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.

July 01, 2014:

Long Weekend Living….

It's the Canada Day Long Weekend here in Canada (duh) (eh) - well it landed on a Tuesday so as GREAT employers (eh) we closed Monday to allow for an actual weekend of the longer variety. We went and bought me a pedal assist bike on Saturday. What is that? It's a battery pack/electric assist bike which helps you pedal until you hit 25Km/hr. Even though I'm in remission from my RA, my knees are not as reliable as I would hope they could be and I need to take care with them. The bike really helps when I've had to come to a stop and then need to start up again. Having a battery pack in the middle of the bike also really helps balance the bike out so I don't have to jump down and put my feet on the ground like I used to. We biked about 12km each way to visit Asa's mom on Monday. REMARKABLE. The only problem is that my hands are shot from the vibration of the terrible state of the roads here in Toronto. I can barely hold anything - the friction wore them complely out. Typing is a very odd sensation right now. It's like my fingertips are completely worn away. NOTE: It's 9pm on Tuesday. My fingers are still feeling weird. A bit better but weird. WHAT THE HELL?

Wimbledon is on, fans are blowing, cocktails are waiting to be consumed. It's finally feeling like summer here. With our projects in Palm Springs #Cactus and in Boston #Nobscot each getting their own outdoor spaces, we are consumed with plans for outdoor living.  Our palette in #Nobscot is Navy/white/Emerald Green and in #Cactus it's mostly black and white with the option of adding a vibrant citrine or violet or turquoise down the road.  #Nobscot is Preppy Moroccan and #Cactus is Dorothy Drapery meets Carole Lombard.

Totally NOT for either of our projects but I just saw this on West Elm's site and it's very Canada and reminds me of the white wire furniture that Ikea discontinued despite being super popular. 

Definitely an investment this set from Brown Jordan is GORGE. It's our inspiration  suite at #Cactus.

I think this is the root we are going for #Nobscot's dining area.

This is the living room suite we are going with for #Nobscot from Lane Venture.

Though we are considering adding a pair of these in for good measure.

but with the Navy strapping. DAMN.

If money were no object at either house I'd have opted for this.... sigh.

We are quoting putting a pair of these up at #Cactus to beat the sun.

Though this has merit too. It's hard when you haven't lived in a space to make a call. My recommendation is for us to wait until they are down there and can speak to which sort of coverage they will require.

I'd love to add in some striped umbrellas at #Cactus to give it that old Hollywood feel. I'd prefer to keep our seat cushions a solid white/off white for flexibility. Striped umbrellas will keep things interesting.

June 27, 2014:


Mindy Lockard whom I love and adore reached out to me to see if I would be interested in participating in a series she is putting on with Sheaffer Pens in time for Graduations taking place pretty much across North America at the moment. My own stepson just graduated from McGill (I know you are amazed that I have a step son old enough to graduate and rest assured that my husband causes jaws to hit the floor when he shares this information as well. He looks 35.)

I LOVE sharing wisdom with graduates because I still remember thinking back then that I knew everything. I remember thinking myself so mature, so worldly - invincible. What's interesting though as that as I've gotten older, I still think myself mature and worldly but I also really and truly enjoy the realization that I will forever be the 12 year old kid who laughs at the most ridiculous of things - myself. My 20's were really an extension of my teens where I followed the rules, I quietly questioned authority but I didn't really take it on - I criticized it heavily but like I said I was quiet. By the end of my 20's I realized that after being in a TERRIBLE relationship for 4 years that lasted 3 years and 9 months longer than it should have, that it would be better to be alone for the rest of my life in a rented one bedroom apartment than it would be to spend it in a house I owned living with a person I hated - who made me feel like utter SHIT about myself. I told a friend this very thing this past week when he told me that his relationship had ended and that he was devastated. I stand by that statement.

