My first time guest blogging...

My cottage: Fire-engine red selected by my grandmother over 40 years ago!

Blogging is a new thing to me. I've been reading blogs for a long time, but, my first foray into doing it myself was when I started my website less than a year ago. I was a little nervous to write for someone else's page, but I actually really enjoyed it. And I get to do it a couple more times for the Cottage Life website. Have a look at my first one ever and I'll keep you posted about ones to come...

The Fall Cottage Life Show

(Image courtesy of:

Well, it's official...I have the privilege of styling the first ever model cottage at the Fall Cottage Life Show this October 26-28th, 2012.  It's a first for the show, having a real full-size cottage, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.   And as you can see from the website, I will be doing cottage tours daily and answering design and decorating questions.

In addition, I will be acting as a guest blogger on the Cottage Life Blog leading up to the show.   I will provide links to the blog as we go, so check back to find out when I get to go on about one of my favourite things - "cottaging"!  

Leave it to Bryan - Season 2

Watch HGTV Canada tonight at 10pm for back to back episodes of the new season "Leave it to Bryan". It's been great making it (we're half way through) and we've had some amazing homeowners. How they are so trusting I'm not so sure? Although I trust Bryan completely would I be able to hand over a big chunk of money and let him go to town on my house without any control? I'm not so sure - it's a pretty brave move. Although the more I look at my kitchen floor tile (circa 1971), my caving in garage roof or my possibly leaky basement the more I think I would. Actually, let's get me on the show! I need some major work on my house - and yes, I might actually be able to hand over control to Bryan. As long as he promised no tumbled marble! It's not my thing...
Anyway, enjoy the show! I certainly will.

Online design magazines...

Although I still love hard copy magazines the most, I do have my favourite online magazines as well.   So, I thought I would share a few.   Normally, I feel like the last person to find out about cool stuff so thought everyone knew about them.  But, after speaking to what I consider one of my coolest friends today, realized this isn't true.   She hadn't heard, so I thought I would share with everyone...

My absolute favourite is Lonny Magazine.   It is from the creator of Domino magazine (R.I.P.) which was a magazine I looked forward to and loved every month for years, but is no longer.    But, the same vibe and style can be found in Lonny.  

(Photo courtesy of:

Another goodie is Matchbook.   It is more general lifestyle than design and decor, but has great resources and an amazing layout and themes.  

And another one (three for good measure!) is Rue.  Another lifestyle driven one but great to look at and very inspiring.   

These are the ones I look forward to each month.   I am always on the lookout for other great ones, so if you want to share please leave a link in the comments section below.   Or, send me your feedback about the ones above.   

Thanks and enjoy!

Things I don't seem to tire of...

Over the years, I have started many collections and am drawn repeatedly to the same things.   That's not to say I don't also like trends.  There is definitely a time and place for trends in most designed spaces.   But, there are always the things that are comforting and reliable and that I will always love in a space.  At least I have for the last  10 odd years.   I thought I would share a few of the things I never seem to tire of...

Jade-ite Dishes (Oh. and salt and pepper shakers too!)

Mixing patterns - adds such a dynamic quality to a space.

Small cabinets with doors and latches 

(and, in case you don't already know - GREEN)

Old Suitcases

Drawers, especially metal ones

And chalkboard paint

Our wall in our kitchen is blackboard paint and we truly use it all the time.  Most of the time it looks a bit of a mess, but I think it still looks okay this way.   My husband and I use it for our brainstorming sessions about furniture design, kitchen layout (that's his chicken scratch way of writing "kitchen" by the way - it really doesn't say kill) and lists.  Those are the preliminary drawings for the side tables we collaborated on (see entry Build up to Built-ins).  

 Thanks for having a look...check back soon!

House of Bryan - Paint Colours

I'm not sure why, but I've been getting a few requests for the paint colours I selected for "House of Bryan".   Maybe there has been a marathon on?    Anyway, I have e-mailed a couple of people the list, but thought it might be helpful if I posted it.   All of the paint is Valspar available at Lowe's.

Happy painting! Just be thankful I'm not the one doing it - I'm a terrible painter.

