My guest on the podcast this week is interior designer Joel Bray. You know him from the pages of Canadian House and Home magazine and the Marilyn Denis Show. When Joel isn’t solving decorating dilemmas or giving his expert advice on how to style your home, he’s creating classic interiors infused with youthful energy. Joel has a great eye for design and his spaces feel warm, personal and inviting.
In this episode, Joel shares his best decorating secrets (spoiler – it has nothing to do with design), and once and for all defines what Canadian style really is! We also talk trends, how to create balance in any space and how one simple change can make your room come to life.
Why you need to push your bed against the wall:
Top Row: Kate Zeidler Designs, Brian Paquette Interiors Bottom Row: Salvensen Graham, Kate Rheinstein Brodsky
You’ll have to listen to the episode to get all of Joel’s great design advice and hear the most common decorating mistakes we’re making and how to solve them.
A huge thank you to Joel for being on the show. Happy listening!
In the small southern Ontario town of Fonthill, blogger, curator, collector and seamstress Meg Gizuk runs Oliver & Rust – a decor and lifestyle store bursting with personality and style. I sat down with her last week to chat about the changing seasons and the easiest way to bring autumn into your home. Here are Meg’s favourite ways to warm up your space and celebrate fall.
Change your pillows.
Give any room a lift with the addition of fresh, seasonal pillows. Meg and her staff hand make all the pillow covers in her shop from new and vintage textiles. It’s hard not to get excited about the vast collection of colours and textures. Pile a few of these beauties on your sofa for instant autumnal coziness.
Add a plant – or 10.
Cheaper than a venti Pumpkin Spice Latte, house plants like the red toned autumn fern and the dark green button fern add depth to your fall decor. House plants can change with the seasons with a simple switch of a pot. Pop your plants into terracotta, brass, wood or wicker containers for a look that works all season.
House plants are cheaper than seasonal bouquets, last longer and help clean the air. It’s okay if your thumb is less than green! Even if you only get one season from your plant baby you can toss it in the compost when you’re done with it and feel good knowing you didn’t resort to buying velvet faux pumpkins to get the fall feels.
Take your cues from nature.
The trees have it right – turn up the rust, copper, brown, orange and red in your space. Don’t be afraid to pair these traditional fall colours with what you already have.
Don’t take it all so seriously.
Your home is where you live and and it’s all about your personal style regardless of the trends or seasons. So make sure your home is filled with the things you love.
Please visit Oliver & Rust at 137 Highway 20 East in Fonthill, Ontario for an ever changing collection of curated vintage goods, handmade textiles, home decor and lots and lots of houseplants. A big thank you to Meg for allowing me to loiter in her lovely space and sharing these great decorating tips.
Since it’s still officially summer we can still officially talk about patios! I love patio season and getting the most from our backyard was at the top of our to do list this year. Last year we made lots of upgrades to our backyard, you can see them here. This summer we continued the work by enhancing our pool side sitting area. I love the space we have but hated staring at the all the laundry and furnace vents that stuck out the house right beside it.
Here’s what we started with:
And here’s what we did:
We (I mean an HVAC professional) moved our air conditioning earlier in the season to the other side of the house. It was sitting to the left of the basement window and would kill any conversation when it cycled on. With the AC out of the way we were left with an ugly wall of vents and pipes and a window that looks directly into our scary laundry room.
The screen is actually two screens attached together and then drilled into the concrete and attached to the house with brackets. Below are some loose instructions on how it came together:
We (when I say “we” I totally mean “he”) dado cut the centre of three 2x4s. This became the frame of the screen and was joined with mitred corners.
Once the outside frame was complete we slid the 1×10 fence boards into the track inside of the frame. We used small bits of scrap half inch square blocks to create a consistent space between the pieces of board.
By varying the width of the boards, it looks more modern and less fence-like.
A fourth dado cut 2×4 with mitred corners was added to the top of the panel to finish it off. Each panel has a supporting piece running down the centre to make it extra sturdy.
The entire project took half a day to complete and about an hour to install. The best part is that the patio area has become its own cozy destination and will help to extend the season once the pool is closed.
I first read In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore over a decade ago and it changed the way I looked at at many things, especially eating. If you haven’t heard of this book it’s definitely a must-read. Naomi Klein’s No Logo made we sickeningly aware of how manufacturers have hijacked the clothing industry and turned me into a slow fashion convert. Blogs like Reading My Tea Leaves and Design for Mankind helped me embrace slow living. Now I think it’s time we take slow decorating into the mainstream.