Getting to know yourself requires asking and answering a lot of hard truths. Do so often. When the shit hits the fan, instead of blaming this, that and the next thing - ask yourself  "What did I do that enabled this behaviour, incident, transgression to happen...?" It's not victim blaming but often when you ask yourself this very question, you will find that there is a pattern to your own actions that enabled this to happen. Especially if it is a regular occurence. I dated the same guy for about 20 years. Sure they looked different - somewhat - but there were commonalities to all of them. I broke the cycle when I asked my Mom of all people to help me figure out WHO I should be looking for in a mate because CLEARLY I was doing a really lousy job of it on my own. She was right. I met him about a month later.

In work and in love, pay attention to what flows to you and from you. When you are on the right path, things flow. When you hit a roadblock, take a moment to pause and figure out if you are on the right path or if you are actually being redirected. Trust in the redirection. When you are young, it is easy to say yes to a lot of things learning to say NO is the hard part. Practice this a lot - even if it means turning down friends who want you to meet them out and about for a drink when you really don't want to. Learning to set boundaries is HARD - trust me - I am a compulsive people pleaser.

Starting your own business isn't for everyone. There is glory in working hard for others on their behalf. If you raise up their profile it doesn't mean you diminish your own. Working for others is like being accepted into a graduate program. This is often where the TRUE learning begins. Be humbled and hungry to dive into this experience. Learn as much as you can. If it is for a designer, remember, you are working for the client as well as the designer but your loyalty must always be to your company first. The company will only be as strong as its weakest link. 

Your personal integrity is everything. It shows through, even on your private facebook page, tinder, or snap chat.

If you write it down, expect that it will always come back to bite you in the derriere. Imagine your grandmother reading your correspondence.

If you have to write something confrontational, unpleasant or you have received correspondence that angers you, feel free to write your response but NEVER EVER put the person who it is addressed to in the email address. Not until you've slept on it or had someone else read it. Even still, wait a day before you hit send. 

Sometimes the best answer though is no answer at all. Know when to disengage and refuse to do battle. There is tremendous strength in walking away.

You can't be mad when you listen to Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran or Happy by Pharrell. It is a physical impossibility.

I will be 42 this year. I just finished a fashion shoot for a major fashion magazine - and when I say they made me look like a super model I am really not lying. I look better at 42 than I did in my youth. Not because my skin is any better, because I am skinnier than I was then or because I have better hair now. None of that factors into it at all. What I have now is confidence in myself, in my ability and the road ahead. Confidence, wisdom and a great sense of compassion for the journey of others will attract others to you and enable opportunities that those who are embittered, discouraged and frustrated cannot seize.

And lastly....

Good Penmenship gets you noticed. My handwriting has always been commented on and my lettering - well I had an instructor in design school ask me what font I used after I hand lettered a project...  to that end, Sheaffer has graciously donated a Sagaris Brushed Chrome Featuring Gold Tone Trim Rollerball pen. I AM OBSESSED with the correct writing utensils. They can make or break my doodles, sketches or notes. If I don't like how it writes, I simply don't use it and I love Scheaffer pens to the NTH. If you want it, please leave me a note on my facebook biz page which you just have to hit the connect button at the bottom of this post - and tell me one wisdom you would pass on to grads this year. I will do the draw Weds July 2nd 2014 - well Luke will pull the name out of the hat!!!! He loves to do that.

Oh and one more personal wisdom - Little boys are the best kept secret there is. 

Okay and one more - be real. Never apologize for being real and/or honest. Most people who will revile you for being honest are the biggest liars (mostly to themselves). 

June 26, 2014:

Business of Design - Alternative Revenue Streams

If you aren't familiar with my story on how I got into design - well I'm sure you can google any odd interview with me and get the details of a very interesting story but I'll spare you the rehash here. Suffice it to say I was a school teacher when I began my business and worked at it part time while teaching for close to three years. In that three years, my sole focus was developing the business enough so that I could make the leap and go full time into my passion. Once I took the leap, I learned a very important lesson - starting your own design business, unless you are a trust fund  enabled person or  have vast personal wealth (I was neither), you will be POOR but you are pursuing your passion. I now tell those getting started that they have to expect to be poor for at least the first seven years. You may get lucky and have a banner year but once you hire staff, they get paid over you if money gets tight - you are the one to compromise or else you will have to let them go which can be traumatic itself.

