July 08, 2014:

Phasing a Project…

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you will know that I am a proponent of phasing a project when the budget won't meet the needs & the wants. I am working toward taking on only whole house projects - so fewer projects but bigger projects but until that happens I am happy to work on a variety of projects varying in size and scale. Now what does that look like exactly? Let's get on the same page. My dream project is without budget, and involves me doing all of the interior design and the interior decorating down to the drawer liners in the linen closet and the dishes in the cupboards. A full house project will not have a client living in it until I'm ready to hand over the keys. This is the ideal dream project that I am working diligently on making a reality as I said, however in the interim a typical 'whole house' project looks slightly different.

Our #Brooklin project began almost two years ago. A new build in a subdivision outside of Toronto, the clients hadn't really bought much in the way of new furniture since university and after having two gorgeous boys who were in school full time, it seemed like the right time to do it up. The "Honey Do" list for this designer was rather large especially given the budget. We had a good budget to work with but when you paired it with the scope, it was immediately decided that phasing would have to happen. Now, we may have gone a bit over in the first phase budget wise but we got a lot of bang for our buck and we laid the groundwork for the overall look and feel of the entire house. Every room with the exception of the Mud Room was touched during Phase One which was really great. No one room however, was finished. We made sure that lighting, paint, wallpaper and furniture were done right away. The basement was finished - which was a "Honey Must Do," so the kids had a dust-free play space. We had some great pieces to work with that needing new upholstery or a paint job so that was a huge budget saver. We decided to just paint the kids' rooms and give them new lights but pushed drapery to phase two. Art work did not make it into Phase One. After living in the house for a year, we re-evaluated our goals based on how they were living in the home after our initial foray.

In Phase Two we needed some Media Storage, I insisted on art work in key areas, we had to revamp barstools - existing ones after our attempt at custom ones caused me to slip like Rob Ford on a weekend or week night for that matter. That's a blog for another day. We also wanted to add the drapery to the boys' rooms and finish off the mudroom with custom millwork so that the space was functional and looked good to boot. We also went to town and accessorized a few areas that needed some love and changed all the hardware in the kitchen to something decidedly snazzier.

Phase Two was about refining our efforts from Phase One and we're already talking about Phase Three. Having clients who are upfront about budget requirements empowers their designer to act on their behalf and achieve the best results even if it takes time to evolve. Being able to step back and evaluate the choices you made and then improve upon them never hurts. This includes putting a certain sectional that no one really likes up for sale and replacing it with the sexiest of chinoiserie adorned sofas and a pair of equally as delicious chairs to really add that je ne sais quoi to the Great Room. I mean it was a Great Room to start with but now..... Whoooooaaaaa NELLY.....

So this was the dining room before... a total transformation furniture wise and lighting - we added the new sconces but...

We needed something on the table and Artwork to really ground the space. The artwork and the fabric on the back of the chairs add movement and repetition in the space and we've played that up with the grouping of glassware on the table top itself.

Gorgeous wallpaper from Thibaut. Check. Great chairs and stool and ottoman by MHD. Check. Custom MHD area rug. Check. Sectional. Sigh.

Bold Art Work that was selected for it's composition and overall lack of colour and business. The Quill mirror is to die for and adds both texture and depth to the space. In combination with the art, it really makes the space feel cozier and much richer.

We opted for this faux bamboo media centre under the wall-mounted tv. It really changes the vibe in the space and is super practical. We need to hide stuff. A lot of stuff. This is the solution to the where does all the stuff go dilemma. 

Drapery!!!! We chose to do a striped accent wall on the headboard wall in this bedroom because we needed to add some vavavoom but didn't have the $$ to put into wallpaper. I find accent walls actually work in this instance. Again you need to be a skilled professional to employ them. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!

We couldn't let one brother have stripes and ignore the other brother. My painter almost quit me after this room. I made him stripe the whole damn room. OY. It totally pays off though as do the much anticipated drapes. Wait until you see how we are finishing off this space and personalizing it for the young man!

The Mud Room. We went with a bold citrine for the millwork and the first thing on our agenda is to CHANGE THE LIGHTING! We need to go with a track I think. It will give us the most flexibilty and we need to change the temperature on the bulbs for sure. Jazz it up with some baskets and a few well placed accessories and we are in business. Phasing your projects are sometimes as rewarding as they are necessary!

July 08, 2014:

Oh #($*#*&*%%$ Your Client HATES It… Now What?

I wish I could say that this post is written purely based on conjecture and that no client has ever rejected an idea I had or hated something that eventually arrived at their home with their name on it. It is more common an occurence than you'd expect so I figured I should address it. Yup, clients ROUTINTELY say no to me. The funny thing now is that most of the clients we work with HATE saying no to me so I'm doing something right... Fear, Intimidation, Irrepressible Charm... Now to let you in on a little secret, I actually sometimes enjoy being told No. Shocker huh? I often put together a design plan that I'm not 100% on but until I'm told no or the client waffles or finally shares some tidbit that I didn't know previously about their style/taste/preferences I am not able to nail the design to the standard of which I expect of myself. One of the biggest reasons why you should hire me to design your home - I'm great under pressure and I can improvise with a skill and ease that scares some people including those who work with me because it's natural for me to slide into a completely different gear and send us off in a totally new direction in the blink of an eye. Not the easiest of things to do if you are the person or persons charged with building the quotes or putting the budget together but when you are the Creative driver of the project, it should be easier if you are skilled in change. Many creatives are not. It's very difficult for some people to put together a totally new scheme when their client hates the first one or doesn't really love the one you've presented. 

It's hard to illustrate this easily but I am going to try and walk you through how I did this very thing in a matter of seconds after a presentation to our #Cactus clients today for the Palm Springs house. One half of the couple wants crazy colour and fun the other is a solid fabric kinda guy and patterns scare him. Here's where the gold was struck though in discussing his fears. He mentioned very quietly that you really prefers the Elegance of a Hollywood Regency -but instead of using Regency he said GLAMOUR. I know we're going to split hairs here but the word GLAMOUR was what struck and knowing that he wanted a more elegant feel - I knew almost immediately we had to ditch or change or modify the more kitschy vintage mid century items in favour of white on white with splashes of colour. The choices of colour needed to be more sophisticated and less well... Jonathan Adler to be honest. I totally respect that and so this is what I did to adjust our presentation - which I posted about in the previous post.

I initially proposed this fabric as the headboard and base. Practically caused the client to have a seizure - well one of them. My assurances that it was like a Hawaiian Shirt Bed did not win him over as I watched his blood pressure sky rocket so I ditched it.

The green geometric on the left he had remarked in another room that he'd liked the pattern for a pillow so I started here. I knew that he liked the Chinoiserie fabric because it reminds him of the famous Grauman's Theatre in Hollywood and I had planned it as drapery in the room even with the floral. Where we compromised was the bed - an ivory chenille. The green fabric will be large Euros. Then I get the drapery. Simple and elegant - but not dull.

In the Den we wanted to put the Ikat fabric on the sofa, use the same geometric from the bedroom as pillows and the navy velvet on an ottoman. The animal print was for an accent chair which we may hold off on and decide if we have the room for it after they've lived in the house a bit. Easy - I am happy to defer decisions if they stay on the table... I think the room needs a lil mismatched animal. The client however, did NOT love the idea of the Ikat on the sofa. So here's where we went....

The periwinkle chenille will be the sofa. The client just couldn't commit to a busy patterned sofa and I respect that. The periwinkle is super durable and soft as sin so it will make for a great sofa. We'll use the ikat and the geometric as pillows. I'll get my leopard in on a chair but it may be for phase two... I can wait. Rawwr. See relatively painless and while we lost the floral we streamlined and went for impact. The den was just a simple flip and voila. Still fabulous. Happy Clients Happy Designer.

July 07, 2014:

Presenting to Clients on a Deadline…

We LOVE presenting to clients as you know. We invite our clients to our office and we dazzle them with options, things to see, touch and feel. Other times however, a deadline will loom or a budget need to be put together with ridiculous immediacy and we aren't able to present and then quote. In these instances, we often hobble together an excel spreadsheet based on other projects or get out our trusted and true suppliers' price lists and hammer out a concept while we put numbers down as we go.

In the case of our #Cactus project, the clients needed to see some projected numbers on furnishing the interior and exterior so they could make decisions on some of the staging pieces. Now I know we were all in agreement that the staging pieces were hell to the fug but the reality for many 2nd House Homeowners albeit in Palm Springs, Florida, Mexico or a Cottage is that if it isn't their principal residence, it doesn't get the principal budget allotment. Now as a designer, I don't want to see clients saddled with sad sally knock offs at premium prices because they think it will be cheap and cheerful. It seems way less hassle to just go with something you can find locally but that is rarely the case in my experience. Where you get the best use of your dollar is working with a designer who knows you, your taste and is given a reasonable budget to work with... aka room to make the magic happen.

So we put together a plan, then we refined the plan over the course of a few hours - Celia and I sitting at our table initially looking at fabrics that are part of a graded upholstery program and a few that just screamed PALM SPRINGS to us and then we moved to her computer where together we went through our favourite vendors' sites and finessed the details. She then took all that information and put together near exact pricing so that we could deliver a budget to the clients that is pretty accurate. Knowing our clients the way we do - we knew that we would need visuals to accompany the budget and to save time (aka not spending hours entering the pictures and the products into our Ordering program) Celia put together several Keynote boards so they could get a sense of what we were considering for where/what/who/how/why you get the picture.

Of course, while she did this, we joked about how this made her a blogger now and well we found the whole thing entirely tres amusante.

We have a huge master and we want it to have a Mid Century meets Hollywood Glam. One mandate we were given from 1/2 of the clients was NO TORONTO BEIGE AND BORING. I think the flamestitch totally is to that specification. I think it may however, scare the other 1/2 of this duo. Good thing the same bargello comes in a pastel version with pale blues, citrine and mauve. I ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B.

Or maybe THIS will be the Master. That makes for a Plan C. We want to do the drapery in the same zebra fabric because HELL YES. 

The floral fabric is what we want to put on the bed. BOLD. Absofarkinglutely. However, the bed is low profile in a room that has 10ft ceilings and light for days. It's a graded in fabric so it costs nothing extra to use it and then we can pair it with this area rug and these accent pillows. I see all the bedding in the house as white or maybe a white trimmed with an accent colour that coordinates with each room. I love the water artwork - which is MASSIVE in scale so that will really soak up some space - when you don't have a ton of money to furnish and accessorize pick a few BIG items that make a statement and voila.

Adjacent to the kitchen is a den which is actually open to the office as well. It will get used and seen so it needs to be chic. I adore this sofa and wish it came in a sofa bed so I could use it in my own house. It's only 33" deep so it's great for this transition space. We want to use the classic Cherner stool at the island which the sofa will back on to. Because the kitchen is a bit modern, we thought the Ikat fabric would be perfect on the sofa and then we will pair it with a Leopard chair RAWWR. Bright pillows and then a velvet tufted ottoman which is practical - not mid century or otherwise just straight up useful. An iconic Arc lamp for good measure.

Clients love Panton chairs and we paired them with a pretty simple dining table which I wish came in white... sigh. The artwork is bold and then we will repeat the shock of yellow in drapery on the window - 10ft ceilings HELLO... A sputnik chandelier and we are done. Huge statement but VERY friendly on the budget.

Big walls - a lot of walls. ALWAYS a killer to a budget. We've got a variety of amazing art pieces for the entire house but we also wanted to add in some funky photography to make the space come alive. I'm a huge fan of Nicole Cohen's work - Sketch42 Blog Nicole. We went to UPLO to look at her portfolio and Celia and I fell head over heels for her Pineapple series. I mean we couldn't stop laughing.  Our clients aren't quite sure they can do the sad drowning pineapple but I think they are looking at it all wrong. I see an exhibitionist pineapple floating in the water, soaking up some rays. All he's missing is a pair of sunglasses. I also love her Abandoned Pool series too. I think they are brilliant. Total conversation pieces.

July 03, 2014:

The Fourth

Canada's 4th is the 1st and so we've already celebrated this week but being that I do a lot of work in the US, have a lot of US based suppliers not to mention a vast social network across the US - Happy 4th of July!!! It will be a day where most of our emails will go unreturned, updates will not be able to be gotten and well - we have a lot of other things to tend to! American holidays are a much bigger deal it seems than Canadian ones. We are decidedly more chill.

The Fourth means something a bit different to me though - it's the day before my son's birthday so I lovingly recall spending the 4th with my water having broken and waiting for labour to begin. It eventually DID begin late into the evening on the 4th but Luke didn't make his appearance until halfway through the 5th.

In the last several years, it is also hallmarked in a rather unusual way but it is marked nonetheless... You see, July 4th is now synonymous with my living room. Bloggers around the US and beyond in fact, share my living room as part of their Design Meets July 4th. Decorating with Red, White and Blue and voila my living room is shared, blogged, used to WISH others a happy 4th of July. It's become a bit of a sport watching who credits and who does not. I've already had notes pointing out the uncredited use of the photo and a fellow poster on instagram graciously tagged me earlier today - MUCH appreciated.

