Switching out the Lights - Making a Rental Feel Like Home

With Labour Day over, it feels like the summer is coming to a close (although, full disclosure, I'm heading to a cottage for the week to try and stretch out every last bit of summer fun I can). While feeling sad about summer ending (it's been such a blast!), I'm also accompanied by that old, familiar September feeling of wanting to renew my energy and pour my efforts into work and progress. So here I am, writing a post. 

I recently (okay, not that recently...in January - eek time flies!) wrote an article for Flare.com outlying 10 Ways to Turn Your Rental into a Real Home.  One of my top tips is to change out your light fixtures. Let's be honest, Light fixtures in apartments are notoriously bad (hello boob lights!) and this is a pretty easy fix.

The fixture over my dining table actually wasn't horrible (although it was quite dirty) but wasn't right for the rest of my decor. It has more of a mid-century vibe, and my furnishings, and the bones of the apartment itself, are much more traditional. 


While out antiquing at the Aberfoyle Flea Market last summer, I came across this vintage brass and crystal chandelier that I knew would look perfect in the space. After a good cleaning, it was ready to be hung.


Tip: Chandeliers should hang about 30" above your dining table.

I also switched out the ceiling fan in my living room. Although it provided a nice cool breeze, it was an eyesore, especially since it reflected double in the large mirror over my fireplace. The vintage wheat sheaf chandelier (found for me at the St. Lawrence market by my friend Tim of Design Maze Tim) is the perfect scale and adds texture and interest to the room.



I often find people neglecting the power of attractive lighting - it's too often an afterthought rather than a showpiece. Good lighting really makes a room feel complete from top to bottom. Keep the original fixtures in a rental to reinstall when you move out, and take your new, attractive lighting with you to your next place!

To read the rest of my tips for Making a Rental Feel like Home, check out my article with Flare.com here!



Project Northlake: Kitchen Reno - After Pictures

Well guys, we made it here to the fun part - after photos! Getting to work with my parents as clients was such an amazing and unique experience. We had a few tense moments and many fun ones, and I am so happy with the final product. More importantly - they are happy. For over 30 years my parents have been putting me and my brothers first, and it makes my heart so glad to see them do this for themselves. They really deserve it!

The space feels so much brighter, lighter, bigger, and up to date. It also functions better and has way more storage. I know we will make many more memories together as a family in this kitchen!

Taking out the railing and bringing the cabinets right to the ceiling really increases the feeling of space. The light cabinet colour helps with this too. The cabinets are solid maple and sprayed in Simply White by Benjamin Moore. It is a slightly creamy white, which is warmer, more traditional, and works better with the style of the rest of the house than a cooler white would.

We went with polished nickel as our metal finish. It has a warmer tone than chrome, so it works great if you want to mix in brass finishes as well (we didn't do that here, but mixing of metals in the kitchen is becoming increasingly popular and is a look I personally love, so I'm passing on that handy little trick). Our hardware is the Studio Collection from Hickory Hardware in 3" and 5".

The hardware selection is actually one of those tense moments that I was talking about, as my parents and I had differing views on what the hardware should be...and by different views, I mean they were picking out some crazy 90's looking curvy things. When we found the Studio Collection, however, we all knew that we had a winner. It has nice clean lines with just enough detail to keep it from feeling modern or trendy. We were mindful of picking classic elements that would stand the test of time.
This is true of our backsplash as well. The oriental white marble backsplash from Creekside Tile in Toronto will never go out of style. The classic subway tile pattern in a slightly smaller size (2"x4") is simple and clean, and the natural material has beautiful variation in tones of cream, white and grey.
The quartz countertops are speckled to hide crumbs so my mom isn't constantly scrubbing. I had to push my parents into quartz a bit (it has a higher price tag), but it is the best product on the market in terms of durability without compromising appearance.
This feature of the microwave cabinet coming down to sit on the counter adds extra storage and function. It also makes the microwave look more built in without the high price tag.
The old kitchen had a desk on the end of the run of cabinets. We still needed a spot for the phone and stationary items, but we chose to end the run of cabinets with a deep pantry. This way, the (sometimes messy) 'office' area is neatly tucked away as opposed to being the first thing you see when coming into the kitchen. Also, no one actually sat at the desk so we opted for a bottom cabinet for more storage.
Vintage glassware in shades complimenting the wall colour (Amalia by Beautitone Paint) is displayed in the angled glass cabinet. It's a bit of a tight squeeze here and we walk by this corner to get to the patio door, so angling it provided a less hazardous solution. 

