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.

June 24, 2014:

Photoshoot Prep - Cont’d

When you have a large house to photograph, you often have to phase the shoot out over a few days to allow for proper lighting and well time to get all of the detail shots. I often work a few rooms ahead styling but truth be told, if I'm not standing in the room with the photograph they never take the shots I want even if I have given them a shot list. I'm not a stylist, so it takes me more attempts to get things at the right angle than a pro would so that's another thing I have to factor in time wise.

#MadisonAve is 4 storys plus a front and back garden that will need to be shot as well. There isn't much in the way of furniture to shoot, so it's interior design that will be shot but there's still an abundance of that on its own. Designers, like stylists, often keep their own arsenal of props on hand for photoshoots. You have to keep a mental inventory of which pieces you've used in which shots to avoid your portfolio looking repetitive styling wise. Same goes with flowers and fruit.

To that end, there will be no Pellegrino bottles on the counter for this shoot. There will not be a single green apple either shot. I avoid certain books like the plague. While I love the look of  "I Married Adventure..." it's been done to death. The same with the Tom Ford book and the Hermes blanket. They've become such a cliche.

Here's some inspiration for our styling efforts this shoot...

I actually don't mind the green apples in this kitchen by Karen Sealy for Style at Home. I'd prefer limes though even though you'd never put either fruit in a glass jar with a lid. Suspend your disbelief for the pretty shot - that I fully endorse.

Sometimes simple is best - prune a tree and put the branches in a vase... especially in our #MadisonAve kitchen with the super tall ceilings. Height is good.... Angie Silvy Photography.

Obsessed with TTH Blooms by Taylor Tomasi Hill - it's her new venture and I stalk her blooms on instagram.

I think this could be super pretty on the third floor bathroom vanity...

I love an action shot like this working sink published in Feb 2013 in Living the Country Life - sadly they didn't credit the designer on their site. Love soap stone counters.

Pink would look very pretty up here I think.

I'm so obsessed with my DXV Loos.

I thank the gods every day for a great tiler who recognized his mistake, removed the white grout and put the black grout that we specified in the shower. It is perfection.

Our mirror stories throughout are delish.

One of the best decisions we made after digging out the basement. White High Gloss Epoxy concrete floor finish. This may be one of my favourite spaces in the house. 

June 23, 2014:

Prepping for a PhotoShoot

Whenever we finish a project, we like to photograph it either for submissions to magazines or for our own portfolio. With our #MadisonAve project coming to a close, we will be shooting this phase prior to the house being put on the market for sale. Yes. I have mentioned it before and I will remind those who are unaware as was pointed out to me on Instagram this past weekend, the house is going on the market. 

So we are hoping this is Phase one of our photoshoot and that the new owners will see the wisdom in hiring MHD to finish off the project from a decorating standpoint. :prays to the design gods to provide:: But in the mean time, we have to set up our shot list and I was there on Friday doing just that.

Here's a sneak peek.

We are going to be staging the living room to show off two seating areas - one that will face the fireplace and the other the space for the TV.

The dining room we are going to leave alone - this pretty chandy is finally up though!

Our Guest Bath on the 2nd Floor is definitely a fave. It's pretty tight in terms of shooting space so we are going to have to really work the angles to get things set up. I often take pics on my phone and then show them to Asa to convey how I want something shot. We then often disagree until I'm finally at peace.

Our grotto inspired tub.

I love this shot.

And this for a detail shot.

Okay and this one too!