So here you have it - the Pomegranate, Coral, Indigo, Grey and Greige aka RED, WHITE and BLUE living room I call home. The photo was taken by Stacey Brandford, Styling by Margot Austin and it was published in Style at Home April 2012 - though it was photographed April 2011. What I love most about this photograph is that it was SUPER cloudy and at times DARK outside with impending storms. Stacey haz skillz. MAD SKILLZ. The living room is 9ft wide - super tiny but looks huge!

The chairs, sofa, stools, side table AND chandelier - ALL Ebay Finds. Apparently, I haz skillz too.

Have a great Fourth!

July 03, 2014:

Pattern Play - #Cactus Edition

Putting together this blog I happened upon this post from Jenny at Little Green Notebook.. thank you for including our foyer in your post!!

We spent the day working on putting together numbers for our #Cactus project. Now in order to do so, one has to delve into a little Pattern Play. We often get people who inquire about working with us who have no idea on budget but want us to give them a budget. We can estimate giving a price per sq ft depending on what level of investment they are looking to make but until you start to actually specify or create the overall look and feel that estimate is rather useless. Inevitably, the clients will fall in love with a particular look/feel and or specific pieces and well the estimate is thrown out the window in favour of actuals.

I've watched people cry, whine, whinge, bemoan when I deliver the actuals based on things they love. I have seen full on SHIT FITS thrown when I have told people that their budget doesn't even possibly begin to relate to what they want. I am still suffering PTSD from one such situation. I seemed to offend this individual when I told him that a custom kitchen could not be had as he described for under $30,000.00 before tax. I am often the bearer of such bad news though I do prefer Asa to deliver it. ha ha ha. How I don't get upset or take it personally - it's not my budget. It will NEVER be my budget and each client has to decide what is and isn't worth it for them. Do they defer, do they borrow, do they sell a kidney on the black market. All the foot stomping, swearing, threatening (yes I have been threatened before) doesn't amount to a hill of beans. The problem or the solution always rests within each individual client or couple. I just facilitate scenarios and options. Things cost what they cost. There is only so much that I can manipulate in that regard.

I often joke that things cost $1000-$1200 each and go up from there. If your budget is $10,000 you get to buy 10 things and so on. That's how it breaks down in my mind. The bigger the space, the more stuff you need. I like to keep it simple.

For our #Cactus project we have a lot of space but we don't have an endless array of $1000 to be spent. We have to make smart decisions and the smartest decision of all is of course, hiring us to do the work. The clients are savvy and they mostly let us make all the decisions which enables us to achieve the biggest bang for their buck because we aren't limited by much. We are able to put together a complete plan for each room right down to art and area rugs.  Now the only curve ball we've been thrown is the inspection report which came back and sellers who are trying to take advantage of Mercury having BEEN in retrograde. I'm trying to remain positive that the situation will resolve itself because it would be a shame to have this house slip through everyone's fingers but if it isn't meant to be - this plan is rock solid and is simply meant for a better house. 

So here we go.... a lil taste based on the patterns we want to work with...


Vintage inspired fabric will cover an upholstered headboard and base that is also a bit retro. Pretty wild yes??? It's a graded in fabric which is our favourite way to save $$$ when it comes to upholstery.

Initially we thought we'd use this on a headboard too but then we went a different direction...

I think there is a city bylaw which states that if you live in Palm Springs you must own one piece of furniture adorned in a bargello fabric. Master Bedroom option... There's another. Each bedroom will get these fabrics but I think that the clients can alternate between rooms and decide which feels more like their master.... Did I mention that my mandate was to NOT do anything beige or safe or resembling Toronto design?

BOOM. Drapery and headboard/base in the zebra. YESSIRREEBOB. The Trellis pattern will be on a bench at the end of the bed. Now this will be our splurge fabric so we're going to save in other ways in this room. Or I will cry.

We already have the lamps to go with the Bargello fabric.

We didn't want to abandon the Ikat from above so we paired it with a vibrant trellis - graded in fabric that will be pillows and our favourite leopard which will go on a chair. The ikat itself will become.... a SOFA!

And then we found this navy velvet and it will be a tufted ottoman and the TV room/Den/Passthru space will be done!!!! Et Voila.