Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014's top podcasts on design and architecture

Usually we find conversations about interior design in visual spaces – television and blogs, for example. The art of building and decorating compelling settings is also a topic to explore in your car or while wearing headphones, thanks to the podcast.
The top design and architecture podcasts, as ranked recently by Interior Design magazine, explore 3D modeling, marketing and the business side of design. The next time you’ve got some downtime, download an episode, most of which are available on iTunes:
99% Invisible: Hear discussions about design, architecture and “the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.” Fast Company listed creator Roman Mars among its 100 Most Creative People of 2013.
Archispeak: Listen to architects and those in related fields discuss life in the profession. Recent episodes looked at the challenge with recruiting younger talent and critiques of building projects.
The Chaise Lounge: Successful interior designers share business and design tips. Guests include Malibu, Calif., designer Barrie Livingstone; Berkeley, Calif., designer Fu-Tung Cheng and Sue Moss, who works in Hawaii.
Design Pro Success Stories with Jeff Wortham: A forum for tips on building a business in interior design, architecture or landscape architecture.
Spotlight on Design: Podcasts are from the lecture series presented by the National Building Museum. The series presents international architects and designers of distinction.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

There's a market for home automation that can multitask

One of my good friends does plenty of things well, but she has trouble keeping up with her keys. Apparently, that happens to a lot of us.
Twenty-five percent of the people in a recent survey said they spend three minutes or more each day looking for their keys. And 62 percent of those same people said they believe we ultimately will live in a keyless society, thanks to home automation technology such as electronic locks.
Technology is a wonderful thing, but I’m worried. I’m not sure I can afford automation for the long list of issues that are hacking off chunks of my time.
I’ll need a system to find my comb every morning. My husband could use some help locating his glasses whenever we’re ready to walk out the door. Will there be an app for that?
When I do find digital workarounds for these and other setbacks, I would rather not end up with a longer list of passwords and security codes that need to be changed every 90 days. If I did, I might need to figure out a way to keep up with that, too.
So I’m ready to make a prediction now that we’re becoming more open to having home automation in our lives:
Once we’ve collected a few of these gadgets, I think we will begin to judge them much like we rate kitchen gadgets. Ultimately, tools that are versatile, multifunctional and durable are likely to be favorites. Single-use items can be harder to justify in many of our homes.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday waste is not a memory we want to live with

Maybe we should call it the season of misgivings. Certainly, this is not the holiday memory we intended.
We’re throwing away 25 percent more trash during the holidays in this country and 33 percent more food, by one estimate. That’s about 25 million extra tons of garbage.
You’re probably too focused on wrapping gifts to consider where all the paper and cardboard will end up. But this is the right time to think about it – and to look for alternatives.
“A lot of that waste can be prevented by thinking ahead,” said Meg Fencil, education and outreach director for Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit focused on sustainable living.
Reconsider the wrapping paper and cardboard boxes, Fencil said. Gift bags are a smart choice because you don’t need a box and you can – and should – reuse them.
Pinecones and other natural decorations can substitute for ribbons and bows.
Hide smaller gifts inside larger ones. Pinterest is a good online resource for other ideas.
In the kitchen, try not to buy more than you will need, and compost kitchen scraps.
Fencil has taken up a tradition started by her grandmother: a holiday treasure hunt. Gifts don’t have to be wrapped for this game.
The younger children go first and get five clues that led them to their toys. The older children can help, and then they get clues of their own.
“I think it was even more fun” than finding gifts under a tree, Fencil recalled. “There was a challenge to it.”
Find more tips for reducing holiday waste at Type “reduce holiday waste” in the search field.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grow a little extra to help Charlotte's hungry

As you flip through seed catalogs and map out plans for spring and summer vegetable gardens, scale up and dream bigger. Plant more than you need, and then use the extras to help feed the hungry.
About 30 local gardeners have done that for Backyard Friendship Gardens (, which uses food donations to add fresh produce to plates for Friendship Trays, a meal delivery program for people in need.
With such modest numbers, there's plenty of room for growth in the 2-year-old program, said Henry Owen, one of the program's founders and program director of Friendship Gardens.
“There are so many more people that grow food in Charlotte and the surrounding areas that we could easily have hundreds of people involved,” he added.
Owen won’t be here to see that growth happen, though. He’s leaving to become executive director of the Nature Discovery Center in Houston. He starts there Jan. 12.
A bigger accomplishment for Owen, 31, was setting up 74 partner gardens hosted by local schools, churches and other nonprofits. Through all of its programs, Friendship Gardens collected almost 9 tons of fresh food so far in 2014.
Thom Duncan, a board member for Friendship Trays, will replace Owen, who believes these and other programs will reach even more gardeners and more of the hungry in the years ahead.
“I learned that gardeners are people who live in abundance,” Owen said. “They are giving and want to build their community, share with their neighbors, and they believe there is enough for everyone.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Artist has tips for decorating with artwork

