Monday, July 28, 2014

How does your garden grow?

Gardens have always beckoned me since I was a girl.  I love the colours, lushness, meandering paths and hidden surprises.  I like looking beyond  or through a  garden to the haphazard backdrops and surprising framings worthy of a painting.  Everyone who views a garden sees it in a slightly different way, just as everyone who reads a poem takes  a slightly different message from it.

Whenever I find a garden  that appeals to me, I always ask permission to photograph it.  Sometimes I keep the photos in my art file, and other times I  share them.  This  well textured garden in King's Cove, Bonavista Bay, NL, lovingly tended by Veronica and Kevin Mahoney was meant to be shared.

 Come along and visit Veronica and Kevin's garden through my eyes.

 Gardens need surprises at every turn. And depending on the vantage points the same spot should have a variety of looks and feels.

 I am definitely attracted to the partially hidden aspects of a garden that you catch by looking through structural elements.  In this case a sparse grove of aspen trees provides interesting framing for the bed beyond.  You can catch a glimpse of a cozy seating area.

 Moving to the left a little brings you to one of my favourite aspects of this garden. A bench nestled in the bank of tree trunks provides a shady spot to sit and look at the plantings beyond.

 A second seating area is hidden beyond a bed of shrubs and perennials.  The lamppost provides a strong vertical focus where almost everything else is the same height. Variety in heights is important for an interesting space.   While the garden has a well tended look it also  meanders  from the cultivated edges to wilder land behind it. This transition really works and makes the garden appear much larger than it actually is. 

 And here's the seating area you can just barely glimpse in the photo above.  I like the fact that the colour of this seating doesn't fight with the red bench beyond it.

Moving behind another bed and looking the opposite way reveals two more interesting features: a bird bath and an anchor.  At least our  truck blends into this shot.  I didn't have the heart to ask hubby to move it a second time. He's sitting in his favourite spot waiting patiently for me to finish shooting.

And how is this for a vantage point?  Even the church on the next property is a part of the garden!

Looking toward the house from the bench. Yes,  I love  that bench!

 An interesting plant hanger built by Kevin.  There's a second one by the step.

Because the house is on a high hill you have a great veiw of King's Cove harbour and several of the houses surrounding it.

I am such a sucker for looking up when I take shots.  This is a big reward.


 When you look up you are greeted by a stunningly refurbished house. The two patios provide interesting views of the garden.

Another bed of perennials creeps up the hill toward the back of the house to a third sitting area just outside the back door. Aren't the variety of stone walls interesting? Here's a closer look.....

 Following a stone path beyond will bring you to the fourth seating area at the top of a hill behind the house.  This provides a totally different feel and view of the whole area.


 You can look right out the bay as far as the eye can see.  The houses beside the property actually become part of the composition of the garden.  How great is it to have a yellow  building with  red trim next to your property!  It is such a strong focal point and  it adds additional colour when the blooms disappear. .

While heading down the path again, I was treated to a close up view of  numerous butterflies sailing around a false spirea. 

Thank you Veronica and Kevin for allowing us to visit your garden.  

5 garden planning tips  from this garden visit:
  1. Consider  what lies beyond your garden and use it to advantage.  It might not be yours, but it can be part of your composition. 
  2. Use meandering paths to connect different parts of your space, and use the same treatment for all of them: crushed stone, brick, slate etc. This continuity adds cohesiveness to the composition.
  3. Always keep parts of your garden hidden from view and lead the visitor to them by using meandering paths and plantings. 
  4. Have several seating areas to provide choice during different parts to the day or  to provide different viewing vantage points. 
  5. Have a strong mix of flowering shrubs and perennials if you want to be a carefree gardener. 

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thoughts on choosing dark kitchen cabinets

 Questions  about the wisdom of  choosing dark  kitchen cabinets keep cropping up in my reading and client discussions. Of course there are no absolutes in decorating.  You can make anything work or look good if you have the skills, and using dark cabinets in any room  requires a deft hand.

If you want your dark cabinet choice to work and have the longest style staying power, consider the following:

Let the cabinets shine

dark cabinets high contrast

 When I work with clients who want everything that they consider trendy in one space, I always discuss the wisdom of this approach.   Something has to be the star in a space and you should decide in the beginning what the star will be.  When you choose dark cabinets they demand centre stage, and everything else should support them and make them look their best.  Using lots of white or very light colours with dark cabinets is the way to go to get that sophisticated, rich, classy look that many people are after when they choose dark cabinets.  