Slow living isn’t putting off making choices about fashion or food, but rather thinking about where the items you use everyday come from. Who made that shirt? Where? Did they get paid enough to make a living? The steak you had for last night’s dinner, how was is raised, butchered, transported? All these questions we don’t often consider. Slow living is pausing to answer these questions, think about where our everyday goods come from, how we use them, and the time and money it takes to create our current lifestyle. The decisions we make about decorating our homes should be no different.
Our culture says we can have it all now, but that doesn’t mean we should. We can take a step back, take a breath and focus on what we need in our homes and how we want them to look. I want the kind of house that reflects who we are. That shows we are thoughtful, careful with our resources and mindful of others.
Choose furnishings and décor items that are made well and ethically. The resurgence of the maker culture has made finding locally made furniture and home goods easier. Even large chain stores like West Elm, Pottery Barn and even Ikea are shifting to include more sustainably made products.
Choose to have less. Ask yourself these questions before you buy.
Do you really need that ceramic rabbit, faux succulent or that thing that only-cost-a-dollar-from-the-Target-dollar-section (this is still a tough one for me – so many cute things, for so cheap!).
Will the new item help you function better in your space or add to your quality of life or will it just end up as clutter?
Do you already own something similar that could serve the same purpose as the item you’re considering buying?
What do you want you home to feel like? Open and spacious, minimalist, cozy and warm? Think about the feeling you want to create when choosing furnishings for your place.
Choose to buy second hand. I’ve talked lots about my love of second hand home goods. You can find everything you need to set up a house or redecorate using preloved items.
Creating a space that mirrors you is a process. Being purposeful and selective in your decorating allows you to consider where items are from, how they’re made and ensures that you’re not impulsively buying something just because it’s trendy. It’s okay, for example, to take your time to find the perfect sofa. You don’t have to settle for something you don’t love. It’s also perfectly acceptable to keep your old couch while you wait for your sofa soulmate. Toss a blanket or bedspread over that thing with some throw cushions and embrace the imperfection! What you’ll end up with is a home that feels put together, collected and representative of you and your family rather than something out of a catalogue. Plus, it’s a little bit exciting to have something to be on the hunt on.
While hunting and gathering for the perfect pieces to compliment your space is fun, the not-so-fun and much more emotionally difficult part is decluttering. This is the time to be honest with yourself. You probably have lots of items that you’re holding onto because they represent the you that you want to be or used to be. It’s okay to let go. Clothes that don’t fit, gifts you don’t love and the worst – family heirlooms you feel obligated to keep- these can all be let go of. I’m not saying you have to Marie Kondo every item in your home but be realistic and remember that things can’t create or sustain happiness. Clearing the clutter can help you see your space in a new way and help you imagine it differently than it is now.
Home represents so many emotions for people. Painful family memories, moving and even poverty all affect our view of “home.” The good news is that you can change how you feel about the place you live. You can create a place that serves you and your family – not the other way around. When I think about my favourite memories of people’s homes, it’s the unique or quirky décor that sticks out in my memory, the way people use what they have to create a meaningful home and most of all, the people who live in them. While it may feel great to have the trendiest tiles in your new bathroom reno, remember that trends change faster than most people renovate so make sure that you’re decorating for you. Don’t be afraid to have things in your home that no one else has. Embrace what you love, and your home will feel like a reflection of you.
Once your house is full of the things you love, you won’t feel the need to compare other’s homes to yours. The siren song of the latest trends won’t be as alluring. When your favorite most meaningful objects are on display, you won’t feel the impulse to fill your cart with cheap trendy tchotchkes. Slow, purposeful and personal decorating is more than filling your space with furniture and décor, its creating home.
Summer is all about taking it easy. Long days spent by the pool call for refreshing drinks, but I’m not a fan of the sugary canned variety. I’m also not a fan of complicated drink recipes that require precision. I came up with this drink when I was looking for something to use up the just-passed-their-prime summer berries we had in the fridge. It also happens to work well for our family with all our allergies and aversions.Add two cups of fruit to a bowl. The beauty of this recipe is that almost any summer fruit will work. I had raspberries and blackberries on hand but strawberries, blueberries or peaches would be great too. Muddle the fruit together into a jammy consistency.Then in a 2 litre pitcher, pour flavored sparkling water (I used lime) or club soda and add the muddled fruit. Let sit for at least 10 minutes in the fridge. You will be left this:It doesn’t look appetizing but don’t worry, we’re not done yet!
