June 08, 2014:

The Secret is Out!!!

Sorry for the radio silence. I had to act entirely like nothing was afoot so that I could pull off a big surprise. On Thursday, Luke and I took off in the VERY wee hours of the morning to the airport. The goal was to land in Edmonton and surprise my best friend who had a BIG birthday that she was dreading. I barely told anyone we were planning for this for fear of it getting out or someone saying something to me on the fly on Social Media. We landed just after 9am and her husband had come up with a fake story as to why he had to leave the house earlier than the norm. He scooped us up and brought us back to their house. G was still getting ready for work and was asked to come downstairs - to get her present and VOILA we popped out from behind the door. Much like me, it takes a lot to shock/surprise and silence Gina and I. Mission accomplished!!!

It snowed when we got there - did I mention that? Oy Vey.

Anyway, a great long weekend was had by all!!!!

A very busy week lies ahead. Meetings upon meetings and lots of creative.  Bring it on.

We got a YES on drapery, wallcolour & ceiling wallpaper for the #Nobscot #Nursery!!! Now if only we could keep the baby in there a little longer....

Texture & Pattern. Our new website is almost done.

Quartz. Walnut. Brass. #ChezGina

Yes. We do modern kitchens.

The Heron Chair.

Wait til you see the mirror we are putting over this bench we had made for Gina from Wesley Hall.

My best creation yet.

In case you were wondering where Luke gets his curly hair from.

June 03, 2014:

The Design Process - Including Speed Bumps!

A lot of people are terrified at the thought of working with a designer. Their fears are often rooted in the unknown both when it comes to process and price. I actually think the former is more often the bigger of the two fears. Even the most veteran designers often have a hard time articulating their own process - residential designers that is, unless they are the types who have a particular uniform they put on and paint each project with. Clients are fickle. More often than not, a designer has to tailor their process to suit the client's needs especially early on in a designer's career. I often refer to this period as "Designer Chasing the Money" which more often than not, means chasing one's tail. We are always refining our process so it isn't set in stone but we definitely DO have a process and a few "you can take this to the bank" isms....


You can't have all three. If you want something Good and Fast it will cost you. If you want something Good and Cheap it will take a long time (and if you are using a designer to try and source it - let's be real, it will end up costing you just as much if not more so you might as well stick with the Good and the Fast and cry once so you can enjoy). If you want something Fast and Cheap, it's not gonna be good. It will be crap.

We are currently working on an outdoor patio space for our #Nobscot project. The client wants it Fast for sure and she would prefer it to be cheap (she has a family discount with a certain supplier). I should say I don't mean cheap as in cheap and tawdry just she doesn't want to invest in say Janus et Cie at this time. The problem with the company that she gets a discount from is that they are just enough shy of not being perfect to make saying yes to them hard. We are looking at one of our suppliers for the furniture as well which will be significantly more than the family discount will allow for but we'll get the fabrics and the finishes we want.

For years I have been guilty of falling in love with price and ignoring my own Process. After purchasing a certain YSL bag last year though, I decided enough was enough and that I needed to break my own cycle of cheapskatedness. I still find myself enamoured with choices that are more fiscally minded but I try to shelve them aside and ask myself the following questions:

Do I love the item on it's own without looking at the price tag?

Is this something I will tire of after only a few years (or less in some cases)?

How easy is this to change out if I get bored of it?

If I settle, how fast will I hate what I've settled for?

In the middle of writing this, I got called out to look at a back up fabric option for a chair we are putting in one of our client's kid's rooms. I then was asked to look for an alternative fabric for a different project and low and behold I found a fabric that I had forgotten about. Something that is the missing link to my back den. This excites me. I also know that it's not a huge expense but it makes a huge statement. It's from my friends at Thibaut. My process always includes room to change a decision because these happy little accidents or finds can really take a project from good to spectacular.

Now back to the cost thing. What does it cost to work with a designer on your project. Well if you are a budget kind of person, set aside 20% of your overall budget for design fees. That's my ballpark throw a dart at it number. For projects under $100,000 this tends to hold true. I've looked back over the years at previous projects and the fees we billed out for them, using just our hourly fee. No flat rates, no % rates just our hourly rates. 20% is the magic number. There are only so many hours in a day, days in a week and this is just ends up being what it is. Now people with a smaller budget say of between $30,000-$50,000 may balk at the idea of paying 20% of design fees instead of on product but here's what you get for that investment.

1.) A Big Picture Plan that you will be HELD To. No deviating and getting caught up in the frenzy of paying for something you love the price of vs love the look of and then working around a $500 decorating mistake.

2.) You will save time and stress. When we know that we have a limited budget to work with, we already know which vendors to work with and where we can save and were we should splurge.

3.) It's not about discounts - it's about making the right purchases and doing so within budget. This means you have to hand over the decision making more so than you would if you had more money to spend. You DO have less options. This isn'ta bad thing it's often easier than when you have a bigger budget. Limited choices means building a foundation that you can add to. Rome wasn't built in a day.

4.) That's right. Trying to get it all done for one lump sum in a specific time frame is NEVER a good way to create a home. Walk into a beautiful home and you get the sense that it evolved over time and is a reflection of the people who live there. It's not a race. Houses are created with a race mentality. Taking a short cut is never a good investment. It can sometimes backfire and cost you more time and money in the long run. Even our biggest projects are phased which leads to...

5.) When you make the decision to work with a designer you are not just investing in their creative genius, but you are investing in an ongoing relationship with someone who's vested interest is YOU. As a designer we are tasked with understanding HOW you LIVE and all of the wonderful foibles that make you YOU. This is how we customize any design, no matter the size to you. It's why no two projects look the same.

Each designer creates his or her own way to make all of this happen. The more experienced designers do so - usually with an effortless and seamless finesse that you may not even realize is underway. I try to communicate this process to our clients with our initial proposal and a document that details how we work. Some get overwhelmed by this but it's really a litmus test to see who is best suited to work with us and within our process.  We can't change this process to suit individuals but we do nuance certain aspects of it to respond the specific needs of each client.  Good communication is essential to any project and having a point person on each side of the equation is likewise important.

So it's a lot more than just fluffing pretty pillows and creating vignettes isn't it?

Now the usual caveat - we are an international design firm and we are happy to travel to you or have you come to us or both. Do you have an exciting small project that you need some guidance on or are you about to embark on a bigger project that you need expertise and that certain je ne sais quoi to bring it all together? We are interested and happy to take a look at whatever you are considering to make your house more like the home you deserve and aspire to have so be in touch! (I will add what I usually say which is "We Don't Bite... Okay We Nibble but just a bit...")

June 03, 2014:

Mercury Goes Retrograde

in Four Days.

Can I get an Ugghh? Come on, dig a little deeper and give me a full on UGGGGHHHH. Email is getting returned at a glacial pace. There is a general sense of chaos permeating the air. I'm quasi sick. Scratchy cough riddled throat and general malaise but I'm still rather functional. Reason and common sense seem to be suspended in some sort of Twilight Zone. A trade appointment has just shown up without being added into my calendar and schedule... 

I find just before it hits - that's how we affectionately refer to it... like some sort of Bomb about to go off - that I am irritable. Like MAJAH. Easily annoyed for no apparent reason. I'm trying to mental yoga though for this one and not get sucked in. FORTUNATELY I have some exciting excitement to keep me going. I should warn you now - I am sitting on a seriously OMG secret that I am not yet at liberty to share but it will counteract any sort of Mercury Bad Juju which is of course amazeballs. 

Yesterday I felt like I'd run an actual marathon but accomplished a lot of little things that needed doing.

Oh jeez I just remember I need to make a call.

See. Crazytown.

Here are some pretty pictures to stare at.


We have banged out a dining room and a Master Bedroom for our #AlexandraBlvd clients. Here's one swing at a concept.

Thank you to Traditional Home for choosing Sashay as one of their favourite design blogs and linking to us. It's truly great company to keep and I am very proud of this nod from you.. oh and do I ever have a project for you... SQUEEEEEEEEE #ModernTradisWhereitsAt

These floors at #MadisonAve are EVERYTHING.