When I see a breathtaking work of art, I often wonder how the artist would use it in a home.
Many decorators follow a rule of uneven numbers, grouping things in threes, fives or sevens. But would the artist who created a piece display it that way?
I got the chance to ask that question when talking with Liz Saintsing, a south Charlotte silk screen artist who has been chosen by national home decor retailer West Elm (located at the Metropolitan development) to be a featured local artist.
Saintsing, who is thrilled about being chosen, will present her pillows, wall art, Christmas stockings, table runners and other items during a special pop-up market, 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 1100 Metropolitan Ave.
Nature is a common theme in Saintsing’s designs, which she says are functional and have a cohesive color palette, which is important for creating visual unity in a room.
As for displaying her work, she prefers to keep things of similar size together – 7-by-10-inch wall panels in a group, and the same for her 21-by-21s. She keeps clusters small.
“I like things in threes,” she said. “I don’t like a lot of symmetry. Nature doesn’t have a lot of symmetry.”
Muted gray or off-white walls can make artwork look more dramatic, especially with boldly colored pieces. Wallpaper will probably compete with your art.
Pick one of the secondary colors in a painting and find a matching rug for texture in the room. Most of all, Saintsing recommends doing something unexpected.
“I don’t like things too matchy-matchy,” she said.
Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Give warmth to families in need of it

Winter can be a cold and desperate time in some households in our city. A donation of new and gently used blankets and coats is a small gesture that may offer a little comfort to families in our region during the holiday season.
Charlotte’s chapter of the National Kitchen & Bath Association will be collecting blankets and coats for Crisis Assistance Ministry through Dec. 11. In the picture above, workers and volunteers are sorting through donations to the agency.
“The giving of the coats is something that we’ve done for the past couple of years,” said Tommy Hooker, a spokesman for the association, which has about 150 members locally. “If you provide a coat, you provide warmth.”
Drop off your donations at The Majestic Bath, 621 S. Sharon Amity Road, or at Hughes Supply locations in Charlotte, Huntersville, Pineville or elsewhere.
You can also bring donations to the kitchens at Electrolux from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 11, when the appliance maker will host a holiday event for the association’s members as well as guests. The event will be at Electrolux’s North American headquarters, 10200 David Taylor Drive.
During the holiday party, guests can see the Electrolux kitchen showrooms and cooking demonstrations, enjoy music and food, and possibly win door prizes. Tickets are $15. RSVP by Dec. 4 to

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Local man makes bedding for education

Kevin Gatlin is uncomfortable when he sees his two children parked in front of the television. The south Charlotte man would rather see them playing with their sheets and pillowcases.
Gatlin created a four-piece twin bedding set that has a board game for checkers or chess printed on a fitted sheet.
The children can also draw and color on their flat sheets using Crayola Washable Crayons, which come with each set.
Now Gatlin is selling his Playtime Edventures sheet sets ($40), hopeful that other parents might want sheets that are colorful and useful.
“I watched my wife interact with my sons,” Gatlin said this week from his display at the Southern Christmas Show. “They always used his bed for homework, arts and crafts or board games.”

Gatlin, son of a retired grade-school teacher, says his 10- and 2-year-old have adjusted to his way of thinking, which includes limiting their use of technology. He now works full-time with the business, which offers 30 games and Playtime activities, developed by local teachers, at the company’s website (
The children may not know it, but they are probably learning school curricula and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as they play.
At least that’s what Gatlin hopes for.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Class starts in January to train next master gardeners

If you are a gardener and interested in community service, there is an opportunity ahead.
Twenty-four seats are available for Mecklenburg County residents who want to train to become master gardeners. Twice-weekly classes start in January and continue through March. Tuition is $160.
Volunteers give 40 hours the first year and 30 after that. Working initially with a mentor, master gardeners share what they know on the master gardener hotline and at events and speaking engagements. They also create gardens, such as the veggie patches near Independence Park that's shown here.
“They have to be a lifelong learner, and they should be interested in research-based gardening information,” said Cathe Hawley, president of Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, an association that now has 110 certified volunteers.
Hawley’s description of an ideal candidate might sound lofty, but being a master gardener is mostly connecting with other gardeners in the organization and the community. I still see members of my class (1998) at events all over town.
It is important to be interested in learning, as Hawley said. There’s always so much more to discover about the world of plants and what we can do to help it grow.
Apply by Nov. 24. Visit to download an application or call 704-336-4011.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Charlotte pop-up market to bring handmade and vintage decor

There are dozens of micro-business owners who sell interesting handmade and vintage furniture and accessories right here in the Charlotte area.
But finding these local businesses can be tricky. Many don’t have a showroom or public space. They may sell through online markets such as Etsy and promote their brands through social media.
Here’s a chance to visit some of these operations. Vintage Charlotte’s winter pop-up market returns to The Fillmore at the NC Music Factory on Nov. 15. Sixty-three local and regional vendors will exhibit, and three to four times as many applied.
“I don’t think you can find this type of variety ... anywhere else in Charlotte,” said Amy Herman, one of the organizers. “It’s a very unique mix.”
At least half of the vendors sell home decor. Jewelry, clothing, stationery and other items also will be available. Luce Antica will sell lighting made from recycled industrial pieces, such as the ones above. About 2,500 people are expected, and vendors are always eager to meet local shoppers face-to-face.
“There’s kind of a new model of business where you start online because it’s easier and it’s smaller and there is less startup,” Herman said. “But it’s lonely out there.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Friday, October 31, 2014

