Monthly Archives: June 2011

Elements of Design … in an Excavator?

I had a bunch of things I wanted to write about but since the kids started summer holidays this week I haven’t been as focused as usual.

Our street is currently under major construction. New pipes, sewers, sidewalks and road. It’s loud, dirty and the kids are completely obsessed with it.

My Street

Once I acclimatized to the deafening noise while breaking up a few fights over Pokemon cards, I started randomly thinking about elements of design in road construction.

There’s the texture of the concrete and the dirt. There’s repetition in the tracks on the excavator. But the element of design that stood out to me the most was shapes in the heavy construction machines.

Round (massive) wheels

Triangular shaped tracks & scoop

Oval shaped tracks

Rectangular-ish windows

It’s quite possible that I am losing my mind by writing a post about construction machines but I am quite fascinated by the process, the power of the machines and how they dominate the space they are working in.

Everything happens in a certain order, all the trades on the job know their role and it is all designed to ensure that water, gas, sewage are all working as they should … things I certainly take for granted on a daily basis.

It’s no different than the process of renovating a room or designing a house. The process is messy but the end result can be quite fantastic.

Then there is a certain little someone in my life who thinks the “chines” are the best thing in the world.

He is just over half the height of the wheel!

I’m sure the novelty of road construction right in front of my house will wear off.

Anyone else fascinated by the design elements of heavy construction machines?


all images via moi


A Sense of Community

I went looking for inspiration. I went looking to learn.

What I found most of all was an amazing sense of community. I found myself in a room full of people who loved the same things I did and loved sharing it with others.

On Saturday night I attended the Canadian Design Bloggers MeetUp at the fabulous Brassaii. The group was full of the whose who of the Canadian Design blogging community. Sponsored by Ikea Canada, Delta Faucets and CIL – the room was literally buzzing with chatter, laughter and more than a few squeals.

Tommy Smythe, the hilarious and insanely talented HGTV star was the keynote speaker for the evening. Tommy & Sarah (that’s Sarah Richardson – to be clear!) are known for creating amazing spaces in shows such as Sarah’s House & Sarah 101 to name a few. When I had my photo taken with Tommy I nearly melted (insert stalker fan visual here) when he said that I could be his “Sarah” for the night. Ahhh!

Sarah (as in me - not the other Sarah) & Tommy!

Tommy opened his presentation by observing that we shouldn’t be called just “bloggers” but rather “bitches who blog” – brought the house down! I am still laughing at that line!

He shared photos of his recent trip to Scandanavia with us. I was wowed not only by what I saw on the screen but also his commentary and the inspiration he found. He showed us one picture of a building that he wanted to use as inspiration for a headboard – the windows in another building suggested a design for a rug. Did you know that there are hardwood floors in the Copenhagen airport?!

It gave me pause to look at buildings for more than their detailed finishes and focus on the overall image a building or facade portrays and how it looks in it’s environment.

Using the “Lack” sidetable from Ikea as an example, Tommy pointed out that good design at whatever price point will always be relevant. The “Lack” table can be found as much in student dorms as in million dollar homes.

After Tommy’s presentation it was mix and mingle time. I was able to meet face to face with writers of blogs that I’ve been reading and admiring such as Rambling Renovators, Life Begins at Thirty, Decor Mentor, Little House Blog, First Time Fancy, Bijou and Boheme and Decor Happy.

I also met new faces behind blogs such as Recreated, Buy Borrow & Style, Yummy Mummy Club, Mod Missy and Not A House But a Home to name a few.

Check out these blogs – you will drool with inspiration!

The evening was organized by Vie of Verdigris Vie and Daniela of Dress, Design & Decor and what a fabulous job they did. I was so grateful to be among such an inspirational group.

Then … the icing on the cake. I won the draw for an iPad2. I was so stunned it took me a minute to react and I basically walked around the rest of the evening with a dorky grin on my face.

Today I am one inspired and motivated lady. Can hardly wait for the next meetup.

Have you ever been to an event and walked away with a newfound sense of community?

Images via moi, here, moi & here

Great Minds

Happy Friday. I’m going to an event tomorrow where I look forward to meeting some new faces and finding inspiration in their ideas and wisdom. Will share more next week!

