More ways Design is Fighting Obesity

Child-on-StairsHello again!  Last post (March 31, 2013), we described some ways design is helping to battle obesity problems in our society. Here are  a few more:

* We are beginning to see traditional school chairs with attached desks set up in rows being avoided for a more open space environment. The idea is to encourage movement within the classroom. There are stand-up tables, beanbag chairs, and WittFitt yoga balls with udders that prevent rolling. Furniture that stacks & rolls not only allows students to move around, but also permits others to configure space as they wish.

* Shower and locker facilities need to be safer to encourage exercise rooms; bike storage areas also need be more safe. Often these areas have been tucked in dark corners. N ow, they are beginning to be more exposed. For instance, in a multi-family residence, you may find a gym for adults with a glass wall separating it from a play area for children. The kids feel secure that the parents are watching them, and the parents feel secure seeing their children, so they tend to spend more time in the gym.

“The goal of active design is not to make exercise more convenient for those who already do it, but to increase everyone’s activity level. ” Many thanks to ICON (ASID, American Society of Interior Designers) Magazine, Spring/13.

Sharon Breay, ASID, Principal of Breay Design Associates is a certified, awarded, and popular designer, speaker, workshop facilitator, and author on design issues. She has been in the field for 24 years; starting Breay Design Associates in 2002. Contact her at

L.E.D.’s are Improving–

People I’ve talked with that tried the new LED (light emitting diodes) light “bulbs” have disliked them. This new way of producing light for our homes and offices uses MUCH less energy to produce light than any other artificial light source so far. (The sun, not an artificial light source, is obviously the brightest light.) We’ve been able to retrofit our recessed can light fixtures, and our exterior light fixtures with LED lightiing. We’ve purchased pucks to use as undercabinet task lighting. ……And we just haven’t liked any of them.

 The LED light is glaringly blu-ish, reminiscent of yesteryear’s fluorescent bulbs, before technology discovered how to build a full spectrum, color corrected fluorescent. People prefer a warmer looking light for their homes; it “seems” more relaxing and cozier. This is part of our psychology, because back in our cave-inhabiting days, the cave fire-pit gave us warmth and protection. The cave fire-pit light was warm colored. We associate feelings of comfort and security with warm colored light.

But LED’s, unlike fluorescents, aren’t lit by a gaseous arc to spark a light within the bulb. In fact, there is no actual “bulb” to an LED.Scientists have discovered that by combining the black body radiation curve, which relates light wavelength to light intensity within an incandescent bulb, with a  logarithmically-based dimming technique, and then correcting for temperature variation, a light is produced  in LEDs with the color between amber and white, much like the warm colored incandescent bulbs we are so accustomed to. And the extreme energy efficiency still exists. 

Now this is more like it! By people expressing their dislike of a product, it is being improved, and soon we may all like the looks of LED lighting!

Sharon Breay, A.S.I.D., is a certified, awarded, and widely recognized interior designer and yard-garden designer. She works with clientele at Breay Design, speaks frequently on the subject of design, and has authored several booklets on the subject of design. To contact Sharon directly, hit the Contact Us left button on her website (

What to do when you’re out of money and wish to decorate for the holidays—

     Well, you’ve spent money on gifts for others, and now have little to nothing left for making your own home festive and enjoyable? That’s OK; you have thought of others—and very little money is needed for a lovely holiday atmosphere. Here are a few ideas:  For the holiday tree, whether it be an evergreen, a large houseplant, or a group of twisted branches, ALL can be made to look festive with lights. If you can only buy one item for holiday decorating, buy clear/white  holiday lights. The rest will be fairly simple. Here is a “budget” holiday tree decorated with nothing but ribbon. (By the way, both lights and ribbon can be purchased at a fraction of the cost in January. ) You could also use foil icicles instead of the ribbon, letting each hang from the tree branches; this is stunning and less costly than even the ribbon.

Now find anything and about every household accessory that you have in a warm color, or colors, like yellow, orange, red. Make groupings of them, as mentioned in the last blog. Groupings of candles in warm colors or in white are always effective, particularly if you’ve gathered some evergreen boughs or wild holly and/or pinecones to place with them. Gather many of those natural materials, because you can stick them in vases, baskets, and strewn across the dining table.

 If one item of a grouping isn’t tall enough, perhaps you can stand it on top of another. In this photo, you’ll notice that the green candle was placed atop a simple kitchen juice glass to make it taller. Since several pieces in the grouping were clear glass, it fits right in.

