Less is More

As a decorator and home stager I often encounter homes where I have to let the client know that while they have some lovely things, you can’t see them from their other stuff! It’s a basic yet profound rule I’ve learned that applies to so many things in life- less is more. Whether it’s the number of items squeezed onto a mantle (seriously, how do these things not fall off?), what we keep on our kitchen or bath counters, or even what we put in our mouths (eventually too many cookies or chips catches up to us).

De-cluttering is touted as the most important thing to do when selling your home. I agree with this as well. I advise homeowners to make rooms feel as spacious and open as possible by removing excess things. But why wouldn’t we want to live like this always, not just when selling our homes?

I strongly believe that beyond just de-cluttering our ‘stuff’, there is more impact to our beautiful objects when displayed on their own, instead of mixed in with other decorative pieces, fabrics, art, rugs, etc…Now I don’t mean you should only have one lovely thing per room, but I am of the belief, despite what many high-paid tv designers show, when your eye can’t focus on any one thing, some of the impact is lost.

Take for example this very expensive (no doubt), highly-curated dining room. There are some lovely items here ranging from the bold,metallic wallpaper; multi-patterned chairs; geometric mirror; heirloom art, silk drapes and statement lighting. But I can’t appreciate any of them to the same degree as I would on their own, as I feel they drown each other out somewhat.

Eloborate DIning roomHowever, when there are a few outstanding elements, they can truly shine. Here’s an example of that:

Dining Room elementsThe serene art, outstanding lamp and beautiful wood table stand out to me while the other items fade into the background and don’t compete. I would still remove a few excess items but hey, I know it’s for show 🙂

So while these are just my own views and opinions, I do think with spring arriving, we can all benefit from a little de-cluttering of excess from our lives and rooms. Less truly can be more!


Summer Must Haves for the Outdoors

Nowadays people are turning their outdoor space into extentions of their indoors. They realize it gets them so much more square feet to enjoy and so it becomes another room to decorate. I’ve scoured online to pick out some of my favourite & easy DIY ideas, to turn these areas into cozy and comfortable retreats, along with a few neat ideas to put in your garden. All non-specified photos are from bhg.com.

Swap Out your Cushions:

Swap out your Cushions

You should pick furniture for your outdoor rooms that are durable and of quality that will last you for many years. Then simply swap out cushions whenever you feel like a new colour scheme. Try some bold colours if your furniture is neutral.

Mix Elements:

Mixing Elements

If colour is not your cup of tea, then use several different types of materials to create visual interest. A metal table pairs well with the dark wicker furniture, porcelain garden stool, and worn wooden oars propped up in the corner.

Paint your Brick:

Paint your BrickTo instantly lighten and brighten any outdoor room, consider painting out the brick white. Wicker furniture and the substantial amount of natural light streaming in give the space a light and airy feel. However, take note that once brick is painted, you will need to repaint every few years depending on your climate.

– Pattern for Porches:

Another way to inject interest if colour is not your thing, is to introduce several different patterns in your cushions. Even the woven chairs enhance the scheme though additional patterns. Add in some placemats and a rug, and voila… you’ve got one stimulating room!

Paint your Wicker:

Photo by SET For Design

Photo by SET For Design

Photo by :  SET For Design

As someone who has done this themselves (see photo directly above for my own front porch), painting wicker couldn’t be any easier! Keep it neutral and bright or go crazy and pick a fun colour. It’s only paint and can be swapped out again.

Create a Hanging Garden:

Hands down this is the best use for an old unwanted shower caddy! Spray paint it out in whatever colour you like. Line the baskets with preserved moss to hold soil and plants while allowing excess water to easily drain away. Creates an interesting focal point for your fence.

– A New Use for Terracotta:

Rather than discarding that assortment of terracotta pots, consider using them as in-ground planters. Tuck the planters in among other bedding plants to add dimension to your garden.

– DIY Terrariums:

Decorate with Terrariums

Terrariums are not a new concept, but lately they’ve experienced a big surge in popularity. Create a simple terrarium all on your own using no more than a wooden tray, a collection of small potted plants, and a large glass dome.

Once you’ve mastered these easy makeovers, here’s an easy beer cocktail recipe to enjoy in your new improved space (even the title works well!):

 Sublime Design

  • 3 oz Molson Canadian 67 Sublime or your favourite beer with lime
  • 3 oz pink lemonade
  • 1 tsp of frozen raspberries thawed
  • Fresh raspberries or other berries of your choice

To a wine goblet filled with ice, add the beer, pink lemonade and thawed frozen raspberries. Stir and garnish with the fresh fruit on top.