Use that extra hour to get prepared for the holidays

That extra hour you'll get from turning back the clocks before you go to bed Saturday night is not an invitation to stay in bed longer, the way Anna Osborne sees it.
Precious time like that can be used to take care of jobs you've neglected, said Osborne, office manager for The Maids in Concord, which also serves north Charlotte.
“This is the time of year when we recommend deep cleaning,” Osborne said.
With the holidays right around the corner, you could get the hardwood floors polished, shampoo the carpet, or clean the oven and refrigerator. Better now than when guests are days away from arriving.
Some of the items on The Maids' semiannual cleaning checklist also might help you keep a healthier home. Wiping dust from heat registers and ceiling fans is among those jobs. See The Maids' list at
Design event
Hughes Kitchen & Bath Collection will host a Lunch and Learn event featuring Kallista products, as well as inspiration from designers sucUse that extra hour to do a little cleaningh as Barbara Barry and Michael S. Smith, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov. 6, 16235 Northcross Drive, Huntersville. RSVP by Nov. 4 to Cassie Abernethy, or 704-309-0725.
Share your renovation story
Tell us in 500 words or less what problems you've had at home, how a 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 We'll choose one of those stories and send the brave survivor a $25 gift card.
Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

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
We’ll choose one of those stories and send the brave survivor a $25 gift card.

Karen’s blog:; 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:; 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:; 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 Get updates on Twitter using the hashtag #SustainableSaturdays.

Karen’s blog:; 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

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:

Karen’s blog:; 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:; 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:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Charlotteans toss out 40 million bathroom tissue tubes yearly

We're pretty disciplined about recycling at my house, but now I realize we've ignored one item. The cardboard tube inside each roll of bathroom tissue gets tossed every time.
That happens in a lot of homes – more than 40 million tubes get tossed every year, according to one estimate. That's just in Charlotte.
The national toll is more than 17 billion tubes yearly, with more than 150 tubes per household being thrown out on average. Imagine the amount of waste we’ve created over 100 years, which is how long the tubes have been around, according to a rep for Scott-brand products, which is now making tubeless rolls.
Yes, that’s how we’ve come by all of this information. The data arrived at my desk with samples of the tubeless swirls. (The centers aren’t open as much as in the picture above.)
It will take time to find out whether consumers see these as an acceptable alternative to what they’re buying now, but it’s a start. The tissue is not made from recycled material, which could make it less appealing in some households. Comments on the Scott website are mixed and it sounds like the paper hangs awkwardly when you reach the end of the roll.
Prices might be a factor. A four-pack of Scott Naturals Tube-Free sells for $2.97 at Walmart stores, according to the rep. She offered a comparison price that was less exacting: $3.40 “average retail price” for Scott Extra Soft, a premium product. Store location unknown.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, August 28, 2014

We all can help replenish city's aging tree canopy

Make sure a tree is on your list as you think about plants to add to your landscape this fall. You’ll be doing a service for your neighborhood and your city, as well as yourself.
“Charlotte has a geriatric tree canopy,” says Dave Cable, executive director of Trees Charlotte, a 2-year-old organization that’s working to add more than 5,000 new plants between October and April 2015.
Cable will talk about proper tree care at the Charlotte Garden Club at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Mint Museum, 2730 Randolph Road. Anyone can attend. Cable also will talk about programs that offer free trees to local neighborhoods.
Charlotte ranked second nationally by American Forests recently among its “10 Best Cities for Urban Forests,” but the city’s trees are aging and need to be refreshed, Cable said. Development, storms, pests and diseases also cause tree loss.
“We have an extraordinary asset,” Cable said. “If we’re not careful about expanding it and diversity, it may not be here in the year 2050.”
For diversity, look beyond willow oaks and crape myrtles. We’ve got more than enough of those. Too many of one species increases the chances for insects and diseases to wipe out or weaken the canopy.
Japanese maples, on the other hand, are fine to plant, and they’re the most popular in Trees Charlotte giveaways. “They fly off the truck,” Cable said.
Get information for caring for your trees at

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Some retailers will focus on home automation for holidays

We know we'll see tinsel and bows go up in about six weeks as retailers set up for the holidays. You probably wouldn't have guessed that gadgets for home automation also would be a focus of the festivities.
Wireless and remote controls for your home ultimately are expected to be such a big market that retailers want us to think about them whenever we're focused on making the house more efficient and organized.
These are systems that let us use a smartphone, computer or tablet to turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat and unlock the doors.
Apple is said to be working on a system called HomeKit. Microsoft has Insteon for its retail locations, one of which is expanding at SouthPark mall.
Lowe's started selling Iris systems in 500 retail stores in 2012. Today you can find Iris at all 1,750 locations, said Jaclyn Pardini, a spokesperson at the company’s headquarters here. Displays are in each store to help customers understand what these systems can do.
“This is still very new to consumers,” Pardini said.
Last year the company offered Iris deals for black Friday. A whole-house water shutoff system is coming in October, the official start of the store’s holiday season. With the new product, you'll be in control if your pipes burst while you're having Thanksgiving dinner far from home.
Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Garden art and performers wanted for Yard Art Day

