Monday, October 15, 2007

Final Chapter, Next Book

I realize that this house project has served to propel me more completely into a green and sustainable lifestyle. Hence, the title..... Final Chapter, Next Book.

This renovation project is finished and it culminated in a public showing yesterday as one of the homes featured on the Sonoma Community Center Kitchen Tour . My home was by far the smallest and most "restrained" of the homes shown, but I was proud to hear that it had real livability and warmth. And while my friends have to be kind about my work, strangers don't. The comments I overhead from people seeing my house for the first time were gratifying. Many were astonished that the home was green because it challenged preconceived notions that they had about what a green home looked like. And I was pleased to hear how the space was incredibly well utilized and included many practical elements.

I want to share some of the final photos here. While I still intend to replace the roof and add solar, I'll take a few months off. I will use this venue to comment on more of the lifestyle choices that come with being green. So stayed tuned!

The "Great Room"

The Kitchen and Baking Pantry

The Master Bedroom and Bath

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oh Canada

I recently visited Victoria, BC with my mother and I have to say that I was smitten with so much about the city. I had been there before on business but never really got the chance to explore it fully. Aside from the physical charms, I am so impressed with their commitment to maintaining an eco-balance.

One of the things that struck me was about how “green” practices weren’t called out as a suggested “alternative way of living”, but you get the feel that the local population just gets that they need to live more responsibly and respectfully when it comes to their environment.

For example, there weren’t the long explanations in the hotel about saving water, and thereby the planet, by not washing the linens. Rather it was suggested that if you wished not to have your sheets changed, you merely placed the pillows at the bottom of the bed. There was a recycle bin in the room…. like the ones you see in offices in the U.S. That’s the first I’ve ever seen one in a hotel room. I was also pleased to note that most of the taxis were hybrid cars.

This very clean city clearly takes pride in disposing of trash in appropriate ways. What interested me was that it’s also a city that owes its commerce to tourism and even the “visitors” seemed to honor the proper disposal of trash. I was one of many people intrigued with the solar power containers that crush recyclables. See photo below.

A visitor to the Royal BC Museum is treated to many delightful and engaging “cultural” exhibits, including a well-done video about global warming. There was no “hedging” or balancing the information as is often the case in the U.S. Rather, the museum suggested that enacting the solutions was the responsibility of every citizen on the planet. Sometimes you have to admire the directness of our northern neighbors. I wonder if this “enlightenment” comes from their respect and reverence to the many “first people” tribes that are recognized as significant contributors to the local history. It seems to have engendered a belief in the local population about the importance of maintaining the balance between man and nature.

Whatever the reasons, I applaud western Canada’s stated support for restoring our planet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Online Shopping Expedition

Of course, it was necessary to find just the right accoutrements to complete the move back into the new home. I tried to incorporate as many of my old furnishings as possible by changing lampshades, updating knobs etc. Of course, there still were some things that had to be brought in order to complete to "look". While searching online, I found some exciting web sites that I share with you here. Happy shopping. I just love their Riverside sea glass dishes. A very chic and practical take on contemporary pieces to add to your home. Use these very stylish melamine plates instead of paper or plastic next time you have a soiree outdoors When not in Chicago or Brooklyn to see the store in person, check it out online. No one edits or chooses more stylish products from around the world than this charming couple. I feel as if I know them by seeing what they select over the years.

Two of my favorite sources/designs for cabinetry hardware. I was so taken with the Sartre (perfect name) knob from Pacific Modern that I used it in my kitchen. An interesting collection of “reuse” items. Got to have the motherboard luggage tags!
I've included the “seatbelt” hammock photo here because it is so ingenious. Check out the bamboo backsplashes. Next house, I’m going to incorporate one these rich pieces. What can be done with old traffic light parts? Stunning lights for the home. An interesting collection but limited collection of eco products. I am intrigued with the metal luggage. I am not convinced that the products here are all that enviro-friendly, but you have to check out their extensive closeout section for great bargains. I’ve enjoyed watching this online retailer’s selection grow. They seem to be nipping at DWR’s (Design Within Reach) heels in terms of product offerings. They are not all green, but they are all very cool.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Coloring a Kitchen Green

I've started showing the finished house and I seem to get the same question, "what makes this kitchen green?" I decided to highlight the features here as it may help guide others as they choose which elements to incorporate in their renovation projects.

In short, creating a green kitchen is all about: energy efficiency, non-toxicity/healthy environment, responsibility, and livability.

This renovated kitchen incorporates all of those features in the following ways:

Energy Efficiency

All appliances are top energy-star rated. The environment makes best use of HVAC efficiency and insulation that is present throughout the house. It was tested for leakage and great care was given to reduce waste.

Windows are Marvin’s Integrity, energy efficient line.

Non-Toxicity and Healthy Living

All paints, finishes and adhesives were mostly non-toxic. That includes the paints (Yolo, Benjamin Moore Aura, and American Pride). The Alder cabinetry was stained with non-toxic water-based stain from Unaxol (see last post).


That comes from having a size-appropriate space where the concept of “smaller is more beautiful,” comes to life.

All of the wood is FSC compliant, which means that it was harvested in an ecologically responsible manner. The white maple floors are pre-engineered from EcoTimber.

The glass backsplash is from Artistic Tiles which prides itself on being socially and ecologically responsible in the production of its materials.

The countertops are French limestone and were “reject material” from another job. Part of being responsible is to reuse, recycle and re-craft current materials whenever possible. The breakfast countertop is a “reuse” of tabletop that was re-fabricated and now has a new purpose as a small desk and breakfast countertop.

Separating the open kitchen floorplan from the great room is a glass material that again is considered ecologically friendly, from 3-Form, The product is called pineapple weave and is recycled glass and natural materials sandwiched together in an usual and appealing way.

The pantry countertop, from Eurostone (, is a composite material that is made up of the fragments of granite that fall to the floor and are thrown away. This product collects that refuse and crafts it into a luxurious “granite-like” material.

Water demand is met by a Nortiz tankless water heater and an on-demand hot water generator at the faucets from Both save water and cost the homeowner less to operate.


