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Interior design

Store Profile:  Artemano

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Store Profile: Artemano

As a designer that prefers more longevity to my work, philosophically and environmentally, the of-the-moment trends don’t do much for me.  If I have to pinpoint what I'm drawn to, I'd say simplistic forms, rich detail, the calm of symmetry and order, and the soulfulness of organic forms. I know, the dichotomy of the designer brain is a wile animal to appease, but truly we're drawn to perfection be that the best form, of whatever form we're looking at.  Make sense?  

Imperfection in design has become a sought-after feature for designers and homeowners alike. Reclaimed barn board, vintage finds and a celebration of all things organic and singular remains at the forefront of popularity. A tricky balance to strike between the individual craftsmen, offering made-to-order custom pieces, and the mass-market reproductions, two-dimensional facsimiles with forced distressing, mock character and for me, often lacking the very soul on which the movement was started.

Fear not, there are products for those of us in need of available retail options while still answering our thirst for the uniquely ours.  Artemano is a home furnishing company offering their own signature collections. The imperfections of the wood are embraced and celebrated, exposing and highlighting the unique qualities of each piece. No two pieces are identical, made different by virtue of the shape, grain and measurements of the wood.  Their minimalistic, straight-forward design allows an easy application in almost any home or style.  View the full collection here >


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Store Profile: H&M Home Hits Toronto

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Store Profile: H&M Home Hits Toronto

If you swoon over the latest trendy decor offerings, mixed metals, organic linens and general oozing with of-the-moment greatness then you probably also suffer from CAWWS or Can't Afford What I Want Syndrome.  It's a real thing, and I have it too!

When Target closed its doors in Canada my CAWWS had me online shopping and Pinterest pinning at ungodly hours to self sooth.  There's a new treatment landing at Yonge and Dundas, February 24th and it looks mighty pretty.

H&M's flagship store at the Toronto Eaton Centre has been undergoing renovations the past few months and is set to launch their H&M Home collection within this space February 24th.

On-point and accessibly priced linens and accessories rounded out with rugs, stylized hardware and table-top decor.  I'm excited to see what's in store.  View the full collection here >


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Store Profile: Canvas Lighting Collection - Canadian Tire

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Store Profile: Canvas Lighting Collection - Canadian Tire

I've shared my affinity for Canadian Tire's CANVAS Collection in the past.  As a designer I'm in constant pursuit of on-trend furniture and fixtures that are accessibly priced.  Canadian Tire has done a stellar job offering key pieces in each category, sorted by style.  

They've just added lighting to their CANVAS Collection and it's exactly what the market has been asking for!  Nothing date stamps a renovation like old lighting, and it's one of my absolute must-do updates.  In styles to fit the traditionalist to the lofty cool,  there's something for everyone with prices starting under $100.  Check the collection out here >


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Style Spotting - 2016 Interior Design Show

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Style Spotting - 2016 Interior Design Show

This year’s Interior Design Show started with the industry’s best and brightest sipping champagne and having first glimpse at the show in full party fashion for opening night.  What’s now become the place to see and be seen all things home, designers, suppliers and eager décor addicts partied in the aisles, talking shop and catching up with old friends and colleagues. 

The party within the party takes place in the Distinctive Appliance booth, where a by invitation only crowd savors the top shelf cocktails and nibbles on abundant snacks from the safety of their roped haven.  Meile was a close competitor with their impressive booth featuring chefs in 3 separate rooms amidst formidable displays of the latest technologies for the home.  

Tom Dixon’s collaboration with the show this year was impressive with his trademark minimalist esthetic scattered throughout the show in mini displays come sitting areas and most impressively in the Caesar stone and Tom Dixon Lounge.  Rudimentary shapes fabricated out of Caesar stone’s more soft and organic colours create seats, counters and backdrops all puzzling together.

Studio North and Prototype was back, highlights emerging designers, sharing select products with pride and a willingness to receive peer feedback. This mix of discussion, creation and consumerism is the secret sauce that keeps us creative types coming back year, after year.

The beauty of this show is the range in exhibitor from global brands down to small handcraft works. The show standouts fell under both ends of the spectrum. Manitoba woodshop, Wood Anchor (www.woodanchor.com) caught all our attention in their tiny white booth displaying their new Imbue light. Crafted using a single piece of wood veneer and forged aluminum the result left us awestruck. 

