tile, Slate glass tile, Textured glass tile, and Smooth glass tile.


Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club Publication – “Strive for Perfection”

Several months ago, we were approached by the official publisher to the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club (RROC), St James’s House, with an invitation to appear in a special publication. St James’s House had been appointed by the RROC to create a high-quality, lifestyle publication tailored to the interests of club members. Titled Strive for Perfection, this stunning, full color, hardcover book explores the living legacy of the world’s most famous marque, Rolls-Royce, and showcases a range of luxury brands for the home. The book features just eight design professionals from across North America – including Sesshu Design Associates.

Sesshu Design featured in RROC publication

The publication is called Strive for Perfection and reflects each featured partner’s commitment to that philosophy

Written by motoring and luxury brand experts, the book will be launched at the RROC’s 65th Annual Meet held at the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Indiana, from June 18 through June 24.

The Rolls-Royce Owners Club annual event

The scene at last year’s event, held at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.

The book will be distributed to all RROC members, and will be made available to Rolls-Royce and Bentley dealerships around the world. Sesshu Design was recommended to St. James’ House as a featured design professional because of our stellar design work on the finest luxury homes in Scottsdale and across the western US. We are proud to be one of the companies profiled in this book, which is a spectacular display of elegance and luxury. Our two-page spread incorporates Tanya’s interviews with St James’s House, as well as their writer’s vision of our company. Photos of our interiors will be featured prominently in the profile.

Sesshu Design is official partner in Rolls-Royce Owner's Club publication

We are also quite honored to be invited to participate in the ‘World of Luxury’ exhibition at this year’s RROC meet at the French Lick Resort in Indiana, which recently underwent a $500 million renovation.

Healthy Sustainable Design Tips Shared on Sonoran Living

Tanya Shively on Sonoran Living ABC15 Healthy Homes


Yesterday our founder and principal designer, Tanya Shively, was featured on Sonoran Living Live. She discussed the ways that your home can be made more healthy with the proper choices of materials, especially flooring and walls.

Growing up in Jackson Hole surrounded by nature, along with her awareness of how building and design products can affect our health, Tanya makes it a priority to source out design products that are made w/o chemicals.  This includes rugs.  Tanya recommends softening hard surfaces w/ area rugs that are handwoven and made w/ natural fibers such as silk and wool.  Not only are they beautiful, they are, “durable and easy to clean.”

For more information on how rugs affect you and your health, follow this link: How Rugs Affect You and Your Health

Tanya Shively on Healthy Homes Sonoran Living Live ABC15

Click here to watch Sesshu Design – Healthy Home Design on Sonoran Living ABC15

Modern Luxury in a Smart Home

We were honored to participate in a modern luxury showhouse for this gorgeous contemporary home in Paradise Valley this past weekend.

modern luxury smart home exteriorThe home is a fully automated Smart Home and has amazing technology. It was built by Denise Sottile as a spec home with a young. progressive couple in mind as the potential buyers. With wonderful large walls and high ceilings it was made for beautiful art.

modern luxury home art gallery

We furnished the guest wing, including the two guest bedrooms, the home office, and the centerpiece of the space imagined as a gallery.

modern luxury king guest bedroom art

The office is open and bright, with pops of color and a touch of luxury in the silk rug. Organic and natural elements including the burl wood sculpture bring a grounded feeling.

home office modern art

Trend Watch: Colorful Patterned Encaustic Tiles

Encaustic tiles have been around since medieval times, but they’re currently enjoying a bit of a moment. I’m a huge fan, and can’t help but think that their popularity owes to their timeless beauty. You can get them in colorful, intricate curlicues or modern geometric patterns, but they always have a certain “been here forever” rustic charm.

Encaustic tiles are produced by using multiple colors of clay in the body of the tile, so that the patterns you see are integral to the tiles. Because they are not merely glazed onto the surface the color will never wear off. Old-school encaustic tile, which can be seen in many European homes, can have incredibly intricate patterns, but lately there’s been a wave of tiles created with more modern designs. You’ll occasionally hear it referred to as ‘cement tile or concrete tile’ as well. The look is similar, but the material and method of fabrication is different with different appropriate uses.

It’s important to understand what an encaustic tile is and what a cement tile is. The names get confused by everyone, even by tile manufactures and tile vendors. Both tiles are un-glazed; but, there are very important differences. Encaustic tile is generally frost-proof and can be used in any outdoor applications. Cement tile can’t be used in locations subjected to hard freezes and is more commonly found in Mediterranean or tropical climates.

encaustic tile black and white kitchenBlack and white encaustic tile in a kitchen can be pretty modern, but still gives a certain rustic charm. Like a lot of things, the beauty of encaustic tile is in its ever-so-slight imperfections.

These tiles used as a living room floor mean no need for a rug here. And an added benefit in hot climates is that all that tile feels wonderfully cool underfoot on a hot day.

encaustic tile floor bathUsed in a light and airy bath, a patterned floor of concrete tile adds interest and charm.

Encaustic or cement tile is a great way to show off your personality and style in any residential or commercial application and is great on both walls and floors.

Images: Jessica Helgerston Interior Design,

Game Changer: Innovative Bathing Product for 2017

Jacuzzi freestanding whirpool tub

Jacuzzi® Modena™ Freestanding Whirlpool Tub with Whisper+ Technology™

This unique technology reduces the noise and vibration associated with standard Whirlpool baths by up to 66%, giving the user a truly relaxing hydrotherapy experience. The pump also uses 60% less energy than other heated whirlpool systems.

This is the first of its kind from Jacuzzi and it is freestanding! Available in several colors including black, white and oyster, as well as two-tone options.

Live a Little: Pro Advice on How to Be More Daring in Your Design

I love this advice from designer, Emily Murray, founder of Pink House, on how to implement more color and daring into your designs.home office woman cave

“When it comes to choosing colors, just go with what makes you happy. A good rule of thumb is to start with a base color of the hue you like to wear most — often something fairly neutral. Then look at the rest of your wardrobe — which colors are you naturally drawn to? Chances are you’ll feel happy with those in your home, too.”

If you still feel unsure, find a designer who embraces color and enlist their help. Live colorfully!

Desert Mountain Home Gets a Facelift and Luxury Upgrades

Desert Mountain Living Room DuskThe renovation of this beautiful home was all started by the need for a bigger and better master closet for the wife. This home was originally built in the ‘90s, and the closets were not all that impressive or even large enough for the value of the home. She wanted a drop-dead gorgeous closet with space to showcase her handbag collection.

Desert Mountain Contemporary Closet

We were brought in by the builder to help with the finish selections and space planning, as well as fine tune some interior details beyond what the architect had drawn. This involved updating the ceilings, fireplaces and furnishings throughout the home. They also added some patio space and made the outdoor living more inviting.Desert Mountain custom fireplace

The couple had lived in the home for over a decade, as furnished by the previous owners. However, when they started spending more time here they knew they wanted to change the interiors to meet their needs and style. All new furnishings in the primary living areas included a custom dining room table, gorgeous in rosewood veneer. Comfortable new seating and statement piece side tables were added to the living room. The bedroom and offices got major updates to flooring with mesquite hardwood.

contemporary Dining Room Table

The clients are thrilled with the results that feel so much more like this is their home, rather than just a place they live. Especially the husband with the removal of the etched glass birds that represented the previous owner’s interests! New leaded glass designs were installed in the entry and the office doors. And the wife’s closet is a statement that all her friends drool over.

5 Things You Might Learn About Yourself During a Remodel

I just read this article that really points out some of the things people don’t realize when they start planning a remodel. It can definitely be a learning experience. Here are the top five things I took away from what I read.

Prepare to find out who you really are — the good, the bad and the ugly

  1. You’re more impatient than you thought. Remodeling will — I repeat, will — test your patience.contemporary Powder Room
  2. You’re adaptable. Bathroom remodels and kitchen remodels are notorious for, well, making bathrooms and kitchens unusable while they’re under construction.
  3. You want in on the action. It starts small: At first, you’re just chatting with your contractor about the status of your project — normal stuff. But as time goes on, you can’t help but ask questions about the more technical side of things.Desert Mountain Contemporary Closet
  4. Your relationships can (probably) weather any storm. If the space you’re remodeling is a place that you share with someone else (whether it be your spouse, children or others), it’s likely that you’ll feel a little more stress than if you were just remodeling your own personal space.
  5. You’re fearless. I’ll tell you this much: It takes a lot of inner strength to not freak out when you see someone you’ve never met come through your front door with a hammer.Her office Desert Mountain contemporary remodel

Remodeling is a personal journey, full of personal discoveries and accomplishments and all that good stuff. The only way for you to truly know how it will affect you is for you to experience it yourself.

excerpts from article by Hannah Kasper (via Houzz)

Simply Serene – Scottsdale Contemporary Remodel Soothes the Spirit

When the builder first introduced us to this client, we both had a chuckle over our names – she is Tanya (pronounced like Tonya). Our vendor meetings frequently had him calling us the two T’s. Email’s got a little confusing, too. But we both knew right away it was going to be a great working relationship – and it was.

She asked for a pretty space that reflected their lifestyle and taste in a calm, neutral palette. They wanted to incorporate their art and rugs accumulated on travels, and utilize existing furniture while updating the look to a more modern style.Scottsdale contemporary transitional entry Scottsdale contemporary transitional living room

The floor plan called for being more open and inviting, with a flow that allowed them to entertain family and friends. We worked closely with the builder, RJ Gurley, to create spaces that functioned well for them and incorporated beautiful finishes, materials and special details throughout.

A functional and open kitchen with gorgeous glass mosaics and durable quartzite countertops is the centerpiece of this renovation.Scottsdale contemporary transitional kitchen

The master bath was opened up with a better layout while adding stunning details in the flooring and wainscot backsplash. It is an inviting a soothing space to prepare for the day.Scottsdale contemporary transitional master bath

The powder room is the one space that is a little more dramatic with deeper tones and luscious textures.Scottsdale contemporary transitional powder room

3 Interior Decorating Tips for a Productive Home Office

Your home office is often an overlooked space, but it can benefit from a few thoughtful details. Here are the top three I always include when designing work spaces for my clients.

1: Create a tidy working space.  No matter how beautiful your desk, messy piles of paperwork will quickly have you avoiding it at all costs. Keep everything filed away in stylish storage drawers and organizers, or go the extra mile by embracing paperless working.Her office Desert Mountain contemporary remodel

2: Employ the calming effects of color. Color has a huge effect on atmosphere and mood, so don’t rush through the process of picking out the perfect shade to create a calming office. Blue is the most productive color, but if you’re afraid of overpowering a small room then you can always stick to a neutral with accents of blue for the best of both worlds.home office woman cave

3: Get the lighting right. Mood-boosting natural light is the ideal option, although it isn’t always possible to rely solely on windows. Instead, place ambient lights lower down for a warm glow, and use a table lamp when you need more focus.masculine home office Paradise Valley Arizona

excerpted from

New Study Reveals America’s Laundry Habits

(BPT) – Whether you learned it from your mom or through trial and error during your first year in college, everyone has developed laundry habits that they’d be hard-pressed to break.

light filled transitional style laundryBut how are Americans doing laundry, and are the habits aligned with what cleaning experts recommends. To find out, Maytag partnered with Omnibus Research to survey Americans to uncover some interesting stats around how we approach laundry day.

All Stained created equal?  More than one-third (35 percent) of Americans say they treat all stains the same, and 42 percent of millennials are guilty of this. In reality, makeup stains, for example, should be treated very differently than grass or mustard stains.

On Switching Loads: Two-thirds of Americans wait to switch to their load to the dryer after the washing cycle finishes. This is why Maytag’s new front load washer features the Fresh Hold® option, which keeps clean clothes smelling fresh in the washer with an internal fan and intermittent tumbling that circulate air through clothes for up to 12 hours after the wash cycle ends.

Americans are going overboard with the suds: One-in-four Americans believe that more suds makes for cleaner clothes, but the opposite is actually true – experts say excess suds actually hold onto soils and redeposit them on your laundry. However, those with Maytag’s new front load washer can rely on the Optimal Dose Dispenser, which adds the right amount of detergent when it’s needed.

Everyone has their own idea of how to tackle laundry day, but clearly there are a few improvements we can all make.


How do You Teach Adults to Save Energy? Through their Children

A new study published in Nature Energy takes a look at the role of children influencing their parents to engage in energy-saving saving habits

The results suggested that interventions related to residential energy use were successful in both the Girl Scouts and their parents, and the effects were long-lasting. In their post-test surveys, Girl Scouts reported that their residential energy-saving behaviors were nearly 50 percent higher than they were to begin with — and at follow-up, their behaviors were still 27 percent higher.

Designing a more energy efficient home is great step, but if your habits don’t also change, then it may not be as effective as you hope. Our own behaviors are the easiest, small step we can each take to lower carbon emissions, reduce energy usage, and be responsible for our planet’s survival.

LED Home Lighting: Beautiful Alternative Lighting for the Discerning Home Decorator

Soft ambient lighting is only available from incandescent lighting in a residence many people believe. They are wrong, light emitting diode (LED) bulbs are a great alternative to old-fashioned light bulbs and the newer kind of replacements popular known as compact fluorescent lighting (CFL). LED bulbs offer many types of bulb warmth, are economical to run, and last for up to 25 years. That is equivalent to three years of use with the bulb burning 24 hours each day, seven days a week.

LED bulbs

LED bulbs now come in various colors or warmths

Joseph Rey-Barreau, an architect, lighting designer, and University of Kentucky design professor is considered a lighting guru. Recently he said,

“It’s a new world of lighting, changes are happening so quickly, people have to think about it more than ever.”

One reason for this is that old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs are no longer made or sold (legally) in the United States. That means that the CFL, LED, Halogen incandescent bulb and other new technologies all compete. But, each has its own color, whiteness, brightness, and operating expenses.

Benefits of LED Lighting

For many, the best alternative for keeping their home lit to show in the best way possible is the LED bulb. Some of the features that make the LED bulb so desirable include,

Instant-on Feature

Unlike CFL bulbs that hesitate when switched on and take a little while to reach full lumens, the LED bulbs come on at full light instantly.

Dimmable LED Bulbs

When first introduces, LED bulbs were not dimmable. But, as the technology progressed, manufacturers corrected this and many LED bulbs can now be dimmed. If purchasing LED bulbs and you want them dimmable read the packaging.

LED UV-free Bulbs Do Not Attract Insects

Nothing is more annoying that sitting outside in the evening and being attacked by bugs. Many LED bulbs are free of UV ray emissions, but not all. So, as with dimmable bulbs, read the packaging for UV information. A safe bet all the time for outdoor use are the specialty LED bulbs for non-attraction of insects that feature a yellow coating.

Although LED bulbs are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs were, or CFL bulbs are they last nearly forever and are energy efficient. They can reproduce very closely the light given off by incandescent and halogen bulbs LEDs are made to replace.




Monday Motivation – Clutter Decisions

clutter sesshu design

Can I suggest a jump start to your New Year’s Resolutions? Stop postponing those decisions. Take this holiday week to clear out some clutter in your life – mental, emotional, personal, and physical. The people who don’t make you feel good about yourself. The junk that piles up in corners and in closets. The emotional baggage that you’ve been dragging around for years. All of it. Clear it out and make room for wonderful new things to come into your life in 2016.

How a LEED Certified Home Benefits Owners

Have you heard of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC)?  If not, you are in good company. But, if you are working with an architect who is designing your next home, she or he certainly has.

Founded in April 1993, the USGBC is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry.”

LEED home sesshu design phoenix


The LEED Program Basics

One program that is a great success of the council is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The LEED program was begun by the council in the year 2000.

The creation of the LEED program helps owners and operators construct and run their structures in an environmentally sound way. The USGBC uses a rating system and provides guidelines and tools developed by the Council for achieving,

  • Water efficiency
  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Energy savings
  • Reduction in waste going to landfills
  • Protection of natural resources
  • Improved air quality

How LEED Certification Benefits Homeowners

If you purchase or build a LEED certified home, the benefits are compelling and include,

  • Energy efficiency that allows for comfortable year-round climate control that uses less energy than similar sized homes without LEED certification.
  • Homes are tested to cut leakage from the home’s envelope and ductwork.
  • Homes are designed to use minimal amounts of water inside and outside the home.
  • Energy savings that are 30 to 60 percent greater than similar homes built to the International Energy Code.

In home construction, there are four levels of LEED certification. The chart below identifies them and the estimated energy savings.

Energy Savings for LEED Certified Homes based on LEED Category Achieved
LEED CategoryEnergy Savings
General LEED Certified HomeUp to 30 percent
LEED Silver HomesAbout 30 percent
LEED Gold Homes48 percent
LEED Platinum Homes50-60 percent

Source: USGBC

Another key part of the certification for a LEED certified home is that the home meets the requirements of the United States Department of Energy, EnergyStar™ for Homes criteria. Doing so saves homeowners anywhere between $200 and $400 a year.

Surprisingly, green homes can be built for the same amount of money, or less, than non-green residential construction. They cost less to live in, are always comfortable for families to live in and have a higher resale value.



Monday Motivation – Design a Life

design a life

If you aren’t busy living your life on your terms, and working towards your goals, someone else will bring you into their plan. Think about it.

Live your life on purpose, and design it so that you achieve the goals that matter most to you. Then you will find true happiness and fulfillment.

Know What to Look For Before Buying Eco-Friendly Bedding

Consumers like to think that they’re responsible shoppers. They’d like to think that they’re careful and thoughtful shoppers and that they aren’t swept up in marketing hype that urges people to buy things on impulse. On the other hand, furniture and bed linen manufacturers are always competing against one another, hoping to beat out the competition. It’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff and to figure out what these companies are offering consumers – besides the popular lingo and advertising strategies that cover up the relevant details about the products they’re advertising.

The Purist line of bedding is made from all natural materials - no chemical dyes, materials,bleaches or finishes.

The Purist line of bedding is made from all natural materials – no chemical dyes, materials,bleaches or finishes.

An important part of being an environmentally conscious shopper involves learning about the products you will buy. When it comes to bedding, nothing could be as apt as the saying “knowledge is power.”

Bedding Made From Natural Textiles Isn’t Necessarily Green

If you want to be sure that your bedding is eco-friendly, you have to delve deep enough to see beyond the raw textiles that are used to make bed linens. To put things into perspective, let’s consider cotton. Cotton is an excellent material for bedding because it’s durable, it breathes well, and it’s comfortable.

What most people don’t realize is that traditional cotton (versus certified organic cotton,) is arguably one of the least green crops grown anywhere in the world. Conventional cotton is far more pesticide laden than any food crop you buy in the grocery store. According to Mother Earth News, conventional cotton farming is responsible for 25 percent of the United States’ pesticide use. The Sustainable Cotton Project explains that it accounts for 10 percent of the rest of the world’s pesticide use. In other words, cotton is one of the biggest sources of soil contamination in the world. The pesticides that contaminate soil also seep into the water supply.

