Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Store-bought or hand-made, cozy up with knits at home

Knitting is one of my favorite hobbies; I love watching the yarn transform into wonderfully textured pieces to then become clothes, stuffed animals, or whatever the project of the moment is. I have joked that I would surround myself with all things knitting if I could - and now I know that I don't have to say that jokingly anymore.

Couture Deco's knit-look wallpaper has me wishing that my crafts room was due for a make-over. Although this wallpaper can work just as well as an accent wall in a bedroom or living room, in a den, or even in a hallway.

If knits for home decor appeal to you - and why shouldn't they? They are so cozy! - you'll be happy to know that knitting, and all things knitted, are continuing to grow in popularity and trendiness.

Of course there  are the usual throws and pillows (like these cushions from Pottery Barn), but there are also more unusual pieces out there like knit vases from Ferm Living.

Better yet, visit the Etsy website to support artists and artisans by purchasing knitted items that are hand-made. Choose by category, search by item, narrow your search by location or  by colour...

Or pick up a pair of knitting needles and watch a skein of yarn turn into something fantastic!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A picture may say 1000 words but not a complete story

Have you ever seen an amazing-looking promotional photo for something on sale at a store, and then when you went to see it in person you were terribly disappointed?  If you answered yes, then you'll certainly understand what I am going on about.

I was recently criticized for taking on a certain project (still in progress).  Someone saw the "before" photos and told me I should be ashamed that I am involved in tearing out a beautiful, new-looking bathroom; the terms "wasteful", "environmentally and economically irresponsible", as well as a few others were harshly directed at me.

(The businesswoman in me maintains that even if this project was purely frivolous, if not me then some other designer would have the contract.  But that is not the point...)

In a luxury home, does it make sense to have only  a small en-suite bathroom with a tiny shower when there is room for significant enlargement?  In a luxury home, does it make sense to have an en-suite washroom outfitted with mediocre quality finishes and fixtures?  Does it make sense for the owner to want to invest a bit to increase the property value?

Yes, the bathroom looked lovely as it had been - if it were in an average home.  But where it was is comparable to placing a thrift-shop futon in a room with an Austrian crystal chandelier, a hand-woven silk rug, and museum-quality original art.

So although a picture can say a thousand words, make sure they are the right ones before jumping to conclusions.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The boards that make me moody

Grade 7 Home Ec class... The teacher assigned a project that we each had to create a collage of pictures of things we would want in our first place and write a paragraph or two about how we imagine our first home away from our parents.

Now these collages are being called "vision boards", or more commonly, "mood boards".  And they are being touted as a tool of the professional interior designer.  Entire books have been written on the subject of mood boards, and there are now numerous websites that allow the user to create their own mood boards, save them, share them...

As an interior designer, I take issue with mood boards.  A mood board is nothing more than a visual wish list of sorts.  So what is my issue with mood boards?  A client presented me with one she had evidently spent hours making; it was a melange of images taken from cheap big-box furntiture stores, uber-expensive hand-crafted items from Europe, several pieces from manufacturers not locally available... And she expected me to use this as a shopping list of sorts for her project, with little care that several of the items really didn't work well together, that the proportions of different pieces made them incompatible. On the website where she created this mood board, other users gave it a 4-star rating, so it must be me who is wrong in finding fault with her selections!

So yes, I am drawing a comparison between these mood boards and my grade 7 Home Ec project - a wish-list collage.

Mood boards do have a purpose: they allow you to combine different pieces, styles, colours, even textures, and provide you with an idea of how different things can look together.  But they have their limitations.  If used as a tool to help create a starting point for a decor, they can be a great help, and really fun to make.  Just remember that a mood board is not a specifications manual, and it certainly cannot replace a professional interior designer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Free Design Seminars - a part of LG's Home Appliance Days events

We've been busy at Idealspace Design. Aside from designing homes and businesses for our clients, we were approached to design and present mini-seminars for LG in and around Montreal.

If you are interested in doing renovations at home, you should come visit us at one of the locations. The mini-seminars (being presented in English and French) cover the topics of:
  • Environmentally-friendly renovations 
  • Laundry room design
  • Kitchen planning
Each mini-seminar runs about 15 minutes, and we are also offering short free consultations on-site. Bring photos of your space to redesign, and bring your questions that you'd like answered. Demonstrations of LG's new steam washer and dryer are also being done.

And while you're there, also ask Jack  (the guy in the LG shirt) about the contest - you can win one of 3 prizes in "The LG Designer Contest" - you could win interior design services for your upcoming project.