Main Floor

Foyer and Stairwell    6005-1B, Villa Gray (may be called Oatlands Subtle Taupe)

Dining Room                5005-3C, Jekyll Grand Dining Sea Mist

Family Room                5005-3C, Jekyll Grand Dining Sea Mist

Living Room                 6005-1C, Smoked Oyster

Family Eat-in Area        6005-1C, Smoked Oyster

Hall to Powder Rm       6005-1C, Smoked Oyster

Kitchen                        6005-1B, Villa Gray (may be called Oatlands Subtle Taupe)

Powder Room              4008-2B, Almost Charcoal

Laundry Room              5001-3C, Blue Arrow


Second Floor

Hallway/Landing           6005-1B, Villa Gray (may be called Oatlands Subtle Taupe)

Guest Bedroom            6005-1B, Villa Gray (may be called Oatlands Subtle Taupe)

Guest Bathroom           5006-2A, Wet Pavement

Master Bedroom          6001-3C, Hazy Jade

Walk-in Closet     6001-3C, Hazy Jade

Master Bathroom         6001-3B, Mint Frost

Quintyn’s Bedroom      6005-5C, Herb Cornucopia

Charlotte’s Bedroom    6003-1B, Frappe

Kids’ Bath                    6007-7B, Grasshopper

Dash of vintage...the perfect kitchen!

When I style a room for "Leave it to Bryan", this is my favourite part.  I also love picking the elements that make it a room like the tiles, cabinets, paint etc. but there is nothing like seeing it all come together for the reveal.   Each room is unique and fun to do, but, I especially love when I get to mix in some personal style and some of my own stuff.   We recently did a kitchen and I am still longing for it to be my own (yes, I'm waiting to do mine - it's hideous!).   You will have to wait to see the final kitchen when the shows start airing on HGTV Canada in the Fall, but I wanted to share some gems from the styling part. This photo is my own kitchen and that is a wall of blackboard paint.  I could do a whole entry on how much I love black board paint - maybe next time?

I found these adorable gingham loaf dishes at Homesense and they were my "jumping off point" - to use a little stylist lingo.   Obviously, I liked them so much I bought myself a couple!  Anyway, it was the perfect opportunity to use some of my vintage tablecloths that have been aching to be on television - I hope they don't get cut!  My Mom started me on this collection and it's a fun one.   Also, my Mother-in-law found this completely odd red and white tea set for three.  It's so unique - perfect for Christmas or Valentine's candies as part of a centre piece too.  

It's become even more fun to add my own stuff into reveals because my friend Missy tries to guess which things are my own personal stuff and which I purchased for the homeowner.   Don't worry...I never prop a whole room of my own stuff and then clear it all out so the homeowner is left with nothing.  That would be mean!  I just add an element or two...

So, keep posted to find out when you can see the whole kitchen on HGTV Canada - it was one of my favourites.   And feel free to write if you think you have guessed one of my own items correctly - I'll even tell you where I got it!  Or, watch last season's episodes and try to spot my knick knacks.  


Canadian Painters - Part I

There are many Canadian painters that I love and I wanted to share some of them with you.  It's hard to narrow down just a few, but I thought focusing on three to five at a time would be manageable.  I don't proclaim to be an expert, I just have an emotional reaction to pieces and feel drawn in by the images.   And lucky me, I get to pick pieces of art for the reveals of "Leave it to Bryan" on HGTV, which is one of my favourite parts of the process (sometimes I pretend I'm buying them for myself!)  It's great to see how a beautiful painting or photograph can really pull a room together.  
So, here is my first go at a list:
Connie Geerts (Image shown above is "Elusive")
Love her paintings and the feeling of something almost as though it's out of focus.  My favourites are her bears and Canadian geese.   
Brian Harvey (Image shown above is "Dundas & Keele")
I wish I could buy every last one of his paintings.   My favourite thing about some of his work is that it is so familiar and urban.  He has a great talent for making something that we look at every day, and possibly take for granted, look special and beautiful.
Mario Ricci (Image shown above is "Landscape 08")
It was Mario Ricci's work that I used in the reveal of "House of Bryan", Season 1.   His landscapes are simple, yet have such impact.   Especially the way they were grouped in the gallery style landing of Bryan and Sarah's house.    I'm not sure if his landscapes are my favourite or the emotional and loving images of dogs he paints.  It sounds like a cliche, but he truly captures their soul in his work. 
Have a look at the artist's websites to see even more of their stunning work.  Also, take a tour through the relaxed and inviting space that is Canvas Gallery on Dupont St. at Dovercourt - they have a great collection of local and Canadian artists.   
It's easy to find a Canadian artist that you love - there are so many!   Check back for more posts on my favourite ones.     

Second Time Around...

