Sunday, October 14, 2012

How to create a lighting plan for your renovation or new home build

I was recently contacted by a sweet couple who are building a new home - I love a new build and so enjoy poring through fixtures and materials to help homeowners achieve their dream!

One major area that is important to put a lot of thought into in the earlier stage of your renovation or new home design is lighting – because once everything has been wired and the new/repaired drywall is in place, it’s an expensive proposition to make changes!

Some homeowners make the mistake of ‘leaving it up to the architect or builder’ they are working with.  I remember meeting a trade once in my own new build who asked me what I was doing there (at the placement consult with our contractor) ... he said that his process was to go through the house and place lighting where he would want it, as if it were his house.  I replied, “but it’s not your house!”

And of course, if you are renovating or building on a tight budget, it can be very tempting to let the builder / contractor implement very cost effective fixtures they can recommend.  But they often don’t give adequate illumination for the space and look dated as soon as they’re installed (ie. there are ‘builder grade’ flush-mounts that have been in stores now for over 20 yr’s!).

NOT adequate lighting

NOT adequate lighting

I can’t stress enough how important lighting is, not just to achieve adequate illumination and wonderfully help to pull the look and feel of your space together, but also for its future value – a well-lit home will sell faster than a poorly-lit one.

There are varying levels of lighting as well as a variety in lighting aesthetic in this gorgeously designed space by Frank Roop.

So – where and how to begin with the creation of your lighting plan for your renovation or new home?

I’m not going to get into the technical details of creating a drawing for your lighting plan – you can find videos on the net for that; I’m going to focus on the thought process you should go through before settling on the technical lighting plan you communicate to your builder/contractor.

Step 1:  Think about the placement of main furniture groupings / specific furniture

It may be reasonable to think that you don’t need to think about where you may want a floor lamp, for example, until well after move-in/ your reno is finished, but thinking about where and how you’re going to place furniture in your main living spaces will give you the best result with your lighting plan.

Peggy Dupuis

While it’s true that if you design in a hanging pendant over a small table in a conversation grouping of furniture* in your space that you may be restricted going forward if you’re a serial room-rearranger, but having an electrical outlet installed in the floor for a floor lamp you may wish to implement amongst furniture is smart – you would avoid unsightly wiring and it’s something that can be easily hidden if it’s not needed.

*A very well designed room does take those types of customizations into consideration – in fact, if you want to implement sconces above a dining sideboard, for example, you need to know the size and placement of the sideboard in the space, as well as any artwork or mirror you wish to have in between.

GRADE Architecture and Interior Design

It’s even helpful to think of where you may place task lighting or ambient lighting, such as a table lamp, as in some instances it can be overkill to have too many layers of lighting in one space (eg. sconces and a table lamp in the immediate area).

Step 2:  Think about placement of lights – for all ‘levels of lighting’

I will say it again – when it comes to your general lighting, don’t make the mistake of thinking that putting in some recessed lighting (ie. pot lights) and/or track lighting where you can ‘aim the light’ will be “enough”.  {This post does not address accent lighting - ie. uplighting, downlighting behind bulk-heads, accenting a piece of art, etc.}

As evidenced in the 2nd picture above, not having enough “layers of lighting” can leave a space with poor light levels (creating shadows and a drab feeling to the space), and also does not do anything to help you achieve the look and feel you’re after in your space.

Sarah Richardson

Especially in bathrooms where men need to not miss those stubbles when shaving and women need to get their eyeliner straight, the importance of adequate lighting cannot be overstated.

In the above (gorgeous) bathroom by Sarah Richardson, you can tell she’s implemented recessed lighting in the ceilings, and hung a pendant in front of the mirror in addition to wall sconces flanking the mirror.

So - stand in your spaces and think about how you will use them:  where will you sit, stand, cook, work, eat, read, watch TV, play games etc., and think about all the different levels of light that could be employed:  pendant lights, chandeliers, wall sconces, under and in-cabinet lighting.

