May 05, 2014:

Patios & Courtyards - City Gardening

I love living in the city. I'm allergic to grass - legit. Not even joking there. If it touches my skin, I am a very unhappy camper so city gardening totally suits me. What I find absolutely ironic is that I am completely drawn to modern landscapes when it comes to design. I cringe mostly when I see it in interiors. I find it so dull and void of character and personality but in a garden I'm a big ol' HELL YA! I don't know why that is. Don't get me wrong, I still love traditional and formal gardens but give me slate pavers and sculptural shrubbery any day.

We have been needing a retaining wall put in in our front yard for um... forever. There are issues with our neighbours being on board as both yards have to be done together. I'm not taking no for an answer this is the year. I'm making it happen. Once this is in, we will be able to level the dirt pile that is our front yard. Then we want to make it into a french inspired courtyard. Torn between pouring pea gravel on it all (this SEEMS like the easier of routes but I am pretty certain I'm over-simplyfing in a fit of wishful thinking on this one) or doing a mix and match with pavers and gravel. I even have fantasies about lining the spaces between the pavers with fake grass.

I'd like to put Topiaries in pots and then intersperse them with boxwood that has been potted though again, I have a fantasy about creating a border around 3 sides of the yard in boxwood. The biggest issue with planting in the ground is the gigantic maple tree in our neighbour's front yard that is precariously close to ours when you look at the overhang. We often have to call the city to come and trim it back as it interferes with hydro lines. That is the one good thing about having lines strewn from the street to the back of your house - free pruning service!!  Especially when your neighbours do zilcho to maintain their yards front and back. Le Sigh. It's not an uncommon happening to find me hopping their fence in the back yard to CUT DOWN A NEW TREE that has decided to grow between our two houses. I can't lie down between the two houses we are that close so you can imagine the idea of trees growing between them terrifies me.

I am not a gardener but I am very good at telling you what I like. Sadly what I tend to love doesn't always thrive in the conditions that our location suits. Love huge grasses which I think are great in the sun? I also love hyrdrangea. The big tree really doesn't allow for anything to grow in our yard thanks to the zillions of roots that are in our yard. SO frustrating. 

I always get the bug to transform our exterior this time of year. I'm HOPING that this is the year that I do it. I am about to order shutters for our exterior, our front porch needs painting and I need to install a Dash and Albert runner out there for the summer. I need to paint my urns black this year. They were cream, now they are rusted (cast iron) but I've decide they will be black this year. I usually put Boston ferns in them. When the retaining wall goes in, I'd like to add a wrought iron fence - I also need to add cresting to the roof of our bay window. Then I will have honoured the Victorian period properly with our house. We've got a new front door going in hopefully soon that is being made by a dear friend and talented craftsman.

It's probably asking too much to rip up the front walk which is also pavers and have it replaced by reclaimed brick laid in a herringbone pattern too right? Oh and I lovely wooden arch at the entrance? Crazy talk right???

If you want to follow along as I am inspired to make this happen - check this out HERE.

This house is very similar to mine except that my living room bay is out further and I have a deeper more covered porch. My yard is slightly longer too but about the same width. This street is actually about a block away from my office in Yorkville. The photo is from a previous listing.

I WANT THIS ENTRANCE TO MY FRONT YARD!!!!! I just have to figure out how to get it.

I have the urn on the pedestal in my yard already. I thought this was a rather nice idea but it is a touch on the zzz side. Still how to get all of those boxwoods to LIVE!!!

I love this yard by Edmund Hollander Landscape Architect. I can see why it won an award. It's very lush but super practical. Maybe it should be more of my backyard inspiration though..?

Nicky Haslam designed this bad boy. I really kind of love the idea of having some wrought iron chairs out in the front yard. I know that Luke loves to play out there but I am not keen as A) the sidewalk itself is too close to the road and people drive down our street like it's a Paul Walker movie B) There are a strange assortment of people who walk by our house - I'm not letting him out there to play until he can beat them up if they look at him funny. Love the hydrangeas. Would love some grasses even in large pots. HELP!!!!!!!

May 01, 2014:

Late Night Vents

The business of design is not a 9-5 job despite your best efforts. You are often emailing in the evening or after hours because you have to coordinate schedules and confirm details and prep for the day ahead in some cases.

Sometimes it's to vent with your client about the frustration woes that come with every design project. Poor communication will always make a project that much harder. Contractors that have poor management skills will cause you to go grey prematurely. Trades who don't email you back - will make you stabby. Others who drop the ball and screw up your order and then quibble over the costs to remedy it - make me full on homicidal.

This is why so many designers drink.

A LOT.

