August 28, 2014:

MidWeek What’s Happening…

I suspect that a lot of people think that every day is crazy creative over here in design land. That we get to play with pretty fabrics and endless amounts of fun. I know that people often remark what a fun job we have and bemoan their own but I wanted to give you a look at what a typical day is when you are juggling new and existing projects including trying to finish up projects that you know, if the client will just trust you to rally hard on and finish up - will be sublime.

As I'm typing this please note I got an all too familiar iMessage from Celia that reads: "CRAP, It's Discontinued...." More on that later.

Our #Nobscot project is in the final rally push and it's at this point where a client will either hit the pause button or they dig deep and finish. We've sort of been on pause for a few months waiting for the baby to come and we're hopeful that there will be a rallying point very soon. Our strategy on this is to pull together a list of items that need to be sourced/added (who are we kidding we know what we want) and then an estimated budget so that we can present a plan of action to the client. This makes saying yes to us all the easier. We can't linger - lingering creates inertia which is hard to overcome.

Our #Unionville project is in the same boat. The light we wanted for the breakfast room was discontinued and the client doesn't like our suggestion for an alternate. This is disappointing because it is perfect so I will have to rally and send a few concepts to sway. This client also isn't loving our idea for the dining room buffet styling - so I've gone to Plan B. The hardest part is often a client wants to see something and it's simply not available in a store and I have to buy it. Some I'll risk it and make the purchase but other times it's too much of  an investment and I can't afford to be left holding it after the fact.

I'm looking at firepits, cutlery and media credenzas for #Cactus - the former and the latter are NOT cheap. Yikes.

Trying to finalize between two carpet choices at #AlexandraBlvd.

Our #Sawmill project is getting close to installations. We're finalizing choices in the family room and about to install wallpaper in two of the four rooms getting it. We've decided on plaster pilasters for the living room and ceiling medallions and our Grisaille handpainted paper should be ready in the near future so that's going to be devestatingly fabulous. We've got chairs that have been reupholstered as well that are waiting to move to their updated spaces. 

And we're looking at new projects to start including a restaurant in Bordeaux France.  

Now it sounds busy, but it's not especially. This is the norm. 

Whilst typing this second part of the blog, I sourced a few options for the media credenza at #Cactus and approved some options for a den in #Nobscot and am about to embark on an email discussion with our #Cactus client on nice-ish look or price. He gets to pick one!

Another part of the job is prospecting. We have a new client who loves our work but is yet to settle on a house. That's a new one for us but it's great to know that you've connected with someone who wants you and just needs to find the right house. We've been by the same house with them now twice. I first saw the picture of it online and I have to say - I immediately saw the potential. We then met with the client at the house and I was immediately struck by the light, the openness and again, the potential. We went back a second time today, this time with our contractor to see if and what we should be aware of and are now revising our estimates on what the offer should be based on a proposed estimate on work to be done to the house. Again, really good feeling in the house. It's strange but I am a big believer on trusting a gut feeling when I'm either buying the house or I'm going to look at working on the house. I think back to projects that worked or didn't work and there is a very noticeable difference in feeling I got when walking through the houses.

One house, in North Toronto - to be honest I was in love with the address and the prospect of the job. It was a big job. Of course, I overlooked the huge warning signs - GIANT ALARM BELLS going off that said WRONG CLIENT. WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. I've actually had that happen a few times. Loved the idea of the project but overlooked the Horrible, No Good, Terrible, Bad fit with the client. Walking into that house, in retrospect, it was dark and gloomy and it didn't sing as I walked through it. The wife in this duo was overselling the house - which was to detract from a lack of transparency regarding budget. Very telling indeed. We ended up leaving the project both of these in fact. Concluded our work, submitted our final bills and were done. Sadly, both contractors on these two jobs didn't fair so well and our worst instincts about both clients came to fruition. It DOES happen.

Fortunately, there are times - present house included where you walk in and a totally different feeling takes over. Client is straight shooter as are the entourage which joins them. Love this. Speaks huge volumes. The prospective house feels light. I can see how a family would live without having to struggle through the possible floor plans. Now it will of course still come down to can it be afforded - lord KNOWS we can spend your money for you but this house has flow and charm despite the fact that currently it is obviously just a house and not a home. When ideas flood in that speak to more about what it would feel like to live here as a family of 5 and the way the home could be enjoyed, you know you are on to something.

When you are on the right path, it feels right and is relatively effortless. This is when we do our best work. Clients letting us do our thing, sharing in the journey and enjoying the process. This is the zone of one's genius and I love nothing more than when I am in that slot.

We're using this in a greek key fabric for our #Sawmill project but think it would be perfect as is as an accent chair for our Lady of the House office in #Nobscot. It's really comfortable and I think it should go in my house too.

This desk is going in our #AlexandraBlvd project in the master bedroom. SCHWANKY pretty luxe. So excited.

These topiaries and cement balls by Anouska Hempel Design are totally making my day for our #Nobscot patio. The sofa arrived and looks so tiny out there.... The umbrellas are to die for too. The benches - I've owned. They fall apart in this part of the world rather quickly.

If our new client buys this house we are considering, this pool is actually possible overlooking the ravine the house sits on. COULD YOU IMAGINE????????? Photo Credit: Unknown - Somewhere in Bali

This would work too. I try not to get ahead of myself when it comes to prospective projects. I learned this from my coach. Try not to give a prospect head space. Wait until it is firmed up, you are retained and the project is a go or else you are wasting time and energy to something that isn't going to go anywhere. It's hard. There are so many possiblities and I want to JUMP JUMP JUMP (into a pool clearly). Photo: Michael Trapp

August 27, 2014:

Styling for TV vs Styling for Photography

TV and Still Photography are very different beasts. With Still Photography you can cheat oh so much. It's amazing whenever you see the scout photos vs the professional shots of a space. My own living room for example. It's mostly dark - except in the mornings and early afternoons in the winter. There are huge trees on my street which will block out a ton of light during spring and summer. In the winter, they are bare and therefore there is much more light. In the mornings it can hit you just in the wrong spot and you are sitting on the sofa wearing shades I kid you not. I can recall reading a blog about furniture layouts once and some blogger NOT designer decided to use my living room as the example of WHAT NOT TO DO. She used the picture from Style at Home's feature on it and then proceeded to extole her VAST experience about why I had done it wrong. I couldn't NOT respond to her post and I credited the photography. Stacey Brandford made it look huge with the angle he chose. Margot Austin pulled the dining table out of the shot and that allowed us to add in the two coral stools. Normally a dining table lives pretty much where they do - well the dining chair does. The overall space is slightly less than 9ft wide so I welcomed suggestions but knew that this person was clearly out of their depth in terms of understanding the tricks I employed as the base and then the nuances the photography added in as bonus. Ya, I totally ::facepalmed:: when I read this particular post. It was a *TRUE GEM*.

With TV you can't fake it - but a skilled camera person can soften and pick the right angles to make beautiful B Roll Camera love to that is for sure. Pans and Sweeps and great background music can do a lot in a space to convey the vibe. I like that it is often more honest but don't get me wrong, I love a photo that looks like a million bucks and hides many a secret.... I'm getting really good at spotting these in other  portfolios and magazine spreads.

Much like applying  filters to our selfies, we want to show off our work to the best of it's ability. We will lighten and brighten, crop, blur out and in some cases photoshop the dust bits right out of the picture of the space. You can choose to hire out this service or hire a professional photographer who will offer this as part of their fee/add it as an extra fee depending on how they are billing you. One of the reasons we have chosen to do our own photography is the processing after the fact. I am really particular about this aspect and I need to be involved in the editing process. You should see some of the requests I make it's a wee bit crazy. It doesn't mean I don't have mad love for professional photographers - I do and there are several that we've worked with like Stacey and Donna Griffith that I don't even need to be involved in the editing - they will always deliver a product that exceeds my expectations. I always purchase the photos they have done for magazine shoots of our work because it's impeccable. I have waves of euphoria wash over me every time I see the photos - YEARS later.

This photo. We needed to submit something to someone and it was hastely thrown together. The truth about this photo is that there was an insane mess to both the left and right of this targeted area. We literally just swept it all away including on to the floor to get this isolated shot. Also I've had a wire sticking out of the wall for almost 4 years now for lighting under the shelf that we've never gotten around to. I sometimes put Luke's art on it just to soften the ugly.

and our somewhat famous living room shot taken by Stacey Brandford for Style at Home in 2012. I still don't know how this person thought we could arrange this room any other way but she's welcome to come and try!!! I will totally fess up that the rug in this picture was propped and was too big for the space. We've rolled it up under the sofa at the back. I still love it though - probably the most of all we've had in there. Weavers Art graciously loaded it to us for the shoot.

August 26, 2014:

Serious Slacker Here…

It's not because I'm stupidly busy or that I lack things to say I just have a flurry of things that are keeping me moving forward some of which I am not at liberty to discuss no matter how much I am dying to and others are just starting to gel and there's not a ton to report on. Coupled with the fact that Sunday was my birthday and I started eating for it on Friday and kept right on through until Monday... birthdays are hard work people.

I actually think that I got a bit of food poisoning thanks to some undercooked chicken on Sunday. My mother will be mortified but hey it happens to the best of us right?? I'm continually surprised that I haven't killed or landed people in the hospital on the few occasions that I have been required to cook or prepare food to be consumed. Meat is especially tricky which is why my meat of choice when I have to make dinner is either burgers or opening a can of tuna which is technically fish I know.

Summer lulls mean I start talking about the strangest thing here on the blog. I know. Did I tell you that our #Madison project was declared the #HouseoftheWeek by Toronto Life last week?? It was a total surprise so much so that I didn't even know they'd gone to the house to take pictures. Of course they did that as we were in the middle of un-staging the house. I have so many professional shots and theirs well aren't and so don't read it for the pictures - the article itself is rather flattering and fun though. It's HERE.

Our new site is oh so almost ready to launch. I'm just waiting for the "Hey, we're going to shut it down and switch it all over email."  VERY exciting. It's kind of like installing a new house. You've been looking at it for so long unable to share and then it is ready and you're kinda over it until others get ahold of it and fall in love or ooh and ahh about it. It's why I never understand why designers regurgitate a similar look from project to project. I mean don't you want to please yourself with something new??

Oh and while I am throwing random thoughts out at you - tell me where you stand on this? I was discussing it with a friend who is having a bit of a hard time but it made me think about the greater application of the topic. Honesty. Is Honesty the best policy? If you don't have anything nice to say, do you stay quiet? Is that the same as lying? My mom always ranted at us with the "If you dont' have anything nice to say, say nothing..." mantra despite being the person who will always tell you exactly what you don't want to hear. She's FAMOUS for bringing up uncomfortable topics that most would prefer to be swept under the rug so I think she was following her other principle of "Do as I say, not as I do..." on that one. Anyhow - Honesty. If something is butt ugly do you say something? My policy is to say something unless it is someone's child. If I encounter and ugly child, and LORD KNOWS I HAVE, I often text a close friend. Hey I'm not gonna lie - occasionally a picture will be shared. I knew someone who had one of the most odd looking babies ever once upon a time and I remember having  a discussion with my mother in law who said that "All babies are beautiful." I told her I knew the exception to the rule. She vehemently disagreed with me. I whipped out my facebook and showed her this kid's picture. She gasped in HORROR. She said "OH MY GOD, S/he is SO SO SO SO UNFORTUNATE LOOKING." Vindicated. I will have you know that this kid has actually grown into his/her body and is exceptionally normcore these days. So does that make one mean? Negative? Or do we all do it or think it and some of us just say it out loud?

 I'm 42 and I'll call a spade a spade. I had a particularly HEINOUS period from about age 9-14. There are pictures of me that are HORRID. I was terrifying to look at. My mom recently saw this picture of me from then and exclaimed "You didn't look that awful in person!!!" So I am exceptionally fair in this regard. I have done some EQUALLY disastrous decorating over the years too that thankfully I lost the pictures of... I don't even know how I got to this point here on the blog - stream of consciousness. Honesty keeps things interesting. I am not always the most diplomatic that is for sure, but I usually say things with good humour and intent. I'm regularly a touch overdramatic but hey that's part of the fun non? It's far more interesting to start a discussion than listen to a monologue drone on and on while you watch people sit on the sidelines and nod in supposed agreement even though you know that secretly they are saying to their spouse/partner/friend via text... "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME THAT SHIT IS FUGOLICIOUS....."

Sound familiar?

Pretty flowers I arranged for a shoot I did with House and Home TV last week. Can't wait to see the episode live!!!

August 21, 2014:

Textile Tart

If you've been stalking me for awhile, you will be well aware that I break for fabrics oh and mirrors and chairs. It's a wonder that I'm not regularly suffering from whiplash to be entirely honest. Walking with me, you get used to my arm suddenly being thrust out in front of you to stop you. I also am an arm grabber and a shoulder hitter. Easily excitable am I. Textiles I've loved um, forever. My mom was - well she still is she just doesn't partake - an AMAZING seamstress. Brilliant. She was designing and making her own clothes by her teens and this carried well on into my childhood. I got dragged around to the Fabriclands across the city in search of patterns, fabrics, thread and of course buttons. They often had colouring books for me to hone my own artistic skills and I would routinely use the thread spool holder as my switchboard, cash register whatever I could to relive the boredom. As I got a bit older, I started looking through patterns to see what I would wear as a sophisticated lady. Yes, I was already pinteresting in my mind's eye even as a small girl.