Then make a list, room by room, indicating what type of lighting you want and where you want it placed.  Getting a technical plan in place for the electrician after that will be the easy part.

Don’t forget your outdoor space(s)!

SAOTA (Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects)

Step 3:  Find lighting that illuminates sufficiently and supports your aesthetic

As with all elements in a renovation or new build, I encourage homeowners to define ‘mantra words’ that their vision embibes.  These succinct ‘descriptor’ words can aid greatly in ensuring you pull a look together that flows throughout your home and achieves your vision [it’s too easy otherwise to get derailed during the process as you see items you like that support a different aesthetic ...].

My new clients have a vision that’s eclectic – combining traditional, contemporary and rustic.  With that definition firmly in place, we can now look for fixtures that will support this aesthetic – in a successful way.  Which can be a challenge - because the best design does not employ "matching" sets of anything, really - and that applies also to lighting fixtures.

It wouldn’t be successful, for example, to select industrial-looking pendants for over the island and then a more traditional pendant/chandelier over my client's mission-style dark wood dining table they wish to purchase.  That would be an unsuccessful blending of two different styles.

Example of UNSUCCESSFUL blending of two lights in an open plan space

1) Parker Place Pendant, Murray Feiss Lighting ; 2) Alexis Three Light Pendant by Elk Lighting

So – how best to go about the not insignificant task of finding just the right lighting fixtures?  This is where the computer is your friend!  Do yourselves a huge favour and save yourselves heaps of time and gas and at least do your looking/planning online.

There are a plethora of online lighting stores – if you’re in Canada and you think you may want to order online (lighting is the one type of fixture I do find a lot of success with ordering online – the selection and prices are great), first look at Canadian online stores to avoid either extra $ for shipping and brokerage fees or to save yourselves a trip across the border to pick up your (US) goods.

Then with your list in hand of, room by room, what type of lighting you seek, spend hours poring over lighting sites and when you see items you like – don’t just bookmark them as it can get overwhelming and you can’t readily see ‘the whole picture’ of all the lights you will need to purchase.

Example of SUCCESSFUL blending of two different lights in an open plan space

1) Essex by Progress Lighting ; 2) Peyton by Murray Feiss Lighting

Instead I suggest that you print-screen the item, making sure you capture the manufacturer item name and price, and then paste these into a Word document (also paste the website url where you found the light).

First paste the print-screen into Paint (a MicroSoft accessory) - then use the Select tool in Paint to select just the part of the image most important [the light image, manufacturer/item name, price). Then right click inside that 'selection', and Copy and Paste it into Word. You will keep your Word document cleaner this way, and have an easier time seeing how well lights work together.

Organize your Word document by room / area name and label them as option 1, 2 etc., if you are finding more than one possibility for each area (likely!).  It’s a great way to really see them, side by side, and see if the different fixtures will work together successfully or not.

See the above example of the successful blending of two different lights in a common area – I could recommend use of 2 lights similar to the Essex lights (would just need a smaller size) for over my client’s kitchen island and then use of the Peyton chandelier for over their mission-style dining table. 

With their planned white and dark kitchen cabinetry, light and dark countertops, white backsplash with black grout, farmhouse style kitchen sink and stainless appliances – the above lighting recommendations would very successfully support their traditional, contemporary and rustic vision.


Ashley Goforth

Important:  do read the technical specifications on the light before pasting it into your Word doc as a possible option. ie. make sure it will give adequate illumination and also make sure the size is suitable [remember the general rule for a space is to add the width x length (in feet) and that, in inches, is the size to target if you’re using one light fixture in the space – which needs to be adjusted if you’re implementing more than 1, of course].

Eg. for an 11’ x 7’ dining space, 11” + 7” = 18” ß you would target finding an 18” diameter light

Composition is important, so size is important in all cases, but especially when you're implementing more than one light fixture (eg. 2 or 3 or 5 pendants over a kitchen island).