Being green does not mean giving up livability. This kitchen and baker’s pantry were designed to meet all the needs of cooking, entertaining, and living. Great care was given to mapping out all of the various functions and then providing the necessary space and materials to fulfill on those expectations. In doing so, use of space was carefully considered and only materials were used that would have minimum impact on our environment.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Finishing Touches

I realize that I’ve been away from my “green house journal” for a while. I’ll blame it on wanting to unpack fully. As well, I had the first of many houseguests who are staying with me over the summer. I wanted to make sure the place “showed” well.

I do have many observations that come with living in the space and I’ll try to capture them here for my new few blogs.

Today’s topic: water-based stain and lacquer.

I remember early on in the project, I had a wood finisher who gave me an estimate on some furniture repair. She was very interested in my green project and asked for a tour. As we went though the plans and ideas, she asked about cabinet finishes. What followed was a very interesting discussion between her and my contractor, whose first love is cabinetry. As it turns out, they both agreed that this was the one area that the products are disappointing. While it is true that some of the most harmful and toxic elements that one encounters in a home is what they use to seal wood, there’s a reason for the products. Wood floors, cabinets have to stand up to wear and as such, the process for doing so seems to require caustic products. Any alternative, to date, as been outrageously labor intensive and therefore cost prohibitive.

Well, I was determined to find a solution and I trusted that Cemil’s cabinetry perfectionism wouldn’t let me trade off too much in aesthetics or performance. We settled on Unaxol, distributed in the U.S. by And while the aesthetics are initially acceptable….. even, dare I say natural, there are some cautionary notes.

First, I noticed that during installation there was evidence of more dings than there should have been. Cemil was very careful, but this eco-friendly product requires more care than non-eco finishes. While it’s only been a month since I’ve been living in my new environment, I can already tell that the wood cabinets won’t hold up as well to scrubbing as the toxic alternatives. It means, that I will have to take a bit more care when cleaning up the cabinets. I will also keep a can of the stain handy in order to touch up any worn spots.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Spreading the Green Word

I've been bogged down with moving back into the house. I also took a week off to help my mother in South Carolina get her house updated and sorted out. I want to report on a couple of events that lead me to believe that green is no longer just for the initiated.

I had a new piece of furniture delivered to the house in Sonoma and it just so happens that the day it happened on the day that the painters were finishing up and we had a house full of workers who were putting finishing touches everywhere. I was caught off guard when one of the delivery men pointed out that he normally can smell the effects of new construction when he walks in the door. He said that it normally caused him to wheeze a bit. But this house was different, he pointed out. It is always nice to get unsolicited confirmation that your work is recognized.

Then there's the South. I grew up in the South, so I lovingly embrace its traditions. But often times, it means that there is healthy skepticism for anything new. And I feared that this was the case. Of course, my elderly mother seems game for being part of any new movement that makes her life easier and more productive. She still teaches university and is a whiz on the web, which she uses for her literary research. I've been very heartened by her interest in all things environmental and green. She regularly sends me articles that she's clipped on alternative fuel cars (she's subscribes to Car and Driver magazine) and features from the Wall Street Journal.

She enlisted the aid of Roy Grubbs for his painting services and insisted that he use the low-VOC paint from Sherwin Williams (Duration). She rescues greyhounds so she needs a durable and washable paint. So far, the results live up to expectation. It was fairly odor-free. It went on well, according to Roy. And the gentle test scrubbing that I did before I left seem to hold up.

I spent the week adding the "expert" commentary on green design to anyone that my mother would engage in conversation on the topic. While I understand the look of polite tolerance that one often encounters in the South, I do think that we "converted" several skeptics in our travels around the Charleston area.

It's all about spreading the word and living by example. Isn't everything?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

When Green Becomes Beige

Sometimes I think that too much is being made out of “green” as a lifestyle choice. Of course, I think we all need to take stock of what we do and how it affects longtime viability of the environment. But a part of me longs for the day when green practices will be so ubiquitous as to make calling it out as separately will be unnecessary. However, we are in a period of building awareness and as such, one has to be diligent in thinking about your activities in terms of whether they are good for the environment or not. That's new for most people.

I recently watched an interesting program on the Sundance Channel ( in the series “Big Ideas for a Small Planet.” This particular segment focused on sustainable design practices. The program featured the activities at various furnishing companies and how they are producing products in a more sustainable way.

What came through in the discussion from the DFE team (design for the environment team) at Hermann Miller in Holland, MI. Their goal is to be a zero landfill company that creates zero hazardous waste and generate zero emissions by the year 2020. The company which gave us the Eames and Aeron chairs now has launched the Mirra chair that is made of 42% recycled products and is 95% recyclable at the end of the chair’s life.

While the goals of the company are impressive, I was really intrigued by the discussion that the resident designers had on just what it means to create “sustainable” furniture. They seemed dedicated to a philosophy that manufacturing quality products that are ecologically sustainable should be standard operating procedure and the fact that the products are green should be transparent to the customer. I agree and applaud that attitude. As example, take a look at the Mirra chair as it doesn’t look “green” to me! It just looks like a fabulous product.

PS: I also really like what the Salm brothers are creating at Especially this creative wall covering, made from 100% post and pre-consumer waste paper.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Child's Play

I have a very creative friend in Southern California. When she told me about what she was doing to create an additional play area for her two children, I asked her to send photos.

Being "green" is all about using the space you already have, more efficiently. My friend certainly did that with an "extra" balcony in her home. As you can tell from this photo, she created a "baby" house out of a little-used balcony off her bedroom. It's every child's dream play house and takes the concept of a tree house to new levels.

I applaud my friend's ingenuity. Oh, and her husband did an amazing carpentry job, for an amateur!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First, the Inspiration

As I near the end of this wonderful project, I realize just what a journey this has been. Since I was trained in publishing and marketing, I can’t help but do a mental de-brief. So the next few postings will be in sharing those methodologies and systems that provided the necessary organization helped to ensure the success of this project. I apologize if some of my recommendations and observations are obvious and elementary, but I’ve come to appreciate that it is rare that a project of this magnitude gets delivered on schedule. Ok, we are 2 weeks late, but that’s because we made quite a few alterations along the way that expanded and enhanced the final outcome.

I have to first commend my partner in all this, Cemil Hope. He’s the dream contractor who also fills in as architect, design partner, project foreman and teacher. This was really a journey for the two of us.

Because I had done many renovations before, I decided to forego the help of a professional team (architect, designers, specialists). As a result Cemil and I had to communicate often and well. We created many systems of tracking and communing that kept us together and informed.

