Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get Ready to Create: DIY Project Prep

As promised, I will be writing about some simple DIY projects that are as close to no-fail as is possible. But whether you'll be creating based on my how-to's, from other websites or books, or from your own imagination, there are some things you'll need first.

The basics are often enough to get you started on simple projects, and if you don't already own these items, many of them can be borrowed from a friend or neighbour, or purchased fairly inexpensively at any hardware store. The basic tools are:
  • a drill with a decent selection of bits and screwdriver bits (so you can use your drill as a power screwdriver, eliminating the need for an extra tool). Note that you will sometimes have to purchase a particular bit for a specific project as the same bit won't drill through both plywood and glass tile, for example.
  • a jigsaw with a couple of blades. Again, blades should be material-specific; there are different blades for metal and wood, as well as for different material thicknesses.
  • a level, at least 24-inches long
  • a good sturdy tape measure with clearly indicated markings
  • a couple of clamps for holding things together while you are waiting for glue to dry or lining things up to drill into
  • adhesives - it's really practical to have a selection of them on hand, including construction adhesive, wood glue, a hot glue gun and glue sticks, masking tape
  • a staple gun (does not have to be electric) and staples for it
  • an iron, yup the thing you use to press your clothes. But I strongly suggest you buy a cheap one to keep for creative projects and not use the one you use to press your work clothes near adhesives and paints. Just in case...
  • a basic set of screwdrivers (not electric)
  • a hammer, mid-sized with a decent weight to it is the most versatile
Time & patience: This may sound like a crazy thing to reiterate, but it has to be. Don't start a project that you figure requires 3 hours time when you know you have to go out in exactly 3 hours; projects always take a bit longer than you expect. Likewise, don't start a project when you would really rather be doing something else - you will try to rush, a step will be overlooked or not done with the care required and the outcome will be affected by this.

Work space: When possible, you will want to do certain tasks outside or in the garage with at least a window opened. Solvents, some adhesives, etc have pretty strong odors that you won't want wafting through your home and being inhaled by all. Tasks such as drilling and sawing create unbelievable quantities of sawdust that can be a respiratory irritant, irritate the eyes, and so on. Plus dust travels in mysterious ways and you don't want it ending up all over the place. If you don't have a garage and if weather doesn't permit outdoor work, close yourself in a room with open windows. Wherever you set up to work, make sure you have electrical outlets available to you (or a safe way to keep extension cords from tangling in power tools as you are working or from tripping you as you move about) and also make sure that you have the room you'll need to keep your tools and materials at hand but not crowding you as you work.

Check back soon for the first do-it-yourself project to be posted here!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts: Design project spending patterns

The spending habits of our clients have changed recently.  While spending freely on decor and questioning the costs related to construction had been the way things were, there is now a noticeable swing in the opposite direction.  People are understanding the importance of the "invisible stuff" (i.e.: electrical, insulation, etc...) and are looking for ways to make their spaces "look like a million dollars" for a fraction of that cost after the big stuff is done.

The best way to save on decor, and many of my clients are doing this, is to involve yourself in some DIY projects.  Whether you are all thumbs, don't have a creative bone in your body, or just think you don't know how to make things, there are projects you can tackle that will cost you only 10% of what you would pay for a similar item in a store. The tricks to a successful DIY project?

  • Choose your projects carefully. Consider your experience & the complexity, your comfort level with the tools required, the amount of time required & the amount of time you have...
  • Read all tutorials, instructions, and materials lists before you begin.
  • Be organized and have everything on hand before you start.
  • Don't try improvising when you really shouldn't. If the instructions call for carpenter's glue, you should not have a Crayola glue stick in your hand.
In the upcoming weeks I will be writing about some easy, inexpensive, no-special-skills-required, do-it-yourself decor projects that will save you money, make you proud, and motivate you for your next projects!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My articles in print in a real estate magazine

The local real estate magazine Homes & Land (Demeures et Domaines in French), which encompasses Montreal, the Eastern Townships, and the Laurentians, is publishing some of my articles. A couple of articles will be those previously published in their magazine, but most will be new content.

The current issue (Volume 4, Issue 7) is available in various locations around the city if you would prefer a print copy rather than flipping through on-line. "Planning the Ideal Kitchen Layout" appears on page 16.

Upcoming all new articles to appear in the magazine will include one about designing sun rooms and solariums, and how to properly develop a colour scheme that will work throughout your whole home, to name a couple.

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts: Managing Time

A little bit of irony: We are all often worrying about using time efficiently and having enough time to do everything that must be done.  Most people have said "if only there were another 2 hours in each day!" at least a few times in their lives.  Finding ways to be more efficient just makes sense.

I wonder how many hours most people have lost to reading about time management habits and methods?  I got hooked by a fantastic write-up about an article on just this topic; after 15 minutes of reading I realized that:

  • The author was saying nothing that I didn't already know, plus he repeated everything in at least 3 different ways - he certainly didn't use his time wisely either, as it takes longer to do the same thing multiple times but with variation.
  • Reading about managing time is about as effective as reading about exercising is to losing weight.
  • The 15 minutes I gave to this article could have accomplished something.
But I shouldn't complain... I did gain something: a topic for today's Thursday's Thoughts!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts: Inspirations

Maybe they are in fact inspirations, but sometimes it seems like they are fixations, fascinations, or even random things that just have to somehow work their way out of our systems... We all have them -these little things that get into our minds and we feel that we absolutely must feed them one way or another.

Glass countertop in the kitchen
There are two materials that I have been desperately wanting to incorporate into designs recently (but certainly not together!): burlap and glass counter tops. Glass countertops have always appealed to me, as long as I am not responsible to keep them smudge-free, but recently I find that I have to hold back from suggesting them to clients who I know won't ever be persuaded in that direction.

