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House & Garden Published by the Block Island Times

Spring 2010

A simple island design ahead of its time

A Special Supplement of

Building Green… pg 11

Trend setting… pg 20

To prune or not … pg 23

Page 2 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

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House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

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Stories that inspire Block Island’s natural beauty, stunning views and breathtaking shoreline have inspired a number of people who live here to design homes and gardens that perfectly complement the land. Many of the simple capes that once dotted the island’s rolling hills have been transformed into architectural showpieces that use cutting-edge building techniques to get the most out of Block Island’s one-ofa-kind landscape. In this edition of Home and Garden, we check in with some of the Block Islanders who are pushing the boundaries of what constitutes an island home. They’re mixing the latest trends in green home design and construction with an appreciation for the land and the history of this amazing place. You’ll meet Danish-born furniture designer Jens Risom whose long and illustrious career includes working with Frank Lloyd Wright; David Caldwell, Jr., who designed a green house right across the pond in North Kingstown; and John and Kerri Spier, who built their energy-efficient island house before An Inconvenient Truth made the trend so ubiquitous. All share their tips for designing homes and gardens that combine a rustic charm with the comforts of modern living. I hope that by telling these stories you will be inspired to discover new ways to improve your own homes and gardens. After all, a place as gorgeous as Block Island should have houses that allow us to take in and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.

Photo by Dan West

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Page 4 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

Our Staff

Correction Policy

Co-Publishers.......................................................Fraser Lang/Betty Rawls Lang

Advertising: This newspaper does not assume any responsibility for an error in an advertisement.

Production.................................................................... ....................... Chris Izzo

Ocean Avenue, Box 278, Block Island, RI 02807 Celebrating our 40th year. Phone: (401) 466-2222 Fax: (401) 466-8804 e-mail: webnews:

Copy Editors......................... Shane Howrigan, Leslie Steinberg, Lisa Stiepock Contributors.................................. James Maloney, Gloria Redlich, John Spier, Judy Tierney, Jane Vercelli, Dan West

The Block Island Times was founded in 1970 by Dan Rattiner, publisher, and Margaret Cabell Self, editor. It published only summer editions until 1982, when, under the ownership of Shirley and Peter Wood, the Times became Block Island’s first year-round newspaper. In 1988 the Times began weekly publication and became the Island’s “paper of record.” Sold off-island in 1997, the paper returned home in November 1999, and was reinvigorated under the ownership of Peggy and Bruce Montgomery. In 2006, ownership of the paper transferred to Fraser and Betty Lang.

Photographers ..........................David Caldwell, Shane Howrigan, Fraser Lang,

The Block Island Times, a member of the New England Press Association, is printed on 100% recycled paper by Mass Web Printing. It is distributed by Special Delivery, Inc.

Advertising Design .............................................. John Barry, George Donnelly,

Derek Van Lent, Anders Vercelli, Jane Vercelli, Dan West Illustrator...............................................................................................Neil Lang Advertising.................................................. Shane Howrigan, Betty Rawls Lang Sue Fillipone, Chris Izzo


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Postmaster: Please send address changes to The Block Island Times, Box 278, Block Island, RI 02807. The Block Island Times House & Garden insert is published twice yearly in April and October.

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House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

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Jens Risom’s Block Island house was way ahead of its time. more interested in?” he asked the editor. The result was a spread of pictures of Risom’s house with an article that appeared in the September 8, 1967, issue. Risom and his wife, Iben, had been renting various houses on the island for nine summers when they decided the time had come to buy land and build a simple house so that Iben and their children, Helen, Peggy and later, Thomas and Sven, could spend their summers sailing and fishing. Working with a Massachusetts prefabricated-house manufacturer, Risom designed a 24- by 42-foot house with a 20-foot-high cathedral ceiling and a glass front wall to take advantage of views of the North Light. The cost for the house, not including plumbing, electrical wiring and the like, was $20,700. “The important thing to us was to have a total contrast to the winter life we had in a much more organized house. We wanted a contemporary house of our own design. I wanted a light summer house. I wanted to see through it. I wanted the feeling of the sea air and the sun. It was simply a nothing house with a front door and windows,” Risom said. The elements for the prefabricated house were taken to Point Judith, Rhode Island, and loaded onto a tugboat that made the trip to the island. From the dock a truck transported the house to the Risom land. To enable the house to withstand the force of island winds, the builder hooked the beams supporting the floorboards to massive bolts sunk in the concrete foundation. Inside, the second story is an open


The Risom house and outbuilding speak of simplicity and serenity after 45 years.

sleeping loft that ends in a balcony overlooking the high-ceilinged kitchen, dining area and living area, all in one space on the first floor. The first floor has two bedrooms and two bathrooms, one for those sleeping upstairs and one for those sleeping downstairs. “The interior is designed with as few partitions as possible to allow for as much light as possible. I furnished it and designed some things that we made. I designed the furniture: chairs, sofa, coffee table,” Risom said. The article in Life magazine described Block Island: “So remote is the island that natives have a disconcerting way of referring to the fuzzy island they see stretching across the horizon to the north. They call it ‘America.’” The article continued: “Block Island suffers from severe fogs of a density and endurance that seem improbable to people who have not been there.” Risom recalled that, whereas in good weather it would have taken a builder four

Photos by Fraser Lang

By Jane Vercelli In 1956, Danish-born furniture designer Jens Risom and his family joined the ranks of people from New Canaan, Connecticut who visited Block Island in the 1940s and 50s, fell in love with its scenic beauty, and decided to buy property. The families included those of Margaret Cabell “Nonie” Self, who founded the Block Island Times, and Elise and David Lapham who gave the land at Clayhead known as “the maze” to the public by transferring the development rights to the state and The Nature Conservancy. In New Canaan, these families knew one another, along with other New Canaan people who came to the island and rented houses for summer vacations before buying or building second homes. “We always talked about finding a little place for the summer on the water, and then we had some friends who knew Block Island,” Risom recalled. “My children loved the island, and I took that to mean there is something for everybody there.” When Jens Risom, whose mainland home is still in New Canaan, built a house on seven acres off Corn Neck Road in 1965, Life magazine sent a writer-photographer team to document the construction of prefabricated elements into Risom’s finished house. Recalling how the article came about, Risom said he met a Life editor before the house was built and criticized the magazine’s coverage of expensive summer houses. “Why don’t you write about a less expensive house that your readers would be

weeks to assemble the prefabricated elements to construct the house, bad weather slowed the progress, and it took eight weeks. The contractor, who was not named, was quoted in the Life article as saying, “I could have put the house up in three weeks if I could have seen what I was doing. I’d hired helpers, and I’d hear someone hammering. I’d say, “That you, Bill?” Bill says, “Nah.” So I says, “That you, Frank?” And all the time, all three of us, we’d be only two feet away from each other.” In the decades since, the Risom family has enjoyed sharing time at the house gazing at the waters of Block Island Sound. “The house worked out beautifully,” says Risom.

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Page 6 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

By Jane Vercelli Danish-born furniture designer Jens Risom leans forward at the dining room table he designed, where he and his guests are enjoying a lunch of lobster bisque, crabmeat, and home-baked wheat grain bread made from a Danish recipe. At age 93, he exudes energy as he speaks quickly, and laughs heartily at his contemporary house in New Canaan, Connecticut. Recalling a conversation he had with architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1940s, Risom says, “I was very young, and he was very famous. He said, ‘Oh, yes, young man. I’ve heard about you. You design furniture, don’t you? What do you think about my furniture?’” Risom’s reply was honest and forthright. “Of course, your architecture is a wonderful guide for all of us, but when it comes to furniture, wouldn’t it be nice if the chairs were a little more comfortable?” Wright replied, “Young man, God created man to stand up or lie down – not to sit!” “Well, that may be true,” Risom told Wright, “but people are sitting, and they need comfortable chairs.” Later on, Wright recommended that Risom’s furniture be used in one of Wright’s houses. As Risom and his guests savor the moment with laughter, Risom’s wife, Henny, takes advantage of the pause in conversation to place a wooden board of cheeses next to Risom’s plate. She speaks close to his ear. “Eat that,” she says, pointing to a slice of cheese. “You want me to eat so I won’t waste away?” Risom asks.

