Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Month: February, 2010

Fantastic Flooring Alternative

I happen to love hardwood floors. Real, honest to goodness hardwood floors. Bamboo is certainly more eco-friendly and it does look nice but I’m a traditionalist. I do however, enjoy the feel of carpet on my bare feet in my bedroom and I do make generous use of area rugs. I happen to spend a lot of time on the floor with my kids–both human and canine–so a nice soft carpet is a must for me.

I have hardwoods in the common areas of my condo and wall to wall carpet in the bedrooms. Which I kind of like. However, as I just mentioned , I have both human and canine children and that does NOT make for nice clean carpets.   And although I could have bought several homes for what I have spent on carpet cleaning/stain dissolving/miracle cure products–not to mention that fact that I OWN my own steam cleaner, sometimes, you just can’t ever get back to the like-new condition we all would prefer.

I’ve considered replacing the carpet with hardwoods but my heart isn’t really in it enough to justify the investment and I’ve also considered just replacing it with new more traffic and child friendly carpet (the carpet I have is a taupe colored medium nap that was here when I moved in).  When it comes down to it, I just get my existing carpet steam cleaned and put off making a decision. The fact is, the things that made my existing carpet less than ideal are still present so to replace it when I already know whats going to happen seems sort of, well, dumb.

Now there may be another option. Flor tiles. Heard of them?  They are carpet tiles that you can install AND design yourself. Now, what I am talking about is not suitable for your million dollar home’s formal living room. But, its a GREAT idea for high traffic areas, basements, playrooms and for some of us, any of the rooms that we know are used heavily (and lovingly) by us and our family members.  Check out the Flor website , I’m not talking about some plain boring carpets that all look alike, you can choose your color, the softness, the texture, how deep the nap–all the way to shaggy! And, you can DESIGN a carpet, yes that’s right, they will help you decide how to blend different colors or styles depending on the look you are going for and the purpose you want it to serve. You can get the same carpet padding you would have with traditional wall-to-wall and you cut the tiles to fit just as precisely.

Here’s the kicker. If you spill something, your kid forgets that paints go from brush to PAPER, your dog has a one time accident (wink, wink) or in their revelry one evening, a house guest spills a glass of wine on the carpet–you just pick up that tile and replace it!! Seamlessly!! No products involved! No scrubbing! I’m more relaxed just thinking about it.   My cousin recently took the plunge and she loves it, she made a taupe and black design in her living room that looks super stylish and sleek and she did it herself in one day. You would never know its not wall-to-wall.

So, consider this an alternative if you want carpet but don’t want the commitment or are just looking for something less expensive. Remember, its also a great way to add some softness to kids’ rooms and playrooms without having to curtail the fun stuff that happens in those places for fear of ruining the carpeting.

Things to do the last week of February 2010

Can you believe its almost March? As in Spring?  I love Chicago and I don’t mind the winters so much but I always have a hard time when Spring is supposed to be around the corner and all I see is cold, wet dirty snow and mud and overcast skies. Ah well, the good news is, when its dark you don’t notice so much!

And, at this time of year, its dark at dinner time and that is the perfect segue into the first thing you should be doing this last week in February. Its Restaurant Week! Most places have specials and its a great excuse to get out and try somewhere new.  Boka restaurant group is offering a three course meal for $32 at any of their restaurants:

BOKA/1729 N. Halsted, 312-337-6070

Perennial/1800 N. Lincoln, 312-981-7070

Landmark/1633 N. Halsted, 312-587-1600

And, this coming weekend, Feb 27 & 28th at McCormick Place the IKC is hosting their annual dog show.  Kids under 12 get in free and tickets are $17.  Checkout their website for a coupon for $2 off admission. Bring your family and walk around where you wont know its cold and yucky out, take the opportunity to teach your children how to be respectful and kind towards animals (if you don’t have your own pet) and stay for one of the non-show events.  It can be a powerful thing for people of all ages to see humans and dogs interacting and working together the way well honed teams do. There are agility and obedience exhibitions and other wonderful opportunities to take advantage of all dogs have to offer without having to take one home.

