March 08: Design, living and trends for home and garden

March 08: Design, living and trends for home and garden

The grate war

Going into outdoor cooking season, we all labor under the following maxim: Grilling is great. Cleaning is not. However, if you want to keep grilling, you’ve got to keep cleaning. Damn logic.

Most hardware stores will recommend good old barbecue cleaner, steel wool (sold by them) and elbow grease (provided by you), but there are ways to maximize your cleaning, if not make it an enjoyable experience.

Pull off those patties, wolf ’em down, then clean your grill before it cools off.

Instead of splashing on branded barbecue cleaners, substitute good old oven cleaner for less expense and the same results. If you’re feeling eco-conscious, try some SoyClean Non-Toxic BBQ Grill Cleaner ($8.99 for a spray bottle). Also replace a wire brush with a pumice grill stone to lift residue.

Cleaning your grill while it’s still warm is most effective, but pay attention if you’re using toxic products, as they react differently to heat and produce nasty fumes. Similarly, never spray conditioning cooking oil on warm grates or you’ll lose your eyebrows.

Deep cleaning options include putting grates in the oven and setting it to self-clean, putting porcelain and favorizer grates in the dishwasher, smothering grates in ammonia or oven cleaner and leaving in a trash bag for 24 hours, or soaking in warm malt vinegar. (All the above methods to be followed by a good scrub.) Some optimists suggest that all you need is rubber gloves and half an orange, but frankly, I think they’re lying.—Lily Robertson

Heavy metal man

You probably don’t often think of steel as being “subtle” and “pretty” or “tactile” and “soft,” but those are words that Charles Danley uses to describe the material that makes up his livelihood. And stunning is how we’d describe what Danley is able to do with the cold hard stuff. With the technique of a shipbuilder and the eye of a designer, Danley has quite a way with a welding tool.

Charles Danley’s skill with a
welder was forged in the
factories of New Jersey; now he crafts staircases and other elements in local homes.

From his Nelson County-based fabricating shop, Danley’s worked for local architects to create the sleek and modern staircases and railings at such hip hot spots as the X Lounge and Rapture, as well as daintier detailed metal work on residential fireplaces and even light fixtures. Danley started learning his trade as a pipe fitter at the original Campbell’s soup factory in Camden, New Jersey, where real former shipbuilders and “old school craftsman” became his mentors, he says.

After the factory closed, Danley moved to Virginia and started doing hardcore industrial fabricating work before local architects recognized his genius and tapped him for more designerly installations. “They asked me to do things with the material that I’d never done in the industrial setting,” says the metal man, “but it was a natural segue.” A segue to heaven, in our book! You can reach Danley at 906-2019.—Katherine Ludwig


Tracey Crehan Gerlach

This month’s surfer:
Tracey Crehan Gerlach, local gardening blogger and garden coach
What’s on her browser:

What it is:
A wide-ranging garden site that includes a blog and reader forums, with a self-professed emphasis on style and humor in addition to straight-up plant talk.

Why she likes it:
Gerlach (who maintains her own blog at appreciates that YGG offers “lots of info on small-scale gardening, with an accessible DIY vibe and a nod to the new, thrifty gardener.” She adds, “Check out the YGG forums, where eager green thumbs swap ideas (and victories). YGG gets me to rethink gardening and inspires me to experiment more—in my own gardens.”

Smart money

Whether you’re a young couple just starting out, a retiree just checking in, or somewhere in between, it’s always wise to up your financial savvy. Enter the free education series in financial literacy offered by the UVA Community Credit Union, which has your needs, questions and potential pecuniary quagmires covered. Open to all, non-credit union members included, the seminars take place at Credit Union branches and cover subjects from balancing checkbooks to buying a car to investing for beginners. The show also goes on the road to high schools, conference centers and even kindergartens (it’s never too early to start saving!).

Aaron Paula Thompson has been the charming and amiable manager of this program for four and a half years. She also teaches, along with departmental experts from within the credit union. According to Thompson, Charlottesvillians’ most pressing money concerns are budgeting, maintaining financial records, and—more recently—switching mortgages.

The program’s newest lesson, developed in conjunction with other local organizations, aims to keep people informed about cyber security and identity theft (next seminar: March 25 at the Berkmar branch, 5:30-7pm). Check out the website for advice on protecting yourself online, and find other upcoming seminars at—L.R.

Industrial revolution

If you want our opinion, when it comes to the lighting options found in your average big-box home improvement store, some of the best-looking fixtures are also the least expensive. Those would be the plain, industrial-style numbers whose simple forms will look right at home in any house with a modern—or midcentury retro —flair. (That probably doesn’t include those of you living in houses with turrets.) These three fixtures were among the cheapest in their categories at Lowe’s: $18.98, $19.88 and a budget-friendly $3.48! Get in that assembly line, people! (You did want our opinion, didn’t you?)—Erika Howsare


“When you open the door and see a room for the first time, your breath should be taken away. You should not be able to identify particular pieces of furniture or art; the room should be art in itself.”
—Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, designer and author of Emotional Rooms