Use  in open area spaces

dark cabinets open concept

Dark cabinets work well in large, open area spaces where the wall colours are lighter rather than darker. The dark cabinets help to balance and ground the space. .

Have breaks in the dark flow

open spaces with dark kitchen cabinets

 Leaving lots of wall space free of cabinets and/or having glass with light interior cabinets can do a  lot to balance a darker cabinet colour.  Having contrast with the floor is a must to create a lively space.

Mix dark and light together

mixing light and dark kitchen cabinets

 If you are afraid of too much dark but like the look why not do a mix of darks and lights together? 

Questions to consider: 

 Is there enough contrast with the floor? 

dark kitchen cabinets dark floors

When you choose dark cabinets your floors need to contrast with the cabinets or you are going to have the "bear cave" look that happens when your floors blend in with your cabinets. This is not an attractive look for  smaller spaces.    Even thought the floor above does have some contrast with the cabinets, I would have chosen something a tad lighter to open up the space.  Again, no absolutes, only considerations and photos often lie.  This is a lovely space.

 Is there enough contrast between elements?

dark kitchen cabinets contrast

This space is unusually dark.  It is the perfect kitchen for someone, but I would venture to say that it would not be a selling point for many buyers.

Can you have too much  pattern?

patterned countertop and backsplash

  When you have darker, busy countertops  and then have patterned backsplash you are setting up pattern competition, and it can look very busy in a small space. My rule of thumb is patterned counter, plain backsplash.

Do you have enough lighting?

adequate kitchen lighting dark cabinets

Sometimes it is difficult to tell from a photo exactly how much light is in a space.  This space is reading dark even with the obviously adequate lighting from three (probably four with under counter) light sources and light reflection from the white counter and backsplash.

Who knew there was so much to consider when you decide to go for dark!  Again, there are no absolutes only considerations and balances.   Happy decision making.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

5 Tips for painitng small spaces

 The one topic I've written about on my blog that gets attention from thousands of decor happy readers is decorating small spaces.  I think that is because rooms and homes today are smaller than they once were.  People living in condos or apartments must be conscious of using every trick in the book to enlarge their living spaces. So stay awhile and see how colour can solve some of your small space dilemmas.  Perhaps in these suggestions you will find a treatment for your small space.

Use one colour everywhere

This might seem like an extreme solution but it isn't really.  Using one colour all over a room makes the different planes blend together  to give a more unified look.  You can even use the same colour on the floor and ceiling if you wish.  Since your eye continues to move  freely around the room you have no sense of the boundaries of it.

same colour on walls and ceiling bedroom

If I could change one thing about this room above, I would paint the trim a soft pink too to keep the eye moving. Painting  trim white creates vertical and horizontal lines that your eyes automatically go to and follow. You can see the difference in the room below where the trim is painted out.  The room has an unbroken field of colour that is certainly expansive even though a dark colour was used.

painting trim and walls same colour


More blue, but the trim is painted a coordinating colour that is closer in value to the walls decreasing the emphasis on  the trim which seems to just blend in.

dark colours in small living room

Use cool colours 

 The rooms above are using the same colour almost everywhere, but they  are also utilizing another colour trick. Cool colours like blues, blue grays etc. make the walls of a room recede thus making the space appear larger than it actually is. Blues are an excellent choice for small bathrooms, laundry rooms, spare bedrooms, etc.  When walls recede you tend to notice the furnishings rather than the  "box" that contains them.

There's nothing like a cool lavender with white and light grays to expand a space.  

dark walls small living room

Use a dark colour on the walls

That's right, a dark colour!  Would you ever think that would work?  It does because  the corners disappear in the shadows and your eye moves around easily. Darker colours are often perceived as  visually deeper. There are  decorators who take the opposite approach to keeping walls light in a small space.  And the final trick with dark colours in small rooms is to paint them in a semi-gloss or gloss to reflect light.  This approach is not for the faint of heart,  but it can be quite stunning.   If you're afraid to go really dark choose a mid value gray or taupe.