Burlap from Designer Fabrics Online
Burlap??? It's a texture thing; I've done the leather, the silk, the faux-fur... (All make great contrasts with burlap, by the way.) Burlap makes for great accents and can be worked into any style, not just rustic.

Bold and dramatic for a dining room
There are also a couple of very specific projects I have been itching to do: a plum-purple-coloured dining room and a mechanic's place. Yup, the usually neglected place where you have to sit to wait while your car is being serviced. And I don't mean a nice fancy car dealership, I really do mean a typical little mechanic's shop.

   What ideas are stuck in your head at the moment?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Trends for 2011 - Beyond Colour

I find that in recent years the trends for interior design have been making a gradual transition rather than anything drastic suddenly appearing on the market.

Pottery Barn's knit throws
We are continuing to see hand-made, or hand-made-looking, items and I predict (very happily) that this is a trend that will continue; the ever-growing success of websites such as Etsy and Artfire are testament to this fact. Traditional folk art is a big influence (tole painting, embroidery, metal arts...), and quilting, knitted and crocheted items, and bead work are going to be seen everywhere and in all sorts of surprising combinations.

Restauration Hardware's Aviator Chair

Pottery Barn Kids crystal dream catcher
Texture, and the contrast of textures, is still playing a major role in design and decor, both for residential and commercial applications. Hammered metal with wood and glass. Crystal with feathers and mirror. And texture can easily be used to set the tone of a room - see how the Aviator Chair can instantly infuse a space with a retro / vintage look.

Popular motifs are birds, especially owls, postage, and anything in silhouette.  Silhouettes are versatile - depending on the design they can have a Victorian feel to them (think of old cameo brooches), a fun almost child-like appeal, or a very style-neutral way to introduce a motif.

Niki Jones' Twitwoo owl cushion
Cottage and Vine's silhouette dishtowels
Crate and Barrel's Marimekko bathroom set

Mobilia's Executive pillow is made of recycled ties!
The natural element is proving to be at least as much about the environment as about aesthetics, and is evolving to also include recycled or re-purposed materials.
Crate and Barrel's Maganda vase

Hopefully I won't start sounding too repetitive, but select the items that you love.  Trends aren't only about specific materials, individual colours, or the shape of something; trends are about the finished space when the different pieces are put together.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts (running really late)

Well, I'm getting my "Thursday Thoughts" out there in time for the weekend at least...

If you are like most people, you have one area in your home (or in your workplace) that is a work in progress. Either you never really decided on a specific decor or even colour scheme, or it is just lacking something to have that finished feeling. For these spaces, we tend to make purchases on impulse and often end up owning something that either isn't quite the right shade of red (or green, or beige, or...), doesn't fill a certain space quite like we had imagined, or is otherwise not quite perfect. And of course we don't return these things because we figure that for now having something is better than having nothing. A very wrong attitude, by the way.

Avoid poor purchase decisions by keeping photos and even samples from this room or area in your purse or car, or even on your iPad or other similar device that is usually with you. Paint swatches, a little piece of fabric, a couple of photos, and you've got enough to make sure you're looking at the right colours, and you have enough visuals with you for sales staff to be able to guide you in your shopping.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts

Many furniture stores have a "no photos" policy because they don't want shoppers snapping pics then looking for better prices from their competitors.  That's somewhat understandable, sort of.  But lots of us need pictures - either we want to show the photo to our significant other before making the purchase, or we want to see a picture of the item while standing in our own home looking at the things the new item will coexist with before committing to it.

So what do you do?

Ask for a brochure or pamphlet depicting the item.  If one isn't available, find out which company manufactures the item and then find their website and you will have access to photos and most often detailed information including dimensions, colour choices, and more.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts

Thursday's Thoughts is a new feature I decided to add. Thursday's Thoughts will appear, you guessed it, every Thursday; the topic will always be somehow design-related, and it will literally just be a thought, not a full-length article. A point to ponder. A couple of words of wisdom. Maybe a photo with a sentence or two sometimes...

And here's today's thought:

Planning to renovate? Or even just dreaming about a specific project? It's never too early to start a "style file" - collect photos of things you love from brochures, magazines, websites, etc. Even start keeping a list of names of designers, contractors and other industry professionals who have been recommended by friends or family. This will start you (or your designer or contractor) off with an organized visual idea of the direction your project will take when the time comes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Colour Trends for 2011

Trends are an interesting thing.  First of all there are two kinds of trends: 1) those established by industry-related organizations, and 2) those based on consumer behaviour.  Secondly, there are two kinds of people: 1) those who follow the trends as closely as possible, and 2) those who know what they like irrespective of the trend du jour.

And interestingly, the colour trends shown for 2011, for the most part anyway, seem to be allowing for everyone's preferences to still be "trendy".
Azko Nobel's "The Colors of 2011"
Yolo Colorhouse's "Color Trends 2011"

Pantone continues to release a colour of the year, and this year's is as bright as last year's turquoise, but unfortunately less likely to find its way into as many people's homes: Honeysuckle.

ICI Dulux (an Akzo Nobel company) released a lemon-lime sort of shade of citrus yellow as their colour of the year, and Benjamin Moore's 2011 colour of the year is called "Vintage Wine" - by their own description it is a "rich hue with a deep brown base and a hint of smoky violet".

Lots of words are being thrown around too including: humble, simplicity, refresh, collective, magic... But the truth is that they likely bring different colours to your mind than to mine because we all associate different things, different experiences and slightly different qualities to each of those words.

Azko Nobel has created a ColourFutures International Colour Trends 2011 notebook available for download. It combines a magazine style with a picture book style, and is worth a quick flip through. Click here to go to the download page.

My next post (later this week) will be about the trends beyond colour - pattern and motif, texture, shape and form, mood and ambiance...