May ABODE: The Scene


Kim Speer, columnist and University of Virginia construction manager (Photo by Cramer Photo)


Hot pot
“Five years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to cook. Once I got cooking, I really wanted a Le Creuset Dutch oven pot, but I just couldn’t splurge that much so my parents surprised me with it as a gift. I just love it…I think it’s a beautiful blue color, and I love cooking with it. Nothing bad ever comes out of my Dutch oven pot—it’s always good slow cooking. There’s a lot of good memories associated with it, like cooking meals for me and my significant other and dinner parties and chili cook-offs, so it’s definitely my treasured item.”


Green light for green thumbs
Many folks have heard about the benefits of planting native species at home—they’re easier to care for, they create habitat for native wildlife, and they help filter stormwater runoff, improving the environment all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. But what if you’re having trouble choosing species to plant, or aren’t sure how to group them? You’re in luck. The Plant More Plants campaign offers many resources for would-be native plant gardeners, including free landscape plans.

The campaign, offered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, is your official encouragement to add native plants to your garden or yard. Check out for an array of resources: nurseries, landscapers, designers, and free plans for rain gardens that will fit different types of spots. Local businesses listed on the site include From Seed Design, Natural Design Concepts, and Meadows Farms Nursery. Download tip sheets on topics like mulching and fertilizing.

You can even take an online pledge to add more plants, concentrate on natives rather than invasives, and minimize the impact of fertilizers. Bottom line? More plants, happier planet.—Erika Howsare

To market, to market
In early May, the Piedmont Environmental Council will publish its annual Buy Fresh Buy Local guide, which tells you everything you need to know to eat local: who the farmers are and where to buy their products. Here’s a sneak preview—a listing of this season’s farmers’ markets. The big one is City Market, which runs Downtown every Saturday morning from 7am to noon. But there are many others. See for location details, and get your basket ready…—E.H.

Crozet Farmers Market
Saturdays 8am-noon

Earlysville Farmers Market
Thursdays 4-7pm

Farmers in the Park (Meade Park)
Wednesdays 3-7pm

Forest Lakes Farmers Market
Tuesdays 4-7 pm

The Market at Pen Park
Tuesdays 3-7pm

Scottsville Farmers Market
Saturdays 8:30am-12:30pm

Crofton Plaza Farmers Market, Palmyra
Saturdays 9am-noon

Fluvanna Farmers Market, Palmyra
Tuesdays 2-6pm

Greene County Farmers Market
Saturdays 8-11am
(Begins June 16)

Mineral Farmers Market
Saturdays 8am-1pm

Zion Crossroads Farmers Market and Flea Market
Fridays 11am-5pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9am-5pm

Nelson Farmers Market, Nellysford
Saturdays 8am-noon

Eastern Orange Farmers Market, Locust Grove
Sundays 10am-3pm

Orange County Farmers and Artisans Market, Orange
Saturdays 7am-1pm

How the pros go eco

On May 15, the Better Business Challenge, a local contest designed to help area businesses incorporate sustainability into their everyday operations, will be complete. Judging by the energy-efficient measures some participants have taken, competition is going to be tight—perhaps as tight as Alloy Workshop’s building envelope.

Alloy, a design and construction studio, recently moved its offices to an older yet retrofit-worthy space on Rose Hill Drive. To make the space more sustainable, the studio installed spray-foam insulation in the wall cavity to cut down on air leakage. As part of the challenge, they also installed solar tubes, which are similar to skylights, to capture and redistribute daylight throughout the interior, including the bathroom. “It’s so bright in there that it’s almost like being outside,” said intern architect Michael DeMonaco.

Meanwhile, Challenge participant Carpet Plus on Allied Street has switched to LED lighting and single stream recycling—tactics that any homeowner can implement. One employee who practices the waste-not-want-not eco-mantra even takes his coworkers’ food scraps home for compost, said Carpet Plus co-owner Cindy Adams. Inside the showroom, Carpet Plus has also applied American Clay, a nontoxic, mold-resistant natural plaster to their walls to increase indoor air quality, which serves as a model for their homeowner customers.

Over at Natural Earth Laundry, an eco-friendly wash and fold laundry service on Allied Lane, owner Jeremy DiMaio said his team is now using map routing software to maximize the fuel efficiency of its pick-up and delivery vans. While they have always used high-efficiency washer and dryers, they have further modified the settings so that the entire wash cycle now typically uses just 10.7 gallons of water. “To put this in perspective, most home washing machines use 40-45 gallons,” he said.