Laugh if you will about the tour that has people decorating their yards with giant storybook characters or maybe a groovy bus, but Yard Art Day is growing.
This year you could see someone singing, belly dancing or swinging a hula hoop well beyond the original neighborhoods of Plaza Midwood and the North Davidson Street arts district. Word is spreading about the free-spirited, uncomplicated spectacle through its website and Facebook page.
“This year other neighborhoods and surrounding towns are signing on,” said founder and Plaza Midwood resident Deborah Triplett.
The online guide map already has pins dropped at sites as far as Durham, Raleigh and North Myrtle Beach. Locally, look for Yard Art Day signs in SouthPark, Ballantyne, Huntersville, Mooresville, Matthews, Waxhaw and Belmont in Gaston County.
Yard Art Day is open to anyone who wants to create an art display or perform as guests arrive on foot, by bike or by car. This year businesses and gardens can sign up.
“I think we’re all born artists by nature,” Triplett said. “I sort of wanted to give permission to people to let that inner kid out to play.”
If you go, understand that Triplett had more in mind than just distraction when she started the event in 2012. “The indirect goal is to get neighbors meeting neighbors,” she said. “I don’t mean neighbors who live next door. Maybe people get out of their cars and off of their bikes and talk to the people they meet.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What your wall colors say about you

Color has power over us. So the first step to choosing a palette for decorating could be to ask how you want the room to feel.
“You start to get an idea of the mood that they’re after, and color can enhance that,” said Kate Smith, chief color expert at Sensational Color in Ashburn, Va.
Smith is mainly a consultant to corporations. Her clients produce products in enough colors to confuse the average consumer. She steps in to help those businesses help their customers make the right color choices.
“Some colors make you feel calmer; some make you feel energetic,” she said. “Most people respond in those general ways, even if they don’t recognize it.”
I was fascinated reading about the psychology of color on Smith’s website. There’s much to recognize about ourselves, family members and friends just by looking at the colors in our homes.
Yellow, the color of sunshine (and much of my home’s interior), relates to happiness and optimism. Tranquil and refreshing green speaks of value for nature and community. Blue, a calming overall favorite, is for the trustworthy and committed. Purple uplifts and calms the mind. Creative people and eccentrics tend to embrace it.
Softer colors can help you relax. For a lively room, use intense hues and high-contrast combinations.
I’m feeling better now about painting our family room a flaming terra-cotta orange.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lock up some funding for Habitat

Buying new locks and door hardware for your home can also support Habitat for Humanity’s international work.
Yale Locks & Hardware is donating 10 percent of sales from online orders to Habitat, which builds and renovates homes for qualifying families based on their income and other requirements.
Shoppers get a 10 percent discount on the New Haven, Conn.-based company’s products when they use the program code (HFH14) through Oct. 21.
The pictures on the program website ( are a reminder that the ideal of a safe, secure home is a starkly different vision depending on which side of the door locks you find yourself standing.
For some, safe and secure means having your family and your belongings protected by an alarm system, perhaps one controlled from a smartphone or computer. At the other end of the spectrum are people who can hardly imagine ever owning a home that would be considered safe and secure, much less one equipped with automated locks that open and close without keys. Habitat has made ownership possible for more than 4 million people.
Yale has partnered with Habitat for 13 years and provided more than $14 million worth of interior and exterior door locks so far for Habitat in North America. This additional effort will reach further.
“This new campaign will help raise additional funding vital to Habitat’s mission to create safe, affordable housing in partnership with low-income families around the world,” Colleen Finn, an exec for Habitat for Humanity International, said in a statement.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Local family's invention wins honors

If businesses can have touchless paper towel dispensers, William “Bryant” Troutman II and his family wondered, then why can’t we have them in our homes?
“I wanted one for my kitchen,” said Troutman, 45, of south Charlotte. “When they didn’t have one, we decided to make one.”
The idea behind the under-cabinet-mounted Innovia Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser the Troutmans created is hands-free convenience and lower risk of cross contamination in home kitchens.
The dispenser has pulled in two awards and appearances on the ShopHQ TV network. It’s also available online for $99 from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Costco and
Skymall, the shopping magazine found aboard airliners, chose the dispenser as the best product of the 2014 INPEX invention and new products expo in June. The dispenser also won a gold medal from INPEX.
Still, Troutman and his partners, dad William Troutman and wife Johana Troutman, have kept their jobs at their printing business, Charlotte-based Graphics International.
“It’s been a challenge developing awareness of our product,” Troutman said. “It requires a lot of money and a lot of patience.”
The family is working to recoup its investment of about $300,000 on the first 12,000 dispensers. The next step is to create a portable version that doesn’t have to be mounted.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Shred old documents Saturday to prevent identity theft