Cotton farmers depend on their yield for their livelihood. They can’t afford to lose their crop to insect infestations or other problems. The cotton that is grown for use in the textile industry is treated with massive amounts of pesticides and other pollutants. The chemical treatment doesn’t stop there, however. The bleach and dyes used in the textile manufacturing industry are added chemical pollutants.

The Oeko-Tex Standard was developed by European textile institutes who were committed  to finding a way to reduce our environmental footprint. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is a global testing and accreditation program that successfully sets the standards for the  screening of harmful substances in consumer textiles.

Products with the Oeko-Tex label are tested and guaranteed to be free of all harmful substances including toxins and irritants so the fabrics you bring into your home are safe, natural and healthy.

What to Look for When Buying Bedding

Sierra Club Green Home suggests that you look for bedding that specifies that it contains no formaldehyde. You’re likely to find that in cotton flannel and cotton jersey bedding.

Look for other natural and sustainable fabrics like:

  • Organic cotton or any other organic bedding materials
  • Bamboo – which is a renewable resource that is grown for everything from flooring and wooden furniture to fabric for bedding and clothing.
  • Linen
  • Silk
  • Hemp
  • Modal, which is a type of rayon that is made from the pulp of beech trees.

What to Look for in Blankets and Comforters

Blankets by Legna are a blend of wood fibers and wool and are certified Oeko Tex.

Blankets by Legna are a blend of wood fibers and wool and are certified Oeko Tex.

When you’re looking for green bedding, think beyond the sheets. Consider the materials that are used to make the blankets or quilts you place on your beds. While price is always a concern, don’t let that be the driving force behind your purchases. When you buy quality bedding made of sustainable fabrics, you’ll be more comfortable in bed, and that can translate into lower utility bills because you use less energy. Organically grown natural materials are always the greenest option. Avoid using electric blankets because most electricity is produced from fossil fuels.

Educate yourself so that you know what to look for and what to avoid. When you become more eco-conscious, you’ll also discover how much better the quality of your sleep is because your bed and bed linen are so much more comfortable.



Monday Motivation – Great Minds

great minds

This quote from one of the wisest women of the last century is more true than ever with the popularity of social media. You can see it in action everyday, on Facebook especially.  I appreciate the people in my life who put the ideas out there for discussion, the ones who make me stop and think. They may be rare, but they are out there if you look.

One of the best is my uncle, a former junior high school principal and life-long educator. I also love the posts by HONY (Humans of New York). He has made a couple of books from his interviews with random people he meets on the streets of New York, has traveled the world to enlighten us about people in other countries, and even created massive action among his fans – and is well worth following.

Who is your favorite great mind, now or in the past?

Three Great Looking Alternatives to Porcelain Tiles

Homeowners often want flooring upgrades as they realize that their once gorgeous, high-quality carpeting has become a grimy hideout for dog dander and other allergens, food particles, and other things that bacteria and insects find offer great nutrition. These families cannot wait to replace their flooring. Many, like the convenience and long-life of porcelain tile, but want something a bit more unique.

There are loads of materials to choose from and some are interesting and luxurious tile options that are also eco-friendly. Let’s see what some of these choices are.

Cork Tile

Cork tile is almost the opposite kind of flooring from porcelain tile. Cork flooring does not echo sounds as porcelain tiles do and it is not cold on bare feet. It is made from the bark of the Cork Oak tree. Stripping the bark from the tree does not harm the tree and its bark grows back. These trees can be harvested every nine years making it a great sustainable material for flooring. Also, cork is unabashedly gorgeous.

Glass Tiles

Manufactured from recycled beer and wine bottles makes glass tile another superlative tile material  especially good for bathroom walls and floors as they are impervious to moisture. Recycled glass tiles will not support mold growth and comes in a number of colors and styles. Glass tiles also make small areas seem bigger and brighter as glass tiles reflect light. Glass is generally nout suitable for use on floors, but is great in showers and backsplashes.

Concrete Tiles

Concrete floor tiles are another way to make your home’s appearance stand out. If you love the loft-like industrial look, then plain gray concrete tiles are what you are looking for. Oh, you want something more elegant – no problem as concrete floors are easy to stain and can be made to look like entirely different material such as glazed tiles or wood flooring.

Tile flooring offers many unique and interesting materials that will serve as begets to set off your luxurious home just as diamond begets set off the main and most beautiful diamond in a woman’s engagement ring. Because of the durability of concrete floors – they never need replacing – they are considered a sustainable material. Also the ingredients used to create the concrete may be partly from recycled materials, further improving the green footprint.

There are other materials to use instead of porcelain such as stone tiles, but, they are quite common and found in all types of homes, including rental apartments. Try for something more unique.



Value and Return on Investment for Homes That are Eco-Friendly

Getting to a sustainable home is easy when you are first building your home. The additional cost for a high-performance home is between five and ten percent. But, your home begins to pay you back immediately in the form of lower utility bills. Within a few years the payback is completed and the continued cost of running your home is permanently less.

energy efficient sustainable house

The U.S. Department of Energy crowned Stevens Institute of Technology and its SURE House as victors of its 2015 Solar Decathlon

Renovations to existing home also make sense, and the state and federal government help with rebates and tax credits that may or may not be available to you. In addition, check the website called DSIRE USA to learn what programs are available to homeowners in your own state.

Quick View of Cost and Payback of Typical Home Sustainability Projects

If you are looking to make you’re new or existing home more eco-friendly view the chart below and learn the return on investment on some typical sustainable home solutions.

Quick View of Cost and Payback of Typical Home Sustainability Projects
ImprovementPayback time (years)Improvement CostAnnual Savings10 year Savings10 Year ROI
Programmable thermostat0.6$115$180$1800156.5 percent
Light Fixtures (LED and CFL)2.5$108$40$40037 percent
Hot Water Heater Blanket0.8$25$30$300120 percent
Pressure Regulated Shower Heads0.9$180$300$3,000111 percent

While the payback period for the above products is short and the improvements relatively low-cost, outfitting your new home, or retrofitting your old home, will see paybacks for most sustainable options between under one year to as long as ten years.

Is Going Green Worth It?

Matthew E. Kahn of UCLA and Nils Kok of Maastricht University in the Netherlands conducted a study in California. One of the study findings was that a green certification for a home brought in, on average, nine percent more than area homes without such certification. The sample size for this study was 1.6 million homes.

Increased home value and lower operating costs for eco-friendly homes is a certainty. It sometimes is an even better investment than the stock market at times with an enviable return on investment.



Tips for Establishing Your Personal Green Building or Remodeling Priorities

As people become more concerned about the impact that climate change is having on the entire world, they realize that we all have a responsibility to slow this process. If you are thinking about the ways that your lifestyle has an impact on the environment, you’re not alone.

Fortunately, thanks to greater awareness about the impact of climate change, new home buyers and current homeowners can find architects, designers, builders, and contractors who are interested in using their research as an alternative to traditional design and construction methods.

The Importance of Your Indoor Environment

According to an article that was published in the Boston Globe Magazine last year, not including sleeping time, people spend at lease of 90 percent of their waking hours indoors. That article cited EPA findings that point to the seriousness of indoor air pollution. They go on to say that indoor air quality can be anywhere between two and five times as polluted as the air we breathe outside. This data points to the importance of proper ventilation.

Kitchen stoves and cooktops should always have a vent hood that sucks vapors, moisture and other pollutants out through an exhaust fan in the hood.

Learn About Hidden Sources of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Think about the materials from which your kitchen components, built-in furniture, and flooring are made. Cabinets, shelving, and especially laminate flooring contain significant amounts of urea formaldehyde, a chemical that produce toxic gasses that are known to be health hazards.


The Sunday night television news magazine, 60 Minutes, recently aired a program in which they shared the results of investigations into the laminated flooring that Lumber Liquidators imports from China for sale in the United States.

The laminate was saturated with very high formaldehyde levels, and the chemical is a dangerous carcinogen that contributes to respiratory problems. It has also been linked to cancer. Formaldehyde is just one of many VOCs that are well-known environmental and health hazards.


Carpeting is another furnishing that is loaded with formaldehyde and benzene. Many carpet manufacturers treat carpets with chemical stain, moisture and insect repellents. Worse than that, people track toxic chemicals from grass into their homes, if they wear their shoes when walking on carpeting.

When carpet installers put foam padding on the floor to soften the feel of the carpet underfoot, they are using a product that is made of polyurethane. Polyurethane is the byproduct of polymers that are extracted from petroleum.

Eco-Friendly Carpet Options

If you are working with a builder, and the builder isn’t willing to look to other sources for environmentally friendly carpeting options, there is something you can do to prevent chemical-laden carpeting from releasing toxic gas into your home.

American Formulating and Manufacturing (AFM Safecoat) makes SafeChoice® Carpet Seal. This product coats your carpeting with a protective barrier that traps toxins so they can’t release gasses that pollute your home. One treatment will last for either a year or through five carpet cleaning treatments. If you have your carpet cleaned more than five times in a year, just reapply the treatment.

Another option is to choose carpet made from natural fibers. Natural material typically used for making carpeting or area rugs includes:

  • Jute
  • Seagrass
  • Sisal
  • Wool
  • Cotton
  • Blends of natural fibers
Scott Group is Made in the USA wool carpet

Scott Group is Made in the USA wool carpet

Carpeting that is made from recycled synthetic fibers isn’t entirely free of chemicals because backing and adhesives still some (but far less) toxins. Look for carpets or rugs that have a built-in light backing.

The built-in backing may eliminate the need for padding. If padding is necessary, look for sources that make their pads out of recycled materials. Another option is to look for recycled cotton filling. Some companies refer to it as “rag padding.”

Eco-Friendly Wood Flooring

If you are concerned about the impact of deforestation on the environment, look for hardwood flooring that has the Forest Stewardship Council seal. That means that trees bearing that label are grown in FSC-certified forests. They are produced under sustainable conditions.

Be different! Cork floors are becoming popular. Instead of chopping down an entire tree, the cork that is transformed into flooring material comes from the cork oak tree. The bark is as renewable as bamboo, and it regenerates itself within three years.

Cork is quiet and provides great cushioning underfoot.

Cork is quiet and provides great cushioning underfoot.

There are many outstanding reasons to consider cork flooring as an option. If you want to be more energy conscious about heating and cooling your home, the cork has thermal insulating properties. It is the best flooring to use in areas where you need acoustic insulation.

With cork floors, you’ll never have to worry about insect infestations. They’re very dust resistant, too. Cork is a fire resistant material.


Bamboo is one of the coolest natural materials on earth! If the fact that it’s a renewable resource isn’t enough, it resists water and mildew, and it withstands abuse from active kids and adults. Beyond the benefits, we just mentioned bamboo is harder than maple or northern red oak. Bamboo floors are meant to last.

Reclaimed or Remanufactured Wood

If you want a softer, more time-worn look that is still an eco-friendly option for flooring, look at reclaimed wood. It typically comes from old buildings, barns or even railroad cars that are being torn down and it already has that great patina of wear that creates a very warm, inviting feeling.

Remanufactured or reclaimed wood flooring is also a nice choice for sustainability

Remanufactured or reclaimed wood flooring is also a nice choice for sustainability

You can have a warm, comfortable, functional and beautiful home if you know about products that are Eco-friendly and how to avoid products that are harmful to the environment and worse for your home.

Monday Motivation – Beautiful Destinations

difficult roads

One of my favorite poems is “The Road Not Taken”, by Robert Frost. This makes me think of that concept of finding your own path and arriving at someplace more wonderful than you could have ever imagined. Be bold, go into the unknown, and see where it takes you!

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Low Down on What Mattress Manufacturers Don’t Disclose About Their Products

The quality of your mattress has a significant impact on the restfulness of your sleep. With the broad range of technologies used in manufacturing today’s mattresses, it is hard for anyone to separate the hype from the truth.

organic luxury mattress

The federal government doesn’t have strict guidelines regarding the language that manufacturers use in marketing to make claims about the eco-friendliness of their products.

Not surprisingly, when marketers use trendy buzz words to describe everything from the eco-friendly quality of the products themselves, to the green practices the company uses in producing them, they are engaging in “greenwashing.”

TerraChoice, a leading environmental marketing company in North America, and a subsidiary of UL (Underwriters Laboratories,) coined the term “greenwash.”

It describes how manufacturers use flashy language in their marketing strategies to fool consumers. They do so by not disclosing how products are made, what they contain, or how consumers ultimately benefit from using the products.

We understand the confusion you feel when you take the time to do research on different mattress brands, the materials from which they are made — or if they’re made from recycled products.

Types of Mattresses   

Innerspring Mattress  

An innerspring mattress always has steel coils between the layers of foam or fabric that cover the top of the mattress and the base. The springs are typically made from steel or other types of coils, including continuous, independent Bonnell, pocketed, and offset coils.

Innerspring mattresses typically have a top layer of padding made from wool, cotton or polyester fibers.

Innerspring mattresses typically have a top layer of padding made from wool, cotton or polyester fibers.

Polyurethane Foam 
The mattress portion of an innerspring mattress is made of a combination of polyurethane and rebonded foam. Polyurethane is a polymer byproduct of petroleum-based substances. Mattresses that are made from polyurethane have a permanent smell from chemical residue.

Innerspring mattresses may also contain rebonded foam. Rebonded foam is made from scraps of foam with the foam backing that is sometimes used under carpeting. The scraps are pressed together to create a bond – either with glue or some adhesive. Adhesives are made with many potentially toxic chemicals. Unless you can find a mattress that uses secures the pieces of rebonded foam together with a water-based adhesive, you may want to avoid these beds.

Pillow-top mattresses are made with a polyester batting. Polyester comes from polymers that are extracted from petroleum. Polyester batting is almost always full of residue from the toxic chemicals that are used to produce it.

Important points about polyester batting:

  • It doesn’t breathe well
  • It is extremely flammable.

Foam Materials Used for  Mattresses  

Foam mattresses are made of polyurethane, latex or visco-elastic memory foam. Polyurethane is typically made with a petroleum base that is known to contain harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds.)

There is a newer type of memory foam that is filled with gel. These mattresses are made from the same polyurethane that is used in many types of mattresses and a liquid gel or gel beads. The manufacturers don’t have to disclose the ingredients of their gel or how the gel is made.

If you want to purchase a memory foam mattress, look for mattresses that are labeled as plant or soy-based. That means the polyurethane foam is made of plant-based materials instead of petroleum.

Latex Mattresses 

There are two types of latex mattresses: one is 100 percent natural, and the other is a synthetic product. Latex that is 100 percent natural comes from tapping rubber trees for their liquid. Synthetic latex is made from chemical processes.

Organic natural latex is breathable and hypoallegenic.

Organic natural latex is breathable and hypoallegenic.

Just like polyurethane foam, there is a solid core latex foam or a mattress can contain bonded layers of latex. All latex beds are free of adhesives.

Other Fiber Fillers for Mattresses 

Wool comes from sheep. Unless the wool is labeled as organic, it is very likely that it was treated with chemical insecticides to prevent moths from eating it. Wool breathes well. It is also moisture absorbent, which is good for people who tend to get hot at night. Most of all, however, it is a naturally flame-retardant material.

Organic wool keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter

Organic wool keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter


People tend to think that cotton is an okay fabric because it’s a natural fiber. It is often used on mattress covers. Surprisingly, this natural material is one of the dirtiest plant crops that farmers grow. Unless the cotton has an organic label, the plants from which it was harvested were treated with copious amounts of insecticides and pesticides. During processing,  non-organic cotton is bleached, and it may be treated with other chemical additives.

The Specialty Sleep Association and Their Commitment to Full Disclosure  

The Specialty Sleep Association created the Bedfax program to encourage mattress manufacturers to disclose the ingredients the manufacturer gives them is true. Beds that successfully comply with the process can earn the Bedfax Registered Seal.

The SSA didn’t stop there, however. They designed another ranking to reward manufacturers who show the greatest commitment sustainability in manufacturing and to their concern about indoor environmental health. The system awards seals of approval for four levels.

The seals disclose the percentage of quilt and fabric material that is made of sustainable products. The higher the percentage, the higher the level. You can use this information to guide you in choosing the bed you prefer.

Look for disclosure labels because manufacturers who aren’t willing to tell you exactly what materials they use to make their beds, may be deliberately concealing relevant information.


Monday Motivation- Focus on the Good


With this being the month of Thanksgiving, let’s all extend our gratitude throughout the month, rather than just one day. Focus on the good things you enjoy in your life, and be grateful for what you have. You will find that you are infinitely happier than if you choose to dwell on what is missing in your life.

Sustainable Home Furnishings – What to Look for and How To Buy

What do the following words have in common?

  • Green;
  • Sustainable;
  • Eco-friendly; and
  • Environmentally friendly

For purposes of this blog post they all describe high-quality home furnishings that are made following the 3 Rs of sustainable practices,

  1. Reuse;
  2. Reduce; and
  3. Recycle

Today, many people are unhappy buying home furnishings that are not sustainable. Concerns over climate change, cutting down forests, ruining animal habitats and other reasons brought them to the point where if it is not sustainable furnishings it does not belong in their home. Nevertheless, these forward thinkers enjoy home furnishings that are of great quality and highly attractive. Fortunately, sustainable furnishings easily meet those criteria. So, following are some tips for making sure your home furnishing purchases are for sustainable items.

Tips for Buying Sustainable Home Furnishings

These five tips for buying home furnishings offered below help you insure that your home furnishing purchases are for products that use environmentally friendly and sustainable materials. Also, included is a tip about where to buy and not what to buy.

Tip 1. Buy Home Furnishings Locally

The damage to the environment does not end with wood harvested in an unsustainable way or furniture made in factories that pollute the environment before being shipped across the country or the globe.

When you buy furnishings made locally, you eliminate a great deal of the huge carbon footprint found by buying a product made far from your home. Eliminating long travel distances is a great start in furnishing your home in an eco-friendly way.

Tip 2. Buy Antique or Used Furniture

This is reuse at its best. Second-hand furniture is a fantastic way to inexpensively furnish your home with well-built, good-looking furniture that will not break the bank. Think of garage sales and for higher quality, including antiques estate sales. When you buy antique or used furniture, finding it is an exciting experience.

Tip 3. Look for the Logo of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

The FSC Logo is your assurance that any piece of wooden furniture is manufactured or crafted using only wood from a forest that is sustainably managed. The logo also is a consumer’s assurance that the wood was treated in a place that does not lead to a decline in the biodiversity of the natural habitat for local fauna and flora.