Natural Earth Laundry also uses plant-based, hypoallergenic, pH neutral, and phosphate-free detergents—“no weird chemicals,” added DiMaio. Overall, Natural Earth Laundry has managed to reduce its non-recyclable waste output to just five pounds each week. Said DiMaio: “If we can figure out how to re-purpose dryer lint, that number would decrease even more!”—Jennifer Pullinger

The 2012 Design House is big enough to showcase the talents of a few dozen local designers and artists. (Photo courtesy Design House)

Inside the Design House
In mid-April, a preview of the annual Design House—the event is now in its third year—showed off an impressive work-in-progress. Each spring, the Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE), which supports victims of domestic violence, invites interior designers to apply their talents to a local house—with each designer transforming one room—then opens the home for tours. (ABODE is a sponsor of this year’s event.)

By May 5, when the Design House opens to the public, the property will be a showcase for local design and art. Designers from 20 different studios have tackled everything from re-tiling a powder room, to furnishing a baby nursery, to redoing kitchen cabinets and landscaping. “It’s become more of an art event,” said publicist Sandra Gallaudet, showing off a gallery to be hung with local works curated by MUSES Art for Living. “There’s no other event in town that brings all these people together.”

“This felt almost like an artist loft, like in Paris,” said local designer Cathy Cassety in the room she designed. It’s on the second floor of the property’s two-bedroom guest house, and it features a sloping ceiling and large windows overlooking a lake. Cassety has reimagined it as an artist’s studio, and local painter Meg West will show some of her landscapes as an integrated part of Cassety’s design. “I chose neutral colors so the paintings can stand out,” said Cassety. Besides a reading chair and a couch, there will be an easel with a half-finished canvas.

The house is a sprawling one with numerous large windows, ample indoor and outdoor space, and a prime spot overlooking a lake. But even those of us with more modest houses should find plenty of inspiration (not to mention eye candy). You can tour the 2012 Design House, located in Ivy Farms, May 5-20. See for more!—Erika Howsare

That’s the number of plants started in the greenhouse (including 12 different tomato varieties!) at the Local Food Hub’s educational farm in Scottsville. Why care? Because you can choose which ones you want to adopt at the Hub’s plant sale on May 5, 10am-3pm. Find out more at

(Photo by John Robinson)

This month’s artisan: Lotta Helleberg
Can a wall hanging connect you to the natural surroundings outside your door? Yes, rather directly—if it’s made by textile artist Lotta Helleberg. Using naturally dyed fabric and paper, her work “focuses on documenting nature in our immediate surroundings.” Local plants make her fabric dyes and also become plates for printing directly onto surfaces.

See Helleberg’s work—art quilts, textile collages, and other objects—at Chroma Projects, The Barn Swallow, or O’Suzannah, or Learn more at or email her at—Erika Howsare

Describe the style of your work in five words or less.
Nature-inspired, elegant simplicity.

Briefly, how did you become a textile artist?
As a graphic designer by profession, an avid gardener, and a sewer from an early age (inspired by my mother, who is an expert seamstress), my true passions are coming together in my current work. I have always loved natural materials, such as linen, silk, and handmade papers. I am also inspired by the historic aspect of patchwork and hand sewing and its role in our artistic heritage, here in the U.S. as well as in Scandinavia where I grew up.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve made in the last year?
The quilt Sumac Studies, which features sumac leaves eco-printed on silk and wool, appliqued onto hand-quilted natural linen. Eco-printing is a fascinating technique, where the leaves and plant materials are tightly bundled with the fabric and simmered in water. The plant releases color pigments, which adhere to the cloth. This quilt will be featured in a large international textile exhibit in Toronto, Canada later this year.

What’s an object you love in your home that you did not make?
We have a painting in our dining room by the late Robert Barbee, called The Fishermen, that I adore. Mr. Barbee was a renowned art professor at UVA for many years, and a wonderful contemporary artist.

(Photo by Ed Warwick)

Tie one on
When it comes to design, I love to find new ways to repurpose, reuse, and reinvent what I already have. With the price of gasoline, shopping within our house provides a fun and affordable alternative. Growing up with a family in menswear, I have an unhealthy overabundance of ties, and despite being well-outfitted for my 9 to 5, I set out to find ways to thin out the rack and spruce up our abode.

Wire wreath form
Safety pins
Assorted neckties
This project couldn’t be easier. Starting with the narrow end of your tie, wrap it tightly around the wreath form until you come to the larger end of your tie. With the point facing up, secure the back of your tie to itself, holding the wrapped tie in place. Repeat until your wreath form is covered. Finish it off by tying a bow with an extra tie, or attach a bowtie. If you change your mind, the ties can be easily removed, replaced, or even worn again.

