Friday, 29 March 2013

Design for the way we really live

Hurray for tulips and other cut flowers!
As the delicate blossoms of my white orchid quietly fall to the floor, I'm starting to get it: orchids simply aren't for me.

In fact, very few potted plants are for me. Only the sturdiest ones with lots of survivor instinct seem to make it past the one year mark. Lucky me then, that I love cut flowers so much! I'll just fill my home with lovely fresh flowers instead. That way, I'll be decorating around who I am and how I really live, instead of according to preconceived ideas about how "it should be".

It's like the homeowner who, despite current trends, forgoes open storage in the kitchen, because they know they won't be able to keep the shelves looking tidy. 

Or the couple who converts a formal living room into a home theatre, because when they entertain, everybody gathers in the kitchen anyways, and watching movies is what they love to do.

Self knowledge is half the battle when it comes to design. So this Easter, colourful bouquets of cut tulips and lilies adorn my home. I hope you, too, have found your ideal way to celebrate the weekend! Have a lovely Easter!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Welcome spring into your home

Photo: Bemz.
Spring is here - at least on paper. No better time than now to start thinking about how to adapt our homes to longer days, warmer temperatures and relaxed living. Because when spring finally arrives, we want to be prepared!

Here are five ways to put yourself and your home in a spring spirit:

1) Switch accessories. Let your toss pillows, place mats, lights, throws and other accessories reflect the change of season. Greens, yellows, pinks and oranges are happy colours that are often associated with spring and summer. Try muted tones of these hues if that works better with the present decor of your home. Do you have a slipcovered chair or couch? Make sure you have two different covers to alternate between, according to the season. Your home will always feel alive and fresh.

Yellow and grey, what a great combination!

2) Light underfoot or "bye, bye" rugs altogether! Bare floors are more conducive to spring and summer living. The soft and warm feeling underfoot that we craved during long winter months is no longer necessary. So remove your heavy, dark rug, or replace it with a simpler alternative in a lighter colour. A striped cotton rug or a sisal feels right for the season.

Photo: Oliver Yaphe.

Liess Interiors. Photo: Houzz.

3) Bring in nature. Once spring is here, there will practically be an explosion outside, of colour and scents. In the meantime, let's enjoy the bare, or nearly budding, trees that surround us. A few, well-selected, tall branches in a glass vase look sculptural and artistic. Leave lots of empty space around the vase, for a dramatic impact.

Contemporary Living Room by Jessica Helgerson
Interior Design. Photo: Houzz.

4) Edit, clean and organize. I've said it before and I'll say it again: only keep what you really love, what helps you in your every-day life, and what adds to the beauty of your space. Remove the rest! When you're done editing, give your home a thorough scrub, starting with the kitchen. Organize your pantry and make room for light summer meals. 

Photo: Houzz.
5) Celebrate your fresh and happy space! Sit down with your favourite drink and pat yourself on the shoulder. You're ready. Now we'll just have to wait for spring to knock on the door...

Friday, 15 March 2013

Is your reno really an investment?

What the three interviewed realtors agreed on: You only get one
chance to make a great first impression and it starts at the curb!  
Should we renovate the kitchen, install a hot tub or repaint the whole house? These are typical questions for anybody planning to sell their home. And while some updates clearly give a good return on the investment, far from all renos do. In some cases, they can even reduce the value of your home!

To know which updates are worthwhile from a resale perspective, and which ones aren't, I asked three local real estate agents for their input. Here are their respective lists of DOs and DON'Ts:



Jacqueline Liddle, Sales Rep., Remax Legend Real Estate

1) Any upgrades to a kitchen. If you can't redo the entire kitchen, or the cupboards are still in good shape, I would suggest updating the countertop.

2) New Windows. If your windows are 20+ years I recommend replacing them. Buyers see this as a big cost moving into a home if they know the windows need to be replaced within 5 years. New windows increase the insulative value of your home which also shows better heating costs on your utility bills to potential buyers.

3) Curb Appeal. Most Buyers search mls for listings, then call their realtor to set up a showing after they have done a drive-by of the home. You want to make sure that after the drive-by, they pick up the phone and call their realtor to book a viewing.

Interlocking brick driveway. It is difficult to get the value back when you are comparing your property to another down the street and yours is at a higher price because of the interlocking brick driveway.

Pamela Baril,  Broker, Century 21 

1) New front doors and garage doors are a great investment in curb appeal.

2) Kitchen, the heart of the home. If you don't like it, potential buyers probably won't either. Prices have come down considerably so replace the cabinets or reface if necessary.

3) Bathrooms. Moms don't want to put their babies in a spotty old tub! Acrylic tubs or covers for the existing tub are great options. Toilets are relatively inexpensive as are trendy new vanities and mirrors.

Pools and hot tubs are very personal amenities that appeal to some but, not to others. They are also costly to upkeep and can bump up the hydro bill.



Lenka Eberhardt, Sales Rep., Royal LePage North Bay Real Estate

1) Update lighting fixtures.

2) Update kitchen and bathrooms. You may not have to do a total remodel. Sometimes just replacing an outdated vanity or old appliances with shiny new ones will do the trick. Stick to neutral colors (white fixtures for bathrooms). Keep the color scheme light and neutral.

3) Exterior elements: a thick, green lawn, repair heaving walkways and steps and an updated front door are sure ways to increase your home's bottom line.

1) Luxuries such as swimming pools and saunas do not add value.

2) New windows do not add much to resale value unless they are broken. Clean them up and make sure they are working properly.

3) Laying new flooring such as expensive hardwoods and marble will not get you more money on resale.

4) Central air conditioning is considered a luxury item. While it’s nice to have, it won't affect your bottom line.

And what can somebody on a tight budget do? More about that in a future post! In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you have done to increase the resale value of your home. Share your stories in the comments field!


Friday, 8 March 2013

Feminine vs. masculine design

Photo: House Beautiful.
I will never forget the face of the shop owner: huh, she wants what? I had commented that I was looking for something less "masculine" than the striped rug in muted colours that he was showing. He was completely at a loss. To him, "masculine" and "feminine" design meant nothing. How little did he know!

Shape, colour and material will affect if objects in our surroundings read as "feminine" or "masculine". Anybody wanting to achieve a "gender-neutral space" - one where both men and women feel equally comfortable -  should make sure that there is a good balance between feminine and masculine vibes.

Stripes, leather, corduroy, boxy furniture, dark colours, wood and fireplaces read as "masculine". Soft textiles, rugs and furniture with curves or irregular shapes, pastels and light colours, mirrors and flower arrangements are examples of feminine features.

There are ways to "play up" or "play down" objects' "gender", but more about that in another post. For now, let's look at some typically feminine spaces, and let's congratulate all wonderful women out there on International Women's Day!

Photo from Houzz.
Photo from Houzz: Traditional Bedroom design
by Little Rock Interior Designer Tobi Fairley
Interior Design

Friday, 1 March 2013

Energy efficiency and your home

Hello March, bring on spring! Many of us are yearning for milder temperatures now - and the lower energy bills that they entail! And while there are many ways to conserve energy in our existing homes and businesses, it's with new construction that the largest savings can be made.
One way to improve energy performance is through Passive House buildings. Sophie Blain-Rogers of the company Green Leap in Callander is a big advocate of this approach to design and construction. 
"Homeowners would save a great deal on their energy bills and they would be more comfortable and proud in their homes", she comments.
The design fundamentals of Passive House buildings include specifications for building shape, orientation and surface area, passive solar gains, advanced windows, insulation and ventilation. Read more here. The Canadian Passive House Institute talks about energy performance savings in the range of 80 to 90 % compared to conventional Canadian construction. Well, that's what I call savings!