Thursday, October 23, 2014

Your renovation story could help someone
























Maybe you've seen home-construction crews in your neighborhood, building bigger homes where older, smaller ones once stood.
We know many of you are investing time and money to rebuild or renovate homes in our area, or to do smaller, meaningful upgrades. And we know you're often better off once the old tub is gone, the windows enlarged or the kitchen gutted and opened up to the surrounding rooms.
What did you learn along the way? Now that you’re wiser, share what you've learned with us. We want to publish your renovation story and pictures on our website under a banner called Problem Solved.
You made all sorts of checklists, found the right fixtures and finishes, negotiated with contractors and maybe even corrected a misstep or two along the way. How did you keep it moving and get through it?
Three-course dinners made with a toaster oven while your kitchen was out of order? Did you wade through an inch or two of water before the roof went on? And how did the pets make out? We’ve heard all sorts of stories, but not yours.
Tell us in 500 words or less what problems you had at home, how your building or renovation project addressed those problems and what advice you have for others who may be considering a similar project. Send your story and pictures to home@charlotteobserver.com.
We’ll choose one of those stories and send the brave survivor a $25 gift card.

Karen’s blog: http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Riverkeeper has tips for controlling soil erosion





















Sam Perkins was driving along Park Road in south Charlotte when he spotted a stretch of red clay opened up in someone’s yard. It was a fall landscaping project, a common thing at this time of year.
Perkins, Riverkeeper for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, was concerned. The Riverkeeper’s job is to protect our waterways. Uncovering earth creates a vulnerability.
“If it rains, there is going to be an awful lot of sediment making its way to Little Sugar Creek,” he said of the unfinished project.
Sediment is tough on the fish, turtles and other wildlife living in creeks and streams. Nutrients and chemicals travel into waterways with soil, boosting algae growth and pollution.
Perkins understands the importance of tackling landscaping jobs while the temperatures are cooling. He’s thinking about what he can do to renew the landscape at his home in Madison Park, where plants have to compete with decades-old trees that gobble nutrients and moisture.
Here’s what he suggests if you’re planning a landscape overhaul this fall:

  • Design your landscape so it keeps rainwater on the property as much as possible. Slopes, planting beds and other barriers on and at the edges of a property can accomplish that. A temporary sediment fence is also an option. The fence is made of fabric that is dug into the soil at the bottom end to filter out sediment as water passes through.
  • Finish the job as quickly as possible once the soil is exposed, especially when rain is expected. Plants and mulch can help control erosion.


Karen’s blog: http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Eco-friendly home decor is trend to watch





















I'm already getting a sense of what designers and others in the trade will see when they arrive for the fall furniture market in High Point next week.
A folder in my email account is stacked with announcements and images that are a preview for what's ahead.
It's so easy to focus on the visual brilliance in the home decor industry, but breathtaking design may come at a price to the environment.
I was reminded of that this week when talking with Fernanda Vergara at Tronk Design, a fairly new boutique furniture company that will bring its designs to the trade show for the first time.
Tronk uses solid walnut for many of its designs, which combine an industrial look with influences of midcentury modern style. But Tronk's new Williams dining table is not solid walnut. It’s made with walnut plywood, an alternative that has LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“Walnut is everywhere right now,” Vergara said, explaining that its popularity is causing Tronk’s suppliers to be concerned about availability in the future.
Meanwhile, some of Tronk's clients are asking for ecology-friendly furniture. The Williams dining table is a step toward answering both concerns.
So now I've got a better sense of what to look for next week when I visit showrooms to get a sense of trends that are coming for spring. Environmentally thoughtful design is on the list.

Karen’s blog: http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Earn rewards for donating old furniture to ReStores




















If you're planning to make a donation of furniture to a Habitat ReStore in the Charlotte area, take time first to learn about a new donor rewards program.
On the second Saturday of each month, ReStore furniture donors can earn credits, called Positive Impact Points, for making sure their items did not go to a landfill.
The PIP Rewards program is open to ReStore customers through the Edenton-based Sustainable Furnishings Council's new Sustainable Saturdays program.
The council has a goal of diverting 10 tons of furniture from landfills in 2014. Those nearly 10 million tons of furniture are dumped at landfills each year, the council reports, citing EPA data.
Formed in High Point in 2006, the council is an education and marketing organization that promotes “green” practices and products in the furniture industry.
Donors can use PIP rewards points for “positive impact” goods and services.
This might include products that are considered healthy or responsibly produced. The points also can be used to support projects aimed at protecting the environment, fighting poverty or doing good in other areas.
The rewards program is the first of many Sustainable Saturday programs the council expects to launch, says executive director Susan Inglis.
Sign up for PIP rewards at https://pipsrewards.com. Get updates on Twitter using the hashtag #SustainableSaturdays.

