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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Down Sizing Dining Solution

Downsizing- the act of moving from a larger to a smaller living space.
In actuality, downsizing is much more than that. It is a lifestyle change, growing in popularity, embraced by some, derided by others. Empty nesters, my husband and I represent the former. Tired of maintaining a large home, tired of the the feeling of loneliness that unused rooms evoke and finding ourselves at opposite ends of the house unable to carry on a conversation, we took the plunge and have not looked back.
Downsizing for us also signaled the beginning of a less formal living environs. We traded in our formal dining room with its rich red walls, 7 foot glass table, 8 black lacquered queen Anne chairs, elegant brass chandelier and plush Chinese wool area rug for..... no dining room at all.

The designated eating area in our multipurpose main living space consists of our former kitchen table and its 1970's 4 retro chairs. Six can just squeeze around the table, a slab of butcher block that sits atop the base of my grandmother's singer sewing machine. While we love the intimacy of small dinners for 6, there are times our guest list includes more than four. When planning our living space I sourced out a number of options, including coffee tables that convert to dining tables, plastic fold away tables and drop leaf console tables. I liked the concept and design of the convertible coffee tables but decided that a noguchi glass coffee table would work better with the look I was after.
It was at Ikea online that I found what I was searching for. Believe it or not, we do not have an Ikea store here in Halifax. Ikea has a collection of table tops and legs that allows you to 'design your own table'. While not a perfect match to our existing table, I selected a natural wood veneer butcher block table top and two like coloured trestles upon which to lay it. The table surface is not attached to the trestle legs but merely rests on top of them.

When not in use as a dining table, one of the trestles functions as a funky display shelf in our hallway.
I hide the very heavy table top and the other trestle leg behind our Chinese folding screen.

Is storage space lacking in your home? Don't have a screen behind which to hide the table top? A simple solution... slide it under a bed.

Don't have a spot to house the trestle legs. Stack them one on top of the other to create a tall shelving unit. Once again 1+1=1......Or...... use the table as a desk in an office space and reinvent it as a dining table when company comes.

Design Tip #1: From table trestle to funky decorative shelf, think outside the box when storage space is tight.
Design Tip #2: Folding screens are attractive hiding places for small living spaces lacking in storage. Decorative and functional they will serve you well.
Design Tip #3: Check out the Vika system to design your own dining table, desk/work surface in the 'Work Spaces ' section of the Ikea catalogue.
Design Tip #4: The most budget friendly solution to down sized entertaining would be to purchase a plastic table that folds in half when not in use. Cover it with a floor length table cloth and your guests will be none the wiser.

Intimidated by the thought of downsizing, you can count on Rave Re:view to ease the burden. Been there. Done that and loving it!!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas From a Satisfied Client

I was happy to receive this picture from my client whose living room transformation was showcased in the Better After Blog as well as on mine. You might notice a slight change. The glass vase, filled with branches has been replaced, after I found this incredible black vase at Pier One Imports which I felt would be the jewel in an already sparkling crown. No wonder those fiery red flowers that bedeck the vase are called POPies! Not to worry. The glass vase and curling branches which Paula and I both love, now reside in her dining room.
Talk about sparkle, your tree looks beautiful Paula! Thanks for the picture.

To Paint Or Not To Paint- Please Advise

During a recent Home Staging consult the ' To Paint or Not To Paint" question came up. My client's family room fireplace is surrounded by solid oak shelving and cabinetry. The room is not overly bright and my thoughts were to paint all of the wood work white to brighten up the focal wall. As a stager I know that buyers are looking for bright airy living spaces but my clients have often been complimented on their oak cabinetry. Hence the dilemma.
In my newly chosen career I wear two hats; that of home stager and that of design/redesigner. Contrary to what many people think, staging is not decorating. As a stager I aim to prepare a property so that it appeals to the public in general. I arrange furnishings and choose paint colours that visually expand a space. As a decorator I aim to create an ambience that reflects the tastes and needs of one particular family. Hence the debate...'To paint or Not to paint'.

Home Stagers, 'What would your recommendation be?'
Buyers, what would you prefer in a home?
Home owners, what say you?

For every response I get during this first month of the new year I will donate $00.25 to....
Habitat For Humanity, a Charity of Choice For Canadian Staging Professionals. Hope you'll help me Reach My Goal of $100.00.

I'm happy to report that the clients hired me to do the final showcasing of their property. That will take place in early January after my recommendations have been carried out. Will they be painting the oak? You'll have to wait and see.

To learn more about the differences between home staging and decorating check out my website:

I'm off to NYC to spend New Year's with friends and to squeeze in a very short visit with my son and daughter-in-law who are heading back to London via New York, having 'Christmassed' in Rochester.
I probably won't be able to write again until after returning home on the 4th. Here's wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!!!


From Pillow Case to Cushion Cover

Thanks to Encore Decor I was able to repurpose a downfilled pillow that no longer fit the palette in our condo. I was smitten by a pillow case with its soft cotton texture, its red patterning, its Asian inspiration and its border of camel ribbon embroidered with like coloured dragons. Not one for theme decorating , I am drawn to Asia decor and sprinkled it liberally in our eclectic living space.

While not a budget friendly find, it was affordable because I already owned a down filled pillow that was still alive and kicking in spite of the abuse it took through twenty years of family living. The deal was sealed when I found out that the cost to have Encore Decor make the pillow for me was only $10.00.

I loved the fabric so much that I had a second pillow made for our bedroom. From one quality pillow case, two sexy red pillows took form. With still enough fabric left over to make a third pillow cover, the purchase of a higher than average priced pillow case was more than worth it.
Two pillows for $ 45.00. Not bad after all!

Design Tip: To save money and the environment keep your worn out old pillows and breathe new life into them.

Ottoman Turned Sofa With A Little Help From Some.... Drapes

I went to take pictures, today, of the rainbow of pillows that line the shelves of Pier One Import but my camera turned the riot of colours into a mass of blurry purple nothingness. Frustrated I headed to the nearest camera store only to learn that my camera has been dying a slow death. The sensor is failing. Panic stricken, because I rely on my camera both for my job and my blog, I have no option but to purchase a new 'home stager friendly' camera that will take wide angle pictures with a low angle cost. Any suggestions?

Enough of my camera woes, time for some pillow talk

Because a sofa, the obvious choice for the conversation/television watching/lounging area in our multi functional condo living space would have hindered our view of the Halifax Commons, I positioned a leather ottoman in front of the window. Determined to transform the ottoman into a cozy sofa substitute I decided to create the comfort and look of a sofa by leaning pillows against the window ledge. I selected my palette of pillows which included two soft shaggy sheepskins, one cream and one a black/cream mix along with a raw silk textured black pillow peppered with machine embroidered white flowers. Oh and of course a 'redophile , I needed that 'pop' of warmth to complete my palette. All cuddle friendly, down filled low cost finds. But the backless sofa, as I like to call it, is three feet deep. Great for lying on, but when I nestled against the pillows in a sitting position, my legs splayed out awkwardly in front of me and could not reach the ground.

Problem #1- How to create a sofa like piece of furniture that is shallow enough to sit on and does not obstruct the view.

Solution PART 1 : To keep the pillows upright I purchased a 4 foot long uncovered memory foam bolster. Because a hide of leather would have cost almost as much as the ottoman itself, I decided to cover the bolster with fabric. While wandering around Home Outfitters I found myself in the drapery section. A black microfibre tone on tone zigzag patterned drapery panel caught my eye. It's texture , a contrast to both the raw silk- like and the shaggy long haired pillows, was a perfect addition to my palette ........BUT.......the problem was not yet solved.

SOLUTION PART 2: The ottoman was still too deep. I have never been a fan of sofas that have 4 or 5 massive square shaped pillows rather than one or two rectangular pillows extending across the sofa. While this sofa design is aesthetically pleasing it tends to be lacking in the comfort department. I didn't want our ottoman turned sofa to be overrun with pillows since comfort is key. Then I remembered that hidden away in our storage closet was the perfect pillow-well almost perfect pillow. Over sized and rectangular it could rest against the bolster and support the already existing palette but it's outer covering left much to be desired. Not to be deterred I went on the hunt for fabric. Once again it was a drapery panel that saved the day.
A blackish grey & white tweed, it had a band of textured black tone on tone microfibre running across its top in which chunky chrome grommets were embedded. I fell in love with the chunkiness of the grommets and with the contrast of tweed and black microfibre banding.

I found the panel at a store that carries very stylish bed linens and drapery panels in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia called Encore Decor. They make custom pillows and charge next to nothing when the pillow covers are made out of a product they sell.

Seamstressly challenged, they were the answer to my prayers. Following my design instructions they helped me transform a nondescript pillow into a handsomely tailored addition to my pallette . Visitors love to cozy up on our ottoman turned sofa. So does our terrier mix, SOHO. As for me, when I nestle up against the pillows my feet now reach the ground.

Design Tip 1: No room for, or can't afford a sofa. Transform an ottoman into a sofa by leaning it against a wall and layering it with a palette of pillows. For comfort sake, the ottoman should be 3 feet deep, allowing room for the pillow 'back rest' and adequate seating depth.

Design Tip #2 Drapery panels are not just for hanging. Can't find the perfect pillow; can't find a fabric you like; think drapery panel.
Design Tip # 3 Don't discard the grommets. Adding a band of grommets to a bland pillow will be a sure fire way to earn you a Rave Re:view

Check out my last blog entry for more pictures of my reinvented ottoman.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Pallette Of Pillows

Pillows have the ability to turn mediocre into magnificent. Like icing on a cake or jewels in a crown, they add punch, pizazz and panache to any room they dress. Light weight, portable and budget friendly they are the perfect accessory. They come in a kalidescope of shapes, sizes, colours, fabrics, textures and styles. They can be used to enhance a stylish sofa or hide one that's nondescript.
Given the choice, do 'down'. Unlike foam or fibre filled pillows, they are pliable and can tuck cozily into any sofa or chair arm. How often have you tried to do battle on a sofa with a stubborn albeit stylish, foam filled pillow? Fashion should not get in the way of function even when it comes to pillows. There was a time when down filled pillows were out of reach for the budget conscious, but thanks to Homesense (Homegoods) they can be purchased in the $20.00 range there.

Like pants worn too short, the wrong pillow can become an eyesore rather than an embellishment. As when choosing vases and art work, too big is better than too small. An over sized down filled pillow can be molded to fit a space. Pillows that are too small lose themselves. Pillows that are too stiff stand awkwardly. A single pillow perched on a sofa, looks sad, lonely and out of place.

Some designers go by the rule of 'odd over even'. They prefer to place accessories in 3's or 5's rather than in 2's or 4's. I go by what looks right to me. A perfect palette of 4 pillows can be more eye catching than 5 pillows that are the wrong size, colour, texture or pattern. For me it is the combination of pillows and not necessarily the number that creates a pleasing pallette. So when in doubt...give a shout. Send a picture with your present arrangement of pillows or your barren sofa, chair or bed.
Four can be boring but...... doesn't have to be!! Texture and colour can add pizzazz.

( I want to apologize for my weak picture taking skills. My photos do not do justice to what my eyes behold.There is a fourth pillow hiding behind the black and white pillow. If I go to replace it with another photo I think I then am unable to to use this picture elsewhere in my blog entries. I've come a long way Re: blog layout skills but I am not there yet. As to my photo taking capabilities, I'm working on them. Oh to have a wide angle camera! One of these days.)

Two pillows tucked into each corner of a sofa, one large one small, make a stronger statement than do solitary pillows so placed. Notice how the fibre filled blue and camel pillows stand straight and unbending.! Stubborn in their stiffness they can't cozy up to their down filled mate.
Same sofa different looks. What's your preference?

