Spring Home & Garden

GT032813Our semi-annual Spring Home & Garden issue

Sprucing Up For Spring
Five Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home
Fields of Gold 
Making the Most Out of a Small Space
The Benefits of Bonsai

Sprucing Up For Spring

Revitalize your living space and feel refreshed with three home improvement methods

With cold and dreary winter in the rearview mirror, it’s time to celebrate spring, a season that’s all about renewal. And what better place to start than in the home? There are several ways to give your home a facelift this spring—from painting your living room or bedroom a new color to bringing in some colorful plants to brighten up the space and increase the flow of oxygen. Need some inspiration? Try out one of these three methods to transform your living space into a sanctuary you can be proud to show off:

1. Give your outdated furniture and cabinets new life with Chalk Paint.

There’s no need to buy all new furniture to give your home a facelift this season thanks to Chalk Paint decorative paint by Annie Sloan. The paint is sold exclusively in Santa Cruz County at Loot: Vintage Flea Market—an adorable shop in the heart of Soquel that specializes in vintage collectables, antiques, and home and garden treasures—and can make any piece of furniture look brand new. Loot owners Nancy Keil and Amanda Pierre swear by the product and offer workshops cover chest1-2three to four times a month, so that locals can learn how to use it with three different techniques.

The low-VOC paint comes in 30 colors, which can be mixed with white or other primary colors, so there’s something for every taste, and it cleans up with soap and water. “It’s got that European color palette and that old-world finish that people love,” says Keil.

But for those of us who appreciate low-maintenance DIY projects, the paint’s unique properties are what make it stand out. “No sanding, stripping or priming is required,” says Keil.

“We’ve been able to use [Chalk Paint] on metal lamps, chandeliers, outdoor furniture—it’s outdoor grade, so it doesn’t peel or flake—it just sticks to anything,” adds Pierre. “We’ve painted clay pots, ceramics, leather and vinyl, without cracking. People even use it on floors, and we have a lacquer that goes over it, so you can do big stencils. There’s a lot of possibilities.”

With a can of Chalk Paint and wax, your kitchen or bathroom cabinets, old chest of drawers, or the like can be completely transformed. At Loot, visitors can view numerous furniture pieces—from desks to chairs to bedside tables—that demonstrate what it can do.

“If you want an instant makeover in your home, the cheapest way possible is with paint,” says Keil, adding that one quart of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint costs $38.95 and covers 150 square feet. “So much of the furniture that people don’t know what to do with, and are sitting in their garages—whether it’s oak or some kind of laminate that’s just ugly—a lot of those pieces are well-made, they’ve got dovetailed drawers, they’re hardwood, they’re sturdy. And so by giving it this new look with this paint, you really have a functional piece of furniture. It’s better than the new stuff in stores at the moment, and it comes at a fraction of the cost.”

Not interested in doing all the work? You can hire Keil and Pierre to paint your furniture for you. Although, Pierre says, “The paint’s so easy to use that it’s great for beginners as well as experienced painters.”          

Loot is located at 3011 Main St., Soquel. To view the workshop schedule and find out more, visit lootvintage.blogspot.com, or call 234-5416. Workshops cost $85 and include all materials. One quart of Chalk Paint costs $38.95 and wax costs $27.95. Sample pots in each color of Chalk Paint will be available at Loot in April.

2. Get a feng shui consultation.

Is it easy to find your home? Do guests occasionally confuse the front door with the closet? Are there places in your home where you get stopped or even stuck? If so, you may want to consider getting a feng shui consultation. After all, “How is opportunity going to find you if people can’t find you?”

Ariela Najman, a local feng shui practitioner, asks that very question to each of her clients when they’re looking to improve the energy flow and overall feeling of their living space.

You don’t have to be going through a breakup or a divorce to benefit from feng shui, although Najman has helped many clients to do just that.

“Feng shui is the relationship you have with your environment,” explains Najman, “so from the macro to the micro level, talking about landscape, cities, countries, to your bedroom, and the way things are placed in your home.”

cover Ariela2Najman, who has been a certified feng shui practitioner for three years, works with both individuals and businesses. In the last few years she has also expanded her work to include e-design, for which she offers remote consultations to people outside the area.