Karen’s blog: http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Update saves old treasure in Pineville






















Many of us sigh when we see a historic property in our neighborhood being demolished. Others may visit a home that has the charm of a past era and dream of someday finding a special one of their own.
Thomas White has a different story. He renovated a historic home in Pineville's Cone Mills Village and saved a second from demolition. That 1,100-square-foot 1911 house is being featured by Historic Charlotte as part of its Blast from the Past annual fundraising event, on Oct. 15.
A complete update of a historic property, White says, takes vision, a willingness to wrangle through codes and permits, as well as tremendous diligence to manage costs. But these older homes can be worth the effort, if not always a quick return on investment.
“The unexpected result was the appreciation I developed for historical properties,” said White, a land surveyor who is planning a move to a third historic property in Pineville. “We will live in a very unique time capsule. Without that appreciation, you are just living in four walls.”

Learn about other preservation projects nominated this year at www.historiccharlotte.org/events.

Blast from the Past
The after-work event with entertainment and food by Heist Brewery will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Charlotte Museum of History, 3500 Shamrock Drive. Tickets are $25 online and $35 at the door. Details: www.historiccharlotte.org.

Karen’s blog: http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Monday, September 22, 2014

Be careful: poisonings on the rise

Here's a way to help keep your family safe at home: Be careful what products you bring into the house.
Many of the cans, bottles and bags in your cupboards and closets can lead to poisoning or emergency room visits. It's important to mention this because the number of deaths in North Carolina has more than tripled, from 279 in 1999 to 947 in 2010, according to the Carolinas Poison Center.
More than 80,000 calls were related to animals.
A poison is anything that can cause harm if used improperly. Food, paint and even mothballs can be lethal. (Yes, mothballs. Avoid brands that include naphthalene, which can be absorbed through the skin.) But these are not the biggest problems.
Calls about children ages 5 and younger usually involve cosmetics and personal care products. Pain medicines led to the greatest number of calls. Nearly 50,000 people contacted the state’s poison center in 2010 and 2011.
One of the best ways to lower the risk for poisoning is by choosing products that are nontoxic or less toxic. Use vinegar or baking soda for cleaning instead of household chemicals.
Pay attention to packaging, too. If a potentially toxic product comes in a container that looks similar to a soft drink that you buy, stay clear of it, especially if the liquid inside the container is also the same color. While you’re at it, give a second thought to any cleaning product that resembles a beverage.

Karen’s blog: http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How can we get people to recycle more?



There were plenty of interesting comments on the Observer's Facebook page for the story that said Charlotteans toss an estimated 40 million cardboard tubes annually from bathroom tissue rolls.
One commenter suggested reusable tubes that we could use with the new tubeless toilet paper rolls that have hit the market. Great idea, but it turns out our recycling problem is much bigger. I learned that from an email that arrived after last week’s column was published.
Recycling at single-family homes declined locally in 2013 (to about 147 pounds per person annually) compared to 1999 (155 pounds), according to Sustain Charlotte’s 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Sustainability Report Card.
Residents of apartments and condominiums hardly recycle at all, said Shannon Binns, executive director of Sustain Charlotte.
So we’re spending more than $10 million a year to send about 364,000 tons of residential waste to a landfill. “That doesn’t include the much larger costs – collection and transportation,” Binns said.
About half of that waste could be recycled for savings of $29 per ton in landfill fees, Binns said. Recycling the waste could generate almost $20 per ton.
Sustain Charlotte has offered two suggestions for boosting recycling: Make it a requirement and impose fines for those who don’t. Or we could adopt a pay-as-you-throw system. Either would surely be better than throwing money away.

Karen’s blog: http://homelifeclt.blogspot.com; on Twitter @sullivan_kms