AVANI kitchens (www.avanikitchens.com), AYA Kitchens high-end, custom collection pushed the boundaries in their collaboration with Diego Burdi of renowned design duo Burdifelek.  Everything about the space proved to push our thinking on the traditional kitchen and in my opinion beautifully answered the new trend towards a softer, less utilitarian look.

Flooring suppliers showed their new collections and the trend is definitely still towards wider plank, more matt finished engineered products. My standout was Purparket (www.purparket.com) as the only 100% FSC certified and VOC free option. The oil top coat is both practical for wear and tear and free of the nasty chemicals lurking in more traditional products.  

I loved the Junction Sectional by Style Garage (www.stylegarage.com). A versatile, modular series of club-style lounge seating. Made in Canada by local craftsman and upholsterers and available in a wide variety of fabrics and leathers.  Anything that can go from cool living space to bed-like movie watching has my vote. Note the pink Canadian themed cushions. 

My friends from 1925Workbench (www.1925workbench.com) created the prettiest booth with a pair of perfect pink sliding doors that had everyone stopping to take shots.  No doubt the cover photo for how-to use Pantone pink! This husband and wife team (Rock and My Le) creates and builds furniture, doors, and barn door hardware. Their passion is infectious, and the true authenticity of their work offers that much sought after character mass-market design sadly lacks. 

Blanco Canada (www.blancocanada.com) had a gorgeous display, featuring all their latest products, including Ikon, the only apron front natural granite composite sink available in the market place.  This addition to Blanco’s Silgranit collection has designers doing a happy dance. An impact, acid, heat and scratch resistant material that’s virtually indestructible and comes in 3 neutral colours. This German pioneer continues to revolutionize the modest, kitchen sink and as a bonus they manufacture the Silgranit collection right here in the GTA.

Whether you came looking for a specific product, or just enjoyed a glass of wine and one of the many free speakers presentations, no one left this year’s show disappointed.

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Do Your Own Mortgage To Pay For Your Home Reno

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Do Your Own Mortgage To Pay For Your Home Reno

Jumping into the real estate market can be, well, scary! More of us are looking at fixer-uppers in neighbourhoods we like, as opposed to the dream home with a commute.  Most first-time buyers are putting all their available funds into maxing out their down payment to at least get as close as possible to their end goal. Traditional mortgages can be limiting to these buyers and don’t always mean any funds will be free for the renovations.  

This is where Do Your Own Mortgage comes in. DYOM is a mortgage broker, like others, that shop your mortgage around to a selection of traditional and non-traditional lenders to best fit your needs. But here’s where they’re different, they’ve streamlined the process with a dead-simple online application process and team of diversified brokers, which allows you to fill in the initial blanks.  START YOUR APPLICATION>

These efficiencies mean they can divert some of the standard broker fees to, you! You get paid to do your own mortgage. Paid, cash! Or credit card, or cheque, up to you, it’s your money. 
So what does this mean, exactly? On the average $500,000.00 mortgage that means about $3,000.00 goes to you as payment. There is no catch. You’re getting paid a broker fee on your OWN mortgage.

I’m no stranger to stretching a tight renovation budget. I’ve been a designer for 18 years, but I also designed over 100 episodes of HGTV’s Income Property.  From scouting the properties, to the option layouts and every single finish and selection in between, I had to take the teeny-weeny budgets and make them count. 

Here’s the fun part – I’m going to tell you how we can spend that cash to take your so-so house a little closer to the dream home.

How to Spend Your Fee

With $500 – The best bang for the buck is paint! This will cover the supplies and it’s time to call in some family for free sweat equity.  Hiring pro painters will run you 3k minimum on labour so this is one area I suggest rolling up your sleeves and getting a bit speckled.


With $1,000 - You can update all the light fixtures in the home. Not imported Italian chandeliers, but on-point stylish options available at most retailers.  I buy most at Royal Lighting. Light fixtures often date a home, so updating them makes a big difference in its overall look.  It’s also quite easy to install them yourself if you’re keen. With YouTube as a teacher, I’ve installed all my own lights at home!