It usually resolves itself with a glorious finished project but sometimes the labour birthing it is very painful.  VERY.

Then there are the projects that are effortless - these are rare birds and should be savoured. Our #Madison project is one of these. Savouring.

GLORIOUS.

May 01, 2014:

#HomeSenseStockyards… A Preview & A Give Away!!!

HOLA MY PEEPLES.

Does the way I misspelled People bother you? I'm laughing rather maniacally about that. It's so UN-VIRGO of me to not care about that sort of deliberate misspelling and I take great delight in knowing that it will annoy some. It's payback for people who can live with crooked pictures.

So I was MIA yesterday on zee ol' blog because well I was feeling rather poorly and couldn't summon the energy to be zippy and such and then Weds am when I would often pen the day's blog if I couldn't the night before I was invited to preview the newest of HomeSense stores at their Stockyard location. It became quite the adventure which I'm delighting in sharing with you now.

So my friend and Momma to N who looks like he could be Luke's cousin and head of PR for HomeSense/Winners - Tamara Robbins invited me to preview the new store before it opened and to partake in a little bit of shopping. But before I get to that I have to tell you about my adventure GETTING there. The Stockyards area has been transitioning from Industrial to Light Industrial to Residential for about the last ten years. There was a time that driving in that part of town guaranteed that you locked your doors and slowed down at redlights at certain times of the day.... if you know what I mean. It's the land of  Tow Truck lots - think some of the shadier parts of Sons of Anarchy sets. You with me? Flashforward to today and my car wasn't at all out of place and the Stockyards shopping  area as it is, BOOMING. Five Guys going in on the corner tells me it's my kind of place. (I love love love their burgers way better than In N Out in LA). Fortunately I'd punched 75 Gunns Rd into my GPS because I don't know if I would have found it otherwise. I call my GPS Maggie - Mags for short and she was definitely getting her feathers ruffled as I drove around within the shopping plaza - it's so new that the way finding signs are non-existent. Either that or like the evil lighting company that shall not be named - the signs are perptually on backorder. There are construction crews and vehicles everywhere - something out of a Mad Max movie and half the roads around the plaza are closed off or blocked. However, the site seems to have the world's friendliest construction crews. So so so very helpful I spoke to at least 4 different people who were all the nicest ambassadors ever a pleasure.

So if you want to head out to the Grand Opening which is tomorrow morning at 8am here's what you do once you get on to Gunns Road inside the plaza itself. At the Roundabout you will see the Home Sense sign up on the West side - I say up because it's actually on the 2nd floor of a building or heck maybe even the third floor - it is NOT at street level per se. You have to get into the parking enclosure and find the ramp and take it all the way to the top. Both the Home Sense and the Winners are up at that level and you can park your car, walk across the pedestrian bridges and into the buildings. I have to tell you that this is seriously SMART building which you know I don't often say about developers in Toronto. I am oh so impressed by this planning - even if it was a bit tricky to find. Getting out wasn't much easier to be honest - if you see the orange pylons you kinda have to ignore them and drive through them.. just sayin....

Okay so I arrive and I was the first. In fact, I pretty much had the store to myself with Tamara for about 45mins. I KNOW right???!!!!! We had a fabulous chat about their business model and how Home Sense (Home Goods is the US counterpart if you are wondering) fits in to designers' like myself big picture. Designers always shop at the Home Senses of the world. There are all sorts of fabulous finds to be discovered there. We just don't start our projects off there. To me, when we are about to install a project, we do a run to see what finds are to be had to finish off a bookshelf, add that je ne sais quoi not to matchy matchy piece. Sometimes we are on a budget and have bathrooms to stock with extra towels, garbage cans and the like so this is where we go. I hoard lamps - because I know what they cost and I know the brands that they have on sale there at times so I nab them when I can. I buy as many convex mirrors as I can get my hands on because I always need them. I can't remember the last time I bought a coffee table book at full price - always at Home Sense. Don't ask me about when I actually read the darn books... ::hangs head in shame::

So I have a plan whenever I go and a method to my madness in terms of how I shop there. I look at the Big Ticket - Take up a lot of space in your cart items first. Once I've circled the store for these I hit the lamps, mirrors and then the objets. I usually end with the linens and toiletries at the very end winding my way through the cooking section last. Ha - you know me I don't cook but I love pretty jars of things to display!!!

Now before I share with you some of my finds and purcahses - I have a give away for a $100 Gift Card to Home Sense. Sorry this is only for Canadian residents!! 

To Enter: You must be of legal voting age... because that means you are an adult! You need to do THREE things: 1) Like my Facebook Page HERE; 2) Leave me a comment on this thread telling me what you would buy with your GC please hashtag it #HomeSenseStockyards and  3) Follow me on Instagram HERE and find one of the pictures below in my feed and comment on it with the hashtag #HomeSenseStockyards in your comment.