The events are taking place from 12:30 to 2:30 at the following venues:
  • Saturday, July 24th at Corbeil in St-Leonard. 6725 rue Jean-Talon East
  • Sunday, July 25th at Corbeil in Longueuil. 3595 rue de Chambly
  • Saturday, July 31st at The Bay in Montreal. 585 rue Ste-Catherine West
  • Sunday, August 1st at The Bay in Anjou. Galeries d'Anjou 7895 boulevard Les Galeries d'Anjou.
Similar events are also happening in Toronto, so if that is closer to home for you:
  • Saturday, July 24th at Tasco in Mississauga at 2111 Dunwin Drive, unit 11
  • Sunday, July 25th at Tasco in Toronto at 3041 Dufferin Street
  • Saturday, July 31st at The Bay in North York at 3401 Dufferin Street at Highway 401
  • Sunday, August 1st at The Bay in the Eaton Center in Toronto at 176 Yonge Street.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Save Vs. Spend

When Doug Larson said, "What some people mistake for the high cost of living is really the cost of living high." he couldn't have been more right. There is necessary, or justified, spending, and then there is spending just because... either on impulse, for convenience, or from limited knowledge.

There are some design, decor, or construction elements that come only in your choice of "cheap and crappy" or "expensive and worth it" but most are available in a wide range of prices. I like to focus on those that are in the middle, and when I use the word "save" it means to find reasonable quality at the lowest price; "spend" means that quality is really worth some extra spending.

Save on these items:
  • Decorative accessories (bedding, artwork, rugs...) for kids rooms. Children grow up so quickly that spending significant amounts of money to please their tastes of today is going to be regretted quickly because before you know it, they'll be wanting to replace all the farm animals with guitars.
  • Interior door handles. You can easily find these for around $50 each - or in a "builder's package" with multiples in a box for around $25 each. Often they are the exact same just with less appealing packaging!
  • Rugs or carpets for dining rooms. Even if you don't have children, your dining room flooring is never safe from spills. Instead of grape juice it may be red wine and instead of pureed carrots it may be a plate of spaghetti. Accidents happen. And if your carpet gets a stain and has to be replaced, let it be something that you haven't spent a fortune on. Although do look for washability, colorfastness, and other features that improve the durability and longevity of the rug.
  • Light fixtures in bedrooms. Especially now that the trend is to put more decorative, chandelier-like lighting in the bedroom, it isn't necessarily where you want to go all-out with crystal or designer labels - leave that for the dining room and other areas that guests see and that are less likely to have a dramatic style change every few years.
  • Closet organizer systems. Whether custom-made or bought from a big-box store, these come with both expensive and affordable options. Explore your options and really assess your needs because changing them later tends to be costly.
Spend on these items:
  • Chairs. You're going to sit on them routinely, so the last thing you need is a wobble developing within months, or fabric starting to look twice its age.
  • Recessed "pot" lighting. These aren't a do-it-yourself installation for most people, and even changing the bulbs can be a challenge depending on your ceiling height. Most have built-in transformers and other parts that affect the quality and longevity of the fixture itself as well as of the bulb. Look for good quality - if you have to change the bulbs half as often you will quickly save your money back.
  • Flooring for kitchens and entrance ways. The kitchen floor is subject to spills, fairly heavy traffic usually, and chairs scraping along it. If an accidentally dropped pot will damage multiple tiles, it won't be long before you'll be looking for a new floor. In the entryway, depending on your location, your shoes and boots bring in salt, sand, water, mud, oily dirt, and who-knows-what else. The flooring should be able to withstand all that and more for at least several years.
  • Toilets. Again, not a D.I.Y project to replace one for most people, and they get a lot of use. Nothing is more annoying than the constant sound of running water in a toilet tank, or having to explain to guests: "um... you'll have to flush twice, and hold the handle for a few seconds." Look for a model that has a dual flush feature to save water, and a decent manufacturer's warranty.
  • Paints, especially for washrooms and kitchens. The humidity and odors both in the washroom and from cooking can penetrate right into the paint and cause discoloration, staining, and even bubbling. Opt for 100% acrylic paint for both of these rooms - it is mold and mildew resistant, has a stain resistance to it, and is washable.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Decor) Challenges

Usually at this time of year people are looking at their homes with an eye on how to bring the outside in, how to make the warmth and colours of the season appreciated inside, and how to make the time stuck indoors seem more pleasant. That's how I was feeling too - as recently as yesterday. I was thinking about buying a couple of new houseplants, putting away the winter stuff... We are at the end of April after all.

And today I am thinking about extra blankets, plush rugs underfoot, good lighting, and window treatments that can block out the view. The finally-budding trees (not to mention my car) are buried under more than an inch of snow and more is still falling. And today is April 27th.

