Tuesday, November 27, 2007

His and hers decorating styles

"Marriage Under Construction..." The irony in the show name is that in a mere two weeks, I'm getting married! My fiance Josh Canning and I have found an amazing little apartment, complete with a 1930's porcelain sink and original hardwood floors. But decorating a space with someone you love can be a challenging feat. Here are some tips to avoid domestic decorating disputes!

TIP 1: The woman is always right. JUST KIDDING! But agreeing on a design style does require a lot of communication. I recommend sitting down and looking through design magazines together and tagging items that you like and you absolutely don't like. Compare and contrast and see if you can find a few words that define your style: contemporary, colourful, minimal, vintage, traditional, modern. If these words don't seem to vibe with you, look to retailers for inspiration- are you a Pottery Barn fanatic or is Urban Outfitters more up your alley? If you totally cannot agree, see if there are any elements of each style that you can get on board with.

TIP 2: Make a design board. Take these images and glue them on a board, or store them in a folder where you can go back to for reference. As you are around town, keep these references in mind. You have a collective of both of your tastes.

TIP 3: Start with paint. If you love bold and he loves boring (just kidding, again!) compromise and go with a neutral colour on the wall and use the bold colours in pieces of art, throw pillows and accessories. This way you can always change it up as your tastes (and family!) grow.

TIP 4: Similar to paint, pick out pieces you both love in the staples of your room ie. you bed, sofa, dining table. With these to anchor the room, you can add drama and flair in other areas.

TIP 5: Shop smart and often! Be very aware of sales and new stores that turn up. My favourite shopping spots include: boutiques on Queen West, boutiques on King East, big mega stores including The Brick Factory Outlet in North York, idomo, and of course, IKEA. However- be wary of purchasing everything from the same store so your space is also a reflection of you and not necessarily a show room copy cat.

TIP 6: Compromise accessorize. Here is where a lot of compromise can happen. He loves his sports memorabilia? You love your teddy bear collection? By pairing down to one or few of each (think EDIT) you can still have your favourites without making the whole place over-girly or testosterone filled. The idea is to make it look intentional, and not haphazard.

TIP 7: Hire a designer. When in doubt, involve a moderator! They will help you find common ground. They also often have inside scoops and deals with vendors. Plus, their experience will ensure your design ends with a happily ever after. And we all want that!

Love to hear your stories,

Lisa (soon to be) Canning


Episode 9- Master bedroom

This is my favourite room in Derek and Vanessa's house. I think it's my favourite because it really feels like an oasis. I love it so much that I decided to go with a similar colour scheme for my own master bedroom!

Some fun things to mention:

We shopped till we dropped at Union Lighting in Toronto. Union Lighting holds a cornucopia of lighting, bedding, chairs, accessories and more. There really is something for everyone there- and Derek and Nessa fell in love with a beige ultra suede chair- it cost 2/3 of their $1500 budget but was worth the price. A tip- always ask if you can buy the floor model.

We saved a lot of money by making things ourselves- the headboard, a side table and recovering cushions for the window seat.

We further saved money by shopping at another one of my favourite retailers- Dollarama. Gotta love volume prices. They have picture frames, candles, trays, plates that with the right pairings, can look priceless. We also shopped at stores that you wouldn't think have a large variety of home goods. Zellers is my new secret treasure to share with you. The Alfred Sung line is fabulous- the bedding and side tables are Alfred Sung Home.

Read below on other ways you can add value, personality and character to your home. Love to hear about your own projects!


Episode 9- Custom Side Table

After some budgeting, Vanessa was able to purchase a beautiful mirrored side table from Union Lighting. However, this left little money for Derek's side table. So I came up with a creative use for an old kitchen cabinet.

Step 1: Find your table top. A friend was redoing her kitchen and gave me her old cabinet door (still looks great!). I also find a lot of my treasures at the handy person's corner at the AS IS department of IKEA.

Step 2: Find your legs. My silver legs, used to complement the reflective surfaces in Vanessa's side table, were taken again from AS IS at IKEA. You can also purchase legs in many forms at a hardware store.

Step 3: Attach the legs. To do this, we purchased small kits ($1.99 each!) that include the plate and screws. For this to work, your legs must have a metal part that will fit into the plate. Ask your friendly associates at your local hardware store for help in this area.

