Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Made In The Shade!

In the arid, perpetually sunny Southern California Desert, shade is valued, and since we lack the shade trees of the East, we are dependent on shade structures or sun umbrellas to provide protection from the damaging rays of the sun. Umbrellas are a feature found in the backyards of most homes in Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage, and come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Buying the right umbrella is important- the better the umbrella that you select, the more likely you are to enjoy your time spent outdoors enjoying the shade. Here are some tips from William Miller, Interior Designer, for selecting an sun umbrella that can be enjoyed in any backyard:

Be sure that the size of the umbrella that you select suits the location as well as its use. If you are replacing an umbrella for a dining table, be sure that the umbrella is larger than the table, and that the base will work with your table as well. If you are purchasing an entire patio set, make sure that you have measured the space and that there is enough room for the chairs and the table. You should also make sure that the umbrella will clear any landscaping when open.

Think about how you will use your umbrella. You may not want to purchase a table and umbrella set if you have no interest in eating outdoors. If you primarily want to use your umbrella while sunbathing, select an umbrella that is portable- you can always stand it next to a patio table if you need to.

In Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Desert, wind is always a consideration when buying an umbrella. We have high winds often- just because it is a sunny day, doesn’t mean that it won’t be windy. Think about buying an umbrella that has double layers or wind vents- which help gusts to move through the umbrella without turning it inside out and propelling it into your neighbor’s Mercedes.

Be sure that the base that you purchase is weighted. Some bases are made with heavy cast metal that stay in place in high winds; others may be filled with sand or water, or placed directly into concrete. Be sure that the base can support your umbrella and also has enough weight to keep it in place- nothing ruins a nice outdoor dinner party more than the whole table getting blown into the swimming pool!

If you are in the desert, make sure that the umbrella is covered with a material that has a porous weave- if it is treated with vinyl or another less porous material, it may trap heat and make being under it as miserable as if you were in the sun. You may want to consider a water-resistant material for your umbrella if you live in a more temperate zone, although it does not rain often in Rancho Mirage or Palm Desert. If the umbrella will be in rain often, make sure that it is a mildew resistant material. In the desert, you’ll want to keep it out of the sun if you aren’t using it all of the time, or else you will need to replace it every few years because of dry rot- fancy fringes are particularly prone to the ravages of the sun.

Choose colors for your umbrella that will help keep you cool. Keep in mind that light pastels, neutral colors, and white will all reflect much of the sun’s ray’s, keeping you cool. However, darker colors will absorb the heat, in effect baking you under the umbrella.

My favorite pick is the solar umbrella. This great gadget has a solar panel on the top of the umbrella which charges LED lights on the underside of the umbrella’s ribs. If provides lighting for up to 8 hours. It’s a great alternative to stringing those paper lanterns under your umbrella (you know, the ones that get tangled up every time the wind blows or you try to open or close the umbrella). I’ve found several that are priced from $150- $599 on Nextag comparison shopping website. My other favorites are supplied by WW & Co. Their Flamenco Umbrella (pictured) looks as if it could be worn for a Halloween costume, but brings the same amount of fun to your patio. If the Flamenco is not to your liking, check out their Lattice (also pictured).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Living Accents For Your Home

With summer upon us especially in the arid low desert regions of Palm Desert, Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, Interior design turns to innovative solutions to cope with the heat. This would include indoor arrangements to replace cut flowers which are more difficult to grow and find in the summer.

Mini succulent arrangements are a favorite solution at William Miller Design. These attractive and unique “mini landscapes” can provide a wonderful look for a centerpiece or coffee table arrangement. Taller arrangements are great on a kitchen or bathroom counter.

What is a succulent?

A succulent is a cactus or any other plant that stores water in its stems or leaves. In the course of developing such special talents, these plants have evolved a special kind of gardening -- one filled with unique and wonderful shapes, colors, and textures. Use tall arrangements as a focal point in a room. With tall vases, match the plant material with the height of the container. So when arranging, establish the height first with the plants and then place shorter plants in front.

One very useful and somewhat spectacular euphorbia for adding height is the red and green trigona. In the garden it grows fairly quickly to about six feet tall and is one of the more interesting tall, stiff background plants—invaluable for very large arrangements. Sansevieria leaves are also good for height. They come in several forms and color patterns.

Succulents give you added flexibility. You can rip off leaves that don't "work," making the plant any size you want. Use as many plants as you can; if you don't like your arrangement, just keep going. It will get better.

Use tall arrangements as a focal point in a room. With tall vases, match the plant material with the height of the container. So when arranging, establish the height first with the plants and then place shorter plants in front.

Advantages of succulent arrangements:

• Low maintenance succulents can maintain their form and color for four weeks with no need for watering- adverse conditions often bring our most vibrant colors in these special plants.
• Organic and non-allergenic many varieties will not prick or otherwise irritate your skin when touched.
• Uniqueness- The shapes, texture, and colors are unique and interesting ,they will have everyone wondering if they are real.
• A renewable resource Rather than discard the arrangements. These plants can be planted and grown outdoors.
• Economy Because succulents have to be replaced only once a month, they are less expensive than cut flowers.

Forget about watering these arrangements and you'll be fine! These fleshy-leaved plants hold moisture in their stems, roots or leaves (immersion in water will cause the stems to rot). So add drama and interest to your interior with easy to maintain succulent arrangements.
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