When you've finally decided on all your lighting choices, you can take your document [preferaby on your laptop to avoid printing :) ] into your local lighting store and see if they can bring the lights in and at what price (most of them can source most manufacturers' items).  Your local retailer's pricing however, is unfortunately likely to be higher than ordering online.

If you simply can’t decide or aren’t sure if all your lighting choices work well together – contact a designer that will help ensure you get it right!

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- want a great-looking space that embibes the feel you'll love living in? Contact Liz to help make it happen!



Sunday, August 26, 2012

How to choose dining room furniture: the chairs

Yes, my blog did get covered in cobwebs ... I am blowing and swatting as I write :) Perspective happens when a parent is ill and dying, and it happened to me. But I am through the worst of it now and happily feeling my creative juices flow again.

I thought I’d start with getting back to the topic I started last Fall – things to think about when you’re treating yourself/ves to new dining room furniture.

The hardest thing about interior decorating – I find – is that there are sooo many wonderful choices, it can be really hard to make a decision! If you happen to absolutely love just one look and know for sure what you’ll be happy with for years to come – consider yourself blessed.

It’s one of the reasons why most people ‘play it safe’ when buying furniture / making decisions on the pricier / fixed items in one’s home. And it can definitely be argued that if you go classic and neutral, your money is well spent with furniture that can be considered timeless.

This Palm Beach dining room by Gary McBournie is stunning, yes?!

In my post on how to choose a dining table, I advocated for not buying a "matching" dining table and chair "set". In that post, I outlined a process for selecting your table. Now some thoughts when it comes to selecting your chairs:

The first element we started with when selecting the table was the lines of the table. This of course is also important when it comes to the chairs, but you can mix and match here more easily and still have a successful look.

Ellen O’Neill

What makes the “shiny new” glossy red chairs work with the (very!) shabby end chairs in the picture above is the other red links in the space. But, I advocate another element to be your first consideration:

Is the chair comfortable?!!

While this may seem like an obvious point, it’s surprising how many people choose chairs first because of colour, 2nd because of price (or vice versa), 3rd because of how the chair fits with the overall design of their space – with comfort coming in close to last.

Suzanne Shaker

While all those other elements are also important, you want to have your meals – and you want your guests to enjoy their meals – in comfort. Can you sit comfortably for a 2-hr meal in your current chairs [even for a breakfast nook, I wouldn't want to sit in the above ones too long ...]? What about your last ones?

I’m not advocating for a sofa at your dining table (although designers are also doing that these days ...) – just don’t buy your chairs solely because they look good and you like the price, and you think you can “live with” how comfortable they don’t feel in the store ...

Spray-painting antiques / 2nd-hand store finds and adding new seat cushions is a great way to link in other design elements/colours in your space and give your dining/eating area a unique look.

Jonathan Adler

I do think you can achieve a great look if you really prefer to have one "set" of chairs around a table – as long as you do something to make the chairs more interesting.

Whether it’s as simple as the two end chairs having arms (otherwise being the same as the side chairs, like in the 2nd image above), or mixing it up with different upholstery on the back of the chairs (re: upholstered chairs).

If you like the ‘mixed chairs’ look, one way to ensure success is by having at least one element linking them – whether it’s shape / lines or a colour.

In my own space, in which I recently implemented newly-purchased dining chairs (bought the dining table 3 yr’s ago and had gotten very inexpensive ‘temporary’ chairs until we had it in our budget to get what I really wanted [I mean we ...]), I decided at the outset that I wanted the end chairs to be completely different from the side chairs.

While I did select all chairs whose legs have similar lines to them, the colour, shape and scale of the end chairs are different from the side chairs. What makes it work in the space is that each of the chairs link to other elements in the space – the end platinum-upholstered chairs work with the dove grey floors and other grey items in the open space.

Elizabeth Roberts Design

And the side white ‘animal-friendly’ leather ;) chairs link to the white stools at the island, with the espresso wood trim on the chairs directly linking to the dining table. {The end chairs were custom upholstered by local Vangogh Designs – yes, these were a splurge, but the side chairs were inexpensive making the whole set less than what we were prepared to pay. And they’re both very comfortable!}

Little side plug here: contact me if you’d like to explore Vangogh furniture options.