All that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy 🙂




Ready to Go Outdoors?

I know I am!  This never-ending winter has made me long for sitting out, bbq’s, gardening… even moving the lawn seems preferable to the alternative we’ve had for so many months.

Why not create a cozy and ‘bohemian’ inspired room outdoors that can act as a additional and interesting aspect to your indoors. Here are some great ideas to implement this outdoor room that don’t require a ton of money.

Stump for a coffee table? Unfortunately with this year’s ice storm is southern Ontario, a higher than average number of trees have come down. If you find you (or someone you know) has some stumps remaining, why not create a unique coffee table that is bound to get some conversation going- “remember that crazy ice storm of 2013?”…

Bohemian Outdoor room by HGTV.ca

Bohemian Outdoor room by HGTV.ca

Add in a wonderful bright, colourful rug and matching throw and you’ve got an outdoor living room that will make you smile with every visit.

Lighting should not be ignored! Where there is electricity, you can’t go wrong with a stainless steel pendant that will blend in with just about anything.


Outdoor Stainless Pendant by HGTV.ca

Outdoor Stainless Pendant by HGTV.ca

Where there is no hardwiring, consider re-purposing a chandelier with battery powered candles for a soft and elegant glow.

Outdoor Battery-operated Chandelier by HGTV.ca

Outdoor Battery-operated Chandelier by HGTV.ca

You may also want to light the way to your outdoor room. Use a standard (& cheap) globe fixture with a strand of white lights inside of it.


Light the pathway by HGTV.ca

Light the pathway by HGTV.ca

Don’t forget whimsical patterned pillows and art or mirrors where appropriate. Bright colours are certainly a sign of spring and warming temps. I have grown pretty tired of always seeing the same monochromatic, plastic, neutral placemats in grey/beige/black. How much more fun would it be to eat off of these?


Bright Placemats by Style at Home

Bright Placemats by Style at Home

I think the grey and cold winter has really made me want to add some extra spice in colour, pattern and feeling this year.  What better room to do that in that your outdoor one?!

Wallpaper… It’s Back Better than Ever!

We all remember some pretty hideous wallpapers from when we were young- or at least most of us do 🙂 I remember a pattern from our kitchen which had large yellow and green sunflowers in brown baskets. We couldn’t wait to rip it down. Now homeowners can’t wait to put wallpaper back up. It’s no longer a dirty word!

While wallpaper popularity has been on the rise for a few years now, I recently came across some that I had to share with you. There are so many varieties and categories that wallpaper fall into now, that I’m sure something will peak your interest.

  • Bold/Striking:
Wabi wallpaper, $28/sq.ft, Newwall

Wabi wallpaper, $28/sq.ft, Newwall

  • Geometric/Fun:

-Bamboo pattern wallpaper by Milton & King

  • Organic/Zen:
Toile Linen wallpaper, $170/roll, Newwall

Toile Linen wallpaper, $170/roll, Newwall

  • For Kids:MM244M - solar system wallpaper for walls by Muffin & Mani
– Solar System Wall Mural by Milton & King
-Cat Wall wallpaper by Milton & King
  • Vintage/Quirky:
C'est Magnifique wallpaper, $88/roll, Anthropologie

C’est Magnifique wallpaper, $88/roll, Anthropologie

  • Rustic/Natural:
Timber pattern by Prime Walls

Timber pattern by Prime Walls

If you still find it intimidating to wallpaper a whole room, why don’t you start small?  Perhaps a single wall behind the bed,couch or dining buffet, in a powder room or on a fireplace wall like I did for this project.

Fireplace Wall by SET For Design

Fireplace Wall by SET For Design

It’s a way to add interest, colour, texture or pattern in the most dramatic way possible.

Purple Reign in 2014

For more than a decade, Pantone’s Colour of the Year has influenced product development in numerous industries such as fashion, home decor, as well as product packaging and graphic design. This year, Radiant Orchid was named it’s Colour of the Year for 2014.

PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR 2014 - Radiant Orchid 18-3224

According to them, ” Blending both cool and warm undertones, purple is an appealing hue for distinctive combinations and flattering to many hair, eye and skin tones”. So what better places to put it then where you look at yourself the most- bedrooms and baths. As always, the colour of the year can be incorporated in many smaller ways that can be changed out if/when you grow tired of it.