This was the name of a great antique store I would frequent when I was a little girl. Not always because I wanted to, but because my parents were avid "Antiquers" and I was often dragged there. But, I have a serious love of old things now - from a store, passed down or especially found on the side of the road on garbage night! One of my favourite places is "The Door Store" in Toronto on Castlefield Rd. I found this door for a client and it's taking all my strength not to keep it for myself. Another place I love to go is Habitat for Humanity's "Re-Store" - great stuff, amazing prices. Bracebridge, Ontario has a really good one with loads of stuff. Happy Scavenging! It sure beats regular shopping...

Bidding "the Rocks" farewell...

I'm sure it's obvious to you all by now that I have left "House of Bryan 2: On the Rocks".   I left wishing Sarah and Darren good luck with the project and exited as graciously as possible.  Not to be confused with gracefully - that is not my strong suit.   

I have had a lot of questions and concerns that is wasn't "real" and people thinking that it was staged for television.  Acting is another skill that is not my strong suit and I can say with total honesty that I left because I wasn't happy with the way things were going.   As you saw in the episodes, I was being excluded from material sourcing and product selection, as well as any information on what budget we were supposed to be sticking with.  Interior designers can generally only do their job when there is honest and regular communication with their client.   I decided to leave because I was not going to be held responsible for how the cottage turned out and for a budget that was headed for the sky.  Cross my heart....

As for Bryan and I, we are fine and still work together on "Leave it to Bryan".  In fact, we are almost finished filming our first few houses for this show.   I greatly appreciate his ability to separate personal and professional and he has proven himself once again on this front.   Bryan and I have our tense moments, as most Designers and Contractors do. However, he is always like a brother to me at the end of the day - annoying, loving, friendly, annoying, frustrating, funny, annoying, and mostly supportive.  

Now, let's get ready for another episode of "House of Bryan 2 - On the Rocks".  I'll still be watching (and tweeting) - I need to hear what they say about me! 

Should I stay or should I go?

This is a "cat fight"!  What happened with Sarah and I on House of Bryan last week is not.

Obviously it got a little tense between Sarah and myself.   Some people tweeted about it saying it was a cat fight - a bit of an exaggeration.  It was more like two people in a working relationship who aren't happy with the way things are going.   I'm not one to passively aggressively act on something that is bothering me.  I would rather get it out and discuss it.   If you didn't know this about me before, I think it is becoming clear.  And since we both signed up to do it all on television, it got filmed.   And a little bit of drama has never hurt a reality show in the past, I'd say.   Well, tune in tonight to see what goes down.   Thanks for watching - "cat fights" and all!

(Note: Photo courtesy of

What does "adult" design or decorating mean to you?

My husband and I bought this piece over the weekend (Kijiji - a steal at $250!).  It's a well made and practical piece as it stores a tonne - as you can see from the beginnings of my "propping" (yes, I sometimes "prop" my house).   However, the reason I'm writing about it is because of something my husband said: "I love it, but it makes me feel like such an adult".  And I totally know what he means, as I'm sure many of you do.  What's funny is that my neighbour said the same thing to me a couple of days ago about her kitchen.  She has just renovated it and put a different, funky knob on every cabinet because she didn't want it to be too adult.  

It's not that we aren't adults - we all have kids, own houses and vehicles, hold down steady jobs (I'm getting overwhelmed with adult here!).  It's just that some things FEEL adult.  I think adult-feeling design is when things feel intentional and cohesive - we aren't just using the hand-me-downs and hodge-podge street finds anymore (although this is still one of my favourite ways to acquire furniture).   Maybe it's that we are starting to tailor things to our style with a big picture in mind, instead of a more impulsive "this is a cool colour" and painting it?  I'm not really sure what makes something "adult".   Investing more in it?  It reminds us of our parents?  Of what we imagine adults decorating with?   It's hard to really pinpoint where the feeling comes from.   But, I hear it from enough people to know that it exists for many.  

It's not always a negative thing either.  I think my husband is okay with the piece feelig a bit "adult", as long as his house doesn't become too adult.   One thing I find interesting is how most of us seem to understand this feeling of "adult".   In my profession, sometimes all I have to say to someone is "Does it feel too adult?" to determine if they like something or not.   Or, to the contrary I say "Do you want it to feel more adult?" and this will help them decide.   Which goes to say, we all know what "too adult" or "not adult enough" is and feels like, it's just hard to define what makes it so.  

What makes something too adult for you?   Or, not adult enough? I'm curious and fascinated by this topic and would love your insights. 


House of Bryan - On the Rocks!