It's time to do something about the stacks of paper collecting dust in your home office, attic and other rooms.
If you don’t need those old mortgage loan documents, checks, credit cards, bank statements and tax forms, shred them – today. It’s for your own good.
Commercial shredders will be waiting from 9 a.m. to noon today during a Community Shred Event at the Ikea parking lot, 8300 Ikea Blvd. Bring up to three banker boxes, along with outdated prescription medications, says District 4 Charlotte City Council member Greg Phipps, one of the event's hosts.
Identity theft is a problem nationally, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department handles roughly 3,000 cases annually.
“There’s always a problem of someone getting ahold of documentation that they can use to open an account,” said Sgt. Walter Bowling of CMPD. “You’re making it easy on the criminal to gain your information if you’re not shredding.”
Identity theft can include fraudulent check cashing, check and credit card counterfeiting, opening accounts in someone else’s name or taking out loans.
The risks for consumers goes beyond what we throw out. Burglars might take documents and credit cards. Traffickers can use technology to sell your information online or make transactions.

Learn more while you’re dumping those old papers today. “It’s not just for shredding,” Bowling said. “We’re hoping to raise awareness.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Before you spray, think of the bees

It was the rosebush or the Japanese beetles. One of them would lose, and that year I sided with my rugosa Magnifica, a fragrant repeat bloomer that produces plump rose hips once the magenta flowers are pollinated.
Don’t think it was an easy decision to spray the shrub with an insecticide to get rid of the pests that had devoured more than a few plants in my yard. The pollinators that made it possible for me to get rose hips from that bush might have been the next visitors. So the flowers had to go, too.
Unfortunately, my homemade spray of soapy water and cayenne pepper hadn’t worked. Manually collecting beetles every day didn’t fix things, either. This year, I’m just watching the bugs munch. I don’t have a solution, but I don’t want to put the bees at risk. They’re too valuable.
Bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, bats and flies carry pollen among plants as they collect nectar. In the process, they pollinate more than 75 percent of our flowering plants and close to 75 percent of our food crops, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Bee colony losses are an international concern, and household pesticides are among the dangers to those creatures. Before spraying in your yard, read up on protecting pollinators at Post your suggestions for protecting plants from pests at the blog address below.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tech companies race to bring more apps for the home

Technology companies are in a race to get inside your walls and fixtures.
We’re already walking around with apps for mobile banking and shopping, navigation, video editing and most other things we want to do.
The next step, the way technology companies see it, is to give us apps to control what happens at home. Switches for lights and door locks are just the beginning. Here’s what’s brewing:

  • Wink, formerly a software subsidiary of Quirky, is planning a home automation platform that will be available through Home Depot. The goal is a product that brings together numerous “smart” devices and wireless protocols (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.).
  • Nest Labs is partnering with outside developers. The Google-owned company wants to grow beyond its smart Nest thermostat. Mobile controls for appliances might be one outcome.
  • Microsoft has a new startup accelerator program for companies focused on home-based sensor technology, cloud services and tools for analytics. The project comes under Microsoft Ventures.
  • Apple has announced a platform called HomeKit. It would allow users to discover and control all kinds of home automation devices using a smartphone or tablet.

It won’t be long before Siri is telling the toaster how to cook your bread and whistling for the teapot.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Snag design ideas at Lake Wylie home tour

Get a look inside a 4,000-square-foot, lodge-style home in the gated Hands Mill community on Lake Wylie July 4-18 during the Home of Distinction tour, and take home a few design ideas for your next project.
There are a few things that make this home worth seeing. The first is that all of the money raised from ticket sales will go to Justice Ministries, a nonprofit organization that focuses on rescue and housing for victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Another reason to visit is to see the decor. Many of the techniques can work for any home, says designer Melodie Durham.
The home is at 3745 Rivergrass Lane, York, S.C. Hours are Fridays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays Noon to 5 p.m. for the first two weeks of July.
Most of the rooms in the ranch-style house and walk-out basement have a lake view. There’s also a screened porch, deck and boat dock. The lodge theme is carried out with architectural touches such as stained wood beams, rustic finishes and distressed-wood surfaces.
The sale price for this house by Everett Custom Homes was in the $750,000s, but Durham has added lots of custom decorating touches that she says are affordable and adaptable. “Even the lighting selected for every room is affordable,” she said.
Tickets are $10 the day of the event or $8 online at

Karen’s blog:<code_dp>; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Monday, June 23, 2014

Popular African garden art coming to DSBG

Art is a natural fit in a garden, and that is especially true of the sculptures of the Shona tribe of Zimbabwe. The artists carve images of people, animals or other objects from stones of this south central region of Africa. Those rock figures seem to be most at home when returned to nature, the inspiration for many of the pieces.
Shona sculpture is contemporary art for the garden, and collectors have appreciated it for decades here and abroad. Now it will be available in the Charlotte area for a time.
More than 100 sculptures will be part of an outdoor exhibit at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. The pieces in the horticulture display and others will be for sale.