Tip 4. Choose Materials that Are Sustainable

Bamboo is a fast-growing wood that is often used in furniture and flooring. Bamboo grows more quickly than most other trees including oak and maple. It is durable, attractive and of high quality. Wood of any kind is biodegradable and that alone makes it a clear choice over synthetic materials that do not breakdown (plastic is one example). If from a sustainably managed forest, environmental damage is far less than by lumber companies stripping the Amazon of its rain forests.

Fabrics should be all natural

Tip 5. Spend More for the Quality You Want

If you spend a little more for high quality sustainable furniture than it is a good bet you will keep it – maybe for a life-time. So, try to buy every piece of furniture just once. It is one of the best ways to keep your personal environmental impact low.

Maximizing for home sustainability allows homeowners and renters to maintain a low carbon footprint without giving up quality or appearance.


Image: Houzz


Monday Motivation – The Meaning of Life

Pablo Picasso meaning of lifeIn honor of Pablo Picasso’s birthday yesterday, we offer this wonderful image and quote. However, it is almost certainly not his.

The original author of this is unknown. It has been traced to many other people, including William Shakespeare, but more likely David Viscott originated the adage.  I found this on

“In 1993 the volume “Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations” by David Viscott was published. The author was a psychiatrist who hosted a pioneering radio talk show in the 1980s and 1990s during which he provided counseling to callers. Viscott’s statement was composed of three parts instead of two:

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
“The work of life is to develop it.
‘The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”

In any case, it is a beautiful sentiment and one worthy of our first Monday Motivation posts.

Homebuilders look to create more high-performance homes for people

As an advocate of creating homes for people that are healthy, energy efficient and sustainable, I read this article from Builder Magazine with great interest.  The house needs to be considered as a whole, and not just designed with green features as an afterthought. Using a holistic approach that includes the interiors as well as the construction, siting and landscaping is the only way forward in this changing climate.


More than ever, homebuilders are looking for innovative ways to meet the growing demand for more sustainable, energy efficient homes. As homebuyers’ desires for “greener” solutions continue to grow, merely building to code is no longer sufficient. Today’s progressive builders are looking beyond code to create true high-performance structures for their homebuyers—along the way, building real opportunity for their businesses.


sustainable builders

Onsite consultation on advanced framing techniques.

Employing a holistic, strategic approach to construction that leverages the tenets of applied building science can result in a home that operates at a 50% higher efficiency than standard construction methods. Incorporating renewable energy technologies, like a photovoltaic system, another 30% of the energy used in the home can be offset. The final 20% of energy savings should come from smart use and occupant behavior that can be realized by educating homeowners on simple, every-day READ MORE…


Announcing Nomination for Best Interior Designer 2016

We are so thrilled and honored to announce that we have been nominated for Arizona Foothills Magazine’s Best of our Valley- Interior Designer for 2016.
Your vote of support would mean so much to us. Please take a minute to register and cast your vote for us today.
Go Here: Home & Design > Interior Designer > Sesshu Design

best interior designer Sesshu Design

Sesshu Design Associates – Best Interior Designer

We won Best of our Valley 2014 and hope to do so again in 2016.

We appreciate your support!

Click Here to Vote in the Best Interior Designer category

Choose “Sesshu Design” and vote!

(You can vote once per day per email address, until the contest ends November 30, 2015, so vote early and vote often!)

Thank you so much for your support over the years. We couldn’t do it without our wonderful clients, partners, vendors and friends.

Why is green design important?

As consumers learn about harmful chemicals and unethical labor practices common in conventional product development, many make the choice to purchase sustainable products and work with green interior design firms when redesigning their home. If you are considering choosing a green interior designer, first learn what makes sustainable design important.

Why is sustainable design important?

The average individual spends anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of their time indoors. Whether at home or at work, you are surrounded by furnishings, finishes and materials like flooring, wall coverings, and cabinetry. If these are not sustainable, they may off-gas toxic substances or emit chemical compounds that compromise your health.

Conventional design makes use of low-quality materials that often contain known toxins and pollute the environment during the manufacturing process. Not only can these environments make you feel bad, but they are bad for the earth. In the workplace, you might be breathing in a chemical rug cleaner or fumes from wall paint, developing a headache from the fluorescent lights above you, and sitting on a chair covered a with flame-retardant chemical coating.

Now, imagine that you go home. You relax on a recycled fabric sofa set on sustainable bamboo wood flooring. The paint on the walls is low-VOC and the LED lighting is soft and pleasing. You aren’t breathing in any toxins and you are surrounded by furnishings that are just as beautiful as they are meaningful and low-impact. Your rugs are all natural and easy maintenance. There are no finishes that contain formaldehyde or other toxic compounds.

Sustainable Design Sesshu Design Scottsdale
How a green interior designer can help you

Green interior design does not have to mean crunchy or hippie. A sophisticated interior designer with a solid grasp of sustainable products can help you redesign your space to remove design elements that are not sustainable and replace them with earth-friendly options that match your design aesthetic and fit your budget. Better yet, if you are building a new home, you can start with the best materials from the outset and know that you will never have harmful toxins in your home. The cost to use green products in the beginning is negligible over traditional options.

If you are considering working with a green interior designer, ask to see a portfolio of their residential design work. This can give you an idea of the designer’s aesthetic and talent, and help you select a skilled professional who can bring your home redecorating vision to life with products that minimize your environmental impact and contain no known health hazards. To feel happier and healthier in your home, adopt sustainable design ideas.

To learn more about green interior design, and see how it can transform your interior, speak with a qualified green designer at Sesshu Design Associates. You can contact the studio at 480-275-2968.


Eco-Friendly Custom Cabinetry: What to Look For in Your Design

Photo from

Designing the perfect kitchen can be a hugely satisfying project. Make sure your project is environmentally friendly by choosing cabinetry that has a tiny carbon footprint. Eco-friendly cabinets can offer a chic, high-end look, especially when you work closely with a designer to create a custom design from sustainable materials. Here’s what to look for to make sure your new cabinets are as green as can be.

Think Inside the Box

Though the inside of the cabinet isn’t nearly as exciting as the visible drawer fronts and doors, the cabinet interiors make up most of your cabinetry, so choose eco-friendly materials for these structures as well. Avoid particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which use formaldehyde and other chemicals in the adhesives that hold them together. Opt instead for cabinets made of sustainable plywood, bamboo or non-toxic MDF.

Check Your Sources

Just like the interiors, your cabinet doors and drawers should be made with eco-friendly materials. If you love the look of wood, choose hardwood that is sustainably harvested and certified by the KCMA Environmental Stewardship Program. Bamboo is another great choice: It mimics the look of wood but grows back much faster than trees do, keeping the planet green and healthy.

For a truly one-of-a-kind look, consider using reclaimed wood for your cabinets and countertops. Boards can be salvaged from old barns, factories or churches and refinished for a new look or left with all their history intact for a real conversation piece. Using other recycled materials like recycled stainless steel panels or re-cast iron fixtures will also make your cabinets more eco-friendly, and the look will be as unique as you are.

Finish Strong

Once you’ve selected your cabinet materials, choose a water-based varnish or stain to protect the wood from water damage. If you prefer a painted finish, have your carpenter apply a low-VOC paint to reduce the amount of chemical off-gassing in your home. You’ll breathe easier knowing your new kitchen design is working as hard as you are to help the environment.

Sesshu Design Named as one of Top 27 Designers in Arizona

We are very honored to be included on this list of very talented and impressive designers. Thank you for the inclusion!

A talented interior designer is oftentimes one of the most underappreciated artists working today. So often we walk into beautiful, comfortable rooms or spaces and take for granted the fact that the vision-turned-reality of these great works are the result of the time and talent of people who can envision a space beyond four simple walls.

Arizona has, not surprisingly to those in the business, one of the country’s best rosters of innovative interior designers, and today we’re going to celebrate (in alphabetical order) some of the Grand Canyon State’s best.

Sesshu Design Arizona Top Interior Designers

The Top Designers in Arizona are a pretty impressive group

Hiring a Green Design Interior Designer – 5 Questions to Ask

Any interior designer can call themselves an eco-friendly or green interior designer. Yet if you are really committed to making smart, sustainable home renovations, ask these 5 questions to make sure that you’ve investing in a green design professional who really understands the issues.

1. What green certifications do you have?

From being a LEED-certified green interior designer to having a sustainable design certificate, there are many credentials out there that an eco-friendly interior designer can pursue. A designer who has, or is obtaining, green certification demonstrates commitment to sustainability. That’s a person you want to hire.

2. What is your background?

It is important to ask about the full background of any interior designer, not just their green experience. Be sure to ask about the education, work experience, and professional affiliations of a designer to get insight into what the designer does, who they are, and if they are a good candidate to meet the vision you have for your home improvements.

3. Can you show me example projects that you’ve done?

Some interior designers specialize in historic house remodels, while others focus on commercial spaces or modern structures. Ask to see a design portfolio that shows high-quality images of similar projects. Viewing these images can give you better insight into the design aesthetic of the interior designer, and instill confidence in the working relationship.

4. What materials do you recommend?

Any green interior designer should be able to speak clearly about different materials, articulate what makes them sustainable, and tell you what they might replace in your home. If a designer can speak knowledgeable about everything from low-VOC paints to sustainably-farmed wood furniture, you can trust them to make good recommendations.

5. Can you work with my budget?

Finally, it is critical to make sure that any interior designer can work with your budget or implement the project in phases as your budget allows. Before you formalize a working relationship, ask a designer if they can work with you (and your project’s budget) to create a sustainable and elegant solution.

Do you have any more questions about working with sustainable interior designers? If so, please leave your questions in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them.



Creating a High-End, Green Kitchen

By Jane Blanchard

Creating a more energy-efficient home can go way beyond the conventional ideas like light bulbs, Energy Star appliances, and tankless water heaters. Needless to say, you’ve already mastered going green in these aspects, and you’re ready to take it to the next level by also achieving an ambiance of luxury and taste. Delight yourself with our super-green, energy-efficient ideas for your kitchen and step up for the challenge.

Induction Ranges

modern kitchen interior design Scottsdale

Bamboo floors and induction cooking make this a nicely green kitchen.

Via: Houzz

You can hear your money going down the drain as you cut onions waiting for the pan to heat up. Energy-efficient minded people are quickly catching induction fever. This new technology allows for electrical currents to create a sort of magnetic field that gets iron molecules all excited to heat up in an instant. Induction is super fast, has a modern and contemporary look, easy to clean, and you’ll save some serious cash since you’re shaving off tons of cooking time. For the green eye: note the fabulous, renewable bamboo flooring.


Energy-efficient Water-saving Options

1contemporary kitchen interior design scottsdale

Cabinets are bamboo with low-VOC finish in a matte grey.

Via: Houzz

Install a smart water monitor that alerts you when it detects a leak. Why? If you want to conserve water and money, you’ll know that most of the time, leaks go unnoticed, and you’re left with a huge bill and repairs. Secondly, energy-efficient faucets are the remote controls for the kitchen. With pull-out wands, pause buttons, and multi-flow features, all you should be seeing in that overnight-soaking pot is a pool of cash. By the way, those are green, bamboo cabinets with no harmful VOC’s in the stain and matte finish.


Smart Switches

modern gadgets interior design Scottsdale

The latest gadgets help you save energy and money.

Via: Houzz

The kitchen is a polyglot of appliances that need either gas or electricity to run. This can dramatically increase the energy bill because they’re always on, and 75 percent of appliance energy-use is generated while they’re not being used. Not to mention that 1.3 billion dollars is wasted on unused electrical appliances a year. With a smart standby device, you can automatically have appliances taken off stand-by status with the flip of a switch, touch of a button, or even with your smart phone. No more accidentally leaving the oven on which is akin to burning your George Washingtons, blasphemy.


Additional Eco-friendly Elements

modern kitchen design interior design Scottsdale

Live plants add color with their greenery, clean the air and bring a sense of life to a room.

Via: Houzz

Non-formaldehyde bamboo and cork are the crème de la crème for natural, green flooring. Easily renewable, anti-microbial, insulating, bio-based, and non-toxic, it makes for a beautiful, luxurious, green floor. Painting walls can be done the green way too. To give your kitchen some state-of-the-art color, natural paints made with milk or casein decrease the risks of dizziness, nerve damage, and toxic emissions produced with conventional paint. You’ll also find that adding some real, live plants doesn’t have to be a “hippy” thing. You can still pull off a high-end look with adding some splashes of green here-and-there to improve air quality, neutralize odors with natural scents, and to filter out toxins.


Outside of the Cooking-Box

solar eco-friendly interior design Scottsdale

Solar panels have come a long way – these are integrated roofing shingles.

Via: Houzz

Although not part of the kitchen, this was too cool to not mention. Spray-on solar cells can be applied to any flexible surface, and it’s going to change the way the world looks at solar power. On-going studies are proving that they’re no less energy-efficient than the conventional solar panels. Also solar roofing shingles are another step towards being green without compromising on durability, functionality, and aesthetics.


Eco-friendly Kitchen Design

contemporary kitchen eco-friendly interior design Scottsdale

The kitchen is the heart of the home, so don’t skimp on design here. Make a statement and save energy at the same time.

Via: Houzz

The workhorse of the house sets the trend. If you can succeed in creating a green, energy-efficient kitchen, the rest of your home will catch on. Because it’s contagious, we say, “get afflicted.”

For more kitchen ideas as well as other home inspiration visit Modernize.

Eco-friendly Furnishings: Combine Function and Quality with Style

We’re the first to acknowledge that sustainability has different meaning for different people. To some, it’s a forward-thinking mind-set with a focus on adaptability and modern solutions. Others feel more comfortable with efforts to preserve the familiar, relying on renewable resources and popular directives to reuse, repurpose and recycle. Environmentally-friendly home decor and furnishings are not an impossible dream, and quality meets function and style in many of today’s stunning designs.

Wood and Wood Options

Traditional furniture of beautiful wood is a lasting investment, but new options of bamboo, reclaimed timbers, cork and even recycled cardboard may become the classics of the future. Specialty woods from old rubber trees or fast-growing mango are also newly popular with green consumers. Both were previously destroyed when cut; using the wood for modern furniture production is both aesthetically and economically sensible. Many ecologically-sensitive companies routinely plant new seedlings for every tree that is harvested.

vervano sesshu design

This dresser is made in the USA from sustainable woods.

Upholstery and Fabric Advances

Natural is chic. Organic, unbleached cotton has a personality that many find very appealing. Bamboo and hemp, both fast-growing and sustainable, are used for everything from clothing to bath towels and sofa upholstery. Wool, of course, is a renewable resource and, with humane farming practices, it has regained favor for home interiors, including for carpeting, drapery and bedding. Investigate fabrics produced from soy protein, recycled polyester or natural cellulose (Tencel).

wool fabric sesshu design

Wool is a durable and stain-resistant fabric for upholstery, pillows and draperies.

Toxicity, Social Responsibility and Craftsmanship

Being serious about sustainability requires an awareness not only of raw materials, but also of the ways in which they are used. In shopping for quality furnishings, it is important to consider the underpinnings of construction: the glues, finishes, paints, stuffing and padding, and the origin of each component. You might also want to consider the transportation involved, manufacturing efficiency, and final packaging and shipping practices.

Companies like Seattle-based EcoBalanza are dedicated to the principles of craftsmanship, lasting quality and environmental responsibility. Cisco Home produces trendy, funky and unique products across a spectrum of styles and genres. Environment Furniture achieves sophistication and sustainability by relying heavily on reusing old woods in innovative ways.

sustainable bed sesshu design

This bed reuses salvaged wood from a Brazilian coffee factory.



Alfresco Dining In Any Climate

This week is Garden Week! Celebrate the great outdoors and get inspired with a few of our favorite outdoor dining spaces.
A connection to nature is so important for a sense of well-being and overall health. Spending time outdoors, eating healthy food, enjoying the company of family and friends, is the best way to bring that feeling into your life.
With the right planning and adaptations, any climate will allow for an enjoyable alfresco experience.
california patio

California casual dining alfresco- perfect weather, and a laid back lifestyle   Image Credit: House Beautiful


desert patio

Cover is a must in the desert to create a comfortable area for enjoying meals outdoors.     Image Credit: Unknown


Sun-safe draperies can be drawn to provide shade for a casual space that can be used for simple dining, lounging or napping.

Sun-safe draperies can be drawn to provide shade for a casual space that can be used for simple dining, lounging or napping.    Image Credit: Design Directives/Sesshu Design


For more inspiration, click through my ideabook below:

Kitchen designs, bathroom designs, and more ∨Hire a decorator to find that sofas and a coffeetable for your living room.
Share photos of the cabinets and kitchen sink you like with a top kitchen remodeler in your area.

Sensational Spring Colors for the Home

Infusing your home with the flair and flavor of spring doesn’t have to mean painting everything bright yellow. Veer a bit off the beaten path with alternative choices that ring in the spring with a unique and interesting twist.

Radiant Orchid: This deep and delicious shade of purple has been crowned the color of the year. Purple symbolizes richness and royalty, and this particular shade adds a youthful, perky twist.

radiant orchid bedding

Radiant orchid paired with a fun pattern is playful for a bright and cheerful bedroom

Amethyst: Another popular purple choice this spring is the lighter shade of amethyst. This hue comes with an aura of sophistication and class, not to mention a gorgeous lineup of options within the amethyst color family.

amethyst wallpaper

Lilac and amethyst are updated this season in a modern pattern and eclectic mix of styles

Hot Pink: Hot pink can always make a bold and daring statement, especially if you give it full power on all four walls. Perfect for a bedroom or creative home office, you probably don’t want to surprise your guy by using the hue on his man cave.

hot pink boudoir

Hot pink in various shades is sassy when used on walls, windows and accents

Green, Green and More Green: Green screams of spring, and it can also bring a calming and soothing vibe to your home all year round. Well, certain shades of it can. Soft mint and blissful shades of earthy green can calm down a room while a bright green apple or lime can breathe new life into it.

green lacquered walls

Go all out with bright green lacquered walls, and mix it with neutrals for a bold statement

green accents

You can add small accents of a bold color for a more subtle approach with staying power.


Extraordinary Pastels: Your ordinary lineup of spring pastels typically includes hues like lilac and light pink. But no one says you have to be ordinary. Opt for lighter shades of the bolder colors on gauzy fabrics to use for curtains or other accents. This move will leave you with some interesting pastel-like versions you can use to compliment and soften the more vivid colors.

pastel living room

A lighter shade of spring with a mix of pastels that are sweet without being syrupy

What’s your favorite color for spring? We love to hear your comments, so please share your thoughts on using these ideas or what you’re doing to bring color into your home.

How to Avoid Interior Design Nightmares- Now FREE on Kindle

My book, “How to Avoid Interior Design Nightmares (and Enjoy Creating Your Dream Home) What you Should Know Before Hiring an Interior Designer,”  is available for FREE this week only- click here to get your Kindle copy now.

avoid interior design nightmares

The Kindle version of “How to Avoid Interior Design Nightmares,” by Tanya Shively, ASID, LEED AP, is free through 3/15/14

Deciding to hire a designer can be a scary thing. How do you know if it is even the right decision to make? And if you are ready to begin your search, what do you need to know to make the choice?