With $2000 – You can do a cosmetic washroom update. Change the hardware, mirror, lighting, faucet, toilet and vanity. If the tile is neutral enough, updating the fixtures, and adding a fresh white shower curtain can work magic and will carry you through the next few years, conservatively saving for a larger overhaul. Don’t get pulled into the pressures of taking on too much too soon. Baby steps are enough to add equity and make you enjoy the morning shower.

With $3,000  - You could update the kitchen! Change the hardware, update the counters, install a new sink and faucet, and even paint the cabinetry if you were up to the challenge. I promise even the darkest, most outdated cabinets will look like new with a clean white facelift. Consider laminate counters to keep on budget. Did you know on Income Property of the 100 episodes only 5 were stone or solid surface? The investment has to make sense for the home value and spending all your kitchen budget on stone counters simply does not yield the look or build equity the way an overall conservative refresh does.


Other potential spends

  1. Replace doors within the home (price of an average interior door with installation starts at $150)
  2. Replace old windows (price of an average window with installation starts at $500)
  3. Replace outdoor doors (price of an average door with installation starts at $1000)
  4. Replace an old furnace (if you really look, it’s possible to find a furnace for $2,000 to $2,500; it will save you hundreds per month and pay for itself in the end)
  5. With $4,000 - you could update your flooring. You could remove dated carpeting and install hardwood flooring on one floor for this amount (hardwood flooring starts at about $4.50/sq. ft. with labour at about $2/sq. ft.) or you could replace the floors throughout the house if you opted for laminate (both flooring and labour for laminate run at about $2/sq. ft.).
  6. With $5000 -  if you really shop around for the labour, you could update an entire bathroom, including a full cosmetic update, including redoing the tile, installing low flow toilets, faucets and light fixtures. 

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Product Profile: William Morris Wallpaper

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Product Profile: William Morris Wallpaper

THE ORIGINAL - THE LUXURY OF TASTE

William Morris (1834-1896), artist, philosopher and political theorist, was one of the most outstanding and influential designers of the Arts and Crafts Movement and through his company, Morris & Co., he produced some of the most fashionable and exciting textiles and wallpapers of his era.

His legacy continues today with Morris & Co. producing authentic versions of his original designs alongside new interpretations to create up to date fabrics and wallpapers with timeless appeal.

Below is a lovely snapshot of his wallpapers. Remarkably, still today offering a combination of colour, pattern and whimsy I've not seen rivalled.

View the full collection of wallpaper, textiles and accessories online https://www.william-morris.co.uk/

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The science of colour: Creating the perfect palette

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The science of colour: Creating the perfect palette

Colour is arguably the most powerful element in a design scheme.  I’ve studied colour and the psychological affects in much detail.  The advertising industry, out of necessity has championed the topic and perusing any number of articles on the subject helps add a bit of science behind the selection process. Remarkably 90% of an assessment for trying out a product is made by colour alone. Imagine how that notion is translated into interior design. 

Whether my clients fancy a trendy colour scheme or timeless palette, I pull it together with the same arsenal of information.  I promise finding the perfect white is not the elusive unicorn us pros claim it to be.  Here are my top tips and kernels of advice for  to help you venture to the paint wand with confidence.

1. Understanding the effects by colour

Red  (warm)-  Has a physical effect, raising blood pressure and respiration rates.
Enhances human metabolism which is why we often see it used in dining spaces.
Brighter: more energetic Darker shades: powerful and elegant.

Orange (warm)- Vibrant and energetic, friendly, inviting
Muted forms, are associated with the earth and with autumn.
Association with changing seasons: can represent change and movement in general.
Associated with the fruit: health and vitality. 

Yellow (warm)- Brightest, most energizing of the warm colors. 
Bright yellow: sense of happiness and cheerfulness. 
Light yellows: more calm feeling of happiness than bright yellows. 
Dark & gold-hued: can look antique, have sense of permanence.

Blue (cool) - Light: relaxed and calming. 
Bright: energizing and refreshing. 
Dark: strength and reliability

Green (cool) – Easiest colour for the eye to look at. Has a balancing, harmonizing effect. 
Brighter: energizing, vibrant
Dark: most stable representative of affluence.

