After the Reno: Loose Ends

Is a renovation ever really finished?  I certainly hope so, but right now, it seems not.  It makes sense that there are ongoing repercussions to any major changes in our homes.  I’ve noticed this in the past with clients: they paint the walls, then notice that the carpet is looking older by comparison; they change the carpets, and realize the furniture isn’t looking as good as it once did.  I’ve accepted that my existing furniture is here to stay for  a while, and I really don’t mind the comfy, slightly worn-in look.  However, there are other little details that need to be dealt with, that are taking longer than I would like to be resolved.

The garbage pullout is to be replaced -- but with what?

The garbage pullout is to be replaced — but with what?

We love our garbage pullout, but as we discovered shortly after beginning to use it, the rear bins can’t be removed.  We do line them with plastic bags, but it would be nice to be able to remove the bins for cleaning.  Plus, the bags get caught on the drawer handle above, when we remove them for disposal.  Our kitchen designer has confirmed that the pullout is installed properly so the only thing to do is to replace it.  Many weeks after this decision was made, replacement day finally arrived.  Unfortunately, they had decided to re-order the same system, thinking that perhaps ours was just manufactured incorrectly.  Sadly, it seems that this design just isn’t meant for our installation, and so we are now waiting for a different system to be ordered and (eventually) installed.  Meanwhile, we must be careful not to overfill the bags so we can get them out of the bins intact.  And we need to do special ‘flexibility’ exercises before putting new bags into the rear bins, so we don’t injure ourselves as we contort our arms and hands….

 This has GOT to GO!

This has GOT to GO!

We always planned to put a new credenza under our wall-mounted TV.  I’ve even designed one, although I am rethinking how many drawers I need for CD’s and DVD’s when we seem to be moving more toward downloading and PVR’ing.  Unfortunately, our cabinet makers are so busy with our client orders that we’ve had to postpone our own orders to be sure our clients get theirs before Christmas.  For now, I put the NextBox and remotes away when we are entertaining, to minimize the mass of cables and the clutter.

I really dislike how this bank of white switches pops against dark walls.

I really dislike how this bank of white switches pops against dark walls.

In our kitchen, we were able to avoid the curse of the white switch plate covers by sourcing stainless steel covers and black outlets, both of which blend in nicely with our tile backsplash.  However, finding alternatives to the rest of the white covers, throughout the rest of the main living areas, hasn’t been so easy.  The box stores carry stainless steel, and little else (other than white!).  An online search led us to Leviton, who show many colours of switch plate covers on their site.  In order to see actual samples, we were directed to the local Living Lighting, who has so far been unable to get samples for us to see.  Meanwhile, as I was doing research for a client, I stumbled across  metal switch plate covers from Richelieu Hardware in stainless steel, antique brass, and oil-rubbed bronze.  They come in 2 styles and all sizes, from singles to 4-gang covers and they are affordable!

The bronze finish helps to minimize the white cover plate in our kitchen, but we're still left with the white dimmer switches.  We haven't been able to find those in another colour - yet!

The bronze finish helps to minimize the white cover plate in our kitchen, but we’re still left with the white dimmer switches. We haven’t been able to find those in another colour – yet!

This white switch in the dining room takes away from the art.

This white switch in the dining room takes away from the art.

We opted for antique brass to tone down the contrast in the dining room.

We opted for antique brass to tone down the contrast in the dining room.

It’s important to deal with the outstanding issues before we become complacent and get used to things the way they are.  We’re already struggling with being in our busiest season and trying to make time for any work at the house.  But I know that as soon as we take time off at Christmas, we’ll have too much time to focus on the incomplete elements and become even more impatient.

Meanwhile, there are still little surprises, like the cushion that I forgot I had ordered when I had my kitchen valances re-made.

I love the way the colours in this stripe (also used for my kitchen valances) repeat the colours in my drapery.

I love the way the colours in this stripe (also used for my kitchen valances) repeat the colours in my drapery.

 

 

 

 

 

After the Reno: The power of custom drapery

I’ve been an interior decorator for 20 years, and I’ve installed my share of custom drapery for clients.  Yet, somehow, I never cease to be amazed at the transformation that  happens when a simple window is fully dressed.  I’ve never been a shutter fan because they rob us of the opportunity to add drapery.   Yes, they add architectural interest to a space, but most people who install them are putting them in rooms that would be better served with drapery.  Having said this, I lived with ‘naked’ blinds in several rooms in my own home, prior to our renovation.

