Monday, 31 October 2011

Scary Houses

It's Halloween!  I used to have so much fun decorating for Halloween and giving out candy and the odd scare to the trick or treaters.   When my boys were young we lived in High Park and it was a very artsy, creative area.  This translated into some of the most amazing houses for halloween.  I will never forget one house, they would go all out.  Huge cauldrons with fog coming out, coffins with scary corpses rising. The homeowners must have invested an incredible amount of money and time, it was truely a sight to be seen.   I would take the kids and they would be fascinated until we got to the point of actually having to walk up the path to trick or treat.  Then my son, would scream at the top of his lungs "Get me out of here NOW!"  For me that was the highlight of halloween.  I know maybe I am slightly deranged....
Anyway sadly now, we live outside of your typical subdivision area, the houses are a little bit further apart, and on "the other side of the road", so we literally get no one coming trick or treating.  I decorated the first year we moved in but it was a wasted effort.   If you build it they will come... not so much...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Glass Doors on Walk In Closets? Not for me!

Walk in closets 18 33 Exceptional Walk In Closets To Accentuate Your Fashion Collections

I love how clean this looks but I have to admit I am just not neat enough.  My main excuse is I am so busy, but the reality is I'm just not that into it.  I also have a hard time believing this homeowner has so few clothes.  Kudos to her if she does, the reality is we have our favorites that are our mainstays.  Here are more great walk in closets

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Fun and Games with Insulation

Last spring we started a reno- which is still not finished.. LOL.  We have a history of building and renos- tearing down walls in our old house, building a cottage, building a two story bunky- you name it.  One of our challenges is working together. I do have a tendency to get obsessed with certain things.  One of my obsession is caulking and insulating.  Seems strange?  One of our first houses in Toronto was an old semi and we had mice.  We tried traps and would awaken to screams coming from a mouse stuck in a glue trap, poison results in dead carcasses. So I  bought spray foam and
caulk and went to town.  I spent hundreds of dollars and caulked around the entire main floor, between the two houses in the basement.  It worked, so that fueled my obsession.  I know I like to fill every hole or gap with insulation.  The problem is that I tend to overfill and create twice as much work with trimming the excess foam insulation.

Our master bedroom is above the garage and it is drafty and cold.  When we pulled up the carpeting, I had my chance. Despite having been told I am not allowed to go near anything with spray foam,  I filled all the cracks between the floor and the wall.   I used Arctic Foam, it filled the cracks and didn't over expand.  Much to my husband's chagrin, the room is much less drafty.

Last spring we decided to turn our back porch into a sun room that is usable for 3 seasons maybe 4. One of our challenges re 4 seasons was our furnace probably was not set up for heating another room.  We decided to give the Arctic Foam another shot and used it all around our new windows and doors.  It worked perfectly, barely any work trimming the excess and the room is toasty except for the coldest of days. Now where can I find some holes to fill......

Brooke Giannetti Sunroom- almost like mine :)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A Kitchen of the Future- Green and Interactive

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a launch party for kitchen of the future.  There is no question green is the way of the future and as such the kitchen was very environmentally friendly. The real difference was it was futuristic and interactive. An LED interactive monitor backsplash, where you could follow along with your favorite cooking show, or choose the background to be a night lit city scape for a romantic feel.

My favorite and really the most practical component of the kitchen was the automatic cupboards. No hardware, just a light touch and the doors open or close.  Right now the knobs on my kitchens cupboards are loose, it drives me nuts to constantly tighten them, so this feature is particularly appealing.

Have a look:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Wooden Bathtub?


Worried about leaks?  No chance, the company has a long history of yacht building.  I don't think I have seen a bathroom in my recent travels that is not white so this is a nice change.

Monday, 24 October 2011

J'adore the Rug

I adore the rug in this photo. I can't quite figure out why it isn't under the table but...
I looked at a few other pics and it is the front entry way but still it belongs under the table.  It is the perfect blend!!!

This photo comes from the french version of Canadian House and Home.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Importance of Staging

Modern Cottage in Martha’s Vineyard-8

I am a type A personality.  I like to do things quickly.  I browse magazines, vs reading them.  So I need things that are going to stop me in my tracks and make me take a second look.  Thats what staging is.  You can have a great house, a great location, beautiful furnishings but if you want to get people to fall in love with your home you need something extra.  That is what staging is.  You want people to take a second look.  You want them to feel like this could be their own.  Create the want. 
The photo above is a great example.  If the table had not been set, wine bottle out, candles lit, would it draw a second or third glance from you?  Probably not.
This isn't just about homes either, I see retailers who just show their products instead of showcasing their products.  Create an inviting space that draws the consumer in and keeps them there.  Even McDonalds is doing this with the redesign of their stores.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Helping to Create Beautiful Abodes

Yes, I have been guilty of taking what appeared to be the easy way out when I was shopping for my home.  I have gone to big box stores, thinking it would be fast and just as good. What I have learned is that we have great small business in Oakville and Burlington, who can actually provide help vs the time I have wasted trying to get someones attention in a big box store.  Their products are unique.  Often it is the owner who is standing behind the counter.  Take a moment to say hello, and get to know them. You will be amazed at the resources they can offer you- not just products and customer service but advice for your home.

Here are some of those companies featured in our first issue, including Gloria Rinaldi Interior Decorator above.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Beautiful Green Headboad from Architectural Digest

I can't believe I found this in Architectural Digest.  I desperately wanted to turn two old doors into a head board a few years ago. My husband intervened and told me I was out of my tree.  I really like the look of it, now to be fair the scale may be different, re ceilings and room size.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

HVAC Disasters and the power of Google

If there is one thing in life I can count on, our appliances will break when my husband is out of town. When we lived in Toronto the pilot light on our ancient hot water furnace system would go.  I would be on the phone with him crawling in damp, dark, dirty spaces with a barbeque lighter hoping not to blow the house up. The hotwater heater went while he was away and he was none to pleased with my solution- rental water heater.
Last winter, the furnace stopped working during one of the coldest, snowiest weeks. I had no choice but to call in a repairman.  He was a nice fellow and within 5 min he told me that I had a problem with the pilot light and a particular part in the furnace.  This was a well known problem where the pilot light burns a hole through some part.  He said he might be able to fix it but it is hard to get ahold of the part, it is likely to keep happening and it could take weeks to get a new part. The part was expensive plus labor.  He suggested a new furnance.  I said Really, the furnance is only 9 yrs old and is hi efficiency.  He shrugged.  I said Okay, really believing i was going to have to get a new furnance, it was freezing outside.  I said could you see if you can get the part and how much it will cost, get back to me and I will make a decision.  He said fine. 

I immediately went on the internet and it seemed like the info he gave me was nonsense.  I kept the gas fireplace on and when my husband came home through a google search he discovered the outside vent was covered with snow, therefore the pilot light wouldn't stay on.  Savings from google: thousands.

Recently our dryer broke down, my husband found a you tube video that took him through the diagnostics and with a $30 part we were back up and running.  Thank goodness for google or who nows how many times I would have been ripped off????

Turn up the Contrast? Not Necessary!

This is an English Seaside home.  When I first saw the pictures I imagined it might be in Sweden.  The house is so exposed and minimalistic.  I think it is the contrast that is so striking, there doesn't seem to be any relationship between the top floor and the bottom floor of the house.  They don't speak to each other.  I think window tinting might make this blend together a bit more....

The interior maintains a minimalistic approach.  I loved the this angle of the bedroom  below with the view directly out the window.  Intriguing that there is a bathtub sitting at the edge of the bedroom. Again maybe it is maintaining the them of no relationships or contrasts.....   To see more go to: 

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Ceiling Fixture Everyone was Looking For

I learned a really big lesson about my readers in our first issue.  They are very interested in every product that is presented in the magazine and they won't miss much.  One of our first emails was from a customer who wanted to know where to purchase the chandelier on our front cover.  I couldn't even remember what it looked like.  When I took a harder look at the picture I had a hard time even seeing it because it was hidden behind our mast head.  If you are looking for this fixture or any other, Gerrie Lighting in Oakville is a great place to go.  They can source out just about any manufacturer for you and are pleased to do so.

You can read about them in our comfort zone.  Enjoy.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Photography Or Art?

Modern Cottage in Martha’s Vineyard-3

I have learned so much in the past 8 months and I have been lucky to work with some amazing people who have helped me on my journey.   I never even have to think twice about what a finished product will be like, thanks to my amazing editor Gina Makkar. 

I learned very quickly about the difference between what a good photographer brings to the table vs a mediocre one.  They turn photography into art.  They find the angles that make a home even more interesting to the viewer than if they had looked at it with their own eye.  They ensure that the reader wants to look at the photo again and again vs just glance at it.  I had the opportunity to view some pictures taken of one of our feature homes and compare them with what we had taken.  There was no question our photographer did an exceptional job.  Thanks to Jason Hartog Photography for making the magazine a beautiful thing to look at.  Enjoy our first issue:

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Show Stoppers in Rooms

One of the things I love to do a few weeks after a photo shoot of a feature home is take a step back and think of the first thing that comes to mind from the feature home.  What had tremendous visual impact?
We just finished up two phenomenal houses.  One of the homes had the most beautiful dining room ceilings and they were painted in contrasting colors that gave it the wow factor. There is no question this stood out for me.  One of the other things that is clear in my mind is a beautiful very tall vase on the mantle in the dining room.  It was really oversized, the floral arrangement was simple and I can't even remember what the flowers were. So it must have been the contrast in size and shape that made this so impactful to me.  It really hit home for me how it is the accessories that can make a big difference on the impact a room has on guests.  Imagine the arrangement above for a touch of christmas elegance in a room, you don't need much else....

Friday, 14 October 2011

Imagine this vacation!

This is more related to getting away from your home.  I close my eyes and can see myself touring through little shops in Italy, buying beautiful things, stopping and having a glass of wine, while my children and husband endlessly drop 4 stories into the ocean. :) 

Some may ask why wouldn't I envision my husband shopping alongside of me?  Hmm, he gets the sourest look on his face, pretends he is happy but the tension fills the air.  Better just to leave him on the slides...

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Spruce Up Your Space

One of the really fun aspects of my job is the exposure I have to great products.  On the downside, my want list seems to grow!   Our Style Pics for Sept highlighted a number of items that I would love to have in my home.  Soapstone. We oiled a number of pieces to decide which ones to feature.  When you oil soapstone the veins and the beauty of the stone immediately becomes apparent. It literally takes seconds to do. It is a great alternative to black granite. It is non-porous, so it will stand all of the beatings your family can throw at it.  I also feel in love with the roman shades from Hunter Douglas.  The bedroom of one of our feature homes had them installed and they opened up at different heights and added amazing visual interest and light into the room.  I grew up with roller blinds and we would pull them so hard they would roll right up into themselves. I think I prefer these. 
A limestone/concrete cocktail table, puts my wood ones to shame.  The pot light jewelery was also unique.  When I saw it in the store I had no idea it wasn't a light fixture. 
My sister is buying a fiberglass door to replace her drafty, old door in her century home. Her beastly mastiff actually chewed and scratched the door, when anyone would dare to come by.
Finally, it is time to think about what to buy your parents who have everything for christmas.  What about a family portrait on canvas instead of in a frame?  It has been two years since I have pulled the kids together for a family portrait, crash diet here I come..... 
Heres a link to our style pics.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Unusual But Functional (?) Staircase


One of my pet peeves is how everyone (except me) uses the staircase as their personal dumping ground. Glasses, Ipads, screw drivers, mittens, keys, and my personal favorite dirty, sweaty socks. While extremely creative and interesting this staircase could never fit in my family without me going off the deep end.

Backyard Oasis

This has not been my year for relaxation, but I envision it sometime in the distant future. :)  Thanksgiving weekend was an extra-ordinary treat for us this year because it was warm and summer-like.  My kids even hit the beach, although they weren't thrilled with the water temperature.  I digress, if there had been spare time this weekend, the room above would have been a great place to sit back and enjoy a great book.  There is nothing better than an outdoor room, you can enjoy fresh air and comfort all at the same time. Jennifer Brouwer posted some amazing photographs of beautiful backyard spaces and some tips to create a beautiful space for yourself.
Follow the link for some great photos and tips.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Three Times the Style! A room for Triplets.

I envy how peaceful and tranquil this room looks.  I can envision three beautiful, young children sleeping soundly, having sweet dreams. Now, I will admit I don't have triplets, but I do have 13 yr old twin boys and their twelve yr old brother who have merged into our family.  I take one look at this room and have visions of never having a moments peace. They would be poking each other, wrestling, throwing the stuffed animals and invariably end up in a fight.  Our solution is the twins are in separate rooms.  Now if we lived in NY city, as this family does we would be stuck with sleepless nights or we would have to call in Super Nanny Jo Frost. 

Thanksgiving in Muskoka

I enjoyed a quiet thanksgiving at home, but I have fond memories of Thanksgiving at the cottage. The fire crackling, trying to read a book but my father is insisting that now is the time to rake up seemingly 100's of bags of leaves to take to the dump.  Invariably the power would go out while the turkey was cooking. Sometimes for hours...  I still can't figure that one out.   In the spirit of Thanksgiving at the cottage here is a link to a beautiful cottage overlooking the lake in Muskoka.

Monday, 10 October 2011

First Feature Homes

6 months ago, I started looking for opportunities in Oakville and Burlington to showcase beautiful local homes and provide exposure for local businesses.  No one knew who I was or really what this magazine was all about.  I am so thankful to Peter Brejnik of Brejnik Fine Homes and Elizabeth Law of Elizabeth Interiors for putting their faith in me to showcase their work.  Both homes were stunning.  Peter's was elegant and stately and Elizabeth's was warm and not missing a single touch.

