It was the early 1990s, and all across the nation groups of five ambitious youngsters were getting together to better mankind: the Power Rangers, Captain Planet's Planeteers, and the founders of Budget Blinds. Though the latter group began its humble operation out of an apartment, business ballooned and now it has more than 1,000 consultants across the continent. This team extends the window-savvy of the founders by performing free in-home consultations that give homeowners a concrete idea of what new window coverings would look like in their home. The shops' blinds, shutters, shades, and drapes can be custom-ordered for size, fabric, and style from among thousands of options by more than 25 vendors. As a testament to their window-beautifying prowess, Budget Blinds' consultants were hired to deck out a home on HGTV's Showhouse Showdown, which lures viewers searching for two houses to draw pistols at dawn.
In 1975, photographers Kristen Cole and David Marr founded their eponymous workshops in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, with only a darkroom, some developing equipment, and a classroom that could barely hold five students and a small grizzly bear. After 20 years of educating New Englanders, the talented duo relocated its expanding school to Boise to impart the duo's commercial and artistic expertise to students in the Treasure Valley. Cole/Marr Photography Workshops now illuminates the art of image capture in Boise's renovated Cultural Center, which houses the school's three darkrooms, studio and framing areas, digital workstations, and a photo library. Open to new framers and advanced snappers alike, the workshops' curriculums span fundamentals of both traditional and digital photography, with seminars on topics such as the darkroom process, Photoshop editing, and portraiture. Pupil and instructor galleries inspire with beautiful shots, many taken during photo safaris led by Cole and Marr to destinations as diverse as the contents of a communal diary.
In 1971, Michael Sowers taught himself how to throw clay in a high-school art class. The classroom had a functioning pottery wheel, but the instructor didn't know how to use it, so Michael began checking out instructional books from the library to support his fledgling interest.
Ever since, he's been molding masses of clay into plates and vessels, preserving their shapes with the heat of a 2,350-degree kiln. His work is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing—subtly hued french butter dishes hold a quarter pound of butter in water, keeping it fresh for up to a month, and grater plates come equipped with a built-in shredder for garlic, ginger, parmesan cheese, or CIA documents. Sowers seals each piece with a lead-free glaze used by potters since the time of the Ming dynasty, ensuring that customers can safely send his pottery through a dishwasher or heat them in a microwave or oven.
Like fancy suits, sofa sets are sewn from the same cut of fabric. These matching sets provide a well-rounded look in living rooms, but near misses tend to clash due to their small differences. At 20 show rooms throughout the western US, Mor Furniture for Less arranges complete-room sets so customers can envision the collections in their own homes. Furniture for living rooms, dining rooms, and children's rooms can be found in each store along with individual lamps, tables, and entertainment centers. The stores also carry complete sets of beds, dressers, and nightstands so that homeowners don’t receive criticism from design bloggers in their dreams.
After an innocent vacation to Boise captured the hearts of Jennifer and Marcelo Godoi, the duo moved to the city and planted the roots of Paint ‘n Sip. There the Godois beckon artists of every predilection and skill level to tie on an apron and unleash their inner Rembrandts. A calendar full of different subjects and themes teaches pupils to capture the glinting light on a sunflower’s petals, find the right hue of carmine to depict an overflowing wine glass, or dignify a trio of birds by filling their nest with monocles. At night's end, participants bring their dried work home to hang on the living-room wall or mantel.