In the meantime, I leave you with one of my favourite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest


What are you up to this weekend?

Thinking about Home Office Space

I work from home. It’s great in so many ways – no commute, can let the dog out whenever and am here for courier deliveries.

One of my biggest challenges is carving out a dedicated workspace that I don’t have to pack up and move when the kids come home and one where I can keep all my samples, project boards and client files.

I had originally created a workspace on our main floor, just off the kitchen, which is mostly great but results in a lot of crap being dumped on my desk (I have a filing system … everyone in the house just needs remedial training!).

This is what I had originally envisioned for my quiet corner of workspace on the main floor but see the “everyone’s crap lands here” comment above …

A few months ago I moved my office to the third floor of our house and love it. There are two skylights, tons of airflow and it is a bright, cheery space that I can escape to. It needs some colour as it is currently a sickly pale bluish, grey colour but it’s perfect otherwise!

A future post will be about the transformation of my home office but for today I wanted to share some home workspaces that inspire me …

Love the painted brick and angled bookshelf; the wide open desk invites creativity.

A quiet corner carved out …

This view is stunning but might do some serious damage to my productivity!

I love all the angles and the crisp white walls & ceiling in this space

Probably not a home office but I love the high ceilings & industrial vibe

I just love the clean, organized and colourful space created in this home office.

If you work from home, how have you carved our your own space? What inspires you?

images 1 – 6 via here, image 8 via here

I think I can, I think I can …

im·pos·tor (noun): one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception

Can I do it? Do I know what I am doing? Can they see that I’m nervous? What if they find out that maybe I don’t know everything I should know!

Ever feel like that?

Being a new business owner I’ve experienced that feeling more than once. It’s a feeling of overwhelm, a feeling that maybe I don’t really know what I am doing.

I had an experience several months ago where I had pitched some business and when they called and actually hired me (gasp!) all of a sudden I wasn’t so sure. I was telling a good friend of mine how I was feeling and she barked at me (‘cause she talks in “bark” sometimes): “Hepburn, you know your sh**, you’ve done this before … you’re just gonna have to fake it ‘til you make it.”

For me, it was so powerful having someone else say that I could do it because at that moment I knew exactly what I needed to do and went out and rocked it.

Ever heard of “Impostor Syndrome”? Valerie Young, a public speaker with a doctorate in education, is a specialist in helping individuals overcome their feelings of professional inadequacy, has defined Impostor Syndrome as follows:

Despite evidence of your accomplishments, you continually discount your success, thinking instead that you must be fooling everyone and thus in constant danger of being unmasked

She has put together a quiz that looks at how you handle mistakes, or your approach to challenges and your perception of those around you (clients, colleagues, competitors). At a certain point, a lack of confidence in yourself will hold you back and Young coaches people of how to manage those feelings.

In exploring the idea of “Impostor Syndrome” I decided to talk to other business owners and see if they had ever experienced the feelings of doubt that I periodically did (or if I was just really a complete headcase – shh don’t tell my clients!).

I started with my dear husband, Brad. He’s a Chartered Accountant and partner in a local accounting firm, and far more reasonable than me at times. He said that one of the things that he has learned over the years is that he can’t possibly know everything off the top of his head – particularly as it relates to the ins and outs of tax etc. He’s learned to be upfront with clients in these cases and get back to them with the answer.

My friend Jane, who owns her own consulting company, The Reeves Group, pointed out that the whole idea of “Impostor Syndrome” or “Faking it ‘Til you Make it” is really just the stories you tell yourself in your head – it’s all made up. She also pointed out that the minute you don’t feel nervous about a new client meeting or a project you probably aren’t caring enough about your work.

So … with all this in mind, how do I overcome perceived feelings of inadequacy and boost my own confidence?

Prepare, prepare, prepare

This includes knowing the client, knowing the scope of work and making sure I have a buttoned up list of exploratory questions if I am meeting someone for the first time

Follow up and follow through

Always immediately follow up after a meeting and always follow through on what you said you’d do – setting client expectations gives me confidence to do my job because I know that we are all on the same page and are working towards the same goal

Dress the part

Pull the outfit together ahead of time, walk with confidence, hold that head high and for gosh darn sakes clean your shoes and ladies, apply the lipstick

So, now that you all know I am not always the ballsy confident woman you might have thought I was … how do you boost your confidence when you know your stuff but just need a little help convincing yourself?