We know at Breay Design that your home and surroundings need to fit you like a favorite shoe, both in personality and budget. Ask yourself, “Does the Shoe….FIT? ” If not, contact us; we can help you save money, AND have a great looking area, that is uniquely YOU. Sharon Breay is a certified, awarded, and popular designer, speaker and author on design. She can work with people electronically or in person to create spectacular improvements with you for your home and surroundings.                                                                                    



Fall and Winter Landscapes

If you haven’t done it yet, this is the time to fertilize and aerate your lawn; you’ll be rewarded in the spring! And getting those overgrown and/or diseased and dead trees trimmed now prevents the winter winds and heavy snows from breaking branches, possibly on your house.

But I don’t advise you to cut down all of the dead things in your garden. Winter can be a lovely time to view your garden with dried grasses standing and interesting seed pods, like those of the coneflower/echinecia which turn bold and black. Branches of redtwig dogwood add color, while evergreens and the many gray greens of our western plants, both annuals and perennials, add interest and additional color. Unusal shapes or gnarled branches, such as Harry Lauders Walking Stick give variety. Plan your garden for a seasonal interest and variety of textures and sizes. Even a small yard with spruce or small pine, juniper or broom,  redtwig, gambrel oak, Karl Forester Grass, Pyracantha or Cotoneaster, Coneflower, etc. can be lovely to view in winter, particularly if you have proper landscape lighting, so you can enjoy it from within your home.

And it is NOT too late to plant those spring flowering bulbs; they can be planted through November in most states. If you have voles/moles, you may wish to plant the bulbs in a underground “bucket” made of hardware cloth so the bulbs don’t get eaten.

At Breay Design, we know that your environment must fit YOU like your favorite shoes fit. Ask yourself, “Does the shoe…FIT?” If not, contact us. Sharon is an awarded, certified designer, speaker, and author on design. Also join us for further interior and yard-garden tips at


Baby Furniture–

Are you familiar with ASTM (American Society for Testing Material)?  This is a good source to check for safety standards for cribs, crib mattresses, etc.. Textile materials are tested for harmful dyes and fire codes, and dangerous construction techniques may also be identified. There are warnings about the dangers of cribs that have a side that can be raised and lowered. Lead paint is another danger to avoid.

Other furniture to consider are storage items. A well planned storage area is a wonderful element for baby’s room. It keeps the area visually tidy and makes cleaning less time consuming.  You’ll need a changing table, as well. Add a clothes hamper, and diaper pail.

Although Baby is a bit young to learn computer usage, electronic items will help YOU. Consider an infant monitor, you will feel so much more secure knowing you can hear (and see) baby.  A CD player allows soft music for you both to enjoy during the night and at naptime. A night-light allows you to find your way through the room to check on baby at night without disturbing him/her.  And a lamp is always softer than an overhead light.

Careful planning of the nursery will save you time and energy. To get ideas for decorating it, refer to our previous blog posted March 30, 2012.

Remember, your spaces need to fit the user like a favorite shoe. Ask yourself, “DOES the shoe fit?” If you think you need some help, contact us. We’ve given hundreds of clients personalized solutions to their design dilemmas.

Is there a Baby Coming to Stay in Your Home?

Whether new parents, grandparents, or special relatives, preparing a room for a baby is lots of fun. You needn’t follow the flow of the entire home environment for this room! Even if this is not “the first” baby, and used furniture will be put in the room, you can still design the shell of the space like new.

Consider how old the baby will be before you wish to change the basic theme of the room. Little boys and big boys (up to 85 years of age) never tire of their wheeled toys! Traditional little girls rooms are in pink with lace and flowers. Disney characters work for either boys or girls, as can a 4-season approach. Use tackboards and shelves to display objects of the season.

Wallpapers offer a wide assortment of motifs, colors, and textures. Get non-toxic wallcoverings and paint, and use a material that is easy to clean off  things as crayon or pencil marks, scuffs, etc. Wall murals are always fun and give you all sorts of accompanying element ideas. Smaller than the murals are stencils and wall decals. Both can be applied to furniture as well for a fresh look.

Although natural light is good, there are times when light needs to be controlled. Beware of blinds with cords, as they are a safety hazard. If you simply use blinds, add a valance or side panel to soften the effect.

Carpeting is the more sound-absorbent floor covering, and will soften falls, but it can have dust mites. Wood is easier to clean up spills, but is a harder surface for falls. Area rugs can be used over either floor covering to brighten the floor.

Next blog, we’ll give some thought to furnishings for this “wee wone’s woom.”  Until then, remember, your spaces need to fit the user like a favorite shoe. Ask yourself, “Does the Shoe FIT?” If not, contact us, we have created hundreds of individually unique spaces to our clients’ delight.

