Category Archives: Design

Up cycling at its best


Both for renovating our small, cute cottage (aka: Green Acres), as well as for our new house build, the Habitat for Humanity Restores have been our first stop, both for sourcing out items that we need as well as for recycling items we no longer need. Many communities have these wonderful stores, and if you haven’t been to one yet you’re definitely missing out. Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 as a way to give people a hand up in providing them with affordable housing, not a hand-out. To this day they have facilitated housing for thousands of families all over the world. I and my family have been very blessed indeed to be able to take basic needs such as a roof over our heads for granted, but this is not the reality for many, so I love supporting this charity in any way I can.
The Restores obtain items from homeowners, renovators, liquidators, manufacturers, as well as big box stores such as Home Depot. You can often find brand new or nearly new items there for a fraction of the cost. Another bonus is that you pay no tax at all on any of the items, even the brand new ones.
One of my favourite Restores is in Bracebridge. It is giganormous, plus it’s right next to Muskoka Brewery, a tiny craft brewery where you can sample before you buy. Yum!
For our next project at Green Acres we desperately needed to renovate the bathroom, which had previously been renovated, but in such a shoddy fashion that (believe it or not), they had sort of plumbed in a marine toilet instead of a proper one, and had plumbed in the vanity without a P-trap. Needless to say, the smell was horrible, which is likely why the place was on the market so long. We purchased a Hennessy and Hinchcliffe ultra high efficiency toilet, (which I would highly recommend if you need a new toilet as it only uses 3 litres per flush), and we found a cute vanity at ReStore, as well as a slightly used faucet.
Tune in next week for the “Before and Afters”!


Whether you’re looking for a light fixture,



furniture to refinish with milk paint,



a brand new window or door for a cottage or shed,



a lavatory basin to replace a cracked one,



a “new” kitchen that you could re-paint after it’s installed,



or even a brand new vanity. Look at that price! And no tax!



Cottage Bathroom

So…’s the new and improved cottage bathroom along with the before shots (except for the marine toilet – no need for horror in my blogposts!)
As mentioned last week, we decided to go with an ultra high efficiency toilet. In my opinion this one by Hennessy & Hinchcliffe is fabulous. I find it truly astonishing that old school toilets can use up to 3 gallons of water per flush, when this one does a great job using just .8 gallons or 3 litres per flush. In these days of water consumption awareness you might want to think about switching out your old ones. Many municipalities offer financial incentives to do so.
We purchased a new vanity from the Habitat for Humanity ReStoreĀ for an astonishing $89 and a brand new faucet for $5 – no tax! A carrera marble-look quartz vanity top from Home Depot at $139 complete the new vanity. The main reason for switching out the vanities was that the existing one was very short at 28.5″, whereas the new one is 34.5″ high, making it a lot more comfortable to use. An added benefit is that we gained extra space in the bathroom because the new vanity is much narrower – enough to have a full-size drying rack – very important in a cottage because with all the guests you get inundated with towels, and this is a great way to keep them all dry.
I made extremely simple window coverings to allow privacy by just hemming and making a top pocket and hemming all around in a horizontally striped sheer fabric which I found at Fabricland. Total cost: $4.00 for both curtains (the curtain rods were already in the cottage – on different windows)
The position of the vanity (i.e. the plumbing) meant that it was mounted directly below the window, making the mounting of a mirror problematic. I solved this by mounting the mirror securely on screws which went into the window sill. The mirror was completely plain so I dressed it up a bit by hot-gluing a row of metallic birds to the bottom of it.
A good scrubbing and re-caulking of the shower as well as a new shower curtain and water efficient shower head make this once horrible bathroom a pleasure to use!
(Yes! That is an ironing board reflected in the mirror. Can’t sew without ironing!)


Bathroom vanity “before”. Yes, we have exposed plumbing. It is a cottage after all.




And the “After” I will never take a flushing toilet for granted again!


Room for an extendable drying rack – essential in a cottage with many guests, many towels!



A new shower curtain and window curtain completes the look



Make sure you check out Habitat for Humanity Restore when sourcing new items for your home or cottage!