Clients come to Najman for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to bring more prosperity, good health, or love into their living space, or to simply reorganize and feel refreshed.

To start, “I generally have [the client] think about or visualize being in a space that has inspired them before, just walking into a restaurant, a home, or anywhere that’s inspired them and made them feel calm, and resonates with them,” explains Najman. “And then they have to visualize going to a place that they’ve been before and had a really bad experience at, and think about how that affects them and shifts their mood, and made them feel depressed or low.” She then works with the client to bring some of those positive elements into their living space and recreate that feeling at home.

While people often associate feng shui with the form school, in which a practitioner will enter a space and do a color consultation or physically move furniture around, Najman focuses more on the compass school.

“I rarely go into a space and just use form school, but I do think it’s the juiciest part of feng shui because it’s what you can move and see and feel,” she says. “With compass school, I’m dealing more with the compass layout and astrology. … Classical feng shui requires a lot of research work and analyzing, so I’ll look at the clients’ birthdays and see different elements in their home; sometimes I’ll do something called ‘Flying Stars,’ which is the astrology of the home itself, since the home has its own energy to it.”

According to Najman, the feng shui approach—whether analysis-based or more hands-on—is entirely dependent on the client and his/her needs. Some people are interested in big changes, whereas others just want to clear out a space or create more of an intention.

“When you feel called that’s when you’re ready,” Najman says of feng shui. “A lot of times people say, ‘I’m so interested in feng shui, but I don’t have tons of money to buy all new furniture,’ and it’s so not about that. It’s about understanding your space and understanding you—the connection between you and your space.”

Ariela Najman’s feng shui consultation fee is dependent on the scale of the project. For an estimate and more information, visit arieladesigns.com, call (305) 343-1992, or email [email protected]

3. Make something unique to add character to your home.

What does your home say about you? Adding character to your living room or bedroom is easy with the help of the craft masters at The Fábrica. The community textile arts and salvage workshop in Downtown Santa Cruz was created for the purpose of teaching community members the art of sewing, knitting, quilting, embroidery, crocheting, and more. And the best part? It’s run almost entirely on donations.

cover pillowBlaize Wilkinson, one of several volunteers at The Fábrica, has led a few workshops over the last two years, including one that focused on crocheted rag rugs, another which taught wool sweater transformation, and she’s currently leading a class on platonic solid pillows.

For those who have trouble remembering geometry, platonic solids are regular, convex polyhedrons, whose faces are congruent, regular polygons, with the same number of faces meeting at each vertex. There are five solids which meet those criteria and each are being transformed into funky, decorative pillows during Wilkinson’s workshop. (Who said pillows had to be square, anyway?) Participants are learning how to cut the pieces of fabric, sew and stuff the shape.

“Adults often think they have to give a stuffed toy to a kid, but this you can keep for yourself,” Wilkinson says of the platonic solid pillows. “They’re fun to have around if you pick a fabric that complements your room.”

If you’re not quite to that skill level of sewing, there is a Sewing Machines 101 class on April 29 and May 20 that will help get you started. The Fábrica isn’t just for women either. El FaBROca, a monthly “dude’s sewing group,” will meet on April 19 and May 17, for males to come together to sew and work on projects, with no experience necessary.

With sewing machines and the tools needed for most sewing projects—including some fabric—on-site, The Fábrica is a thrifty, one-stop shop for all your home DIY projects. | Jenna Brogan

The Fábrica is located at 703 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. For more info and to view the class schedule, visit thefabrica.wordpress.com. 

Five Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

Local realtor Lauren Spencer offers her expert advice for homeowners

Whether you’re looking to spruce up your home or getting ready to sell, upgrades can easily increase the value of your home and make it look fresh and brand new. But knowing what improvements to make is where homeowners can sometimes run into trouble. That’s why we sat down with local realtor Lauren Spencer, winner of Best Realtor in Good Times’ 2012 Best of Santa Cruz readers’ poll, to get some helpful tips. “If you take the time and money to make cosmetic improvements, houses [will] sell quicker,” says Spencer.

