Have you noticed that “back-to-school” marketing appears earlier and earlier each year. Mid-July seems appropriate for some retailers to start planting the seeds of fall (for some families, this is barely two weeks into summer), and by now, it is full-throttle! That’s the retailers’ agenda, but is it yours?
I spend from early January through June looking forward to summer, anticipating the long, warm and often lazy days of July and August. With “back-to-school” messaging all around, it is a challenge to block it out and resist the thinking, planning and actions this triggers for us.
I invite you to consider ignoring these persistant marketing efforts. Instead of planning and shopping, why not enjoy EVERY last second of this amazing time of year. Plan a last-minute trip, a back yard gathering with friends and family now that it is safe to do so or a slow lunch in your favourite ‘hood instead of dragging yourself (and your kids?) to the shops looking for a Five-star notebook. Worst case scenario is you are buying pencils and re-thinking the work stations in September, and what is wrong with that?
There are three full weeks left until Labour Day, so what are you going to do with them?
Although the end of the restrictions for COVID 19 seem to be in sight, we are still mostly in a work from home situation and probably like most people, the spaces we are living and working in are getting a bit stale. There is a flurry of updating taking place which is quite understandable. However, I am also a big fan of the re-do which really is a re-shuffle….
This is our family room as it had been for most of the pandemic. Nothing wrong with it (and yes, I did tidy up), but after 15 months, I grew really bored of my surroundings. I get pleasure from the spaces I live in, and with the extended time at home, a few of the highly used rooms just needed a refresh. Nothing needed replacing, just a change of scenery, so to speak.
You will notice that I did not make any big changes; in fact, I did not even move the furniture around (which is unusual for me), but enough to add some new energy and interest. One of the key changes was the art work, which can dramatically shift the tone of a room. Art gets stale and un-noticed hanging in the same place, year after year, so try shuffling it around to create some new vibes in your home. All the “new” elements come from different areas of the home.
So spend a little time shifting your art and even re-thinking the possibilities for alternate placement of furnishings or other objects that your cherish but which have grow stale. Do the shuffle!
Helping people improve their homes is a real pleasure for me. Sometimes, the process is quite simple, requiring a few tweaks and a re-think of what goes where and why. This post illustrates a recent transformation…
The above photos show an under-utilized living room. Nothing wrong with the furnishings or art work, just not thoughtfully positioned or organized. The client had been struggling with the layout, as well as how to make the room inviting, and useable. Now more than ever, every square foot of your home must work for you. It is one thing to have a poorly functioning closet – quite another to have a living room that you do not use.
The first step was to re-position the key furnishings to give the room a more spacious feel, in part by creating some visual flow. Because of the neutral tones of the wall colours and furnishings, I selected a multi-coloured hook rug to add some playful energy to the room. The rug selected was also a nod the the client’s Nova Scotian roots and connected in colour and feel to some of the art that they had collected from some of their previous trips. The addition of a wall-mounted lamp creates a well-lit reading nook for some quiet time with views to the fire or the outside. The artwork was thoughtfully grouped and positioned about the room to create areas of interest. A few items were edited out, and used in other rooms of the home.
The owner of this Mount Pleasant home had the following to say about this project….
“The way Molly re-styled my living room was amazing – it has a totally different vibe and feels like a new room! The living room never felt like a place we wanted to hang out. Now I enjoy it daily, reading or having a cup of tea. Molly also helped me select a few new pieces that I needed but was unable to decide upon by myself. My husband and I are very happy with how the living room now looks and feels, and look forward to hanging out with friends when the time comes.”
Part of what makes a house a home are the personal touches… photographs, objects we acquire from travel or even more personal items, such as collections. They reflect our interests, and they reveal part of us. The growth of a collection and the tandem stories that go along with it tell a part of your life’s journey.
Displaying your collection can be part of the fun. Rather than have items dispersed all over your home, bring your collection together – it will not only have the biggest impact, but you and others will be more inclined to engage with the collection, noting differences and similarities. It creates a conversation.
Depending on what you are into, sometimes you can only realistically display a small portion of your collection. Choose what you have the most connection with – either from the story behind its acquisition, or the story in its pages. If you tire of the current selection, rotate it, keeping it fresh.
The photos above reveal a salt & pepper shaker collection showcased in a bookcase in the living room near a favourite reading nook where it can be appreciated while relaxing. Display your collection in a part of your home that makes sense to you. A more visible location like the living room might work for some, or the office for others… Some may prefer a kitchen oriented collection such as the tea cups in the kitchen, but there are really no wrong choices.
A few other things to consider when planning out how and where to display your favourite things…
Collections have a way of growing, which is the fun part, so plan for this.
Some of us have multiple collections on the go. It can work to display more than one collection together, but sometimes not. Be careful not to make it too busy – you want to be able to appreciate the uniqueness of what you have gathered together.
Once you have thoughtfully grouped your collection, try to work in some lighting. A well-lit collection looks highlighted, artful and enhanced.