Finishing Touches

Well, here is the finished cottage bedroom. I was going for a look that says ” come and lay your weary head down here”. The colours I chose were turquoise and citrus green, colours which are on trend, and therefore readily available, and are also peaceful and soothing.
Since my milk painted dresser resisted chipping (which apparently happens sometimes), I didn’t bother with a sealer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that milk paint, all by itself, is a very durable finish and won’t come off. All I did was give it a light sanding to smooth out the raised grain.
I purchased some inexpensive bedding and accessories at Homesense as well as a pair of linen drapery side panels. I really wanted to make it easy on myself and these side panels certainly did, given that they were the right width for both a window curtain as well as a curtain to cover the closet (which has no door). All I had to do was shorten the window curtain, as with a window of this size, pretending that the window is larger than it is by hanging the curtains up to the ceiling seems a bit silly (see the prior post here), so I decided on just one short curtain hung slightly off centre to allow the curtain to be pulled back completely off the window, given the way the window opens to the inside.
As an added bonus, there was enough fabric left for a couple of neck pillows, which just add to the comfortable feeling of the bedroom. I made a few practical additions, such as a basket to hold mystery novels (required summer reading!), and a crackle jar with a jaunty bird on top to hold jewellery, watches, etc. at the end of the day. A stripy rag rug in the exact colours of the bedding provides a soft and warm place for your feet when you get out of bed in the morning. A dreamy cottage bedroom – bliss!


Peaceful and pretty cottage bedroom



New (shorter) linen curtain on the window is out of the way most of the time



The cut-off end of the curtain was enough to make two neck pillows. Just cut in half, and sew along 3 sides, leaving an opening



iron the seam allowance towards the inside of the cushion. This will make it easier to sew it closed



For the stuffing I (literally) cut an old, lumpy but clean pillow in half



then I sewed each half shut. It doesn’t matter what this seam looks like as it will be inside the pillow



Hmmmm……….these pillows need a little something something.




Using a leftover strip of fabric, you can make a bow by sewing 3 sides, just like you did with the pillow



The easiest way to turn a ribbon right way out is to push a yardstick into the narrow sewn edge




and keep pushing through until it’s the right way round.



iron the finished ribbon and tie a simple bow around the finished neck pillows




a jaunty bird sits atop a practical crackle pottery container



The other linen side panel went on a tension rod to cover…………



This mess!!


Milk Painted Chest


Chest before

A long time ago I stripped and lime washed this chest. In the many years that we have owned it, it has been used as a stereo chest, a kid’s toy and game chest, a clothes dresser and now it’s back to holding clothes. What I like about it is that there are many drawers, so it holds a lot of items, and they are neatly concealed behind doors. What I don’t like about it is that the doors were made of a different wood and always looked different than the rest of the dresser. Wood is like that. Also it was looking a bit boring.

So I decided to change it up a bit. I had been doing a lot of research on milk paint because I like how non-toxic it is. It is made up of chalk, limestone, milk protein and pigments. I found a website I really liked called Miss Mustard Seed where the author gives detailed video tutorials on how to use milk paint. I didn’t really want to pay for the shipping of it into Canada, so imagine my surprise when I found it for sale at Weeks Home Hardware in Waterdown. I was doubly surprised to find that it’s made in Toronto by Homestead House Paint Company.

It’s extremely easy to use, no prep required at all. You mix it with water, brush on a couple of coats, then sand or scrape off what doesn’t adhere and top coat with either varathane, hemp oil or wax. As you can see from my photos I did it right in my living room. It smells a bit like toothpaste but otherwise no odour.

In the case of my dresser, I used a Homestead House colour “Laurentian” which is a very pretty turquoise shade. The photo below shows two coats on my dresser but I have not had a chance to antique it or apply the top coat yet. I put the glass knobs on just for the photo so the final finished dresser will look a little different, a richer colour with some distressing. I tried sourcing glass knobs at ReStore but no luck and they were frightfully expensive at Lee Valley, but I managed to source them inexpensively at Target.

I am pleased with the result so far and I think it will really freshen up the cottage bedroom.


milk paint is sold in small packages of powder




all you need is a small plastic cup, some water and a chopstick or something to mix it with



mix for several minutes until smooth



2 coats of milk paint, new glass knobs. It already looks fresher even though I am not finished.



Cottage Bedroom

For my first project I decided to re-paint the bedroom. The panelling had been previously painted but the paint was particularly dingy, making the whole room look smaller and darker. I used a favourite cottage colour: Simply White, Benjamin Moore OC-117. It’s a milky white colour, not an ultra-white, so although it is bright, it’s not blindingly so. Although there were at least two coats of the old paint, the panelling still soaked up a lot of paint, as did the acoustic tile on the ceiling, so I had to do two full coats, despite using one of the new “Paint + Primer” paints. If you are planning on painting a ceiling, do your neck and upper back a favour and use a two foot long painting stick attached to the paint roller. This allows you to stand back and paint forward at an angle, rather than painting up above your head. Using a shorter painting stick is easier for me than a long one, which requires quite a bit of upper body strength to manipulate.