Step 4: Attach the plates to your tale top and screw your legs in. Ta da! Simple bedside table solution.


Episode 9- DIY Headboard

A wallpaper headboard? Think I'm nuts? So did my clients- but Derek and Vanessa's headboard turned out gorgeous, is completely custom and extremely cost effective. There is a lot of flexibility in this project for some very creative approaches!

Step 1: Measure the space for your headboard. I used a large piece of craft paper to help me to visualize it around the bed. Scale is important here- you want to ensure that it is a few inches wider than your mattress. In terms of height, customarily your side tables are the height of your mattress and the headboard the height of your lamps. But I went big for more drama- that is the beauty of using the craft paper, you can guess and test until you are happy. You may also consider experimenting with an arc or wavy lines.

Step 2: Choose your wallpaper. I picked a beige wallpaper that has a tone on tone design. What I like most about the colour is that is a similar value to the blue- so the two are quite harmonious. Wallpaper, which is a huge trend in home design right now, comes in a rainbow of colours, textures and prints. Since you are only using a small amount, you may consider purchasing one panel of a more expensive paper for drama.

Step 3: Using your craft paper and a level, give yourself small guidelines with pencil on your wall. This will help you line up the wallpaper and ensure it is perfectly in place!

Step 4: Wallpaper. I have NEVER wallpapered and was completely scared of the experience. So I purchased a beginners set from The Home Depot, which came complete with a tray and all tools.

Wallpaper these days comes with the adhesive already applied- so no goopy scary stuff! So I followed the instructions on the package which included cutting the paper to size, giving it a little bath in the tray for 5 minutes, and applying it to the wall.

If you are using a pattern, take care to ensure the pattern lines up!

Step 5: Squeeze! Using sponges and tools provided, remove all excess water and air bubbles, leaving a perfectly smooth finish.

Step 6: Apply decorative trim if desired. We used a decorative wood trim, cut on 45 degree angles around the paper. I think it gives it a very professional finish!


Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy reading


An article on the show in the Toronto Star.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A first time for everything...

Hey everyone! A small recap in case you are stumbling upon my page (welcome, by the way!). I recently made the move into interiors from the world of fashion and designed my first house this summer for a young couple, Derek and Vanessa. God has a funny sense of humour as He thought it might be fun to feature my first time designing a house every Monday night at 9:30 on HGTV's Marriage Under Construction (aah!). Needless to say, it was an amazing experience and one I am happy to share.

My clients had a very limited budget that had to accommodate a renovation as well, so I had to be VERY creative to stretch their minuscule budget. So I learned how to upholster chairs myself, sew my own pillows, create new furniture out of items they already had and shop very smart. I had an amazing time working on the house and on the show. Derek and Vanessa were a joy to work with. We laughed a lot, we all learned a lot and they were very willing to jump in, get their hands dirty and learn by trial and error.

Having a sense of humour about things was important in such an (at times) arduous process of renovating. Vincenzo Sica, our contractor extraordinaire, had a great sense of humour and was very patient with my ignorance to the world of construction (he has a vault of classic things I did / asked before I got schooled on power tools). His team was equally fabulous and bailed me out of many situations (Sean, Nathan and Jesse). Thanks boys! I now feel like I fit in at Home Depot.

On top of designing for my very first clients, the whole process was captured on camera. This involved (attempting) to look like a pulled together grown-up every day, being articulate and again having a sense of humour about things. I must say, I loved the crew, and we became our own little (at times dysfunctional!) family. When you spend as much time together with people as you do when you create a television show, you get a little attached. I admittedly am in withdrawal and miss the MUC crew (Directors: Richard, Vinny; Production Coordinators/assistants: Dan, Triton, Alex, Ashlee; Camera operators: Matt, Matt, Jeffers, Andrew; Sound: Mikey, Bart(s), Kuba)

I had so much fun working with Derek and Vanessa I have decided to launch my own business- I'm currently working with a creative design firm to launch my website and my logo. I can't wait for you all to see it!


