Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What's Up Next...

Every time I finish working on a design project, there is a small sense of relief that it's complete (and looks great, of course), but an even stronger sense of disappointment that the fun is over. Within days I start to feel restless. What's next? I always want something on my plate, even if I say that I don't.

As luck would have it, the basement renovation wrapped up (the carpet was finally installed last week) just as spring begins. It's time to start thinking about summer and the time we'll spend away from home working at our seasonal retail stores (if you're new here, my day job is as buyer/merchandiser/supervisor for an independent fashion retailer). The lease was recently signed for a lengthy commitment at our Grand Bend location, so I've decided that we should make our apartment there feel more comfortable. With a budget of approximately zero dollars, I've been spending a lot of time on Kijiji and my favourite auction websites trying to come up with a design vision.

I've started to cobble together the basics for our little two bedroom place. It might not be perfect, but it's a start and we can build on it each year. Last fall I found a pair of somewhat worn and slighting damaged wood nesting tables at Value Village for $6. A bit of glue, a quick steel wool sanding and a dose of Restor-a-Finish was all they needed to look super fabulous. We already have a round dining table with four chairs; the table is going to get a makeover (paint!) soon, but I don't know what I'm going to do with the chairs they're kinda country/ugly/totally not my style... Recently I picked up a pair of upholstered tub chairs for $60 on Kijiji. They're really comfortable and they swivel and rock which is super cool, but they're a dark plaid which definitely won't work with the rest of my ideas for the space. I may have the chairs reupholstered eventually and keep them for my own home but in the mean time we have no choice but to live with the plaid. What else? First and foremost, the walls of the entire apartment will get a fresh coat of white paint. I don't even remember what colour they are currently, but I know I don't like it...I'm thinking maybe it's flesh tone. (Do they even make paint in flesh tone? Because they shouldn't.) The one item I've purchased in a retail store is an amazing aerial beach photograph from Homesense. Featuring the vivid teal of ocean waters, it will provide a nice punch of colour in the dining area. I'm itching to get started, but I need to wait for the weather to warm up before I can start to clean and paint.

The real point of this post is that I want to tell you all about my most recent auction win!! I scored a pair of twin spindle bed frames online at MaxSold  which will be perfect in one of the bedrooms to maximize sleeping space. There will be times when four adults will need space to sleep in this apartment, and everyone will require their own bed. With fresh white walls, I have the opportunity to paint the bed frames any colour I want, so the big question is, what colour should I choose? I have visions of glossy red or navy or green or coral or teal or grey. It all depends on what kind of tone I want to set for this room...the bright colours are fun, but the more subtle colours are restful.

I realize that these beds are "antique", but these aren't particularly valuable and refinishing sounds like a lot of work to me. Although some people hate to paint wood, I'm all for it; a coat of paint will give these beds a modern touch. My heart tells me that a coat of navy blue or kelly green would be lovely, but my head tells me that I should choose a neutral and restful dove grey. I have a few examples of painted spindle beds that I've found online. Tell me what you think...

Update: Since writing the above paragraphs, I purchased the most amazing rug at Empire Auctions (SUCH a good deal!!), and my train of thought is that I should select the colour scheme for the apartment based on colours in the rug, focusing on two main colours with white as backdrop. I know that teal is one of those colours so I just need to pull a secondary colour from the rug...I'm thinking coral...

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Brand New Space: Grey & White Basement Renovation

I posted briefly about the basement renovation I was working on at the end of January. This was a quick renovation, turning an unfinished basement into a modern living space in just under 5 weeks from start to finish. (There was just one hitch - the carpet for the living area wasn't installed due to a shipping delay, but the kitchenette and bathroom have been completed.) We worked with a great contractor which made our job easy, as long as we were ready with final decisions and materials when required. Knowing that we wanted a grey and white colour scheme right out of the gate helped drive most of the decisions regarding paint colours, flooring, counter tops, back splash tiles, hardware and fixtures.

Everything happens in a particular order, and if my memory serves me correctly, we started with selection of the floor tiles. We chose a 12"x24" semi-polished grey techmarble porcelain stone from Olympia Tile. From this we were able pull the paint colours for the cabinetry, pulling Silver Half Dollar and Pewter from the Benjamin Moore paint deck, using the lighter shade on the top cabinetry and the slightly darker shade on the bottom. This paint trick is subtle, but it gives just a bit more weight to the bottom cabinets. You may have noticed that we added doors to the peninsula cabinets from the opposite side which allows easy access to serving pieces, cutlery, and napkins.

