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