Bay Area nature photographers

This post is a follow-up to my last post about Bay Area nature art. Here I’ve featured work by photographers who have interpreted local nature scenes in a particularly artistic way.

The photo montage to the left, by Cris Benton, is a color study of the salt marshes in Fremont. I personally think this piece is gorgeous – I could look at it for hours! Not only because the colors are so vibrant, but also because the composition is so playful and unexpected. This artwork was commissioned by the Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge Click here to see it up close.

The image to the right is by Redwood City-based photographer John Harrison. Another great color study – isn’t it amazing that these perfectly complementary color palettes just occur effortlessly in nature?? I think this photo would be a wonderful addition to a meditation room or a zen-like bathroom. Haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but I’m keeping my eyes open for just the right location. 🙂 John is brilliant at capturing modern art images of natural settings; and his traditional landscape photos are also amazing. His pictures of Yosemite are some of the best I’ve ever seen.

That delicious buttercup color to the left is actually a close-up of a California poppy with a beetle resting on it. This image is a good reminder to me that sometimes we experience beauty by stepping forward rather than back.  John Wall  has taken some unbelievable close-ups of birds, butterflies and insects; it was difficult to choose only one! His blog is definitely worth a look.

The image to the right is not technically a photograph, but rather a high-resolution scan of plant material collected by John Muir over a hundred years ago. Renowned photographer Stephen Joseph worked with this image carefully in Photoshop to capture the original beauty of the leaves. The image is part of a series called John Muir Botanical Series project – a fascinating mix of art, history and technology. Stephen Joseph is also the author of a gorgeous coffee table book called Muir Woods Forest Meditations, a truly striking collection of landscape photographs from Muir Woods. Some of them almost look like paintings.

Last but definitely not least, the image to the left may look like a blown-glass sculpture but it’s actually a real photograph of a wave by Terry Way. I love this series (actually, I have this particular photograph in my kitchen). Terry is an incredibly versatile photographer, covering all manner of subjects from architecture to nature to weddings. I highly recommend him, he is amazing.

A final note: While I have chosen not to focus on the usual coastline, forest and mountain scenes in this post, all of the photographers mentioned here have calendar-worthy photos in that genre. Click through to their sites to see thousands of beautiful images!

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nature art of the Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area is a nature-lover’s paradise, and landscape artists often come here to paint the beautiful scenery. In this post, I’ve highlighted a few artists who I believe are doing a great job of capturing our region’s beauty in unique ways.

To the left is a Japanese-influenced painting of Muir Beach by Tom Killion. I love his modern take on traditional wood block prints, and his wonderful eye for color. (How beautiful is that color transition over the water?!?)

To the right is an image of California butterflies, part of a series by Peg Steunenberg. I have a soft spot in my heart for these images because I have a butterfly garden in my own backyard… and watching the butterflies flutter around in real life always makes me very happy! I also appreciate Steunenberg’s careful attention to precision and accuracy, because I’m a bit of a geek about this stuff. Maybe it comes from being the daughter on an environmental scientist. (On the inside of my closet door, I have a technical guide to the food plants of caterpillars…)

To the left is a painting of iconic Mount Tam, by my friend Ellen Joseph. This well-loved mountain has been painted so many times that by now, let’s face it – it’s difficult to do it without being trite. Ellen has refreshed the magic of this familiar scene for me by emphasizing the beautiful golden light in the foreground, allowing the mountain itself to function as a quiet backdrop.

To the right is an image of our region’s mystical fog, by Gage Opdenbrouw. I have spent many afternoons on the Coastside looking at a similar scene, and to me this painting really captures its meditative and vaguely melancholy feeling. Overall, I must say that Gage is a master at creating paintings that are easy to live with and look at daily. My client Cindy Farner recently selected one of his aspen images for her master bedroom and it was so lovely that we designed the entire room around the painting.

To the left is an image of afternoon light over the hills of Sonoma, by Warren Bellows. Warren truly has the soul of a healer and paints from a very expanded frame of mind. It’s a quality that really comes through in his artwork, especially when viewed in person. Warren and I used a giclée print of the image shown here in the conference room at CPMC’s Institute for Health and Healing, where it has been very well-received.

If you are looking for additional art ideas, here are some links to local resources. Have fun art shopping!

Art Zone 461

Hang Art

SF Fine Art Fair

Art Span

Headlands Center

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don’t just organize – containerize!

Several years ago, I asked my friend Jeri Dansky (a professional organizer) to come and help me with my kitchen cabinets, which were driving me insane. They were messy and disorganized and overflowing with things I frequently needed and couldn’t find.

Her solution was simple: Containers.

Really? Why hadn’t I thought of that… Come to find out it was stunning how much more organized everything became with only one container per cabinet!  After that, I became a little obsessed with “containerizing” every cabinet and closet in my house. It occurred to me that others might find this little tip very helpful as well, so I’ve asked Jeri to write a short guest post on the topic, and here she is… thanks, Jeri! 🙂

I first learned about the value of using containers to organize cabinets and closets when I was dealing with my own collection of spare soap and shampoo bottles. I had them in a cabinet in my garage, in a nice neat row, but it was sure hard to find and pull out the specific bottle I wanted. Then I placed them all in a bin that I could pull out — and this little part of my life got much easier.