There is a lot more to be said, of course, on the topic of how to select dining chairs. Era of chair / style / appropriateness of chair in your space, the size of the chair(s) [think of the biggest member of your family / guests you invite over frequently], material [kid-friendly?] ...

While it can be overwhelming, start by deciding whether you want more of a “set”, or if you want (just) the two end chairs to be different, or if you want to completely mix it up. Then decide on upholstered vs. wood or a combination.

Look at images on the net and in shelter mags until you’ve got these ones figured out – starting to shop could otherwise put you in a tailspin.

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- want a great-looking space that embibes the feel you'll love living in? Contact Liz to help make it happen!


   Gary McBournie
   Ellen O’Neill
   Suzanne Shaker
   Jonathan Adler
Elizabeth Roberts Design

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Prioritize Your Renovation Dollars / Top-to-Bottom Re-Design

At long last, many of the decor elements of a client’s renovation I began work on last summer have now been implemented – which means there are some finished areas to reveal!

A large portion of a re-design can often take place within a few months ... but sometimes exceeded budgets on the reno side means new furniture, window coverings etc. have to wait and thus can stretch the total project into many more months – sometimes even years [after all, I can’t show you a 12-yr old couch amongst the new elements ... now can I? :) ]

My client’s - Professional Organizer, Rowena List - “Office to Dream In”
{photo by Anna Beaudry}

So – how does one go about prioritizing a top-to-bottom re-design if there simply isn’t enough money to do it all at once? Structural changes and kitchen/bathroom renos aside, here is the order I recommend spending your re-design dollars in:

1. Flooring: newly painted walls, a new layout, furniture etc. will be lost on worn or uncoordinated flooring – I say this is priority 1.

In my client’s 1960s bungalow (below), we went with a medium brown laminate in most areas (the kitchen and bathrooms were left alone). [Identifying the overall colour palette before settling on your flooring colour is key.]

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

(Re-cladding the fireplace in this project was also prioritized; big elements like that should squeeze onto the list, somewhere near the top.)
a) don’t use laminate in an entry way in a wet climate (ie. Vancouver!) [we went with a porcelain tile above];
b) when the space is an open plan* and the entry way is a smaller area, choose a colour that most closely matches the main flooring so that the eye is tricked into seeing it all as uniform.

* Many designers recommend keeping all flooring uniform from room to room regardless of the plan (eg. hardwood throughout the entire home), but I think there are instances when different flooring for different spaces is not only appropriate, it’s more interesting. I don't disagree with the reasoning of keeping it entirely uniform, I just think the rule can be broken successfully ... with a clear and carefully chosen palette, of course.

2. Lighting: most homes of yester-year have lighting that is nothing short of terrible. Not just the fixtures themselves are outdated, but the amount of illumination per area is usually highly inadequate.

If you’re going to re-paint the interior of your home, do yourselves a favour and evaluate your lighting plan first (as walls and/or ceilings may need to be ripped open).

Consider a mixture of recessed ceiling lights, hanging ceiling lights (pendants), wall sconces, up-lighting, down-lighting, under-cabinet etc. – yes, in addition to floor, table and task lamps you may wish to use.

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

With no budget for a kitchen reno, I updated my client’s kitchen above with new animal-print inspired pendants + additional recessed lights (along with a new backsplash, tobacco woven blinds and copper-backed stools that all pull in the new colour scheme the owners love in the adjacent Great Room).

3. Doors + trimwork (eg. baseboards, mouldings etc):  Be sure to evaluate the state of the doors and trimwork inside your home; painting worn doors and trimwork only brings them back to life if they're in decent shape to begin with.
And please don’t think that painting those non-wood doors that are finished with a ‘wood grain look’ are going to do the trick – they look cheap no matter what.

Either refurbish solid wood vintage doors (check out your local salvage dealer and home demolition sales), or paint new, modern-looking doors (and if they’re not wood, don’t try to make them look like wood...).