“Green” AND cozy, now that’s a winning combination

GREEN building, design and processes are all the rage these days. And that’s a good thing.  Often times it comes in a contemporary or ultra modern package, which for me, isn’t ideal.  I’m more of a traditional, conservative, cozy kind of gal. And nothing says cozy like a roaring fire–a real fire, not a gas fire.  Not that I have anything against a gas starter, that’s a huge bonus but I love the crackle and smell of real wood burning in the fireplace.

I pay almost $400 for wood each season and extra to have them carry it up and stack it on my second floor porch. That’s not cheap.  It takes a lot of space and of course, effort to carry it in, arrange the logs, adding and adjusting as appropriate. A fantastic alternative are the fabricated logs available in most hardware stores.  The big name and the one I have known and used since childood is Duraflame and they work great.  Real fire that lasts for hours and requires no tending. However, I recently discovered a competitor of theirs, Enviro-Log.

Enviro-Log® is an eco-friendly, consumer products and recycling company, the largest waxed cardboard recycler, and the third largest producer of manufactured firelogs in the U.S.  Its firelogs are made of 100 percent recycled materials and burn cleaner than wood while generating 50 percent more heat.  The company uses its recycled waxed cardboard to manufacture its earth-friendly firelogs that burn cleaner and more efficiently than firewood, while offering more uses than competitive wax-sawdust firelogs.  Currently, Enviro-Log firelogs are the only manufactured firelog tested safe for use in woodstoves, fireplaces, chimineas, campfires and outdoor tailgating and cookout events.

In 2009, Enviro-Log was recognized by the state of Georgia as a Manufacturer of the Year nominee during the state’s Manufacturing Appreciation Week.  Enviro-Log is also a partner in the Partnership For A Sustainable Georgia, which recognizes exemplary environmental leaders that have made significant progress in moving towards sustainability including volunteering in community outreach activities, serving as a mentor to other organizations, sustaining natural resources, and minimizing its environmental footprint.

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace that can support real wood fires, but aren’t really into all the work, consider giving these a try, you might be surprised how much you like it!!

Luxury–redefined by the times, well, sort of.

A friend recently came to Chicago to visit and stayed in a suite at the Trump hotel.  It was only one bedroom and one and a half baths (and full kitchen) but everything was designed in such grand scale, I think it was bigger than my three bedroom condo. Not to mention the bottled water that was adorned with real Swarovski crystals.  I like the decor, although some of the retro styling I think will end up looking just old not too long from now. But, whatever you think of the style or excess, it was definitely a bit of a shock to my system. I’ve been so enmeshed in a market and mind-set of scaling back, rethinking our spending and looking for bargains, I almost forgot that there is still a strong and thriving market (of non-celebrity types) for luxury…well, luxury anything. Cars, h0mes, hotels etc.

There was also a recent article in Chicago Social (CS) discussing the trend in luxury rental buildings.  People still want luxury but many don’t want to make a commitment to it. I think the recent volatility and struggles n the economy have people a little nervous. If our major financial institutions and bastions of Wall Street can fail after decades and decades of success, perhaps we cant count on the sustained upward mobility  we are used to taking for granted. A rental allows for much more flexibility and easy adjustment should our lives change dramatically and perhaps unexpectedly.

Overall, I think its going to be a good thing for us as a city and culture. There has been a stigma to renting that has been building over the years, especially when buying a home became so accessible and easy for so many people. I think that stigma will start to go away when a percentage of our more wealthy citizens are choosing the rental option over buying.

Bottom line, there are still plenty of people doing very, very well even in this economy. Generally speaking, most people still want to feel luxurious if they can, and as a society we are demanding more–more efficient technology, more focus on conservation and Green building and energy techniques, better service and more flexibility. Its a stretch but I’m going to go ahead and say that this is a step in the right direction for all of us–a step towards shedding the old “box” of the American dream and recreating a new one, designed by the times and the many generations that are shaping our society today.

Pastry Event–This Saturday Feb 13th!


Get your taste buds ready on Saturday, February 13. Join in the culinary fun at Logan Square Kitchen Pastry Market at 10am. This delicious one-day-only event will give attendees a taste of the underground, small batch, sustainable pastry, cake, ice cream and handmade confections scene in the Logan Square Area. Eat on the spot or take home!

The Logan Square Kitchen is located at 2333 N. Milwaukee Ave. Call (773) 342-2333 for more event details.