Do-it-yourself upholstery

On the small budget that Derek and Vanessa had, it was imperative to think outside the box- and one way was attempting to re-upholster furniture myself. Caution- this is not a project for the faint of heart, I practiced several times before I was happy with the result, but it did save me several hundreds of dollars!

Another note of caution: while I love to reclaim, I think it is important to invest in show stopper pieces. Going to a professional upholsterer may be an investment, but you will be extremely happy with the results. A transformed piece of furniture is a great way to secure originality in your home and create a cohesive colour scheme!

But for a temporary or price conscious alternative for the brave, read on!

Step 1- Find your furniture. I purchased tub chairs from Goodwill for $5 each! They were a maroon colour and very badly stained.

Step 2- Purchase desired fabric. At Designer Fabrics (perhaps one of the greatest fabric stores in Toronto) the knowledgeable and courteous staff help you determine how much fabric to buy as long as you have rough measurements of your piece. Keep in mind that it has to be a durable fabric if it is for something with high traffic like a sofa or chair. Save the silks for decorative pillows.

Step 3: Use the original fabric on the chair as your pattern. Carefully remove the pieces from your furniture. They are most likely stapled and glued securely. My chair came apart in 6 clearly defined pieces, plus the seat cushion.

Lay the original fabric pieces on your new fabric and trace a generous seam allowance of 2-3". Cut our your pieces and sew together, following the pattern of your original pieces.

Step 4: Staple and sew. You should now have large pieces that resemble the old fabric that you removed. If you're lucky, you may be able to just fit the fabric over like a traditional slipcover (kind of like a tight fitting pillow case). In my case, I had to push the fabric into crevices in the chair and using a heavy duty staple gun, secure them in place.

This is the trial and error portion. I had to fidget with the seam allowance and with stapling until I was happy with the outcome- but it was very manageable, it just required a little patience.

Step 5: Piping and decorative details. My chair originally came with piping, which covered the staple marks. Covering the piping in my new fabric, using an industrial glue gun I glued the piping in place.

Upholstery gives any piece of furniture a face lift! If you are interested in learning how to re-upholster yourself, there are classes you can take where they provide you with all the tools- you just bring your furniture and creative spirit along with you.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Episode 8- You might even call me a bargainista

I love the word bargain. For Derek and Nessa's living room and dining room I was able to score several. Here are a couple of way to save money/add originality in your living / dining room:

COUCH- We were able to get an "AS-IS" couch from IKEA for several hundred dollars. I have seen some as low as $500, originally marked at $1200. If you don't mind a few minor scuffs (that can be covered with new slipcovers), be dilligent in shopping their AS IS department.

CHAIRS- I bought their chairs for $5 each at Goodwill (yes! $5!!!!!). With new fabric and a little ingeniuity (and trial and error) I recovered them myself. For a quick how-to, read my post on do-it-yourself upholstering. A much less expensive alternative, even if you do get them covered professionaly.

CHANDELIER- At first, we were going to make a custom lampshade. But while shopping at Romancing the Home on the Danforth, I found an AMAZING crystal chandelier. What I love about the chandelier is that is has both masculine and feminine appeal. And as a plus, you can alter how many crystals hang from it. While I love reclaiming things, I think it is important to invest money and treat yourself to showstopper pieces.

TYPEWRITER- old typewriter + cute lovenotes= unique message centre. I found the typewriter for $10 at Double Take on Gerrard. (I have another in my garage that I found at Goodwill for $5). I was lucky- it was still operational, an Derek and Nessa use it to leave each other a string of messages. Plus, it's vintage appeal acts as a conversation starter.

Love to hear about your own unique finds- please feel free to post your own tips.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Episode 8- Living Room Window Treatment

Nessa and Derek have a wonderful large window in their living room- as a unique treatment for privacy and decor, here is how to create your own decorative window screen:

1) Find a frame- I again used a window that came from the extension on the back of the house. A wood frame such as one used for an artist canvas or a picture frame could also work!

2) Play designer! Play around with shapes, patterns, words- using adhesive paper (purchased from DeSerres art supply store for $24.99 for a large roll) cut out your desired shapes.

3) Place the adhesive shapes on a piece of vellum paper. Vellum is a specialty paper that is transulscent (ie. allows light to shine through) and the opaque pieces of sticker will block the light allowing for interesting patterns to shine through.