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

In this part of my client’s Great Room above – I updated existing furniture with pops of colour, a knock-out mirror and a custom built-in cabinet that delivers on both functionality and aesthetics. There was a door where the mirror is, and instead they splurged on glass folding doors that lead out to an inviting outdoor living area.

4. Painting: Next figure out how much, what and where you’re going to paint (ceilings? walls? doors, trim ...) Are you going for a clean, neutral colour throughout the home so you can have dramatic features in areas/rooms here ‘n there?

Or are you implementing a varied palette that still flows from room to room and ties to look smashing together? Wallpaper accent or mural? Colour blocking? If you’re unsure, hire a professional colour consultant or designer that can help you get the look and feel you’ll love living in for years to come.

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

In the case of my client, she wanted a clean look that would also feel warm, inviting, casual – while still elegant, and a bit funky (and she loves earth tones, not on-trend-right-now-grey).

So I recommended a soft cream on all walls, BM Simply White on the doors, trimwork and ceilings (except the great room which has a tall slanted ceiling – in which case carrying the wall colour onto the ceiling works best).

5. Window coverings: I would rather see old furniture in a room with new window coverings than the other way around. Old furniture can be dressed up with decorative pillows, a throw, slipcover.

There’s no getting around outdated or worn window coverings – they take away the lustre of other re-design efforts in a space quickly!

In my client's master bedroom above, I added shimmer to chocolate drapes by hanging glimmering charcoal gray beads over the drapes.

{photo by Anna Beaudry}

I recommended my client prioritize the purchase of the above white dresser for their bedroom – using their existing antique teak unit would not support bringing the room up-to-date. It also supports the luxurious and inviting feel to the room sumptuously!

In terms of the remaining items “on the list” in a top-to-bottom re-design, I recommend choosing updated decor objects next if new furniture is not in the budget right away. This includes pillows, throws, area rugs and art.

Of course, the list can go on and on ... I remember my client saying to me about 2/3’s of the way through the process, “I just want to get this done”. But we would never buy three new necklaces and consider our wardrobe ‘done’ for the next 10 years ... and so it is with a well-designed home.

What’s next on your list?

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life:  want a great-looking space that embibes the feel you'll love living in?  Contact Liz to help make it happen!



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to choose the right dining room furniture: the table

Buying furniture for a dining room – or main eating area, if it’s not a room per se – can be an expensive proposition, especially if you want it to look well-designed.

Every designer will tell you that the worst thing you can do is to go to a ‘box’ store and buy an entire “set” – table, chairs, buffet.  You may get quality furniture at a great price that gives you good functionality, but it will leave your space looking outdated as soon as it’s arrived.

Worse, it will create a feeling of ‘sterility’ which is not conducive to the enjoyment of food and spirit with family and friends ... It would take a LOT of dressing up to make this area inviting, no?  Yes!!
Example of what not to do
Example of what not to do

Buying the right furniture for your dining room/eating area is an expansive topic ... so much so that I’m going to break it down into separate posts; this one is going to focus on the table element.

You want to choose a table that is able to morph many looks.  While most of them can by nature, think about the “lines” that would be most associated with the type of looks you are attracted to. 

For example, if you like French country, French provincial and shabby chic looks, you wouldn’t choose a table with very rectilinear lines / hard edges; you’d want something softer, with at least some curvilinear lines.

And conversely, if you like a more modern feel – whether industrial, masculine, minimal, organic, or a bold and funky look, rectilinear lines would fit the bill.

Next think about size and scale: while functionality is paramount (ie. how many people will be eating around the table regularly), the space will look poorly designed if the size and scale are not proportionate.

If your space is smaller and you need to maximize the amount of people you can seat, you may want to opt for a round table.  With either movable chairs ...

... and/or fixed bench seating, round and oval tables can keep a small space feeling open while maximizing functionality.