His wife nods yes. He eats the cheese with a slice of the Danish dark bread. Jens Risom was born May 8, 1916, in Copenhagen, Denmark. His father, Sven Risom, was an award-winning architect who sent him to a business college for two years and then to Stockholm to work at a residential furniture shop. Returning home to Copenhagen, Risom studied furniture design from 1935 to 1938 at the School for Arts and Crafts. A chance meeting in 1938 with the American Ambassador to Denmark sparked Risom’s interest in the United States. In early 1939, he traveled to New York City and became a freelance textile and furniture designer. With war breaking out in Europe, he told his Danish girlfriend, Iben, to come to the United States quickly. She arrived in December 1939, and they were married a few days later. After meeting Hans Knoll, a young German furniture entrepreneur, Risom designed 15 pieces of furniture for Knoll’s company, which launched in 1941. Risom’s designs combine the purposefully clean lines of Scandinavian furniture with details to make the chairs comfortable for people today. He is as concerned with the craftsmanship of his furniture as he is with materials, color and finishes. “Throughout history, people have never before expected to be as comfortable as people do today,” he says. Sipping coffee after lunch, Risom recalls the World War II years when “I could smell that we might eventually be involved. The Army had first right to all webbing for parachutes, but I found out that a lot of the webbing submitted to the Army did not meet the stress test because

it was not strong enough to hold a soldier.” Risom bought webbing rejected by the military because it was still strong enough to use for chairs. When the United Service Organization set up recreational facilities at Army bases, Risom-designed furniture, including chairs made with webbing, was used because it was practical, sturdy, and less expensive than reproductions of antique chairs. “We delivered furniture to all the USOs around the country. These people had never seen furniture like that before. They did not say, ‘This is really quite nice.’ They said, ‘This is not too uncomfortable,’” he says. To meet another wartime need, Risom worked with a company that produced big zippers to design a heavy, waterproof canvas cover large enough to contain a tank. “In four minutes you could, with zippers, unwrap the whole thing,” he says. Although Risom was essentially doing defense work, the Army drafted him anyway. “They wanted me, which was silly of them, and not very good for me,” he says, lowering his gaze as he remembers being assigned to the headquarters of the Third Army under General George Patton as it made its way through France and Germany until the war ended. When he returned to New York City, Risom faced a turning point in his career. While he was away, Knoll had married a woman who designed heavy, metal furniture. “When I came back, Knoll welcomed me with open arms, but I could see that I wasn’t going to have much of a chance with my wood furniture so I said I was going out on my own, and he got very upset,” he remembers, shaking his head

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sadly. “Actually, we never talked to each other after that.” Several months later, on May 1, 1946, Risom launched his own company, Jens Risom Design, Inc., to both design and manufacture his own furniture. With his company becoming successful as returning soldiers married and moved into houses that needed furnishings, Risom and his wife and daughters, Helen, born in 1943, and Peggy, born in 1947, settled in 1949 in New Canaan, Conn. They had two sons after they moved there: Thomas in 1954 and Sven in 1959. In 1956, a friend suggested that the Risoms visit Block Island. The island reminded Iben of Denmark. The landscape was just hilly enough to see the ocean from almost everywhere, and the beaches were Continued on next page

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House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

Continued from previous page all open to the public whether you owned property nearby or not. From then on, the Risoms rented a house on the island for a week or longer each summer until 1965 when Risom bought seven acres of land for $5,000 and built a prefabricated house to his own specifications. The land is near the northern tip of the island and affords a commanding view of the North Light and the waters of Block Island Sound. In the 1950s and 1960s, Risom’s furniture company was prospering with showrooms in New York City and Chicago as well as in London. From 1954 to 1974, Risom organized the production of his furniture designs so that the parts were manufactured in the southern United States and sent to northeast Connecticut to be assembled in an old mill in North Grosvenordale, a village in the town of Thompson. At its height of operation, the company had 300 employees, including many high school dropouts. Risom beams with pride when he describes how he worked with the state of Connecticut’s labor department to set up an adult education program at the mill for his employees who did not have high school diplomas. “We hired teachers from four or five communities to come and teach our workers from 4 to 6 p.m. three days a week. Every six months we would run cars into Hartford for them to take the high school equivalency test,” he says. The 1970s were a decade of change and emotional challenge for Risom. In 1974, with energy costs rising because of the national oil and gas shortage, the furniture company was sold. Risom’s beloved wife, Iben, became ill with cancer and died in January 1977 when their youngest son,

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Sven, was only 17. Two years later, Risom married his present wife, Henny. She had been a childhood friend of Iben in Denmark when both women were classmates at a girls’ school. Iben and Henny kept in touch over the years and with their husbands met for dinner in London where Henny was an osteopathic doctor. “Henny’s husband died first, then Iben died, and so I said to Henny, ‘How would you feel about living in the United States.’ She said she would never live in the United States, but she came to visit, and stayed,” he says. In his 94th year, Risom views his life’s work as a combination of artistic design and practical business acumen. For the past five years, Ralph Pucci International, which has a New York City showroom, has been selling a new line of furniture Risom designed. Some pieces are variations on Risom’s older designs; still others are new. They include a sofa, dining tables, side tables and an armchair. Design Within Reach also sells many Risom-designed furniture pieces. Risom is especially happy that all four of his children love Block Island, where they grew up and continue to spend time. As for married life, he smiles, “Henny and I have been married for only 30 years, so we are still newlyweds.”


Page 7

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Page 8 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

A builder’s perspective on the benefits of green building

By John Spier Green building. Energy efficiency. Sustainability. Performance contracting. Small is the new big. These are the buzzwords and phrases of the building industry today, but what do they mean? What, really, is green building? Our buildings have always been shaped by need and circumstance and by our aesthetic sensibilities; the synthesis of those factors has resulted in some of the most attractive and efficient structures ever built. The cabins of our forebears, the pueblos of the southwest, the capes and colonials of New England, the plantation homes of the south, the row houses of our cities, the ranch houses of our suburbs… all have been magnificently adapted to their locales and functions. We’ve made

missteps along the way, usually when we borrowed from one place to build in another, or when we eschewed centuries of tradition and knowledge to experiment or pursue a vision. But for the most part, the American home building industry has been vibrant, interesting and successful. What has changed, to bring this groundswell of new focus and direction to the industry? In a word, the world. We no longer live in a world of cheap and plentiful energy, of unlimited resources, of a resilient and forever forgiving environment, of consumption far beyond our means. The rest of the world wants what we have had, and it has become obvious to almost everyone that the earth can’t sustain us all in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed. This is not a new idea; Thomas Malthus

The rooflines and flow of the building place it in harmony to the setting.

This home is located on a hill but the scale of the building and the siting which conforms to the natural topography of the land creates positive visual impact.

propounded the idea two centuries ago that human population would outstrip the world’s resources. Ideas to solve the problem have ranged from the Luddite (go back to the land) to the fantastical (colonize space). For better or worse, human nature dictates that our future will be closer to the latter than the former. We will pursue futuristic and technological solutions to our needs, rather than returning to the local agrarian utopia that we remember so nostalgically and inaccurately. What does this mean for our building industry? It means that planned obsolescence and conspicuous consumption are no longer viable, long-term economic models. Our homes will have to be built better and last longer; consume less energy and use fewer resources to build; generate less

waste; be more efficient to operate and to maintain. Change comes slowly and incrementally, but the buzzwords of the business indicate that there is an industry-wide recognition that these changes are the future. They are being driven partly by economic reality and regulatory intervention, but primarily by changing attitudes. They are being implemented through a combination of intelligent design and improving technology. What follows are my often irreverent (or maybe irrelevant!) thoughts and opinions on different aspects of American homebuilding, today and tomorrow.

Size matters We live in a culture where bigger is better, and this idea has certainly driven Continued on next page

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Page 9

Continued from previous page the evolution of our homes. It is perfectly legitimate that, because we are affluent, we build homes that provide us with luxuries of space and privacy unknown to previous generations. Our affluence also means that we accumulate more stuff, which we like to have space for. What we need to change, though, is our equation of size with status. When the phrase “trophy home” refers to a building that is beautifully designed, exquisitely crafted, and no larger than it needs to be, then we’ll be on the right track. Consider for a moment that a yacht with less total floor area than the average bedroom can accommodate a family of five in relative long-term comfort. Obviously, the need for space can be addressed through efficient design and altered perception.

A systemic approach It used to be assumed that green building was too expensive for ordinary people. That popular misperception has been followed by another that is equally pernicious; the idea that a few thousand dollars for some easily added features will make a building green. While it’s true that many of those individual features are worthwhile, a proper building should be designed and built holistically, taking advantage of what we call a “positive design spiral.” Blowing foam into wall framing that hasn’t evolved since 1960 is, to borrow the political cliché of the day, like putting lipstick on a pig.