Don’t need a wreath? Neckties make fun and affordable curtain tie backs. Wrap them around throw pillows for an extra pop of color, or sew them into a one-of-a kind holiday tree skirt. In colors and patterns that match every décor, you can put those Father’s Day/graduation gifts to new use. Ladies, don’t feel left out: Peruse your father’s tie collection for inspiration, or pick them up for about a buck apiece at a local thrift store.—Ed Warwick


(File Photo)

Color in a can
Spray paint is one of those mediums that, depending on one’s technique, can result in a fantastic mess. But, if used correctly, this brushless stuff can be a quick and inexpensive way to reinvigorate countless surfaces and items.

1. Know thy surface. Determine what material you will be applying the paint to. If it’s glossy, sand it (220-300 grit will do); otherwise the paint won’t adhere. Is it plastic? If so, you’ll need a spray primer specifically made for plastics. Is it rusty metal or flaking paint? You’ll need to take care of the chunky stuff by scraping and sanding it.

2. Just clean it. Windex, rubbing alcohol or sometimes just a dust cloth all ensure that the paint sticks to the goods and not to the gunk.

3. Duck and cover. You will be painting outside (yes, you will) but you’ll still need to mask off anything within 15-20′ of your project, as spray paint travels. Drop cloths, bed sheets, tape—all of these will save you from explaining to your neighbors why their Volvo has pink speckles.

4. Go ninja. Put on a mask (look for one specifically made for paint particles) and some protective glasses. Disposable gloves are a good idea, as well. Do some deep squats and arm circles to stretch for the main event.

5. Prime time. The primer you use will depend on what you’ve determined your surface to be and what your final paint color choice is. For example, if you’re painting your iron patio set black, use a rust-resistant, red-toned primer. If it’s a plastic planter, use a plastic primer (they usually come in either white or clear). If you’re going pastel with your rocking chair, hit it with some grey-toned primer.

*Now, if you read nothing else about spray paint, read this! Whenever you are painting with spray paint (primer or final color), always start and end the stream of paint off of your item. Hold the can 6-8" from the surface to be painted. Just off a few inches to the right, let’s say, depress the nozzle. Continue even pressure and distance as you give a light coat across the surface of your item, moving right to left. Continue depressing the nozzle until you are off of the left side of your item by at least a few inches and release pressure. And remember, just like in questionable weather, several light layers are better than one heavy one.

6. Object to objet. After following the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the dry time for the primer, you are ready for the final stage. Using the above technique, apply several light coats of paint, waiting a few minutes between coats. Once the item has even coverage and is off-gassing like crazy, leave it alone. Don’t try to take off masking tape, rotate the item or even remove drop cloths. Seriously, just leave it be for at least six hours (depending on the type of paint you are using), 24 if you can stand it. Once the paint has fully cured, you can hug your new purple lamp.

Please note that only completely empty spray cans are acceptable for recycling.—Christy Baker

Space cadet
This month I’ll share a chapter out of my personal eco-journal. Here are space-saving green ideas we’re looking to include in our space-challenged Belvedere townhome.

I begin by observing my surroundings with a keen and creative eye. Do we have extra wall space for vertical gardening, some front yard space, or deck space? Yes to all three. Going vertical, rotating crops by season, and pairing crops with long and short growing times (like quick-growing radishes between your tomato plants) can all save space. We decide on a salsa garden and herbs. Rather than starting from seeds (we’d get them locally through Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), we’ll tap the local farmers at Saturday’s market.

As for containers: a combo of pots, a 6’x3’ box elevated container, and vertical gardening sound wonderful, but could be pricey. A couple D.I.Y. weekends could be fun and save money. Local business Nature Neutral has EnviroSafe Plus treated lumber.

Small-scale composting pairs well with our small-scale garden plan. My friend, Michelle, swears by a small indoor composter made by Nature’s Mill; it runs on electricity but costs only about 50 cents per month to operate. We’ll compost most, not all, food scraps and add shredded newspapers and old bills. This will compost two gallons a week. If I generate too much, I’m sure my homeowning neighbors would enjoy the fruits of my labor (and there’s always freecycle or Craigslist).

Energy savings
Finally on to clothes drying. outlines my options: a retractable clothesline (could work in my son’s bathroom), wall-mounted drying rack (hmm), ceiling-mounted (not so much), light-weight portable umbrella clothesline (I like it!). Let the fun begin.

Check out Better World Betty’s green living resource list at and blog at

The Latin word for “eye” also serves as a term for any circular window. As in the Pantheon in Rome, oculus may refer to a circular window at the top of a rotunda or dome. There’s one in our own local rotunda at Mr. Jefferson’s university, and there are oculi in humbler buildings, too—including the yurts that we’re featuring in this month’s issue.


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