Growing up around textiles, you gain an appreciation for them. My mom would show me the difference between a cheap ass silk and one with great weight - the key is to scrunch the hell out of it and then release. My mom and I designed my own prom dress. I then went and lost a shit ton of weight just before the prom and well I looked rather ridiculous in it so we won't be sharing any photos. It was emerald green taffeta with sheer organza sleeves - in the matching emerald. Oh yes, Crystal Carrington EAT YOUR HEART OUT! FIERCE - the oversized plastic frame glasses were a special touch and what the FARK I was thinking hair wise I couldn't tell you. I will say that for my next year's prom - we had a Gr 12 for those who were finishing High School then and another Gr 13 prom for those of us on the University track. For grade 13 I bought a sexy off the rack black shift dress with scoop back. Curled my curly hair and put it up much like I do now and threw on some amazing drop earrings. I literally found my cocktail party uniform at the age of 18 and it hasn't changed much since - a classic is a classic and when you find what suits you - STICK WITH IT! 

Here are some textiles that are new to me that I'm positively drooling over. None of which would work for ballgown attire but paired with silk in a room you could easily make them cocktail party worthy....

August 19, 2014:

Quality Investments - The Plan

I've been at this for long enough that the phrase #NotMyFirstRodeo is entirely applicable in most circumstances. Sure there are things design-wise I've yet to do and I'm mostly good at either faking it until I figure it out or because I'm almost 42 I just plain ask for help from people who I think may have a better idea than I do.

When I first got started in the business I was always fixated on what something cost. This doesn't mean that after 16 years in the business I'm oblivious to price - hell know I'm extremely realistic and aware of what things cost but more importantly I am acutely aware of what QUALITY costs and what I am not willing to settle on.

Recently, someone reached out from a former life and asked about a colour consultation which I once did. Heck, I pretty much started out my career doing house calls to pick paint colours. I'd be paid for my time - which I way undercharged but I was doing something that made me the happiest I'd been in a long time and it was a start. Where it would lead I didn't know but it was a good start and I was happy. Flash forward to now and a person I did a colour consult for almost 10 years ago is looking to repaint, loved the colours I chose for her then and would I consider doing a colour consultation for her now?

My initial reaction was - "Oh God, a Colour Consult?" Now it did then occur to me that they aren't worth my time but I didn't think that was entirely big of me to actually say so I marinated on it for a few minutes and then it struck me. Trust me, this was a pretty HUGE AHA moment about why I didn't want to do it and here it goes: Picking a paint colour for your room on the whole is the least of one's design worries. A colour is not going to make your room. It's a foundation, it's a backdrop but in order for your room to really sing - it needs to be designed. If you are going to hire a professional to pick a colour for you - then you need to go all in and have them design the room. You may phase it. You may use it as a general guide and try and DIY it but if you aren't prepared to design the room, why the hell paint it? My hesitation to even respond was because I don't want my name on a room that I didn't design even in a small amount. I don't think a $40/can of paint is going to really make a huge difference to an undesigned space. To me the better investment is in a plan which is what I ended up offering this person. I'm happy to work on a plan for your space and help you to realize a better vision for it but picking just a paint colour - well that's not design. I don't even know if it really qualifies as decorating. I don't believe in designing or decorating a room around a can of paint. It doesn't do the colour or room any justice. Build a concept, choose your investment pieces or work with existing ones, find fabrics that pull the look together and THEN choose the paint.

Now back to quality. I charge a premium for consultations such as these because I know the value of them and if I'm not going to be overseeing and implementing there's a risk. My name is on it so I'm happy to put the concept together and walk away knowing that I've been compensated. I also know that I will exceed expectations with this plan and in the past, the clients have come back to me to have me help with part or all of the implementation. We've worked with one client now on several rooms of her home - just finishing up the powder room and we are the ideas and procure the goods and she implements. She is always raring to go when it comes to a slightly out of the box suggestion and the results have been amazing. She invests in the concepts and plans and then gets to have access to products that she might not be able to find on her own. The results sure beat a new coat of paint let me tell you!

I should note that I never heard back from the person. I know people get busy but my hope is that she wasn't offended. I'm just very passionate about what I am able to achieve when I'm given a little bit of room to you know - dance. And Sing. I sing too right Kim??

Egad. Not a paint consultation says Will.

This is magic that is in the middle of being made. Don't sell yourself or your home short. Invest in magic. Make magic happen. You deserve it!!!!