Purple (cool) - Associated with royalty, creativity & imagination.
Attributes of both red and blue. 
Dark: sense wealth and luxury. 
Light: softer associated with spring and romance.

2. Undertones and Mass Tones
What you see at first glance is the color’s mass tone, but what is less obvious is the color’s undertone. Use undertone to skillfully emphasize or downplay elements within a home. For example a beige with a red undertone will create a harmonious palette when used with other warm and red tones, but will highlight those with cool undertones like greens and blues when used together.

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3. Palette Messaging

Historic and Neutral Palettes
Muted, rich, and muddied tones. 
Depth and strength that speak to permanence. 
Association with a history of success.
Offer a feeling of trust and comfort in consistency.  

White and Grey
Clean white or grey palettes feel orderly.
Very peaceful like that of an art gallery.
Nothing can be concealed and the space must be used efficiently to maintain and guest will relate to that message.

Pop of Colour
Obvious colour applications apply a definitive date stamp. 
In motion, change and evolve: reinforce with use of current colours.
Youth gravitate toward the most current of everything, colour is a powerful way to demonstrate that.


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Project Profile: Mad Man Style Loft

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Project Profile: Mad Man Style Loft

In my career as a designer I’ve had an eclectic portfolio of clients from Lords to pro athletes, with spaces ranging from basement apartments to sprawling estates.  When professional hypnotist, Asad Mecci, asked me to makeover his dated bachelor pad, I knew I had a new contender for the most obscure.  

This 850 square foot loft, in Toronto’s historic converted Merchandise building although dripping with true loft details like concrete ceilings and industrial fittings, was otherwise stuck in the 1990s.  The homeowner a performer who spends 50% of his time in the Caribbean each month is as comfortable in a hotel suite as he is at home.  When approaching the design style for his own home he very much wanted to create the kind of clean uncluttered elegance you find in better hotels.  He also had me watch a few episodes of Mad Man and HBO’s series Master’s of Sex both dripping with midcentury modern distinctly masculine style.

We started by stripping out all of the telltale loft materials of decades past, like the maple flooring, cherry cabinets and smoked glass dividers.  A new hardwearing warm but dark wood laminate flooring grounded the space and allowed a strong base for our new palette of rich deep wood, shades of grey and warm white.  Pulling the wood onto the fireplace, wrapping all sides in ¼” sheets, stained to match the floor, then flanking both sides with floating bookshelves.  As avid reader, we needed a library of sorts, but with this open concept the negative space was as important as the shelves themselves.  With that I created book benches, installed low 18” off the floor the majority of his books run creating a lovely band of colour and texture with the bonus of being within reach of the new vintage sitting chair which rests in front.

The kitchen, in perfect condition was ideal for painting.  I had the bank of uppers raised to tidy the lines of the kitchen then sent the doors out to be sprayed medium warm grey.  New Lee Valley Tools deco cabinet pulls reminiscent of a gentleman’s’ cufflink finished them off.  The dark granite counter was swapped for a light bright white composite from Granite Transformations with under mount sink from Blanco.  Finally an almost hypnotic fluid glass backsplash was installed in an irregular pattern, dry stacked to keep it tight and contemporary.  An IKEA butcher block counter was cut and fabricated in a parsons style for the island and Husky garage storage units slip below adding a fun homage to the raw loft itself.  
Dark bronze lighting from DVI, black dining table and charcoal grey sectional sofa add a deep warmth and needed contrast to the warm white used through the space on the walls.  The north facing bank of windows was casually dressed with simple cheese cloth, providing the perfectly imperfect softness and creating the most lovely diffused light through the day.

The resulting space, is as polished as it is comfortable.  The perfect place for my busy client to take leave in his own hotel style suite at home.

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About Being a Designer

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About Being a Designer

I’m in the business of creating well-executed spaces I am a designer.   I’m going to let you in on a little secret, I’m actually just a problem solver.  My brain is not that of a lateral thinker jumping from creative possibility to creative possibility.  I’m a linear thinker. I see a problem, sequence through the possible solutions and form a plan for the most succinct and effective way to execute on that solution.  I believe in the possibility of infinite possibilities and I’m very very good at plucking out one such possible solution and committing to it.