Using containers to group similar items helps us easily put our hands on the items we want, and also makes better use of space. Lots of little packages can be put in a bin or basket, so they don’t go missing. Containers can be stacked, where many individual packages don’t stack well. And a container can make it much easier to reach items stored in a hard-to-reach spot, like a corner cabinet or a top shelf. Continue reading

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tips for selecting exterior paint colors

#1 Honor the neighborhood. While interior colors are primarily for you and your family to enjoy, exterior colors are a contribution to your entire neighborhood! Take a walk along your street and consider what kind of palette would blend most harmoniously with other homes in the area as well as the natural surroundings. If you live in a neighborhood of little Craftsman bungalows like the one to the left, it might be best to paint your home in fairly subdued colors. Whereas if you live in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, it’s safe to say you can go quite a bit bolder if you like. (For more on SF Victorians, take a look at this previous post.)

#2 Conceal architectural flaws. If some aspect of the architecture is ugly or awkward, a strategic color design can minimize the defect. For example, this condominium complex in Sausalito (see right) had a guard rail that had been added in order to comply with new codes. The rail is not attractive to begin with, but painting it teal only calls attention to its ugliness. By replacing the teal with a light neutral tone that flows into the rest of the trim, we were able to make this feature much less prominent, as you can see in the “after” photo below.

 #3 Relate to the landscaping. Ideally, home and garden should flow together gracefully, and color is an important key to achieving that sense of flow. If decorative stone or wood elements show up in the landscape design, consider relating to those colors, perhaps selecting one of the richer tones from flowers or leaves as an accent color in your palette. Continue reading

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Tamarian’s questionable “no child labor” certification

Last week, one of my clients and I were looking at rugs online, and we found one we really liked, manufactured by Tamarian, a leading importer of rugs from Nepal.

Knowing that Nepal has been plagued with child labor problems, I placed a call to the San Francisco showroom representing this brand to inquire whether the rug came with a “no-child-labor” certification. The showroom manager assured me that yes, the rug was certified by an organization called the “Tibetan Rug Labor Certification Company” (TLC). She sent me a photo of the pretty label (left). Continue reading

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designing spaces that support innovation

What type of environment supports creative thinking? The Bay Area’s most innovative companies have been asking – and answering – this question for years. Touring their offices brings us a great set of “best practices” that can be applied to any home or business space where creativity matters. (And doesn’t creativity matter everywhere?)

#1: Promote Wellness

Intensely creative people have a tendency to get completely wrapped up in what they’re doing – sleeping erratic hours and guzzling caffeinated beverages. Innovative companies provide a buffer against burnout by surrounding employees with an environment that makes it easier to eat well, exercise regularly and stay connected to nature.

Perhaps the most famous example is the sprawling Googleplex, boasting outdoor volleyball nets, accessible gardens, and a variety of restaurants, including a bar serving wheatgrass shots. Continue reading

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come and breathe for Japan with me

Japanese culture has had a profound impact on my life. Raised as an outspoken and independent American woman, I got quite a dose of culture shock when I first moved to the rural outskirts of Hamamatsu in my early 20s. It seemed there was a “right way” and a “wrong way” to do even the simplest tasks, and of course I did everything the wrong way… One time in my calligraphy class, the teacher suddenly came flying out of nowhere clucking, damedamedame! I squealed as she slapped my left hand with her fingertips, grabbed the brush, and placed it firmly in my right hand instead. (Of course I tried to sneak the brush back into my left hand when she wasn’t looking… I can’t even write in English with my right hand, forget those vexing characters.)

Even though I was always doing things wrong, there was something undeniably comforting about being in Hamamatsu. People were incredibly gentle and helpful and sweet. I felt Continue reading

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modular wall tiles from Sweden

I can’t wait to use these new sound-absorbing wall tiles in a music room, media room or children’s playroom! They can be customized in unlimited ways to create a textural cocoon, a bold splash of color or a whimsical bit of wall art, such as the one shown left. Manufactured of simple ingredients (woodwool, concrete and water), these wall tiles are naturally fire- and mold-resistant, and free of chemical flame retardants and added formaldehyde. Safe for spaces with sensitive technology or fine musical instruments as they release virtually no particulate matter. Watch the product being installed in this short time-lapse video. Photo credit: Jonas Lindstrom

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musings about Milano

I was at a home décor trade show in Milan last month, and I’m still digesting the experience weeks later.

Like most Americans, I have a soft spot in my heart for Italy. The ancient roads, the ubiquitous little scooters, the classical architecture peppered with graffiti, the fabulous boots and shoes, and of course the delicious food and wine. The simple expressiveness of the Italian language is enough to make me melt, with all its mellifluous vowels and sweeping hand gestures.

Because of my enchantment with Italy, I felt a twinge of disappointment when I realized that Italians are really trailing the pack when it comes to earth-friendly design. Mostly, I think it’s fair to say, they are just copying the United States and northern Europe. I did not come across a single new idea in the realm of ecological product design, materials design or packaging design at the trade show. Aesthetically, of course, Italy continues to inspire, drawing on centuries of artistic tradition while still remaining at the forefront of fashion. But when it comes to infusing design process with a deeper sense of caring and stewardship, I would have to say they are behind the times.

In a way, this is a symptom of a larger problem facing Italy. Continue reading

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keeping fresh food fresh

First some good news: Americans have made some major progress when it comes to dealing with our garbage. Disposal of waste to landfill (as a percentage of total waste) has plummeted dramatically, and in 2008, we recycled and composted 83 million tons of municipal solid waste. This diversion rate represents a reduction in carbon emissions on par with taking about 33 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year!

Now on to the more sobering news: We’re still throwing away far too much stuff, more than ever actually. The next step for America is to reduce TOTAL waste.

In our home environments, one of the most dramatic ways to accomplish this is (a) to purchase more fresh foods and fewer packaged foods; and (b) to store fresh foods properly and use them promptly. Added bonus: making changes in this area will also expand your culinary pleasure and improve your health!

The following is a simple guide to storing fresh fruits and vegetables properly, with an eye to optimizing taste as well as reducing food waste. Continue reading

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