This spring, Spencer recommends these five improvement projects to increase the value of your home:

1. New Carpet and Paint: Get rid of old carpet that is discolored, stained or outdated. “Neutral new carpets look ready to use, rather than something you would be afraid to walk on barefoot,” explains Spencer. Also, consider a fresh coat of paint; it can freshen up both the inside and outside of your house. “Doing carpets and paint can increase value substantially more than what it costs to do the work—I would say at least 30 percent more than what it costs to do those fixes,” she adds.

Cost: Carpet: $7,000-10,000, depending on grade and square footage. Paint: $7,000-8,000 for both exterior and interior.

2. Landscaping: “Curb appeal is very important, and a tidy and groomed landscape with some redwood chips will really spruce the yard up,” says Spencer.

Cost: About $500, depending on the size of the yard.

3. Cabinet Hardware (handles, pulls and hinges): This is a cheap fix that really updates the house quite a bit. “After living in a house for a while, especially by the beach, they can be slightly corroded and worn down,” she explains.

Cost: $50-150 max.

4. Sink and Bath Fixtures: With age and stains from hard water, old faucets can be replaced relatively easily and cheaply.

Cost: $35-75 per fixture.

5. Lighting Fixtures: By replacing outdated lighting fixtures, you can make the room look current and up-to-date, rather than old.

Cost: $50-75 per fixture. | Sylvia Krzysztofek

Fields of Gold

Watsonville’s Farm Fuel Inc. invites home gardeners to try out new seed meal product 

Stefanie Bourcier was pregnant when she launched Farm Fuel Inc.’s first trials of seed meal in Las Lomas and Davenport. At two months she mixed golden seed meal into the earth by hand. At five months she monitored the relative growth of plants between treated and untreated sites. At eight months she was stooping over strawberry plants to compare berry yields.

“Fortunately seed meal is edible—it’s the same mustard seed used to make condiments, so I didn’t have to worry about toxicity,” says Bourcier, corporate executive officer at the Watsonville-based company.

cover gardenbagsBourcier’s little boy will turn 5 in June, just a few months after her second baby—a proprietary blend of crushed mustard seeds—makes its debut as a home and garden fertilizer. The blend is named Pescadero Gold Mustard Meal, and it will be available this spring in two-pound bags at Staff of Life, Tree Solutions, Plant Works and Mountain Feed and Farm Supply.

“We have been selling seed meal to farmers in 10- and 50-pound bags—and sometimes by the ton—but this is the first year we are marketing the product to home gardeners,” says Bourcier, who hopes to expand distribution throughout the San Francisco Bay Area this summer.

Farm Fuel presses mustard seed to make oil, which is sold as fuel. The remaining meal flakes are pressed into pellets, and sold as a fertilizer. 

Research shows that mustard meal cultivates beneficial microorganisms known to combat soil disease and displace pathogens. Upon contact with water, some varieties of mustard meal also release glucosinolates—compounds found in wasabi. As glucosinolates break down in water, they release fumes that kill a range of soil pathogens. The fumes are thought to be less toxic than those of industrial fumigants like methyl bromide and methyl iodide, which indiscriminately kill all life in the soil.

“Mustard meal doesn’t sterilize the soil like a chemical fumigant, but it does knock back pathogens. This is better than wiping everything out, which creates a vacuum for pathogens,” says Bourcier.

Seed meal is currently sold in Australia as a slug and snail repellant, and it’s used on organic farms to kill weeds and soil pathogens. Bourcier is registering Farm Fuel’s proprietary blend as a biopesticide, though it’s currently labeled as a fertilizer.

Home gardeners can use the product to prepare soil for herbs, veggies and flowers. Seed meal should be mixed into the soil two or three weeks before planting. “You can also treat the area around established plants with seed meal—just don’t apply seed meal while the plant is becoming established,” warns Bourcier. | Amy Coombs

For more information about Farm Fuel Inc. and its products, visit farmfuelinc.com.

Making the Most Out of a Small Space

Scarlett Fiona Reed of Saffron and Genevieve talks quality over quantity

“I could almost tent it here and be happy,” says Scarlett Fiona Reed, referring to her quaint cottage, which overlooks Schwan Lake in Santa Cruz.