I really love the polished nickel pagoda lantern. It doesn't have any glass sides, which is key in a kitchen where grease and smoke in the air can be an issue. It was purchased at Universal Lighting in Toronto. It's large and makes a statement - perfect as it is in the direct sight line when you walk in the front door of the house.

What a transformation! I love you Mom and Dad!


My Apartment: Bedroom Planning

It has officially been one year since I took possession of my one bedroom apartment (what?! How is that possible?!). So far, I've been focused on every area besides the bedroom, because it's the one area guests don't really see. 
Now that the rest of my space is more or less finished (just a minor list left: runner for the front hall, paint dining table, new side table lamp, find hardware for bookshelf doors), it's time to give the bedroom a little loving. I really dislike my bedroom right now - it simply doesn't function properly so it always ends up a mess. The layout is very strange because of the placement of doors, windows and radiators. And the white walls and lack of bedskirt, etc. leave it feeling very temporary and dorm-ish.

I've finally come up with a plan that I feel very confident in. I had bits and pieces of it brewing for awhile, but I had my big eureka moment recently while watching The Intern. I love every set Nancy Meyers has designed (Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday, etc.) but I think Jules's house in The Intern is my very favourite. It literally made my heart skip a beat. And when I saw her dark grey master bedroom, I knew this was the piece to the puzzle that I had been missing.
Jules's Bedroom in The Intern, Designed by Nancy Meyers, via Architectural Digest

Those charcoal walls were speaking my language, and the play between greys and natural linens really works well. I love the idea of wall sconces as I don't have room for bedside lamps. Picking the perfect grey is proving tricky, but I'm leaning towards Elegant Boutique by Para. Do you have a favourite?

Here is another room that is inspiring me for my bedroom:
Victoria Solomon's Apartment, Designed by Victoria Soloman, via The Everygirl

The grey here is a bit lighter and probably better for my space that doesn't get much light. And those sconces are my dream. MY DREAM! They are reasonably priced, but still out of my budget so I'll have to find an alternative.

Other things floating my boat:
Michelle Adams's Bedroom via Lonny Mag, 2012
I've been obsessed with Pyne Hollyhock for the bedroom ever since I saw this spread of Michelle Adams's place way back in 2012. If I haven't gotten sick of it yet, I doubt I ever will. Of course I can't afford much of this fabric, so maybe just a small lumbar pillow on the bed?

Also I'm craving emerald green. I used to always say I want an emerald green headboard, but I think that a neutral headboard is better. Instead, I am going to get a couple of large emerald green velvet pillows from Live Love Smile.

The hardest thing for me to master styling wise is making the bed look good. I tend to get very hot while I sleep, so I need to use the thin 'cool' IKEA duvet cover, but it makes the bed look flat and uninviting. I think the key is to layer, I can always take a thicker, fluffier duvet cover off before I go to sleep.

Here is the current state of the bedroom (I'm only showing you all this because I love you...):

Okay now I am sufficiently embarrassed. Time to get ready to paint!!


Cane Chair Makeover - Switch Studio

I was browsing craigslist one afternoon when I saw a listing for a pair of vintage cane chairs on sale at the local (okay, not local, I had to drive about 45 minutes) ReStore. Now, let me tell you, a pair of anything vintage is hard to come by, and when you do find a pair, it usually means $$$. But these were reasonably priced at $50 each, no tax. I knew that I had to have them. 

After folding down the seats in my parents' van and making the drive to the location, I was a bit disappointed to see that the upholstery was in very bad shape. The cream striae velvet was very yellowed and very dark and stained in places, and some spots looked like they had been scratched by a cat, leaving rips and tears in the fabric. Still, they were the perfect thing for the apartment I was on the verge of renting, and I knew with a little love they could be really special. See the before below:
Fast forward 11 months into living at the new apartment and the chairs were still sitting here unchanged. Finally, I enlisted the help of reupholster extraordinaire Staci Edwards of Switch Studio. I left the fabric, chairs and plan in Staci's capable hands and on Saturday, I went to pick them up!! I was so nervous to see them but I am thrilled with how they turned out!