To determine how large your table can be (using just movable chairs), leave 3' to 4.5’ of space around every angle of the table for chairs and traffic.  Whether your space is open or has walls, and the table/chair placement in relation to other furniture can change the required breathing space needed around the table. 

TIP:  empty the space and put masking tape on the floor to ‘draw out’ the potential size of a table. It will give you a good feel for how large a table the space can take before it feels out of proportion.  Place chairs around the imaginary table to further visualize.

Once you know the size and general lines of the table you’re after, you can start looking.  Here you will want to rule out tables that aren’t a fit with either, and also ones that don’t fit your scale.  Remember that “size” is the physical dimensions and “scale” (fm a decorating perspective) is the relative size as it relates to the size and scale of other objects and fixed elements in a room.

For example, you might love the above table and think it would look great in your 8x10 dining room as long as it’s (custom) made to fit – but the scale of this table begs for a taller ceiling, a bigger room or open space, an expansive window, etc. -- to not just look really great, but to look right.

TIP: if considering a table with the above type of ‘bench pedestal’ legs, watch where the legs are going to 'land' re: the placement of chairs around the table. Notice in the above picture how the chair on the left has to straddle the table leg. If you wanted to place a standard 6 chairs around this table, you would not be able to without the side chairs sitting very unwell!

Last but not least is colour.  The 2 biggest mistakes I see is people who buy their dining room table in the same wood colour as their floors and/or kitchen cabinetry.  Remember -- we want contrast for interest.

Or they go too far the other way and buy in a colour that doesn’t relate to anything at all.  While the best designed spaces have colour values in the light, medium and dark ranges, all colours in the space need to work well together.

The material with which the table is made is another important element.  Whether solid wood, wood veneer, glass-topped, etc. ...

But all of the above that I've outlined – in my opinion – trump the material.  Do your research on the material in relation to your targeted price point so that you will know good value when you see it, but if you get the lines and shape, size and scale, and colour all right, you will have chosen a strong foundation for creating a dining area that will beckon family and friends for years to come.

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- if you want a great-looking space that's right for you and embibes the feel you'll love living in, contact Liz to help make it happen!


Credits (sarah callanan)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

How to make a glamorous drapery panel

When I designed our new-build home in '08, I decided for both space and safety reasons that I would implement a drapery panel instead of a door for the closet in our master bedroom.

Since that notion can remind some of an earlier look they may have had in their college dorm room or first basement suite rental, it's often forgotten that it can be a truly gorgeous solution that also brings personality into the space.

It's also a great space saver -- a recent client of mine did not know how she was going to get nighttables on both sides of their bed in their very small master bedroom. It had an awkward closet with a door that opened right into the space for one of the nighttables, with no possibility of orienting the bed differently.

"Remove the door?!", she exclaimed at my suggestion. We were both happy that the door could be re-purposed to properly lock off their rental suite, but even if she couldn't have used it elsewhere, I would have stuck by my recommendation.  It looks great and they have plenty of room for the nighttable and space to move around it.

Drapes are also a great way to create closet / storage space where there otherwise was none!

OK - now how about that glamorous drapery panel?!  My Mom had given me a gorgeous piece of white french linen at least 15 yr's ago to make a skirt, which I never got around to, and I thought it would be the perfect starting point.

I initially thought I had just enough for the length I needed and it was only when I got down to seriously measuring to start sewing that I realized I was a couple of inches short.  Which was a blessing because it forced me to put a border on the bottom and now I wouldn't want it any other way.

As you can see, I ironed on rhinestone fleur de lis emblems randomly on the white linen to give it that glamour vibe.  (I chose the Fleur de Lis Paisley ones thru A Treasure Nest; I bought 24 and used 23). And I bridged the white linen and silver grey crushed velvet-looking poly with a silver satin ribbon. 

To make the panel:

- measure the area to determine the finished width and length you want (for pooling like mine above, add 1.5" to the finished length).  You want your finished width of fabric to equal a min. of 1.5x the width of the space (more if the fabric is flimsier) to get fullness in your drape.