4) Staple the paper (carefully!) to the backside of your frame. Tip: try your best to keep the staples neat as you'll be able to see them on the other side of the window! (Alternatively, you could trip out the edges in a ribbon or paper trim).

5) Hang the frame. We used chain and eye hooks to allow the treatment to hang in the middle of the window!



Friday, November 16, 2007

Shop Till You Drop in Toronto (without breaking the bank)

I recently went on a scour of the city looking for some cheap thrills (of the discounted merchandise kind!) and found a few great places I'd love to share:

1. UpCountry (310 King St E)- Sadly, I must report that one of my favourite retail outlets, UpCountry has gone bankrupt. Good news for us is that they are are selling off all of their merchandise at their King Street location. I just purchased a $500 8' x 5' area rug for $100 that will look fabulous in my new apartment. There was a chaise lounger originally priced close to $5000 on sale for $1100 and an AMAZING Steelcase vintage desk that I am hoping to nab for a client (so hands off- just kidding).

For an article on the downfall of UpCountry (so sad!) http://www.thestar.com/Business/article/266484

2. urban essential (175 King St E)- Also in the King E neighbourhood, urban essential boasts adorable accessories and a plethora of quality pieces at great price points. I found a chaise lounger I'm going to pitch to a client because its full of whimsy ($915), a beautiful bench that I'm trying to convince my fiance is worth the money they're asking for ($215) and some beautiful decorative plates ($5 - $45) good for a housewarming gift.

3. The Brick Clearance Centre (4250 Dufferin Street)- Hello amazing deals, well worth the drive. The Brick has moderate prices already, so you can imagine what its Clearance Centre is like. They had Parsons chairs for $100, sofas in the $500 - $600 range and best of all- if you are into "reclaimed chic" here are some amazing deals:

  • dining table tops- $49. Attach legs you can purchase from Rona or Home Depot and you've got a custom table.
  • table bases- $19. They are currently selling sleek metal bases to coffee and side tables (you get three table bases for $19!!!!!). I can picture either an amazing tray or a piece of wood that you tile in a mosaic pattern acting as an amazing table top. Again, a completely unique table with your signature on it.
  • damaged items- Because it is the clearance outlet, you can find items that are lightly bruised for a fraction of the retail cost. I found a beautiful ladder shelf, lightly scratched for $98. Another find was a gorgeous lamp with a small nick on the side for $29. Nothing a black sharpie marker can't disguise.
Happy shopping- feel free to post your own finds!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Episode 7- "Cloffice"

When Derek and Vanessa approached me about creating a walk-in closet / office, I thought 1) fun and 2) Nessa has the perfect husband.

All kidding aside, it was a great project to work on as we were able to create a custom graphic on the wall and highlight "reclaimed chic" at its best. Read below for a step by step how-to on some of our projects


Episode 7- Office Organizer

I created a space for Derek and Nessa to organize their office supplies (pens, paper, paper clips etc.) using a window frame that Vincenzo saved after they tore down the old extension on the back of the house.

1) Carefully remove the glass from the window frame (thanks to Sean, Vincenzo's assistant for that)- I actually liked it unfinished, and left it the way it was with cracking paint. However, you could sand and paint it your desired colour.

2) Purchase wire mesh and using wire cutters, cut to fit the frame.

3) Reclaim items to use as storage containers and paint them your desired colour. I reclaimed soup cans, water bottles, pop cans- my favourite was reusing the Sherwin Williams paint jugs. I had Vincenzo cut them in half, they were quite handy for large storage.

4) Using an awl (sharp object to create holes) make small holes at the edges of your storage units.

5) Thread wire through the holes and attach it to the wire mesh.

6) Fill with your favourite pens, markers and stationary for a very personal work station!


Episode 7- Reclaimed Accessory Wall

This accessory wall was one of my favourite projects. Vanessa loves it as it is a great way for her to organize and showcase her purses, scarves and other accessories.

1) Be brave and find material to reclaim. I went to the front yard where Vincenzo had been disposing of excess material and other items from the house (some call it garbage, I call it treasure). I found old baseboards and wood pieces.

