Sunday, 25 December 2011

Last-minute Christmas fix

Happy holidays everyone! Here are a few fool-safe tricks to get into Christmas spirit.
1) Bring in the outdoors. A single branch of spruce tree in a glass vase provides instant Christmas feeling.
2) At least one scented flower. Amaryllis, paperwhites or hyacinths will make your home smell of Christmas.
3) Include food of different colours on your holiday table. Missing something green? A few decorative leaves of lettuce or a sliced avocado will do the trick.

And here's the ultimate party enhancer: candles! There is nothing more efficient for raising the holiday spirit. Enjoy!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Holiday knick knacks

A birds-only Christmas tree at Holiday Comforts.
Definitely unique and quite effective with its purely 
white and red colour scheme.
With one hour to kill in this final week before Christmas, I find myself in the Northgate Shopping Centre checking out last minute details and inspiration. The Mall is buzzling with people, lights and activity, exactly what one would expect for this time of the year. What I didn't expect though was to be greeted by chattering feathered friends in some of the Malls' Christmas trees. Take a look for yourself; these pieces are sure to  make your holiday home sing!

There is also a landing spot for multicoloured 
birds at Holiday Comforts, like this sparkling 
green friend

Glass objects, like these sculptural candleholders 
from Holiday Comforts, feel festive and reflect 
light around the room.

More glass, this time on glass plates. The plates'
fluted surface gives them an extra sparkle (see 
below). Added bonus: they are on sale at 

These shiny moose napkin rings are
one of my absolute favourites. So cute 
and what a great gift they make!
Accents by Design.
Imagine this bowl with bright, orange 
mandarines. Definitely festive! Holiday 
The wine will taste even better when served
from this glass decanter. Holiday Comforts.
For a rustic, genuine style, try Maxwell Pottery'
handmade pieces on your Christmas table. The 
colour is so right!
Golden apples in a wooden bowl. Deep and rich
festive tones. Accents by Design.
These white-and-red porcelain balls will give the 
Christmas tree a beautifully simple and old-fashioned 
look. Holiday Comforts. If you prefer more colour,
you might want to go with these mini balls from 
Accents by Design (below).

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas vignettes

Homesense's take on a Christmas vignette.
Check out their store in Sudbury for more ideas!
Create groupings of Christmas decorations this season! A vignette, or grouping of objects, is often more impactful than placing decorations throughout the house. Why? Because many pieces together make a bigger statement. How to get it right is often a matter of trial and error.

Start with a completely empty space. It can be a sidetable, your fireplace mantel or a bookshelf. Take out your Christmas treasures and start experimenting. It helps if you mix pieces of different materials, shapes and heights. Colourwise, you can go with complementary colours, or one single colour.

Remember to stand back every so often to see how it looks.

A vignette is the perfect way
to show off your personality 
and objects you love, whatever 
your style is.
You can also follow what TV hosts Steven and Chris call the "triangle theory". Here's their step-by-step guide for decorating a fireplace mantel:

Step 1: Centre your largest piece, such as an oversized mirror, on the mantel.

Step 2: Layer smaller pieces in front of the mirror.

Step 3: On the left side, add an object with movement. Sculptural, tall candle holders are a good option.

Step 4: Include something that shows off your personality; souvenirs from your travels, books you love, etc.

Step 5: On the right side, incorporate an element with visual weight. A vase filled with tall branches, for example, looks great.

Step 6: Finish off with accessories that vary in height. Try boxes and books.

Voilà! You have created your own, personalized vignette! What do you think, will you try it for Christmas?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Your throw will steal the show

This afghan in cool colours is part of Universal 
Yarn's afghan kit collection. The kit includes yarns 
and instructions and costs $99. Stix & Stones can 
also create kits specific to what you're looking for 
in cotton, silk, mohair or any other yarn. Start 
envisioning your perfect throw! 
Enhance your living room with a cozy throw this winter. Not only does a throw keep you warm and toasty. It's also great for pulling the colours of a room together, and for introducing an accent colour that will make your space come alive. If you can't find that perfect throw in the stores, think about making it yourself. With North Bay's Stix & Stones around it has never been easier! This downtown knitters' paradise has everything you need for the project: needles and hooks, afghan kit collections, beautiful yarns and an enthusiastic knitting community to support you in your efforts. A visit to Stix & Stones is sure to get your creative juices flowing. And if you're hesitating about taking on yet another project, you have the option to buy one of the fantastic throws displayed in the store. Just take a look at these:

This throw is knit as a square and comes
in a range of beautiful hand-died variegated 
wool yarns. You need two skeins at $16 each,
thick needles and one very bad movie night to 
complete it. The result: a gorgeous, highly 
personalized afghan. Tempting! 