Contest Closes May 6th at Midnight and the draw will be held May 7th and announced on Instagram so you better be following me - no follow unfollow!!!! I post a lot of design porn and food porn for that matter. Okay now on to the pretty stuff.

These are the perfect shade of Kelly Green. I want to do my mouldings in my den in this exact shade.

GAH I would totally put this in our nursery at our #Nobscot project. It's the perfect shade of blushy coral. It was rather comfy too. I mean it isn't my Wesley Hall tuxedo sofa by any stretch of the means but if you were starting out - this would have oodles of style and be a good ROI. The pillows they styled on it were perfection. T and I spent a lot of time lingering here.

This barcart is the shizznat isn't it? The snakeskin chest behind it was so fabulous - very chic.

I texted our #Lakefield clients this picture and said you have minutes to decide. I then stole a tape measure (I left mine in the car) and via threeway text sent the dimensions to the wife who texted them to the husband who just so happened to be home and then I shared the price and we got a SOLD. So I bought the pair for them. DYING.

My lamp obsession really is out of control. No client for these so I left them for you.

These were too small for the project I was needing them for.... so I left them for you.

It TOTALLY PAINED me to leave these behind. Again, not working with this colour combo and the shades were a touch too beigey for me but Sweet Mother of God I love them.

I bought these for me. I saw them and just couldn't pass them up. They remind me of Murano lamps which I can't justify putting in my den with a 4yr old who is SO good with things but is a bit of a klutz at times. I decided that mismatching the colours in the room would give them a more authentic feel. 

So I get super duper cheap when it comes to coffee table books. I hate paying more than $30 for a gorgeous book even though I so know they are worth it. I left the $80 Dior Book even though I really want it. I just couldn't. The Valentino one more than makes up for it though - it's a damn fine cover. 

This was a fun set! Great for an all white kitchen to really snazz it up.

The set is too much for me as a set but the tea cups or the tea pot would be fabulous especially if you are drawn to the ultra feminine, Domino-esque chic. Would be perfect with the tufted sofa in a studio apartment.

April 29, 2014:

Rainy Days

I am taking at least the morning off to stay in my pjs and work from the sofa at home. I haven't been feeling so hot the last few days. I love a rainy day I have realized. It enables you to lounge guilt free!

I have a cup of tea being brewed and I am yet again on the quest for the perfect coffee/cocktail table for a client. My initial specification they now love but the size is not ideal for them.  I find that a lot with design - "We love it, but can you change this, this and this?" I am guilty of this all the time too. It's PERFECT now change it.

I'm also working on the design concepts for a new project. It's quite grand and a bit of a departure for me in terms of my usual style preferences. Think Grisaille meets British Colonial meets Roman Empire touring the Nile. You are probably entirely confused or are busy googling what on earth I could be talking about? I don't blame you. It's a bit of a headscratcher to try and articulate but when you see the inspiration and the pieces I am working with  it makes total beautiful sense. It's definitely a challenge though and well I love that.

I started my day off though with an interesting chat between designer friends of mine about the business of design. If you are not a designer, please do not lose sight of the fact that we are all doing this not as a charity but to make money. YES! It's not a dirty secret that should be swept under the rug!!! How we do it varies from designer to designer but our fees are worth it. The true secret is that if you pay a creative person what they are worth and what it costs to actually do business - cross town deliveries, freight, brokerage are all necessary evils - you will get a better product. GUARANTEED. Of course, there will always be exceptions and the odd crazy story (I've heard my fair share) but dollars to donuts - the clients who are happy to pay for services get the best service. I have many that I'd just like to clone or have them purchase many many properties so that I can just continue working with them. THE BEST.

Needed to say that today. If you are a designer and you are feeling weighed down by the business of design - reach out, there is way more support out there than you may realize.

Now about that coffee table.....

Okay it's not a coffee table but I'm like that dog in UP - SQUIRREL when it comes to this mirror and that wallpaper. Follow along as I soak up inspiration for our #SawMIll project HERE.

April 28, 2014:

Creating the Plan

Had a really great chat on the weekend on instagram (Side Note: Is it me or are more conversations happening on instagram than on Twitter these days?) this weekend with some designers about what I will say with all the love in my heart - "Client Interference." What I mean by Client Interference is the way a client can derail the creative process or strip it all together when they show an inspiration picture they've found and want to copy it all and instruct designers to just "recreate this." 

Talk about a buzz kill of epic proportions for a designer.