Two artists, Passmore Mupindiko and Patrick Sephani, will do demonstrations in a marketplace that is being set up near the garden’s Orchid Conservatory for the exhibition.
Grasses, hardy tropical plants and other species are being added to the garden beds to create an appropriate setting for the sculptures.
“We created a display design that represents a transition between the savannahs of that region of Africa and the mountainous rain forest,” said Jim Hoffman, a spokesman for the garden.

African garden art

See the exhibit June 27 through Sept. 28 at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont. Admission: $12 adults, $11 seniors 60+, and $6 children 4-12. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Contact: or 704-825-4490.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Friday, June 13, 2014

Get help for your home makeover from Ikea design videos

Chad and Emily Fair are celebrating this week. Their home in Matthews just got a makeover by a team from Ikea.
Theirs is the second Charlotte residence and the seventh nationally to get reorganized and redecorated at no cost. Eventually 22 homes in Ikea markets are expected to get an update for season one of the Ikea Home Tour.
You can see videos of the Home Tour makeovers at You can also pick up ideas and solutions for your own project.  See more pictures from the makeover here.
“Often we discover people have design paralysis,” said Keith Bradley, lead designer for the Fair’s makeover. “Hopefully, the videos will inspire people to make changes.
The Fairs were selected after submitting a video in which they described their problem: The roughly 1,500-square-foot house they bought nine years ago didn’t work well for a family of five.

“We’ve watched the house grow smaller,” said Chad Fair, a teacher at Charlotte Christian School.
The children – ages 4, 6 and 8 – needed a place to do homework. The family didn’t have a table for the dining room.
Bradley focused on the Fair’s L-shaped living room and dining room. Among the changes, Ikea’s team added a dining table, storage units on the wall, and living room sofas that are light enough to be moved for playtime.
“This really met a need for us.” Chad Fair said. “The kids used to get up in the morning and watch TV. Now we find them at the desk coloring.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pop up market brings vintage and handmade goods

Sometimes the best new item for decorating your home is a piece with a little age on it – or something made by an artist whose work makes a statement.
That’s the idea behind Vintage Charlotte, a company started two years ago by transplant Amy Herman. The company rents vintage table decor for weddings and other events. Vintage Charlotte also presents pop-up markets where visitors can buy repurposed and handmade items.
The third pop-up Summer Market will be June 14 at The Fillmore, at NC Music Factory. (
“I hope to just be an alternative local, sustainable option, whether it’s for the rental side or the pop-up markets,” said Herman.
More than 50 vendors will participate, selling housewares, furniture, decor, clothing, jewelry and other goods. A few will sell food and drinks.
About 1,600 people attended the last Summer Market, and about 2,200 turned out for a Holiday Market.
People are interested in vintage items, Herman said, because they often cost less than new products and they tend to be well-made. “They’ve already been around for 20 years,” she said.
Buying handmade items at the market gives shoppers the chance to talk to the artist and learn about a product’s value, Herman said.
Admission to the market is free beginning at 11 a.m. Get in at 10 a.m. with an early-bird admission fee of $5.

Karen’s blog:<code_dp>; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, May 29, 2014

You're invited to Lennar's kitchen on Saturday

If you need a break between errands and chores on Saturday, stop by the Roosevelt model home in the Berewick at Aberdeen community for cooking demos and food samples.
Stephanie Ashley, chef for the event, will share recipes you can pull together quickly for family meals or entertaining. The event, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., is also a chance for reps from Lennar Homes to show that the company’s properties are designed to fit modern family lives.
“Our chef at this event is a Mom herself and knows the challenges of cooking for a busy family,” Veronica Perez of Lennar Homes wrote in an email. “She will be able to share tips on how to make a delicious dishes, like puffed pastries, that your family will love and that will be easy for an on-the-go household.”
Of course, organizers also hope visitors will want to see the model home, at 6130 Berewick Commons Parkway, and the community. Homes at Berewick at Aberdeen, in southwest Mecklenburg County, range from 1,771 to 3,488 square feet, priced from the mid $200,000s.
Since we’re talking about modern life and new homes, here’s a prediction: Personal technology will be touted perhaps as much as the kitchens in model homes of the future. One clue is that Microsoft is working with the creator of popular home-automation standards as it looks to develop new Windows and mobile products. What does that mean? With Microsoft and Insteon as partners, you probably won’t consider The Clapper a go-to solution for turning your lights on and off remotely.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Clemson expert has new tips for gardeners

Clemson University’s Robert “Bob” Polomski still has more to say about gardening in the Carolinas even after two previous titles on the subject.
His latest update of “Carolinas Month-by-Month Gardening” has a new design, more photography and an update of the information that has helped homeowners across the region better understand how to improve their landscapes. Pest control is where Polomski put much of his focus for this update.
Polomski is considered an expert on gardening in the South. In addition to teaching at Clemson, he is the local Extension office’s horticulture and urban forestry agent. He coordinates a statewide program for training master gardeners.