Have you SWITCHED for the Holidays?

Tom and I just got back from SanAntonio. While there, we, of course, spent a lovely evening on the RiverWalk/Cruise again. We were a week too early to see the Holiday lights,but the gondola driver told us the city was installing three times the lights that they’ve had in the past.

Well, we all like festive lighting, but this certainly didn’t sound too environmentally based. ….Until he told us the entire lighting cost would only be a fraction of last years’ cost!  HOW?

They switched for the holidays! Today’s LED Holiday lights are reliable, fairly inexpensive and EXTREMELY economical to use. They will pay for themselves in a very short time, and continue to be economical to use for a long, long time, because they last much longer than any of our bulbs. Besides–there are no bulbs to break or go out.

L.E.D. stands for light emitting diodes; they are not bulbs at all, but produce a good white light (the current ones, not the earlier ones).

Although LEDs began being marketed about ten years ago, they were mainly used as novelty accent lighting for commercial buildings. As technology has progressed, LEDs are moving into offices and are just beginning to be seen in our homes. Recessed lighting seems to be the best interior method of handling LEDs at this point….in addition to strings  of light. They are the new lightinhg technology. Isnt it time to switch?

Remember your interior and exterior surroundings need to fit YOU like your favorite shoe fits you, in order to be functional and attractive. Ask yourself…..”Does the Shoe FIT?” If not, contact us; we are the experts in interior spaces and yard space. You’ll be glad you called or wrote us.

Exterior Task Lighting

Courtesty of OutdoorLighting Perspectives

Courtesty of OutdoorLighting Perspectives

Hi again!  This blog will continue discussing exterior lighting, focusing on the task lighting of our entries. In review, our yards need three layers of lighting:

1)      Ambient, low level general impression lighting

2)      Task lighting for where we perform tasks

3)      Accent lighting for areas of interest (the brightest area of lighting)

You may have a walk leading up to some steps at your entry. Perhaps a fixture with lights about eye level will be enough for both walkway and steps. The steps will need brighter lighting than the walk so no one trips on them. Therefore, put the light close to the steps, allowing the waning light from the fixture to glow down the walk. If you have a longer walk, you may need a lower, small auxiliary light further down the walk, being careful not to create monotony with too many of the same fixtures.

The steps consist of treads we walk on, and risers (at the back of the tread ) that take the treads to the next level. If we light the steps from below or with lighting that illuminates both tread and riser equally, we have a safety hazard. The user can be easily confused seeing both treads and risers as “one” plane because of the equal lighting on both, instead of 1 horizontal plane (tread) and one vertical plane (riser).But if we light the steps from above, the treads are lit and the risers are in shadow. This is a much safer method of lighting steps.

Now visualize the door. Consider putting a light right above the door or at the side of it. Having one light centered in a porch ceiling will give overall light, but you will be in your own shadow trying to unlock a door. If you have this situation, consider adding task lighting over the door or at it’s side.

Next blog, let’s discuss discuss designing for happiness.

See you then!—Sharon Breay

A Light in the Garden


compliments of OutdoorLights

compliments of OutdoorLights

Once there was a poem about a light in the garden. Is “a” light enough? Probably not. Exterior lighting needs to be planned as carefully as we plan our interiors and our architecture. So often when I am looking out the window of a home in evening, all I see are the reflections of the interior home staring back at me. I see none of the lovely grounds beyond!  If this sounds like your home, here are tips to rectify the problem.

Yards are to be enjoyed in the evening as well as in the day, and from the inside as well as from the outside. A little string of low voltage or LEDs, or solar lights usually won’t do the job—not because of the type of light, but because of the straight line of lighting fixtures. Too much of a good thing becomes too predictable—and ultimately, boring. Nor will a huge sensor light over the garage door create the feeling of peace and mystique that are so appealing in a night garden. Nor will lighting up the yard like a commercial parking lot be appreciated by viewers, particularly neighbors! 

By mixing lighting heights and intensities, and what the light illuminates, we can create an interesting, unobtrusive night scene that can be enjoyed both from inside and outside. Think about the spaces in your yard. You will do well to provide some ambient, low level lighting for general visibility, some task lighting at areas such as steps, and some accent lighting to focus on a favorite area of architecture, or lawn ornament, or shrub or tree. The task lighting should be about twice as bright as the ambient light, and the accent light, which will only shine on one element of focus, can be 15 times as bright as the ambient light, for real “punch.” 

Next blog, we’ll discuss some methods of lighting the entry. 

See you then!—Sharon Breay