2) Purchase (or reclaim) hooks and knobs. I purchased many from my local hardware store for very little (6 for $1.99) and reclaimed more unique knobs from old dresser drawers and junk boxes at antique stores.

3) Fasten the hooks and knobs at your desired spacing on your reclaimed wood. I spaced them about a foot apart from each other.

4) Adhere the wood pieces to the wall. If you are planning on hanging heavy items, ensure you attach the pieces of wood to a stud.

There you have it, a unique and fun way to reuse material and give you practical wall storage.



Wallpaper is a great way to add colour, texture and pattern to a room- but it can be quite costly. I gave Derek and Vanessa a wall treatment that is completely unique to them- it is entirely one of a kind, designed with Derek and Nessa in mind.

A closet, powder room, or other small space is ideal for a treatment like this as it's a small space, and one where you can make a lot of impact without feeling entirely overwhelmed by the pattern.

Here's how we did it:

1) Design your graphic. It can be something as simple as a series of shapes, random letters, or in our case, birds and trees. While my design may look complicated, it is essentially a series of long simple twig shapes and circles. The love birds (of course inspired by Derek and Nessa) were the most complicated element.

2) Cut the graphic out of contact paper. I used a roll of white adhesive paper, purchased from an art supply store. I got a large roll for $24.99, I used not even 1/4 of a roll for this project. Ensure you use something with low tack, otherwise you risk damaging the wall when you remove it.

3) Apply it to the wall in your desired pattern, try to ensure all the air bubbles are out. You are creating a mask that will reveal the original colour of your wall after painting. A pass with a clean roller will get your stickers as flat as possible. (A note before you start: you may also want to clean or prime your wall first, depending on its condition.)

4) Paint! We used a fun, bold colour. Again, a small space can be an opportunity to experiment with bold colours that you might shy away from in other areas of the house.

5) Remove the adhesive to reveal the original colour of the wall.

A note of caution- I might recommend trying this on a smaller scale first, like on an artist canvas or on a section of a wall. There was definitely a learning curve when I did it (this was the first time I've ever attempted something like this)- but it was a great experiment, with a fun result.


Episode 6- Guest Bedroom

My first room at Derek and Vanessa's house. Vanessa and I had a lot of fun, here are some practical tips on designing on a budget!


Episode 6- Guest Bedroom Bench


A bench looks great at the end of the bed, plus it's a practical place to change your shoes or fold laundry- but they can run you $$$. We made one for cheap!

1) Find a bench. We purchased ours at Goodwill, and it cost $7.50 on Goodwill's 1/2 price day (yes, even Goodwill has sales, you just have to ask when)

2) Cut a piece of high density upholstery foam to fit. This can be purchased at some fabric stores or upholstery centres. You can save money by cutting it yourself using (brace yourself) an electric turkey carver.

3) Cover with fabric. Measure the surfaces of the foam, including a 1" seam allowance. Cut fabric and sew, leaving one end open in order to fit the foam. As an extra bonus, I added a piping detail in the same fabric as the chair that we made. Piping is easier to do than I thought, but does require some sewing experience. Close the foam end by stitching by hand and voila- a custom cushion for your bench that coordinates perfectly with your room.


Episode 6- Guest Room Chair Project

I found a chair on the side of the road that was in great condition. You want to be careful and check out the item for water damage or structural damage that could be dangerous when in use (you don't your chair to break under you!)

What this chair needed was a face lift so we recovered it in a few easy steps:

1) separate the seat from the chair frame by removing the screws underneath

2) using fabric of choice (you can use a remnant and pay very little for it) cut out an area about 3" larger than the actual surface area

3) wrap the chair seat (snug!) and with a staple gun, staple the fabric to the underside of the seat

4) reattach the chair seat to the frame

5) relish at your chair, newly made over!


Ta da!

Due to the popularity of HGTV's Marriage Under Construction (Monday nights at 9:30) I've decided to start my own blog dedicated to providing fun, fresh, creative solutions for home & personal style. I'll be posting info about how we made things on the show, tips for shopping smart and ways to add personal touches to your home.

Thanks to Tanja Tiziana and Peter Bagnall for photos.

I welcome your questions and comments! Happy reading!


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