First, we had to establish the look and feel of the end product. I collected, edited through, and generated lots of tear sheets to demonstrate my desires for each room. These were culled to the winners and became the basis for what were trying to achieve. They got posted on black art boards and became basis for my inspirations boards. I added samples of the materials I chose as I went along.

Also called mood boards, concept boards, storyboards, the concept is the same: they are the visuals that helps keep the materials integrated with the original concept.

Now that it is 6 months later, these boards are a little worse for wear, but they helped to keep everyone on track and allowed me to show vendors what materials would work with the overall room design. Often times, these boards are provided for you by your design team, but I think doing them yourself at the outset of a project is very empowering and ensures that your aesthetic is being met.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Trashy Story

I was catching up on some reading the other day and came across a very interesting visual from They used a picture of a trash can to highlight the statistics on the amount of trash we produce every year. That stats:

• 236 million tons of trash a year. 1,640 pounds of waste per person, per year

• 35% of trash is paper

• 12% plastics

• 3.6% furniture and furnishings

• 3.1% clothing and footwear

• 1.2% consumer electronics

**Sources: Jan.2007 issue of Plenty Magazine and EPA

It got me thinking about a documentary short called Recycled Life ( I had recently seen at the Sonoma film festival about the thousands of families living in Central America’s largest garbage dump in Guatemala City. The movie is heart wrenching because of the generations who have made their home and living sorting through the trash that people throw away.

As Americans, we seem to think that we have the land mass and thus the right to dump whatever we want into it. Well, there are plenty of examples as to why that thinking is shortsighted and downright idiotic. Were we a smaller country we might have the same issues that were highlighted in Recycled Life. Frankly, if we continue to produce the amount of waste that the EPA reports, we too will have a similar crisis as many other countries are dealing with today.

Conservation, recycling and economical use of materials is the answer. It’s not hard to figure out. Every single person plays a role. A friend of mine who is a senior executive at Georgia Pacific told me of a group of some of the larger retailers who have formed a group to institute changes in the amount of packaging that is produced. I applaud their efforts and look forward to what they come up with.

I was aghast at some packaging offenders by green companies. I’ve already talked about DriTac (see A Cautionary Tale on April 10) in an earlier post; the adhesive came packages as if it were Faberge eggs. I’m disappointed by various CFL bulbs that are secured in plastic so that it takes a good 3-4 minutes to get them open. There’s got to be a better way!

On the plus side, I just received a “green” PC from the folks at Zonbu ( and the first thing I noted was the sensible packaging. It arrived in perfect condition and the packaging was cardboard as you can see from the photo. More later on this interesting approach to reducing the amount of waste and energy use from consumer electronics.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Green Furniture that's Long on Style

It’s not a home until you fill the rooms. What fun to be able to choose from some of these wonderful designs that are green and sustainable. In the past, green furniture meant pieces made from burl wood and bamboo. But as some of these designs show, you can satisfy any style, any aesthetic.

El-Furniture is created by Jill Salisbury in Illinois. Barbara Barry ( has nothing on the pieces that Jill produces as evidenced by this photo here.

Arper is an Italian company and their innovation and design captures the Italian essence that we have come to appreciate in clothes and leather goods.

Acronym Designs is headquartered in Kansas City and there’s no lack of sophistication in the sustainable furniture that comes from this company. See for yourself at

Anthony Brozna is a Virginia-based eco designer with a great eye. His pieces are very appropriate for all styles and aesthetics. See the sample piece here.

Mebel is based in San Francisco but most of the production for these beautiful pieces is done in Connecticut. A fabulous modern aesthetic with great originality. I love their Mondrian inspired

Gore Design is a green design studio in Tempe Arizona and they do beautiful work. You get a sense of their style and voice from their website. You get a sense of their sophistication and the work they turn out is lovely, as you can see from this example.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

If Only......

The wonderful thing about the developing category of green design is that everyday a new and exciting product is introduced to the marketplace. So it is inevitable that before my house is done, I would have come across some things that make me wish I could turn back the clock. Oh well, there is always the next project to try these out in.

Some of my new favorites:

Barkskin is a lovely wall covering that can also be used for lampshades. It’s literally “bark” that does look like skin. It comes in may colors and configurations…. As many as there are trees. See room photo at right.

Caesarstone is another wonderful quartz surface material that has as many uses as granite . It’s amazingly hard and looks a lot like my favorite countertop material that I did use See it here at It also reminds me of another favorite,

Bohemian Stone Works takes concrete countertops to a unique and natural level. The end result is a really wonderful, natural look:

Slatescape is another “fiber cement” product that is quite sophisticated in its final state. Its uses are varied and very much like real stone

takes concrete to artistic levels as the fireplace photo to the right demonstrates.

Icestone is an interesting product that is very similar to Vetrazzo ( The color variations are many and it’s got a very nice feel. Makes a wonderful countertop in kitchen or bath.

Side note….. see the coordinating knobs at

They make sinks, countertops, lighting, these guys do it all. I particularly love some of their sconces fabricated from recycled metal. See photo of light and sink

Sonoma Cast Stone is right in my back yard and I think they do a fabulous job with concrete. They manage to produce fabulous sinks, pavers, furniture, tiles, surrounds. Just looking at their portfolio gives me so many ideas.

Livinglass. A friend of mine, Richard Silver, just discovered this product at HD EXPO in Las Vegas last week. He knows how much I love the 3-Form glass product and liked how I used it in this renovation. These guys take it to a new sphere. I am impressed!

Floor Gres is an Italian company and they know how to work with stone in all its permutations. Again, this stone product is very much like the Eurostone that I used and has as many applications as stone. Check it out at

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wood That Could

Among the termite damage that we discovered was a portion of the fence that surrounds my property. This portion of the fence is the oldest and we share it with an older neighbor who hasn’t spent any money to maintain her home so while other portions of the fence had been updated, this section has probably been up for over 20 years. So it isn’t surprising that many of the supporting posts were riddled with termites.

Cemil had his team pull out the posts and take off the boards. What we did discover is that some of the old redwood boards are in good shape and quite lovely. Once planed, they can be reused. And so they will. We are going to create a pool equipment enclosure and having these nice old redwood boards will give the new construction and old feel so that the “new” pool house will blend in nicely with my older, weathered outdoor teak furniture.