When someone decides to hire a designer it’s an exercise in acknowledging that some aspect of how and where they live is not working.  Clients come in many forms some with binders divided by area and stuffed filled with “inspiration” ideas.  Others simple show up and say “We need more space”.  I’ve studied design and spent my youth in fine arts programs, and my college years mixing paint at the local décor shop.  I know how to create visual balance and harmony, but, good “eye” is not what makes me good at my job.  

As a designer you need to be a good listener .   I listen to my client’s words, but more than that I watch their nonverbal cues.  I gauge how they subtlety or not so subtly react to each other’s comments.  Designers need to understand how you live and I tour how my clients live now and mentally note the things they aren’t telling me.  “We need more space” may actually mean “when my husband gets up for work at 5AM he wakes me up getting clothes from the dresser by my head.  I’m tired and grumpy as a result.” So, they don’t need more space.  They just need a secondary dressing area that allows one to sleep while the other prepares.  Problem and solution.

Working with a designer means allowing someone into your lives who will listen to your wish list.  Letting in someone who knows how to solve everyday problems through the reworking and improving of your physical environment. They save ultimately time and money and they bring you a rolodex of trusted trades and suppliers who have helped them and help other homeowners like you before.  They are one part of a team that will become your team if you think they are a good fit with your life.

Your designer will become your voice during the renovation process.  
They will shelter you from the daily calls and site queries that inevitably come up.  They will work with the team seemingly silently but continuously until the renovation is complete. For every problem they will offer viable solutions, which they already taken the time to consider, allowing you opportunity to make an educated choice, not an emotional one to move forward.

You’ll laugh, the indescribable amount of drywall dust may make you cry, but in the end as you settle back into your new home, I promise it will be with a renewed peace, fewer problems at hand, and a new “creative” friend to toast your combined accomplishment with. 

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Reno Tips: When to save and when to splurge on your kitchen reno

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Reno Tips: When to save and when to splurge on your kitchen reno

Kitchens rank in the top three areas of the home for greatest return on invest.  If done correctly the return at point of resale is 80-100% of the investment value.  Kitchens also carry the biggest price tags, which can quickly escalate eating away at the potential forced equity.  
When approaching a kitchen renovation or remodel I try to salvage, work with or repurpose elements of the existing kitchen to save and allow for splurges where they count most and carefully select where to spend versus where to save.
Here are my top kitchen renovation splurges and saves to stretch your renovation budget wear it counts.

SAVE
Cabinets – Sometimes we get caught up in wanting new when what we have functionally is fine, if given a bit of a cosmetic lift. If your cabinets are in good shape and the layout works, consider updating in one of two ways. Either send your doors out to be professionally painted. This works with the style but can offer a huge refresh if painted white or a contemporary soft grey. The other option is to keep the boxes and have new doors made. This allows you to update the door profile and colour while minimizing the investment.
Sink – When it comes to sinks there are really two common styles, undermount (mounted under a solid surface counter material) and countermount (mounted on top of counters like, laminate). There was a time when investing in a highend sink offered a more streamlined look, like square corners and deep bowl but today the options are vast and pricing is very reasonable. Blanco is one of my favourties with basically any size, style and configuration you can imagine. No need to spend the budget!

SPLURG
Faucet – Akin to a piece of jewelry or lovely watch, the faucet can offer instant interest and is a great way to deliver your style message. If your kitchen is modern, selecting a slick single lever or alternatively an eye-catching brass or bronze classic beauty will be worth the investment.  
Counters – If you have the budget to update your counters it’s worth it every time. Solid surface composite like Caesar Stone and Cambria offer the natural look of stone with incredible bearability with their nonporous properties. This means the wear and staining seen on laminates or even natural marbles simply won’t show themselves which means a greater long-term investment.
Hardware – like the faucet the cabinet hardware can offer a clean and contemporary design or can add major design impact. My advice to clients looking to minimize their expenses, is to save on the cabinets opting for a basic clean style and then invest in some really special hardware. My go to source is Lee Valley Tools. With everything from solid brass ornate pieces to crystal and resin artistic creations this is a great place to express your personal style knowing you can change is with ease for a minimal investment.

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