The founder/owner of local home furnishing shop Saffron and Genevieve moved into the cottage in January of last year, and has been documenting the ongoing process of designing its interior on her store’s website ever since. 

cover spaceAlthough she admits that it’s taken time to adjust to living in a small space, she now has lots of helpful advice for others with limited square footage.

“I think it’s an adventure,” says Reed. “If [you] can part with [your] things, that’s so nice to do: to live with what you absolutely need. It’s more than just moving—it’s a sort of life change.”

Feeling at ease within one’s home, regardless of size, is central to Reed’s interior design philosophy. When asked if she keeps others’ opinions in mind while decorating her place, she reveals, “I want my guests to be comfortable when they come over—so I think about them in that way—but I’m [the one who’s] mostly there, just me, so I need to make me happy.”

She is most pleased with how her living room has turned out because “all of [her] favorite things are in it,” including work by local artists Michelle Stitz, Jody Alexander and Brian Rounds.

Besides sentimental pieces and an attractive view, especially one that lets in sunlight—natural features can also broaden the appearance of a space—Reed says there are numerous inexpensive, temporary fixes that everyone (even short-term renters) can incorporate.

“I glue[d] linen to my granite backsplash, and I can just wet that and pull it off when I’m done,” Reed says of her kitchen. “If you can get away with painting, that’s great. If you are not allowed to hang pictures, which I’ve never understood, hopefully there’s some wood, and some wood trim at the top [of the wall, so] you can make a picture rail.”

Don’t know where to start? “Find a [furnishing] shop that you love; you don’t even really need to hire the owner necessarily to come out,” says Reed. “Put things that are great from there [in your home].” Pinterest is another tool she frequently uses with clients to communicate design ideas.

For Reed, the beauty of furnishing a small space is in the process. “The fun part is to move things around,” she admits. | Cynthia Orgel

Saffron and Genevieve is located at 910B Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 462-4506 or email Scarlett at [email protected] Visit saffronandgenevieve.com for more info.

The Benefits of Bonsai

How miniature trees can bring beauty and tranquility to the home

Six years ago, Ron Anderson had never heard of bonsai. Now, he’s the president of the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai Club, cares for nearly 100 bonsai trees at once in his backyard oasis in Live Oak, and considers the act of cultivating bonsai “a religion.”

Though both the Chinese and the Japanese claim to have the earliest documented proof of bonsai, dating back more than a thousand years, it was after World War II that the tradition grew in popularity in the United States. Today, the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai Club alone has more than 50 members.

cover bonsaiSimply put, bonsai is an art form which involves growing miniature trees in containers or pots. “Anything with a small leaf you can turn into a bonsai,” says Anderson, who cites garden juniper, boxwood, rose, elm, maple, redwood, oak and pomegranate as examples. “You can pretty much pick any tree from the nursery, unless it’s fruiting or flowering.”

What makes bonsai different from other trees is that they are cultivated to mimic the shape and style of fully grown trees, as they appear in nature, only miniature in size.

“You change the way a plant thinks when you put it in a pot,” explains Anderson. “If you were to take any of these trees out of their pots and plant it in the ground, it would grow into a full-size tree.”

To keep the bonsai between roughly eight inches and four feet tall, several cultivation techniques are used, including pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation and grafting. In many cases, wire or coil is used to weigh down the limbs of the bonsai to make them appear outstretched and mature.

Anderson finds the whole process of caring for bonsai to be therapeutic. “People get involved in bonsai for all sorts of reasons, like health and relaxation,” he says, adding that Buddhist monks once carried bonsai as part of meditation. “I’ve got a high stress job, but within two to three minutes of working on bonsai, I’m relaxed.”

Those interested in learning more about bonsai can join the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai Club, which just hosted its 25th annual show at the Museum of Art & History on March 23-24. The club holds general meetings on the third Saturday of every month at Live Oak Grange, and members-only workshops are held on the second Wednesday of every month at Aptos Grange. Membership is $35 per year.

“Anybody can do it, you just need training,” Anderson says of bonsai. “It’s living art.” | Jenna Brogan

For more information about bonsai and to join the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai Club, visit gsbf-bonsai.org/santacruzbonsaikai/ or the group’s Facebook page. Call Ron Anderson for details, (877) 610-9038.

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