You can paint a deeper accent wall behind your bed in one of my favourite Benjamin Moore purples-  Dark Lilac 2070-30 or Purple Lotus 2072-30. Pair it with a neutral like gray, beige or taupe for the the remainder of the walls.

dark lilac      purple lotus

You can also use it in bedding- this striking Marrakesh pattern from Echo Design is a striking mix of neutrals with hits of purple.

Marrakesh pattern by Echo Design

Marrakesh pattern by Echo Design

Why not use a wallpaper in a powder room that has some purple in it? This is an inexpensive yet striking option from Bouclair Home ($29.99 for a double roll).

Wallpaper by Bouclair Home

Wallpaper by Bouclair Home

Or if that’s still too bold, try mixing in some patterned purple towels such as these from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

You can always add it in accessories like pillows, vases and even something unique like these purple metallic wall sculptures also from Bouclair Home ($14.99 for the set).

Purple wall art- Bouclair Home

Purple wall art- Bouclair Home

Lastly, for those of you who are not scared to be a little bolder, purple compliments olive and deeper hunter greens, and is perfect paired with tourquoise, teal and even light yellow.

Happy decorating in 2014 and happy new year to everyone!


Some New Takes on Fall Festivities

With the fall weather approaching, as well as Halloween and Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought I would suggest a few new ways to enhance these upcoming holidays. I’ve grouped my recommendations into three key categories to focus on.

Re-purpose: Use Ordinary Objects in Unexpected Ways

These are some basic household items that we all have. By changing how we use them, it spruces things up and is guaranteed to elicit comments from your guests. Simply put your pumpkins in your outdoor urns for an easy fall display. It seems basic enough, but makes a statement without the need for other greenery. Take a pumpkin, fill with ice and use it as drink dispenser for your Halloween party. Photos from bhg.com

Fall Pumpkin Urn

Fall Pumpkin Urn & Pumpkin Bowl

Pumpkin Bowl

A really unique idea is to take that old globe that is sitting collecting dust on your shelf and turn into into a distinctive fall centerpiece. Separate the globe’s hemispheres and fill with colourful leaves, goards, pinecones and small berries.

Repurposed Globe

Repurposed Globe- bhg.com

Unique Table Ideas:

For a rustic take on Thanksgiving, the first couldn’t be any easier. An old slab of wood makes for a beautiful center stage! Just add candles, fruit and seasonal decor to it.  The idea on the right uses different green vegetables as candle centerpieces. To make, stretch two rubber bands around white pillar candles and tuck asparagus and green beans into them. Do not let them burn down to the rubber band. For the asparagus candle, take off the top and a bit of the inside of the asparagus, and place the candle in the middle. Photos via ivillage and bhg.com

Old Wood Centerpiece

Old Wood Centerpiece

Vegetable Candles

Vegetable Candles


Or simply put… reign it in! Especially when it comes to Halloween decor. You may want to try these tasteful takes on trick or treat decorating 🙂 They make a statement using black, white and orange; without going over the top.

Simple Halloween decor

Simple Halloween decor- House and Home.com

Black&Orange Stairwell

Black&Orange Stairwell- House and Home.com

Happy Thanksgiving and Halloween to all!

Chicago is My Kind of Town…

I recently visited Chicago for a short three-day vacation. I found the city to be one of the loveliest and friendliest metropolises that I’ve ever been to. The architecture which everyone touted to me beforehand, did not disappoint.

I thought I would include here some of my favourite buildings- including some unique furniture stores that all we can do is covet up here in Canada 🙂 The juxtaposition of old and new is everywhere in Chicago and can be viewed perfectly from the water.

Here is a favourite shot which shows off this mix of old and new perfectly:

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline

In terms of old buildings, there is no shortage. One of the few that outlasted even the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which wiped out the majority of downtown, is the Water Tower. It was constructed between 1867 and 1869 by William W. Boyington, one of Chicago’s most prolific architects of the mid-nineteenth century.

Water Tower

Water Tower

Then there were the lovely buildings built in the early 20th century that currently house the Merchandise Mart and Bloomingdale’s Home. The Merchandise Mart is the world’s largest commercial building, wholesale design center and one of Chicago’s premier international business locations. Encompassing 4.2 million gross square feet, The Mart spans two city blocks and rises 25 stories. Bloomingdale’s Home was originally called the Medinah Temple and was built in 1912. Among other things, it housed the annual Shrine circus. It is a colorful Islamic-looking building replete with pointed domes and is an example of Moorish Revival architecture.