Interior styling, in its purist form, is the art of arranging objects. This involves not only what should go where, but also what to take away. It is the art of assembling a composition, whether this be the contents of a house, a room, or a bookcase. It applies to any style – modern, traditional, eclectic, whatever you are into – just arranged and curated in the most considered way. It creates the mood of your home, and when done thoughtfully, it tells your story.
Interior design focuses more on the structure and function of spaces: electrical or lighting plans, kitchen cabinets, tile, flooring, etc. Interior decorating focuses more on specifying the furnishings, or the window and wall coverings, for example. In reality, there is quite a bit of overlap between decorating and styling. Furnishings do require occasional updating, rooms often need additional lighting to make them more functional, needs change as we evolve and adjustments are necessary…
I choose to focus on interior styling because it works mostly with what you already have, and surprisingly, a “re-think” and re-configure of what we already possess can often achieve the goal we are after. Interior styling gives results that are more immediate, and projects are concluded in less time with less cost. In this process, I aim to help you tell your story using the objects you already have always keeping in mind how we need to function in spaces, making them “work” for us. Your home should contain possessions that are meaningful to you, and this, in turn, authentically reflects your style.
I hope this clarifies what Interior Styling is and how it can help you optimize your living spaces. As always, please reach out if you have any questions… and Happy New Year!
When I hear people talking about preparing for winter and “cozying” up their homes, faux fur throws and fireplaces are not the first things that come to mind. For me cozy equates to comfort, and as I see it, there are two kinds of comfort. One is the obvious comfy couch kind of comfort. The other, less obvious type, is the “mental” comfort we seek. When you walk into your living room or wherever you plan to seek relaxation and comfort, do any “tasks” come to mind? “Oh, I forgot to fix the leg of that chair” or “Damn, I need to get the carpets cleaned…” or ” I can’t believe I still haven’t patched and painted that hole in the wall!” Whatever nagging little (or big) tasks you still have to do….DO THEM NOW! If you are anything like me, it is really hard to chill and relax when you get triggered every time you walk into the room by the “to dos”. Give yourself a realistic time limit in which to complete these nagging tasks, and stick to it. You will reap the rewards, I promise!
Once you have taken care of that business, here are some less obvious and practical things to implement to cozy up for the coming long dark days of November and beyond….
First, make sure you have sufficient lighting. Some rooms are under-utilized because the lighting is inadequate. Ideally, you need overhead, accent, and task lighting. This helps create “layers” of light. Task lighting is really important for reading, or other activities that require more focused light. Second, dimmers are crucial for suppling the right amount of light. Low light is cozy and relaxing, and ideal for when you are hanging out with family or friends. Last, make sure you are using warm light bulbs (vs cool light) – a small and inexpensive way to create a warm and inviting space.
Take a look at the furniture groupings in your home. Are sofas and chairs pushed back towards the walls or are they grouped together towards the centre of the room? I see a lot of the former, and while it maximizes space in the centre of the room, it does not create a cozy feeling. Bring your sofa(s) and chairs closer together to create an intimate vignette where you can better connect with others.
Windows are awesome – the more the merrier and the bigger the better! However, in the late fall and winter months, widows have a cold effect once the sun goes down. Add some form of window covering to windows in your “hanging out” spaces. There are many options here, with fabric adding the most warmth. They also help to block out the outside world, and give you a needed break form the business of daily life.
I recently spoke with Stephen Quinn from CBC Vancouver The Early Edition this past week about cozying up your home. Have a listen, and please reach out if you need some help with achieving the comforts you seek this fall….
I always see transitions in life as opportunities – a chance to start something new, make changes, revise plans, routines, etc. The “back to school” transition in September has stayed with me my whole life as the best timing for this, even though it has been a long time since I was at school.
This September, my youngest daughter is starting university, and staying at home. A lot of young adults and families are in this same situation. And because of COVID, other family members are also working from home. In our house, we now require three “work-from-home” stations. For some, you may need more…
I am a firm believer in separating study/work areas from sleep areas, although I do recognize that this may not be possible for some. However, in order to try to maintain this separation, we are re-thinking the use of different rooms in our home. I have realized that, in our particular case, we spend about 95% of our waking, non-working time in our kitchen-family room. The dining room and the living room are used so in-frequently, that they are obvious choices, for us, to create some additional work/study stations.
Other under-utilized parts of the house might be an upper landing, basement (with a window!), guest room if you are lucky enough to have one. Do a slow walk through your home and think about where you spend your time, and where you don’t, as a start for what areas might work in your case.
Things to consider when making a decision about alternative work areas:
-what acoustic barriers are needed, if any, to make this new space work during a zoom call or online live lecture?
-what are the electric outlet sources for computers, additional lighting, and any other power needs?
-how often and how easily can you “pack-up” if needed so that you can still use the space for its original use – crazy idea, but say you have an indoor dinner party and the space you are using, as in our case, is the dining room?
I hope your transitions are successful and aligned with your life goals. As always, I am here to help if you need some advice or support on how best to use the spaces that you have. I wish you all a great September!
