Thursday, July 9, 2009

Designing the "Big Kid" bed

My son Liam is just obsessed with cars and trucks. From Fire Engines to Police Cars, Sports Cars to Lawn Mowers, if it has an engine, he LOVES it.

At 20 months, he is just to the age where we need to start thinking about moving him from the crib to a toddler or twin bed. There are tons of great pre-made options for toddler and twin beds out there, but remembering back to my childhood, none of those nice looking bedframes were very much fun. I remember my parents picked out a beautiful bunk bed set and my brother and I just wanted a cooler bed. Kids have very different design tastes than adults. As much as I adore some of the very modern children's beds on the market, I know my son will get older and think they are lame. As much as parents might want a certain "look" for their kid, remember that you are designing for the end-user, your little one, and you should always take their tastes into account.

I guess I'm an anomaly... a designer who wants fun and colorful KID stuff for their kid. I'm so vehemently against the recent proliferation of "classy" kid accessories colored and designed to blend with a neutral decor. I've seen baby swings and stuff in ecru with a tasteful little bear mobile on it, and thought "how BORING!"... If I was a baby and they made me look at something I could barely see against a white ceiling behind it, I'd cry too! I'm sorry, but it bothers me when people want to have these "designer kids" that flawlessly coordinate with their decor. Ummm... it's a CHILD not a household accessory!!! Babies can only see contrasts for the first few months, so why would you make their room all ecru, beige, and white? For the love of pete, give the poor kid something fun to look at and explore!

Ok... so off my soapbox... sorry about my little rant.

So, that said, I'm going to design him a new bed platform/frame with him in mind. First and foremost, it has to suit his tastes... so naturally anything motorized! Then, it has to be fun. He has to be able to crawl into it on his own and be able to sleep in it without wiggling out of it and onto the floor in the middle of the night.

I started by roughly deciding on materials. Because I want to limit toxins in his environment, I think I will build it out of an eco-friendly wheat board. So that really helped determine my design. As much as Daddy likes the 1940 Ford pickups, the curves would be a nightmare to replicate in wood! So I went with a boxier-looking car. Mommy wanted a car that could be colored to suit his existing decor - and thought blue would be great. Well... since I am a huge Subaru fan, it was only natural to design Liam's bed to be a Subaru Rally car!

It will have doors that open and close (because Liam LOVES doors as much as he loves cars!), mirrors on the doors to look into, and the big tail fin on the car will form a headboard shelf. I'm working out how to build in some under-bed storage right now... and I'm sure I'll find other fun things to add into the project as it goes along.

So... new project in progress. Now it's a matter of getting the $$$ to buy materials, building and painting it, and putting it all together. But I figure I can likely do it for the same or less as the cheezy (and toxic) plastic car beds at the store and it will be one-of-a-kind and fun!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Carpet Tile Area Rugs - putting the FUN in FUNctional

One of my biggest challenges as a mom and an aspiring designer has been how to have a great-looking house that is also kid-friendly (read: easy to clean!).

So today, I thought I'd begin with the base of every room - the floor! I have hardwood floors in my 1936 duplex which have been a total lifesaver whe
n it comes to spills and cleanups. However, they are a bit cold and hard for a kid learning to crawl and walk. I had some large traditional area rugs in the space for a time, but quickly realized that keeping them clean was no picnic. To clean them well (without ruining the hardwood floors underneath) I ended up having to drag them outside into the driveway and take my steam cleaner to them. What a pain! And considering how often my son would drop his bottle and drip milk on them, spot cleaning only worked so well...

Imagine my delight when I discovered the fabulousness of carpet tiles! (props to designer Angelo Surmelis for the tip!) These are just what the Design Doctor ordered! The wide array of colors and styles can be mixed and matched to give a very customized and hip look. Easily installed yourself, they are cost effective and practical. When an area has a spill, you can pull it up and wash the soiled square in the sink without having to drag the entire rug out for cleaning. Yay! If
traffic patterns are wearing the rug unevenly, you simply pull up the squares and re-arrange them. If you get a bad stain or hole or burn in a spot, you can replace just one tile instead of the entire rug. And the best part... carpet tiles are economical, often costing the same or less than traditional area rugs or carpeting.

My favorite place for carpet tile is FLOR. FLOR really specializes in fun and funky carpet tiles for residential use. Not only does their product look amazing, but it is also extremely eco-conscious. Their parent company, InterfaceFLOR is one of the pioneers of sustainable practices in the carpet industry.

So... let's take a moment and talk about sustainability here. Why is having a "green" carpet tile important? When we realize how close to the
floor our kids are on a regular basis - crawling and playing- having a healthy floor covering becomes a very important consideration. Have you ever noticed that "new" smell that a carpet gives off - a very chemical smell? That is often the result of something called off-gassing. Off gassing is the evaporation of volatile organic compounds (V.O.C's) at a normal temperature and atmospheric pressure. Most of a carpet's off-gassed chemicals stay within a foot of the floor. So... who spends the most time down there? EXACTLY - our babies,children, and pets - the smallest members of the family who are most susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals. In my sustainable design class last semester, we learned oodles about healthy products and you would be shocked to find how many toxins are in our traditional building materials. Everything from formaldehyde to the heavy metals found in dyes, and other nasty stuff in the adhesives used to lay down carpet and carpet tile. Not to scare anyone, but that's just the beginning. These chemicals can contribute to allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, and respiratory problems just to name a few. In other words... you don't really want this stuff around you or your kids!