Well, another season of House of Bryan is upon us.   It all starts tonight at 10pm.   I'm feeling excited (and naturally a little nervous).   It should be a great season filled with lots of drama.   But really, whose life isn't filled with drama when building a house, even doing a renovation?   Watch House of Bryan on HGTV to see it all.

Reupholstery Rush

Just picked up my chair from being reupholstered. It feels great - I think it's even better than buying a new chair. Although that's nice too, it is satisfying to think you saved something from a landfill. And you already know it looks good in the space, it just needed updating. My only thing is, I think I should have done contrast piping? I'm a sucker for it. On the flip side, good for me for using some restraint. I will save the contrast piping for the bigger chair. Watch out furniture - I've got the reupholstery rush!

Build up to built-ins

My husband is insisting that he build our built-ins for our bedroom. He's not a cabinet maker or woodworker, but it is definitely an interest. However, he doesn't have a lot of experience (and quite honestly, he doesn't like to take advice from "someone" who has taken a few courses in furniture design!). Therefore, I'm not so keen on the idea. But we reached an agreement: he could try it out first with some side tables for our couch. It took a couple of attempts before I suggested we use the extra drawers from the piece we have (above photo). Then, he built a box around them, added a shelf, threw on some vintage legs and...

Voila! We have side tables...

All in all, he did a great job. There were a couple of heated discussions about it, but we are stronger because of it - I think? I picked a bright colour because I wanted to punch it up and who doesn't like yellow right now? When I'm tired of yellow, I'll just paint it again. This is partly why I didn't want to invest in something too expensive because I like to change things up a lot. So, this was re-using something we already had and enabling us to have it for a long time. Unless it falls apart...which it probably NEVER will because of the sheer amount of glue holding it together. And yes, he is allowed to do the built-ins - he promised less glue and better use of proper wood joints! I will keep you posted on the results....



Rant: Criteria for a non-functional kitchen?

Since when is a kitchen not functional because you can't open all of the appliances at once?   Who does this?   Is it really necessary to have the fridge, oven and dishwasher open all at the same time?  Call me crazy, but I think this would be non-functional even in a big kitchen!  On two separate home shows recently, I have heard homeowners criticize a kitchen because things would be tight if you had all of the appliances open at once.   Seriously?  How often are you loading or unloading a dishwasher, basting a turkey and putting leftovers in the fridge all at once?  Even two people in the kitchen wouldn't be doing all of this at one time.  And if you are, you shouldn't be!  It's dangerous!  Call it small, call it ugly, say the layout sucks, but, not having everything open at once doesn't make it non-functional.   I agree this rant may seem trivial, but I just couldn't resist commenting on the ridiculousness of this concept.  Thanks for listening!

DIY: Customize a shower curtain

I have been having so much trouble finding a shower curtain.    I wanted something that still let light into the bathroom, but had a little bit of detail to add some interest.   I found some simple white ones at Ikea and you couldn't beat the price plus it wasn't vinyl, so non-toxic.  This is good since I have two children that spend lengths of time in the bath.  The shower curtain met the requirements but was so boring.  So I decided to draw on it with an extra-large Sharpie marker.   I mimicked the "faux bois" fabric that was at Ikea not too long ago, but with a little less detail.  

Step 1: Tape down some craft or scrap paper ont a long table

Step 2: Tape down the first segment of the shower curtain

Step 3: Start drawing!  Make sure to use a permanent marker.  I stick with the Sharpie brand because I know that that stuff doesn't come out.

Step 4: Test a small area to ensure that the marker doesn't run.   If you are worried, you might want to put it in the dryer for a few minutes or iron it at a lower temperature.

I did a faux bois pattern which was simple because I didn't have to worry about the lines being perfect and could really improvise where I wanted a lot of pattern and a little pattern.  I think you could just about do anything you feel like or even have your kids do one.  The permanent marker might not be appropriate for them, but, non-toxic fabric paint would work just as well (just follow the instructions on the product).   Have fun doing it!  

DIY: Bulletin Board

Here is a simple way to make a bulletin board.  It's a fast and easy way to add colour and interest to a room.   You can make it small or large, horizontal or vertical, even change the fabrics from square to square.

You will need the following; fabric, acoustic ceiling tiles (from any hardware store), glue gun and scissors. 

1. Cut fabric 1.5" larger than the ceiling tile you have chosen

2. Glue fabric to back of tile (the tile has a lip which is a great place for the glue)

3. Trim excess fabric

4. Attach tile(s) to wall in whatever pattern you choose.   The way you attach the tile will depend on the type of wall you are applying it to (I sound like Ikea instructions right now!)

5. Use regular push pins to attach objects.