Bloomingdales Home

Bloomingdale’s Home

Merchandise Mart

Merchandise Mart

Here are the two most recognizable modern masterpieces in Chicago- also the two tallest towers: The former Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) and the John Hancock Tower. They both come in around 100 stories (110 stories for Willis and 100 for Hancock) and have observation decks up top. We only managed to go up the Hancock tower, but at night it was resplendent!

Willis (formerly Sears) Tower

Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in the background

John Hancock Tower

John Hancock Tower

Then there are just some cool buildings. This is one of my favourites nicknamed the Corncobs building 🙂 It houses apartments, parking and a dock for boats underneath.

Corncobs building

Corncobs building

Being an interior decorator I’m always keeping my eyes open for cool retailers that we don’t have here in Toronto. I loved the store called Room& Board- hope it makes it north of the border some time soon!

Room & Board

Room & Board

And lastly, there was a unique pop-up HGTV store that we encountered… which will be coming to a US city near you soon. All your favourite HGTV items can be viewed in the store and then purchased online under http://www.hgtvhome.com.

HGTV Home Pop-up Store

I highly recommend a visit to the Windy City for the beautiful architecture, great shopping, food and countless other neat things.

Best Updates for your Home this Summer

After hibernating all winter and enduring a prolonged wet spring, summer invites us to open the windows, let the warm weather in and take the time to make some upgrades to our homes. Whether you plan on selling your home in the near future or are there for the long haul, these are some of my favourite summer decorating ideas that will make your home comfortable and attractive.

Create an Outdoor Entertaining Space:

Whether you are the ‘host with the most’ or just want people to think you are, there’s no better improvement you can make to your home in terms of adding living space than creating an outdoor entertaining area.  A comfortable seating arrangement, an outdoor rug and close access to the kitchen are the basics for tying together an ideal outdoor space.

Try using outdoor-friendly materials like wicker, aluminum and vinyl that will give you the best bang for your buck as well.

Up your Curb Appeal with New Exterior Paint & Plantings:
The winter months are tough on your home, including the exterior paint, which seems to chip away every snowy season. The summer is a great opportunity to try a new colour on your shutters, the front door and garage.
This is where adding in some new plantings (see previous post) can provide a vibrant burst of colour all summer long. The addition of a garden at the front of your house is the easiest way to amp up your curb appeal.




Change up your Linens:
Time to pack away the warm duvet and treat your bed to a thin coverlet or lightweight bed sheets for the summer. This is where you can showcase lighter and brighter patterns & colours. You can swap again in the fall with darker, cozier sets. New, crisp-looking bedding will make any bedroom look instantly better and does not have to be a big investment.

Photo by SET For Design

Cheap Art Fixes:
Secondhand stores and flea markets are often packed with artwork. While the art may not be up your alley, if the frames catch your eye, you have the makings of a unique art display. Better Homes and Gardens.com had a great idea- simply discard the art and paint the frames fun colours that match your decor. Arrange it on a blank wall. This is also perfect for staging your home, if you do not want to spend a lot on artwork you may not want to take to your new place.

Put a little zing in your powder room with wall decals. Easy to apply & take off, these affordable touches of pattern give a bathroom just the right amount of shimmer to impress your summer guests 🙂

Try Something New in the Garden

As with most things in life, we often return to the tried-and-true.  The same can be said about the flowers we plant in our gardens. I’m sure my parents planted the same thing (geraniums) pretty much every year for decades. The most that changed was the colour. I found myself falling into the same trap.  Begonias and Mandavilla vines had become my fail safe plants of choice. This year I went with some new options and I couldn’t be happier. That got me thinking about what are some of the new ‘hits’ in the flower world.  Just like home decor, things do change and evolve. Plants come in and go out of style. Why not break up your routine a bit and incorporate some of these new winners?

Heucheras (or their common name of Coral Bells) are found in most gardens.  However, why not try some of the bright, happy colours they now come in to bring an instant shot of perennial colour to your shady beds?