The learning…..even old wood can be renewed and reused and make a beautiful and cost efficient addition.

When Any Old Door Won’t Do!

Ok, so I was not an integral part of the decision-making that went into getting new doors into place. I only knew that the old ones were warped and always had to be held open by doorstops. Cemil chose the doors and he made sure they were not your usual Douglas Fur. Rather, they are MDF and are of 97% recycled material. Formaldehyde free, of course. And they are now up and ready for painting. I can vouch for their being solid and attractive. And they are green too!

I have to put in a plug for Truitt & White for anyone in the bay area of San Francisco who is looking for a building supply partner. They are able to offer lots of advice and their green knowledge and product experience grows daily. (

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Green Shopping in London


Of all the stores that I happened on in my quest for sustainable and organic products, I have to say that I really enjoyed a small antiques store on New King's Road at Waterford (Fulham Broeadway tube stop) that reupholsters settees, chaises and fainting couches in the most delightful fabrics. The store had about 6 on display and the owner says that he scours tag sales and restores them on a regular basis.


Summerill & Bishop Kitchen Shop for their wonderful collection of interesting houseware products and many are vintage pieces. (

Books for Cooks (
not only has just about any cookbook that you could want but they also have an area in the back of the store for the chef/owners and store enthusiasts to gather and sample what’s baking in the oven that day. I felt guilty about tearing a shop person away from her tea and pastry in order to ring me up.

Channels furniture design has innovative designs and many are from sustainable woods. (

Borough Market is a Saturday morning must. Its collection of artisanal foods and organic products is impressive. I'm told that you can regularly spot most of England's new chef stars here. For me, it rivaled San Francisco's famous Ferry Plaza Market. Go hungry and buy picnic food. (take London Bridge tube stop)

Around London Town

Now that I have recovered from the airplane croup that is inevitable on very long flights these days, I can get back to recording my observations. Also to helping Cemil with the finishing touches on the house. We are 3 weeks away from completion and this is where the beauty of green finishes will become evident. But I tease you, as that will be the next blog.

A side note, I heartily recommend No Jet-Lag, a homeopathic remedy. This was the I first time I used it and I did much better than my boyfriend who depended upon his prescription on Ambien. (

I wanted to share several more interesting observations that came from my week in London doing green discovery.

Love it:

Noticed that they are using more and more “wooden” disposable cutlery than plastic. I think they are so much more compelling and given that they are generally made from “leftover” pieces of veneer, they are easier on the planet than all that plastic stuff.

Recycled glass dishes that were made in Spain at a store in Notting Hill called Ceramica Blue ( I found similar ones from Sadly there was a fabulous copper colored one in London that I can’t find at Viva Terra.


I had read that some interesting design is beginning to happen in Brick Lane (the main artery of what has been called “Banglatown” in London’s east end). I did find some wonderful quirky boutiques, many of vintage clothing, original jewelry, and some groovy home furnishing stores. I also discovered a wonderful organic restaurant, Story Deli, where I had a delightful flatbread. I particularly like their innovative ways for storage in a very small space. They had these interesting stools made of heavy waxed paper that also doubled as storage bins under the “tops.” They told me that they were available at a shop in the area but it is only open on weekends. I’ve included a photo, as they would be easy to replicate.


A friend of mine from San Francisco introduced me to Nina Campbell, a world famous designer ( So since Nina is based in London, I rang her up to see if we could get together. Well, she generously invited me around to her new home off Fulham Road and hosted a luncheon with some of her friends. It turns out that she has a great deal of interest in green design and invited several of her designer friends to view a presentation I pulled together of some of my favorite products. The group included Susan Crewe, editor of English House and Garden and John Lees, a local architect who has been doing green work for sometime ( I enjoyed meeting these “tastemakers” and hope that I was able to contribute in some small way to their considering more green products in their work.

I promise to share my some of my picks with you in later blogs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

London State of Mind

I have been offline because I spent a week in London exploring the state of “greenness” in the design community here. And I’m pleased to report that, in typical British style, they are doing an amazing job of catching up and will, no doubt, surpass the U.S. in embracing sustainability. While it is true that America is at its best when we really invest and focus on innovation. But, sadly, we are not so adept at changing our lifestyles or thinking beyond our own borders.

Global warming is an undisputed reality, despite what holdouts like Rush Limbaugh and fringe, Exxon-Mobil supported “experts” from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (see article in May "green" issue of Vanity Fair).

Happily, a quick survey of the British papers (from the Guardian to the Daily Telegraph) all seem to be equally concerned about what British citizens and the government need to do to stem the inevitable consequences of the destructive tide that we are facing if we don’t act as a global community now.

The U.S. seems, as is often the case, to be debating the various merits of options. As a result, the debate is stifling real progress. This crisis calls for more of a concerted effort than Americans are generally comfortable with. That doesn’t seem to be the case for the Brits. In spite of this enthusiasm I have for the emerging UK focus, they still have to play catch-up but I am very confident that they will get on with what needs to be done.

An interesting time to be in the UK on a quest for eco-friendly activities:

•The London marathon was held and it was one of the hottest on records. The newspaper headlines reported how difficult it was for the runners and predicted that the continued “unseasonable” heat is going to be difficult for the country, citing the expected steamy underground environments and preparing for passengers who are likely to be overcome by very “sweltering” temps.

Expectation: 117 plus degrees and stockpiling of water for travelers

•Designer Anya Hindmarch and Saintsbury experienced unexpected enthusiasm for limited edition reusable grocery bags that sported a motto, “I’m not a plastic bag” and sold for 5 pounds. Consumers lined up at 3:00 a.m. to get one of the 20,000 limited edition bags and were reported to already be selling on e-bay for 175 pounds.

Result: Saintsbury announces a monthly “make a difference day” in which similar PR stunts will be revealed. Communities and stores around the country announce the banning of plastic bags and consumers will now have to pay for carrier bags.

•Ineffective recycling efforts are being reviewed. Currently the concern for terrorists has resulted in the removal of bins for trash and recycling in tube stations and in many public areas. As a result, recycling has taken a back seat. However, the press seemed to be reporting on ways to return a focus on making recycling easier and more available. I have no doubt that they will have solutions by summer’s end.

Observation: Unlike the US, where we have plenty of land to “dump our trash,” all of London’s, for example, is put on barges and send down the Thames to Essex where available land mass is limited. So it’s imperative that England get serious about the amount of trash they produce. It’s not an option for them as they don’t have the land that we do in the U.S.