Use a colour you see outside

Blues and greens give the impression that the room continues beyond the windows. You can paint the walls an outside colour or use one  in your fabric choices.  I love the freshness of the room below. It certainly is reminiscent of  plants.

blue and green living room

blending outside and inside colours

Designer Christina Murphy uses green to great effect  to visually extend this room by connecting it to the view outside the window.  Keeping a simple colour scheme is also visually enlarging.

blending outside and inside in decor 

Everything about this room invites the outside in and blends the two together. Lighter floors always enlarge a space.  There are no dark hardwoods in my life, I like light and airy all the way.

Keep walls and furniture a similar colour 

 When you keep the furniture and walls close to the same colour you are blurring the lines between them. As a result the mass of the furniture is decreased and the overall volume of the room is increased.  If you don't wish to have all the furniture the same colour consider having at least  the bigger items like armoires and chests close to the wall colour so they will begin to blend into the room and widen it out.

Decor by Jennifer Inc contemporary family room

I also want the cabinet for the TV to be a lighter colour, but it is undeniably a focal point in the room  and every room needs one. I'd also skip the dark wood rods which your eye travels to automatically because of the contrast, but I also understand why the decorator chose them (all the woods in the room are dark).   Overall I love these two rooms.  They are warm and inviting.

Alexandru Apartment lviing room contemporary living room

I equally love the cool minimal look  of this room, but it isn't for everyone.

Paint a Focal Wall


 I'm not a large fan of painting a focal wall.  I think sometimes it works to great advantage, but most times it is a less than creative solution in a space. This strategy  can work wonders in a small space, Don't be afraid to paint an accent wall a darker receding color thus  making the space look larger.

Living Room  dark focal wall

 And there you have it.  The only thing left to do is decide which of these solutions will work in your space. 
 Happy painting.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

5 ways to avoid boring decor

Many of my clients remark  that my home must be perfectly decorated.   The answer is a resounding NO.   I actually have little interest in perfectly decorated homes because that usually means boring in my book. Besides, the reality is that there is only so much money and time that one can devote to a place to live.  You have a life, you have things you want to do, and often home projects get pushed to the bottom of the pile as you live with your decisions.  It's called setting priorities.

If you are spending your hard earned money on a place to live, how can you have the best space possible within your budget parameters?  This is a roundup of suggestions supported by  past posts that you might want to consider as you decide how to create an interesting home.

1. Don't try to keep up with the neighbours

  Don't go there. I've had lots of chats especially with young  professional first time homeowners who feel trapped in the friends' comparison games. You know the checks and balances  of where something was bought, the cost, the  hot style you need to have to be "successful". This is a trap for more than young homeowners.   Designing your house considering  such dictates will lead to a  very cookie cutter product (the show home look) and will possibly deplete your bank account at the same time.

white kitchen granite counter
Today's most popular kitchen look

teal kitchen

 Rather than questioning if your home is up to par with the neighbour's, switch your thinking to how can I make my home unique. Not everyone is daring enough to have a teal kitchen, but it looks lovely and inviting and certainly isn't like ever other kitchen.  Read this to find  ways to add interest  your space.

 2.  Don't be a slave to trends  

 Trends come and go and adhering to them often means  changing  accessories, appliances and furniture more frequently than is warranted by normal wear and tear.  Are there trends that you should pay attention to?  I've discussed that topic here.  Would you be horrified to have white appliances,  natural oak hardwood or 80's European style cabinets?  ( I have all three)  Is granite the only countertop you would accept?  ( I have butcher block and laminate)!

yellow dining chairs timeless design
Timeless v.s. trendy

 Right now yellow, gray,  and black and white are "on trend", but I wouldn't call this space trendy.  Ten years from now this modern space warmed with wood and art will still look distinctive and inviting. 

chevrons antlers gray nursery
Chrvrons, antlers and gray


 If you are at a home decor store every week  looking for accessories to add to your home,  you might be  going down the trend road. If you have chevron patterns, a chalkboard wall, antlers, cute lettered signs about family, love or keeping calm, lots of  baskets, or starburst mirrors, you are an accessory  trend follower.  Pinterest tells all!