We could have gone with a light colour for the counter tops which would be very on trend, but knowing that we wanted to use a white subway tile back splash with a mosaic tile band, it felt more practical to go with a dark shade. We chose Wilsonart's black alicante counter top - yes, it's a laminate - natural stone was not in the homeowner's budget, and we are really pleased with how great the laminate looks. We added a bit of interest to the neutral white subway tile back splash with an accent band of marble and glass mosaic tiles.

I hope by now you've spotted the gorgeous Cosmas hardware that we chose for the cabinet pulls. I felt very strongly about using polished chrome rather than brushed because this element adds a touch of sparkle to the kitchenette. It's easy to forget that this is a basement because it's actually quite bright - the nearby window certainly helps, as do any reflective elements in the space. We kept the finishes consistent, choosing a polished chrome American Standard goose neck faucet, and a polished chrome ELK Lighting pendant over the peninsula. 

We used a lot of the same finishes in the new washroom to keep the flow consistent throughout the basement. It was tricky getting shots of the washroom since it's a small space, but it certainly has all of the fundamentals. We continued with the same floor tile and paint colours, but added a few new elements to keep it interesting.

Can we just talk about that toilet for a minute? It's the Memoirs classic design from Kohler and it's a bit odd how much I love it; it has such beautiful architectural detail at the bottom as well as on the tank lid. It's just a bonus that it's very well reviewed. The clean & simple white trash bin cleverly disguises the water line running from the wall to the tank.


With space contraints in this washroom, it made sense to build the vanity area into a nook beside the shower. We opted for some new elements in this area, including a Caesarstone counter top with undermount sink. This would have been a big splurge in the kitchen, but with just a small area to cover in the washroom, it wasn't a total budget buster.

I really pushed for the Moen Boardwalk faucet, I think it's a real stunner and I love the way it bridges both traditional & contemporary design. The modern square lines of the faucet make it the right choice to harmonize with the square sink. We repeated the square motif throughout this small space, from the faucet to the hardware to the soap dish to the trash bin. Good design isn't an accident ;)

This washroom features polished chrome jewels in the faucet, towel bar, cabinet hardware and light fixture. Even the mirror reflects as much light as possible with its mirrored frame. We opted to hang our own mirror (found at Homesense); it didn't cost us anything extra and looks so much better than a builder basic. Don't be afraid to ask your contractor about details like this, it can make a world of difference!! 

We took our cue from the kitchen back splash when deciding on tile for the shower walls, only this time we chose a larger scale. It was important to the home owner that the shower be low maintenance (of couse!), so ease of care was an important consideration. We opted for an 8"x20" bright arctic white tile from Olympia which gave us the fresh, clean, modern look of subway tile without all of the grout. The accent tile is the same glass & marble mosaic used for the kitchen back splash, only here we used a wider band to match the scale of the white tiles.

This was the first major project I've taken on that wasn't strictly decorating, and I really enjoyed the experience. It was fun assembling all of the parts together and then seeing the ideas come to life. There were a lot of decisions to be made, and to keep the ball rolling it was important to make those choices quickly and confidently. We made just one misstep (a light fixture that didn't suit the space and was promptly returned), but by and large we were very happy with our choices and consequently we are thrilled with the final results. Let the entertaining begin!!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Plethora of Beautiful Gowns: Oscars 2016

I've been working on this post bit by bit every day this week, sorry for such a delay...

I'm at work right now but I really need to get this written so that I can watch E! Fashion Police and read all of the online Oscar fashion recaps. I like to form my own opinions about red carpet dresses, rather than be influenced by what the "pros" think. One thing I'm sure of is that young designer Christian Siriano can do no wrong when it comes to red carpet fashion. I think Christian is this generation's Oscar de la Renta. I love so many of his dresses, he uses just the right amount of colour, his fits are impeccable and his ideas are original.