•Attitudes seem to be more open to eco-solutions than I’ve noticed in the U.S. In my informal and very unscientific interviews of various shop owners and residents, I encountered less skepticism and more interest in my eco ideas than I’ve experienced in the U.S. outside of California. Maybe because this is a citizenry that has gotten used to taxes and mandates (such as the congestion tax for cars that enter London and is now being proposed for NYC) and rather than rail against them, they seem to almost accept it as a way of life. Libertarianism is not as deeply entrenched in the UK as in the U.S.

•Organic food is finally catching on in London. For the first time, I found evidence that England is making note of healthy eating. I was delighted by a visit to the Borough market on a Saturday that made me feel as if I was back at Ferry Plaza in San Francisco. Organic purveyors of meats, produce, breads, and juices were everywhere. As I wondered around Notting Hill, Chelsea, and even East Aldgate, I found wonderful little organic eating establishments. I happened on a Whole Foods and several British knock-offs, like Planet Organic and One Stop Fresh (

Next Post: More on green design in the UK

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Cautionary Tale

This may be an expanding post as we discover the “challenges” that some of these new products present. Having been in high tech for the past 15 years, I’ve grown accustomed to “beta” versions. And it is no different with these new green applications. While many of them are wonderful and ready to embrace, there’s bound to be a period of discovery about their wonderful idiosyncrasies.

As we begin to install the many green finishes that I’ve raved about in earlier posts, there are a few learnings the manufacturers don’t tell you about. I prefer tothink that the lack of information is oversight and not as a means of misleading customers. In fact, when brought to their attention, the manufacturers seem to appreciate the feedback. Let’s just hope these companies use the information to help educate their customers. After all, it’s always best to set expectations at the beginning of a relationship, right?

Several times in the past week or so Cemil and I have had some doubts about our choices. But in the end, we managed to find a way to work with the products and they are in the house. But, I hope this information will save you some of the frustration that we’ve experienced.

We really do like what this product, but there are some caveats in working with it. It is a countertop product that can be used in as many ways as Corian. It’s made of paper (see more about the manufacturing process here Our issues are:

Color. It changes, pretty dramatically…..much as what happens to newspapers when left in the sun or as they age in your attic. I’ve included an example with this color change with the photo. The small green sample is what my countertop “will” become over time. The larger sample is where it is right now. Currently the green has definite bluish tints, but is going to deepen with yellow tones into a rich olive color. And the olive color is the one that I anticipated with the rest of the finishes that I chose. The manufacturer’s representative said that it is the “organic” nature of the product and that one shouldn’t base a color scheme around it. And I grant him that wood, metals and some stones will age and burnish over time, but we can anticipate what happens to copper, as example, (because of past experience) and rarely do these products change their tonality (cool to warm tones—as in the case of this green).

Durability. By that I mean, how the product holds up to wear and tear. While I can’t comment on that yet, Cemil can. He’s had Richlite countertops in the baguette color in a home that his family uses. And he’s noticed that it will hold on to soap residue (particularly colored soaps) and other stains. Of course, this product can be sanded and re-polished, but that seems to be a lot of work for most people. For this reason, we both think the darker colors are the way to go in Richlite.

Organic floor adhesive from DriTac (DriTac 7500 Eco-urethane) In the end, we are pleased with the performance of this adhesive that is keeping our EcoTimber pre-engineered maple floors in place ( As Cemil has commented…..should a tornado ever hit Sonoma, he can guarantee that the floors will be the only remaining part of the house. But it took several frustrating hours to discover the idiosyncrasies of this product and when we reported back to the manufacturer, they seemed surprised by what we learned.

First, the product uses way too much packaging. It’s just not green to use metal containers, extra thick cardboard boxes, and styrofoam to deliver these containers.

Second, the instructions provided with the product do not caution you about the following:

1- Transfer small amounts to plastic containers as the a) product dries quickly, becomes too thick to use; b) doesn’t stick to plastic in the end and cleanup means merely lifting out a latex looking mask; c) is impossible to apply in large containers.

2- Work with small amounts of the glue at a time—preferably only applying to floor one plank at a time. The adhesive dries very quickly, is thicker than most, and has a memory. So when putting your pre-finished floorboard in, you must put it in place quickly and don’t even think about moving it too much. Keep in mind the “thickness” of this adhesive and allow for that in your measurements.

3- Keep rechecking your work because of the “memory” aspect of the adhesive. If you need to shift a board, then you have to work harder to get the board back to where you ultimately want it.

4- Applying the glue seems to be much like frosting a cake with a very tacky frosting. I watched Cemil and Jim “twirl” the adhesive around so that they could then trowel it onto the floor. It takes some practice to feel comfortable with the application process.

EcoTimber pre-engineered maple flooring
. It's beautiful but there are a few things you should be aware of when choosing this particular product from EcoTimber.

* All EcoTimber is graded according to European standards so that means you get A/B not just A boards. And as such, you will find more knots, heartboard anomolies, and mineral streaks than what one might be used to (see picture for example). The company said that you can expect dime size knots and we found many more that were quarter size. Apparently they use computer equipment to "grade" the material and they are calculated for dimensions and size of dark material. Not quite effective, according to my untrained eyes! Most of this is generally calculated for when adding 10% for waste.

* The light maple is more of an issue. There are going to be more "organic" elements that can distract from the overall look. It means that you should count on another 5% of waste. That can really increase the cost of your flooring.

Ultimately, we are still pleased with these products, just not with the information that was provided by the manufacturers. And we all know that getting new products established and having them take hold is as much about ease of use as about how they look.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Tile Style

We've gotten to that stage of the project where the magic really starts to happen. The finishes are now getting installed and all the design planning is ready to be judged. So far, no real regrets.

The bathroom tiles are certainly living up to expectations.

In the guest bathroom, we used white subway field tile from Fireclay There were several reasons in using this resource: 1)it is local (San Jose, CA); 2)none of the glazes contain lead; 3)the "Debris" series that I used is manufactured using 50% post-consumer and post-industrial recycled materials. I liked this effect because it gives a slightly less "finished" result and there's a warmth of the material that comes through the white tile. Those who have seen it agree, that the effect is quite compelling. I used a recycled glass contrasting band in green.