This kitchen ain't too damn hard on the eyes either.

Need to save $$ but don't want to skimp on style. 4x4 white ceramic tiles offset brick pattern and black grout is the answer. We opted for Chrome fixtures in this bathroom which is in the basement but used the same upstairs on the 3rd floor in Brass. I like the brass MUCH better.

DXV Fitzgerald. You had me at hello.

Another fave way to save money. Penny tile in contrasting stripes. BOOM.

June 02, 2014:

Halfway Thru 2014

I can't believe it's June. Maybe it's because the winter lasted so bloody long this year and we didn't really have much in the way of a spring. I was making plans with family and friends on when to get together and well pretty much July is the only thing open and even then that is reduced as we're going up north the end of July for 10 days.

We had our first Summer BBQ shin dig this weekend. The weather was truly glorious and our guest list rather inspired. I love it when you figure out the perfect combo of people and the entire affair feels effortless. Good friends, ridiculously fabulous food by Asa (and the best gluten free chocolate cupcakes a la Jessica) and great wine and conversation.

Our backyard is finally evolving into the right combo for me. My friend Alison who is also a designer and I have been talking about our own visions of our aesthetic when it comes to design. I think that as a designer you have this ongoing struggle between a look you would love to rock as your aesthetic and what your client wants. I aspire to own a home done entirely in whites despite my love of colour and pattern. I see so many pictures of spaces that I would kill to have as my own that are entirely impractical for my lifestyle but still I covet. And then, as I said to her in an email after the party, I see something that makes me fall in love with a particular hue, pattern and I want that.

So being almost happy with how my garden is shaping up is a big step for me. I mean I would love for it to be entirely levelled and black slate floors put down with a water feature and a fire pit of some sort but until that happens I'm happy to chill out here and entertain...


Last fall I picked up this Dash and Albert Outdoor rug that was on sale. I had intended on using it in Luke's room but it didn't work out and so I kept it for the back patio.

As you can see it's a fun addition to the seating area.

Our new den is the room that is right off of the backyard. This is the sofa fabric so I love how the outdoor living space scheme ties into the den's. 

Before I entertain I like to prime myself...

Asa's Hummus and Baba Ganoosh was spectacular as was his pulled pork, brisket and I'm not sure what else there was because once I had his tomato salad I was totally oblivious to the meat.

This basil was so fresh I literally went bananas for it.

May 29, 2014:

GAH Deadlines, Meetings, Meetings about Meetings Oh My!

Blog Schmog.

Crazy week. I mean I'm literally having to schedule phone calls with Air Traffic Control precision. And here I thought May was going to go out like a Lamb. I mix metaphors so I'm not sure I am even close on that one but I'm tired - bone tired so please forgive. Or just laugh. Laugh at me. Go ahead.

We had a great second presentation at the house of our #SawMill Clients. We are really pleased with the yesses we've gotten and the direction we are heading in. It feels right. Design is often done via intuition. I'm happy and feeling confident about where we are heading. Can't wait to share. Our #AlexandraBlvd project is going to be a stunner - so freaking excited.

I had the pleasure of attending the Women of Influence series put on by #TheArtof or it is the other way around. See above. 'Nuff Said. Amazing Speakers - Erica Ariel Fox, Katty Kay and MARTHA no last name needed.... moderated and hosted by Wendy Mesley were really fabulous. There were other great speakers including an exec panel but my girl crush is Katty Kay from BBC America. She spoke about the Confidence Gap in women. Her book, The Confidence Code is all ready for a read. She's also drop dead gorgeous.

Martha - ruled. Wendy asked her at one point if she ever had a point in her career where she lacked confidence. Her response simple: NO. I love her. I'm not a DIY person but her anecdotes and philosophy about hiring people you like to have around and want to travel and spend time with is very much the same as mine. I love her unapologetic honesty. Hmm I see a lot of similarities between her and a certain redhead in this regard... She also said that her best work has yet to happen.... She was very real and surprisingly funny.