I went with a simple 100% linen in soft blue from Designer Fabrics for the front body of the chair. While I initially thought about doing a striped pipe as well, I think it would have been too busy with the texture of the cane. The stripe on the back panel, however, is the perfect touch. It adds pattern and interest but is not trendy. It is classic and timeless. 

Switch Studio also did up the sweet little lumbar pillows. The Schumacher fabric used was the first 'ah-ha' moment I had when developing the scheme for this room. It really made the corals and aquas in my existing (and beloved) rug make sense, and I used this fabric to pick out the fabric for my sofa cushions. I love the contrasting coral pipe on these pillows. It compliments my coral velvet pillows from Stuck on Hue so nicely. 

 I chose to keep the wooden and cane frames of the chairs in their original condition. They are a little roughed up, but I love the sense of patina and history that they contribute. I like my vintage in vintage condition.

 The peak-a-boo striped back is so charming.

Truthfully, I thought about attempting a DIY reupholstery job on these chairs to save money, but I knew that I wanted to keep these chairs for many years to come and didn't want to mess them up. I wanted them to look perfect, not just 'good enough considering I did it myself'.  

Switch Studio did an amazing job on the chairs and pillows and I couldn't be more thrilled! Well worth the investment. They are located in Oakville and service Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga, Milton, and Greater Toronto Area. If you are looking for an excellent, fairly priced option for reupholstery, this is your spot! A big thank you to Staci Edwards for making my chair dreams come true!


Project Northlake: Kitchen Reno - Progress Pictures

So much has been happening in my childhood kitchen since the last time that I posted! Although by no means a glamorous post, I thought it might be fun to show you some of the behind the scenes moments and fill you in on a bit of the realities of the reno. My family has been doing most of the work on the kitchen so far. The progress has been quick, but not without its share of setbacks.

We needed to find a new tiler, the hardwood installation got delayed, a hole got punched through the wall into the dining room during demo, we painted the entire first coat of paint before realizing that the colour was mistinted and drying far too bright, our area rug was cut to the wrong size by the binders. What I've come to learn in this industry is that projects rarely, if ever, run perfectly smoothly. When embarking on a renovation, you need to be prepared for things to go wrong, but sometimes managing expectations is easier said than done. Luckily, we are back on track and the finish line is in sight!

We started by tearing out the dated railing that separated the kitchen from the sunken family room. This is really going to help to open up and modernize the space.

My parents ripped up the linoleum floors and carpet and my older brothers pitched in with the demolition of the kitchen. I was especially excited to see the bulkhead go. The new cabinets will reach to the ceiling, making the room feel much bigger and taller, as well as adding extra storage.

My dad took care of the new insulation and moving some outlets. While he had originally planned to do the drywalling himself, we thought it best to bring in a professional to patch the walls seamlessly.

The last time I was home, the painting had started. We are really lightening up the space with a soft, muddy blue/green colour rather than the coffee colour seen in the 'befores'

It's hard to believe that when I'm in Waterloo next weekend we will have our hardwood floors and new cabinets installed! Then it will be a couple of weeks for the new quartz counter tops to be made and installed. I can't wait to show you the big reveal!


Project Northlake: Kitchen Reno - Before Pictures

I'm excited to announce that I'm working with some clients very near and dear to my heart on a kitchen reno...my parents! My parents still live in the house I was born in, so it's been very different taking on a project that will change a room where so many fond personal memories have been made, but it is definitely time for an update.

Today I'm sharing the 'befores' with all of you, so the blog is about to get decidedly less cute! The honey oak cabinets made the space feel dated so we are replacing with solid maple cabinets painted white. We are more or less keeping the current layout as it works well, but we are upgrading finishes throughout to include hardwood floors, quartz countertops and marble backsplash. 

We are removing the railing separating the kitchen from the family room to open up the feeling of space.
The bulkhead is also coming down to make weigh for 42" uppers and a nice chunky crown molding.
As a cost savings, we are keeping the existing fridge and stove, which are in good condition. Plus, my mom is not a fan of stainless steel!

The pantry will be moving to the end of the run of cabinets.

I can't wait to share the afters with all of you, it's going to be a huge transformation. The plan is to really lighten, brighten, and modernize the space, create additional function and storage, and add value to the house. I'm so happy for my parents - they really deserve this!