He also makes appearances on the award-winning TV show “Making It Grow” and hosts a radio show, “Your Day! Radio.” He wrote the Questions & Answers column for Horticulture magazine for 12 years.
The volume offers basic tips to the latest technical information on gardening. Readers get advice on how and when to tend to various jobs in the landscape for success growing annuals and perennials, bulbs, grasses, trees, shrubs and other plants. It’s $19 on

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Charlotte homeowners can get discounts for solar systems

Kathy Sparrow breathes a little bit easier when she sees solar panels go up on a home in Charlotte. That means that people are getting the message.
“To me, solar and wind and clean energy are really important – I think they are our future,” said Sparrow, 66, who lives in Paw Creek, not far from coal ash ponds where waste from coal-fired power plants is causing concern.
Sparrow is featured with other Charlotte women in a video called “Solar Moms – The Ripple Effect,” part of a series called Postcards from Climate Change produced by Greenpeace USA.
Sparrow and the other moms talk about the importance of solar power as an intervention against air and water pollution and climate change. (See the video at
One other goal for the women in the video is to spread the word about Solarize Charlotte, a program by a local coalition called Cleaner is Cheaper. Homeowners can get discounted prices for solar systems through program. The more people who sign up, the more they save. The deadline here is July 31.
And in case you were wondering, the house -- and the Tesla -- shown here belong to race car driver Leilani Munter, who also shot the photo.

Learn more
An event called Solarize Our City is will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. June 3 at the Midwood International Auditorium, 1817 Central Ave. Experts will share information about solar installations and financial incentives, which can include state and federal tax credits. Information is also available at

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, May 8, 2014

'Minimalists' bringing their message to Charlotte

It took about nine hours for Ryan Nicodemus, on the left above, to pack the contents of his home into boxes with the help of longtime friend Joshua Millburn, also shown here.
They stashed maybe 40 cartons in Nicodemus’ 2,000-square-foot home during the packing party. It was an idea to help Nicodemus, then 28, figure out what was important to him. He couldn’t tell anymore.
Three weeks later, about 80 percent of the stuff was still in the boxes. Nicodemus got rid of the excess, sold the house and started over.
“I went to Josh and I said ‘I think people will connect with this story,’” said Nicodemus, who will be in Charlotte with Millburn on Wednesday. “We did what any two male best friends would do – we started a blog.”
Their website,, has more than 2 million followers who visit to read musings on their downsized lives. At 7 p.m. Wednesday at Park Road Books, they will discuss their recently published paperback, “Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists” ($8.99, Asymmetrical Press).
For eight years until 2011, Nicodemus immersed himself in a demanding corporate life in sales and marketing. He flashed lots of cash, weighted himself with debt and lived to tell of his life’s luster.
Now, at 32, home is a tiny apartment in Missoula, Mont. And he brings an uncomplicated message for the 100-city book tour: “Love people and use things,” he said. “The opposite never works.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A paper chandelier says special occasion, but not too serious

Family gatherings, graduations, weddings, garden parties and cookouts. Hosting any of these events soon? If so, try not to get lost in the tactical details. Bringing people into our home doesn’t have to be all ... serious. Be playful where you can.
I was reminded of that when I saw a couple of colleagues making paper chandeliers for an office party here at the Observer. Love this idea. The chandeliers don’t actually provide any light, and that’s exactly what makes them so much fun. They’re pure whimsy – a little magic just for the moment.
I’ve been trying to figure out how I might hang one of these outdoors above a big, dressed-up table, maybe with a few lights or other ornaments. What a way to set the mood and create a focal point.
Chuck Cole, the Observer’s creative manager, found a basic template for the chandeliers online and added embellishments. He made them for about $60 each using foam board instead of paper and an X-Acto-style knife. (See how he did it in a slideshow here.) He also talks about making them in this video:

The idea, Cole says, is to make room for the unexpected in your decor. You could use plywood and paint to make a longer-lasting design, Cole says, but that would require more tools – and more skill.
So make your lists and look after the details as you plan each event, but find a way to put your heart into it, too. Your guests are sure to have a good time if you’ll do the same.

Karen’s blog: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Would you take $50 for that old fridge?

Would you take $50 for that creaky old fridge in the garage?
I know, that second machine comes in handy when you want to stock up for Memorial Day cookouts or thaw a Thanksgiving turkey.
OK, I’ve also used it to hide the last piece of Greek Custard in Phyllo Dough that I make maybe once a year. (If you’re doing the dishes you have that right, don’t you?)
Either way, Duke Energy will pony up a little cash if you unplug your energy guzzler. Those older models cost up to $150 a year more to operate.
With an estimated 170 million refrigerators and refrigerator/freezers in use in the U.S., the big concern is over climate change.
Duke started recycling refrigerators and freezers in the Carolinas in 2012 and since has dismantled more than 8,700 of them. Most of those were made before 1996, the year the EPA started the Energy Star rating system for home appliances.
So maybe it’s time to replace your older machine. Duke will send someone to pick it up, as long as it’s in working condition and between 10 and 30 cubic feet in size. (Call 855-398-6200 or visit
Before you buy a new one, visit to compare certified models; they use about 20 percent less energy.
I guess it was for the best when my old clunker died on its own. I’m still figuring out how to stock up for big events without it, but there’s definitely more than one way to stash a pastry.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_obs.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gardeners, mark your calendars