Strain the fruit (and save for your morning smoothie or mix into yogurt) and divide the remaining liquid between 6 glasses with ice. Fancy champagne flutes make it taste better, I promise.
Garnish with mint leaves and additional berries.I made this version without alcohol but it could just as easily become an adults only event with the addition of vodka or rum. Yum!Cheers!
Barclay Butera is the matchmatcher of graceful luxury and everyday livability. But what makes him my design crush of the moment is the infusion of colour in his designs, often, and my most favourite, blue. Barclay’s spaces are clean without being too boring, too modern, or too white. I know I’ve said it here before but I’m over all white! The other feature his rooms exude is personality, which has been missing from the design scene for a while. I can imagine the people who live in the homes he decorates, which is the way it should be. There is loads of inspiration in these gorgeous pictures and I can’t wait to see more from this huge talent!
Creating home takes time. It’s lovingly curated over years with things that are meaningful and useful. Finding great second hand pieces is the same. It’s Saturday mornings spent at garage sales, hours combing Kijiji and Craigslist and a few late night covert missions smuggling curbside finds into the house without my husband knowing. “What? This chair? No, it’s always been there.”
We buy a lot of our furniture second hand. A brand new piece just doesn’t have the same soul as a previously used one.Here’s a few of our preloved beauties:
In these pictures almost everything is second hand. The only items that are not are the picture frame above the desk (but the art inside is) and the dining table (centre) and the handmade picture above the blue dresser. EVERYTHING ELSE IS! The best part is that each piece has a story; where we found it, who gave it to us and how it almost didn’t fit in our car and thank goodness for bungee cords!
(teapot, coffee table and dominos were all sourced from Goodwill)
Here are some tips for ensuring the used pieces you bring home are worth it:
Turn it over. Whether it’s a plate, a table, chair or rug, examine it well. Does it look as good on the inside as the out? If a piece is starting to crack (split, rip etc.) on the back or inside, it means that eventually it will make it way to the front.
Don’t collect projects. Buying used doesn’t mean you have to settle for items that need repair. Only buy things that you can actually repair or have repaired for a reasonable amount of money and in a reasonable amount of time. The longer a piece sits waiting to be finished the less likely it will ever be.
Of course you can paint wood! There are many people who still feel it’s sacreligious to paint over wood. It’s not. Here’s the proof:
4. Measure your space. Return policies at second hand stores and garage sales don’t exist. In my phone I keep a list of all the things I’m looking for and the dimensions of the space it will live in. It may take a year or more to find the exact thing in the exact size. Also, always carry a measuring tape.
5. Don’t shy away from textiles and soft furnishings. Most things can be washed. Rugs and upholstery can be vacuumed and professionally cleaned. Before you buy, look under chairs and sofas and examine the lining. If there are signs of insects or small unexplained holes – run away! Be cautious of odors. If it’s been sitting in someone’s basement it may just smell a little musty, deep cleaning can help this. But beware of mothballs, smokers and crazy cat ladies – there are some smells that will haunt you forever. Check in between the seat cushions and the back – stick your hand in there (wear gloves if you want) to see if the frame is sturdy. This is important since you can’t see the frame. Feel for loose joints, springs and fabric – take a pass if you find any of these. Most importantly sit on it! Is it comfortable? Can you imagine sitting/lying on it for an extended Westworld binge watching session?
Real-life preloved sofas bought from total strangers.
The popular 1970’s faux velvet is almost indestructible and can be found in some really fun colours!
Don’t be afraid to take a risk and shop out of your comfort zone.
If you love it buy it now. It may not be there later.
If you’re buying from a seller don’t be shy about asking for a better price. My favourite lines are “what’s your best price on this?” and “will you take less?”. The worst thing is you’ll be told no.
Learn the story of the piece, especially the unusual and the unique.
Now that spring is finally here (fingers crossed) if you’re like me you want to your home to reflect the changing season. Before you head to the home decor or big box store to buy some faux forsythia branches or ceramic bunnies, try these simple, stress free, clutter free, minimalist-friendly ideas to freshen up your space.