In the master bathroom, I can't do justice with a description of the glass tiles that I used from. As I look at my newly tiled shower stall in the cane iridescent 1 inch glass field tiles from Oceanside,, I think of a jeweled box. It's a lovely effect and again I really like the irregular nature of the the glass pieces. Constatine, a tile "artist" who installed the product, did complain that the transparent nature of the color I chose made his work a bit more difficult. He had to have a smooth (not troweled) based on which to lay in the glass tiles and in spite of their being held together by 12 x 12 inch sheets of paper, they were heavy and took great care in getting them to hold in place. He did a masterful job and I love the final look.

I paired this with a fabulous pebble rock flooring from Fireclay's collection called "jelly bean". Not only do the weathered pebbles feel wonderful underfoot but the effect is a bit like looking down through a clear water stream to a rocky bottom below. It was easy to install and the only hard part was picking and applying the grout so that it wouldn't be too deep to cover the pebbles up too much.

All in all, the choices were not only natural but beautiful. The price ranges were from $13 per sq. ft. for the pebble rock; $20 a sq. ft. for the field tile; to $28 a sq. ft. for the glass tiles.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

How Green Can You Go?

This week was full of starts and a few stops. By that I mean, we were all ready to move into final stages of putting in the finishes when we made some interesting discoveries. I’ll try to highlight a few of them here.

Flooring. EcoTimber ( ready to be laid, but we spent the week waiting for the Eco Urethane adhesive from DriTac. It arrived a week late and has delayed our start. As it turns out, that was for the best, given some of the changes that we’ll be making after our preliminary energy audit (see later discussion) and the relocation of floor vents.

Packaging. Meanwhile, we began to remove the packaging from the pre-engineered white maple that we are using. And I came to really appreciate the “ungreen” nature of packaging. The plastic and cardboard just kept piling up higher and higher. Yes, it all ended up at the recycling center, but it does raise an interesting question. When are we going to get serious about sustainable packaging? Especially for “green products.”

The adhesive was the worst “green packaging” offender that I’ve experienced. It came in very sturdy plastic containers that were individually placed in thick cardboard boxes and firmly held in place by styrofoam blocks. Way too much packaging!

Our pre-energy audit.

Early on, Cemil had researched to find a consultant that would come in and advise us on just how we can maximize our construction to make a very energy efficient home. Well, we were amused and impressed with the team from ReNu (

Their mission:

"The emphasis of our company is to help homeowners make their homes not only better looking but also more energy efficient, more comfortable, safer, and healthier to live in. We perform 'Healthy Home Assessments' and do all the remediation work that would be required to bring a home back into shape. You could think of us as Personal Trainers for your home"

Their methodology:

Cemil and I were reminded of “Ghost Busters” when the ReNu team showed up at the house with 4 people and enough equipment to climb Mt. Everest. An infrared camera was used to point out all the leakage—through walls, around light sockets and electrical outlets. It was clear, that we still have a lot of work to do to “seal” up the house in order to “tighten” it up. But as we do that, it’s important to realize that a tight house requires sources for fresh air to balance it out.

As Robert Mitchell, President, kept pointing out “a tighter house is what we all want but that means a source for controlled fresh air.

The results:

Because we are using ReNu in 2 phases, we won’t know how we perform until we implement their recommendations. A few key areas that we will address in order to have a more energy efficient home:

*use lots of foam to seal the cracks and crevices
*use mastic to seal the grills and exterior exposures
*pay close attention to creating a tighter seal in the crawl space beneath the house
*think about using solar thermal to help diminish the energy used for hot water production
*relocate existing floor vents for AC and heat to ceiling and on walls opposite the windows because our heater unit is in the attic and it is more efficient than what the route that is currently used for getting the heat/ac to floor ducts which are currently placed under windows.
*insulate all the plumbing
*add extra insulation to the attic by using blow-in cellulose
*don’t oversize your heat or AC—bigger is not better in this case

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Paint the Town Green

It might seem unusual to be painting the walls of a project that is only half way done, but Cemil feels that having a coat of paint on them would protect the "prone to dings" sheet rock as we head into the installation of cabinets and finishes. I didn't argue because I was so curious about the colors and various paint brands that I had been researching.

So Lester was called in to put up the first coats of paint. I had carefully provided him and Cemil with a spreadsheet of all the colors and paints. All totaled, I ended up using 5 different brands and 10 colors. I'm sure Lester was curious about my hanging out with him all day and "interviewing" him on his opinion about the various paints. He provided some valuable feedback and I got to experience the painting part with him. While I'm not sure I converted Lester (he's a loyal Kelly Moore guy), he did agree that the quality was good, the colors nice, and the lack of smell was new for him. He didn't even have to add vanilla to the paint to kill the odor and I reminded him about the advantages of no lingering off-gassing. He's more informed after our 3 days together, and time will tell if he begins recommending these paints.
Lester and team

Let me first confess that I didn't try AFM Safecoat, the "primogeniture" of green paint companies, because Cemil had not been pleased with its coverage and I found the colors to be less than inspired. Though the president of the company did tell me that they were launching some new "decorator colors." Besides SFM Safecoat (, by virtue of longevity, is on every one's green paint check list.

I wanted to try some new brands. After having gotten my paint education at two bay area "contractor" paint stores, Gray's Paints in Palo Alto area and Tamalpais Paints in Marin as well as "green" paint resource, Ecohome Improvement in Berkeley, I was armed with gallons and quarts from 5 different brands.

Yolo Colorhouse.

American Pride.

Aura from Benjamin Moore.

Sydney Harbour.


And the review:

Yolo. My favorite. The colors are wonderful. I've met the two founders of this company and their creative backgrounds in the ad agency world comes through when you look at the color palette choices, the packaging and the attention to final product. While there isn't an extensive choice of colors with Yolo, the ones the do have are "tried and true" winners. And they coordinate in a way that makes you feel as if a professional designer chose your colors. The product goes on well and even the deepest of colors covers in two coats. There was absolutely no odor with the paint and Lester agreed that it was an impressive product. My only complaint is that it doesn't come in quart sizes. Price: $40 a gallon.

American Pride. More colors makes them a good addition to Yolo. The paint is equally "green" with no smell and also coats well in dark colors. They, like Yolo, have large swatches that you can buy and tape to the wall to see how the color looks without having to paint a sample. As was the case with Yolo, the eggshell finish wasn't chalky in the least.... as some have complained. And it comes in quarts. Price: $36 a gallon.