So lately I hear people buzzing about alternative streams of revenue and that this is a MUST for designers to start working.

Hold the freaking fort a minute.

You just worked your bloody tail off to get into a gig full time and now you need to take on other jobs to earn money? What sort of hullabaloo is being shovelled here??

Now don't get me wrong, when I set my course to become a designer full time - I had one goal - TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION. That and I wanted my own lunchbox with my face on it or at least an action figure. Developing my own licensed lines - TOTALLY in the plan but I knew that that was considerably down the road as I had MUCH learning to do. I had to learn how to run a business. I have zero business experience in terms of schooling unless you count Gr. 11 Accounting as business experience. I opened a store. I moved said store. I closed said store. I did TV (alternative stream of income yes but it almost cost me my business as I spent 6 mths + a year filming and not focusing on my BUSINESS).

I've been at this 17 years now and I think NOW I am ready to look at alternative streams because I am at a place where it makes sense. I have a team working with me that I adore and trust. I am able to be choosey about what projects I take on and what I am willing to say NO to. But I will not tell young designers to focus on anything beyond their business. I think it is a fool's errand to be encouraging anyone who is just getting started in a field to look to this as something they MUST pursue.

The bottom line is that you have to find what works for you and your business, your family, your personal time. Not everyone should write a blog. Many can handle one social media platform okay enough but will struggle and feel overwhelmed if they try and take on too much. It can be overwhelming if you aren't well... me. When I give talks I talk about focusing on what your skill set is. If you are great with picture taking - make Instagram your bitch. Tie in Pinterest when you can. If you are a good writer, totally get a blog off the ground. Use Facebook and twitter to share it.  However, do not pursue these endeavours if it causes your work or your business to suffer. THIS IS THE GOLDEN RULE! You can't provide a luxury service if you yourself are feeling overwhelmed. You will capsize.

So turn down the volume on the chatter about alternative revenue streams. Do GREAT work. The rest will follow.

June 24, 2014:

New Project Alert… Meet #Cactus

as in Palm Springs Cactus.

Clients of ours have just landed the sexiest house in Palm Springs. I don't want them to lose site of the amazing house we've created for them up here in Toronto - we're about to install their master bedroom up here. However, I can see why they are totally focused now on their new Palm Springs home, especially after the winter we just endured. We are currently trying to decide if they buy the house with the staging - we don't want them to it seems like a waste of money for no personality. Because I know them so very well it makes sense for us to procure the furniture and adapt their taste to their new environment which I am not going to lie - has me over the moon with ideas about.

So we are going to do a cost analysis of furniture through MHD or through the stager. I'm totally prepared to go full tease because I already see the house done according to Moi. 

The brief is to create something that is Modern and Glam but has a tailored sensibility to it. We don't want it to look too MOD and cheap. Neutrals will help deliver that. Ultimately, we want to focus our attention out of doors... you ready for a peek at what we are working with?

NOTE: After spending the afternoon corresponding with the client - they are leading toward wanting an all white with an injection of crazy colour. One half of the couple has suddenly developed a fondness for the gold Elvis busts. My poor heart.

This reminds me of the Prada Marfa art installation. I practically died when I got the pictures.

We just need to add some very modern plant/urn combination on either side of the door. It's perfect. We are toying with changing the door colour to an orange but I don't mind the red on the outside. Inside it's a Scarface murder scene.


That sky? Isn't it divine? I fell hard for the desert based on that sky.

We have to design shade into the back but I've got plans!!! Oh do I have plans!!!

Here's a shot of the living room staged. As you can see - I've made notes.