With a background in hotel and retail design, Christine and John Gachot of New York’s Gachot Studios take a highly individual approach to their work. The user, not the style, comes first—which is never a bad strategy for private homes or hospitality projects like the Shinola Hotel in Detroit, which the firm completed in 2018. We asked Christine Gachot to share some insights:
RM: Opposites attract: what’s a favorite material pairing for you?
CG: We often play with contrasts in regard to setting rather than material. Our own Shelter Island, New York, weekend home is a 1920’s center hall colonial filled with contemporary and mid-century modern furniture: Charlotte Perriand library table, Alvar Aalto stools. Or think of an old Parisian apartment filled with the new pieces—it works every time. Historic architecture can act as a theatrical setting and a wonderful juxtaposition with more streamlined furniture.
In summer nothing beats the feel of sand between your toes. Unless, of course, you happen to be inside. Sandy floors (or worse, sheets) are the bane of every beach cottage. But, as this native Cape Codder has discovered, there are ways to keep the sand at bay.
Here are eight solutions to stop sand at the door.
Photography by Justine Hand, except where noted.
1. Set up an outdoor foot-washing station.
A good day at the beach usually ends with a shower to remove all sand, salt, and sunscreen. But what about all those to-ings and fro-ings throughout the day? For quick rinses, create a designated outdoor station specifically for rinsing sandy feet. All you really need is a low hose or spigot—make sure little beach-goers can reach the handle. Or simply keep a large bucket of water near the door.
2. Double up on doormats.
Despite my efforts to install a foot-wash station, some will always forget to rinse their sandy feet. Therefore my next line of defense is a series of sand-trapping doormats, on both sides of the threshold.
3. Remove all shoes before entering.
Even with double doormats, I still encourage everyone to remove their shoes, by setting up a designated area for footwear. Ideally this area is outside the home, but still in a sheltered area—a porch is best. The hope is that a collection of shoes will subtly remind all guests that shoe removal is preferred, without your needing to nag too much.
4. Deploy sandtraps (rugs).
Sand, especially when combined with sunscreen, is notoriously sticky. For those particles that make it past my outdoor sand removal gauntlet, I deploy sand-trapping floor covers, such as sisal and sea-grass rugs. Just be sure to vacuum well.
Over 10 years of Remodelista, we’ve seen architects, designers, and homeowners do inventive things with stair runners (which, historically, tend to be a little uninteresting). There was this dramatic green stair runner, and this casual painted runner. But do stair runners actually have a purpose? Do you really need one?
To get some answers to common questions about stair runners, we talked with designer Victoria Kirk, who established Victoria Kirk Interiors in 2007. Her company, based in Larchmont and Sag Harbor, New York, focuses mostly on residences in Westchester, Sag Harbor, and New York City. After more than two decades in the business, Kirk can provide plenty of intel on the subject of carpeting for stairs.
What are the pros and cons of stair runners?
There are a number of reasons to install carpeting on stairs. Kirk cites two big pros: It reduces noise made by people clattering up and down the stairs, and it adds a finished look to a stairway. Plus, in some circumstances, it makes stairs safer—for example, young children are less likely to get hurt by falling on padded steps.
But Kirk doesn’t feel runners always make stairs safer. “I live in an old house where the stairs are super steep and the treads are really narrow. If I had carpet on them, I’d be afraid of sliding. I prefer bare wood. But stairs with deeper treads should be fine with carpet.” Obviously, to be safe, stair runners should not be made of slippery material (such as silk or linen). And they must be properly installed with no loose corners to trip over.
Another pro: Foot traffic can mar the finish on wooden treads and leave scuff marks on painted risers (the vertical part of the stairs, between the treads). A runner protects both treads and risers from wear and tear. (Another option: the no-shoes-in-the house rule.)
Still, the look is more suited to traditional homes than modern ones. And bare wood steps are easier to keep clean than carpeted stairs. Vacuuming stairs is usually an awkward chore.
What’s the best material for a stair runner?
“An all-wool carpet is preferable aesthetically,” says Kirk. “There’s a theory that a synthetic or blend will hold up better, but I don’t really believe it. People first and foremost want the looks, and wool delivers that.” She’s a big fan of the striped flat-weave runners made of 100 percent wool by the British company Roger Oates Design.
Natural fibers like sisal and jute may not be your best choice, as they’re easily stained and can be rough on bare feet. But, she says, “sisal or jute is a great look and it’s cheap.” These days indoor/outdoor polypropylene that looks like sisal is becoming popular—it’s durable and easy to clean.
Is a dark color better than light? And patterns—yes or no?
“With a runner, you don’t want to go too light or too dark,” says Kirk. “Dark shows all the lint, while light-colored carpeting shows dirt and scuffs. I always push for a medium tone.”
As for the pattern, Kirk says, “If there’s a moment to have some fun on the stairs, go for it. I like vertical stripes, like the Roger Oates flatweave.” What she doesn’t recommend: “Bold geometric contrasting patterns. They can be dizzying, and make stairs hard to navigate—you can’t figure out where your next step is.”
Another thing to keep in mind with a pattern: If you need to match the pattern so each step looks the same, you could end up with a lot of waste (and increased cost).
How are stair runners installed?
Most homeowners aren’t aware that there are two styles of installation for stair runners: “Waterfall,” in which the runner flows over the stairs and is tacked down at the base of each step; and “Hollywood,” where the runner is tacked down around the tread and fits close to the risers.
“The decision usually depends on how your stairs are constructed,” says Kirk. “If there’s a quarter-round molding under the nose of the tread, you use Waterfall so the carpet falls gracefully over that edge. If there’s no molding, you go with the more tight-fitting installation, Hollywood.”
Unseen staples typically hold the padding and runner securely in place, though sometimes a “tackless strip” is used—a piece of wood that runs the width of the steps and is studded with sharp nails or tacks. Typically, stair runners are installed over a padding or underlay, which both reduces noise and protects the carpet from wear. A bonus effect: cushioning makes stairs feel softer underfoot, a boon to babies navigating on their hands and knees.
And what about those rods that hold stair runners in place? “Maybe for a grand staircase in a house in Greenwich, Connecticut,” says Kirk. “But they’re purely decorative.”
Is there a rule of thumb for how much of the tread should be covered?
“It depends how wide your stairs are,” says Kirk. “In a three- to four-foot-wide staircase, you want to leave about three or four inches of wood exposed on either side. But if your stairs are five feet across, you’d adjust your runner proportionally—maybe to a seven-inch reveal on each side.”
As for “wall-to-wall” carpeting over stairs: “Nobody does that anymore,” says Kirk.
Are stair runners made in standard widths?
They are. The Roger Oates flatweave, for example, comes in three widths: 24 inches, 27 inches, and 33.5 inches. But you can also have runners made to order. “Often people buy broadloom and have it cut to size,” says Kirk. In those cases, you’ll need to have the edges bound.
How much does a stair runner cost?
That depends on your choice of carpeting and the complexity of installation. “A standard-size runner is your most cost-effective choice,” says Kirk. “But the labor always costs more than the material.”
Kirk offers a ballpark estimate of $20 to $50 per square foot for broadloom, but that’s only the beginning. “The add-ons include padding, edging, and then the installation itself. If you have curved steps or landings, for example, pie-shaped pieces are needed to fit them.” And to get the job done right, you’ll want to hire experienced installers. That way your runner is sure to wear well and to enhance your home.
What if I prefer bare stairs but like the look of a runner?
You can save money by simply painting a runner (or stripes) on the stairs, as in this Remodeling 101 post on Nautical Stripes on the Stairs. Just choose a color that contrasts nicely for an instant runner effect, no vacuuming needed.
As we find ourselves unexpectedly hunkered down at home, now is the time to tackle household hopes and dreams—or, at least, to find some inside amusement. Transform your living room by repositioning the sofa, clean overlooked workhorses (such as your washing machine), and get to those repairs and creative projects on your rainy day To Do list.
We ourselves are turning to the Remodelista archive for ideas and inspirations. Here are some favorites.
1. Finally Do It Yourself
Looking to upgrade your rental? See Expert Advice: 23 Genius, Reversible, Budget-Friendly Hacks to Transform a Rental Apartment. For many more ideas, such as the hugely popular Shingled House Easy Burlap Shades (for Less Than $20 Each), peruse our DIY Projects archive. Photograph by Justine Hand.
2. Rearrange the Furniture
3. Create Artful Order
4. Deep Clean
Go to our Domestic Science archive for more ideas, including a DIY All-Purpose Cleaner Made from Essential Oils and a DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner.
5. Love Your Bed
Trouble sleeping? See our 10 Secrets for a Better Night’s Sleep. Also consider The Scandinavian Sleep Secret—Mine and Yours Duvets.
Stay home, everyone, and stay well. And if you’ve tackled any household projects while sheltering in place, we’d love to hear about them—please fill us in in the Comments section below.
All of us here at Remodelista, Gardenista, and The Organized Home are invested in reducing waste, minimizing plastic, and using more natural products in our lives. In my own home, I’ve decreased my family’s reliance on paper towels in the kitchen (see Smart Buy, Everything-Old-Is-New-Again Edition: Roller Towels from the UK); swapped out harsh cleaning products for more natural ones (see The Minimalist: The Only 4 Ingredients You Need to Clean Your Entire Home); learned to recycle better and more (see Are You Recycling Wrong? Probably! 6 Common Recycling Mistakes to Avoid); and committed to bringing along my reusable cup for coffee runs (see 8 Favorites: Travel Coffee Mugs Our Editors Use and Love). But there’s one area I’m having a hard time greenifying: my beauty routine.
Enter Linh Truong, who, along with her husband, owns The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver. (Go here for our story on their new companion store, Kitchen Staples.) Established in 2011, it’s the city’s first dedicated refill shop specializing in soaps, cleaners, personal care products, and DIY ingredients. The store’s BYOC (bring your own container) concept encourages low-impact living and less waste, two ideals we fully endorse.
I reached out to Linh for tips on how to streamline and simplify, with an eye toward sustainability, my beauty and hygiene routines. Here are her 8 suggestions.
Photography courtesy of The Soap Dispensary.
1. Adopt a natural dental hygiene routine.
“My routine is very simple. I use a bamboo toothbrush, refillable mineral-based toothpaste, and compostable silk floss. A regular toothbrush is generally not recyclable and is garbage at the end of its life. With a natural toothbrush, either the whole thing (if the bristles are natural) or the handle is compostable, leaving you with much less garbage,” says Linh, who suggests periodically sanitizing your toothbrush in either hydrogen peroxide, cleaning alcohol, or mouthwash for 10 minutes to extend its life. “Most dentists will tell you to change your toothbrush every three months or after having the cold or flu. [But if you sanitize it], a toothbrush can last you for years!”
Linh uses Uncle Harry’s natural toothpaste, but she says that you can also easily make your own with a mixture of baking soda and coconut oil. “I have had chats with my dentist about using natural oral care products, and his verdict is that it doesn’t matter what you use to brush with, as the act of brushing is what cleans.” If you require fluoride, she suggests getting it via a fluoride rinse. As for floss, she recommends compostable Dental Lace.
2. Stop using cotton balls.
“You can easily find or make reusable cotton pads to replace cotton balls. You can find them from Etsy vendors, online stores, and possibly local eco shops in your community. You could also cut up some old cotton flannels sheets or clothes or buy new fabric. Cut the fabric into about 2-inch squares or circles and sew them together. Then use, wash and repeat!”
3. Buy in bulk.
Bring your own containers to refill soaps, cleaners, oils, and more in bulk. (Don’t have a refill store like The Soap Dispensary near you? Go here for a good list of online bulk-shopping options.) “We refill about 800 bulk products in our shop! This includes basics like hand soap and shampoo, but we also refill more specialty products such as bubble bath, deodorant, mouthwash, hair gel, shaving cream, lotions, foundations, face powders, face creams and cleansers, sunscreen, baby soap, bath salts, henna, etc.,” says Linh.
As for how to choose a carrier, “I recommend using containers that are easy to refill and wash when you need to. For example, liquid soap would be easier to pour out of a bottle with its smaller opening but dry ingredients like clays or epsom salt are best in containers with larger openings like jars. I personally love using amber Boston Round bottles as they look classy, are sturdy, and the dark glass protects the ingredients from direct light which could degrade oils.”
4. Choose bar soap over liquid soap.
“If you don’t have the ability to refill your liquid soap, then bar soaps are definitely better. And if you are using a natural bar soap, you can use it for everything! Shampoo, shave soap, hand soap, body soap, and—in a pinch or when traveling—a natural bar soap can also be laundry soap, stain remover, and dish soap!”
5. Opt for multipurpose products.
“The Environmental Working Group says that an average women on a daily basis uses 12 products, containing 168 different chemicals in them. For me, simplification starts with eliminating as much of the chemicals as possible. Everything is related. Chemicals on your body also means chemicals in the environment, whether from manufacturing or the runoff of using it. And those products will most definitely come in terrible packaging anyways,” says Linh.
She advises to “invest in quality, not quantity. And of course, invest in products that have multiple uses. The Universal Crème from Elate Cosmetics beautifully colors my lips and cheeks.”
6. Avoid microbeads.
Microbeads are small plastic particles used for their scrubbing properties in body washes, exfoliators, toothpastes, and other household products. They have been banned in many countries, including Canada, the UK, and the US (where they’re no longer allowed to be used in beauty and health products).
“Please, please stop using any beauty or hygiene products with microbeads,” she implores. “It is a completely unnecessary agent in our products, one that can easily be replaced by natural alternatives and causes very serious environmental pollution in our local and global water systems. Microplastics are generally too small to be filtered out of our water treatment plants and get washed out to local water ways that then connect to larger systems such as lakes and oceans. Microplastics absorb toxins in the water and are mistaken for food by marine life. It causes toxicity and starvation in these marine creatures and then moves up the food chain.”
7. Don’t be afraid to try menstrual cups.
“I have used a menstrual cup for many years, and as my period has changed, I now just use reusable pads and period panties. It’s an investment upfront but a huge financial and environmental savings in the long run. It may take a few years to build up your collection of reusable pads but they really can last you for many years. For me, my collection will definitely last me into menopause. As with the toothbrush, I don’t believe in replacing your menstrual cup every year like some brands recommend. Sterilize your cup monthly and it can last you many years as well.”
8. Consider a DIY approach.
“DIY is the solution to so many problems around chemicals, packaging waste, and possibly, unwittingly supporting animal testing or powerful conglomerates that are polluting the earth. When you make your own products, it is almost an act of social rebellion, a taking back of skills and knowledge we are told we don’t need in our consumer culture. When you make something, you know exactly what is in it and you can customize it to suit your particular needs. And of course, DIY is almost always more cost effective. Many people say they don’t have time or skills but it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact it is quite fun and empowering.”
Her favorite DIY beauty recipe? A basic salve that can be used as a lip balm, moisturizer, cuticle cream, dog paw salves, cutting board conditioner, and more!
-1 cup organic olive oil (many people like to do a blend of oils or oils with cosmetic butters for added richness)
– 1 oz of beeswax (adjust wax amount according to preference for salve hardness)
Combine in a double boiler, stirring occasionally until the wax melts.
Pour into glass jars or tins. The liquid will solidify into a salve pretty quickly.
Note: “You can add anti-inflammatory ingredients like calendula to treat inflammation on the skin, antibacterial ingredients like neem or tea tree oil for cuts and abrasions, essential oils for a solid perfume, and colors via micas for lip tints,” says Linh.
Whatever you’re currently looking for—a bureau, an extra place setting of your grandmother’s china, the elusive perfect coffee table—changes are good you can find it on Craigslist. It may not be exactly what you envisioned, but you’ll pay far less than retail. You may only have to travel around the block to retrieve it. And you’ll keep a perfectly good something in use rather than headed to landfill.
Like all treasure hunts, Craigslist shopping comes with challenges: you have to be willing to search and schlep, and to meet up with a stranger. Caveat emptor, yes, but for many, it’s the answer: take a look at The House That Craigslist Built, Philadelphia Story, and Buzzfeed Founder Peggy Wang’s Renovated Rowhouse.
JP Frenza and his wife, Kristen Kiger, became CL devotees when they decided to save the 1939 Red Rose, a shuttered motel and tavern down the road from their weekend place in the Catskills town of Roscoe, NY, on the Beaverkill River. While keeping their day jobs—JP works in tech, Kristen is a graphic designer—they bought the local gathering spot as a passion project, and partnered with Melissa Garrison Kawecki, who manages daily operations and serves as in-house stylist.
To get the place back up and running, they needed club chairs, butter knives, and bathroom sinks, among many other things—just about all of which they found at bargain prices Craigslist. Three years of tactical buying later, JP offered to share what they’ve learned along the way.
Photography courtesy of the Red Rose Motel.
1. Crack the search term code.
Once you know what you’re after, it’s crucial to figure out what to call it—and how others might label it. We discovered this when our initial search for a Chesterfield sofa turned up cigarette tins and overcoats. On Craigslist, you often get radically different results based on the words you use. By typing “leather couch,” “leather sofa,” brand names like “George Smith,” and the popular “sofa with nail heads” we found what we were looking for.
2. Set your radius.
You can find most household basics for sale on Craigslist close to home. But for more unusual or important pieces, we learned to broaden our reach. We also discovered that the more well-off the community, the better the stuff—and the prices, because these sellers tend to just be looking to unload. So in addition to searching in the Catskills and Upstate New York, we looked in parts of New Jersey and Connecticut—Darien, for instance, was worth a few hour’s drive (broken up by a good lunch and often a hike on the way home). And for farmhouse antiques, we went on Craigslist in Rochester, NY, and then road tripped.
3. Create a search schedule.
If you only go on Craigslist from time to time, you miss things. We’ve found it’s more efficient to check systematically: we do our searches on Monday mornings, Tuesday nights, Wednesday mornings, and so on. We haven’t discerned a key time of day to check, but have noticed that Thursdays tend to get the most new listings, especially from people hoping to get rid of things by Sunday. So be prepared to pounce. And if you urgently need something, check on Thursdays at the beginning and end of the day.
4. Check out moving sales.
Craigslist is a great source for estate and moving sale listings and you can target them by town. Under Garage Sale, sellers also list apartment and house clear-outs with photos of the items that have to go. A guy who was leaving the country gave us a roll of kilims for free because he didn’t want his landlord to have them.
5. Stay selective.
We keep a running list of things we need, and at times, in our eagerness to cross off items, we’ve ended up paying more than we should have—only to later find an even better version of the same thing for less. If you can, it pays to be patient.
6. Be polite and present a plan.
I can’t tell you the number of times the seller told us we were the only ones who made the transaction easy. We begin by writing a note: “Is the item still available? If so, we’re interested and could come pick it up at your convenience.” People on Craigslist are typically getting rid of things on a deadline, so we always mention we have a truck and can pay in cash. We bought a 12-foot antique pine table for $200 this way.
Craigslist sellers often have to deal with no-show buyers. After assuring that you mean business and will pay in cash, you can do some bargaining: “I can come whenever is good for you; will you take $200 for the chairs listed at $250?” Sellers typically counter with $225. Don’t insult: some people know what they have and what it’s worth, others don’t know but are wary. So when the item in question is something I really want, I pay the listed price—in general that’s considerably less than the prices at popular flea markets like Brimfield.
8. Play it safe.
It’s scary dealing with strangers, especially when it comes to going into apartments and houses. Let sellers know they’re dealing with a human being: I always mention that my wife and I can pick up—that puts people at ease, and when a family shows up, so much the better. I give sellers my phone number and an hour before I’m picking up, I have them text me the address. And when possible, we suggest a neutral location to meet: we’ve done many transactions in grocery store parking lots.
9. Don’t forget to mine “free.”
At the top of the Craigslist page, click the For Sale drop-down and scroll past “Antiques” and “Electronics” to “Free Stuff.” Here, you’ll find everything from surplus building materials to baby clothes. We’ve found some really good stuff for the taking: a woman across the river from us was renovating and told us we could have her Pottery Barn leather sofa “if you can get it out of here by tomorrow morning.” It was perfect for one of our rooms.
10. Keep searching.
Yes, our project is complete, but like so many who get hooked on Craigslist, our hunt continues. Members of this club seem to always have a holy grail that keeps us going. Ours is a classic Swedish-style sauna—one we can take apart, move, and set up at the motel. Potential sellers note: we do our own hauling and are willing to travel.
Reuse is better for the planet than buying new. Here are four more buying guides:
One the eve of Valentine’s Day, we asked our experts from the Remodelista Architect and Designer Directory for their go-to “millennial pink” paints. Their picks range from sweet and subtle to downright seductive, and neutral enough to look at year-round. Here are their favorites.
Photography by Mel Walbridge.
(N.B.: Featured photograph, above, by Justine Hand for Remodelista, from Cape Cod Summer Bedrooms Refreshed with Farrow & Ball Paint.)
Not pictured: Marie Fisher Interior Design uses Rose Pále from Les Couleurs’ Le Corbusier collection of pigments.
For more on our top paint picks, head to our Palette & Paints tag page. And for more pink palettes, see: