Monthly Archives: September 2012

Restful Bedroom

The bedroom after re-decorating

This is the bedroom of a night-shift worker that needed to be re-decorated on a very tight budget, with the emphasis on restful, quiet colours. In the “before” picture you can see that the paint colour, although it is quite dark, is too vibrant to be conducive to a good days’ sleep. My client ended up being able to sleep properly during the day for the first time in years.








Locally Made Furniture

Want to support the local economy?

It’s easy – just shop locally for furniture! When you make that decision to purchase locally produced furniture you’re not just helping the shop or designer who sells it to you, you are positively impacting the whole supply chain behind that piece of furniture – from the person who sources the trees, to the sawyer who cuts it into planks and dries it in a kiln, to the lumber wholesaler, to the manufacturer who employs many people to turn that piece of wood into furniture, and finally the dealer or retailer who sells it to you.

Image of Perfect Balance Bedroom

Durham Perfect Balance Bedroom

There are many furniture manufacturers in Ontario making every type of furniture from upholstered to fine quality case goods to tiny woodworking shops producing rustic furniture from reclaimed wood.

One furniture manufacturer many people have heard of is Durham furniture in (guess where?) Durham, Ontario. They have been manufacturing solid wood bedroom sets for over 100 years and they continue to do it the old fashioned way – with English dovetail joints, set-in drawers, and every piece is hand crafted. The exciting thing about them is they have come out with a line of condo-sized furnishings which fit the size limitations of so many modern homes. The exact same quality, but with updated styles, finishes and hardware at a lower price point means that investing in excellent quality, locally produced furniture is within reach of a lot more consumers. Look at this ingenious under-bed storage which lets condo-owners store their golf-clubs, skis, etc. but lifts with one hand with the help of hydraulic hinges:

Image of Durham under bed storage

Ingenious Durham under bed storage

A wood artisan that very few people have heard of is Hedge Road Woodworks in Jackson’s Point, ON. They source local deadfall or reclaimed timbers, and then turn them into truly unique tables, desks, occasional tables as well as cutting and presentation boards. This is an example of a Mom and Pop operation where every aspect from sourcing to manufacture and finishing, to marketing and selling are done by just one or two people, but you truly end up with a one-of-a-kind piece.

I consider myself very lucky that I own a gorgeous desk from this company. It makes work a pleasure!

Image of walnut desk

Locally sourced black walnut desk with black wood inlay and mid-century Eames hairpin legs

Image of Spalted Maple Bench

Spalted Maple Bench with Art Deco legs

Image of live-edge walnut coffee table

live-edge walnut coffee table

Image of condo-sized hallway console table

condo-sized hallway console table with Eames hairpin leg

Image of reclaimed fir coffee table

reclaimed fir coffee table with Eames hairpin legs


Is it OK to throw stuff out?

When does it make sense to do a major overhaul of a room?

Picture showing new corner shower, toilet, vanity

Peaceful atmosphere

Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to keep the existing fixtures in a room, often a bathroom or kitchen, due to a number of reasons.

1) You are trying to remedy a Bad Reno done previously. Quite often there may be a dangerous situation involving electricity or fire hazards that absolutely must be addressed.

2) The room looks so dated that the homeowner doesn’t even want to spend any time using it and just feels uncomfortable there.

3) The tile in a bathroom (actually the mastic behind the tile) is failing and the tiles are starting to fall off the wall or are loose on the floor creating potential flooding problems.

4) The fixtures (toilet especially) are either not water efficient or just uncomfortable. How many tiny showers have been installed that just don’t work because you have to open the door in order to wash your back or legs??

Picture showing tiny corner shower

Tiny corner shower before

Picture showing "bad-reno" cabinet

“Bad Reno” cabinetry

Picture of new corner shower

Larger, replacement shower.
Room to move!

The layout doesn’t work – this is especially true in kitchens. For instance, due to poor initial design, many builder kitchens have doors that open into one another or the appliance doors, when open, block the cabinets. How are you expected to work efficiently like that?


So, sometimes, despite the amount of garbage that is going to end up in the landfill, you just have to bite the bullet and do a tear-out and re-install.

If the budget allows for it, it’s really nice, though, to be able to recycle some of the fixtures which are still in good working order. Many cities have a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store which will accept used fixtures, and many municipalities also have a waste diversion sales outlet such as the Re-Use centre in Burlington. Quite often the contractor will charge more for this service since great care must be taken not to damage the items, plus the time and trouble to actually get it to the recycler.

In this particular case, the bathroom had been very poorly renovated about 20 years ago, and needed a complete overhaul. A ceiling mounted ventilation fan was a must to be installed and the potlights that had been installed 20 years ago were a huge fire hazard, as they were the un-insulated types but they were installed in a second floor ceiling right into the insulation – a big No No! There were also loose live wires beneath the existing whirlpool tub accessible through an unfinished hole in the drywall. Potential disaster!

The client wanted a calm, peaceful atmosphere to get ready for a hectic day. I think the end result turned out very nice.

Picture of new tub in the corner

After – New tub and toilet

Holistic Wellness 6 – Spirituality

Woman sitting on beach, prayingHolistic Wellness 6 – the spiritual dimension

You can’t talk about holistic wellness without bringing in spirituality.

Don’t tune out here, this really has very little to do with religious practice, and everything to do with how we view ourselves and others and how we fit into and relate to the world and our environment. (a warning here: this is a very wordy post. I promise this is the last one like this and the only reason it’s so long is that the subject is intrinsic to the way I practice)

Our spiritual development actually begins at birth as we must learn to trust first our parents, then others and finally a wider, scarier world – will our cries be answered? Will our needs be met? Is there comfort to be found? Is there anyone out there who cares?

The most basic component of any relationship is trust. Trust in someone’s care; trust in someone’s love. It is trust that makes us feel safe and secure. It is trust that brings contentment. It is trust that gives us a sense of our own self-worth and allows us to value those around us as well as empathize with another’s plight.

It is that same sense of needing to trust that feeds all of humankind’s longing to know that a greater power “out there” is watching over us and caring about us, even though we are infinitesimally small creatures in this vast universe.

If we grow into adults feeling that sense of self-worth, and therefore caring about others, then hopefully we can integrate that sense into feeling responsibility about how we treat the wider world.

Do we care enough about the environment to do what we can to minimize our “footprint” – anything from recycling and composting, to saving energy, to reducing our consumption of petrochemicals, to reducing our consumption- period!

Do we care enough about living creatures around us that we do what we can to minimize the suffering of animals and plants – from buying responsibly sourced wood furniture that saves our rainforests, to spaying or neutering our pets, to speaking out about potential natural disasters caused by unfeeling energy companies, and even to what we eat in terms of animal protein – eating cage-free eggs and buying humanely raised and slaughtered meats.

Why do I care about the environment?

Why do I want to practice Holistic Interior Design?

Why do I care about how my clients “feel” in their spaces?

One of the answers to that, believe it or not, is because I have a spiritual practice. Which spiritual practice? Doesn’t matter. It could be any non-violent spiritual practice. It’s because of it that I feel this sense of responsibility – to myself (how I treat my body), to others, to living creatures, to the environment and indeed, the whole world.

In my own experience, those who are “me, me, me” types could care less about the environment, except where it might help or boost themselves or their business.

It’s the humble ones, who care deeply about everyone and everything, that are the catalysts for change on this earth. Those who care more about serving others, in general, tend not to be hyper-consumers, unless they just don’t know or are ignorant of how hyper-consumerism will affect the earth in the long run.

And that is, or will be, a trend going forward – we will be seeing a huge backlash against this hyper-consumerism, the big mansion type houses, the re-decorating every few years to stay trendy, the purchase of brand new clothing every single season, and the purchasing of scads of tschotschkes to put on every single surface in our homes.

Enough’s enough, don’t you think? For one thing, our economy and job situation can no longer sustain such rampant consumerism. And our poor, poor Earth can no longer tolerate all the masses of garbage and pollution this produces, either.

Does it sound like I’m putting myself out of business here? After all I am in the business of decorating and renovating, which means selling loads of new stuff to my clients, right?

Well, not really, no. I am actually in the business of helping my clients to discover what is really important and what makes them feel good and comfortable in their surroundings and to translate that into good, timeless design which should only have to change when the items in the design truly wear out and need to be replaced.

It’s all about re-using and re-purposing good quality items. It’s all about using zero-VOC paints to completely change how a space feels. It’s all about editing, editing, editing to reduce clutter and make a space both more comfortable and easier to maintain.

And, when necessary, it’s all about doing the research (which is where I come in) to purchase the very best quality product that will be both timeless and last a life-time, but that can easily be re-freshed twenty years down the road by re-covering, adding some new pillows, re-painting or re-finishing, etc.

Holistic Wellness 5 – Healthy Relationships

Image of Healthy Relationships


You are a sum of all your relationships!


The relationships we have with others are a critical component of holistic wellness. If we accept the fact that there is a mind-body-spirit connection, then of course anything at all which affects our minds must therefore necessarily affect our bodies and our health.


How to create healthy relationships:


1. Giving : giving something that people like (not material gifts though) This should be along  the lines of gifts of your time or your talent.


2. Using kind words. It is amazing how just speaking softly and kindly can change our perceptions of another person. We do this automatically to babies and pets, why is it so difficult to do with people?


3. Acting for the purpose of benefit to them. Truly and honestly trying to help the other person, as opposed to acting for your own benefit or aggrandizement


4. Physically working together with them. Nothing beats togetherness and working together on a project or even simply preparing a meal, doing a boring task or working on a jigsaw puzzle grows your relationships.


If you don’t have healthy relationships, either with your partner, child, parent, co-worker, friend or neighbour – ask yourself which of the above four aspects you might be able to work on?


Could you bring a home-baked good or preserve to a neighbour you’re angry at, and just try to verbalize what it is that’s bothering you?


Could you spend time with your child or grandchild playing a card game or doing a puzzle?


Could you speak softly and respectfully to your teenager even though you feel like yelling?


Could you make a regular, once-a-week “date night” with your spouse or partner where you just enjoy one another? (Make a pact to NOT discuss anything which might be on the “hot burner” right now – the point is to remember what attracted you to this person in the first place, not to start into a discussion)


Could you forgive your parent who you might be harbouring a grudge against for many years? Even more importanty could you do it even if they have passed away?


Could you offer to take on or help with a task for your co-worker you don’t particularly get along with. It’s amazing how beneficial it can be to “pay it forward”


A caveat here though: Knowing when a relationship is toxic, when it sucks the life and spirit out of you, and you just have a gut feel that that person is just “bad” for you and trying hard to end it/avoid that person is also crucial to your health.


Acting at all times with an attitude of gratitude – for the fact that you’re alive, sentient, healthy, have the use of your senses, your body, your mind. That you live (hopefully) in a country at peace and not at war, and (again, hopefully) that you live in a country of plenty and not of want. These are all the attributes that added together contribute to your wellness of body, mind and soul.