Green Portland: A Design & Remodeling Blog

Presented by Green Design & Remodeling to increase knowledge about home design and remodeling

Landscape architects, remodelers team up to ensure the outside is as beautiful as the inside March 19, 2014

Landscape architects, remodelers team up to ensure the outside is as beautiful as the inside.


Building it Green November 24, 2008

I read a good article this morning about sustainable building practices for new homes. They mention some great tips, but don’t mention the “greener” aproach of not building, and remodeling instead. You can incorporate all the things they reccomend for a new building in your existing home. It will make your house more energy effiecent, healthier, and keep from building on undisturbed land. I can’t stress this enough–it is better for everyone if you improve the home you are in rather then building something new.

Rebuilding an older home

Rebuilding an older home


Making a Home to Sell, a Dream to Buyers November 19, 2008

With the current housing market there is an overflow of houses to choose from, so if you are planning to sell your home how can you get an edge up? Do some design work! The first thing a person sees when they pull up to a house is the yard–if it has been sitting on the market a while, why not clean it up. Here is an article talking about what you can do for better curb appeal. Your next best thing is to do some redesign inside. Here is a long list of things you can do to improve your home for resale. You can do any of these things yourself, or you can hire a designer to do it all for you. In the long run, it may keep you from having to drop the price and sell your house faster.

Color Design

Color Design


I Want To Remodel My Home, Why Do I Need A Designer? November 3, 2008

So you want to remodel your home, you have a pretty good idea on what you want to do and you are about to go out and find yourself a contractor. This is all well and good, but have you talked to a designer yet? You may ask, “why do I need a designer, I just said I know what I want!” You may think you know what you want—but do you really?
Here is my list of the top ten reasons to hire a designer, from least important to most.

10. A designer makes you look like you are really cool.
Okay, so maybe this is not a great reason, but it does help you. A good designer knows the industry. They can introduce you to contractors, showrooms, and order sample materials for you. This makes you seem really put together when you are talking to your bank, or just your friends.

9. A designer knows color.
Probably the first thing someone thinks of when interior design is mentioned is color. And although I don’t like it one bit when people confuse interior designers with decorators (we are NOT the Sugerbaker’s), this is one area we have in common. Almost all designers, whether they are graphic, industrial, or interior usually have a good education when it comes to color theory.

8. A designer knows more then color.
A professional designer has gone to school. And not just a two week course you see on late night TV. Real, honest to goodness formal, professional schooling. Did you know that in Portland alone there are two Universities teaching Interior Design, as well as, PCC.  So what on Earth does an interior designer learn in all this schooling?—I mean you can’t spend four years studying just color. We learn everything from basic design principles, to building structures, appropriateness of materials, history, art, sustainability and most important: safety. We not only make spaces wonderful to be in, but hopefully also keep Grandma from slipping on the bathroom tile.

7. A designer can draw.
Not only can a good designer quickly sketch out an idea, but most can draft as well. This means they will place together a full set of plans and elevations so you can get permits and the contractor has something to build from. No remodeling project is complete without some form of drawings.

6. A designer understands space.
I am not talking about that place were all the stars live. I mean your kitchen, your living room, your entire house.  We understand how people move through spaces, what they first see when they walk into a new space, and how people use things that are in that space. I bet you have been in kitchen where everything is just not were it should be—well, a designer can help correct that from happening.

5. A designer knows there way around town.
Designers have knowledge and access to all the showrooms in town.  All the tile, carpeting, paint and counters you will ever want to see, as well as all the hardware, plumbing fixtures, and lights that can be working in your house. This is a major benefit; this means you are not limited to what is sold at Home Depot or Lowes.  A designer can open doors to possibilities that you never knew existed. Best of all, we are not always talking more money, often times a designer can find fantastic things for a great price.

4. A designer knows price.
If, like most people, you have to stay within a budget the best way to do so is with a designer. Understanding the difference from a $30,000 kitchen and a $80,000 kitchen is a big deal. A lot of clients I have run across in the past have no idea what something should cost.  A designer—although not the greatest job we have, can bring a project into perspective. Sometimes this means you have to give up that fantastic $8000.00 rare granite counter and look to a granite that is a little more common and overstocked. This doesn’t have to be a huge dream buster, a designer can often find good deals to bring a project back into budget.

3. Water and electricity don’t mix—or do they?
A designer understands how to lay out an electrical plan, usually what the current code requires, and how to make sure that your house stays safe. A designer also understands plumbing—and not just the pretty toilet sitting in the corner. We understand what it takes to move that toilet out of the corner, and how best to plumb a new bathroom addition. When dealing with plumbing and electrical a professional designer knows what needs to be there, were it needs to go, and how to make sure that it is safe and will pass inspection.