Thankfully, the world is becoming a more conscientious place, and now earth and health friendly options are available. And that, to get back to my point, is why I love FLOR's product. First, they make their carpet from recycled and renewable materials as much as possible - which includes not just the face fibers (the yarns that make the carpet) but also the backings when possible. They have a recycling program to recycle samples and used carpet tiles. Their product meets the Green Label Plus certification requirements on V.O.C.s to help with better indoor air quality. You can read more about their environmental efforts here.

The very BEST thing about FLOR's products are their FLORdots! These small adhesive dots stick to the back of the carpet squares at the corner seams, and hold four squares together at once. So... you don't need to use any adhesives on your floors to have a great rug! This is especially nice if you rent (like I do) or if you don't want to have the added chemicals and work of putting down adhesives. At just $4.95 for a pack of 12, FLOR dots are the easiest option for creating a custom rug. I have found that they will work on just about any brand of carpet tile. There are great installation guides and videos available on FLOR's website to help you put together your carpet tile rug. Make just an area rug, or cover the entire room if you want.

So... now that we know how to put this together, let's talk about design choices. If you're doing this rug in a shared space like a living or dining room, I'm sure you'll want to go with something more upscale in look. There are a myriad of amazing options. Some things to keep in mind when making your selections:
- Staining and spills. Look for a carpet tile that has some sort of stain protection on it. Most come with it standard.

- Color. While it would
seem dark colors will show less dirt (and in the case of traffic dirt, they can) they actually show a lot of lint, light pet hair, and dust. I have also found they show milk drips if a bottle leaks and you don't catch it to clean it up right away. So, a mid-range colored rug might be your best bet.
- Pattern. The best choice to disguise soil is a patterned rug with several colors in the pattern. There are tons of great options out there to choose from.

So... where to purchase your carpet tiles? Well, as I mentioned before, I really
love FLOR and their products. You can also find plenty of carpet tile options at your local big-box store like Home Depot , or there are plenty of places online where you can order like Carpet Bargains and American Carpet Wholesalers. Many of these places have clearance areas where you can get tiles for about a $1 per tile, because what parent isn't on a tight budget? If you are really in a budget crunch, or just like to be more eco-friendly, try asking around at all the carpet/home improvement retailers to take their retired sample pieces. It's a great way to keep them out of the landfills. Often they will give them to you free or sell them very cheaply. You won't know what kinds of pieces you'll get, and you'll have many different patterns, but if you put together similar colors you could end up with a pretty cool rug.

Now... if you're like me and have decided to put carpet tiles in your child's room, there are lots of fun and colorful options.
Besides some of the excellent choices from FLOR, there is a company called Joy Carpet that makes some cool patterns for kids rooms. Think colorful and funky! My particular favorite is the Tiny Town pattern, that allows kids to drive their toy cars on the little streets. This would be cute in the center of the rug with a more solid colored border of tiles around it.

Or what about your favorite sports team? There are even tiles with NFL and Collegiate team logos and colors. FLOR has Disney Princesses, Pixar Cars, and Winne-
the-Pooh patterns. There's something for every rug design and every kid!

I ended up going with a colorful option of carpet tiles that gave a fun look without being too "cutesy". It's a design that can grow with my son and be re-used if I re
design his room:

So have some fun on the floor - get creative with color and pattern. Lay out your squares and turn them all different directions. I'm sure everyone will come up with some great looking rugs. Post pictures of your completed design for all to see.

(Thanks to FLOR for the top two pictures - shown above are the "Skully" pattern and the "Sitting Pretty" area rug kit)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome to the Blogosphere!

Here it 'tis - my first foray into the Blogosphere! Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Michelle Goertz, and I'm an Interior Design Student at Mount Mary College. I am also a wife to the awesomest guy ever, and mom to one 20 month old little boy. I am 31 years old and finally finishing my long-postponed Bachelor's Degree after spending 13 years in denial about my talents and my career aspirations. I worked in Corporate America for years in different jobs before finally waking up and realizing that Design is what I've wanted to do ever since I was a kid.

I owned my own painting and faux finishing business for four years some time back, and I've been painting murals since I was 15. While I was always a self-taught artist, my college classes have been allowing me to further develop my abilities and I've grown leaps and bounds as an artist and designer in one short year.

SO... I'm sure you're wondering "What's in this blog for ME!?" Well, I hope to pass on useful ideas and inspiration, and just provide a fun place to talk about a shared obsession for great design. And of course, since I am a college student (and hence, always perpetually poor) AND a mom - it is my desire to explore inexpensive and kid-friendly items that are also just fantastically designed!

So... here we go! I'd of course love to hear from all of you - my readers. What are your design challenges? Got any new design obsessions and favorites?