Aura from Benjamin Moore. The advantage is the access to this through their many outlets. Clearly Benjamin Moore has spent time, money and effort to establish this paint with the professionals. No complaints on the selection of colors. The coverage was as expected with any of their paints. They have yet to launch the semigloss line, but matte, eggshell and satin are all available and perform well to scrubbing. It is fast drying which makes it a favored for paint contractors. The price is competitive. They haven't created an eco friendly PVA yet, so you'll have to use from their old Eco Spec line (seems to be phasing out). There is some odor, so it doesn't feel as green as the other two I've mentioned. Price: $52 a gallon.

Sydney Harbour. An Australian product, this is a beautiful paint line that feels very specialized and high end. The price is $90 per gallon which makes it too expensive for most to use. They do have quarts so I used it on an accent wall. And it was beautiful coverage with virtually no odor either. I can't speak for how it holds up to scrubbing, but it too lacked the chalkiness of the clay and lime paints that are considered the "greenest" of paints. If not for the price, I would have rated this one higher. Price: $90 per gallon.

C2 Paints. I was talked into this as a "low VOC" newcomer. I have to say that the display in the paint store, next to Pratt & Lambert, was impressive. Again, one can buy large sheets to avoid painting splotches on your walls. I've also read that you can return any unused portion and they will "recycle" it for another homeowner who wants the same color. I haven't tried that yet and I do have an extra unused quart. The colors are certainly lovely and coverage is good. But this paint had the odor of any other brand that doesn't claim to be low VOC. So that moves this brand to the bottom of the list for me. Price: $48 a gallon

I won't go into the details on the challenges in VOC ratings with paints. In any emerging industry, the lack of standards makes it hard to compare products accurately. Go here for a good explanation on the paint issues Suffice it to say, that paint is the area that will need to be monitored for the new entrants and measurement standards. As I was told by the owner of Gray's Paints..... it's all about the fact that glycol is the offender and that's the pigment. So, except for milk paint, it seems that there is no real "chemical-free" paint.

My attitude is that voting with your dollars on better choices for things like paint and wood is helping to build demand. That will, in turn, drive innovation and standards. So my advice: don't be afraid of investing in any of these paints I've recommended. Pay a little extra (not much) and enjoy an environmentally-responsible, odor-free, beautiful end-result.

Other useful information:

A handy paint usage calculator:

Monday, March 5, 2007

Giant leaps forwards and small steps backwards

My recent trip was unexpectedly extended by a family emergency. I had lots of time in waiting rooms for reading and idle chatter. It seems that in this week alone, there have been some major announcements and media reports about the state of the environment. And still there are skeptics, I've come to discover.

As a new convert, it means that I've been obsessively focused on the impact that my actions have on the environment. I admit that I am probably a bit "evangelical" about my conversion. But given that I spent the last week in South Carolina, you'd have thought that any kind of evangelism would have been deemed as acceptable behavior. I did find the Whole Foods in SC, but was disappointed to see a parking lot filled with SUV's and other gas guzzling vehicles. And I noticed that everyone in the store seemed to prefer plastic bags to paper or providing their own. And as I am prone to do..... I did take it upon myself to instruct the bagging personnel as to why paper was preferable to plastic. I'm sure my instruction wasn't appreciated in the manner that I meant it. I learned that very few customers bring in their own bags, even with a 5 cents per bag incentive. I can only imagine the attitude at the Piggly Wiggly across town.

I had an unpleasant exchange with the specialist caring for my Mother about why he should believe in any of the "stuff that Al Gore espouses." Seems that he repeated a news report (Drudge Report & Fox News) that Al Gore's lifestyle didn't reflect his environmental platform. I looked up the attacks brought by a group that "promotes personal freedom and limited government." I found a considered response about Al Gore's home energy consumption that reveals his large home (which also is his office and accommodates security detail needs as ex- VP) does consume large amounts of energy, but he purchases most of it from green energy sources and offsets the remainder. He happens to live in a state that produces much of its energy from hydro and nuclear sources. My question to this GI doctor.... "what have you done to help preserve our environment?" I guess if he treated asthma instead of colon diseases, he might not have been so quick to dismiss the overwhelming evidence of atmospheric degradation from CO2 emissions and resulting health issues.

As someone who grew up in the South, I'm often defending my region because of its "illustrious" history. However, the reticence to embrace global warming as a crisis is not limited to the South. The weekend before, I had been in Long Island with friends and was equally surprised to find several deli-style eating establishments that did not recycle glass bottles and thought it unnecessary to do so. So ignorance is not necessarily regionally based.

The media seems to have daily coverage on our environment. Happily, Hollywood recognized "An Inconvenient Truth," by awarding it an Oscar. In the week following, though, the Bush administration is releasing a report (a year overdue) that will show "emissions of gasses by the U.S. that contribute to global warming will grow nearly as fast through the next decade as in the previous decade." Of course, it's not surprising given the general tepid, if not hostile, commitment of the Bush administration to saving our environment. (New York Times 3/32007)

Happy to report some positive things that I encountered on my trip:

* Novartis (Swiss drug company) is providing Prius cars for their drug reps next year.

* PG&E is converting their crew fleet of trucks to biodiesel and alternative fuel vehicles

* Wall Street Journal, that protector of corporate activities, devoted a section in the 2/12/2007 edition to green energy. And they were quite bullish on it making economic sense.

* I met with a NYC apartment developer who is considering retrofitting his buildings to be more green.

Next posting-- about paint

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Offsetting Your Guilty Conscience

The question. What are carbon neutral or offset (also known as green tags) programs?

You can become carbon neutral by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that reduce carbon emissions. So on the one hand, you produce, and on the other, you reduce.

As I get ready to drive to the airport, hop a plane to NYC and use a cab to get to my final destination, I can’t help but think about what carbon issues I am causing with all this. My awareness for my carbon footprint came to me early on in my awakened green consciousness. As I result, I’ve bought my carbon neutral driving pass from An alternative is

As well, Cemil purchased a wind power card for our project, which looks like phone card. It is meant to offset the power we are consuming in the renovation process they are available in more “green” establishments like Whole Foods. Or go to the website,

Still, my guilty conscience is not totally assuaged by these actions (my boyfriend has termed my green tag investments as 21st century indulgences). I still feel as if I need to offset more of my lifestyle. The upcoming plane ride comes to mind. Just as I prepare for the trip but putting my toiletries in baggies and printing down my boarding card, I will buy my carbon offset for the jet fuel that is about to be consumed…. and the cab ride….. and the energy consumption from my hotel stay. When they say, nothing in life is free, believe it. That includes the energy we used and what it take to produce that energy. The environment deserves its fair share.

