31 August 2011

hometown style influences

It's always interesting to see homes and interiors around the world that are influenced by the geography and history of the area. Even within North America there are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in home and decorating styles according to the city or region. Everyone, of course, has their own favourite style - modern, traditional, rustic, retro, etc. - but within those styles it's nice to try to give a nod to the town in which you live.

My hometown at the moment is Calgary, Alberta, Canada, one of the most energetic and fastest-growing cities in North America.

Calgary is situated in the heart of the western prairies at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and it is also now one of the biggest oil and gas centers in the world. The history of ranchers, farmers and cowboys mixed with the new world of energy entrepreneurs makes for a really exciting and interesting city.

calgary design

I love the fast-paced downtown with its trendy urban restaurants and shops, but also enjoy the relaxed weekend vibe, when everyone day-trips to hike or ski in the mountains or explore the wide-open spaces that surround the city on all sides. Despite its exponential growth over the last couple of decades, Calgary retains a warm, small-town feel that pays homage to its wild west roots.

western design

Home and building design in Calgary reflects all of its history, old and new. There are modern skyscrapers with minimalist urban condos, as well as very large ranch-style homes set on acreages that overlook the fields and mountains. And there are also cozy ski lodges and homes in the mountains that reflect the beauty that sits at their doorsteps.

Calgarians lead a  "work hard, play hard" kind of lifestyle, and most homes in this area reflect that. Modern conveniences and simple, clean-lined styles are the norm, but always with a reflection of nature that adds a comfortable and welcoming vibe.

Wooden elements, including floors, exposed beams, doors and walls are a common design element.

Open-plan living is popular, reflecting the wide-open spaces of the prairies.

High ceilings and lots of windows let in natural light and views of the mountains.

Don't you love Calgary now? If you ever visit, give me a shout!

I hope you will also jump over to Centsational Girl, where you will find a bunch of other hometown stories like mine.

29 August 2011

real life colour inspiration: delecious market goodies

Hope you all had a great weekend full of end-of-summer colour! I took some shots of some delicious goodies at the local farmers market, and here are the colour palettes they inspired. May the summer extend well into September...

25 August 2011

the slow home movement

What is slow home design? Basically, it is the principle of slowing down to design homes and spaces that are sustainable, practical and functional.

The slow home movement is a response to the poor design practices that pervade the mass housing industry. Slow Home Studio, founded by principals John Brown and Matthew North in Calgary, Alberta, strives for a more “considered, calm and intuitive” approach to residential design. 

The concept is to use well-considered design principles to create smaller homes that will be both environmentally sustainable and literally so, in the sense of being built to endure.  The practice also includes remodels of existing, appropriately sized older homes that need updating.

Brown says in an interview with The Chicago Tribune  that a slow home is:
"reasonably sized and carefully designed to support its occupants. It might have an entry where family members can easily take off their boots, stash their keys and store their backpacks, for example. It might have a living space that encourages people to talk or read, not just watch television or surf the Internet. It's energy efficient, filled with natural light and designed for easy flow among rooms and access to the outside."
North, in an interview with The Calgary Herald says:
"I think the boom of the big-house era is coming to an end. So those houses will be less desirable and valuable as time goes on," North says . . . Expect a shift to smaller, more energy-efficient homes, North says, and a move away from homes on the fringes of cities. A decade ago, a 5,000-sq.-ft. home sounded like a dream to some. These days, that much square footage "sounds like a noose around your neck. There's uncertainty about the energy cost to heat your house."
Slow Home Studio offers "12 Steps to a Slow Home.",  very interesting how-to to get started on your own home.  And they offer weekend in-studio courses on slow home design, which I am excited to be participating in this Fall.

I'm a big fan of the slow home movement, especially since my focus is on redesign instead of consuming new.  What do you think of slow home design? What is your take on the concept and how do you incorporate it into your home?

24 August 2011

i'm obsessed with...retro mod style

Is anyone else get hooked on the miniseries "The Kennedys"? I loved seeing the mid-century modern furniture and decor styles (not to mention Jackie's fab dresses). Lately I've been more and more drawn to retro styles from the 50's and 60's. The clean, simple and flowing lines are attractive, and the pops of colour create irresistible interest.

I must say, however, that I like mixing this style with a 21st century approach, meaning I don't want my home to feel like I am actually living with Don Draper. Wait a minute....

A few key elements go a long way. Pick one or two and don't over-do it. Here's what to look for:

1. A great vintage furniture piece: fibreglass, plastic or plywood and also chrome 

2. Bold colour: turquoise, avocado, mustard yellow, navy, orange and brown.
3. Big patterns: wallpapers or fabric covered chairs and sofas with bold, graphic patterns.

4. Accessories: quirky and odd-shaped decorations plus utilitarian items like radios or salt and pepper shakers in great mod colours.


23 August 2011

5 essentials in designer kitchens

Well-designed kitchens make a home, so you really need to consider the essential details when planning. Well-designed and organized kitchens also make for sustainable design, as they will last for generations and outlast years of trends. 