Chances are if you started off working from home when the pandemic hit, you are still working from home. What I find truly remarkable is how well people and companies have adapted to this model of working. Still a work in progress like most things, but working pretty well nonetheless.
What is also evolving, is the desire to stay at home, once things go back to “normal” – whatever that looks like! This may mean a permanent, at home work life for some. But for others, going into the office has real benefits, and the plan is to return…but for a lot of people, not back to the same five days a week.
Here are some helpful tips to make this space, wherever it may be in your home, integrate but not dominate:
Invest in the appropriate storage for your needs: filing cabinet, credenza, multi-purpose drawer unit (big or small) for general supplies, bookcases or shelving. Try to choose storage with drawers and doors. This way, when it is not “work time”, you are free from any work-related visual distractions.
Video Conference Backgrounds
We are all getting used to seeing people via video in their home with books, pictures, etc behind them. At times, I notice myself scanning the background, looking at photos and checking out book titles. This can make it is hard to achieve the level of engagement you might be looking for over video meetings. So help yourself and your client/customer by being thoughtful about your backdrop. You could choose something completely neutral, or you could use your backdrop as an opportunity for branding or corporate messaging, if appropriate. Anything from a large piece of foam core, to a vinyl banner with your logo would work, but make it professional. Think of something that works for your particular context – maybe the bookcase full of personal items is just right!
Most of you will have sorted this out pretty quickly. Having your equipment in the right spot, as well as appropriately “fitted” to your body ergonomically, so that you can work comfortably, is REALLY important. Until my husband incorporated a second monitor into his work station, he was working from a laptop which was propped up on a file box so that he was not looking “down” for 8+ hours a day. Making these little or big adjustments is important. Otherwise, you get aches and pains and other discomforts, which make it harder to focus. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of a good chair as most of us are spending the majority of our work day sitting down. Get your office chair from work if you can. Otherwise, make this a priority purchase and perhaps your work will reimburse you.
Keep on top of your papers, files, reference materials, etc. Sometimes you may want to spread out and work at the kitchen counter while you are working on an important project, but don’t keep it that way. Take the time to regularly reign-in your work footprint to its designated space. It can and will take over!
“Office” furniture vs “home-office” furniture. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a separate room for your home office, be particular about your choices for furnishings. Some of us can use what we already have, and make it all work just fine. If you are needing to invest in a few pieces to make your work-at-home experience optimal, try to choose from the “home-office” category. Typical “office” furniture is usually all about function, and the scale – not to mention the aesthetic- is generally not ideal for home-office spaces. Choose carefully in order to make your work-space nice to look at and function in.
Unlike most offices, working from home means that you can control the overall temperature of your space which is a real plus. Also, unlike most offices, your windows at home open, and close, so that you can adjust the flow of new, clean air into your work space. I recommend having at least one nearby window open always, even if just a little, to keep the air fresh. You can also add a plant, or two, to further improve air quality. Nowadays, there are indoor plant shops popping up all over the place, and most sell lovely pots to put them in.
I hope this helps you with your own home office space, wherever that may be!
We all have clutter to deal with – and other people’s clutter too! Some of us are on top of our situation – this takes a daily commitment to maintaining the established order in your home (ie the salt and pepper always go in “this ” spot, and the bread gets put away in “that” spot, and so on…). It also means that you are managing the in-coming into your home most days: do I need this piece of mail or can it go directly into the recycling, does this shopping bag get recycled or is it re-useable, and back in my purse or put by the back door so that I can grab it on my way out, etc. It sounds tedious, but if it becomes a habit, you do it with out thinking and it becomes part of the process.
Some of us find this daily effort too much, and some people just have a higher threshold for clutter, so you are left with bigger jobs. Try committing to once a week, when the task of de-cluttering is not too burdensome. The kitchen/familyroom is usually the drop zone for most of the in-coming “stuff”, so start there with the recycling bin handy, and “just do it”, as they say. If you don’t, the job gets bigger, and less likely to achieve…. and then what?
Tips that help:
-containers for things are really helpful (pencils, cotton pads, mail, etc…)
-group like things together (magazines, make-up, belts, spices, etc)
-be realistic (not everything in your home will be behind a closed door or in a drawer)
-be flexible (if no one in your family puts their coats in the hall cupboard, consider putting up some hooks…)
While there are so many strange, stressful, and sad things going on for people all over the world, I can’t help but feel I have fallen into the “lucky bucket”. I have experienced so many silver linings during this time of COVID. One of them has been the time I have had to spend in my garden. I have always had a long list of “things I’d love to do” in my garden given the time, and guess what? I got what I asked for…the time to do these things, and along with the time, came unseasonably warm weather, so it has been a productive and rewarding time.
And I am not the only one who has had this experience. From week to week, I see garden’s growing: beds extended, new veggie plots added, garden paths created. There is so much beauty in gardens all over Vancouver. Take a walk, and see for yourself….