Charlotte's spring gardening season is in full swing. That means you'll find plenty of opportunities to pick up new plants, tour gardens and gather with other growers for programs and social events.
Here's what’s ahead:
The largest of the annual plant sales at UNC Charlotte's Botanical Gardens returns from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (also same hours Friday), 9090 Craver Road. Special items include native plants, exotic botanicals, tropicals, succulents and carnivorous plants. Cash and checks only. Details: or 704-687-0721.
April 26:
The Charlotte Iris Society will present its annual horticulture show, noon to 5 p.m. at Blacklion, 10605 Park Road. From 9 to 10 a.m., the public is invited to enter named cultivars for judging and unknown irises for display and possible identification. Visitors to this free event may vote for the People's Choice Award.
May 3 and 4:
Friends of Fourth Ward will host the second annual "Secret Gardens of Fourth Ward" tour, noon-4 p.m. both days. See private gardens at historic homes and enjoy other activities, including free food and drink samples, and appetizers at nearby restaurants. The picture shown here is a teaser for those secret gardens. Horse-drawn carriages will provide free shuttle service between 7th Street Public Market and Fourth Ward. Tickets are $20, good for both days, and may be purchased online at or at retail locations listed on the website.

Karen's blog:;
on Twitter @sullivan_obs

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Color, imagination are top tools for celebrity interior designer Jeff Andrews

There's a good chance your weekends at home will be busy for the next month or so.
As many as 7 in 10 people are probably starting or making plans for spring home improvement projects, according to a recent National Home Design and Color survey by Sherwin-Williams.
Time with a paint roller is at the top of the to-do list for the most of the 1,400-plus folks who took the survey, or about 42 percent. Others were making plans for landscaping (39 percent) or redecorating (30 percent).
It's not surprising that painting is at the top of the list. It’s considered one of the most cost-effective ways to freshen up a room or make it look dramatic.

Great design depends on color, according to celebrity designer Jeff Andrews, who designed the rooms shown here. Other essential ingredients are imagination and inspiration, said Andrews, whose clients have included pop-culture figures such as radio and TV host Ryan Seacrest, the Kardashian reality show family and actor Michael C. Hall.
The bedroom is where most people (24 percent) wanted to focus their efforts. The living room or family room was a close second (22 percent), with bathrooms ranked third (21 percent).
Warm neutrals with accents in red, yellow or brown are one of the most popular combinations. But cool neutrals with touches of blue or green also rate strongly with consumers.
So choose colors that inspire you, focus on comfort and use imagination to finish the job.

Karen’s blog:; Twitter @sullivan_obs

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Charlotte designer Traci Zeller's pillow collection is headed to High Point

Charlotte interior designer Traci Zeller sometimes is unable to find the right decorative touches for a client's home.

That was the inspiration for a new line of pillows. She believes the collection will get a boost when they are added to the CR Laine showroom at the spring furniture market in High Point, which runs through April 10.

Zeller said presenting a new product there is an opportunity that designers dream of getting. Organizers say the twice-yearly event is the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world, drawing more than 75,000 people each time.

"This is a way that I can share my viewpoint and my aesthetic with more people," she said.

The look that the Cotswold resident came up with is a twist on traditional style, she said.

The collection includes softly colored linens with velvet appliques. Those elements work well with her design style, which focuses on practicality as well as beauty.

"It's a luxe-looking pillow, but you're not going to have a heart attack if your 7-year-old boys put their heads on it,' she said.

The price is about $150 each on Other distribution points are in the works, including sales by the manufacturer, Design Accents.

She hopes others will see her collection as the right finishing touch for a room.
"It's also exciting to express your point of view on the product and then in the house."

Karen's blog:; Twitter, @Sullivan_obs

Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Granny meets punk' in NYC

If it's true that a room's decor should tell a story about the person who lives there, what do the rooms you've decorated say to the world?
Would anyone know who you are?
You know from the bold patterns and colors in the picture shown here that the occupant is no shrinking violet.
Meredith German, the resident, was born in the South and makes her living as a New York fashion designer. That's the story she asked Charlotte interior designer Barrie Benson to help her tell in her roughly 850-square-foot Upper West Side apartment.

The chairs are done in chintz – with black patent leather trim. This modern use for a fabric that many consider frumpy earned Benson a spot in Southern Living's April magazine.
"We call it 'a little granny meets punk,'" Benson said of the project.
A second Charlotte designer, Ruthie Sommers, also offers the magazine ideas for decorating with the shiny printed fabric. "It's coming back," Benson says confidently.
Benson's client wanted the Fazenda Lily pattern because she often admired it while growing up as a neighbor to The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
More recently, German was a lead designer for fashion icon Marc Jacobs, Benson said. Visually representing both aspects of her life resulted in a room that's daring with a soft side.
"I think it's really neat that a female designer in New York still wants to bring a little of her Southern past into the house," Benson said.
"It's a neat story," Benson said.

Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter