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Not to turn this into the all-Neil-Kelly-all-the-time place but  .  . just got word worth sharing.

The Oregon company recently won two national CotY awards.  Not "Coty" as in fragrance giant, or "COTY" as in the American Fashion Critics' Award, but C-o-t-capital-Y.  CotY stands for Contractor of the Year and it's given by NARI or National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Now enough with the ancronyms!

The point is, a CotY is like the Oscar of the remodeling trade. And the company old enough to be your great grandpa just won two.

Now, if only Neil Kelly would stand up and cry, "You like me. You really, really like me."

Here's a link to the kitchen pics in one winning project if you want to view and drool.

In the neighborhood where I grew up, all the houses were identical in layout. That made each the perfect blank canvas for the woman of the house to express herself. (The men were busy doing manly things.)  Each woman just happened to express her unique  individuality in a manner almost identical to her neighbor. They painted living room walls beige or sea foam green. They bought heavy pinch pleat drapes for the picture windows that faced the street. They favored Sears furniture for quality, price and its sensibly nondescript style.

cow_jump_over_moon-300pxSo it caused some buzz on the block when word got out about my mother’s choice of kitchen wallpaper. Why? It featured little pink cows. Little pink cows jumping over little crescent moons. I believe it also had a fiddling cat and a dish eloping with an eating utensil. Regardless, this particular wallpaper was intended, obvious even to my 10-year-old self, for the walls of a baby’s room.

I was mortified. I understood that there were rules to decorating, specific rules that my mother was carelessly disregarding. You didn’t put beds in living rooms, or paint ceilings black, and you sure as heck didn’t put nursery rhyme wallpaper in a kitchen for all my friends to point and laugh.

“I don’t care,” Mom said. “I like it.”

Looking at wallpapers now, I feel a certain amount of trepidation. There are so many choices. To complicate matters, they also come in eco-friendly versions such as the Madison and Grow line that are free of vinyls and PVCs and printed on paper made from sustainable forests available through Ecohaus and Vanillawood in Portand. They would look great with sustainable wood cabinetry from Neil Kelly and good-for-you paints from Devine Color.

neil-kelly_16-300pxI’m a little embarrassed about how timid I am when it comes to making design decisions, especially since my mother was practically the Lady Gaga of suburbia. She did what she wanted and just didn’t give a rat’s tail what others thought. Of course, like Lady G, she is also the Mother of Reinvention and thinks nothing of redoing a room when the mood strikes. The cow-jumping-over-the-moon wallpaper lasted less than a year before she got busy with fresh wallpaper, paste and brush. The new stuff was sensible, universally accepted as appropriate to for a kitchen.

I think it had roosters. I forget.

There are crafty types out there who, with imagination and hot glue gun, can transform a bunch of recyling bin rejects into hip home decor.  I'm not one of them. I wish I were.  Doing old fashion crafts just feels so modern. I want to be that. I love the idea of being crafty so much that I sometimes convince myself that my talents are not dead but merely faint and will quickly snap-to with the first whiff of Elmers' glue. Unfortunately, I'm usually about knee deep in materials before I realize my error.  I might have the mural sketched out, the paint bought, and the brushes waiting when I realize that my bird on a branch looks less like a member of the avian family and more like a disease on a tree. Or maybe I'll meticulously measure and cut the curtains in my daughter's room for hemming before pulling out the sewing machine only to discover that sewing machines, when neglected 20 or 30 or so years, no longer function. And so I curse Martha Stewart and all those cute young crafty things who make making things look fun! And easy! And modern! Then I put everything away in a back closet and hope the outline of the frightening bird on that bedroom wall can be covered up with a good coat of paint and forgotten. And it is. Until the next project.

So, naturally, when I saw these lights I just knew that I could make them.

I mean, they're wine bottles with lights in them, right? How hard could that be? We missed recycling day this week so have a few extra bottles in the garage. Perfect! Now all I need is a glass cutter, a template, some acid for eitching, an electrician . . . hold on!  Instead, let me stand back, admire and dream of buying the latest design from Meyda Custom Lighting



The newest addition to their Wine Bottle Pendant collection has a nautical theme. (Seriously, they have an entire collection of pendants made from old wine bottles so who really has the crafting problem? )The recycled bottles are sandblasted and etched with charming maritime designs like anchors, sails and ship steering wheels. I like to think of ithe look as "Yo ho ho and a bottle of really nice Cabarnet."

The bottles are hand-wrapped with white whip line at the necks and hang from cloth-covered cords. They look rather sophisticated which is just as one might expect from the company that has been producing glass work for Tiffany for decades. Each wine bottle light is hand-crafted in upstate New York. They look gorgeous. I bet the people doing it are really nice, too.

So, I will steer clear of all wine bottles in my garage for now.

However, I can make no promises about the water bottles I've been saving for years on a shelf in the basement. They're blue! I mean a gorgeous, gorgeous blue! The kind that would look really good with light bulbs shining through.


These are pre-fab houses. Emphasis on "Fab!"

With a kit from Jan Kronke of Oregon TimberWerks you can pop up a basic cabin shell in the woods for about $6,000 and a few days labor. Less than $2,000 buys the goods for a fancy, little playhouse for the kids complete with covered porch and Dutch door.

These are the Olympic gymnasts of lights. They're tiny, flexible and shine bright.

The new Invisiled lights from WAC Lighting look a bit like narrow pieces of fancy tape embedded with lots of little LED lights. Make that really, really narrow pieces of tape. The light strips are less than 1/8th inch tall which means these words stand taller. And they're less than 7/16th inch thick. (There are papers out there envious of that slim physique.)  They're easily tucked under cabinets to brighten counter tops, the better to see those carrots your chopping. Or slipped behind crown molding for drama worthy of a Hollywood movie set.

Lori Dennis is one of the top interior designers specializing in green and sustainable design for residential and commercial buildings. A year after graduating from UCLA's design program in 1998 she established her own company in Los Angeles working on residential and commercial interiors nationwide. Her work has been featured in several publications including Dwell, House Beautiful, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She also serves on the National Sustainable Council and is the author of Green Interior Design.

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