- allow a min. of 2 - 3.5" at the top for a simple finish re: inserting the rod; decide ahead of time how big of a hem you want and include in your overall requirements; and a min. of 3" total to the width for finishing the sides
*TIPS: choose fabric as wide as possible to reduce the amount of vertical seams; press all finishing edges accurately in place before sewing.

- I only had the one piece of linen and I knew finding an exact match would be mission impossible, so I needed to use as little fabric as possible when I finished the sides. I wasn't particular about how the drape would look on the inside, so instead of creating a seam, I simply sewed the fabric I bought for lining on top of the backside of the panel.  See pictures above and below.

- I chose to finish the top simply, to save time and I also had no room for excess fabric above the rod.  Folding the fabric over to create a tunnel for the rod insertion is easiest; I created the tunnel by sewing on a 'hem band' on the back of the drape to make it sturdier.

- make the main part of the panel first and then hang it on the rod (I ironed on the rhinestone emblems before I started sewing once I knew the finished width/length of just the linen piece; the lining should be done next).

Pin your border fabric onto the drape so you can see how it will look before you cut and sew; you may want it bigger or smaller than you initially thought (buy for bigger so you have the flexibility).  You can also take this time to accurately pin the hem line of the panel / border fabric.

- depending on the fabric you chose for your border, you may need to interface it before sewing it on. I ironed on a thin interfacing to the crushed velvet-looking poly I chose because it would have been too flimsy otherwise.

- I used hem tape to secure the hemline in place - not only is this a time-saver, but an invisible hem is most suitable to a crushed velvet-look.  A sewn 6" or 12" hem can look great with heavier cottons and twills.

I love my new glamorous drapery panel and it all came together for under $100.  I don't like the way cheap doors look, so I can say this solution not only looks great, it's cheaper than a door.

My new glamorous drapery panel sumptuously supports our master bedroom that I recently re-decorated (above). Could a glamorous drapery panel(s) support a feel you have going on in your space?

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- if you want a great-looking space that's right for you and embibes the feel you'll love living in, contact Liz to help make it happen!


Elizabeth Roberts

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Update a Kitchen with Rustic Floors

I recently had the pleasure of working with a new client who was faced with the challenge of picking materials and a colour palette to update their kitchen and eating nook – the challenge being they are not going for a ‘top-to-bottom’ renovation and wish to keep their existing floors and cabinetry.

They love their very rustic concrete floor (which were coloured to look more like thick, mottled tile work), and if they were updating their cabinetry in any way (painting, re-facing...), there could have been a plethora of directions to go in for their new countertop, backsplash and wall colour. 

But -- with wanting to keep their bright, glossy white cabinets, the style contrast between the floors and kitchen cabinets narrowed the choices significantly.

Here is their existing space:

To successfully update older, big fixed elements, it is important to select a colour palette and materials that will ‘bridge’ any contrasting style between them.  My client was attracted to more rustic / earthier materials for the backsplash, which would work well with the floors, but not the cabinets.

Here is one of the renderings we did to show them that a darker/earthier option for the backsplash would not look good:


I recommended a warm light grey for the countertop (they fell in love with a darker one, which works also), and a honed (matte-finish), tumbled white marble tile for the backsplash, with accents of tumbled light grey marble (which has veining and variations in it that speak to the terra cotta floor).

The white colour of the marble creates a link to the cabinets, and the heaviness of the stone and all its variations also links to the floor – and thus is the perfect ‘bridge’ to tie the two contrasting styles together.


In their eating nook off the kitchen (ok, it’s bigger than a nook), they have a fantastic tall coved ceiling.  I recommended that they paint the ceiling grey to both create an accent but also to lower the ceiling a bit (visually).

The ceiling height of the kitchen is so much lower, by giving the illusion of lowering the very tall ceiling in the eating area, it will give the illusion of adding height to the kitchen ceiling.


I designed the sideboard unit to be able to house a wine fridge ... it's expensive to go custom to achieve that functionality, but the concept looks great; don't you agree?!  They have a very interesting collection of wine labels which hold a lot of meaning for them, so I recommended they create a collage of framed pictures above the sideboard.

Do you agree that the recommended colour palette and materials update the rustic flooring, bridge the contrasting cabinetry and create a soothing and inviting space?

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- if you want a great-looking space that's right for you and embibes the feel you'll love living in, contact Liz to help make it happen!



- Elizabeth Roberts
- Rendering work: Margarita Poliakova

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to update your home with color and inexpensive art

I recently sourced orange, gold and vivid blue-green accessories for a client who wanted to update her old tan sofa and brighten their open plan great room.  I knew after the transformation that I needed to do some updating in my own space.

When I designed our new-build house back in ’08, neutrals were still on trend and we also didn’t know how long we would be in the house before wanting or needing to sell – so my mantra words for the house were “neutral, elegant, comfortable.”

Having always been a lover of the colour grey, I’m happy that my use of it in all our flooring is on trend now – but the more recent surgence of getting away from “boring beige” and really pouring on the colour translated into me already needing to update our space in other regards.

So – what to do to add some spice? Our chocolate brown sofa is just over a year old and it was expensive, so replacing it was not an option. And, not only did I want to add some colour, especially to our family room -- I wanted ‘something unexpected’ in the space.

I recalled an Andy Warhol poster my husband purchased at the Vancouver Art Gallery well over 10 years ago (his Marilyn Monroe, pop art style), which had been just sitting in storage since then ... Considering the overall elegant and classy feel of our space, I felt this would be at least somewhat unexpected.

We trimmed off the border and had just the Warhol image dry-mounted (this will take out any ‘dimples’ in poster or print art and make it sturdier), and then ordered a custom double mat to use as the frame for the image (I’m not a fan of metal frames, and didn’t think wood would look right). 

I chose a yellow-orange for the inside mat (speaking to, but not exactly like either the yellow or orange in the image), and a blue-green for the main mat -- again, not exactly like any of the blues or blue-green in the image, but complementing it well nonetheless.

I’m thrilled with how it turned out and can’t imagine another type of frame – in the affordable range – that would look as good!

I had found various fabrics earlier and along the way, and made new toss cushion covers that – while they’re not the exact colours found in the Warhol image (not the exact blue-green or exact yellow) – they work with the image and help to brighten the whole vignette up.

Here's a closer look at the cushions I made:

- I had bought the yellow-green fabric first with the olive-gold beaded tassles, and then it took weeks before I found other fabrics I thought would work

- The blue-green with the yellow-gold 'overlay shmoosh design' speaks directly to the yellow-green cushion

- The goldy-khaki polka-dot fabric is exactly the same colour as the beaded tassles on the yellow-green
cushion, with the gold shimmer of it also speaking to the blue-green cushion ... plus this darker pillow provides a 'bridge' between the brightly coloured cushions and the darkness of the chocolate sofa.

Here is a BEFORE picture of our family room:

Don’t you agree that a pop of inexpensive art (no pun intended) and colourful throw cushions adds some new life and wow to the space?!!  What I love most about it is I implemented it all to coincide with the arrival of Spring – on a sunny day, it seriously now feels like Spring in my living room!

And both the art and fabric for the cushions were affordable enough that I could (and probably will) revert to the ‘before’ look (or maybe another new look ...) when winter returns.

Decor accessories are like jewellery for your home – you don’t always wear the same necklace with your favourite outfit, right?

It’s not just ok to change the look in your home from season to season with decor accessories, it’s recommended.  It keeps boredom from settling in (you know, the kind where you feel “that’s it – we have to completely re-do this room!”), and keeps your look fresh and updated, even if your furniture is older.

Now that vivid colour is here to stay (for a few years anyway ...), I encourage you to think about how you can update your space, on a budget that works for you. I hope you have as much fun as I did!

It's Your Space, Your Place, Your Life -- if you want a great-looking space that's right for you and embibes the feel you'll love living in, contact Liz to help make it happen!

Andy Warhol
Liz Roberts