Think about it as you do your diet. You know that there is more than the food cost to the chocolate that you are about to consume. You’ve long gotten used to rationalizing to yourself that the eating it will mean 20 minutes more on the Stairmaster. Well the same holds true for energy consumption. Carbon neutral contributions are like your extra time on the treadmill.

Of course, there’s always controversy and a naysayer or two. Just recently, there was some press in the UK about the speculators who have set up scams and schemes under the guise of doing good Sadly, they have tarred the reputation of the good programs. My reason for this post is to set the record straight and provide links and information that will restore your interest or faith in continuing with the contributions.

More Information:

Several months ago, www.ecofabulous, ran a piece about carbon offsets by David Shearer (a respected eco-advisor,

His 6 questions are worth posting here as you vet the organizations you are thinking of contributing to:

1. Can you provide detailed information on specific projects that result from your offsets?

2. Which objective standards do you use to demonstrate the high quality of your offsets?

3. Have your offsets been verified against an objective standard by a credible third party source?

4. Do you sell offsets that reduce GHG emissions in the future? If so, how far in the future?

5. How permanent are your offsets - 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? Evidence of permanence?

6. If trees are used for offsets, how do you measure the carbon reductions? How do you ensure that they are not burned or cut down?

Other resources/research to explore: (to offset travel)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Space: It’s all about how you use it

I like to tell people that my renovation is about creating a jewel of a house. For a whole host of reasons, I’ve come to prefer small, refined and beautifully crafted spaces to big statements of success. I really abhor the hummer and McMansion society that has defined America in the last two decades…. starting in the dreaded 80’s.

I hope the great awakening in this century is about less consumption, more conservation and less of a desire for bigger cars, homes, possessions, footprint etc. If society would realize that: “bigger isn’t always better;” “more is less;” and my new favorite…… “the wise man carries his possessions within him”.

Let me be honest though, I’ve had my own share of consumption vices in the past. I’m still in recovery from a lifetime of amassing a collection of shoes, dishes, even cats. But as I tell my friends, going green is about making small steps to change some of the more egregious practices that degrade the health of the planet. Eventually those small steps multiply and you are able to do more, comfortably about a new way of living. This is a marathon we are in, not a sprint.

On small space usage.

Cemil, my trusty green guide, has taught me how wasted space in a home is just unacceptable. As a good student, I’ve now become very adept at coming up with solutions for every little nook and cranny in this house project as a result of relocating rooms and walls. And I now have some of the coolest features in my small home and I can’t wait to live with the conveniences that they afford.

My beloved baker’s/butler’s pantry.

I love to bake and in the past I would have to do so while my boyfriend was in the middle of creating some elaborate Mediterranean feast. His garlic mincing would often meander over to my pastry rolling area, exposing it to unsavory additions. Anyone who uses a rolling pin also knows that there is an optimum height and it’s not the same counter height that you use for chopping vegetables. But now I have my own baker’s pantry that has been crafted to my specifications. With: lowered counters; a touchless faucet for floury hands; an extra dishwasher to keep my food processor from being confused with the one making a soffrito. And of course, just the right number of cabinets to accommodate rolling pins, cooking sheets, and measuring cups.

Side note: this space used to be a washer/dryer room that was misplaced in the center most part of the house. The washer and dryer have been stacked and put in the garage and this new center of the house will now produce freshly made cakes and pies!

A corner kitchen desk.

In creating the necessary returns to complete a room design, it often means that there are little niches that are generally unused. One such space revealed itself between the baking pantry and the kitchen. It was just the right space for a little desktop surface and a bookshelf for cookbooks. The counter area is just the size for a laptop, but it means that quick lookups on will become easier.

The cat excretorium.

With four cats, one is bound to have issues with cat pans and waste disposal. So Cemil came up with a clever solution that has been coined “an excretorium” by my boyfriend. It’s been carved out of a back hallway that abuts the garage. So on the inside, the cats can enter their own tiled bathroom through a little kitty door. On the outside, I will be able to access the cat pan area from the garage in order to remove the waste, wash down the area with an internal faucet, and whisk the offending refuse away to the outdoors. Cemil will install a motion-sensor fan to come on 10 seconds after a cat leaves the excretorium.

A guitar cubbyhole.

The boyfriend is a musician and he plays guitar. As a result, he has several. In the past, we always leaned them in their cases in the closet or corner of the room. But they always interfered with the space and were constantly being moved to get them out of the way. Cemil pointed out that we had a narrow, but deep space that came about as a result of carving out a coat closet and bookshelves from a wall in the office. As I looked at it, it seemed perfect for tall slender guitar cases. So now the guitars will have their own closet, behind a closet.

Wall safe, James Bond style.

Since the bedroom has been carved up to accommodate a walk-in closet and more spacious bathroom, we felt that we needed to balance it by putting in built-ins. This does two things: 1) the room won’t feel so small as there won’t be lots of furniture to clutter it up; 2) the room is more symmetrical and truly becomes a cozy place that feels “dedicated” to its defined use, as a bedroom. In making these changes, we created a “dead” space that was too small for another built-in. But it wasn’t too small to insert a safe that will be neatly disguised by a movable wall piece and a painting...... hence, the James Bond reference.

Bookcases instead of cabinets.

I have noticed, sadly of late, that homes no longer seem to have a prominent display of books. I will give the benefit of the doubt, and assume that many people just hide their books way. I prefer to think that versus the alternative: which is that people just don’t have books anymore. Anyway, I decided that a significant amount of wall space would be devoted to bookshelves. I’ve added them in as many places as I could and truly believe that they make a good bed backboard, end of hallway statement, and should be a key element of a room claiming to be an office or a “library.” So now all my books can come out of boxes and from storage and beckon to me to reread some of my favorites.

After all, if we carry our possessions with us, let our imagination and knowledge be the result of what we’ve read in literature!