All images via here

Adding Personality to a Shared Boys Room

I’ve got boys bedrooms on the brain these days.

Today I’m thinking about my older two boys (they are 6 and a half – yes, twins). Other than moving them into bunk beds a few months back, we haven’t done much to their room since it was painted just before we moved into our current house.

I generally like the overall colour scheme of reds and blues with some green thrown in. However, it needs more clothes storage (more on that later) and I’d say it’s time we got something up on the walls!

The Challenge:

How to finish the room with whimsical accents that are tailored to the individual. My two older boys couldn’t be any different. One likes (read: LOVES) sports, the other likes Star Wars and more fantasy-like play.

Here’s a shot of what the room currently looks like (yes, in the glory of everyday living):

The view from the doorway

Bunk Beds!

A quiet reading corner

Lego - nuff said

Consistent elements such as colour, bedding and furnishings is key – the fun is in the accents and where they are placed.

Here are a few ideas I’ve come across recently that I am using for inspiration in my efforts to personalize the room.

The goalie net could be raised over the headboard (on the top bunk) and use a combo of posters & wall decals to finish it off - maybe have a personalize duvet made?

This isn't the right size but would envision wrapping it around the corner to fit the bottom bunk bed

I still need to source out wall art and I am thinking of swapping the curtains out for a solid colour – a denim Roman blind perhaps?

Then again … boys are so hard on the house I wonder why I am going to any effort at all to decorate their room.

This wall decal sums it up for me:

How would you personalize a shared bedroom when the occupants are soooo different?

images 1 – 4 via moi, here, here, and here

A Stylish Camera Bag – puhleeze!

Seriously. How much uglier and unstylish can your good ‘ol traditional camera bag get?

Functional, durable, bleh

I get that they serve a specific purpose but it just doesn’t work for me style-wise.

Anyone who has known me for any period of time knows that I love handbags. And lately, huge bags! They really do work hard for me though. Between carrying around my laptop, my decorators toolbox plus an assortment of kid-related crap the bag gets tested daily.

What I’ve struggled with though is how to carry my DSLR camera around in a way that is stylish and makes me happy when I look at the bag.

I had almost given up hope. But then I found …

The “Clover” bag from Epiphanie

Look at the inside – it holds camera, laptop, extra lens, charger, wallet, phone & keys!

Or, what about the “Paris” bag also from Epiphanie

Then there is Kelly Moore with the “Libby” Bag …

Or what about the “Hobo” bag again from Kelly Moore

If I was only carrying my SLR there are a ton more stylish options out there. But those are cute and petite. I am neither cute or petite and it is definitely reflected in my handbag preferences!

I am currently lugging around this tote bag from Jeanne Lottie but it doesn’t have any protection and only one spot to hold things so ends up being a black hole – but I love the sparkly gold!

I’m leaning towards the bag at the beginning of this post – the “Clover” by Epiphanie. What would you choose?

images via here, here and moi

Networking Used to Make Me Nervous

One of the early activities that I mastered in starting my own business was the art of networking. Seems easy and intuitive, right?

As I mentioned in my inaugural post, at about the time I went back to school to study Interior Decorating I started to do ad hoc project work.

The work I was doing was right up my alley. A mix of design, managing trades and logistics. I love making order out of chaos and this project was no exception. As the project wrapped up I started thinking about what my next move was. I had learned a ton, had a solid lessons learned list and was keen to keep going.

My instincts were telling me that there was a real need for small and medium sized business owners to have someone help them with their space needs leaving them to focus on running their company. The question was … how do I take my idea, figure out if it is viable, then turn it into reality?

I had a bunch of questions ranging from is the niche I am looking at too narrow? How much should I charge and how (hourly/fee)? How do I set up a business name, website, banking, tax info? How can I learn more about the industry?

I needed to ground my business idea by talking to people already in the interior design/decorating, construction, project management fields and other small business owners. That meant “networking”. Ick. Really? It sounded so pushy, so gauche. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk with the best of them but for whatever reason the idea of reaching out to people I didn’t know and ask for information gave me hives.

