I have retained a new client. She came into my office a few weeks ago with a signed contract and retainer and said, “I can not wait to get started working with you on designing my dream kitchen!” How exciting, so far this New Year has brought three kitchen renovations into the office. I would like to explain how I met this woman and also how she has come to be a client.

    Wicked Local Photo by David Sokol 04/03/10 A child reaches to touch the foot of a new born chick during a "Meet the New Baby Animals" event held at Green Meadows Farm.    sheep   chickens              

                          green meadows farm                             

Eight years ago, I became acquainted with Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton, MA. It had just become a certified organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and they were seeking members. I noticed that they offered a work-for-share membership in addition to a paid membership. It excited me to know that I could work four hours per week in exchange for organic produce that could sustain my family for that week. From April through October, I worked in the fields for our weekly produce pick up. I arranged my business schedule to accommodate this addition to my work day. It really wasn’t a problem, except for the days when I had a client meeting scheduled on an afternoon after working the fields and couldn’t clean the dirt out from under my finger nails! After three years of field work, I was promoted to working on the retail side. I worked and continue to work in the farm stand on Saturday mornings to better fit with my design business schedule. It has been a great experience. I have learned a lot, met some interesting people and made some lasting friendships.

One of the friends I met was the organic baker, Kim Gregory. She had previously owned a cafe that provided organic foods and baked goods to her customers. She had scaled back her business and was now providing local establishments with her wonderful baked goods. Whoopie pies, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, scones, brownies, etc. All made with 100% organic ingredients. She provided baked goods to Green Meadows Farm for the first several years I worked there. She then took her business in another direction and we would occasionally run into one another around town.This past spring while Juli, Matt and I were manning our Connect-The-Dots booth at the Hamilton Wenham Green Living Fair we reconnected and had time to talk about the changes she had made within her life. She had known about my business, but hadn’t really thought about how I might be able to help her until she saw several images of kitchens I had designed posted at the Fair.

She shared with me that she had recently obtained approval from the town of Beverly to build a commercial kitchen at her residence. She had pages of ideas, but needed assistance to make it all happen. Between myself and a trusted contractor, we agreed that we could construct her kitchen. She had one major requirement for going forward – to use as many reclaimed, recycled, repurposed and eco-friendly materials as possible in this design. The space she planned to use was her existing four car garage that had been originally built to accommodate her ex-husband’s custom bike shop. The structure was sound and the space was large enough to allow for a functional and creative environment.

We have had our initial meeting with the contractor and I have taken measurements of the space. I will begin design development in the coming weeks along with researching equipment, cabinetry, flooring, counter surfaces, lighting, and various other requirements. Currently from her rear windows, there are views of her backyard where there is a micro apple orchard, honey bee hives, egg laying chickens and a sustainable garden filled with vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers. She would like to continue to grow her business by providing her delectable creations to restaurants and local businesses as well as provide a unique environment for offering cooking/baking classes sharing her skills with the local community.

My goal over the coming months is to share through my blog the progress of this project, including the trials and tribulations of creating an eco-friendly kitchen with Kim. It is interesting for me to reflect back eight years ago when I began my residential design business. I don’t think I ever would have envisioned designing an eco-friendly commercial kitchen for a friend! How fortunate to have this opportunity and experience.

With thoughts of kitchens, cooking and baking, what better way to end this blog than by sharing a family favorite recipe. My mother-in-law would make this wonderful strawberry pie as soon as the first strawberries of the season were ready for picking. It’s great to have at home or to bring to a pot luck. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipping cream!

    pie with cream           strawberry pie



  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 2 tblsp. milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix in an ungreased 9” glass pie pan. Flute edges. Prick shell with a fork and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes until lightly brown. Let cool while making the filling.


  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and cleaned, keep whole or slice
  • 5 tblsp. strawberry jello
  • 4 tsp. corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 handful of cinnamon heart candies

Boil until thick: cornstarch, water and sugar. When thick add candy hearts and jello. Stir well until all are incorporated. Cool glaze, on counter or place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Arrange strawberries in cooled pie shell and pour cooled glaze over entire pie. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour or more, serve with vanilla ice cream and/or fresh whipping cream. 

Here’s to a wonderful summer season! If you have any questions about eco-friendly kitchen inspiration, please feel free to contact me at (978)335-1140 or email at design@lmkinteriorsltd.com

My Mother would spray Lysol® in our home all the time while I was growing up. It’s purpose is to clean, disinfect and remove odors. I remember getting a headache if I walked into the “cloud” as she sprayed. I also remember the perfume my Mother wore, Chanel #5 and later Liz Claiborne. I know that if a stranger walked by wearing either fragrance today, I would stop and thoughts of my Mother would bring a smile to my face (and then I would probably sneeze!). When I think of Christmas time, I immediately have aromatic thoughts of the scent of cookies baking, applesauce on the stove top simmering with cinnamon and the smell of the freshly cut pine tree in our living room. Whether I smell the fragrance or think of a setting, scent is a very important aspect of my memories and feelings regarding my surroundings. When I am designing spaces for my clients, I like to think that I am helping to create beautiful visual spaces for them to live in along with touching upon their other senses for a full experience.

As I have shared in past blog postings, I have learned that I have chemical sensitivities to certain products out-gassing within my living and working environments. I have also realized that “perfumes” and certain fragranced products give me headaches as well. Once I discovered essential oils about 6 years ago as an alternative to perfumes, I was able to wear scents again and I also learned how to incorporate these essential oils into my environments through aromatherapy.

aroma-oil                aroma-sprays             15ml_Bergamot153x200b

Aromatherapy may have origins in antiquity with the use of infused aromatic oils, made by macerating dried plant material in fatty oil, heating and then filtering. Aromatherapy is a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person’s mood, cognitive function or health. Distilled essential oils have been employed as medicines since the invention of steam distillation in the eleventh century. The effectiveness of aromatherapy is yet to be scientifically proven, however some evidence exists that essential oils may have therapeutic potential.

The modes of application of aromatherapy include:

  • Aerial diffusion: for environmental fragrancing or aerial disinfection
  • Direct inhalation: for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects
  • Topical applications: for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care 

                            oil diffuser

An essential oil diffuser enables you to diffuse essential oils throughout your home or office. Diffusing is a simple and effective way to use essential oils. I use an air pump diffuser model for diffusing oils in my home and office. With a diffuser, oils are dispersed in a micro-fine vapor, allowing them to remain suspended in the air for extended periods of time. The diffuser disperses the oils without heating them so they retain their natural benefits. You can leave the diffuser on for a few minutes or for several hours. When inhaled, the oils are easily absorbed through the lungs. Depending on the oil used, diffusing can cleanse the air of odor, calm one’s mood and possibly help in one’s health regimen.

Essential oils that are inhaled into the lungs offer both psychological and physical benefits. Not only does the aroma of the natural essential oil stimulate the brain to trigger a reaction, but when inhaled into the lungs, naturally occurring chemicals may supply therapeutic benefits. Diffusing eucalyptus essential oil to help ease congestion is a great example.                           

Essential oils are natural and contain the true aromatic essence and other naturally beneficial properties of the plant the essential oil was distilled from. Essential oils are not the same as fragrance oils, perfume oils or potpourri oils. Essential oils contain only the distilled essence of a plant, perfume and fragrance oils are artificially created fragrances, containing artificial substances or are diluted with carrier oils and do not offer the benefits that essential oils offer. Look for products that contain pure essential oils on their ingredient list and avoid those that have words like fragrance. Some sellers of good-quality aromatherapy blends do not list their ingredients because they are worried that others may copy their creation. Good suppliers should be happy to provide you with a list of the ingredients. They understand that some individuals must avoid particular oils due to health problems.


General Household Freshening – Add a few drops of essential oil to your trash can, laundry wash, drain, vacuum bag filter, or on a tissue for placement in your drawers.

Bug Repellent – Many essential oils including citronella, lavender, and peppermint act as a natural repellent against insects.

When thinking about the interior air quality of our environments, I believe that using products that employ natural essences compared to artificially created fragrances are a must. If you are interested in learning more about aromatherapy, purchasing an oil diffuser, or other questions related to interior design, please contact me at design@lmkinteriorsltd.com or call me at 978-335-1140. 

Here are a few of my favorite companies for essential oils and their other offerings:                                 

This past month I participated in the Hamilton Wenham Green Speaker Series which took place at the Hamilton Wenham Public Library. My focus was Eco-friendly interior finishes for kitchen and bathroom renovations. As I was preparing this presentation, it became evident that I could stand before my audience and provide them with factual information presented in a power point format or I could share my personal story of how I became interested in specifying less toxic finishes for my clients along with the facts. The later seemed to offer a more interesting venue.

I have shared in a past blog about how I became ill after moving into two of the homes we had lived in. The focus of that blog was about the outgassing of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) when paint dries. (Smelly walls, what’s that all about? July 2009) Upon learning about VOC’s and outgassing with respect to paint, I was then interested to find out what other items may have contributed to my illness. Through the process of Google searches, speaking with experts in the field of Green Design and reading accounts of similar chemical sensitivities, I was on my way to learning how to create healthier environments for myself as well as my clients.

The first home my husband and I purchased was in Lynn, MA in the late 1980’s. It was a Victorian that had been gutted and was in the process of being renovated when we first saw it. Not only did it have fresh paint on the walls, but there was new nylon carpeting put down with toxic adhesives, restored wood flooring with polyurethane, plastic laminate kitchen and bath cabinets and countertops with formaldehyde and toxic glues. I was ill for 3-6 months. The doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me. Could it be sinus or neurological? They gave me medication – but I think my system eventually just adapted to the environment.

Our second home was in Georgetown, MA in the early 1990’s. It was new construction. Of course, we were excited to have a new home! What we didn’t realize was that I was going to get sick again for an extended amount of time due to the finishes applied throughout this home as well. Since it was new construction, we also had a very tight house. The only difference between this home and our previous one was instead of newly finished wood floors, we had vinyl flooring and adhesives to deal with. We had the same plastic laminate cabinets and counters, nylon carpeting on the second floor bedrooms and lots of painted walls.

In 2000 we move to Hamilton, MA. The home was a Victorian summer home that had been converted to year round living in the early 1930’s. When we moved in – nothing had been done to the interior of the house for years. There were painted plywood cabinets in the kitchen, beautiful hardwood floors throughout that had an older finish on them, the paint on the walls was several months old and there was ceramic tile on the floors of the bathrooms. I was healthy for the first time after moving into a new home! I was too busy at the time to put much thought into questioning why I wasn’t getting sick with this move. That light bulb would go off in a few years.

When I decided to begin my own interior design practice focusing on residential design, I knew that I had wanted to work with clients to provide beautiful and functional spaces for them to enjoy, but I also knew there was something more. In the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure what that was, but I trusted that eventually it would come to me. The aha moment came when I started hearing about Green Design and how it was more than just specifying sustainable products, it was also about specifying healthy products. That was it: I would learn as much as I could about how to bring healthy products into my clients homes. Not only in terms of finishes, but cleaning products, fabrics, air purifiers and humidifiers and even food. (I have been a work for share/CSA member for 8 years at Green Meadow Farms in Hamilton, MA. They share with the community organic produce/meats and lifestyle choices)

Through my interior design business, I have had the privilege of designing and working to date on two Green Kitchen renovations. Here is a listing of some of the features we were able to introduce into these spaces (they go beyond just finishes): Energy Star appliances, organic wall paint, no VOC (volatile organic compounds)paint, recycled glass/ceramic wall & floor tiles, LED (light emitting diode) for under cabinet and cove lighting, energy efficient dimmable CFL (compact fluorescent lighting) lighting, Richlite (compressed paper based) countertops, poured concrete countertops, radiant heat under the flooring, cabinetry: FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) cherry and maple cabinetry, with a water based natural finish, no VOC painted finish on office, bathroom & island cabinetry, flooring: Marmoleum, linoleum product, backsplash: reclaimed tumbled stone with recycled metal and crushed glass accent tiles.

My intention is to share the information I have gathered with my clients, friends and family. There are so many products demanding our attention, why not purchase those that are not harmful to us nor our environments. I will be posting the video recorded at the library within the coming weeks that shares more information about specific companies and their products. If you are interested in viewing it now, go to: HWCAM.org, type in Lisa Kawski, it will bring up my show, click on the title, it will show the schedule, click on WATCH NOW.

As always, if you have any questions regarding green interior finishes, please feel free to contact me design@lmkinteriorsltd.com or call (978)335-1140.

When Matt Ulrich and I decided to share an office three years ago, I don’t think we imagined that our teaming up would lead to the current publication of our          Connect-the-Dots e-newsletter (along with fellow architect, Juli MacDonald) nor the potential for combined project work. We saw it as a great opportunity to move our home-based businesses into an office space where we each would gain valuable “curbside” exposure with our location on a main street in the community. We had spoken about how beneficial it would be to pass referrals to each other through our client bases, but our main goal was to grow our businesses.


Three years later, not only have we grown our businesses, but we have also had the pleasure to work together on a major kitchen renovation that incorporated Integrated Design principles. At the time, my thought was to bring a team of trusted building trades together to provide great service for my client. I assumed that task as part of my project management responsibilities. I hadn’t realized there was a term other than working in collaboration to tie us all together.

Integrated Building Design Residential Project

I had been working for several years with a client on various rooms within their home; formal dining room, living room, master bedroom/bathroom, various guest and children’s bedrooms and bathrooms, so I was very excited when they said they were ready to renovate their kitchen. Not only to redesign the space, but they wanted to incorporate green design building principles, practices, materials and interior finishes. I had asked if I could introduce them to several professionals that I knew that would be able to design and construct this project. They agreed to meet with the various disciplines.

I introduced them to:

Along with myself, Lisa Kawski of lmk interiors, ltd., we formed the the design and construction team. We began working as an integrated group from the onset of the project.

exterior entry    e. rose kitchen 9-2008 035 

You may be wondering what the difference is between Integrated Building Design and the more traditional design process. Let me first define my views of the traditional design process and follow with Integrated Building Design.

  • Client hires an architect to design their renovation. Architect designs the space and may introduce the client to builders, engineers, specialists during the initial design process, or they may not. Eventually a builder gets involved, bringing in their various subcontractors. Space gets built. The client may engage the services of an interior designer to assist them with finish and fixture selections, but often the builder will direct the client to some of their sources for this stage. If the client had initially allocated specific monies, they may hire an interior designer and possibly hire a landscape designer for the exterior. Often, these two professions do not get hired until several years later. Money was not budgeted at the onset of the project to allow for a complete renovation.
  • Integrated building design (according to Wikipedia) is “a collaborative method for designing buildings which emphasizes the development of a holistic design.” This is teamwork at its best. Multiple disciplines (architect, interior designer, builder, landscape designer, engineers, etc.) come together in the initial planning stages of design to achieve a cost-effective, resource-efficient and comfortable result for the client. There is no script for the perfect integrated design process, but there are several levels of decision making that must take place at the start of conceptual design, while the design is being refined, during design development, and during construction. Because every design decision produces a multitude of effects, integrated design requires an understanding of the interrelationship of each discipline. It requires all of the participants to think holistically about the project, rather than focus solely on each individual part.

Whether it be new construction or a renovation, approaching the design/build of a building as an interdependent system; where the goal is to make sure that all facets work in harmony rather than against each other, benefit both the client and all of the disciplines involved.

Integrated Building Design, Our Outcome

Out of that project; Matt, Juli and I established Connect-the-Dots. Attending networking events and building trade meetings, we realized we enjoyed working together as well as learning more about sustainable building practices. Our desire to offer clients a one-stop resource to assist them with their design needs would prove beneficial through this pairing. Our mission is: We are a professional collaboration between three friends who share a passion for green design, each from our own perspective: architecture, landscape design and interior design. Our goal is to share useful and up-to-date information on green design, filtered through our distinct, but connected points of view. Through our e-newsletter, which we have been sending out since last May, we connect the subscriber to our individual blogs. We are very excited to announce the launch of our micro website this month: www.ctdcollaborative.com. Please share this web address with those that you think would enjoy it. They can subscribe to receive our e-newsletter on the site.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at                   (978)335-1140 or design@lmkinteriorsltd.com.

Hamilton Wenham Green Presents:


I am a member of the Hamilton Wenham Green Business Group. On March 3rd, Wednesday, at 7 pm I will be presenting Eco-Friendly Interior Finishes:         ideas for implementing eco- friendly materials in the redesign of both kitchen and bath.     

location: Hamilton Wenham Public Library @ 14 Union Street South Hamilton – (978)468-5577, lectures are free and open to the public, please come.