3. Dare to have a personal style

 A more creative solution to home decor is  to determine what your personal style is and stick with that, adding select pieces over time. Make choices that reflect your family lifestyle and history. What makes your home yours?  Do you like antiques; are you a painted furniture aficionado; do you collect things or have travel mementos;  are you into yoga and zen spaces;  is music important to you;  are you a painter,  a wood worker,  a stained glass artist or photographer?  Reflect your loves in your space.  Check out this post for a more in depth look at what your house says about you.

zen bathroom
Distinctive zen bathroom

This is not your average bathroom space nor will it be everyone's cup of tea. That's the thing about personal style.  It should not be cookie cutter.   Each element is distinctive and they are creatively combined to produce a quiet, zen like space. 

green antique cabinet bathroom storage
 Antiques and interesting finds

 This bath has an interesting combination of antiques and practical objects.


 4. Forget about over matching 

There is nothing that sucks the soul out of a space more  than over matching. If I went through fifty spaces in a row on Pinterest on any one day, way too many of them are so perfectly matched they are downright boring.   Every space needs an edge, you choose what that edge is.  This post discusses the matchy match look and how to avoid it.

spa bathroom
 A well matched spa inspired bathroom

There is no doubt this is a restful space reminiscent of cool ocean breezes, but I would love to see at least one thing that was "out of theme". Something unexpected... a different mirror,  shelf  or light fixture.   

spa bathroom
Spa bathroom with interest

This is still a small bathroom space but materials have been used more creatively to produce a distinctive look. Imagine this space without the art work over the tub.  I would nix the plant.  I could see myself tripping over it every time I moved.


5. Move around what you have

 One of the first things I do when I begin a project with  clients who has hired me to  accessorize their space is ask them to pull out what they have stored. You would be surprised by  some of the finds that went from the basement to front and centre.   This post  will give you an idea of this type of thinking.

With so many ways to to create inviting, individual environments, do you have a favourite one that works in your space? 

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to design a compact bathroom

I hope you enjoy the tips and very on trend images our guest blogger, Anna,  has for designing a compact bathroom.  Welcome to Designing Home blog Anna. Do check out the links below for more bathroom decor inspiration.

Hello! My name is Anna and today I am really excited to be guest posting on this wonderful blog about how we can design a compact bathroom without going through a lot of trouble. For more bathroom decor tips follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.

compact bathroom

The bathroom is hugely important to the comfort of your home: just imagine living without a bathroom for a week and you will soon see what I mean! Therefore, it is well worth the effort and expense to plan, design and fit out a bathroom with the best possible products. After all, your bathroom is going to be a high traffic, intensive-use space for years to come!

Fitting Furniture?

small scale half size bathroom fittings

If your bathroom is particularly small and tending towards cramped, then you can choose smaller than usual fittings and furniture for your bathroom refit. These half-size items take up much less space but still allow for a complete and comfortable bathroom experience. You just will not be able to lie full length in the tub!

Shapely Bathroom!

fitting bathroom inspiration into available space

Rather than simply transplanting your ideal bathroom from your favorite magazine or website, make sure that you fit the elements of the bathroom into the available space of your existing, empty bathroom, taking into account any awkward corners and angles. By all means, allow yourself to be influenced by outside sources, but taking the time to tweak and rework the layout until it makes the best use of the available space will give your new bathroom a professional looking finish and polish.

Wet Room Popularity

wet room bathroom

The wet room is a fairly new bathroom décor concept, and it works best in very small bathrooms. Not only do you maximize every inch of available space by stripping out internal divisions but you will be back on trend for bathroom décor fashions! Do be prepared to invest in excellent waterproofing and water tight storage units as the entire room will become steamy when in use, which can lead to damp setting into poorly prepared surfaces.

Go Up High!

vertical shapes small compact bathrrom

Opt for a tall and narrow décor and furniture scheme to minimise clutter and give you the maximum amount of storage while only using a relatively small amount of floor space. Another idea is to perhaps eschew a vanity in favor of a stand-alone pedestal basin. This will make your bathroom appear better proportioned as the pedestal looks tall and slim compared to the blocky squat profile of a vanity cabinet.

Reflect Large

large mirror compact bathroom

Always install the largest mirror that you can find, afford or fit to your bathroom wall! The larger the mirror, the greater the illusion of depth and width, opening up the whole bathroom to pleasing proportions.

Store and Pack it!

storage compact bathroom

Bathrooms always need plenty of storage, so make sure that you include it from the very beginning stages. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easily you will find hidden nooks and otherwise wasted spaces into which you can fit a small cupboard, cabinet or shelf when you begin to include storage from the design stage.

I hope you found something to spark your  creativity.  I just finished a compact bathroom remodel which will  make a great next post topic. 

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