Brightly Coloured Coral Bells

Brightly Coloured Coral Bells. Source: Pinterest

Just like the Pantone Colour of the year (Emerald Green by the way), plants also have their ‘Plant of the Year’. The Perennial Plant of the Year™ (POY™) program began in 1990 to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. This year’s winner is:

Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ or it’s common name of Variegated Soloman’s Seal
Variegated Soloman's Seal: Perennial Plant of the Year

Variegated Soloman’s Seal: Perennial Plant of the Year
Source: Perennial Plant Association

This all-season perennial has greenish-white flowers in late spring and variegated foliage throughout the growing season. The foliage turns yellow in the fall and grows well in moist soil in partial to full shade. Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ grows 18 to 24 inches tall and will spread by rhizomes to form colonies. It is a great companion plant to other shade lovers including hostas, ferns, and astilbes. The sweet fragrance will enhance that walk along a pathway on a spring morning.

Linai Lime Green Verbena: Verbena are usually trailing plants in pink, white, even blue and purple but never lime green! Every flower head on this vigorous plant is smothered in pale chartreuse petals. Use Lanai Lime Green verbena by itself in a basket or container, or use it as a complement to annuals that bloom in brighter colours.

Lime Green Verbena

Lime Green Verbena
Source: Better Homes & Gardens

Think all Petunias are boring?  Think again! The ‘Blue A Fuse’ Petunia is anything but boring. Like snowflakes, no two petals are alike. Each bloom sports stripes and blotches of violet, yellow, and white with purple centers. The plants have a mounded habit that makes them a good choice for containers or the landscape. Like other petunias, ‘Blue A Fuse’ blooms from spring till frost.

Blue a Fuse Petunia Source: Better Homes & Gardens

Blue a Fuse Petunia
Source: Better Homes & Gardens

As for me, I went with mini roses in dual tones for my balcony box. While I have lots of roses in my garden beds, I pretty much only thought of the miniature variety as indoor plants. Was I wrong! And Bougainvillea now replace Mandevilla vines. While neither are cutting edge, new-to-the-market species, they’re new to me and that’s all that matters 🙂

Mini Roses Balcony Box

Mini Roses Balcony Box

Bougainvillea vine

Bougainvillea vine

Let There Be Light

I recently had the ‘opportunity’ to replace the window in my front door, not by choice however, but rather due to an unfortunate incident. As it’s now covered up while the glass is being ordered, it did make me realize how much I love natural light and miss it when it’s not there.

I didn’t always have light there- it was a solid door with a dark foyer at one time. A few years ago I decided I had to get more light inside and the way to do that was to install a window into the door. That started me on a hunt on how to do that. I thought I would share  a few different ways to bring in light; as it’s so important to your feeling of well being, and also helps immensely when selling your home!

1. Install a window into a solid door:  If the door is made of fiberboard with hollow-core construction, this can be done with ease by most big box stores in a matter of hours. Here is an example of one I had installed in a south-facing kitchen. Some come with blinds within the window if privacy is an issue.

WIndow Installed in Door by SET For Design

Window Installed in Door by SET For Design

If the door is wood, it is more cumbersome. Fewer establishments will take on the responsibility of cutting out the hole, without interfering with the integrity of the door and having glass made to fit perfectly. In Toronto, I did find one such place called Charles Summut, a custom window and door manufacturer.

Here is a picture of my front door before & after the window was installed. It now floods the foyer with light, as opposed to it being the dark, gloomy ‘welcome’ it used to be.

Foyer After Installation of Window by SET For Design

Foyer After Installation of Window by SET For Design

 2) Skylights & Sun Tunnel Skylights: There is nothing better to bathe a top floor in light than skylights. There are so many variations in size, material and price nowadays, it is almost a guarantee you will find something that works for your home and budget.

Skylight courtesy of VELUX

Skylight courtesy of VELUX

A sun tunnel skylight is a smaller, more flexible option for bathrooms and confined spaces where regular skylights may not fit. The Sun Tunnel Skylight by VELUX emits passive light from the sun without the heat emitted by electrical light sources, so is a Green option as well.

Sun Tunnel Before

Sun Tunnel Before & After


3. Clear your windows!  If renovations of any magnitude are not in the budget or you just want a quick and easy option… open your blinds, curtains, shutters and shades! It seems like such a basic thing, but as a stager I see so many homes with people who live like hermits with their windows covered. Let in the light! If the window treatments are old and have seen better days (and privacy is not a requirement), take them down! A bare window will look better and make the room feel bigger than one covered in out-dated, room-darkening materials. Sometimes less is more.

Windows by North Star Windows

Windows by North Star Windows

Personally I can’t wait for my window to be fixed and have the natural warmth and brightness back in my home. Too much light is impossible if you ask me… wear sunglasses instead 🙂