There is a fairly regular misconception that a designer is more of an errand person who is charged with the task of doing someone else's bidding and includes being a mind reader and a magician - I want THIS but you have to do it for $. I once had someone from the Boston area call me to talk about designing their beach house and had a very definite inspiration picture in mind. I told her based on the picture she showed me, it would be about $75,000 to do the living and dining room before accessories. That was just the basic furniture. Her budget was $10K including my fee. My jaw did in fact, hit the desk. Delusional? Yup. Was I offended, no - disappointed but not offended though when I first began I would have been entirely frustrated by this and probably a bit offended. My skin has significantly thickened since then though.

The designer on instagram made a remark in her thread (in fact this is how I came to notice it), that she bets that Meredith Heron doesn't have clients saying this to her (whoooa I know I just went into third person about myself there ha ha ha). My immediate response was you'd be surprised but then I reflected on it a bit and it's kind of true - I don't have people saying this to me anymore for the most part which is kinda awesome. I have had stranger situations though, I've had clients bring me pictures of work that I have done and had published and want that as their room. Umm no. I've even had the buyers of a house that I designed hire us to decorate it after they purchased it. Very very surreal. In talking about this a bit more I think I was able to see pretty quickly that it really comes down to how you the designer set the ground rules for working with your clients and how you establish the nomenclature for each individual project. I once had a client tell me that she hated French Country but the women was entirely french in her aesthetic preferences. She had a very different idea about what French Country was compared to what I know it to be. That has to be established early on. If someone says I like "clean lines...." for example - I know that they've been watching too many bad design tv shows. Clean Lines is not a look. It's not a design period. It is lingo and is often used by pseudo design professionals - you know bookkeepers for someone who knows someone who worked in a paint store once upon a time or has handled a glue gun on occasion. 

The job of a designer is to push back - anyone who says to me "Clean Straight Lines" gets a whole lotta push back from me. What does that mean? Where did you hear that? Stop watching that garbage it is polluting your brain. Here go read THIS book or look at this website or magazine like it is the antedote to cure you.

But why do I now receive so much less of this - well I think that after two decades in the business, I have a process. I ask a lot of questions. My questions have more questions. I listen a lot - often to what is not being said and by who is doing the talking. My job is to do a lot of research on my subjects. I have to know them and anticipate their likes and dislikes before they become known. I have to know my clients better than they know themselves. This isn't about my design or my vision so much as it is an interpretation of theirs so I have to invest in them as much as they invest in me. Sometimes you aren't a good fit - that's okay.

I love directly clients to my Pinterest boards. They are pretty amazing in terms of the broadness of their scope. Something for everyone for sure and if the client has already reached out to come to you, it's fair to say that they are open to the idea of your taste and choices. I get them to pin from my boards because it makes it easier for them to handle vs trying to learn an entirely new set of parameters for this design process. I give them a pretty wide assignment as well. Find what you love even if you can't say why you love it at first. If you like the feeling of a space but not the pieces in it - pin that too. Mood is so important and if I can see a pattern in what you are pinning it will help me define your design parameters. That's all that clippings and pins do - help you the designer to see the patterns in what attracts or repels them. YES I tell my clients all the time to create a board of things they hate - often it is easier to figure out what they don't want than it is what they do want.

I have enough experience now to know that I prefer when a client hands over the reigns to me and lets me do my thang. Their projects ALWAYS work out the best. When left to my own devices with a healthy dose of informed opinion already ascertained from the client, brilliance will prevail. The clients who hand me over a picture and say "Give me this..." well that's really not my jam but I will happily challenge them on it. If they insist, I usually suggest that they call that designer and see if they have a room in a box to hand them because it's about as interesting as that. We recently passed on a project that could have been fabulous but the prospect thought that their furniture was fine. It wasn't.  I couldn't work with it and meet the mandate that they were assigning me - they wanted their home to feel more open and spacious and light and the dark olive microfibre and mustard yellow walls plus the suite of matching leather recliners well these were the heart of the problem but the prospects weren't ready to see that. So we passed. Not a good fit.

I say yes to projects that ignite my passion for the possibility of what can be. I want to challenge myself as much as I want to challenge our clients to reach for something truly special and dynamic. Set the bar higher than the comfort zone has always been my philosophy even when I was teaching. It gives you something to aspire to.

It's that and the red hair. People don't tend to mess with the redhead. wink

I like to sketch things out. I firmly believe that a sketch will sell a room faster than any computer mood board or CAD drawing. Feels more organic.

Curating a selection of fabrics with room for change/flexibility/flow enables clients to feel a part of the process but the space still remains filtered through the designer's aesthetic.

From bold idea to sketch to reality.

This is how it is done.