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 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 🙂

Design Trends for 2013

Just like the resolutions you make to improve your health and finances, why not make a few to update your living space with some new and on-trend design ideas? Who knows- maybe being surrounded with something new and inspired may help you to get to the gym or update that resume too? 🙂

Here are some interior decor trends for the coming year that you can incorporate into your home in big or little ways.

  • Colours: Green & Yellow  

The Pantone Colour for 2013 is Emerald Green.  

Pantone Colour of the Year

Pantone Colour of the Year

Painting your walls in Emerald may be a bit much for your taste, so how about incorporating it in other ways? It is fresh, bold and cheery; it makes a big statement so you can use it as little as in a few cushions or vases.

Trend spotter Lidewij Edelkoort also believes yellow will be the new ‘it’ colour. Yellows are a fantastic way to brighten up a room and make it more cheerful, either as a dominant colour or an accent, such as in this picture from Architectural Digest.

Published in Architectural Digest.

Published in Architectural Digest.

  • Pattern: Retro Stripes, Dainty Flowers and Brush Stroke Fabrics

Inspired by impressionist painters, here’s a fabric from Robert Allen I recently put on cushions which incorporates the latter two.

Fabric: Landsmeer in Citrine by Robert Allen

Fabric: Landsmeer in Citrine by Robert Allen

  • Touch: Knits

Touch is THE sense to focus on in 2013. Fabrics and finishes should all be touchable, with warmth and depth. One look that is already taken off in decor and will become even more noticeable next year is knits and handcrafted chunky items. Think large-scale knits and macrame… wish I had taken up knitting long ago 🙂

Winter blog- knits

  • Furniture: Shapely Forms

Furniture lines are slowly evolving from stark, straight lines to soft & curvy. There is a more feminine-feel to seating; don’t be afraid to incorporate these curves into your own rooms, mixing them in with more contemporary pieces.

Monaco Collection from Thomasville

Monaco Collection from Thomasville

  • Metal: Brass

Burnished brass is the metal-of-the-moment. It’s being used on everything from legs and handles on furniture, to lamps and trays. If you have an antique set of brass items you put into storage when brass was a dirty word, now would be the time to pull it out!

Here’s a favourite brass accessory of mine:

Starburst bowl from Crate & Barrel

Starburst bowl from Crate & Barrel

And on a coffee table in a room we helped accessorize…

Room accessorized by SET For Design

Room accessorized by SET For Design

Wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy holiday season and happy decorating in 2013!

Where Do You Get Design Inspiration?

That’s a question that as designers we always face. For me, it’s a combination of places.  Magazines are an obvious choice. Sometimes I watch HGTV (who doesn’t love Sarah Richardson?). Then there are seminars, tradeshows and special events. It’s the last two that I thought I would touch on here.

Shows such as the Interior Design Show (typically held in January in downtown Toronto), and most recently The International Decorating Show (held last week in the International Centre by the airport in Toronto) are great for 1) finding new and innovative products being displayed  2) seeing terrific talks and rooms done by experts on new trends, design ideas and looks they love.  I volunteered for the CDECA booth at the Decorating Show as I belong to the organization.  For those of you who are not familiar with CDECA,  it’s the Decorator’s Association of Canada. Our mandate is to ensure consistency in decorating excellence and to steer consumers to a site where they can find accredited members-  (in case you are interested).  Here is our booth at the show:

CDECA booth

CDECA booth at the Interior Decorating Show

Right beside us were some ‘inspiration rooms’.  You will always find rooms or sometimes entire homes at shows such as this one, that can provide you with some insight and inspiration which you can translate in some way to your own spaces.  These were done by some top Canadian designers including Kimberley Seldon, Jane Lockhart and Lynne Spence.  Have a peak at their Christmas-inspired decor:

Inspiration Room by Jane Lockhart

Inspiration Room by Jane Lockhart

Inspiration Room by Kimberley Seldon

Inspiration Room by Kimberley Seldon

Inspiration Room by Lynn Spence

Inspiration Room by Lynn Spence

Another reliable source of design inspiration for me is the Princess Margaret Dream Home. I faithfully make a trek out to Oakville every year to see what it looks like, gather tidbits of inspiration and just wish that it was me winning this lovely home.  Yup that’s me in this year’s principal bathtub 🙂

I look forward to seeing the colour schemes and what they do in the ‘money-is-no-issue’ kitchen- which by the way looked like this:

Princess Margaret Dream Kitchen

Princess Margaret Dream Kitchen

Now I may not agree with all of the choices (for example that the fridge is in another room!), but l will always glean a little something to inspire and dream by. I do feel however there has been a lot of repetition in the overall feeling and colour scheme of the dream homes over the last few years.  Perhaps they need to get a little new inspiration also 🙂

Fall Back Into Style

It’s that time of year again.  Slippers, jackets, scarves and gloves all come out of the closet to keep you warm and cozy when the temperature dips. The same can be said for home decor.  Fall is the time to ‘warm up’ your home in more ways than one. Thermostats aside, there are lots of things you can do to make your home warm and cozy for autumn, plus maybe spruce things up at the same time.