When we moved in 16 years ago, we installed top-quality custom blinds on all windows.  That’s a quality decision we have never regretted.  I believe in that saying, “Buy quality and you only cry once!”

These Hunter Douglas 2" wood blinds in Cherry have withstood a 2 year-old banging on them, and lots of other wear and tear, over the past 15 years.

These Hunter Douglas 2″ wood blinds in Cherry have withstood a 2 year-old banging on them, and lots of other wear and tear, over the past 16 years.

When we renovated, we replaced the windows, but we didn’t change the blinds, because they are still as good as new.  Yes, I could have opted for a lighter, trendier finish but since I still had lots of wood furniture in the room, I thought I could make these work.

Step One: install the valance.  Some clients would stop here, but I wanted the elegance of something more complete.

Step One: install the valance. Some clients would stop here, but I wanted the elegance of something more complete.  

Now that's better!  These windows are too narrow to have panels on both sides, so I created an asymmetrical treatment that is mirrored on the other window.

Now that’s better! These windows are too narrow to have panels on both sides, so I created an asymmetrical treatment that is mirrored on the other window.  

One of my favourite reasons to add drapery to a room is the opportunity to use fabric to add pattern, colour, and texture to a space.  In my case, this Kravet fabric pulls together the old colours (navy, burgundy, green) with the new neutrals (taupe, gray).    It also adds a pretty pattern that I love, in a space that has too many solids and geometrics for my liking.  Although this fabric came along after all the furniture, it has become the ‘road map’ that pulls all the other elements together in the room.  As I change out the furniture and replace it with new pieces, this fabric has lots of colours to work with.

My kitchen windows also received an upgrade.  I don’t like fussy treatments in the kitchen as a general rule.  In my small galley kitchen, the windows are too close to the work area and sink to avoid being splattered.  So, this is one of the few rooms where a valance is enough.

For years, my kitchen windows have been dressed only in mesh roller shades, to cut the glare of the sun in this southern exposure.  During the renovation, we did have the windows framed, which required that the existing blinds were cut down.

For years, my kitchen windows have been dressed only in mesh roller shades, to cut the glare of the sun in this southern exposure. During the renovation, we did have the windows framed, which required that the existing blinds were cut down.  The small fee to have this done was worth it, since the blinds were only a few years old and the colour worked.

New striped valances in a Kravet fabric, with beaded trim, are a simple way to add height to the windows, while camouflaging the awkward bit of wall above the window frame.

New striped valances in a Kravet fabric are a simple way to add height to the windows, while camouflaging the awkward bit of wall above the window frame.  I love the luxury of having a pretty beaded trim on such a simple treatment.  It sparkles in the sun and makes the simplest of treatments truly custom.

Now that the drapery and valances are installed, I finally feel like I live in a ‘grown-up’ house.  At 50, it’s about time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the Reno: Finishing Touches

For an interior decorator, the renovation isn’t over when the workmen leave and the structure is complete.  That’s just the beginning of the end, so to speak.  After the dust settles, we get to make it truly personal with paint, furniture and fabrics, followed by art and accessories.  My clients often forget this last part of the process, and a project always feels unfinished (and very unsatisfactory!) when they don’t see the process to this stage.  Many of them are stymied when it comes to  accessorizing, so I thought I would share my approach to styling my rooms.

First of all, I think that the art and accessories truly personalize a room in a way that  nothing else can.  Or at least, they should!  I am not a fan of those crazy magazine images of books re-wrapped in plain paper to blend in with neutral schemes, or shelves filled with new objects like something out of a store display.  There’s no right or wrong, and if you like it, it works.  But if you are stumped, here are my ‘rules’ for accessorizing….

Rule 1: Make it personal. The first question I ask when a client wants me to style their space:  what do you have stashed away in the closet/kitchen cupboard/china cabinet that you’ve forgotten about?  Then I look for ways to group those personal objects together so that they tell little stories.

nov 18 wall unit left side

I gave up a bookshelf in the redecorating process, so I needed somewhere to keep a few books. I like books, so I made them part of the display, laying some of them on their sides to be used as pedestals for other items. Here’s an example of a ‘story': my husband had a Dalmation growing up, so I placed his Dalmation figurine next to a photo of his Dad, and near a photo of my husband as a boy.