The photo shoots were a blast.  We unsuccessfully shooed Lucy the dog out of many scenes, but invariably our photographer would find her sitting reflected in the beautiful glass walls.  There was no way she was missing out on any opportunity for fame.  The custom home that Peter built had beautiful mill work, and he did small things that made a big difference.  All the cold air return was hidden in the coved ceiling mouldings. He created two outdoor covered seating areas, they even had skylights to let in additional light.  Peter chose all the furnishings and lighting himself.  We had numerous emails from consumers asking where they could buy his kitchen chandelier.  We couldn't take a bad picture of the home. Actually that is not true, Peter has one failing.  He does not seem to take watering his flowers seriously. It was July and I tried to water them hoping they would spring back to life for a great outdoor shot.  No, they were seriously dehydrated.[1].pdf

The house that Elizabeth designed was so beautiful. She and Cindy came in and did all of the finishing touches to ensure the home would be outstanding in photographs.  At one point Elizabeth was out collecting stones to put in the vase with flowers.  Her attention to detail is extra-ordinary and every extra accessory she brought in the home owner loved.  It was clear to me that Elizabeth knows exactly the style her customers are looking for.  Even today I can still look through the photos from Elizabeth's home and find some little touch or accent that I missed.  I have so many favorites from that home: the beautiful custom drapes in the living room, the electic breakfast nook. If I had to do it again I would have ensured that photos from the office were published. It was a lovely room with some great pieces in it.  To end what was already an great experience Elizabeth served all of us pink champagne, baguettes, fruit and cheese.  An extra-ordinary designer and person.
Thanks for making my first issue amazing!

650 Sq Ft Imprint- Million Dollar Views

Wow!  I took one look at this picture and imagined myself having dinner and watching the sun set over the valley.  I have always been drawn to a more traditional house but when the geometry of this home is stunning.
It only takes up 650 sq ft of surface area.  The main floor is 7 meters below the street and looks right out into the valley.  This urban residence gets a much more secluded rural feel entirely due to the architecture.

A Drunken Chandelier? Opposites Attract!

Sometimes when you spend alot of time looking at homes, the designs can blend into each other. You remember that a house was beautiful but you can't necessarily remember a specific feature. 
When I saw this picture, it had that visual interest that keeps drawing you back for a second look.  The old saying opposites attract works in this scenario. 
Both homes that we will be featuring in our next issue in Nov, have architectural features that command attention.  Interestingly enough it is the dining room ceiling in both homes.  One home has a rustic faux barn ceiling beams, and yet the rest of the house has a more modern feel.  The second home has a show stopping dining room ceiling- coffered mouldings.  I dreamed about that ceiling at night......

Going Grey??? No, Not Your Hair

I can spend hours looking at paint chips and invariably I get nervous and revert back to a safe choice- some version of beige or off white.  During a recent photo shoot of a beautiful family home in Burlington, I fell in love with grey.  The colour was calming and tranquil but added some zip to the home.  The home was decorated for christmas and it looked so elegant, the table settings in silver and grey backset against the revere pewter (benjamin moore) walls.   Watch for the home in our Nov 15 issue.
This wasn't the home but here is link to some lovely photos of rooms done in grey by House Beautiful.


If These Walls Could Talk

When I think of wallpaper I think of the kitchen I grew up in. The entire kitchen was covered in daisies, bigger than your hand. I am pretty sure we also had avocado green appliances. Definitely a spring feel. Then there are the nightmares of the old house we moved into in High Park and spending hours trying to get the wallpaper off the walls.

After seeing this post I realize I need to come out of the dark ages and open my mind to what could be with wallpaper. All of a sudden my house seems very dull and beige....

Also did I mention Jim has a great sense of humor, so it is a fun place to shop!

Anderson's Carpet & Home: Bold is Beautiful: This wallpaper from Thibault definitely demands the spotlight

Entrepreneurial Spirit and Premier Issue

This year has been a roller coaster with many significant life events colliding at once.  A major career change, starting up a small business, transitioning two loved foster children back to their parents, taking on three more boys and my oldest son heading off to university.  Thankfully, bringing a local home and decor magazine to Oakville and Burlington has been a great distraction and source of inspiration.

Behind every business is a great story or vision. One of the benefits of shopping locally is that you have the opportunity to get to know the owners, hear their stories, or share a laugh.  Peter of  Brejnik Fine Homes started out by cleaning up after his father's work crews and now builds multi-million dollar stunning custom homes.  He is young, and yet has accomplished so much.  At the same time he is very down to earth and can occassionally be seen stopping traffic on Lakeshore Rd as he is seen chasing an errant little dog Lucy back and forth across Lakeshore Rd.  Rob of Top Notch Cabinets constructed his first kitchen in his mother's garage and now builds spectacular kitchens for amazing homes.  It is inspiring. I realized that in working for a big corporation previously I missed out on passing on that entrepreneurial spirit to my boys. 

This new venture is allowing me to share stories with them and instill in them that anything is possible. Please enjoy this online copy of our Premier Issue.