This simple building forms a liner pattern in harmony with the terrain.

cheap mass-produced furnishings. Just as any good American with an ounce of patriotism should in my opinion never shop at Wal-Mart, we all will be better off if we build and furnish our houses with local or at least domestic products.

Build to last

in less than a generation, fit only for bulldozing into overflowing landfills. We fill those buildings full of finishes, fixtures, and appliances that don’t even last as long as a cheap car before they are torn out, trucked to the trash heap, and replaced. This model is great for the local economy, but it’s not sustainable.

Planned obsolescence, or the “throwaway mentality,” permeates every aspect of modern culture, including homebuilding. We cut down trees that are older than we are to build buildings that will be junk

Buildings are almost the only things we produce that are inextricably connected to the land and, as such, they should be

Sensible design

harmoniously related to it. Instead, we often carve our land into little territories, pluck our houses out of literal or figurative catalogs, and plunk them down facing the streets. In doing this, we ignore the land, the views, the neighbors, the weather, and the functionality of spaces. Even when we design for a specific site, we often use those same catalogs and make those same mistakes. A “great room” with a two-and-a-half story wall of Continued on next page

Build locally It is hard to argue with the idea that houses can be built more efficiently in a factory than on-site. On the surface, extending the concept of Henry Ford’s assembly line to the ultimate consumer product, the house, makes perfect sense. Specialist workers in a controlled environment mass produce a standardized item efficiently and with minimal waste. However, a deeper look reveals some real problems with this idea. The first problem is in the outsourcing of labor. It is arguably beneficial to utilize the lower labor costs of say, Appalachia or the Deep South, but the inevitable next step is outsourcing south of the border or overseas. How is that good for the U.S. or for local economies? The next problem is in the cost and carbon footprint of transportation. Moving resources directly to the location of their end use is obviously much more efficient than moving them to one region where they are assembled into voluminous packages, which are then expensively moved to yet another region. As production is further outsourced, this problem will be exacerbated. Lastly, despite the outlandish claims of the salesmen, there is no market for a Mercedes in the mass-produced housing industry. At best, Chevettes are produced, and as the industry globalizes, Tatas will become the norm. This type of race to the bottom generates short-term economies and big profits, but it does not produce viable long-term housing.

Buy Locally In addition to building locally, we should try to buy our materials and furnishings locally. We wonder why we have economic troubles, massive unemployment, a plummeting dollar, a trade deficit and a huge carbon footprint, when we do things like employ loggers to cut down our last virgin timber, which we ship overseas and then buy back in the form of pallets, shipping materials, paper products and

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Page 10 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 cost in the first place. We develop wonderful new building technologies, and then discover that entire neighborhoods are disintegrating. We outsource materials to the cheapest supplier, and then find out that they’ve poisoned or irradiated thousands of people. We continue to wrap new materials around old ideas, and wonder why we have mold and mildew everywhere, and epidemics of asthma and allergies. We pay premium prices for fashionable products, even knowing that much of the price is paying for legal settlements and warranty work. Closer to home, owners of multi-million dollar mansions discover that their dream homes leak like sieves and are rotting from the inside out. Addressing these problems is not rocket science; we have the knowledge and technology if we would just apply it.


The clustering of buildings and placement along the side of the hill reduces the visual impact on the skyline.

Continued from previous page glass facing the prevailing nor’easters is just architectural stupidity. In defense of the architectural profession, clients often drive this type of nonsense, which is why evolving attitudes and cultural values are the most important forces for change.

Resource efficiency As it is with energy, the most efficient way to preserve natural resources is to learn to do more with less. Technology helps us here; for example, engineered lumber is the latest step in the progression of ways we’ve used wood, from log cabins to timber frames to balloon and platform framing. (Shameless advertising blurb alert: Read my book Building With Engineered Lumber for an in depth treatment of this topic.) Reclaimed timber and sustainable forest management practices are big steps in the right direction, driven by consumer education and demand. We have at least four more opportunities for major improvements in our resource utilization: make smaller buildings that use space better; make better buildings that last

longer; reuse material that currently goes into the waste stream; and better allocate non-renewable materials.

Energy efficiency Of course, the single biggest trend in the housing industry today is energy efficiency, and rightly so. It’s the area where we have the largest opportunity for immediate improvement, and also where we can achieve the most savings. Our building technologies have been developed for centuries in the context of cheap energy, first unlimited firewood and then inexpensive and subsidized coal, oil, gas and electricity. We’ve had no real incentive to build efficient buildings. This is not the place for an in-depth treatise, but I will say that the answers are in innovation, education, regulation and the creation of economic incentive. The hidden energy costs of a building are in its production and ultimate disposal. Our best opportunities for improvement are, again, to build more durable buildings, to minimize transportation costs by buying and building locally, and to recapture the inherent energy in materials that are due for disposal or re-use.

Healthy homes We’ve had continual epidemics of health issues in our homes, both related to our personal health and to the health of the buildings themselves. We introduce new materials, and then find out that they are toxic. We build cheap housing for people in need, and then spend more money settling lawsuits than the homes

There is no conclusion; the home building industry is a continuum. We can do much better on all of these issues and, in fact, we are making progress on many of them. We just need to stop treating houses like space shuttles, assembling them with the combined economies of hundreds of cost-cutting suppliers and low bidders. We need to re-acquaint ourselves with the idea that a home, or a retirement or vacation home, is the largest investment most of us will ever make. A new house should become a worthy legacy, not a depreciating liability.

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Building green makes good sense environmentally and economically Spier has been a carpenter and contractor for 30 years, more than 20 of which have been on Block Island. He is a certified Home Inspector and a Building Analyst certified by the Building Performance Institute. For his own house he used an innovative design, which is essentially a Cape that has been curved in the middle. Its kitchen and family room look out over Trim’s Pond through a rounded wall of eight windows. The amount of glass and the orientation is critical, Spier explains, when design-

ing an environmentally friendly home. He used a six-inch layer of concrete poured over steel I-beams, 90,000 pounds of material in total, to create the correct “glass to mass” ratio. By correctly calculating how many windows corresponded to the thermal-mass of the home Spier is able to have his house stay a nearly-constant 70 degrees year round. Spier also used a blown open-cell foam insulation to prevent air leakage throughout the house. Foam insulation expands to fill the entire wall cavity to completely seal the home from the outside.

Photo by Dan West

By Dan West Building green continues to be a growing trend. Increases in energy prices and concerns over global warming have made environmentally-conscious design a popular choice in new-home construction. But it was six years before Al Gore released “An Inconvenient Truth” and eight years before oil prices reached nearly $150 a barrel that John and Kerri Spier built their own green home on Block Island. Ten years later, they can see what they did right and what they did wrong.

The rear of the house facing Trims Pond has a curved wall.

“The biggest energy problem with most houses is air leakage,” says Spier. “We were careful with the air barriers but if I built it again today I’d be able do even better.” Homes need to exchange air with the outside at a rate of about a third of the air volume in the house per hour. Most homes achieve this through air leakage, which means all the new air has to be re-heated as it enters the house. Instead, Spier uses a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) to achieve the right amount of air circulation. The HRV removes air from the kitchen and bathrooms and exchanges it with outside air that is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer as it is exchanged with the old air. “[HRVs] save energy, get rid of smells and humidity,” Spier said. “It’s going to be routine in the next 10 years.” (Mechanical ventilation of some kind will be a code requirement within the next few years.) Spier uses alternative energy, too, with an array of solar panels on his lawn that provides a portion of the home’s power. It doesn’t put the home entirely off the grid, but does supplement much of the electricity cost. Meanwhile, a solar water heater with large collectors on the roof provides nearly all the hot water for the home. It’s a system Spier says works very well on Block Island because the period of highest hot water demand is summertime, when there is plenty of sun. It offsets the high costs for energy. There is an efficient wood stove in the living room that provides roughly oneContinued on next page


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Photos by Dan West

Continued from previous page third of the home’s heat during the winter. Spier estimates that he heats the home with one-third wood, one-third sun and one-third oil. However, he explains that a “green” home cannot be fully broken down into individual technologies or design elements, rather it needs to be a guiding philosophy throughout the design process. (See previous article.) “The approach has to be holistic, you can’t just slap $5,000 worth of green features onto a house and call it green,” Spier said. “The house needs to be green in concept.” He explains that a green home should be no larger than necessary; it should use materials on the outside that are low maintenance and have a design inside that does not need to be updated constantly. Spier’s kitchen, for example, has granite counter tops and maple cabinets that have remained in excellent shape for the last 10 years. “My kitchen looks the same as it did 10 years ago,” Spier said. “If you come back in another 10 years, it will still look the same.” He also says that certain aspects of

living in a green home require a lifestyle change. Turning lights off when leaving a room and using only the amount of water necessary, for instance, help keep a home as environmentally friendly as possible. Spier has learned a lot in the last decade and says that if he were to build a new green home he would certainly do things differently. He’d make his top floor able to be sealed off in the winter so that it wouldn’t need to be heated. He’d choose a more efficient boiler, something he says all new homes should do, and he’d utilize more energy-efficient windows. One of the main concerns for people building new homes when they decide whether to use a green design is the cost. Spier agrees that costs are initially higher and he admits that whether he has made his money back on his initial investment is unclear. However, he says that many technologies and environmentally friendly design elements that are not cost effective on the mainland might be on Block Island due to the much higher electricity costs. “There is a myth that building green is too expensive,” says Spier. “The real costs are hard to quantify; you can’t put dollars and cents on quality, comfort, clean healthy air and social responsibility.”