Rule 2: Avoid clutter.  I like my ‘stuff’, but I also have a place for everything, and I like everything in its place.  These cabinets have glass doors that close, and no one dares to put something in there without my approval.

The other side of the same cabinet houses things I love to collect, like pottery, plus family photos and inherited pieces.  Another 'story': the Scottish piper and lord and lady figurines sit in front of a 'clan' photo of my husband's family at a wedding.

The other side of the same cabinet houses things I love to collect, like pottery, plus family photos and inherited pieces. Another ‘story': the Scottish piper and lord and lady figurines sit in front of a ‘clan’ photo of my husband’s family at a wedding.  Tip:  when placing items in front of photos, be sure the photos are still visible.

Rule 3: Use art and accessories to reinforce focal areas.  Here, the sconces on either side of the painting help to draw attention.

On top of a desk, I grouped a 'new' sculpture with my father-in-law's clock and a crystal jar we received as a gift. With the painting of the abandoned bicycle, above, they work together to create a sense of nostalgia.

On top of a desk, I grouped a ‘new’ sculpture with my father-in-law’s clock and a crystal jar we received as a gift. With the painting of an abandoned bicycle, above, they work together to create a sense of nostalgia.

Rule 4:  One big object is more eye-catching (and easier to dust!) than a bunch of little ones.  Plus, in a high-traffic area like this stairwell, it’s less likely to be knocked off the ledge.

I like the combination metal and wood on this sculpture.  I also have a thing for birds; this one reminds me of the Great Blue Herons that used to feed in the stream behind the house where I grew up.

I like the combination metal and wood on this sculpture. I also have a thing for birds; this one reminds me of the Great Blue Herons that used to feed in the stream behind the house where I grew up.

Rule 5: Hang art in a space appropriate to its size, and at a height that makes sense for the area.  In the stairwell, we hung a single piece of art, at a level best suited to those viewing it from the entry door and on the stairs.  If we hung it any higher, it would need to be much larger, as the tall mirror on the opposite wall.

This is a print of the village in Scotland where my mother-in-law grew up.

This is a print of the village in Scotland where my mother-in-law grew up — another ‘story’.  It’s also a seaside village, so it works with my water bird sculpture.

Rule 6: Vary the heights of objects in a grouping.  Here, your eye travels from the drapery down to the lamp, then down to the vase, then to the teapot, slowly circling down to the tabletop.

I like the colour of the vase with the lamp.  I like the teapot because it repeats the colours in our drapery fabric, and it has an Oriental vibe that speaks to the drapery as well.

I like the colour of the vase with the lamp. I like the teapot because it repeats the colours in our drapery fabric, and it has an Oriental vibe that speaks to the drapery as well.

Rule 7:  Rules are made to be broken.  Look at these photos or those in magazines that you admire, then just play around with your stuff until you get it right.  Some areas will come together more easily than others, and some will remain ‘unfinished’ for a while until you get inspired by a new piece of furniture.  Don’t sweat it — it’s meant to be a bit of a challenge. But the results are worth it, when you get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 19 — Finally finished?

There’s nothing like an entertaining deadline for providing the necessary motivation/panic required to finish a project.  In our case, I had planned a 70th birthday lunch for my Mom.  At least half the attendees had never been to our home, and the other half were eager to see the changes.  There was no way we wanted to be ‘under construction’ when the guests arrived.

First order of business for the week: finish that brick wall in the dining room!

Once the mortar dries -- it can take several days, depending on humidity levels -- it's time to seal it.

Once the mortar dries — it can take several days, depending on humidity levels — it’s time to seal it.  We can clean up the debris, but the tape and drop cloths have to stay.

This is the stuff we use to seal the brick. It keeps the mortar from flaking off every time someone touches it.  It also protects the brick from staining should flying food hit it.

This is the stuff we use to seal the brick. It keeps the mortar from flaking off every time someone touches it. It also protects the brick from staining should flying food hit it.  It has to be applied with a large paint brush.

Almost finished!  This step is much faster than adding the mortar.

Almost finished! This step is much faster than adding the mortar.