2. A designer knows how a house is built.
Believe it or not, architects and contractors are not the only ones that know how a house is put together; a designer knows too, and maybe even better then an architect or contractor. When I am working on placing a job together I think of all the phases it takes to get that kitchen sink up and running. Everything from the demolition (what stays and what goes), to framing, plumbing, electrical, insulation, sheetrock, etc. This helps in what I think might be the most important thing a designer can do for you…
1. A designer knows how to write specifications.
When a contractor goes to start a job he needs two very important documents: the drawings (see above) and specifications. This is a laundry list of everything that is and is not on the plans. It includes everything: what kind of lumber to use, what type of sheetrock, what sink was selected, right down to the color on the walls. Because my firm is design build, my specifications also include everything that is to be demoed, what needs to be saved for reuse, what is being donated and what is to be recycled or trashed. It also includes how all the debris from building the job is to be handled and how the jobsite should be left at the end of each day. In the end the specifications are your contract on what and how the job is suppose to be. They should be as detailed as possible so everyone is on the same page.

So there it is—my top ten reasons for hiring a designer. I would love to hear questions and read comments on your thoughts about designers. I believe there is still a lot of education that the general design community needs to do to let people know what we do. I hope this has helped.
Many thanks,
Daniel Milligan


5 Tips for Sustainable Design October 28, 2008

How to Easily Incorporate Being Green into Your Next Project

Sustainable design is in concert with the planet. When we feel good in our spaces, work and home, we are more productive, healthier and happier. It sounds hippie-dippie, but spending time in a beautiful, sustainably designed and built space is more than saving the planet; it is saving and expanding our “quality of life.”

Being green doesn’t have to be difficult. Every decision in a design project can have a green answer. Every choice can have the overlay of,  “Is it environmentally friendly/green = does it work with nature rather than against it?  Is it sustainable = does it meet my present needs without ruining my grandchildren’s chances to meet their needs?”

You might be asking:
How can I be sustainable, find the resources, make the choices?
Who works with sustainable materials?”
How can I do this without being overwhelmed?

Here are 5 simple questions to ask about being environmentally friendly and building sustainably:

1. Where do I find the most sustainable materials? There are more and more retail stores, websites and magazines devoted to sustainable and green materials.  Individual materials’ websites and product information can tell you a lot about them:  Just like the grocery store, check the “label”.  Ask questions like,  “Is the product made from rapidly renewable resources or is the material I choose depleting a natural source?”   “Is it made from recycled or innovative material?”  “Is the wood reclaimed or from a managed forest?”

2. Will my choices use less energy over time? Insulation, that keeps heat in and cold out, makes your life more comfortable and helps use less energy winter and summer. There is non-itchy insulation – blown in cellulose (newspaper) and shredded jeans (denim) material!  Daylight where you want it (slanting in from the south in the winter and shaded by leafy, deciduous plants or sun screens in the summer) through a double-paned, gas filled window allows us to light space naturally and also keep the heat in and the cold out.  Add skylights and the impact is increased.   Compact fluorescent bulbs may cost a little more to buy, but they last much, much longer and now can provide a light closer to the “warm” light of an incandescent light bulb.

3. Where do my materials come from? If they are grown, created, produced, manufactured or built within 500 miles of where you live, then you are using  “local”, supporting your communities and using less energy (usually fossil fuel) to get them to your home or work. It takes asking a question or reading a label to find out the information and use sustainable materials.

4. Is the product environmentally safe? Ask for paint that is “low or no VOC” It’s the VOCs that make that “new paint smell” and emit Volatile Organic Compounds. Know that you don’t have to be breathing those chemicals and neither do your children.  The quality of No-VOC paint has increased and almost every major brand offers one in all colors.  It’s an easy choice to make – just tell your painter that you want a No or Low-VOC paint.

5. Do my choices meet the old mantra – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? – It holds true in sustainable design.  Reduce the impact on the planet by choosing materials wisely – ask for sustainable products.  Reuse, by choosing products like Metro Paint (100% recycled paint – it is not Low-VOC, but it has been produced by mixing useable left-over paint in color batches – paint that would have gone into the landfill.)  Recycle materials you are no longer using by donating them to organizations like The Rebuilding Center and waste from your project by making sure that it is separated and disposed of correctly.  Each city has regulations for recycling metal and wood, separately from garbage.

I am including a short list to get you started on your sustainable way – it’s easy and it feels good:

I want to be like Portland….. the Office of Sustainable Development

Used/recycled building materials

New building materials – Environmental Building Supplies

Natural cotton fiber insulation

Build It Green (California) – information (cellulose insulation)

Cork products

Alternative countertops

Sustainably forested wood

Interface carpet tiles

Wood products and woodworking

Metro Paint

If you have any questions, please contact us:

Thanks, Karla