Green Portland: A Design & Remodeling Blog

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

The Cost of Remodeling October 3, 2013

NE Kitchen

Everyone wonders what their project will cost.  Will I be able to afford what I want to do?  If I have a budget, what can I get for it?  Will it cost more?  Remodeling Magazine provides a great Cost vs. Value report every year that can give you a very good idea of what remodeling projects cost in every area of the country.  For instance, a midrange, major kitchen remodel in Portland can easily cost $55,000 according to the Remodeling 2012–13 Cost vs. Value Report (  Take a look at their charts to get an idea of costs vs. what you might recoup at resale.  You can also compare your city to the area or the national average.


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


Scheming for Color: How to choose an interior color theme October 25, 2008

Filed under: Color Theory,Home Design — greendesignllc @ 7:00 pm
Tags: , ,

This blog is going to be mostly about design and the importance of design when it comes to working on your home. I figure a good place to start is with color. Color is one of the first things your brain registers when it walks into any space. In this article I am going to stick with interior spaces, although you may be able to apply it to exteriors as well.
Let me start with color trends. What are color trends? Color trends are the colors you see when you shop for just about anything; towels to rugs, cars to clothing, dog collars to dishes. The largest problem with color trends, is that they are just that-trends. So unless you want to redo your interiors every year, or get stuck with a color theme you may get tired of (I will talk about themes shortly), then I suggest trying to avoid trends altogether.
So how does one go about choosing color? My suggestion is to base your color selection on either a piece of furniture you already have or one that you want to purchase. And by furniture I mean anything from a rug, to an upholstered chair, to a cherished piece of art. I think it is better to try and work with something that already has a color scheme that appeals to you. For instance, lets take a photo that you might want to hang on the wall.

Photo of fall leaves
Photo of fall leaves

This is an excellent start, from here you can choose a wall color. But keep in mind this: The most important thing to remember when it comes to color is that it is ALWAYS relative.  Color is relative to other colors that are adjacent to it.  This basically means that a color may look one way next to this color and different when next to that color… Here is an example to make this clearer:

Red blocks on fields of color

Red blocks on fields of color

  • As you can see the red and black squares have the greatest contrast, and as such is used in a lot of color schemes. In fact I would call it a classic color theme.
  • The red square on the white, looks the most red, but lacks definition.
  • Orange is created by using red, and thus is an analogous or related color. In other words they don’t fight each other, and could be used in a color scheme.
  • Blue on red is typically not a good relation-especially in this example. The red is considered a warm color, whereas blue is considered a cool color. Now there are warmer blues (blues that have more red in them), which is why the color scheme of the U.S. flag works, because the red and blue in the flag are closer in value.
American Flag
  • One last thing I want to point out about the blocks above: the blue and the orange. Those two colors are what as known as complimentary colors, along with red & green, and purple & yellow. They fight each other, and such color schemes are often used for flags, signs, school colors-and Christmas. When the two colors are laid next to each other they seem to vibrate. Usually not a good combination for a soothing interiors.

So enough color theory-there are text books written on this, just look at Amazon. We are suppose to be talking about how to pick color-Let’s start with our photo: examing the colors in the photo, we can tell we are dealing with warm colors. In fact the colors are generally considered to be comforting, soothing and a strong. We have some reds, oranges, and yellows.

Safe Color Scheme

Here is one idea you could use. This is a pretty safe option. Neutral color, goes well with the photo, probably would go well with anything else one might own.

Safe Color Scheme
Bolder Color Scheme

Bolder Color Scheme

This is a little bolder, again, looks great! But might be a bit much if you are surrounded by it.

Okay so here is what I would do. I would start with a nice bold, but not over powering color on the walls. I would then pop them up with a color that is a little warmer, but stays in the same area of the color wheel. To accent all of this you can swing to warm greens and browns. And ta-da! You have your self a color theme.

Complete color scheme

Complete color scheme

Now, if this does not seem like the most obvious solution, that is because color is tricky. We can spend hours choosing colors for clients, usually having to go off of something very little. We are here to help.
If you have questions about color, color theory, or just want more information-send me a question or visit our website at

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