Unfortunately, when we pulled off the green tape, some of the paint went with it.  There must have been an area of new plaster that wasn't properly primed.  Now we have to fix this before we can put the room back together.  While we're at it, we need to clean up the rough edges along the baseboard.

Unfortunately, when we pulled off the green tape, some of the paint went with it. There must have been an area of new plaster that wasn’t properly primed. Now we have to fix this before we can put the room back together. While we’re at it, we need to clean up the rough edges along the baseboard.

Paint touch-ups are easy.  Thank goodness for my  husband's Dremel for those mortar edges, though!

Paint touch-ups are easy. Thank goodness for my husband’s Dremel for those mortar edges, though!

Next step: put the fireplace back on the wall.

Next step: put the fireplace back on the wall.

The dining room is finally back together!

The dining room is finally back together!

Now, on to the contractor’s punch list…

We can finally plug in the charger for our new stick vacuum, right in the cupboard.  We just needed a hole drilled in the bottom of the cupboard, so the electrical outlet from the panel in the basement could be fed through the hole.

We can finally plug in the charger for our new stick vacuum, right in the cupboard. We just needed a hole drilled in the bottom of the cupboard, so the electrical outlet from the panel in the basement could be fed through the hole.

It's been a long time coming, but we no longer have to look at a hole next to the chimney of our range hood.  No extra charge for the greasy fingerprints!

It’s been a long time coming, but we no longer have to look at a hole next to the chimney of our range hood. No extra charge for the greasy fingerprints!

Not a moment too soon!  Just in time to get party-ready….

It's not quite as messy as Thanksgiving prep, but it's still a workout for our new kitchen -- a full day of cooking and baking to prepare for our luncheon.

It’s not quite as messy as Thanksgiving prep, but it’s still a workout for our new kitchen — a full day of cooking and baking to prepare for our luncheon.

Once the cooking is done, it's time to rearrange the furniture to make space for 12 in the dining room.  Out with the regular dining table....

Once the cooking is done, it’s time to rearrange the furniture to make space for 12 in the dining room. Out with the regular dining table….

and in with the folding tables and extra chairs.  Twelve is definitely our limit for a sit-down meal!

and in with the folding tables and extra chairs. Twelve is definitely our limit for a sit-down meal!

We're ready! Seating aside, 12 is also the limit of my china supply.

We’re ready! Seating aside, 12 is also the limit of my china supply.

Success! A good time was had by all, and the rooms performed perfectly.  Oohs and ahhs were given and appreciated.

Back to normal -- but with party flowers.

Back to normal — but with party flowers, and leftover food.  

We moved this trunk out from under the TV to make space.  We like it so much here, we leaving it.  I've had it since I was 16, and I love the texture it brings to a space.

We moved this trunk out from under the TV to make space. We like it so much here, we leaving it. I’ve had it since I was 16, and I love the texture it brings to a space.

The best part of hosting a lunch instead of dinner?  We had time after everyone left to sort out this storage room.  It had become a dumping area for everything displaced or leftover from the renovation.

The best part of hosting lunch instead of dinner?  We had time after everyone left to finish sorting out this storage room.  It had become a dumping area for everything displaced or left over after the renovation.  And yes, that's my childhood doll buggy.

And yes, that’s my childhood doll buggy in the back corner.  I don’t know where to use it, but I can’t part with it.

There are still a few interior details to sort out…. nicer cover plates for the light switches (I hate white ones!), and a custom media cabinet to be designed and ordered.  For now, it’s time to get outside.  It’s already mid-November, but we just might have time to clean up the garden and rake the leaves before the snow flies! Then we can start planning our next fete, for Christmas…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 18: Living in a construction zone — again!

This was to be the week — finally — that the punch list (just 3 more items) was completed by our contractor. No more mess, no more dislocation.  Had I fully understood how much mess, and how much time, the addition of a brick wall to our dining room would take, I might have decided to live without it.  I think it’s a bit like childbirth — we conveniently forget how difficult it is before we have the next one.  My husband certainly forgot how much work was involved when he told me he needed just 4 hours to add mortar to our brick wall.

For the past week, we have lived with the fireplace on the floor, awaiting time to add the mortar and sealant to the bricks installed last week.

Now that the cold weather has finally arrived, we are without our fireplace!