Let yourself be inspired by Universal
Yarn's afghan knit collection.
This amazingly colourful afghan is 
made by Dianne Giroux and is for
sale at Stix & Stones. If you prefer 
a calmer colour scheme, the throw 
below by the same knitter could be 
an option. $295 each.

This baby blanket is also knit as a square and should
be a piece of cake (says the time optimist). It is made
out of wool yarn and requires four skeins at $9 each.
Whether it's a throw or a quilt, who doesn't want
to see our little ones warmly wrapped up and
happy? In a future blog, I'll show inspiring quilt photos
and beautiful quilts available in our local stores. 

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Crafty Christmas Creations

Berries framed in ice. Pour water in a shallow pan and leave
outside in freezing conditions. Loosen carefully and stick in the 
snow. To achieve a crystal clear, transparent surface, the ice 
should form as slowly as possible, i.e. not in extremely cold 
temperatures. In the freezer, the ice often turns frosty, not 

The countdown for Christmas has begun; only a few more weeks to go! Out comes the box with decorations (it's a pretty big box), and along with it, my special collection of holiday DIY objects. These projects are all simple, unique and beautiful - exactly what I wish for the season. They often also involve an activity that can be shared with others. So, double the fun! After all, isn't that what this time of year is all about?

I'd love to hear about your favourite Christmas project! What's cooking in your own DIY workshop?
You'll need a heart-shaped cookie cutter, 
a flower bud and thin wire to make
this adorable outdoor decoration. Put the
flower bud in the cookie cutter, shape the
the wire as a loop. Add water, making
sure the wire is immersed in water. Freeze.
Hold the heart in your hands for awhile and 
it will come out from the cookie cutter and
will be ready to hang.
Who doesn't like ginger cookies?
Not only do they taste good, they 
also look fabulous in the Christmas
More ginger cookies, this time made of felted wool. 

Paperwhites are the ultimate Christmas flower. 
Delicate, proud and sweet.

Plant them in a tall glass
container to enhance the
vertical shape. The visible
root system adds texture
and interest.
A creative spin on the traditional wreath.
This one is made of recycled sweaters, 
yes sweaters, cut in squares and triangles.
I saw it in Chatelaine last year and thought
it was ingenious! You'll need thick-gauge
wire, 3 to 5 old sweaters, good fabric scissors
and ribbon. Bend the wire into the shape of a 
wreath with a loop at one end. Thread the
knitted squares onto the wire, until 1 inch of the
wire remains. Feed the wire end through the loop
and twist to close. Finish off with a large bow.
Another stunning wreath from Chatelaine, this
one made from pot scrubbers!
Apples double as candle holders. 
Natural and simple.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Favourite fireplaces

Noll ClimateCare's product range includes fireplaces from Regency 
contemporary gas fireplace is from Regency.
Fireplaces are hot this time of year, in more than one way. I visited one of our local suppliers, Noll ClimateCare, to learn about the latest trends and highlights. Here they are:

1) Fireplaces are taking centre stage in our homes, with a prime location and dramatic flames. Gas options continue to be a popular choice, and contemporary lines are more and more in demand. The shape is often horizontal, with inner, reflective panels that amplify the appearance of the fire.

Crystal firebeds add sparkle
and interest.

2) Firebeds can be so much more than traditional logs, whether real or ceramic. Contemporary alternatives include multi-coloured crystals, ceramic spa stones and river pebbles. These options will intensify the sparkle and provide additional reflection.

3) When buying a new fireplace, be clear about where it's going and what its purpose will be. Will it be the sole heat source in the house, will it supplement other heat sources, or do you want it solely for aesthetic reasons? This will determine the size and the heat output you should look for.

4) Be true to the style of your home when choosing a fireplace. To help you visualize how a certain fireplace will look in your own room, visit the Regency Fireplace Design Centre.

Electric fireplace from Napoleon Quality Fireplaces.
5) Today there is a great deal of flexibility when it comes to the installation of a gas fireplace; it does not necessarily have to be close to an outside wall. Electric fireplaces can be installed basically anywhere, whereas wood and pellet stoves are more limited when it comes to their location.

6) We used to relate "high definition" to audio and visual devices, now it's also the name of a fireplace. And speaking of high definition, if you just want the sound and image of a fire, there are many videos with sparkling fires that you can download online and show on your TV screen. If you can't make it, fake it! This said though, nothing beats the real thing. Just take a look at these inspiring environments with "real" flames:

Gas fireplace from Regency.
Direct vent gas fireplace from Napoleon.
Three-sided gas fireplace from Regency.
Vent-free gas fireplace from Napoleon.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Focus on dining rooms

What is the focus of this room? Ask yourself that question in every room. The focus will most often relate to the main activity that will take place in that space. So in a bedroom, the focal point will be the bed; in a library, it will be the bookshelves and so on. Make these areas the shining stars of your décor! In the dining room, it's the dining table that should be highlighted and embellished. Here are five tips to get it right:

            Highlight the dining area by placing
            tall objects below the light fixture.
            Photo: Crate & Barrel.
1) Place the dining table right in the centre of the room.
2) Make sure your dining room has a stunning light fixture. Bigger is better than smaller!
3) Place decorative objects that reach up from the table to the light fixture. It can be a bouquet of flowers, some candlesticks or a beautiful bowl. This way you create an axis from floor to ceiling that the eye will be drawn to.
4) Add interest to the side walls surrounding the dining table. A sideboard with a framed mirror and a pair of wall sconces might be a choice for one of the walls, while the opposite wall is adorned with a group of paintings. Now you have further enhanced the floor-to-ceiling axis. There is no question about what the main feature of the room is.
5) Dress your table in a table cloth that complements the colours and textures of the space, take out your best china and cutlery and let the entertaining begin!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Turn up the heat!

Nothing beats the deep, generous flame of a see-through 
fireplace if you have a big space and want to maintain an 
airy feeling. The enclosing stonework provides texture and
contrasting colour.
Oh baby it's cold outside! Well, not so much this weekend. But colder days are definitely approaching, and more than ever we want our homes to feel warm, inviting and attractive. The solution? A strategically located fireplace! Not only does it provide heat, it also functions as a focal point and light source that will energize the most tired of rooms. That was exactly what happened in my own living room. It felt and looked cold. Something was missing. It wasn't until we installed our contemporary pellet stove that we started to spend time in this room, and today it's our favourite hang-out spot. (Knowing that the stove saves us over $1,000 per year in fuel costs also helps!). So look around your home and see where you can introduce an element of fire. There are so many alternatives today; ventless gel fireplaces, electric, gas... Or for an easier solution: group several candles on a beautiful tray and let the light and warmth fill the room. Snuggle up!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

What's hot in hardwood floors?

   For a classic, elegant look, choose a mid-tone 
   wood floor, which will never go out of style.
   Photo: Floor Muffler.
Dark, dark shades, wide planks and matt finishes. According to retailers in town, that’s what most buyers of hardwood floors ask for these days. On the other end of the spectrum is natural maple, which also continues to be a popular choice. So it’s either very dark, or very light. A mid tone colour is a safer choice though, if you're thinking of the resale value of your home. 

Another trend is the increased interest in floating floors with interlocking edges that snap together. This “click-in-place” product needs no glue or nails, which makes it a great choice for apartments. A floor muffler underneath the boards reduces noise traveling through, promoting good neighbourly relations.
How about an animal-print floor like the middle one,
which I saw at the IDS show in Toronto in January? 
You'd better love it! It's extravagant and quite a

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Drum up some drama!

This huge wall clock from Winners in
North Bay is sure to make a statement. 
It reminds me of the big clock Sarah 
Richardson added to the wall of a big 
box kitchen in one of her shows (see 

"All large rooms need something tall", says a designer in my latest House Beautiful magazine. Similarly, big spaces also need one or two very large pieces. If everything is moderately sized in a big room, it will feel too broken up and lacking a "wow" factor. An oversized piece on the other hand, whether it's a large mirror, a huge painting or a big armoire, will anchor and add interest to the space. And it will provide some drama!

Oversized pieces can also work in smaller spaces, but make sure the rest of the furniture or accessories in the room are kept to a minimum. Let the big piece do all the dramatic talking and be the focal point of the room.

Do you have a favourite, oversized piece, that you already own or have on your wish list?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Six and the city

Are you a slave to design trends? I'm guessing not, unless you have limitless resources and storage space. But you have to agree that trends are fun and inspirational! During a visit to some of Toronto's fanciest design stores a few weeks ago, I saw a number of design solutions repeated over and over again... Here are my favourite six trends:

1) Forget dining sets with identical chairs; mixing and matching is the name of the game. Combine wooden benches with upholstered, high-backed chairs or banquettes. This "casual-meets-elegant" mix is a winner!

2) Weathered wood with a distressed look continues to be hot, especially when combined with shiny chrome or leather.

3) Upholstered ottomans are a practical substitution for a coffee table. Simply put a beautiful tray on the ottoman whenever you need a flat surface. If you are re-upholstering an old ottoman, think outside the traditional fabric option; thin rugs, such as kelims or dhurries, can be used as upholstery material.

4) Oversized light fixtures create drama and draws attention to the focal point in a room, whether it is the couch and seating area of a living room, the table in a dining room or the bed in a bedroom.

5) Big headboards enhance the beauty of a bed. Be creative when it comes to headboards. Screens and fabrics can act as headboards. You can also paint the wall at the head of the bed in a different colour, or make it stand out in any other way, like the brick wall in the photo.

6) Zig-zag patterns are in...on rugs, drapes or pillow cases. They make quite a graphic statement in any room.

What do you think. are any of these trends for you?