A bolster or rectangular shaped pillow flanked on either side by a duo of pillows can make an even stronger fashion statement. A new trend is to lay an elongated bolster or pillow on a sofa that stretches from one end to the other.

Just right!
Remember ....when placing your pillows create a pallette of varying colours, shapes, sizes and textures-a collage of sorts but don't over do it. You're sure to garner Rave Re:views!

In addition to the affordable, wide array of pillows sold at Winners ( T.J Max)/Homesense, Pier One Imports has an assortment of bold beautifully coloured pillows but they are higher priced. At Wicker Emporium the selection of pillow fabrics include Moroccan/ Indian, graphic and damask designs. Covers without pillows can be purchased for under $20.00.
I just learned about a site called CSN STORES .COM, on one of my Favourite Finds blog links, called Room Remix. Room Remix has a draw in which you can win $80.00 worth of products from CSN STORES.COM which is an online department store. Their assortment of pillows is extensive and they ship to Canada.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Better After - Thank You

I want to thank Lindsey who has a blog site called Better After. This is a very popular site with well over 500 followers. Lindsey shares before and after pictures of both room redos and refinished furnishings/accessories. I was smitten by a boring, nondescript, dated wooden breadbox that was transformed into an eye catching, very 'today', black and white damask 'want to have' piece of functional kitchen art. Lindsey includes makeovers that she comes across as she roams the net but also welcomes contributions from her readers.
Lindsey featured my client Paula's living room on her Better After site last week. You can check it out for yourself at Better After. She called the entry Re Viewed Room.
Thanks again Lindsey for featuring my work and thanks to your many followers who paid a visit to my blog site on your recommendation. Your contributors have enabled me to dig deeper into my 'out of the box' thinking. I now see potential in furnishings once deemed dated . A bonus for my clients as I strive to reinvent their possessions and garner them Rave Re:views... on a budget.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thinking Outside The Vase

Needed a garbage pail for the main bathroom in our condo. Unlike past decades, there is no shortage of high style garbage pails in this day and age but these well attired receptacles of waste can cost a pretty penny. So off I went to Homesense hoping to find an inexpensive stainless steel garbage can. No such luck... however while scouting the shelves a shimmer of silver caught my eye.
"Too tall to be a garbage can. Must be a vase, " I thought. The wheels started turning. "Think outside the box.... no, vase... no, box. NOOO..... vase!"
And that's what I did . I thought outside the vase and brought it home. Here it is, vase turned garbage pail. Stylish with its off centre opening, the wide lip hides any unsightly waste collecting within. An unexpected bonus! It fits the decor of our bathroom to a T and has earned many a Rave Re:view.

Design Tip: Consider vases and plant containers when searching for a garbage can. Remember taller is better than shorter. Think outside the vase. You'll garner Rave Re:views!
Design Tip : Besides their great prices, another reason I am a Homesense/Winners(Homegoods/T.J.Max) gal is the fact that they tend not to stock multiples of items. I have purchased many an interesting find (vase turned garbage pail included) that I know is not adorning every house in the neighbourhood and may in fact be the only one in Halifax. So head to Homesense or let me head there for you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vase Theme Continued

Here is a sampling of vases that I found at Homesense (Homegoods in the States) last week in Halifax. There were vases of varying sizes, shapes, colours and textures. Some smooth, some sleek, some rough, some straight lined, some curvaceous, some with embellishments carved or painted, some heavy, some light, some opaque, some transparent. Some spoke of yesteryear, some of today. Some spoke of faraway lands. A schmorgusborg ( Spelling?) of vases, a feast for all tastes with one thing in common-their price point. Most cost between $15.00 and $20.00 including some over sized , solid, high end looking vases. Wish I needed a vase or two or three or...... Remember to think big when it comes to vases and to think outside the 'vase'.
You'll garner Rave Re:views. I'd love to help you place a vase. Next blog entry -another example of thinking outside the vase.


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