The following are a few of my favourite ideas to help your home ‘fall back into style’ 🙂

  • Stay warm and snug as you curl up by a fireplace.  Any fire will do as there are SO many different types of fireplaces to choose from- both inside and out. Try an ethanol-burning one to keep it green at the same time. Ethanol fireplaces run either on gel or liquid fuel. According to Roger Gripton, vice-president of sales for Napoleon Fireplaces, the gel tends to burn blue, while liquid fuel produces a warmer, more yellow fire. While ethanol fireplaces produce a real flame, they require no venting. On the downside, the flame from ethanol isn’t as robust as that of a gas unit, which Gripton says can increase the temperature of a room or “zone” by as much as 10ºF. Ethanol units also cost more to run; a $25 bottle of fuel provides five or six hours of fire, while an electric fireplace runs for pennies an hour.

Fireplace IndoorsOutdoor Fireplace

  • Paint out doors, whether inside or out, with this season’s up & coming colours- raspberry and orange/red are two fabulous options.
Hallway done in fall colours- design by Sarah Richardson

Hallway done in fall colours- design by Sarah Richardson

Red Entry Door- photo by CI-Janet-Loughrey

Red Entry Door- photo by CI-Janet-Loughrey

  • Bring in fall foliage or harvests indoors- placing them sporadically on tables, bookcases or mantles.
Foliage brought indoors- design by Layla Palmer

Foliage brought indoors- design by Layla Palmer

Design by Beth Hunter

Design by Beth Hunter

  • Place acorns into a simple cake platter- it will add an instant autumn look to your kitchen!
Acorns fall decor- photo by Liz-Regalado

Acorns fall decor- photo by Liz-Regalado

  • Do it as the Europeans do… bedding that is 🙂 I was recently on a whirlwind 4-city tour of Europe. Every one of the beds we encountered were done the same way. They had two smaller duvets folded separately on a larger mattress. This gave the two of us our own duvets!  I loved it!! No more fighting over the covers or having one person warm while the other person is cold. You control your own temperature. I swore I would repeat this in my own home. Whether I have the guts to go against the norm is still to be seen.  Stark white looks a little too hotel-like for me, but with some patterned duvet covers I think it could look smart,European and “snug as a bug” at the same time 🙂

    Photo taken in Flemings Deluxe hotel Vienna

    Photo taken in Flemings Deluxe hotel Vienna

Easy Weekend Summer Projects

Want to try some easy summer decorating projects you can comfortably tackle in a weekend or less? Here are some of my favourites that I’ve come across recently:

–  Summer Shimmer:

Summer shimmer

Summer shimmer- photo by Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil

Give an occasional chair a modern makeover with metallic silver spray paint and combine it with sherbert colours in yellow or green.

Remove the seat and spray the chair with several coats of metallic paint. Recover the chair with lattice or other nature-inspired prints.

Tribal Motifs:

Tribal motifs

Tribal motifs- photo by Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil

Go tribal by incorporating a few natural accessories in wood, bone or ebony; set off by strong graphic prints. Add small doses in neutral browns, whites and blacks which can blend effortlessly in any room.

– Vacation Finds:

Vacation finds

Vacation finds- Photo by Ore Studios

Why not add that great vase or Mexican statue that you picked up while on vacation this summer? These bold pieces will instantly add some pizazz and is a great story as well.

– Book Backdrop:

Book backdrop

Book backdrop- photo by Style at Home

Add a bright, bold or unexpected colour to a neutral room by painting the back of a bookcase in a hot hue. This is a fresh yellow-green hue, but how about coral or aqua as well?

– Stylish Storage for Kids’ Toys

Kids' storage

Kids’ storage- photo by Style at Home

With summer here, toys are everywhere! Reclaim the space by putting toys into inexpensive, galvanized buckets labelled with different categories. Use chalkboard labels so it can be changed up. Then place them in cheap and cheerful, open bookcases!

– Table top Coverlet:

Table top Coverlet

Table top Coverlet- photo by Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil

Take a solid colour table runner. Stamp it with a pattern that evokes long grasses or some other nature-inspired print. Drape it over contrasting bedding and you’ve got an instant new look for your bedding.

– Nautical-Inspired Lamp:

Nautical lamp

Nautical lamp- Photo by Style at Home

Breathe new life into a tired lamp by wrapping natural hemp around a lamp base and shade trim. This couldn’t be any easier or inexpensive and absolutely screams “summer”!

I made my own birch log lamp last summer (see pic below), so in comparison this will be a piece of cake 🙂

Birch log lamp

My own birch-log lamp creation