It’s also crucial to provide proper ventilation when painting. Paint with the windows wide open and use a fan in the doorway to force air out through the window. Even with today’s zero VOC paints you are still going to have paint fumes until the paint “skins over”, which usually takes a couple of hours. If you are pregnant or nursing, do your baby a favour and do not paint yourself. This is the time to get someone else to do it. Leave for a few hours and by then the fumes should have diminished significantly.

I am very pleased with the result. The room looks a lot brighter and larger. I scrounged a bed frame and used it to add height and definition to the wall.

Next week: dressing up the bedroom (a bit!)


Before bedroom – paint looks white, right?




Before bedroom – what NOT to do with drapes!



Bedroom after painting in Benjamin Moore OC-117, Simply White



ceiling also painted in Simply White

And you thought that paint was white!

Ventilating the bedroom with a vintage Robins & Myers fan. It works fantastic!

Do your neck and upper back a favour and use a painting stick to paint the ceiling


Green Acres!!

Oh Boy!
What have we got ourselves into now?
Our new house build is going amazingly quickly – roof goes on this week !!! – however we will not be able to move into it until late September. Since our closing date on the old house was June 27, we had to find alternate living arrangements. Camping on the building site was not really an option (and I’m SO glad since we’ve had the wettest summer so far) and any short term rentals were cottage rentals, at cottage rental rates.
Since my husband and I are both a bit impetuous crazy, we decided to invest in the purchase of a rental cottage ourselves. It needs A LOT of work, however, both to get it liveable, and rentable for next summer.
Luckily for us, my hubby is very handy and I love to paint, so it will be the kind of challenge that we love to take on.
The cottage is a real, old Ontario cottage with a great sunroom and lovely wood floors (under all those layers of Lino) and original wooden slider windows, on a large lot with humongous old maple trees providing natural air conditioning so the place has potential, that’s for sure.
Can we do it? Stay tuned to this blog over the summer as we try.


Green Acres is the place to be!!



We were welcomed by a lovely Sunflower



Huge maple trees on the property dwarf the little cottage



Doesn’t this one look like it’s just made for climbing?


And so it begins….


And so it begins…….the build of our dream home.
It started about 5 years ago when we purchased the property that this house will be built on. The original house that was standing on the property was a lovely little house, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room and kitchen and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. It was cute and cozy, but, if I ever wanted my (large) family to come and visit, we had a problem: the place was just too small. Luckily, a guy who’s in the house moving business agreed to take it and move it to another property about 10 km away so we didn’t have to demolish it. In fact, we would not have demolished it under any circumstances – the thought of such a good little house going into the landfill was just not acceptable.
The design process started with me doodling little drawings in my myriad notebooks. Just thinking about how it would be best to lay out the house considering the views, the usage of the rooms as well as the number of rooms we needed. My husband, of course, had a lot of input as well as contributing many special design features which he will be making himself.
Then it was time to make an actual plan. For this stage of planning an architect is required as they know all the building code details as well as the structural elements that are needed. The picture above shows a more-or-less final elevation which was produced by the architect of what the front of the house will look like.
After the small house was removed, it was time to build a foundation.
Two weeks ago a backhoe removed the excess soil and rocks and made a very large hole. Then concrete footings were poured which sit 4 feet below the foundation. This is necessary so that the frost which occurs to 4′ down doesn’t shift the house.
Last week the foundation was constructed, which is made out of concrete blocks. Once the foundation was constructed, it had to be parged (smoothed all over the outside with a cement mixture). This waterproofs the blocks. On top of the parging, the foundation was painted with tar, and then a plastic platon was screwed on. The tar and platon are two more layers of waterproofing.
This week the concrete slab will be poured.
Stay tuned…………oooh, this is SO exciting!!



The old house “going down the road”. Picture from the local paper.



the forms for the concrete footings are made




the block foundation starts to grow!



Here’s me sitting in my future living room (well the basement under it)



the foundation wall keep growing



The foundation is “parged” to waterproof it



the bottom 4 feet are painted with tar and then a dimpled plastic “platon” is affixed to the blocks