Take a look at these fantastic kitchens in the homes of top designers and notice the similarities:

1. Good lighting.  This includes both natural light through ample windows plus task lighting. There is a focus on ample stylish pendants over islands, tables and work areas. Lighting needs to be super-functional in kitchens, but can also be the place to make a style statement.

2. Lots of prep space. Again, function is key here, but counters are another place that can make or break a kitchen. Countertops are such a great way to make an impact. See my previous post on choosing stylish eco-friendly countertops.

3. Taking advantage of vertical space.  In addition to extra storage, cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling are more visually appealing and give a custom look. Or forgo upper cabinets for open shelving that also takes advantage of the full height of your walls.

4. In-kitchen eating areas. Whether at islands or tables, well-designed kitchens have comfortable spots for the family and guests to mingle with the cook and do everything from have a glass of wine to finish homework. Check out my previous post on eat-in kitchens.

 5. Personality. Whether through collectibles, colour, interesting lighting or unique and unexpected accessories, designers know how to inject personality and character into rooms, even kitchens.

So do you have these elements in your own kitchen?
(All photos courtesty of House Beautiful, where you can see even more designer kitchens).

21 August 2011

weekend finds

You may know by now that I love painted furniture. I think that old, discarded pieces from the past that are stuck in basements or dark corners of a room (or given to a thrift store) are so much fresher when painted. Why buy a new dresser or table or chair when great ones already exist?

So I was thrilled to come across a terrific design shop in Calgary this weekend that not only features furniture and art by local and international artists, but also believes in refinishing old pieces of furniture. DaDe Art & Design Lab has these great pieces that have a modern feel due to the high gloss finish and the hardware painted out the same colour. Love them!

So are you a fan of painting old pieces of furniture?

19 August 2011

home of the week: Spanish farmhouse

I just love the rustic modern style and I'm so glad that it is making a big splashy return all over the world of design. Just look at this fantastic renovated Spanish farmhouse, posted by The Style Files. I am in love and booking my ticket to Spain...

18 August 2011

bathroom refresh

Hi all. I wanted to show you another of my refresh projects while visiting my family and friends in East Coast Canada. This bathroom is in a '60's bungalow with the original hand-made cabinets (painted many times over) and built-in shelving unit.  This had to be a low-cost makeover, so no new cabinetry or countertop. But some paint and a few key additions like wainscotting made a big difference.

Here's what we did:
-new tile floor
-added wainscotting (beadboard) panels and painted above
-painted the cabinetry and shelving white
-painted existing light fixture and towel hooks brown
-added a bamboo roman shade
-hung a new white waffle weave shower curtain

Keeping things white with natural accents really ups the wow factor. Low cost and high impact, don't you think?

Got any good tips for a budget friendly bathroom makeover? 

16 August 2011

the importance of a concept

Designing and decorating a room requires creativity and vision, and this can sometimes be even tougher when redecorating. It is easy to hit an inspiration roadblock when looking at an existing room with existing furniture, and getting off track in the middle of the project can often happen. That's why it is so important to map out a concept for the room from the beginning. Creating a mood board with the colours and furniture you will use allows you to constantly go back and be reminded of the look and feel you are trying to achieve. I always start with something that the homeowner loves, and use that as a jumping off point. It might be fabric in a favourite colour, a piece of art, or a decorative accessory.

Here is an example of a recent project I did, which I posted about this week. This was a master bedroom refresh, using much of the existing furniture. The mood board shows the colours and feel we were going for, and although some things were tweaked, it kept us on track and the outcome was what we wanted.

If you would like to have a mood board created for a room you would like to refresh give me a shout

15 August 2011

master bedroom refresh

Well I"m back in Calgary after two fantastic weeks on the East Coast at "home" visiting family and friends. I was busy while there, and one of the projects was refreshing my mom and dad's bedroom. The budget was slim to nil on this one, so I had to get the creative juices flowing. I started with wallpapered walls and a lovely wood floor, a bed with black iron-look head and foot board, and two tired old dressers. And it was quite dark, with only one window facing east.

I was very excited to see what was possible by using the sustainable design concept of reusing and re-purposing. Here is the before picture...

And after...

I wanted to create a brighter, lighter feeling country bedroom. The dresser below was painted a dark sage green (see my previous post on painting the dressers in this room). The curtains were an old shower curtain cut in two to make panels.

Everything on the walls and shelves was either something already in the house or from the yard outside. Birch branches are leaned against the wall as a point of interest and to cover up a bad crack in the wall underneath the wallpaper.

This is the second painted dresser with matching grey-green paint on the back of the existing shelves.

Jewellery is displayed on an old picture frame with a ribbon tied across the back.

The head and foot boards were painted with white semi-gloss trim paint and then distressed with sandpaper.

This bench was an old deacon's bench. We sawed off the back spindles and side arms, painted it out white, and made a foam cushion for the top.

The side table is a block of firewood sawed and sanded with a Varathane finish. 

Snowshoes complete the country feel and were found in the basement, so again, no extra cost for decoration.

This project cost only $100 dollars - for paint and fabric for the cushions. The rest was all re-purposed and reused.  I'm pleased with it, and so are my parents. What do you think?