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Page 16 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

Help, my computer just crashed! By Judy Tierney Calling 911 won’t help when you need a computer consultation. So what do you do on Block Island when your computer freezes up, goes dark and crashes, or refuses to open an attachment you absolutely must read? After grumbling, shouting, slamming its top closed, or taking the more logical step of rebooting, you can call for help several experts who make home and office visits on Block Island: Jeremy Walsh of Right Click, Andy Fletcher of Beachline Computers and John barry of Macsperts. All respond to emergencies.

The Right Click The Right Click provides regular maintenance as well as emergency intervention to island and mainland businesses and homes, whether there is one computer or 85 with servers. The Right Click troubleshoots, cleans up viruses and solves network problems. Owner Jeremy Walsh sees his company as having two branches: a business focus to help with email and email services, with the other focus on computer repair and retail sales in South County on the mainland. “We teach you new technology and ways of using it, or how to become more efficient,” Walsh says. “We go into a business and show you how to consolidate your communications server.” Different from many of his contemporaries, Walsh came into the computer field from a liberal arts background. He was a philosophy major in college. He snagged his first Internet Technology job by convincing his interviewers he was qualified since computers operate on logic, and

logic is a branch of philosophy. “Computers are just a system of logic and if you understand that you can trace back problems,” Walsh explains. His line of reasoning was successful, and he spent five years working in IT in the New York area before returning to the Narragansett and starting his own company, the Right Click, in 2002. Asked what bedevils Block Island computers the most, Walsh responded without hesitation, “Power-related problems more than anything else.” He finds burned out mother boards and hard drives here, problems he attributes to the fluctuating, surging power. To protect electronic equipment, he recommends buying UPCs — Uninterruptible Power Supplies. “Get a big heavy one with a battery inside,” he says. The surge protector strips many of us rely on are not reliable, he says. They contain a fuse, Walsh explains, and one hit of lightning breaks the fuse. That saves the equipment once, but then, a new one is needed. “The non-constant power is even worse,” he says, than the lightning strikes. A UPC for a home computer will cost in the $50 range, and the battery needs replacement just once a year. Walsh can order them for customers and advise on which to purchase. He also had some advice on the latest round of spyware, which he calls “ransomware.” “A website pops up saying you have a million infections, give us money to remove them. That’s the infection,” Walsh reveals. “Or, there’s a blackmailing por-

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nography site that captures browsers’ email addresses and threatens to publish your internet browsing history on a website until you pay them to remove it.” Because of the isolation of the island, Walsh says people wait and wait to get something fixed, but they don’t have to. “We can often do it over the internet.” Otherwise, if a problem occurs between his visits that can’t be solved over the net, the equipment can be thrown on the boat and the Right Click will pick it up and deliver.

Beachline Computer Services — Andy Fletcher Andy Fletcher is a 2005 graduate of New England Technical Institute and is certified to work on PCs. He started working with computers way before that though in the mid-l980s while he was in the Air Force, assigned to the public health medical service tracking disease trends. He had to use computers, he recalls, to analyze data. When he retired from the service, he used his G.I. Bill benefits to go to technical school, and then became a “road war-

rier technician.” His first technical job for Science Applications International was to service computers at remote facilities. Fletcher grew up on Block Island, first as a summer kid, and then, he went to high school here and graduated from the Block Island School. He now lives in Narragansett, and has a home-based business that he describes as “customer centric.” “Think of me as your family computer guy,” he suggests. Fletcher will upgrade and tune up computers, provide education and one-on-one interventions. He’ll reset and reconfigure wireless modems as well. His list of services includes: purchase consultation and assistance; preparation, set-up and networking; upgrades, tune-ups, and peripherals; troubleshooting and repair; training; remote work; web site consultation and editing assistance; projects. His business is small. If a customer calls, they’ll get Andy, he asserts, “Andy’s it.” Fletcher does “per diem” calls. He doesn’t offer contracts, but is often called

See Computer Help, Page 18

House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

Page 17

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in to places with contracts to do what he calls, “a micro job.” As a former Block Islander, Fletcher is aware that “it is a challenge living on the island to get dependable service and for a business to take the time to come over to the island. It’s been my home, and I still have close friends and family [there].” The most frequent problem his customers bring him is a slow computer. Often they have a virus, and Fletcher can tune them up. “I try to resurrect old computers. You can spend $100 to $150 on new parts versus $800 on a new computer,” he says. Andy believes that people use him because they can trust and depend on him. Much of his new business, he says, comes

from referrals. Beachline’s service includes picking up and delivering to the ferry, sometimes on the same day. He’ll even get parts and bring them to the ferry for customers. If he had enough business this spring, Fletcher will begin to make scheduled island visits, with regular office hours where he can be located.

Macsperts — John Barry. John Barry, the production manager for the Block Island Times, currently lives in Troy, N.Y., but makes frequent visits to Block Island. He also runs Macsperts and a graphic design firm called Small House Design. He has taught computer classes for residents and keeps Macs running all over the island. Barry is planning to relocate back to Block Island in the near future, where he will be available to fix primarily Apple computers.

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Water Filters By Dan West Block Islanders who use well water are familiar with many of the problems that can come with those systems: odors, rust stains and even some illnesses can be caused by contaminated ground water. Steve Tudino of Water Filters Incorporated solves these types of problems everyday with water filter systems and says that many times the homeowners don’t even know that it can be dealt with. “A lot of the time people just think its normal and then we come [and install a filter system] and its like ‘where have you been this whole time?’” Tudino said. “They don’t even realize this can be fixed.” Filters can be large complex systems that filter the water for an entire structure

or smaller systems that target only the drinking water; however, Tudino says that his company focuses on making sure they are user friendly. “Going from a system where there is iron in the water or an odor or bad taste to a clean filtered system makes a big difference,” Tudino said. “The results can be dramatic.”

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A North Kingstown home hopes to be a New England trendsetter by James Maloney The newly renovated house at 53 Hancock Drive in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, doesn’t appear unusual to the passerby. In fact, a closer external examination of the house still reveals little that is unique. Yet this house is undergoing inspections that soon will distinguish it from every other house in New England: as the first home to pass all four national green building standards.

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Designer and builder David Caldwell, Jr. undertook the renovation of the house with this goal in mind. “It was a speculative project with no buyer in place at the time when we started the renovations,” says Caldwell. “We wanted to build a house that was completely green.” Caldwell works for Caldwell & Johnson Custom Builders & Remodelers of North Kingstown, which was co-founded by his father and specializes in building energy Continued on next page

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Continued from previous page efficient homes. The U.S. Navy originally built the house in 1952 as a 648-square-foot, two-bedroom ranch. It was foreclosed upon in 2007 after a past owner began renovations that went unfinished. That’s when Caldwell and his team stepped in. After gutting the existing structure, Caldwell spent the next two years completely remodeling the house. The finished project has 1,296 square feet of living space with three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, and is approximately twice as energy efficient as a comparable new house. It also has some interesting features. Every three hours, outside air is filtered throughout the house, while the indoor temperature remains constant. A monitor measures the energy use of each household appliance and lighting fixture. Green products throughout the

house include recycled glass countertops, a bamboo floor, cradle to cradle recycled carpet, composite wood products, fluorescent and LED lighting, and paint that contains no off-gassing volatile organic compounds. The house is currently undergoing inspections for four separate building and energy efficiency standards: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), U.S. Department of Energy Builders Challenge program, National Association of Home Builders National Green Building Standard, and Energy Star Standard. According to Caldwell, the inspections will take several months and cost roughly $4,000 to complete. “These inspections are a series of rigorous processes,” said Caldwell, “a person can’t use some green elements and call it a green house; there is a formal review pro-

cess and standards that need to be met.” Conservation Energy Services, a national non-profit organization based in Massachusetts, heads up the evaluation process. Caldwell and his team fully expect the house to pass all four standards and be the first recognized green house in New England. The company has already begun working on two more green houses in Rhode Island, with pre-construction plans being finalized. The trend of going green is still growing nationwide, and Caldwell insists that it doesn’t require a big upfront investment to make a house green. The house at 53 Hancock Drive, he says, required only an additional $5,000 of materials to make it completely green. And after this one-time expense, says Caldwell, the house’s energy efficiency starts saving the new owner money right away.

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Page 22 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

Steps to deer-proof the garden this spring By James Maloney If you’re like most green-thumbed Block Islanders, the first signs of spring are getting you in the gardening mood again. But, along with selecting plants and dusting off your rakes and spades comes another seasonal task; finding the best way to prevent deer from munching away at your efforts! As the season approaches, local garden retailers and online repellent stores are stocking up on animal deterrents. The two most common deterrent methods for deer are fencing or chemical applications, but there are also some more creative solutions. Here’s a look at some of what’s available this spring. David Chappel, owner of Damon’s Hardware in Wakefield, names LiquidFence as his best selling deer repellent. It’s an all-natural chemical application available in ready-to-use gallon containers for $24.99 or in a quart-concentrate form which makes up to five gallons for $39.99. The liquid is applied around the garden, and is to be reapplied every six weeks or after a heavy rainfall. “It works. My son-in-law uses it, and he grows strawberries, raspberries and all sorts of other plants that deer normally go after,” Chappel said. He also recommends Natural Pest Solutions, a 32oz. all-natural pump spray priced at $18.95, which can be applied right on the plants and last 100 days before reapplication. At Goose and Garden on Block Island, owner John Whitaker carries a number of


all-natural chemical repellents and he also has fencing supplies. “Deer fencing is the easiest way to protect your garden and the only sure-fire way, really,” he said. “But a big ugly fence is not always the best looking thing to have.” The deer repellent of choice at Clark Farms in Wakefield is a powder application called Deer-Scram. It comes in 2.5-lb bags priced at $21.99, which can protect up to 16,000 square feet. Or, customers can have Kim Mallett, the head pesticide applicator for Clark Farms, come to their garden and apply her mix of repellents. “We’re just starting to get under way with our application service,” Mallet said. “We do a very thorough job of applying repellents but keep everything organic so we don’t harm anyone or any pets.” Mallet also mentioned another method she has seen to keep the deer away. “Some people use motion-sensor sprinklers,” she said. “They turn them on at dawn and dusk, and it can scare the deer away. Once a deer changes its pattern, it tends not to come back for a while.” These motion-sensor sprinklers, like the ones available at www. and other online animalrepellent stores, usually cost around $60. At Highland Farms in South Kingstown, owner Jack Sumner suggests DeerSolutions, an all-natural one-gallon concentrate which sells for $25. “It’s our best seller,” he said. “I’ve used it on my garden, and it works great.” Sumner also believes that keeping deer out of gardens begins



with the right selection of plants. “We’re cautious about the plants and shrubs we sell to people here and make sure they know what the deer will go after and what they don’t,” he said. “The best way to go about it is not to plant plants deer are attracted to. It’s like putting a giant salad bowl out there for them.” Another deer deterrent method that seems to be catching on is the use of electronic repellents kits. These kits, such as the ones available at www.havahart. com for $66.70, use electrically-charged scented stake posts to lure in deer and give them a static shock upon contact. This shock, which is harmless, conditions the deer to stay away. Unlike chemical products, these stake posts are resistant to weather conditions and will normally last the entire gardening season. “Electric chargers actually train the deer very quickly,” said Sumner of Highland Farms. “They’re not dumb animals, so if they are shocked once, they won’t be back for a while. Then, you can just shut the chargers off.” Or, if you’re feeling industrious, another solution is to make a homemade repellent. “It’s not uncommon for people to try and make their own repellents,” said Block Island resident Becky Ballard, who has made her own mixture using hot sauce and other household items. “But it gets tiresome when you have to reapply your

solution after every rainfall.” Ballard also doesn’t like the idea of netting or fencing around her garden, explaining, “Part of the experience is being able to look at your garden and enjoy the view.” Last year, she moved on to another solution. “I bought the cheapest and smelliest bars of soap I could find and hung them throughout my garden,” she said. “For some reason, this particular smell seems to keep deer away.” So whether you’re planning on concocting your own repellent this spring or looking for new technological solutions, it’s important to make sure your garden is protected. Although it can be a hassle, properly defending your plants and shrubs from the island’s deer population is an essential step to growing a successful garden. For more information, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management ( has two related publications available: “Reducing Deer Damage to Your Garden and Yard” and “An Evaluation of Deer Management Options.”

Plants that deer like Crocus Tulips Hostas Daylilies Oriental and Field lilies Hybrid roses Hydrangeas Dahlias Chrysanthemums Rhododendrons Montauk daisies Painted daisies Autumn Joy Sedum Echinacea





Plants that deer shun Shrubs: Arrowwood, Butterfly Bush, Elderberry, Lilacs, Forsythia, Flowering quince, Rose of Sharon, Weigela, Winterberry. Perennials: Asters, Astilbe, Bleeding Hearts, Cat-mint, California poppy, Poppies, Columbines, Coreopsis moonbeam, Echinacea (purple cornflower), Gaillardia (blanket flower), Hardy geraniums, Johnny jump-ups, Lance leaf coreopsis, Lily-of-the-valley, Monarda (bee balm), Obedient flower, Rudbeckia (black eyed Susan), Russian sage, some sedums, Scabiosa (pin cushion flower), Thread-leaf coreopsis, Violas and violets, Wand flower, Yarrow. Bulbs: Snow crocus’, Daffodils and narcissus’, Hyacinths (all types) Herbs: Chives, Hyssop, Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, Santolina virens, Tansey, Tarragon, Thyme, Wormwood. Annuals: Coleus, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Petunias, Portulaca, Snapdragons

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House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

Gardening Times By Frederick H. Nelson

Pruning Tips Pruning of trees, shrubs and roses is an essential aspect of gardening that can be accomplished by any gardener who is willing to pay attention to a few basic fundamentals. One of the first considerations is whether or not a particular plant needs any pruning. If the normal growth habit of the plant is within the realm of its natural shape, and it was planted in space that will accommodate it, then perhaps nothing is required. This means that you have selected a plant that normally will not require any assistance. However, plants often have a tendency to develop problems that are contrary to normal growth or behavior just as we humans often do. Pruning of any sort is best accomplished with the proper cutting instrument. Small hand clippers are fine for small branches and roses. So-called loppers are necessary for larger cuts up to about one inch or so, and anything larger should be cut with a pruning saw. The most important point is that regardless of what instrument, it should be sharp. Sharpness provides a good clean cut that allows the wound to heal readily. Dull tools will cause additional injury to the cut besides that of the cut itself. If you cannot, or do not know how to, sharpen a particular tool, take it to a shop or purchase a new tool and take better care of it than you did the original.

Almost all trees may be pruned at any time of the year with the exception of maples and birches, which tend to “bleed” from cuts during the spring. During the winter and spring it is much easier to note errant growth that may be corrected because of the lack of leaves. Any branch that is tending to grow toward the center of the trees should be pruned out to keep the tree open and to allow as much sunlight into the inner part of the tree as possible. This is particularly important with flowering or fruiting trees. The lack of light due to too many branches will inhibit development of flower buds. Branches that tend to grow down instead of reaching out, also add to the lack of light penetration. One of the most important aspects in pruning any branch is where you make the cut. Years ago the accepted practice was to make the cut as close to the trunk or other branch as possible. Now, if you will notice, there is a “collar” of cells that protrude from the trunk just a bit. Research has shown that cutting just at the outer limit of this collar results in more rapid healing than a flush cut. Research has further shown that the old practice of painting a “protective” material on the cut is not necessary and in fact may slow the healing from the cut. Whatever pruning that you practice on a tree, by all

means do not prune branches and leave a stub capable of hanging your hat. Lack of light, insects and diseases often cause some branches to die off in a tree or shrub. Thus, any such branches should be pruned to avoid the possibility of further injury. This type of problem is easier to see when the tree is in leaf.  Spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia and lilac are best pruned immediately after blossoming. Flower buds are formed on new growth during the growing season following pruning. My practice of containing the growth of forsythia is to remove the oldest or largest branch as close to the ground as possible. By removing about one third of these branches the plant will have been opened to allow sunlight that will promote new growth to provide for added flowering the following spring. Sometimes clipping some excessive growth from other branches may also be helpful in opening the plant. Without this aggressive pruning forsythia will become unmanageable and less attractive within a few short years. Lilacs don’t require as aggressive pruning as forsythia, but an occasional removal of the largest ìtrunkî will encourage new growth and flowering along with a more attractive appearance. Very often if the older trunks are not cut back they become susceptible to borers and scale rot, which diminishes the whole plant.  Butterfly shrubs require the least skill in controlling growth. As anyone who has a butterfly bush knows, they just keep on growing outward and upward. Annual pruning is the best control and should be done any time from late winter until new growth starts in the spring. The height that you may wish the shrub to attain during the summer will determine how far to cut back on all growth. The highest level of pruning at about two to two and one half feet from the ground will result in summer growth of up to six feet or more, depending upon growing conditions. If a lower height is desired, you can

Page 23

prune the whole plant as low as 18 inches without harming the development of any attractive summer bloom. Following the major pruning of the heavier branches it is a good idea to prune out any remaining thin branches, as they will not contribute to any substantial new growth. An interesting note: I can see that the butterfly bush could become an invasive plant, as I have had numerous seedlings sprout in surrounding garden areas. My observations of the care, or lack of care, of cultivated roses is that those that I have seen are left unattended. At some point, this mass of planting will achieve the potential for a more attractive appearance and controlled growth with just a bit of pruning. Most of the roses along the roadside are a variety of climbing roses (not the multiflora rose that permeates the countryside). An easy method of cultivating these roses is to prune out the oldest canes as far back to the ground as possible. By eliminating this old growth new canes will be encouraged to grow and blossom. Pruning may be done right after blossoming. If the planting is really overgrown, you can prune out old growth any time, realizing that if this is done in late spring you will lose a percentage of bloom for the oncoming season. This pruning practice of cutting back the oldest canes may be applied to all climbing roses. Hybrid tea and floribunda roses should be pruned in the spring to a height of 18 to 24 inches. Cuts should be made on a 45-degree angle about one quarter of an inch above a viable bud, facing outward from the plant. Canes that have been winterkilled and any cane that is abnormally thin should be completely pruned out. The fewer canes that result from pruning will more than make up for the loss of pruned out canes with renewed growth. To put this in perspective, the plant has the potential for only so much growth, so the fewer canes that are produced, the heavier the blooms will be.

Left to right: Rose, Lilac, and Forsythia.

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Page 24 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

Rug gallery splashes onto home décor scene in Wakefield By Gloria S. Redlich Visitors to Dove and Distaff Interiors in the center of the bustling village of Wakefield are in for something of an historical discovery even as they in are for a treat. For 51 years, the family owned upholstery, furniture restoration and drapery business has been a vital presence in this small South County town. Originally established by Caleb Davis in an old mill building in Peacedale, Dove and Distaff took its name from a tearoom located in the same building. The current owner, Davis’ daughter Carla, notes that the name was also consistent with the culture of the 60s — with the dove symbolizing peace, and the distaff, among other things, representing a tool used in the process of weaving — all very appropriate to the textile industry. Over the past half-century of joining their business and craft skills with imagination, the Davis family has brought together the talents of a number of gifted individuals, as they continue to make themselves known to those seeking reliable trades-people, as well as to shoppers and browsers walking along Main Street. Until recently the staff of what is now the downstairs store established the firm as a familiar name in upholstery and furniture repair, eventually adding draperies and slipcovers. In the fall of 2009, however, Dove and Distaff expanded to include a second-floor gallery of eclectic designer rugs and household accessories.

Taking a look One recent spring morning, on poking into the street level of the Dove and Distaff operation, this visitor finds herself

in a large studio and workshop filled with furniture in various stages of renewal. At a table, sewing on a long swath of elegant blue satin is Sandol Astrausky, who has worked for D & D for a year. Of the plush material in her hands, she says, “I feel as if I’m making a gown for a queen.” She points to a series of hangars on which are folded more of the heavily lined blue satin panels and identifies them as draperies. Unknown to the visitor at the time, Sandol’s creative hands also define her as an accomplished musician. The recipient of a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, she is an old-time fiddle player who has been described as “making southern mountain tunes unforgettable.” A resident of South County, Sandol balances her time between her music and her work for Dove and Distaff. Clearly thrilled to employ Sandol, Carla says of her, “She is a musician first, but also an artist who paints floor canvases. She works for us as a way to support her musical habit.”

Up into the gallery On entering the first of three secondstory show rooms that open into each other, a browser faces walls splashed with row upon row of colorful rug swatches — tattersalls, stripes, plaids, patchworks and florals — in wools and cottons that have been hand-loomed, braided, woven, hooked and tufted. Bolts of complementary fabric lean against the corners and a kaleidoscope of multi-textured pillows punctuate the scene. In addition to carpeting, the upstairs location also offers lampshades, throws, pillows and tote bags.

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Specializing in area and accent rugs, the store carries Dash and Albert and Company C carpeting, “handcrafted by skilled artisans” and designed with aesthetics and durability in mind.

From theatre to rug gallery Presiding over the new gallery is Judith Ross McNab, who previously spent many years directing the South County Players Children’s Theatre. Judith notes that she whimsical designs. stepped into her role at Dove & Distaff Of her rug collection, Selke says, it is just as she turned 70, finding herself a little “spirited and well-bred … (and offers) startled, as she puts it, to be starting up a the smart solution for floors in search new career. of personality.” Highlighting her “cushy, However, her natural ebullience hooked cotton area rugs,” Selke notes they becomes quickly apparent: “This has been are “hand-hooked with wide-gauge 100 a crash-course,” she says of her work, “It percent cotton giving them a ‘springy’ is interesting, fun and I’m always learnlooped construction guaranteed to put a ing.” Of the rugs she sells, she adds, “We little bounce in your step …” advertize them as “art for the floor.” She is enthusiastic as she speaks of helping peoEthical sourcing and ple decorate. “What we’re selling besides business practices a product is service,” she says. “People Social consciousness underlies busibring us pictures, swatches of fabric and ness practices for the owners of Dove and paint chips, and we’re willing to walk Distaff. Judith points with pride to the mark people through their decorating needs.” of GoodWeave (originally Rug Mark) that Of course, McNab explains, she tries attaches to each Company C rug. This label to be as unobtrusive as possible, initially represents a policy of adhering to “ethical holding back until a customer asks for sourcing standards” that are consistent with help. “People need to take their time,” the philosophy that drives both the carpetJudith adds. Pointing to the many variaing firm and local gallery. tions of cotton rugs, she notes they are With their rugs manufactured in India, durable and available — with their bright the management of Company C is involved colors and lively patterns — as much for in the rescue, support and education of outdoor venues as indoor. Many “reflect young children who have been employed the mood of a summer cottage and have a by local manufacturers. The GoodWeave beach-house look,” she says, noting they label on their products assures buyers that may be used for patios, terraces and “even the rugs they have purchased have been on occasion rolled down the garden path.” made without the use of child labor. A number of the rug designs are drawn Judith points out that a buyer of a from the works of textile artist Kaffe Company C rug may use its identification Fassett and interior designer Annie Selke. number to track it back to the Indian factory With a studio in London, Fassett is an in which it was made. She says that a porAmerican-born, world- renowned artist in tion of the price of every Company C rug the decorative arts — working in mosaics, goes to support schools in India involved in needlepoint, patchwork, knitting, painting the rescue of underage children. and ceramics. He has many books to his Among the accessories and other comcredit and has exhibited in the Victoria plementary items Dove and Distaff carry and Albert Museum. A number of his sigare tote bags hand-loomed of the same nature quilting and mosaic designs have durable 100 percent cotton in the Dash and been translated into plush and textured Albert indoor-outdoor rugs, with a genercarpeting for Selke’s rug company, Dash ous carry-all capacity. The bags boast and Albert, which are on display at Dove leather bottoms and handles and are conand Distaff. sidered both “fashionable and practical.” In addition to the Dash and Albert Though available via email at info@ company, which is named for two of the Find an appliance that you like and We will , the staff at many dogs that “assist” Selke in marketing deliver and call us, we will deliver and installinvite in!anyone who might Dove and Distaff her install rugs, she owns two other textile busiany be in the neighborhood to “please visit our nesses, Pine ConeAmana Hill and Annie Selke • Whirlpool appliance • GE • JennAir bricks and mortar space,” as well. They are Home in the Berkshires. you — findall nestled Vermont Casting Gas Fireplace Stoves located at 365 Main Street, Wakefield and Herfrom products have been characterized as Callrange Peteofat 487-9629 can also be reached at (401) 284-1170. incorporating a vibrant colors and

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House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

Finding the right wood stove for cold nights next fall

by Judy Tierney The chill in the air on fall mornings is some months away as we greet spring on Block island. Still, it is not too soon to start thinking about how you may wish to manage your comfort on those crisp fall F days. In October, throwing on a robe or a sweatshirt won’t make us warm enough. We’ll have to turn on the heat. There no better way to take the cold out of a room than the heat from a small wood or pellet stove. Many Americans first became acquainted with wood and coal stoves during the energy crisis in the 1970s. The high price of petroleum made them particularly popular in the northeast, where trees are plentiful and the winter chill is harsh. Now, energy has again become a high priced commodity, and greener alternatives are both a priority and a more attractive option. Wood stoves of the 21st century are not the inefficient, polluting, fire hazards of the 1970s. The technology has advanced beyond the days of Ben Franklin. According to in the l980s the Environmental Protection Agency placed a limit of 7.5 gram per hour on smoke emissions. Many stoves, they say, now emit as little as 1 to 5 grams per hour. Pellet stoves look like wood stoves and fireplace inserts, but burn recycled wood shavings, sawdust or corn. They developed from the Presto-Log of the l930s, which used scraped sawdust from the Potlatch Pine mill in Lewiston, Maine. The miniaturized stoves emerged in the l980s. Although their initial cost is higher than a wood stove, pellet stove installation is easier. According to one vendor, Wakefield Fireplace and Grills, they can be vented through the wall or roof through an exhaust port. To heat a small house

with a pellet stove, usually two to three tons of pellets are used in a winter. Pellets cost approximately $300 a ton, and can be shipped to Block Islanders on the ferry. Homeowners who purchase a 75 percent efficient biomass (wood or pellet) burning stove, fireplace or insert and place it into service in their home during 2010, may be eligible to receive a U.S. federal tax credit for 30 percent of their cost or up to $1,500. Wakefield Fireplace and Grills, located on Route l08, just past the US Post Office, can help in the selection of an eligible unit. They carry Vermont Castings, Lopi, Fireplace Xtrordinair, Harman stoves and fireplace inserts, and Stoll fireplace doors. They do installation and deliver and assemble as well. Vermont Castings offers a catalytic wood stove, which they say is a higher efficiency heating machine, making it ideal as a supplementary heat source. Many of their models feature a glass front door so the fire can be seen and enjoyed. The Lopi company says their stoves are E.P.A. certified and emit as little as 1.9 grams of particulates an hour. This, they claim, is a reduction of 95 percent from old, inefficient stoves that used to generate as much as three pounds of pollutants per day. Theirs are the only non-catalytic stoves to feature a standard bypass damper for smokeless status and reloading. Harman makes a range of stoves, including the pellet stove. For homes with fireplaces, Fireplace Xtrordinair units convert them into efficient wood stoves, making them a greener alternative and helping ease energy costs. Wakefield Fireplace and Grills is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 AM 5:00 PM. ; or visit them online at www.

Coffee Filters

Coffee filters.... Who knew! And you can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Tree for almost nothing even the large ones. 1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.

13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease.

2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome... Coffee filters are lint-free so they’ll leave windows sparkling.

15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliquéing soft fabrics.

3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.

16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.

4. Filter broken cork from wine.  If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.

17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.

5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust. 6.   Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter. 7.   Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter. 8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale. 9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods. 10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes. 11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter. 12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters.

If this ad was in color you’d be seeing RED right now. Color makes a difference. To find out how easy and economical it is to add color to your ad, call Shane or Betty at 401-466-2222.

Page 25

14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great “razor nick fixers.”

18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car. 19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills. 20. Use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies. Saves on having extra bowls to wash. 21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage. 22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls. 23. Use them to sprout seeds.  Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout. 24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book. 25. Use as a disposable “snack bowl” for popcorn, chips, etc. Oh yeah they are great to use in your coffee makers too!

Page 26 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

ADVERTISER INDEX by Name A A Block Island Flag Company P. O. Box 136, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 2137 Abbacus Construction P. O. Box 1351, Block Island, RI 02807 401-466-2958 Allstate Insurance 24 Salt Pond Road, Wakefield, RI 02879 401-789-3053 Antonio’s Painting & Carpet Cleaning P. O. Box 1554, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 5305 Ardente Supply Company 79A Tom Harvey Road, Westerly, RI 02891 401 315 2727

B Back Alley Woodworks 355 B Main Street, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 789 6939 Beachline Computer Services 39 Kimberly Drive, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 378 3069 Bee Interiors 25 Helen Avenue, Rye, NY 10580 914 629 6103, 401 466 7765, 203 856 6507 Birdwatchers Nature View 484 Main Street, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 789 8020 Block Island Alarm P. O. Box 853, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 5577 Block Island Concrete P.O. Box 5441, Wakefield, RI 02880 877-466-9001 Block Island Gardeners P. O. Box 661, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 3171 Block Island Plumbing & Heating P. O. Box 1787, Block island, RI 401 466 5930

C Cardi’s / Rhode Island Design Center 25 South County Commons Wakefield, RI 02879 401 284 1875 Clam Door 1666 Post Rd., Warwick, RI 02888 877-668-6006 Chariho Furniture 10 Richmond Townhouse Road Wyoming, RI 02898 (Junction 112&138) 401 539 9043

D Damon’s Hardware 442 Main Street, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 789 1773 Dennis Moffitt Painting 1428 Kingstown Road, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 789 2181

Don DeMaggio Plumbing P. O Box 1857, Block Island, RI 02807 401 465 1466 Doug Michel Construction, Inc. P. O. Box 106, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 2390 Dove & Distaff Interiors 365 Main Street, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 284 1170 DVL Landscaping P. O. Box 1208, Block island, RI 02807 401 466 2081 Dwyer Hardwoods 31 Sextant lane, Narragansett, RI 02882 401 284 2305

E East Coast Landscaping P. O. Box 483, Wakefield, RI 02880 401 788 9360

F Fagan Door Corp. 390 Tiogue Avenue, Coventry, RI 02816 401 782 1624 Filippone Construction, Inc. P. O. Box 178, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 8901

G Geoffrey Rigby Leather P. O. Box 897, Block island, RI 02807 401 466 2391 Goose and Garden P. O. Box 1535, Block island, RI 02807 401 466 2866 Granite Storage 74 Airport Road, Westerly, RI 02891 401 596 1443 Griggs & Browne 175 Niantic avenue, Providence, RI 02907 401 783 3800

H Heffernan Brothers of R.I. Inc. 84 Nottingham Drive, West Warwick, RI 02893 401 737 8242 Highland Farm 4235 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 792 8188 Hill and Harbour Tile Showroom 42 Ladd Street, East Greenwich, RI 02818 401 398 1035 Howard Johnson, Inc. 1978 Kingstown Road South Kingstown, RI 02883 401 789 9375 Hull Suburban Propane P. O. Box 237, Block Island, RI 02807 401 487 9629 Humphrey’s Window and Door Design Gallery 8 Coddington Hgwy, Middletown, RI 02842 1666 Post Rd., Warwick, RI 02888 877-814-9771

I Interstate Navigation P. O. Box 482, New London, CT 06320 401 783 4613 Island Hardware P. O. Box 1379, Block island, RI 02807 401 466 5831 Island Shading Systems P. O. Box 1366, Block island RI 02807 401 466 2352 Islandscape P. O. Box 364, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466- 961

J Jerry’s Paint and Hardware 120 Point Judith Road, Narragansett, RI 02882 401 783 4666

K Kitchens Direct, Inc. 40 Charles street, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 783 3100

L Lakeside Electric 28 Granby Street, Chepachet, RI 02814 401 349 4850

New England Stone Technology 690 Main Street, New Haven, CT 06512 203 466 7866

P Pat’s Power Equipment P. O. Box 1619, 3992 Old Post Road Charlestown, RI 02813 401 364 6114 Payne Farm Landscaping P. O. Box 1717, Block Island, RI 02807 401 432 5502

R Retractable Solutions by California Door & Window 33 Hummingbird Lane, Cranston, RI 02920 401 942 0003 Robert Brown Septic Services P. O. Box 669, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 3109


Lang Home Construction P. O. Box 150, Block island, RI02807 401 965 8630

Sears 20 South County Commons Wakefield, RI 02879 401 782 0009

Liberty Cedar 325 Liberty Lane, West Kingstown, RI 02892 401 789 6626 /

Sheldon’s Furniture 349 Main Street, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 783 5503

Liberty Rentals 1321 Kingston Road, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 789 7332

South County Sound and Video 540 Kingstown Road, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 789 1700

Lischke Improvements P. O. Box 995, Block Island, RI 02807 401 466 5916

StoneCraft Masonry 130 Harland Road, Norwich, CT 06360 860 319 6296

M Macsperts P. O. Box 188, Block Island, RI 02807 401 477 0709 Mattress Depot Rte 95 and 138, Richmond, RI 02898 401 539 1038 McConville Tile and Renovation P. O. Box 1718, Block Island, RI 02807 917 670 7665 McKay’s Front Porch 751 Ten Rod Road, North Kingstown, RI 02852 800 281 3162 McKay’s Furniture 182 Lafayette Road North Kingstown, RI 02852 401 295 1915 Mystic Solar P. O. Box 250, Mystic, CT 06355 860 536 9191

N Ned Phillips & Co. P. O. Box 404, Block island, RI 02807 401 466 5161


T The Right Click, LLC 35 South County Commons South Kingstown, RI 02879 401 465 6786 Tower Hill Farm 2845 Tower Hill Road North Kingstown, RI 02874 401 294 6633

W Wakefield Fireplace and Grills 591 Kingstown Road, Wakefield, RI 02879 401 789 9448 Washington Trust Bridgegate Square, Block island, RI 02807 401 466 7710 Water Filters, Inc 55 Pleasant Valley Road North Kingstown, RI 02852 401 294 2400 Westerly Glass 2 Industrial Highway, Westerly, RI 02891 401 596 4733 William Rose, Inc. P. O. Box 5441, Wakefield, RI 02880 877 466 9001



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House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

Page 27

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Page 28 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

ADVERTISER INDEX by Catagory APPLIANCES APPLIANCE REPAIR/GRILLS Hull Suburban Propane Sears Wakefield Fireplace and Grills

ARCHITECTS & DESIGNERS Bee Interiors, Ltd. Dove & Distaff Neil B. Lang Geoffrey Rigby-Leather

BANKS & FINANCE Washington Trust Co.

BIRDING SUPPLIES Birdwatchers Natureview

FLOORING/CARPETING Dove & Distaff Interiors Dwyer Hardwoods

FURNITURE BEDDING ACCESSORIES Cardi’s/Rhode Island Design Center Chariho Furniture Mattress Depot (a division of Chariho Furniture) McKay’s Furniture

FURNITURE — CASUAL Cardi’s Furniture Chariho Furniture McKay’s Front Porch McKay’s Furniture Sheldon’s Furniture


CLEANING/CLEAN-UP Antonio’s Carpet Cleaning

Back Alley Woodworks


COMPUTER SERVICES Beachline Computer Services Macsperts The Right Click

CONTRACTORS Abbacus Construction Doug Michel Construction, Inc Fagan Door Corp. Filippone Construction Lang Home Construction Lischke Improvements Inc. Mystic Solar New England Stone Technology Robert Brown Septic Services StoneCraft Masonry Westerly Glass William Rose, Inc.

CONTRACTORS/TILE Hill and Harbour Tile Showroom McConville Tile and Renovation

ELECTRICIANS/PLUMBERS Block Island Plumbing & Heating Don DeMaggio Lakeside Electric

Kitchens Direct, Inc.

GARDEN — PLANTS, SUPPLIES & FLAGS A Block Island Flag Goose & Garden Highland Farms Tower Hill Farm

HARDWARE Damon’s Hardware Island Hardware Jerry’s Paint & Hardware

LAWN & GARDEN POWER EQUIPMENT Howard Johnson / John Deere Pat’s Power Equipment

LUMBER & BUILDING SUPPLIES A.W. Hastings & Co. Ardente Supply Company Dwyer Hardwoods Liberty Cedar

MOVING SPECIALISTS Heffernan Brothers of R.I., Inc.


PAINTING & SUPPLIES Dennis Moffitt Painting Island Hardware Jerry’s Paint & Hardware

PEST CONTROL Griggs & Browne

PLUMBING SUPPLIES Ardente Supply Company Damon’s Hardware Water Filters, Inc.

SECURITY SYSTEMS Block Island Alarms

SERVICES South County Sound and Video

INSURANCE All State Insurance

LANDSCAPING, LAWN & GARDEN CARE Block Island Gardeners DVL Landscape Architecture, Ltd. East Coast Landscaping Islandscapes Liberty Rentals Ned Phillips Jr. & Co. Landscape Design Payne Farm Landscaping

STORAGE Granite Storage

TRANSPORTATION Interstate Navigation

WINDOW TREATMENTS California Door and Window Island Shading Systems

When this whole internet thing started, I swore it was a fad. Here it is about 140 years* later and I’m reading the Block Island Times on a laptop without a single wire. I guess you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. One request though. Can we get more pictures of those dogs that ride around in the trucks. They kill me!

In newsprint and on the web.

*Divide by 7 for human years.

House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

Goose and Garden All through the long winter, Goose and Garden on Beacon Hill has been nurturing plants for the island gardeners. A selection is available in the greenhouse and surrounding property. On the mainland both Tower Hill Nursery and Highland Farm offer flowers, trees and shrubs.

Page 29

It’s time for some new Patio furniture! Come in to see our selection. We carry Telescope Furniture from Granville, NY and Adirondack Furniture from Arnold Lumber in West Kingston, RI. We also carry beachhouse quality bedding in twin, full and queen sizes. We deliver to the ferry.

heldon’s SFURNITURE Serving Block Island since 1852 349 Main Street, Wakefield


AUTHORIZED� FLAGPOLES POLES — FLAGS� DEALER FLAG • BANNERS • ALL FLAGS ANNIN CUSTOM EMBROIDERY� CUSTOM EMBROIDERY We flag poles atOar, the Beachead, Oar, Seehave ourinstalled poles atourBeachead, & Kittens.� SE Light, Police Station, Library, Post Office and the BI We putPlus your logoofonprivate hats,homes shirts, flags.� dozens on and the Island. School. Call for a free the source for We ussupply thesighting officialand BI estimate. flag andWe theareIsland burgee. K



“on-Island” embroidery and the official Block Island Flag. Diane & Bruce Johnson, Proprietors:


401-466-2137 P.O. BOX 136 401-466-2137 ~ P.O.Box Box136 401-466-2137 ~ P.O.

The wood your project deserves!

Western Red Cedar | Alaska Yellow Cedar Poplar, Mahogany & Redwood Shingles, Shakes & Custom Millwork Roofing, Siding, Decking, Trim Custom Window & Door Surrounds Timbers a Specialty

We support sustainable & renewable resource management.

LIBERTYCEDAR.COM 325 Liberty Lane • W. Kingston, RI | 800.88CEDAR/401.789.6626








Page 30 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010


Ask about our

10% discount on spray or brush painting, home maintenance repair, carpet cleaning & sales.


License # 30668 / Visa • Mastercard

House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010 • BLOCK ISLAND TIMES

Page 31

Page 32 BLOCK ISLAND TIMES • House & Garden Edition • Spring 2010

Dream. Plan. Design. BuilD.

2010 Award Winning Design

You take care of the dream. Leave the rest to us. Landscape Architects (Lic. in RI, CT, NY, MA) –(NOFA) New England Organic Farming Association Certified Arborist Lic. (RI) – Pesticide Certification (RI) – (ASLA) American Society of Landscape Architects Member


dVl landscape architecture cultiVating block island’s natural beauty

[401] 466 2081

House and Garden: Spring 2010  

The Block Island Times House and Garden Issue for the spring of 2010.

House and Garden: Spring 2010  

The Block Island Times House and Garden Issue for the spring of 2010.