This book was created just for you. Inside you will learn:
*What You Should Know Before You Hire an Interior Designer
*What Is The Difference Between An Interior Designer And An Interior Decorator?
*Do You Need An Interior Designer Or An Architect?
*How to Find The Best Interior Designer For My Project
*How Interior Designers Work
*Do You Need a General Contractor As Well As An Interior Designer
*Where the Biggest Problems Arise in Interior Design Working Arrangements
*How to Get the Best Result From My Interior Designer
*Questions to Ask Your Designer First Over the Phone

This book is your step-by-step guide to finding the perfect designer; the design relationship you ultimately choose will be harmonious and will help you create a beautiful home through a process you enjoy.
FREE Offer is only available through March 15, 2014 so don’t wait.


Going Green with Heirloom Furniture

Although green furnishing often bring to mind highly contemporary or unusual pieces, your home may already boast several green furniture pieces without you even realizing it. Heirloom furniture that has been passed down for generations counts as eco-friendly interior design, as do new heirloom-quality pieces you may bring into your home.

timeless dining furnture

Combine timeless style with quality craftsmanship and this dining room furniture will be around for many generations.

Why Heirloom Quality is Eco-Friendly

In the most basic sense, eco-friendly interior design consists of furnishings that don’t harm the environment. Heirloom-quality pieces are right on target.

Durability: Pieces that stand up to use and abuse for decades don’t require replacement and, therefore, depletion of natural resources.

Open to repairs and alterations: Furniture starting with a solid foundation can withstand minor repairs, refinishing or other updates as needed, again avoiding replacement.

heirloom quality furniture

A combination of antiques and reproduction furniture, along with an heirloom quality wool rug, was used to create this beautiful living room.

How to Choose Pieces that Will Last for Generations

You may already have several heirloom-quality pieces that have been successfully passed down the family line, and you can keep the trend going. Whether you’re perusing your favorite antique shop or commissioning a custom-made heirloom-quality piece, keeping an eye on a few basics can help ensure your choice continues to contribute to eco-friendly interior design for years to come.

reclaimed wood coffee table

This stunning coffee table made from reclaimed wood will be passed down for generations.

  • Opt for solid hardwood, such as cedar or oak, which is readily available. Skip pieces constructed with fiberboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or tough-to-get woods that deplete natural resources, such as Brazilian mahogany.
  • Ensure the color and wood grain make a close match. A high quality finish is also important to ensure the beauty lasts for years.
  • Look for furniture joints that are free of gaps, glued together and use wood-to-wood construction.
  • Avoid pieces with metal fasteners that can corrode.
  • Look for tabletop and drawer bottom construction that uses sliding dovetails or another method that lets wood swell and shrink with the seasons to avoid splitting.
sustainable wood chest

This contemporary style chest is made from only sustainably forested wood, with beautiful natural finishes.

A long-lasting, gorgeous piece of heirloom-quality furniture can add to your home’s high-end style while it serves as the green furnishings every home deserves.


Sesshu Design Named Best Interior Designer 2014

We are pleased to announce that we were selected as Best Interior Designer in the Best of Our Valley 2014 from AZ Foothills Magazine. This is such an honor and we feel so blessed to have such support from our fans, clients and friends.

best interior designer

Best of Our Valley Winner – Best Interior Designer, Sesshu Design Associates

Each year asks readers what their favorites are, offering thousands of options chosen by nominations, editors and focus groups. The contest is answered with hundreds of thousands of votes that determine the Valley’s favorites. The best of each category this year will be featured in the March 2014 issue, a tell-all guide to the coolest people and places in the Valley of the Sun.

Arizona Foothills Magazine has been celebrating the latest and greatest in Valley luxury since 1997. Their mission is to unveil what’s up and coming, and give credit to those who deserve recognition. Sesshu Design Associates is thrilled to be counted among these talented and fabulous people!

Thank you to all of our clients, friends and fans for your support and love.

Sesshu Design Nominated for Best Interior Designer

best interior designer


We are so honored that Sesshu Design Associates have been nominated for Best of Our Valley 2014.

Each year, thousands of nominees duke it out for the top spot in more than 300 Best of Our Valley categories.  Voting runs October 1 through November 30. (One vote per registered e-mail, per category, per day)

You can cast your VOTE for Sesshu Design as Best Interior Designer at Arizona Foothills Magazine

Each winner will be featured in Arizona Foothills Magazine March 2014 issue, while one winner will grace the cover of the March 2014 issue.


Happy voting! Thank you to all our loyal fans, followers, clients and friends for your support.



Elegant and Eco-Friendly Water Fixtures

Luxury and responsibility: Thanks to the expanding line of EPA-approved WaterSense certified fixtures, you can replace your kitchen and bathroom fixtures with water-conserving faucets that still have the elegant style you enjoy. Yes, you can go green without sacrificing your personal style, your convenience or your luxury.

Benefits of an eco friendly faucet 

A faucet with a WaterSense label uses a lower flow rate than a traditional faucet — 1.5 gallons compared with 2.2 — and can cut your water flow by 30 percent. Not only will you see your water bill go down when you make the switch, you’ll be conserving resources even when you turn on the tap. In the course of a year, you can save up to 700 gallons of water just by replacing old faucets with eco-friendly fixtures.

Choosing a water efficient fixture

While you can replace your entire faucet, you can also apply a WaterSense aerator to your existing faucet, helping to slow the flow of water. This is a good option if you have an antique faucet that you adore and would prefer not to replace, for example.

If you do decide to go ahead and replace the faucet, first explore whether the brands you enjoy make green faucets. If you can’t find a close match, explore green options offered by luxury faucet makers. JADO has retrofitted some of its elegant faucets, such as the Glance Widespread, to conserve water.

Moen also has a range of bathroom faucets with the WaterSense label, such as the classic and clean-lined 90 Degree:

European luxury faucet designer Grohe also makes several eco-friendly faucets.

As you select green bathroom and kitchen faucets, consider other ways to bring green design into your home. Perhaps you can also replace your bathroom showerhead with a green model, switch to a water-conserving low flow toilet or replace old wooden flooring with eco-friendly bamboo. In the kitchen, you might upgrade your recycling station, replace drafty windows with energy-efficiency models or update appliances.

Fun Home Theater Designs to Inspire Your Room

A home theater can be many things: a sanctuary, a mancave, a gathering place, or just a room to watch your favorite films. Here are some cool designs that can help stir up your creative juices when designing your home theater.FIRST, AVOID: “Deconstructed” Home Theater Some people like to look homeless these days. All they need is a blank canvas and a wall with the wallpaper peeling off and voila! They have their home theater. Decorating your home theater like you live in a tree house in the middle of the wilderness is not cool unless you actually do. It’s one thing if you can’t actually afford a home theater and you are trying to make ends meet. It is entirely something different if you can and decide to skimp out on the amenities that make the movie experience truly magical.

Make it Happen With these Five Killer Designs

1. Floor Pillow Media Room- Keep it comfortable with cozy and casual groupings of pillows. Throw in a couple of armchairs and a coffee table and you will have flashbacks of the best times you had in college at no time at all. You can even take it a step further by creating tiers of pillow goodness. You can do this with platforms or sofas. This can add a removed and ethereal feel to the theater, which ultimately allows for the maximum amount of comfort and relaxation.

theater seating

Shipping pallets were stacked and topped with comfy cushions to create this home theater seating.


2. Ultimate Sound System Theater- Comfort is one way to go with your home theater. However, if you are going to go deep in terms of technology, you might as well rage out with a top notch sound system. Set up your room with walls infused with the latest sound absorption technology, and rig up your room according to your needs. Some people even deck out the entire screen-side wall with wall-to-wall speakers. If you are going to rage, you might as well rage hard.

3. Outdoor Lounge Movie Space- Remember when you were a kid and the best thing in the world was going to a drive-in theater while eating a hot dog on top of your parents’ oversized van? Relive those days with a romantic outdoor setting with cushions and candles. Not only can you enjoy the summer air during your showings but you won’t have to worry so much about spilt drinks and snacks.

home theater interior design arizona

A fantasy home theater created by the designer with freedom given by the homeowner who trusted thier vision

4. Futuristic Themed Theater- This one is for the Sci-Fi geeks out there. Whether you want to use the force or be beamed up by Scotty, there is a futuristic home theater out there for everyone. No matter what Sci-Fi film tickles your midichlorians (props to you if you actually know what those are) deck out your home theater with all the latest in rocket ship decor. Go for sleek panels, a galaxy-inspired ceiling, and feel free to decorate your room with life-sized statues of The Predator and Chewbacca.

home theater mancave

This futuristic mancave home theater has tons of sound system power to totally blow your socks off.

5. Traditional Movie Theater Styled Space- Classics are classics for a reason. You can’t go wrong with traditional red velvet seating, curtain enclosed screens and colored lighting. Line it all with gold trim and glowing sconces and you have yourself a truly sanctioned home movie theater. If you want the benefits of a traditional home theater but still want to try something new, open it up with a an open passage and seating along a bar.

6. The Sports Room – It’s not enough to just focus on one team and one sport. A true sports room often covers every sports team from a specific city to truly bring the city’s colors to light. Make your home theater room that any sports fan will remember with seats that match your teams color, a rug with one of the city’s colors, framed posters of popular players and even a couple of signed balls if possible. Also don’t forget sports coverage can be tricky. Currently has some of the most flexible plans and also Sunday Ticket which covers every single Sunday football game. Sign up for DirecTV using and you will also get three free months of HBO.

Express Yourself

At the end of the day the most important characteristic of your home theater should be you. You should imprint your own tastes and personality in every aspect of your theater. Mix and match styles and designs, and feel free to add any tweaks that will make your home theater your own.


Image Credits:

Florida Realtor, Michelle Weed

Design Directives & Sesshu Design Associates



Sensible Green – Eco-Friendly Contruction from a Builder’s Viewpoint

I received this article from a local builder, Cullum Homes, and just really appreciated the sensible ideas and approach they take, so I thought I would share it with you.  I hope you will let me know what you think.

Sensible Green

green builders

Cullum Homes creates green homes that exceed their clients expectations

Sustainable construction is nothing mysterious. Its most important aspects are some of the same things that define a quality builder.

Green homes, also called “sustainable homes”, are more affordable than ever. Last year, for instance, a nationwide McGraw Hill study of builders and remodelers found that going green adds an average of just 7% in cost to a project, compared to 11% six years previously.

Part of the reason for this growing affordability is that there’s more widespread agreement on what makes a home truly sustainable. It turns out that you don’t need an organic concrete foundation or a $40,000 solar electric roof array. The most important qualities of a green home — those that offer the most positive environmental impact — are the same qualities most people look for in a new car: low maintenance and maximum efficiency.

Achieving this isn’t brain surgery; instead, it’s a matter of good, basic design and construction. The areas that provide the biggest bang for the buck are design, materials choice, durability, and the efficient use of water and energy.

Thoughtful Design: Even a large, complex home can be sustainable, if it uses the floor plan in a very efficient way, with elements such as cleverly designed spaces that serve multiple purposes. The floor plan should be efficient to heat and cool. For example, south-facing glass helps reduce heating and lighting bills by bringing ample daylight and solar energy into the home.

Wise Materials Choice: Virtually every manufacturer wants to label its products as green, but look for third party verification from a reputable organization – GreenGuard, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), or ENERGY STAR, for example. Also consider maintenance; for instance a decking product that has to be refinished every year may use materials over time that are potentially harmful to the environment and require time, energy and dollars to maintain.

Minimal Waste: In some parts of the country, 40% of landfill volume is from construction debris. Much of this can be avoided. A well-managed project minimizes the amount of waste sent to the landfill, and saves you money in the process.

Long-Term Durability: This is a huge part of sustainability: a home that doesn’t need rebuilding or repairing will use fewer resources over time. When it comes to durability, Job #1 is keeping water out of the structure. That’s why, as a professional builder, we make sure our crews understand proper flashing details, use quality building wrap and carefully seal penetrations like plumbing vents.

Attention to Detail: Good exterior details go a long way toward reducing long-term maintenance costs. This would include such things as adequate roof overhangs and properly sized gutters that keep water from running down the wall. Sloping the surrounding ground away from the house helps keep slabs and basements dry.

Water Efficiency: Reducing water bills is easier than ever. Today’s WaterSense rated plumbing fixtures are rated for water savings as well as performance. That means a quality low-flow showerhead can now deliver the same experience as the old full-flow models.

Energy Efficiency: The most oft-cited benefit of green construction is the promise of energy savings (the equivalent of higher gas mileage). But while homes have gotten more efficient on paper, many aren’t performing better than the average home built a decade ago.

The key to getting high performance is to hire a builder who pays attention to detail. For instance, thicker insulation will only deliver its benefits if properly installed. The builder has to make sure that there are no gaps in the insulation, that it fills the entire cavity and the surrounding structure is properly sealed against drafts.

None of these systems and strategies is very complicated, but good design and detailing have a big payoff: a home that’s more efficient, more durable, and less costly to run. And of course it’s also a more pleasant place to live.

Is Concrete Right For Your Home?

Stained and polished concrete is a gorgeous material that can be used in so many ways and create a unique look for your home- but it isn’t the right choice for everyone.  You may be intrigued by what you’ve seen on television or in design magazines and even on this blog, and you might be thinking it could fit somewhere in your home.  But how do you know if it’s the right material for you?

concrete countertop

This modern kitchen features a polished concrete countertop in natural grey.

Should I use concrete in my home?

Here is a quick test courtesy of CS Concrete Interiors to help you decide.  Give yourself a point for each “True” answer.

  1. I want something different, something completely unique.
  2. I want an “Industrial”, or “Old World”, or “Natural” look.
  3. I find granite too shiny or common.
  4. I think solid surfacing is plastic with no character.
  5. I like natural limestone but realise it’s not suitable for most counters.
  6. I like soapstone but want something more stain resistant.
  7. I like variation in color.
  8. I need a particular shape or form.
  9. I would like an integral feature such as a sink or trivet.
  10. I need a custom size sink or counter.
  11. I highly value artisan, hand-made work.
  12. I am attracted by it’s unpredictable element.
  13. I want a ‘wow’ feature, a talking point, in my home.
  14. I want something that evolves or develops a patina.
  15. I do not want to use precious and irreplaceable resources.

Total up your points, one for each “True” answer.  How did you score?

0-4 points

Concrete may not be suitable for you – keep looking.  Your interior designer will be able to suggest other options you will enjoy more.

5-9 points

Get in touch with a qualified fabricator or your interior designer and ask more questions.  Consider purchasing a sample (most companies will provide them at a reasonable cost).

10-15 points

Concrete could be for you!  Work with your designer to develop a concept, create a sketch and get samples.

concrete floor

Concrete floors can be stained using several colors to create a unique pattern.

Some quick facts about concrete:

Concrete is stain resistant – if fabricated properly.  Conditioners in the mix will help to create a slab that is resistant to liquid absorbtion.  After curing, the concrete slab should be also treated with food-safe waterborne polyurethane top coat sealer.

Concrete is easy maintenance.  If properly sealed as described above, no special maintenance is required.   Do not use abrasive cleaners like soft scrub or comet.  Simple Green stone cleaner, 409, Windex and similar products work great!

Concrete is very green.  In fact, it is one of the greenest products you can put in your home.  Portland cement is easily obtained without destroying mountains (unlike granite and marble), and is non-toxic after water is added and it is cured.  It is mined in the USA and does not employ low-wage or slave labor (again unlike most granite).  It does not need to be shipped aroound the world on large cargo ships that emit greanhouse gases.  It can also be recycled and can incorporate recycled fly ash in its fabrication.

Pre-cast concrete offers many advantages over cast in place for countertops.  With pre-cast, it is possible to achieve surfaces that are extremely smooth.  The weeks needed for curing happen off-site, not in your home.  The mess is also kept off-site and out of your living environment.

stained concrete countertop powder room sesshu design

This custom Zen powder room countertop and integral sink was created out of stained concrete by CS Concrete Interiors for one of our projects.

Personally, we love to use stained concrete for floors, countertops and even walls.  There are many diverse possibilities that concrete allows which other materials just can’t duplicate, and the look can range anywhere from Old World to modern- and anything in between.


Monday Morning Musings- Open a Book

Open a book, and friends fly out.


open a book art design quote

Open a book, and friends fly out


I saw this on Pinterest, and loved it immediately!

First because it is such an obviously piece of cut paper art.  I mean, how do they do stuff like this?  The way the butterflies seem to be literally flying out of the pages.

But also because of the quote or caption that was below it.  I have no idea who said it, whether it was the person who pinned it, or if it came from somewhere or someone else.  In any case, that is the primary reason I chose to save it and use it here as a topic for my blog.

I have a lifelong love of books.  Anyone who knows me at all, knows this.  I have bookcases crammed full all over my house and in my office.  In fact,  I need more bookcases before I can buy any more books (which is why I love Kindle!)

I love the way real, actual, physical books look and feel in my hand. Turning the pages, and feeling the texture of the paper in my hand is wonderful.  The type and the variety that you see in old-fashioned books is something that you often lose in an e-book, and for that reason, the move toward digital readers makes me sad.

But the thing I love the most about books is the way a good story can transport you into another world, and introduce you to new people and places.  You can make new friends in all kinds of amazing and wonderful ways.  You can visit Scotland in the 17th century via time travel through the stone circles of the UK, or Hogwarts School of Wizardry, or sail on a whaling ship in search of a big white whale.  Seeing the life of an illegal immigrant. struggling just to survive and find a better life in the canyons of LA while wealthy white people whiz past on the freeway can be eye-opening.

I love to find a new book, flip through it to see how small the type is (the smaller the better because that means more words per page) and feel the heft of it to judge if the paper is thin or thick (thinner is better – more pages) and flip to the last page to see how many there are (again, the more the better!)  A really good book that gets you involved is one I never want to end- so I look for the longest one possible.  And when it is finally over, I add it to my bookshelf where I can go back and revisit any time I want.

Decorating with books

Books are something I believe are a must have accessory in anyone’s home.  Books tell you so much about a person, and they lend a warmth and coziness to a room that nothing else can.  If you don’t have room for a library, at least find a wall, or an unused corner to put a bookcase.  Fill it with friends, and knowledge of the world, and learn more about yourself in the process.

Add a comfy chair and a good reading light, and you create a reading space that will transport you to the farthest corners of the universe in an instant!

Creative Spaces to Inspire Your Inner Artist

As a creative person who also enjoys quiet alone time, I crave a studio space of my own to really let my inspiration flow.  The perfect place would have art supplies, a comfy chair for reading and writing, and lots of open floor space to stretch out in a relaxing yoga pose.  If it also had a view of mountains and was nestled in the trees, so much the better!  That’s why the first creative studio space profiled here (as seen on Houzz) really speaks to me.



That’s not to say that the other studios shown aren’t charming and inspiring in their own way – and I would probably be happy in any one of them.



The writers’ shed in London is cute and quirky in its simplicity- I love the sustainability aspect of the design and the super economical cost, too.



An ultra modern, clean and simple space with an expansive view like the one in the hills above LA is also wonderful.



Which one speaks to you?  If you were designing a room of your own, what would it be?


//View the entire slideshow to see more amazing creative studio spaces

Sesshu Design Nominated for Best Interior Designer


best interior designer AZ Foothills


We’ve been nominated for Best of Our Valley 2013 as Best Interior Designer from AZ Foothills Magazine.  This is quite an honor and we are super excited.


Best Interior Designer Az Foothills HOME-AND-DESIGN Sesshu Design

Arizona Foothills Magazine Best of Home and Design is looking for the Best Interior Designer

Each year asks readers what their favorites are, offering thousands of options chosen by nominations, editors and focus groups. The contest is answered with hundreds of thousands of votes that determine the Valley’s favorites. The best of each category this year will be featured in the March 2013 issue, a tell-all guide to the coolest people and places in the Valley of the Sun.

Please take minute to give us your VOTE for Best Interior Designer.  Thanks!

Arizona Foothills Magazine has been celebrating the latest and greatest in Valley luxury, everything from resorts to shopping to places to live, since 1997.  Their mission is to unveil what’s up and coming, and give credit to those who deserve recognition.  Sesshu Design Associates is thrilled to be counted among these talented and fabulous people!

Thank you to all of our clients, friends and fans for your support and love.  You can vote once per day, so keep coming back!

vote now Best Interior Designer Sesshu Design

Vote for Sesshu Design – Best Interior Designer, Arizona Foothills Magazine

How to Load Your Dishwasher to Save Water and Still Get Clean Dishes

Do you have arguments in your house over how to load the dishwasher correctly?  There are so many things to disagree over!  Pre-rinse or not? Silverware up or down? Liquid detergent or crystals?

I recently attended a training on Asko dishwashers and learned more than you ever thought possible about how dishwashers are designed to work, and what makes a high-end model better than a mass-market brand.

One common misconception is that pre-rinsing helps dishes come out cleaner – not true, based on detergents and how they work.  Pre-rinsing also uses a lot more water – up to 5 gallons per minute goes down the draing while you rinse and load.

There are many other questions people often ask about getting the best from their dishwasher, which cycle to use, and whether rinse agent is needed.

A lot of the answers will depend on what model dishwasher you have, but there are some basics that cover pretty much any brand, any model and any household.  Check out this video from Bosch for some good tips and basic loading how-to.



Proper loading of your dishwasher allows for efficient water circulation and more effective cleaning.

Higher-end dishwasher models typically have more washing zones, and they are designed for specific types of items.  For instance there may be a pots and pans zone that blasts water to powerfully scrub your most difficult to clean items better.  Read your dishwasher’s owners manual to learn about where these are located.

A recent international study carried out by scientists at the University of Bonn
in Germany found that modern dishwashers in all investigated European countries
use less water and energy than washing by hand while cleaning better and
offering more hygienic results.

There is still some debate over whether to run only full dishwashers – fewer loads uses less water and energy overall, obviously.

However, if you don’t end up with a full load at least every other day then it may make more sense to run a less than full dishwasher more frequently to get the dishes clean.  (Dryed on food is always more difficult to get clean, despite the detergent’s advertisements to the contrary.) Use a short cycle and schedule for off-peak energy times to offset the extra usage.

If you have hard water,  you will probably need to use a rinse agent to avoid hard water spots.  If hard water isn’t the cause, then try switching to a combination dry and liquid detergent like Finish powerpacks which have a hard tablet and a liquid gel in one.  Crystals are designed to attack food particles, liquids are bleach based and designed to treat stains like coffee and tea.  Combining both gets the best clean with the fewest spots.

Hopefully these tips will help end your kitchen arguments – at least the ones over “loading the dishwasher”! If you have questions that weren’t addressed here, please let us know.  We’re happy to get you the information you need – or link you to the experts.

Did you enjoy this post? Share it with your friends and colleagues.

Monday Morning Musings – Take Time to Eat

take time to eat with friends

We all have to eat.  And though we often don’t take the time to sit down and really enjoy a good meal, we should.  A hurried gulping down of food for sustenance is not healthy for our bodies or our soul.

Taking the time to actually stop, sit down at a table, and fully appreciate the food that we are taking into our bodies is good for us in so many ways.

First, it has been shown that eating slowly, thoughtfully, and with attention not only aids in digestion, but it also results in lower calorie intake and is the simplest way to maintain a healthy weight without dieting.  It is more satisfying to pay attention to the flavor and texture of the food that you are eating – how does it taste? Is it sweet or salty or savory or spicy?  Hot or cold? Chewy, crunchy or smooth?

An important aspect of eating that seems to be getting lost is sharing time with loved ones around a table, talking (but not with  your mouth full!) and connecting with each other.  When I was growing up, our family always ate together – all 9 of us- at one big table for every meal.  It was chaotic at times, but it was also a special time of day.  Some of my fondest memories and funniest family stories happened at the dinner table.

Creating a space that allows your family to share special times is critical – it must be inviting and comfortable enough to make you want to be there, and stay there. It doens’t need to be an elaborate and formal dining room.

The best room is one you have filled with people you care about.  No matter what your primary eating space looks like or where it is, atop what you are doing and take a few minutes today to fully enjoy a good meal, preferably with loved ones on all sides.

Of course, a space that is beautifully decorated and well designed to function easily is going to make mealtimes that much more enjoyable, so don’t neglect the eating spaces when designing your home.

Secrets to a More Zen-like Bedroom

Your bedroom is the place you go every night to rest and rejuvenate your body.  The concept of Zen is also about peace, calm, and a meditative state.  When you design your bedroom to incorporate aspects of Zen and a restful place, you create a room that allows you a place to escape to from the pressures of everyday life.  I like to use principles of Feng Shui and a Zen aesthetic in my designs whenever possible.  That’s why when I came across this article I had to share it with you.

Zen Bedroom Basics

A perfect balance for the mind, body and spirit

By Denise Turner, ASID, CID, CMG

A “Zen bedroom” is an indulgent oasis that purifies and rejuvenates the mind, body, and spirit. It’s a place where you love to spend time and escape the stresses of the outside world.

Through ancient Chinese teachings, we have learned of the holistic benefits of the natural elements. These elements—including color and essences, and the traditional five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—are evident in all good design. The Zen bedroom incorporates a balance of elements and design to enhance your life.
Looking to add some Zen to your bedroom? Follow these suggestions for using elements and color:

Add the element of wood, represented by the color green and symbolizing spring, growth, and plant life. Wood energy is expansive, nurturing, and versatile—especially nice qualities for a bedroom. Wood elements for the bedroom include bamboo flooring, sisal rugs, wooden cabinets, and beautiful plants.

Add the element of fire, symbolized by the color red, to bring a sense of summer, fire, and heat to your room. Fire energy is passion, honor, and fairness, and fire can be warming or aggressive. Examples of fire elements for the bedroom include burning candles, light fixtures, man-made materials, and symbols or artwork of the sun. Remember, a little fire in a bedroom goes a long way!

Add the element of earth if you crave a nurturing environment with elements of grounding and wisdom. Earth can be supporting and interacting with all of the other elements. The earth colors are tan and yellow. Examples of earth elements for the bedroom include granite counter surfaces, porcelain tile floors, and beach stone inlay flooring.

Add the element of metal to introduce the sense of autumn and strength to your space. Metal’s nature represents solidity and the ability to contain objects; its colors are white and gold. Examples of metal elements for the bedroom include cabinet hardware, vases, sculptures, and clocks.

Add the element of water to symbolize winter, purification, and a gentle rain or a storm. Water’s colors are blue and black, and suggest the inner self, beauty, and art. Water is nurturing and supports with understanding. Examples of water elements for the bedroom include meandering patterns, fish tanks, and artwork of rivers, lakes, or streams.


In addition to incorporating the right colors and elements, define your room with clean lines and indulge yourself with a well-crafted bed, fluffly pillows, and linens made with soft, organic fabrics. Of course clutter—whether in the room or in the mind—has to be eliminated to support you holistically.

By using these ideas, you too can create a wonderful, personal space. You deserve to come home to a beautiful, relaxing Zen bedroom that balances your mind, body, and spirit.

Homes Designed For Extended Families

These days the family isn’t just the typical mom, dad and two kids.  More and more often a home design needs to encompass the needs of multiple generations living under one roof.  Builder online magazine highlighted three very effective homes that are doing the job quite well.  I’ve chosen to highlight just one, a home in Guadalupe, Arizona.  The others are great, too, so be sure to click through to see them as well.  Is this something that you are dealing with in your family right now?  Please share your experiences and questions in the comments.

mulitgenerational living home Arizona Guadalupe house

The courtyard of the Guadalupe House is a shared outdoor space that suits several generations at once.

Modern Family

Aging Boomers, adult siblings, boomerang kids, elderly parents: The typical American household is being reinvented as you read this. Three inspired projects respond to the surge in multi-generational living, with privacy and togetherness for all.

adaptive living guadalupe house Arizona
Best of Both Worlds: Guadalupe House was designed for extended family, but there’s space for peace and quiet, too.

Guadalupe House: Guadalupe, Ariz.

Set in a Yaqui Indian and Latino community near Phoenix, Guadalupe House was a community effort, spearheaded by Arizona State University’s Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family. It has energy smarts, but Guadalupe House is also a model example of affordable housing that can suit several generations at once.

Best of Both Worlds

Guadalupe House was designed for extended family, but there’s space for peace and quiet, too.

Guadalupe House’s owners participated actively in the design of the home, along with other members of the community. In a board game–type setup, participants moved various rooms around to design the home as they’d like. They agreed on several things: Shared outdoor space—for everything from family cookouts to watching soccer games—was key. A garage (which would serve to collect junk) was not. Instead, that square footage became a carport that could flex into outdoor space adjacent to the central courtyard. Separate entrances for different generations were key to family harmony, and a rear casita that was attached in the original design is now definitely detached.

For many, this was novel, but welcomed. “‘We’re on the same property, we’ve been living on top of each other all our lives, so let’s try something different,’ is what one of them said,” recalls architect Ernesto Fonseca. The exterior stair and flat roof allow for a rooftop terrace, making it possible in the future to stack another apartment on top for other family members. Finally, the homeowners agreed that the grandparents needed to be in front. As guardians of the house, they needed clear sightlines to the rear.

The house is built with Navajo Flexcrete, lightweight concrete blocks made in the Navajo Nation that contains waste fly ash from local electric plants. Flexcrete is aerated and therefore self-insulating. It needs no drywall or paint—just sealing with color-impregnated plaster inside and out. The self-insulating blocks work in tandem with proper solar orientation, deep overhangs, and clerestory windows on a thermostat to allow hot air to escape in the summer months. There’s also a 2.4 kW solar array on the roof and a rainwater catchment system—any water used outside the house is graywater.

Guadalupe House may be specific to its location, but the lessons it teaches are universal when it comes to the architecture that’s essential in helping any multigenerational household thrive. Dispersal of bedrooms and multiple entries are key, says architect Mike Pyatok, an affordable housing expert who served as project advisor. “Grown-ups need to come and go without feeling like kids,” he adds, “and grandparents need to live on the first floor without feeling like wardens.”

Guadalupe House renderings Arizona universal design home

Guadalupe House

Design-Build team Ernesto Fonseca, Daniel Glenn, and Nicholas Smith, Phoenix

Project advisor Mike Pyatok
Photographer Mike Pyatok

Read More about the other two inspired houses profiled here.


Monday Morning Musings – What Will You Do Today?

use this day for good design Scottsdale Arizona

Some of the things that have been left behind on this day in history-

Columbus landed in the new world- not America, but we still celebrate this day in his honor (and as an excuse to take a day off, let’s be honest) even though he actually landed on October 12, 1492.

The Great Fire in Chicago started in 1871 – was it a cow, or a person who is to blame? Either way, something was left behind beyond just charred remains of over 17,000 buildings.  The reconstruction began quickly and led to the city’s skyscrapers and iconic architecture we think of today.

On October 11, 2002, former President Jimmy Carter wins the Nobel Peace Prize “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”  Although during his Presidency he was not well liked, he has since become what many believe to be our best ex-President.

On this day in 1956, New York Yankees right-hander Don Larsen pitches the first no-hitter in the history of the World Series. Even better, it was a perfect game–that is, there were no runs, no hits and no errors, and no batter reached first base.  It is in fact still the only perfect game in World Series history!

So, what will you do today?  Whatever it is, make it something worth spending your time doing, something you are willing to give in exchange for the only 24 hours any of us gets today.



Earthly Accessorizing- Minerals That Add Interest

interior design mineral accessories

Small minerals are great accessories to bring in natural beauty and interest

One of the characteristic trademarks of my interior design is the use of organic, natural and earthy elements that reflect my love of nature.  A favorite way to bring that element into a home is using minerals or fossils as accent pieces – they instantly bring a story, a unique piece that no one else has, and a history to a room.

natural interior design fossil bar top

A large stone slab with fossils embedded can become a stunning countertop


A fun way to bring stone into a room that might not ordinarily seem like a logical choice is to use minerals as an accent.  The variety of stones that lend themselves to home accessories is amazing- quartz, amethyst, citrine, calcite, jade, pyrite (otherwise known as fool’s gold), desert rose, geodes, selenite and many more.

ammonite fossil interior design accessory

Large fossilized ammonites make impressive accent pieces that are sure to spark a conversation

In addition to natural minerals, fossils make a very interesting and unique accent that can be a conversation piece.  Large ammonites (nautilus-like creatures that lived for millions of years through the Cretaceous period) can be quite impressive when displayed on a stand and viewed from all angles.

eostone fish fossil art

A single stone with multiple fossilized fish is a stunning art piece

Large fossil slabs have been used as “art” – a school of fish, swimming forever in tandem and installed in a stone wall, for instance is impressive and awe-inspiring.  Ancient plants captured in a slab of limestone is a piece of natural art like no other – and needs nothing else.

eostone fish fossil wall

Art wall of fossil fish swim silently in this dining room

eostone palm frond fossil interior design

Monumental scale and epic time frame combine to make this fossil palm frond a nearly priceless art statement


mineral unique furniture design

A large golden citrine makes a unique cocktail table base

Large minerals, such as citrine and amethyst, can be used simply as decorative pieces, or as functional furnishings as this citrine table base beautifully demonstrates.  The sparkly nature of minerals makes them particularly attractive when lit to advantage- making them into a lamp is a natural (no pun intended) progression.

amethyst cathedral floor lamp

A tall amethyst 'cathedral' is used here to form the base of a floor lamp

Quartz crystal lamps

Quartz crystals glow softly when lit- perfect as a lamp!

We resource our minerals from all over the world and love to use them to create a special design accent for our clients.  Minerals and fossils have a built-in story to tell and lend a personal touch to your home that is unlike any other decorative accessory.  While large fossils can be quite pricey, many smaller fossils and mineral specimens are quite budget friendly.  We’d be happy to help you find the perfect piece for your home.


Images –



Tips for Creating an Eco-friendly Bathroom

One of my favorite blog sites is because of the variety of eco-friendly topics they cover.  Bathroom design is a key factor to consider when going for a sustainable home. This recent post about making your bathroom more eco-friendly is great- it really does cover the top reasons (and ways) to make the most used room in your home a more environmentally friendly place.  The tips presented here are easy, quick and inexpensive to implement.

7 Eco-friendly Tips to Green Your Bathroom

by  , 09/29/12


TIP 1: Install a Low-flow Toilet

eco-friendly bath interior design low flow toilet

Low flow toilets save both water and money

Toilets use approximately 27%  of the water consumed in your home — more than any other appliances or  plumbing — including the washing machine, dishwasher and shower.Replacing your old toilet with a low-flow  model is a great place to start when greening your bathroom. Newer  homes will boast more efficient low-flow toilets installed by their contractor,  but those found in older homes can use up to a whopping 7 gallons per flush.  While low-flow toilets used to get a bad rap for boasting a less than desirable  flush, sometimes requiring users to hit the handle twice, modern low-flow  toilets provide ample flushing power while still using just a fraction of the  water.

If you already have a low-flow toilet you can still cut down on water usage  even more by installing a dual-flusher that gives you a choice: push one button  for flushing liquid waste (around .8 gallons of water) and another for solid  waste (1.6 gallons or less). The BlueSource  HydroRight Dual Flush Converter is our pick — it’s easy to install and costs  just a little over $20.

If you can’t afford to purchase a new toilet at the moment, a temporary quick  fix is to drop a little sand or pebbles into a 2-liter soda bottle and put  that in your tank to displace some of the water that would have otherwise filled  the tank. However, note that 2-liters does not equal the up to  5.5 gallons you could be saving per flush with a low-flow toilet.

TIP 2: Install a Low-flow Shower Head

Taking shorter showers is one way to cut down on excess water use — they say  you really only need to be in there for 5 minutes anyway — but if you’re someone  who likes to linger, then you should consider installing a low-flow showerhead. A typical shower head will use anywhere  between 5 to 8 gallons of water per minute, while a low-flow head will bring  that down to 2.5 gallons or less with the same amount of water pressure.

By installing low-flow showerheads, you’ll be saving in two ways: 1. The  amount of water you use while showering; and 2. The amount of energy you are  using to heat your water. Manufacturers of low-flow showerheads claim that an  average family will save hundreds of dollars annually by making this simple  change. Better yet, this is a very inexpensive upgrade, and installation is easy  and should require no more than a wrench, a little PTFE tape and 10 minutes of  your time.

We also recommend finding a shower head with a water filter built-in,  especially if you have hard water (we like the Culligan  WSH C125). Like any water filter, it will remove impurities, chlorine or  other chemicals, and the potential health problems that these things harbor for  both the skin and your respiratory system. Filters will also curb the drying  effects of chlorine (your skin and hair will become softer and healthier!) and  make cleaning residue in your shower much easier. If  you already have a low-flow showerhead installed, you can simply upgrade  your current system by adding an attachment filter like this one here.

TIP 3: Install Motion Sensor Faucets

eco-friendly bath design hands free faucet

Auto shut off on motion sensor faucets conserves water and keeps germs from spreading

Another place where water is wasted at rapid rates is your bathroom sink.  Despite all the best intentions, most people find themselves using more water  than they need to when washing their face or hands and brushing their teeth.  Think about how much unused water flows out when you simply move your hand to  and fro faucet handles while going through your daily routine. One way to keep  this wasted water from adding up into an wasted pool the size of the Pacific is  to install  a motion sensor faucet. A motion sensor will be able to expertly track when  you need H2O to flow. Moreover, using a faucet  like this will also help you keep your bathroom cleaner (familiar with the  gunk that builds up around your faucet handles?), and prevent the spreading and  recontamination of germs.

TIP 4: Change Your Light Bulbs

If you haven’t already made the switch  to LEDs, now is the perfect opportunity. Enormous technological  advances have been made in the color renderings of LED  lightbulbs in the past few years, and consumers can now find “warm  LED bulbs” which glow at the same cozy amber color temperature that we know  and love from old-fashion incandescent bulbs.

Switching  to LED light bulbs is one of the simplest ways to save on both  your energy bill and the need to constantly buy replacement bulbs. On  average an  LED bulb consumes 80 percent less energy than its outdated predecessor, and  it lasts 25 times longer — that’s a rated life of about 25,000 hours. And  because LEDs operate at a lower wattage, without sacrificing lumens or light  quality, a single bulb alone can help knock  hundreds of dollars of your energy bill. For example, the Phillips EnduraLED  A2117 watt bulb, an LED-based replacement for the 75-watt incandescent light  bulb, boasts an energy savings of $160 per bulb. LEDs are quickly growing in  popularity, and there are plenty out there to choose from.

Another great reason to make the switch is because high wattage lightbulbs  (those over 50-watt, aka most of the common incandescent bulbs) will be  gradually be phased  out of stores over the next 3 years.  You’ll want to stock  up on low energy bulbs now to get ready for the phase-out. If you want more  details on how to make the switch, check  out our how-to video.

Photo: Green  blue antique luxury bathroom via Shutterstock

TIP 5: Switch to an Energy-Efficient Vent Fan

How’s the ventilation in your bathroom? If you depend on a vent fan  to keep moisture at bay, a great way to cut down on energy usage is to replace  that standard fan with an ENERGY  STAR-rated fan. While it may only be switched on briefly a few times a day,  an energy-efficient replacement fan will provide you with a 60% energy  savings over your old model. And if you don’t already, it’s important to  keep your fan running during your shower and for 15 minutes after to make sure  moisture in the air doesn’t become mold in your walls. Just a little can build  up into a seriously  unhealthy, not to mention costly, situation.

TIP 6: Buy Eco-friendly and Sustainable Bath  Products

eco bath cleaning products

Non toxic, recycled, and effective options for your bathroom products

From bath  towels to hand soap to  toilet paper, all the products that you’ve got packed into your bathroom can  all be made more green. Purchasing green  and certified organic products  ensure that you’re bathroom routine has a lower environmental footprint – and  just as importantly, is safe and healthy for your body and skin. Ingredients in  conventional toiletry products are frequently laden with petrochemicals  and toxic preservatives like parabens, have often been tested  on animals, and the source of ingredients are frequently shrouded in mystery  (“Parfum” anyone?)

Moreover, buying eco-and  sustainable products has a larger global implication — these products  often use natural ingredients sourced from organic farmers and fair-trade  organizations, meaning that you are supporting ethical business practices that  put environmental and human interests above monetary interest. And lest you  fear that green products are significantly more expensive than their  non-environmentally friendly equivalents, remember that as more people demand  green products, and economies of scale kick in, the cost will eventually come  down. Also, the old mantra “you get what you pay for” really rings true in this  case. Isn’t your health, beauty and the state of your environment worth a few  extra dollars?

Photo: Cleaning  products via Shutterstock

TIP 7: Clean With Homemade Products

Plenty of studies show that conventional harsh cleaning products can be  detrimental to your health, not to mention the planet’s health (products  labelled with a skull and crossbones and the word ‘HAZARDOUS’ will hopefully  have tipped you off). But there’s no need to purchase caustic cleaning solutions  when you’ve got everything you need right in your kitchen cupboards to  get the job done of cleaning  the bathroom. If you’re looking for ways to clean  your bathroom safely and ecologically, a bit of baking soda and vinegar is  enough to get your bathroom sparkling. Simply sprinkle some baking soda on  problem areas add a little white vinegar, let it foam and sit for about 5-10  minutes, and then scrub the area down with an eco-friendly sponge or brush. You  can also use a little lemon or your favorite essential  oils to help mask the vinegary scent. Moreover, oils such as tea tree,  lavender, eucalyptus, lemongrass and rosemary boast antiseptic and antibacterial  properties in addition to smelling great!

More on how to green-clean  your bathroom HERE >

Some other quick mixes:

  • Window wash: Mix 3 tablespoons vinegar with 2 cups of water  (or for a bigger job – 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water) and spray it right on  your windows. Club soda and lemon will also work wonders.
  • All-purpose disinfectant:  Mix 2 cups water, a few  drops of natural soap, and 15 drops each of tea tree and lavender organic  essential oil. Use this on floors, countertops and generally any surface except  glass, as it will streak.
  • After shower cleaner: Make your own daily shower  cleaner by mixing two cups of water and three drops of tea tree oil in a spray  bottle. After you shower, simply shake your spray bottle, mist, and then walk  away. This should help keep mildew at bay between cleanings.

Read more:  7 Eco-friendly Tips to Green Your Bathroom toilet – Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

Monday Morning Musings – How to Stay An Artist

interior design artist careerHow do we hold onto our creativity – or more likely – get it back, now that it has been trained out of most of us through school, parents and work?

Children naturally daydream, draw, doodle and build tings from their imagination.  Gradually as we spend more time in school, we are told to stop doing those things that are seen as time wasters.  Then work pressures and time constraints seem to conspire to keep us from pursuing anything that isn’t ‘productive’.

Studies show that creative thinking is a key factor in building a successful business, and thus we are now trying to find a way back to our original creative thinking and behaving.  We spend time trying to force it – when maybe all that is needed is a little less structure and a little more free time to dream.

Maybe pulling out our old toys or borrowing our kids’ Lego’s, building blocks, Crayons and paper, or creating a huge doodle wall with white board paint is the secret to having more fun, being more creative, and living more successfully.  I think I’ll go doodle…



Monday Morning Musings – What I Love About My Home

interior design love home

Good interior design should reflect those who live within

We share our homes with husbands, wives, children, pets, and sometimes extended family.  All of us have our own needs, tastes and desires when it comes to what makes our space feel wonderful and inviting.  A well-designed home, a home that you love, should ideally reflect each of those individuals in a harmonious way.  Sometimes, that can be challenging!

I often say that one of my most important roles as a designer is that of mediator or psychologist and marriage counselor.  There is rarely complete agreement between all the people living in a home as to what is the best color, style or use of space.  My job is to listen to all ideas, and then work to combine them in a stylish, functional and appealing result.

When I hear complaints about designers, it often relates to some form of “they didn’t listen to me”.  The result is usually a home that may be pretty to look at, but it doesn’t reflect the personality or style of the people who live there.  And then let’s hope they do love the people they share it with or what else is there?!

Designing A Home You Love

Choosing someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to is the most important decision you will make when you are setting out to “design a home that you will love”.  Take the time to do your research and have a really good conversation, ask lots of questions and be sure they are all answered, and then enjoy the creative process of discovering a style for your home that makes everyone who lives there feel welcome.


Kitchen Design: Work Triangles – Outdated Idea?

The old standard for designing a kitchen that WORKS has always been the kitchen work triangle– the cooktop, sink and refrigerator.  The idea was that you wanted these three work centers to be positioned close enough for efficiency, but not so close that if more than one person was in the kitchen you would have a traffic jam.  This recent blog by one of my favorite appliance suppliers here in Scottsdale turns that adage on its head, based on the latest options now available in refrigerators.

A Design Idea for Refrigerators

Posted on September 1, 2012 by


kitchen work triangle interior design Scottsdale
the kitchen work triangle

Forget the work triangle. Point of use refrigerators change everything. There are some new opportunities for creativity in appliance placement. Major appliances fall into three general categories: cooking, cleaning, and cooling. In cooling, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the past few years with the advent of refrigerator columns, refrigerator and freezer drawers, and a variety of wine units.

integrated drawers
Sub Zero Integrated Drawers

More than just new appliances, these new products give designers and consumers an opportunity to re-think where and how these appliances can be used. The traditional work triangle imagines A refrigerator, A sink, and A cooking area. However, we’re now seeing how these areas can be broken up. Think of a “main” refrigerator unit perhaps a column in a central location, and a freezer drawer unit in a nearby pantry or storage area. Next to the sink is a refrigerator drawer unit, and a wine cellar displays a collection of fine wines in the adjacent den/library.

Undercounter Refrigration
True Wine and Beverage Units

Appliance location can be configured around usage rather than have usage being determined by appliance location. Consult your design professional or visit the appliance experts at Arizona Wholesale Supply Company.

Designing a Kitchen that Works

Or course there is a much, much more that must be considered when designing your kitchen, and the constraints put on it by the space you are working within can be challenging.  A professional interior designer who is skilled at kitchen design can guide you through the many decisions that must be made.

Announcing New Product Service – Buy Lighting Direct Through Sesshu Design

We are excited to announce that you can now purchase the latest lighting fixtures directly through Sesshu Design Associates – any style from modern to traditional, any type of application from ceiling mounted to sconces to lamps.

lighting fixtures sesshu design

Stunning decorative lighting fixtures like this modern chandelier are now available direct from Sesshu Design

You can browse dozens of manufacturers for chandeliers, bath sconces, ceiling fans, table lamps and more on our website Products page.  There are literally hundreds of styles available in all finishes and sizes.  You are sure to find the perfect choice for your home.

This new option will allow those Do-It-Yourselfer’s out there to find quality designer lighting at a great price, without needing to go through a designer.

Of course, if you get overwhelmed and feel like a little professional advice would be a good thing, we are here for you.  Just give us a call at 480-275-2968 or toll-free at 888-863-3070 to schedule a consultation.

How Designers Translate the Style You Like Into a Room You Love

I was reading the Wall Street Journal and found this great article on how designers and decorators translate an image or style of an existing room into something that reflects more of the current client’s personality.  Great insight into what makes the years of experience and training your designer has so valuable!

While the styles shown here are obviously more typically Eastern US traditional rooms, I think you will find it interesting to see how each decorator has followed the mentor.

It’s a Little You, a Little Me

How do you take a style you admire and make it your own? Learn from design luminaries who have been mentored by the best


SO YOU’VE FLAGGED that single perfect photo in the stacks of decorating books cluttering your coffee table. You’ve found inspiration! Now comes the hard part: How do you put your own spin on that look, and adapt it to suit your needs?

We aren’t the only ones who weather that challenge. Even decorators frequently grapple with the fine art of translation, especially at the dawn of their careers. Apprenticeship is something of a ventriloquism act, as professionals typically train under a mentor whose aesthetic they admire and  whose design language they must internalize. When the protégé goes solo, his or her own vision blossoms—and yet inevitably bears the imprint of the mentor’s DNA, from fabric preferences to favored furnishings and accessories.

Take designer Bunny Williams, who learned the tricks of the trade from society decorator Albert Hadley, renowned for giving classically appointed rooms a sense of architectural rigor and livability. “Albert was a true teacher, incredibly generous in sharing his experience and vision,” said Ms. Williams. From him she learned how to run a business, collaborate with artisans and intermingle antiques with modern pieces. Most importantly, she mastered the fundamentals of a superior floor plan. “He taught me to lay out rooms based on how you really live in them. Ask anyone who worked at Parish-Hadley: We all execute the same furniture arrangements over and over again because they work. Our use of space is very similar regardless of our style.”

“’Mr. Hadley, Bunny, Miles—they all have such a
strong sense of scale and appropriateness,’ said Nick Olsen of his

She could say the same of her own protégé, New York decorator Miles Redd, whose glam interiors are likewise arrayed with convivial conversation, reading and relaxation in mind. “Bunny taught me everything I know: how one good thing can elevate everything else in a room; how to juxtapose materials and textures; who will upholster a chair for you overnight; how to arrange furniture; that a 7½-foot sofa should be 38 inches deep. From working for her, I have five pages of notes on curtains alone!” While his dandyish décor often nods to 1930s tailoring and ’60s swank, Ms. Williams’s unpretentious worldliness is evident, too.

Mr. Redd has also been known to channel his mentor’s mentor. “When you work for someone who came from Parish-Hadley, you inevitably reference the firm’s iconic interiors,” he said. Mr. Redd lovingly riffed on the famous red-lacquered library Mr. Hadley designed for Brooke Astor. “Why mess with perfection? I consider it a friendly homage,” said Mr. Redd. “And I always divulge the reference because the end result inevitably feels different.” Another Parish-Hadley signature that’s been passed down through the generations: taxicab-yellow walls. “We used that paint color a lot at Bunny’s,” said Mr. Redd, “and I still use it today.”

So does Nick Olsen, who credits his former boss, Mr. Redd, for schooling him in all matters décor. “When I came to work for Miles, I had a strong sense of what I liked,” Mr. Olsen said, “but I wasn’t sure how to translate that to decorating.” Years spent executing someone else’s style helped him to refine his own, he explained. Of course, it helps that the two have simpatico sensibilities. “For instance, Miles is brilliant at layering; that comes from a love of doodads, which I share.” Other Redd trademarks were an acquired taste. “At first, I didn’t get his thing for animal prints or velvet!” But now Mr. Olsen, who launched his firm in 2010, embraces both.

The young decorator’s predecessors continue to inspire him. In fact, his initial ideation phase for a project often begins by leafing through design books to scrutinize how his heroes put rooms together. “Mr. Hadley, Bunny, Miles—they all have such a strong sense of scale and appropriateness; their choices are so purposeful, and there’s a confidence to their gestures.” One look at Mr. Olsen’s own tailored interiors and you’ll see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The Chain of Influence:

Four bedrooms reveal how design DNA evolves from generation to generation


William P. Steele/Condé Nast
Albert Hadley’s design

The Mentor:

Albert Hadley

One half of the famed decorating office Parish-Hadley Associates—whose client list reads like the Social Register—Mr. Hadley is often referred to as the dean of American decorating. He died earlier this year.

The celebrated red-lacquer library that Mr. Hadley envisioned for philanthropist Brooke Astor’s Park Avenue duplex gets all the attention, but her
master bedroom is just as much of a showpiece. Designed in the early 1980s—and an update of Parish-Hadley’s original scheme—the room juxtaposes restful hues, pedigreed antiques and modern artwork to create an oasis of patrician calm. Mr. Hadley used the same pale-green Alan Campbell foliage print for the walls and draperies, instilling coziness and intimacy in a grandly proportioned space. He furnished the suite like a multitasking salon, with a desk, sitting area and a scattering of armchairs for bedside lounging. In lieu of nightstands is a pair of mismatched tables; swing-arm lamps offer a warm glow. The vibe is dainty yet strong, simultaneously old-world and forward thinking.



Pieter EstersohnBunny Williams’ design

His Protégé:

Bunny Williams

Ms. Williams opened her firm in 1988, after more than two decades with Parish-Hadley. She has a furniture line, BeeLine Home, and runs the outdoor furnishings company Treillage with her husband, antiques dealer John Rosselli.

Ms. Williams’s own bedroom exemplifies her personal style. Mismatched bedside tables make for a less “decorator-y” look; tall lamps cast light at just the right height for reading in bed. Her palette is restful and a bit feminine. “I love bright modern prints, but I tend to use them sparingly since you tire of them. I do neutral—never white-on-white—rooms.” The mirrored bed is a 1930s creation by French designer/artist Serge Roche; Ms. Williams upholstered the headboard in an Indian-inspired silk embroidery by Naeem Khan. “I like fabrics to look natural, whether a cotton or a silk or a good imitation”—a bias rooted in her Parish-Hadley days. The sumptuous bedscape, though, is all her: “People who work for me always say that once they’ve learned how to make a Bunny bed, they can never go back!”



Paul CostelloMiles Redd’s design

Her Protégé:

Miles Redd

Mr. Redd began his design career working for Mr. Rosselli, then moved to Ms. Williams’s firm. He opened his own studio in 1998 and took on the creative directorship of Oscar de la Renta Home in 2003.

Look familiar? “Bunny’s mirrored bed inspired my own,” said Mr. Redd of his canopied design. “I give her total props for letting me copy it.” Antiqued mirror gives his bed a more burnished effect than the reflective shimmer of its inspiration, while a mattress-ticking stripe adds a masculine element. In contrast to Ms. Williams’s more ethereal aerie, Mr. Redd’s space is grounded by dramatic touches like crisp black lampshades and framed drapes. The sheen of low, mother-of-pearl side tables is offset by a fur bedspread. “Balancing texture was something Bunny taught me: You can’t have lacquer next to lacquer. You have to juxtapose shiny with rough, graphic with organic.”


Melanie Acevedo/Veranda

Nick Olsen’s design

His Protégé:

Nick Olsen

Upon graduating from Columbia University, where he considered majoring in architecture, Mr. Olsen apprenticed with Mr. Redd for five years before striking out on his own.

Mr. Olsen gave the master suite of his clients’ Upper East Side apartment flair via hand-painted scenic wallpaper (a treatment often deployed by the other three designers as well). To keep the look fresh, bold accents like the bright yellow lamps serve to “young it down.” The four-poster mahogany bed—which the designer whitewashed—is from Oscar de la Renta Home, of which Mr. Redd is creative director. Although Mr. Olsen prefers asymmetrical furniture arrangements, here he instilled order by echoing the bedside pieces. Taking a page from Ms. Williams, he eschewed low tables in favor of slightly taller chests that elevate the lamps, making it easier to read in bed and offering more storage space in tight quarters.

Monday Morning Musings – To Live a Creative Life

live the creative life

“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong” – so said Joseph Chilhon Pearce.  Certainly, being creative is not the safe path for most people- it requires us to be a little daring and willing to risk.  Creativity means trying new things, testing them out and seeing if they work.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

I’m sure there is more than one artist or designer or musician out there who can tell you a story about something that didn’t quite work as they expected.  Or maybe there are no mistakes, only happy accidents as famous TV personality and artist, the late Bob Ross, liked to say.

I think many people hold themselves back from really allowing creativity into their homes because they are afraid of doing something wrong.  Often the challenge they face in creating a beautiful home is one of confidence, so they play it safe and go with re-creating the vignette they saw in the furniture store or in a magazine.  While that certainly works, it doesn’t really allow your home to reflect your unique personality.

If you feel uncertain about how to inject personality and creativity into your home, and live a more creative life, start by day dreaming.  Gather images of things that you like.  And consider working with a designer to come up with some outside the box solutions.

Secret to Finding Your Best Designer? Part 3

So we have been exploring what you need to know when looking for the “best interior designer” to help you with your home remodeling or construction project.  First you need to know  when it is the right time to bring in a design professional, and second you really need to understand what an interior designer does and does not do.  Today we will discuss what  you will need to bring to the process- more than just money, it will also involve your time and effort to varying degrees.

Your responsibility in the design process

Feel excited about the process

Spend some time daydreaming.  Really think about the things that you would like to have.  Start with an idea file.  Tear out pictures from magazines or print them off the Internet, and put them in an accordion file or box.

interior design tips

How do you see yourself living? This defines your lifestyle and thus your design style.


Create a wish list and prioritize it

Whatever comes to mind, put it on your list, then turn that list over to your designer and see what you can get.  Sometimes things don’t cost as much as you think, and your designer can help you prioritize if you’ve been dreaming too big for your current budget.

Before you try to find a designer, spend some time thinking about what you want and need.  Consider some questions the designer will likely ask you:

  • Who will live in the space and what activities will likely take place there?
  • What image do you want the home to project?
  • When do you want to start work and when do you want it completed?
  • What is your budget?

Minimize changes once the project is underway – each part of the plan will affect the entire design and changes can require a number of adjustments which will add time and expense.

Be flexible and open to new ideas

Your design team will often have creative solutions that you hadn’t considered or realized were possible.  These experts are problem solvers who can turn a challenge into a delightful solution.  Flexibility is the key to a successful design project.  Give an idea that at first seems to be “not you” some time to percolate, and you may find yourself excited about new possibilities. After all, if you want only solutions you’ve already considered, you needn’t have hired a design team.

home theater interior design arizona

A fantasy home theater created by the designer with freedom given by the homeowner who trusted their vision

It is a good idea to decide before you begin which areas you are willing to compromise and where you are not.  Then communicate those preferences early in the process.

Working with a designer involves some give and take, sharing ideas between everyone involved in the project.  You will have many details to consider and many decisions to make.  The concept may grow and change during this process.

Don’t let fears of the unknown stop you

Building a new home or planning an extensive remodel can be a daunting, even scary, process – especially if this your first time.  Working with trusted advisers like your architect, builder and interior designer will guide you through every step, selection and decision that will need to be made. They will help you articulate and achieve the vision you hold in your head of what you want your home to be.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Many people are intimidated by interior designers because they fear criticism of their taste or find the process mysterious and don’t know how to articulate their wants.  This is generally an unfounded worry – designers are trained to interpret your desires and taste in a way that you feel comfortable with.

When you are interviewing designers and other building partners, ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask anything you feel is important to you, and be sure you understand the design process the designer uses.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

This can’t be stressed enough – good communication will solve and/or prevent so many of the typical headaches that occur on large home renovation projects.  From the very beginning of the planning stages, express your wishes regarding the style you like, your unique needs, your schedule and the amount you are willing to invest.  The more direct and specific you are the easier it will be for the designer to meet your needs and expectations.

You can control the final expense of your project by clearly defining what you want and what you expect to achieve.

Be clear about your budget

Being up front with the amount you are comfortable investing in the overall project will help your designer to create the best possible plan for your unique situation.  The first step to doing this is to ask yourself, “How much do I have available to spend, what are my priorities and what will I be willing to give up if they don’t fit my budget?”  Before authorizing any work to begin, discuss the fees and other expenses you may incur.

Of course, there is more to finding the best professional interior designer for you than just what we’ve covered here.  If you would like to get more information, request our guide to  “The 7 Critical Things You MUST Know Before Hiring an Interior Designer”.  Or give us a call at 480-275-2968, to schedule your no-obligation consultation to explore what works for you.

Monday Morning Musings – Use the Whole Box of Color

use the whole box of crayons

“Life is about using the whole box of crayons.”  I don’t know who said this, but I love it!  As a kid, I always needed to have the BIG box of color, not just the 8 or 12 color box, but the 64 color box of crayons.  I loved using color.  The more the better.

Now as an interior designer creating three dimensional spaces, color certainly plays a part in every aspect of my designs and is utilized in not only walls but furnishings, lighting, art and accessories.  It combines with texture, scale and balance to create the total space in a way that is pleasing to the eye.  The use of color is just one of the many aspects of design, and it is likely the most apparent.

One of my pet peeves as a designer is white walls and beige on beige on beige furnishings.  While the backgrounds and big pieces in the rooms I design may still be neutral, they are “ash gray” or “apache tan” or “bone white”.  They have character and depth.  They say, “I’m interesting and gave some thought to this space”.

Of course there is always color in accents, and sometimes I even get to be bold and daring with the walls.  If the homeowner is willing, we may use “roasted pepper” or “serene thoughts”.  Oh, Happy Day!

What do you think- do you enjoy “using color” in your home, or does it just seem safer to go with white and beige?  Would working with a professional give you the confidence to go out on the proverbial limb and try something more bold?



Secret to Finding Your Best Designer? Part 2

Okay, now for part 2 in our series- tips on finding the perfect designer for your project.  Last time we talked about the right time to hire an interior designer.  Today we’ll look at what a designer does and does not do, critical to understanding how they can help you accomplish your vision for your dream home.

What an interior designer does

Designers help you work with your architect and builder

A designer can help you work with your architect and builder more easily and confidently.  They understand space from the standpoint of how people live in it.  A designer sees how a space will work, how traffic flows from one room to another, and the relationship of those rooms.  Ultimately, they also understand how the room will look once it is furnished and can help you to visualize it as well.  They can help you with large or small projects, including new construction, remodeling and all aspects of selecting furnishings, accessories, bedding, art, etc.

find interior designer to help you remodel or build a new home

Your designer will work with you and your architect and builder to remodel or build a new home

The real value of an interior designer

The typical designer will have many, many practical suggestions that come from years of knowledge and experience.  They can make educated and often insightful observations with their ability to see and envision what you can’t.  Your designer will help you create a more appealing, personalized environment that fits your lifestyle.  You will be able to function more comfortably and happily in your home when you have worked closely with your designer to address your unique situation, needs and wants.

A designer can save you money, time and stress

A designer can save you money with these skills, and the true value they bring to your project is the professional guidance that comes from their experience.  Sometimes the money they will save is not an actual dollar and cents number, but more of a “not making an expensive mistake I regret” type of number.  Not so easy to measure, but definitely worth it in the end.

An interior designer helps you maximize the investment of your home

Your home is a financial investment and your designer can help you to maximize the impact of the dollars you spend on its interior, whether it is new or you are remodeling.  If you plan on selling within a short period of time, have your designer develop a plan that will have a broad range of
appeal to future buyers.

consult with an interior designer

Consulting with an interior designer will save you time, money and hassles

Areas where finding your best designer can help you

  • Color schemes
  • Conservation and “green” design
  • Construction documents, drawings and specifications
  • Custom furniture, bedding and linens, window coverings, etc
  • Design for people with special needs, incorporating safety and accessibility
  • Floor plans and furniture layouts
  • Furniture refinishing, re-upholstery and refurbishing
  • Home office, closet and other storage design
  • Home staging for selling
  • Specialty room design, such as home spa or exercise rooms, home theaters and media rooms
  • Interior detailing of background elements such as walls, ceilings, fireplaces, etc
  • Kitchen and bath design and renovation
  • Lighting plans and design of fixtures
  • Long term project and lifestyle planning
  • Organizational and storage planning
  • Painting and wall coverings
  • Selection of appliances, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, tile and flooring materials

What an interior designer doesn’t do

There are some things that your interior designer cannot do and you will need to consult with an architect, structural engineer, or a contractor for these.  Some examples are:

  • Making changes to structural elements
  • Building a house or addition
  • Tearing down a house or the interior of one
  • Building a staircase, elevator or fireplace
  • File plans with the city for bathroom, kitchen, lighting or plumbing renovation
  • Move walls, doors, windows or plumbing

    new construction house

    You will need an architect, engineer and builder for larger remodels or new construction projects

Your interior designer will be able to assist you with the process of any of these projects, but only as far as the interior finishes and space planning, coordinating with the architect and builder to create the final result.

Stay tuned for Part 3- what you need to know about your part in the process once you find your interior designer to maximize your success in creating the ideal home for your needs, tastes and lifestyle.  If you want to learn more, please request our FREE guide, “The 7 Critical Things You MUST Know Before Hiring an Interior Designer”.




Republic West


Secret To Finding Your Best Designer? Part 1

Lifestyle can be defined as: “a way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group”.  In short, it is how you choose to live your life every day – how you express yourself on a daily basis.  Your lifestyle includes where you shop, what you wear, what you eat, your vacations, your pets, your car, and it certainly includes where you choose to live. Your home is a personal reflection of you, whether you have consciously chosen it or

I believe that your life deserves to be lived comfortably.  That begins with your home – it should be a place that makes you happy, feels welcoming, and functions beautifully for the way you live.  Finding an interior designer who can help you do this will reduce the hassle, fuss and stress.

So why doesn’t everyone work with a designer? And how do you make that decision when there are such a variety of options out there, no two  of which are alike?

There are several critical things you should know and consider when you are searching for a professional interior designer.  Today we will help you understand those and make your decision from an informed position. The three most important of these are:

  • The right time to hire an interior designer
  • What an interior designer does & doesn’t do
  • Your responsibility in the process

This post and the following two will explore each of these in detail to provide you with the basics of what to ask, what you should know and how to choose a designer who will become your trusted advisor in an exciting but sometimes scary endeavor- creating your ideal home.

The right time to hire an interior designer

remodeling - drywall

Leave the hassles out of your next remodeling project by using a professional interior designer from the beginning to coordinate all the steps

Ideally, you want to bring a designer in at the beginning of the project, at the space planning and design concept stage – before the contractor, installers or painters begin, before the furniture is delivered, and before you make decisions you are unsure of which may result in change orders or additional expense.  An interior designer will work with you to create a comprehensive plan that will take you through the entire process with the fewest hassles, headaches and expenses.

Don’t try to hire one expert to do everything

Your architect, your builder and your designer each have a very specific set of skills and expertise in different areas of creating your dream home.  While these skills and knowledge do overlap in some ways, they are not completely covered by any one individually. Particularly if your project is a large scale remodel or a new home, it will not make financial sense in the long run to have one person doing two jobs.

It is critical to bring in a professional designer to evaluate your proposed floor plans before the final approval stage.

 Why not just do it yourself?

You may be thinking you will save money by doing it yourself- you have good taste, so why not?  But what is the true cost of your time that you spend by running all over town, looking for resources and researching options, or trying every supplier you find on the Internet?

People are often reluctant to hire a consultant of any type because they see the cost as intangible.  It is true that a designer’s experience and expertise are intangible on one level, but what you are actually paying for are the right results their expertise will produce.

Refreshing and updating your current home

If you are not building a new home or planning a major remodel, an interior designer can still provide you with expert advice on color schemes, furniture arrangement, window treatments and accessorizing to achieve the look you want.  It is a good idea to bring a designer at the planning stage of any major update to a space.  Your designer can help you see options you may not have considered, and suggest the best way to maximize your budget in any size project.

hiring a professional interior designer

There are many benefits to hiring a professional interior designer

When you are ready to sell

If you are selling your home, a designer can be pivotal in helping your home look its absolute best to sell for the highest price.  With professional guidance you will be able to improve its first impression appeal without spending a lot of money.  Again, it is better to bring in the designer early – don’t wait until your home is on the market to hire an expert.  The first three to four weeks your home is on the market, when there is the most activity, is your best chance to get the highest price.  A designer’s objectivity will help you make the changes that present your home in a way that will appeal to buyers.


Look for part II – what an interior designer does and does not do next time.  Meanwhile, we would love to hear what you think.  Have you had an experience good or bad in the past with finding a good designer?  We would love to hear about it in the comments!




Design Trend: Grey Finishes for Interiors

One of the biggest design trends we have seen over the last couple of years is the color grey.  It is being used everywhere- from walls to flooring, in stone, paint, wood finishes and fabric.

Cool Design Trends in Color

Grey is popular as “the new black”- it is softer and more friendly, and is a great neutral that works well both paired with other neutrals and bright colors.  The grey design trend was first spotted in fashion (as is often the case) and very quickly moved into home decoration and furnishings.   The look can be modern or traditional yet updated- it feels fresh and different, much like espresso brown was a few years ago.

Dove grey walls paired with cream and ivory are subtle and elegant

For walls, a medium dove to dark tone of charcoal seems to be the direction most designers are going.  Paired with white trim and dark wood the effect is elegant and rich.  With bright pops of color, the room becomes very stylish and modern, an of-the-moment space.

grey and white with orange accents kitchen

The orange accents stand out against the grey walls as bold design statements in this kitchen

Grey in Materials and Finishes

The grey’s we see most often are rich and warm, and they add a nice layer of drama to a room without being overpowering.  When used as a wood finish, a grey wash or cerused oak is a great look for floors, cabinets and furniture.  Both the wash and cerusing process brings out the grain in the wood, and when applied to oak it is very dynamic and visually interesting.

grey wood finish on transitional cabinet

The grey tone of the finish on this wood cabinet makes a traditional style a little more updated

a simple modern night table in grey finish

A grey stain that allows the wood grain to show through enhances the simple modern lines of this night table


Marble is also surging in popularity, especially carrera marble with it’s gorgeous grey swirling veining through pure white.  It is being used as floors, backsplashes and even kitchen countertops.  Marble can be very contemporary or very traditional, depending on the other elements in the room.  Some limestones and travertines are also available in a silver to stormy shade that is a nice change from the heavily used creamy beiges that have been popular for many years.

MAster Bath tub Sesshu Design

This master bath mixed carrera marble with white glass, recycled art glass in a range of neutrals, and a warm tone wallpaper from Maya Romanoff

Polished concrete as floors or countertops is a very eco-friendly choice, and the natural beauty of the material is allowed to show in an honest, elemental way.  Other man-made solid surface materials such as Caesarstone come in a range of cool shades that are stunning and extremely durable.

Versatility Key to This Design Trend

The versatility of grey as a neutral background is what is most likely leading to the longevity and popularity of this design trend.  We don’t see it ending anytime soon, so if you are tired of beige, tan and off-white as your background color, try out a grey.  It can be used even in a transition from a warm color scheme, because grey mixed with cream or camel is a stunning and sophisticated combination.  If the idea leaves you feeling excited, yet also a little scared to do it yourself, we offer color consultations as one of our many services.


Monday Morning Musings- Take the First Step in Designing Your Home

Every journey begins with a single step

The journey of designing your home is no different than any other life changing adventure

This is one of my favorite quotes, I think because it reminds me that no matter how large a project may seem, when you look at it in its simplest form, it is only a series of small steps, each of which is completely manageable.  Any design project is a series of steps, and the first one is just a single step- a decision to get started.

I have been challenged lately with being motivated to get started on various projects, both in business and my personal life.  For instance, I know I that I need to complete my book about green interiors.  In this case, I have begun the research process, but am now feeling a bit stuck.  And I also have ideas for two other books that I want to publish, and those keep nagging me- but then I feel conflicted because I need to finish the one I’ve started.

Or when I look at my health, and think about wanting to start running again, I am come up against the same feelings of not knowing where to start so I procrastinate.  I find all kinds of excuses and other things that must be done now.  (But really, these are just ways for me to justify putting off doing what I know I should do.)

Designing Your Home Begins With A Single Step

Maybe you have had a similar experience with the desire to make a change to your home.  For instance, a kitchen remodel can seem like a huge, daunting project.  There are so many decisions to be made about appliances, cabinets, countertops, lighting, plumbing, the flooring, backsplashes, and the list goes on. So rather than get started, you pull pictures out of magazines and tell yourself you are doing research.  While researching what you like and want is a good step, if it continues too long then it is only a way to delay the really tough part.

Getting Started On Your Design Project

My suggestion for getting started on a design project? Just take the first step- begin with outlining what you want to accomplish.  Then make a list of every choice or decision that will need to be made, and who you will need to work with to make those decisions.  Will you do research on the Internet or go to the plumbing showroom?  Do you have a contractor who can guide you through some of these choices?  Will you need an architect and plans submitted to the city for approval?  What is your budget for the project?

Once you have an idea of what you want to do, who and where to ask for help, how much you are comfortable spending, etc., then you can really analyze if this is a project you want to tackle on your own.  Or, maybe bringing in a professional would be worth it in the long run in terms of time, money and effort.  Perhaps, the single most important step in your design project is to talk with an interior designer to explore the best solution for you and your situation. 

If you have a project in mind and you aren’t sure where to start, give us a call at 480-275-2968.  Or email for more information.  We have a free guide to creating your dream home without the typical nightmares – we’re happy to send it to you.

8 Simply Stunning Bathroom Designs

We are excited today to present a guest post highlighting stunning bathroom designs ranging from sleek and modern to organic, rustic and traditional.  We’re sure you’ll find something you love here as well- and we’d love to hear what you like best.

Stunning Bathroom Designs

Hello, everyone! It’s Mari here from Design Shuffle, a social networking site for interior designers to showcase their work and design enthusiasts to find decorating ideas for their own projects.  As part of my job I often have the opportunity to visit interior design blogs to share some of the beautiful spaces I’ve discovered in my online travels.

Today’s guest post is about bathrooms that are simply stunning. We often hear the phrase “less is more.” In the case of bathrooms this design philosophy can certainly be taken to a new level. Here are eight of my favorite bathing spaces–simple and sleek with stunning good looks. Please enjoy!

Modern Bathroom Designs

Stunning Bathrooms

Stunning Modern Bath

Both stunning in their own way, a freestanding tub and a panoramic ocean view offer the ultimate bathing experience. A slatted wood platform warms up the concrete floor.

Stunning Bathrooms

Elegant Modern Bath

An oval soaking tub and contemporary chandelier bring a bit of glamour to this bath. The round window is an interesting architectural element in the space.

Stunning Bathrooms

Drama and Sophistication for Bathing

A contemporary bath with stylish fixtures goes over the top glam with a massive crystal chandelier. Unexpected rustic flooring grounds this brilliant red design—simply stunning.

Traditional Bathrooms

Stunning Bathrooms

Elegant Tradtional Master Bathroom

With a creamy white palette, this pretty bath offers several traditional bathroom design ideas including the deep silver clad tub. I love the vintage style faucets and fixtures.

Stunning Bathrooms

Gorgeous Rustic Mountain Bath

Curved windows offer breathtaking mountain views from this romantic tub—both the view and the bath are stunning.

Romantic Bathing Spaces

Stunning Bathrooms

Romantic Master Bathroom

At once classic and contemporary, this elegant bath is simply stunning. The large open space is reflected in a wall-sized mirror behind the tub. Underfoot, marble is laid in an interesting chevron pattern.

Stunning Bathrooms

Contemporary Bathroom with a View

Open to the cityscape beyond, this lovely freestanding tub with its own built-in surround is the centerpiece of a simple bath design.

Organic Bathing Spaces

Stunning Bathrooms

Organic Outdoor Bathing

Organic form meets contemporary style in an amazing open-air bath. I can envision this gorgeous tub indoors in a spa-like retreat.

Now that you’ve seen our eight choices, which of these simply stunning bathroom designs would you choose for your home? Let us know! And don’t forget to visit Design Shuffle where you’ll find a wide assortment of bathroom decorating ideas for any home!

10 Options Other Than Granite Countertops

I just re-read this excellent post on Houzz, talking about the many options now available for countertops that are NOT granite.  There are great photos and the comments are very informative as well!  I wold love to hear what you think- are you tired of granite in the kitchen?

Your Kitchen: 10 Great Alternatives to Granite Counters

By Paul Anater

“As a kitchen and bath designer, I get asked about countertop materials often, usually in the context of “I’m looking for something other than granite to use for my counters—what are my options?” While it’s true that the majority of my kitchen and bath projects get granite counters put in them, there are times when granite just won’t work.

Granite’s a great counter material but it has a tendency to hog the spotlight. The mirror finish on most granites makes it difficult for granite to be subtle. There are times when this works, but there plenty of other times when it doesn’t.

Fortunately, there are a good number of options out there and their number just increases over time. Here are some of great, non-granite surfaces to use for counters. All of them are readily available. Combined, they add up to a trend that’s pushing back against granite’s dominance.

Hands down, my favorite counter material is Carerra marble. Marble is not for everybody though. It is a softer stone than granite is and it scratches and stains. It’s an inherent characteristic of the material and frankly it’s part of why I like it so much. I like materials that age and show wear. If you don’t, then you are not a candidate for marble counters.

More alternatives to granite countertops

This is soapstone. Soapstone is a soft, non-porous, natural stone. Despite its softness, it’s some pretty resilient stuff. It is always a dark stone, very nearly black and it always has a honed surface. People who cook love it because it’s an excellent heat insulator.
Wood counters have never really gone away and are currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Adding a wood top to an island while using a different material for the perimeter counters is a terrific way to add some interest and function. Wood counters require periodic oiling to prevent them from drying out but they add a warmth no other material can.
Wood works in bathrooms, too, as this mahogany beauty shows eloquently. This is a beautiful bathroom for any number of reasons, but I love that the designer used wood for the counter and sheathed the wall in Blue Macauba quartzite. That quartzite makes an attractive counter as well but on a wall it takes on the air of a landscape painting.
Quartz composites are a newer and growing category in the countertop world. Composites are made from stone aggregate and polymers that compressed under high pressure. The resulting material is practically non-porous and just as strong as most natural stones. Since it’s a manufactured product, it has consistent colors and patterns.
modern bathroom Polished Concrete Sink

Concrete is a growing segment of the countertop market as well. In the hands of a skilled craftsman, there is practically no shape, color or finish it can’t transform into.
This is another concrete counter, though the addition of glass aggregate gives it the appearance of terrazzo. Because all concrete counters are one-of-a-kind, adding different colored glass or stone to the mix while it’s being made can be just the thing if there are specific colors you’d like to integrate into a design.
The counter shown here is made from glass that’s been painted on the back side. Glass is a great counter material, and the thickness of glass used as a counter gives it a strength that’s difficult for other surfaces to match. It’s such an unexpected material for this use that it never fails to get a positive response.
The counter in the foreground of this kitchen is a green product made from post-consumer recycled paper mixed with resin. The material is called Paperstone and it’s a strong, waterproof option if sustainability is one of your renovation goals.
Stainless steel was invented in the early 1900s and made its way into commercial kitchens shortly after that. It was a short step from commercial to residential kitchens and it’s been a standby ever since. Stainless steel is a classic, though one with an industrial edge. The birth of foodie culture in the United States has brought with it a renewed interest in stainless steel as a counter material.
Solid surface is the product category, and Corian is the brand. All solid-surface products are made from mineral powder blended with acrylic and sometimes polyester binders.

Before the big move to granite and natural stone 10 to 15 years ago, Corian was the go-to counter material. It’s making a comeback with new colors and textures and as always it can be formed and shaped into anything someone can imagine.

Corian and the rest of the products that make up the solid surface category remain the only material that be seamed invisibly. In its newer colors, this is a category that shouldn’t be overlooked.

What do you think? Does the kitchen of your dreams have granite counters, or is it time for something new?

Simple Tricks for Arranging Art

There is nothing more daunting to many people than hanging art on a blank wall or layering accessories on a shelf.  In either case, arranging art is a lot easier if you know a few tricks.

art arrangements
Simple art arrangements

The primary design rule that applies to art arrangement is balance.  Balance doesn’t have to be symmetrical (the same on both sides).  For a more modern, casual look it is often better to be asymmetrical and have the larger piece on one side balanced by smaller pieces opposite or on the other side.

More formal or traditional spaces may use a very evenly balanced and symmetrical arrangement.  You may see a large piece in the center with equal numbers of smaller pieces that are exactly the same size set precisely the same on either side.

One very modern look that is also a bit more formal is to use several of the same size pictures, or multiple identical objects, lined up like soldiers in a row.

Typically the larger and thus ‘heavier’ piece looks best if placed towards the bottom – visually we think of things as having mass and weight, and a large piece above smaller items tends to look top heavy and precarious.

The same rules apply when arranging art or objects on a shelf or a mantel.  In that case, you will want to have some pieces grouped together rather than strung out evenly across the space.  Usually odd numbers look better than even numbers of items.

For a family portrait gallery, creating an art wall can be a great way to make multiple smaller photos work together and create a big impact.  The key here is to use similar frames and mats to add cohesion and order.  The frames don’t have to be exactly the same- just using all one color or finish can do the trick.

One trick I like to use when working with a variety of sizes on an art wall is to lay the art on the floor in front of the wall where it will hang.  This allows me to see how the individual pieces work together, adjust spacing between them and be sure they all fit.

Arranging art and/or accessories is ultimately something that you just have to try some possibilities, see how they work, and then make adjustments as necessary.  You may even find that you enjoy having a ‘rotating’ art collection that changes with your mood, or as you find new pieces to love.  Just give it a shot, and have fun!

Truly Zero-VOC Paint for Healthy Indoor Air

I found these great posts at EcoHome about two new products coming on the market for paint that really is zero-VOC.  These will contribute to LEED and other green bulding certifications. Both are great options from established and respected manufacturers I’ve used in my projects and highly recommend them.

Product Spotlight: New VOC-Free Paint Colorant

Most low- or no-VOC paints don’t stay that way once standard colorant is added—some dark tints can increase the VOC levels by more than 50 grams per liter. But, starting this summer, all of Sherwin-Williams’ latex and water-based paints will be tinted with the company’s new zero-VOC ColorCast Eco Toners, making Sherwin-Williams the only company that can tint its full line of colors with zero-VOC colorants.

While some tint systems affect paint thickness and consistency, ColorCast colorants maintain the paint’s full body, the company says, delivering thick, rich coats for maximum performance.

zero-VOC paint Sherwin-Williams ColorCast Ecotoner

Get zero-VOC paint with Sherwin-Williams ColorCast Ecotoner

Zero-VOC Paint from Dunn-Edwards

Enso is a 100% acrylic zero-VOC, low-odor paint made with this company’s proprietary resins. Available in flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, and as a primer, these paints use zero-VOC colorants and are certified MPI X-Green and CRGI Green Wise and listed in the CHPS High Performance Products Database. 888.337.2468.

ENSO Zero-VOC paint by Dunn-Edwards

Dunn-Edwards ENSO line of paint is low odor and zero VOC

Great Color, Now How to Choose?

Now that you know you can have any color you want and still have low-odor paint- which keeps the air inside your home healthier- how do you select the right color?  If you need a little help with that process, we are available for color consultations.  Just give us a call at 888-863-3070 to schedule one today.




Monday Morning Musings – The First Step in Creation

To Destroy is always the first step in creation

Creation is a series of steps, like a staircase, one builds on the last

When people ask me how to start a new design project, especially if that is doing some sort of renovation to an existing home, the first thing I ask them is “what do youwant to change?”  And change often means getting rid of something that isn’t working- maybe the layout of the kitchen is just impractical for the way they like ot cook, or the bedrooms don’t have enough closet storage, or perhaps the colors are feeling outdated.  In many cases, what they tell me is there is some thing that must be removed- essentially, destroyed.

This process of destroying something that is comfortable, because it is familiar, can be unsettling to many people.  Even though they dislike whatever it may be, and even though they want to make a change, still whenit comes time to do it, they hesitate.

It is the scary part of the design and creative process.  And having someone who has been there before and can tell you, “It willbe alright- you’ll love it when it’s done,” can be just what is needed to ease the struggle that may be what has held you back from actually making those changes sooner.

If you need a professional who you cantrust to guide you through the design, remodel or building process on your home, we are here to help.  We would be delighted to speak with you about your dreams and challenges.  Contact us at 888.863.3070 to learn more about our design services; we love to travel for projects outside of Arizona, too!

Monday Morning Musings- How Do You Wake Up?

wake up to a wonderful morning

A restful bedroom can lead to wonderful mornings

When you wake up in the morning, do you feel a sense of excitement and anticipation?  Or is it more of a sense of dread and reluctance?  Hopefully it is the former.  but if not, did you know that you can actually choose to change that?

The first few moments of your day are some of the most important, and they set the tone for the rest of your day.  How you feel when you open your eyes is not a matter of chance – it is something you can control.  And it begins the night before.

First, as you lay in your bed relaxing and getting ready for sleep, be sure that your room is quiet, dark and free from any disturbances.  Dark window coverings that make the room as dark as possible have been shown to create a more restful sleep.  Turn off or cover any lights from electronics- or better yet, remove them from your sleeping area entirely.

Then, as you lay in your bed, notice how comfortable it is.  Feel how your sheets feel against your skin, how comfortable the bed is, how soft your pillow is.  Notice how good it feels to lay down and take the weight off your feet.  Really enjoy these few moments luxuriating in the comfort of your bed.

If your bed isn’t as comfortable as you’d like it to be, maybe it’s time for a new mattress.  Or a mattress topper.  For the best nights sleep, look for an all natural mattress and topper made from silk, wool, cotton or natural latex to avoid adding harmful VOC’s into your sleeping area.  High-thread count sheets in cotton, linen or silk feel smooth and soft against yous kin and will also contribute to a more restful sleep.

As you relax and drift into sleep, tell yourself that you feel good.  The thoughts you have in the last five minutes before falling asleep will resonate in your sub-conscious mind throughout the night.  If you have a pressing problem that is bothering you, write it down before going to bed,  Then tell your mind that you will have an answer when you wake up.  Allow yourself to let it go.

Creating a comfortable, restful bedroom and a peaceful bedtime routine will make an enormous difference in your mornings.  Give it a try, and let me know what you experience.  If you need help creating that space, we are here for you.  Just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you discover what a truly good night’s sleep feels like.

Ways to Prepare Your Home for the Hot Arizona Summer

When you can cook an egg on your driveway, it’s time to make some changes around your home. From small decorating ideas to major design projects, here are some ways you can lighten your home for refreshing interiors and exteriors this summer.


Aloe plants are not only great to have around for those nasty sunburns; they are also beautiful additions to your home and outdoor living areas adding interest with color, texture and shape.

Switch to lighter fabrics. A great way to summarize furniture is by throwing a linen slipcover over it.

Resurface or replace floors, cabinetry and furniture with light finishes. Woods with prominent grains like oak look great with a grey washed finish.


Add a water feature with sights and sounds that are cooling to the senses. Fountains can work indoors, too!




Arizona homeowners looking to revamp their interiors and outdoor living spaces this summer can call on the design experts at Sesshu Design Associates in Scottsdale, Arizona. With expertise in luxury home design and eco-friendly living solutions, we can create a custom look that reflects your personality and fits your lifestyle. Contact us at 888.863.3070 to learn more about our design services; we love to travel for projects outside of Arizona, too!



Photo Credits:
1) ByLori Gilder
2) By Dresser Homes
3) By Venegas and Company
4) By Studio William Hefner

Find Tanya Kortum Shively of Sesshu Design on Pinterest!

I’ve become an active part of the pinning community, and I have to say… I’m loving it! Pinterest is such a fun and interactive way to find and share design inspiration. It does not surprise me now that Pinterest has become the third most popular social networking site right behind Facebook and Tumblr!

There’s so much to love about Pinterest: the clean and simple layout, the user-friendly platform, the stunning photography and the emphasis on creativity. It’s a continuous treat for your senses! Not to mention, it’s become a fabulous addition to Sesshu Design’s technology toolbox for luxury interior design out west.

Here are some of the things I’ve been pinning about…

  • Unique interior design solutions
  • Modern twists to traditional design
  • Natural designs that bring the outdoors indoors
  • Peaceful landscapes
  • Designer furnishings with luxury form and function
  • Inspiring quotes

Head over to my Pinterest profile to see some of my favorite eye-candy! Also, feel free to pin any Sesshu Design projects from our website or here on our blog; it has been so exicting to see them on so many pinboards!

interior design inspiration

Top image via Sasha, CCC

Accessorizing Tips to Personalize Interiors

You can spend thousands of dollars on furnishings and finishes but until you add that personal touch, your interiors will never look quite complete. Accessorizing with art, travel souvenirs, collections and other personal items is the best way to not only add that finishing touch but to bring distinction and character to interiors.

These types of accessories are what turn a house into a home and reveal your personality and lifestyle, whether it’s your hobbies and interests or even your talents. So what are the best practices for accessorizing and personalizing while still maintaining a sophisticated, luxurious aesthetic? After comparing our own techniques with those of other professional designers, here are our favorite tips for finishing interiors with personal accessories.

  • Create vignettes with various heights and textures.
  • Group similar items close together to allow them to make a larger, unified impact.
  • Reinforce a color scheme by using multiple accessories of the same color throughout a space.
  • Experiment with worldly colors, textures and patterns to add a unique, eclectic element.
  • If you are unsure, you can always establish nice symmetry and balance by accessorizing in pairs.
  • One large piece of artwork at eye-level can become an incredible focal point and source of color for a space.

In the project below, Tanya Shively of Sesshu Design used her client’s collection of art and souvenirs from traveling to add beautiful splashes of color and intriguing focal points throughout the home. 

interior designer arizona


interior designer arizona

If you need a little help achieving interiors with beautiful form and function and the perfect personal touches, call on the luxury interior design professionals at Sesshu Design Associates in Scottsdale, Arizona. Contact us at 888.863.3070 and tell us what spaces you’d like to redesign to enhance your whole home. We welcome projects outside of Arizona, too; we love to travel!


Ideas for Fun & Eco-Friendly Outdoor Furnishings

We asked interior designer and founder of Sesshu Design Associates, Tanya Shively for some ideas on fun and eco-friendly furnishings to turn outdoor areas into comfortable and stylish outdoor rooms. Here are some of the cool furniture and decor that Tanya suggested to add refreshing flair to outdoor living spaces this summer.


This beautiful Santa Fe/Chelsea Dining Collection is made from renewable bamboo.

outdoor furniture trends 2012

These vibrant doormats were weaved out of old flip-flops and reclaimed marine rope.

outdoor decor

eco-friendly outdoor decor

These Wine Barrel Chairs are 100% white oak from salvaged wine barrels.

 eco-friendly outdoor furniture

Designed by Greg Benson and Jeff Taly for Loll, this Go Club Rocker was produced from recycled plastic.

fun outdoor furniture

This cool outdoor daybed is from the new MamaGreen line of environmentally friendly outdoor furniture.

eco-friendly outdoor furniture

Famous for their innovative designs Diamond Teak offers edgy architectural furniture that is also eco-friendly.

     diamond teak

If you need a little help bringing it all together, Sesshu Design Associates in Scottsdale, Arizona can work with you to achieve a custom outdoor living space that meets your needs while reflecting personality and lifestyle. Contact Sesshu Design at 888.863.3070 to begin discussing a design project today. We welcome residents outside of Arizona, too; we love to travel!


Summer Events Around Arizona to Inspire & Enjoy

arizona farmers markets

Take your mind off of the steamy Arizona sun this summer and let the sights, sounds and savory flavors of our state’s rich landscape, culture and history sweep you away into a whirlwind of fun and fascination. Here are some of the refreshing ways you can find inspiration and enjoyment around Arizona this summer.

46th Annual Summer Band Concert Seriesarizona skyride
Every Thursday at 8pm from now until June 28th
At Murphy Park in Glendale

~ Show Low Main Street Farmers’ Market & Art Walk
Every Saturday from 9am to 1pm from now until June 30th
At the Festival Marketplace in Show Low

~ Summer Concerts in the Park
Every Sunday from 7:30 to 9pm from now until July 8th
At McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale

~ Native American Dances
Weekdays from 6:30 to 8:30pm from now until July 31st
At the Historic Courthouse Square in Holbrook

~ Grand Archaeology: Excavation and Discovery along the Colorado River
Exhibit open 9am to 5pm until August 5th
At the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff

~ Summer Flashlight Tours
Thursdays and Saturdays at 7pm from now until September 1st
At Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

~ Arizona Snowbowl’s Scenic Skyride
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm now until Spetember 3rd
At the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff

~ Arizona Centennial Exhibition “100 Years / 100 Ranchers”
Museum hours from now until Octover 7th
At the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg



Top photo via Show Low Main Street Farmers’ Market
Botton photo via Arizona Snowbowl


How the Right Ceiling Fan Can Add Cool Elements to Interiors

With clients requesting luxury interior designs ranging from refined rustic to modern Zen, Sesshu Design Associates has come up with several design solutions for achieving both high form and high function in a range of styles. The features that we continuously find necessary for achieving functional interiors here in Arizona and in many other locations out west are ceiling fans.

The start of high summer temperatures reminds us that that ceiling fans significantly increase comfort as well as eco-friendliness and budget friendliness. Ceiling fans help homeowners reduce energy consumption and, in turn, cut costs.

While some interior designers cringe at the thought of a ceiling fan subtracting from aesthetics, we believe it just requires finding the right fan. For example, if your interiors aren’t traditional, then your ceiling fan should not be traditional.

Our designers pride themselves on having an extensive knowledge of brand and style options to ensure every final touch enhances the overall look and feel of interiors. Here are some of the ceiling fans we have used in our own projects.


This contemporary style fan from the Cool by Design line by The Modern Fan Co. offers visual interest that would work wonderfully in eclectic style interiors.

contemporary design tips




Designed by Fanimation, this sleek fan is perfect for minimalist style interiors and would even add architectural interest.

styles of ceiling fans


Here’s another bold design by Fanimation that is truly striking would work well for more modern interiors; we’ve actually had one of our clients tell us that they love the power and efficiency this fan offers.

modern ceiling fans


This living room by Tanya Shively, founder of Sesshu Design Associates, is a beautiful example of how the right fan can enhance a space.

luxury interior designs arizona

Here’s another example we found inspiring; designer Lorraine Vale incorporated a beautiful tropical-style fan to achieve this gorgeous pergola patio.