This is my absolute favourite dress of the night, and it's a shame that I didn't see it on either the ABC or E! red carpet coverage. This is Jacqueline Miranne (an US Magazine correspondent and her mother just happens to be Joy Mangano of HSN fame & the film JOY)  in a gorgeous Christian Siriano gown.

I snagged the image below  from Jackie's Instagram feed - this snap shows the beautiful movement of the dress. Christian calls the gown lime yellow silk faille, so I'm not quite sure which photo reflects the colour more accurately. Either way I love it!!

I also love this peach Christian Siriano gown worn by Louise Roe (an English television presenter, model & fashion journalist). I love the simplicity of this dress, but the "pleated fan" is just the right amount of embellishment.

Rounding out a lovely trio of Christian Siriano dresses is this lovely beaded silver & white gown worn by E! news anchor Maria Menounos. The gown was created in conjunction with Stella Artois and is being auctioned off to raise funds for Water.org - you have until 3 pm EST on March 11th to place your bid! Get more information at Charity Buzz.

Since the first three gowns were worn by entertainment and fashion correspondents, I'm going to continue with the television host theme. Guiliana Rancic, co-host of E!'s red carpet coverage wore a simple white crepe Georges Chakra gown embellished with floral embroidery at the waist. Simple can be so elegant.

The back of the dress is a lovely surprise...

Guiliana's pre-show  look was also stunning - she really knocked it out of the park at this year's Academy Awards. There's just something so luxurious about the folds of fabric in this dress designed by Azzi & Osta. And that colour!!

Kelly Ripa is one of my favourite tv personalities (who recently received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame). Kelly wore this little number designed by Dennis Basso while conducting interviews backstage (if you missed it, you can watch the LIVE "After Oscars" show here). With her petite frame, Kelly is one of the few women who can successfully wear a spaghetti strap style like this.

Here is another dress that I didn't see until the day after the Academy Awards. It's Amy Poehler in a stunning Andrew Gn creation; an embroidered kimono style dress. This look is definitely a "love it" or a "hate it". Obviously I'm in the love it camp, but I can understand if you're on the other side of the fence here. (Come to think of it, this would be gorgeous as wallpaper...)

Cate Blanchett, who often rules the red carpet, did so again wearing this stunning Armani dress embellished with crystals and feathers. Cate could teach a master class in what to wear on the Academy Awards red carpet!! Let's not overlook the fact that it fits to perfection. I love this colour too...

Let's see...who's next? Probably Naomi Watts, she really knows what works for her lithe frame. This sapphire blue and purple Giorgio Armani Prive gown truly shines on the red carpet. Stunning!!

This was another one of my favourites, Margot Robbie in a "leather applique cross front drape fitted dress" created by Tom Ford. If you can't wear gold on the Oscars red carpet, where can you wear it? I think she looks great!!

I've covered my favourites, but of course there were many beautiful gowns on this year's Academy Awards red carpet. Here's a look at the others who cracked my top 20:

Chalize Theron in a Dior gown Harry Winston jewels

  Emily Blunt in a crystal embellished Prada gown & Niwaka jewels

Jennifer Garner in an Atelier Versace gown & Neil Lane jewels

 Priyanka Chopra in a Zuhair Murad gown & Lorraine Schwartz jewels

Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein Collection & Chopard jewels


Julianne Moore in Chanel Couture & Chopard jewels

Reese Witherspoon in Oscar de le Renta & Tiffany jewels

Sophia Vergara in a Marchesa gown & Lorraine Schwartz jewels

Honourable mention goes to a few ladies who didn't knock it out of the park on the awards red carpet but then recovered at the Vanity Fair after party...

Alicia Vikander wore Louis Vuitton to both the awards ceremony and the Vanity Fair Oscar party. I would have liked the yellow dress so much more if it weren't for the balloon hem...so close. She recovered nicely by wearing a long sleeved black dress to the after party.


Lady Gaga's white pantsuit red carpet look had so much potential, but it fell short right around her chest where the fit seemed wrong. I much preferred the halter style white pantsuit that she wore to the Vanity Fair awards party. Both ensembles were designed by Gaga's friend Brandon Maxwell.


I love this portrait of Gaga taken by Mark Seliger. See his entire series of Academy Awards portraits on the Vanity Fair website: Mark Seliger's 2016 Oscar Party Portrait Studio.