To get a better handle on this networking thing, I reached out to my fabulous neighbour Jill Donahue who, through her own consulting company, Excellerate, teaches people how to (ethically) influence. She is the networking queen and I sat down with her to pick her brain a little about this whole networking thing. She had three key suggestions:

1. Set up Informational Interviews

I wasn’t looking for a job, merely information but I was a little stuck on my approach with people I didn’t know. Jill suggested some helpful language to frame what I was looking for: “I’m trying to … “, “I have this idea and wanted to bounce some ideas off you … “or ” Tell me about your experience … “.

2. Ask for an Introduction

At the conclusion of your informational interview ask if you can be introduced to other people that might help you. Think of it as you complete one interview and walk away with information and three new people to talk to.

3. Leverage Linkedin for Networking

Jill suggested to adopt and leverage Linkedin as a way to network with like-minded professionals. Admittedly, I’ve been more successful with my Twitter networking but since attending a seminar on Linkedin have made progress on my profile.

Armed with the gameplan I developed with Jill, I set out to talk to people and ground my business idea. I found that once I started my information interview process it got easier and I was pleasantly surprised by how willing people were to talk to me. I’ve since expanded my business to include residential interior decorating and have applied the same approach to learn more in that space.

Now, networking isn’t such a big thing but rather just a conversation and act of information sharing. I’ve found by asking people about themselves and their business it often leads to asking me what I do – and a few referrals have come my way because of it!

Did networking ever make you nervous? What is your approach?

Dream Outdoor Pools …

Water has always been a part of my life and there is nothing like swimming in an outdoor pool. Diving in, looking up at the blue sky … it’s like living in a dream.

Today I am dreaming about exotic swimming pools. Enjoy …

Living the California Dream … I could curl up with a book and perhaps a glass of wine by this pool

I would love to rent this villa in Positano, Italy if only for the stunning view poolside

There is nothing like diving into a perfectly still pool for a hard workout

Rob Lowe is stunning … so it only makes sense that his pool should also be a thing of beauty

Heading back to Italy, this time to Tuscany. This might be heaven on earth.

Do you ever dream of diving into an outdoor pool? Where would your dream pool be?

Have a refreshing weekend.

images 1, 2, 4 & 5 via here, image 3 via here

Master Bathroom Do-Over?

Looking back on our two-storey addition to our house I can honestly say that I am very happy with all the decisions that we made – from design, to functionality, to construction materials and finishings – it came together more or less as planned. BUT …

I wish we had done things differently in our master bathroom. There I said it … can I call a master bath do-over? It’s not that it’s ugly. It’s not that the layout is poor. It’s just well, plain, perhaps too pinky beige and maybe a bit blah.

If I was to do it over again here are a couple of photos that would inspire me:

This has a calm serene feel (love the wet room idea and the tiles!) …

Or this (it would be like showering outdoors) …

Before I show you pictures of what it actually looks like (which really isn’t all that bad!) let me share with you what I’d do differently next time. Call it the benefit of hindsight …

1. Radiant Heating on floors (mmm … toasty toes in winter – also helpful for stomach flu incidents but I digress)

2. A deeper, more contemporary looking bathtub like this:

3. Add more architectural detail to the walls like this:

4. Tiles with a little less (read: none) pinky beige in them like these …

Floor in client's shower area

Tile sample via Tile Shoppe

I figure in the scale of a renovation that lasted six months where we added a main floor family room, mudroom, powder room, redid the kitchen, new flooring throughout the main floor, added a master bedroom and bathroom, converted a bedroom into a 2nd floor laundry room, updated the kids bathroom and painted the entire house getting one thing sort of okay (the master bath) is not too bad). I’ve am currently working on my third bathroom renovation for clients since starting my business so I have a keener sense of what’s out there in bathrooms!

Here’s a peek at our master bathroom …

The house's original bathtub (c. 1915) that I freshened up with a coat of paint. Set under the window it's like bathing outdoors.

Toilet with towel rack above - it faces the tub which means you can look outside while, um, sitting

Vanity & shower area

Have you renovated or redecorated your home? Is there anything that you’d “call a do-over” given the chance?

Images via here, here, here, here, here and moi.