Somehow I cannot get myself to focus on designing a client's sun-room when hot chocolate seems so much more appropriate than iced tea, a fireplace more appealing than a lawn chair, and summer feels as far away as Christmas.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Facebook won

 After resisting for so long, I finally set up a Facebook profile, and a page for Idealspace Design. Over the upcoming days I will start adding photos and more information to it.

So when you have a minute, take a look and become a fan of Idealspace Design.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Borrowing vs. Stealing in Design

Design influences come from all over: a visit to someone's home; a hotel you stayed at; an era; a culture... Most commonly though, they come from things we've seen on a website or in a design or decor magazine. There's nothing wrong with seeing a space designed by someone else and saying, "That is fantastic! I want a room like that." I often have clients hand me pages from magazines requesting the same. But I explain to clients that there is a difference between stealing and borrowing, and that they would be happier with something influenced by the photo, rather than reproduced from it. You have to make it your own; put your own mark on it.

This washroom, designed by architect and interior designer Charles C. Almonte ( of Maryland, is clean, timeless, and approachable. Who wouldn't want something like it in their own home?

Use photos as a starting point instead of as a "how to". Figure out what it is that appeals to you and focus on that instead of on the whole.
Stagger your tiles vertically instead to emphasize height. Put towels on the shelf and frame the art in stainless steel and hang them on the wall above. Opt for a bowl or vessel sink with a wall-mount faucet on a wall-mounted cabinet. Choose a wallpaper that speaks to you, maybe something a bit more modern, or a bit more geometric. The overall feel of a decor can be reproduced without having to seek out exact replicas of the materials used.
When Shakespeare said, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" he certainly wasn't talking about design concepts. Borrowing is almost unavoidable, and if you are in a position to "lend" a design idea then you should be proud. But thievery is quite another matter, and morals aside, you won't be happy with something intended for someone else.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

D.I.Y. Project Attitude

The term "do-it-yourself" either makes people cringe or gets them excited. Those who enjoy a good D.I.Y project may look at it from a financial point of view (who doesn't like to save the $70 a plumber charges to change a faucet?), or they take pride in being able to say: "Look what I did!", or they simply enjoy working with their hands and have some confidence in their abilities. Most who frown upon all manual labor are  scared of the outcome or of failure. I'll be the first to confess that there are few feelings worse than the one you get after having spent an entire weekend on a D.I.Y project just to finally admit defeat and have to call in a pro on Monday morning - hopefully before too many people see your meager attempt.

It's all about attitude. If you set out expecting professional-looking results in half the time that the contractor would need, you're going to be disappointed. The same is true if you have the belief that the project is going to be easy. Every project requires 10% more material than expected, 20% more time than anticipated, and will leave you 30% more tired than you figured.

Again, it's all about attitude. If you start off with a reasonable sized project and make it fun, it can be a huge success. Involve the family. Blast the stereo. Invite friends over to help and order a pizza. Take pride in your work and be willing to laugh at your own trial-and-error learning. You're doing it for yourself - enjoy it!

My fiance made the most of the tedious job of repainting my hobby room, and made me smile in the process. Although I wouldn't appreciate this type of non-professional painting method from a contractor, it made our D.I.Y project something to remember.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Value of a Floor Plan

Most often, floor plans, or layout plans, are used for renovation purposes and people don't generally think to make one, or have one made, for any other reason. Having floor plans can be beneficial to residential and commercial property owners, as well as to tenants, in many ways:
  • Take it with you when you go shopping for new furniture to eliminate the guess-work about the right size desk, table or sofa to buy.
  • Use it as a sales tool to help sell your property or to find the right tenant. It can be put on-line with the property listing (see the photo section of this property listing) or a paper copy can be given to potential purchasers or tenants.
  • Make furniture pieces for your floor plan so you can rearrange as often as necessary until you find the right layout without hurting your back or damaging the floors.
  • Start to visualize renovation options before calling in a designer, architect or contractor. On paper you will see your space very differently.
 If you are going to make your own floor plan, the easiest way is to use graph paper. Figure out a reasonable scale based on the size of your graph paper and the size of the space you are going to be drawing; while a single room can be drawn with 4 squares representing one foot (or 1 square = 3 inches), an entire building would have to be drawn at a smaller scale, such as 1 square = 1 foot.

Having a floor plan done professionally is quick and simple. Depending on the space, it may take anywhere from an hour to several hours for a pro to measure the space including doors, windows, and so on. Within 10 days you should have the completed floor plan. Costs for professionally drawn floor plans vary depending both on the professional you hire and on the size of the space to be measured and drawn, but for a small average home you should expect to pay approximately $240.