Now that the cold weather has finally arrived, we are without our fireplace!

Because we work 6 days a week in our showroom, we have only 1 day a week to complete projects.  Unfortunately, we had to clean up the mess from last week so we could use our living and dining rooms, so we have to set up all over again.

Here we go again -- lots of tape and plastic sheeting.

Here we go again — lots of tape and plastic sheeting.

I'm not too happy to have all this right next to new drapery and area rug!

I’m not too happy to have all this right next to new drapery and area rug!

Mortar is applied like icing on a cake, with a piping bag, between the 'bricks'.  It then has  to be troweled off. Lot of blobs fall on the floor, and the troweling adds more debris to the mess.

Mortar is applied like icing on a cake, with a piping bag, between the ‘bricks’. It then has to be troweled off. Lot of blobs fall on the floor, and the troweling adds more debris to the mess.

This is the mud that ends up on the floor -- now you know why we have the drop cloths and tape to protect paint and floors.  Thank goodness for shop vacs!

This is the mud that ends up on the floor — now you know why we have the drop cloths and tape to protect paint and floors. Thank goodness for shop vacs!

Eight hours later, all the mortar has been applied and troweled off.

Eight hours later, all the mortar has been applied and troweled off.

Unfortunately, we have to live with the mess and misplaced furniture for a few days this time.  The mortar has to dry before we can apply sealer to the wall, and that has to happen before we reinstall the fireplace once again.  We have guests coming for a 70th birthday lunch next weekend, so we need to finish this ‘little’ project.  We will have to live without the dining room for a few days before we can clean up the mess.

Good thing we added a breakfast bar to the peninsula!  We swore it wouldn’t be a place to eat, and we only have 2 stools there, but it looks like we will be making use of it — and playing musical stools to see who gets to sit down and eat.

nov 4 breakfast bar

Breakfast at the breakfast bar isn’t so bad! We don’t all eat at the same time in the morning, so there’s lots of space and no shortage of seats.

 

The other use for my breakfast bar -- menu planning!

The other use for my breakfast bar — menu planning!

Since we renovated the exterior of the house — back in June! — our house number has been missing from the front of the house, and the mailbox has been on the ground.  The mailman has been patiently dropping our mail into the box from above.  However, without the house number, we’ve discovered that the numbers on our side of the street are not quite as logical as we assumed.  I had never noticed that one neighbour is number 73 and the other is 79 (we are 75) — where is 77??  I came home one day to find a complete stranger sitting on my porch waiting for the owners of number 77 to come home to let him in.  He had never been to their home before, and assumed that my house was number 77.  I couldn’t even direct him to the right house!

We realized after the siding was complete that there was no longer a flat spot to put our house number above the garage door.  As it turns out, most house number plaques are horizontally oriented.  No problem, I thought — we’ll go vertical and add the number to the side of the garage.  That was much more difficult than I thought. I did find a plaque that would work perfectly if it were hung vertically instead of horizontally, but the manufacturer wouldn’t orient the numbers vertically, so that was out.  Likewise with the mailbox, most are horizontal, and of the vertical ones, this was the only one I found that was narrow enough to fit next to our garage.

Getting ready to install the mailbox and house numbers. Thank goodness the rain stopped!

Getting ready to install the mailbox and house numbers. Thank goodness the rain stopped!

We are no longer anonymous!  And we shouldn't have any more strangers knocking on our door.

We are no longer anonymous! And we shouldn’t have any more strangers knocking on our door.  We had hoped to get a plaque to match our mailbox, but none were narrow enough for this spot, so we went with this configuration instead.

This will be a much more convenient spot for our mail -- we come and go through the garage anyway.  And, the mailman won't have to go up the stairs to the front porch.   Win-win!

This will be a much more convenient spot for our mail — we come and go through the garage anyway. And, the mailman won’t have to go up the stairs to the front porch. Win-win!

Finally finished!

Finally finished!  (Well, at least until I find replacements for those lights!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 17: We hit a brick wall

Technically, our renovation was complete after 9 weeks — we were back on the main floor with a functioning kitchen.  Yet, here we are, 8 weeks later (almost a full renovation cycle!), still waiting for the final details to fall into place.  Here’s the contractor’s punch list:

  • Replace the damaged stack on our range hood, and add the new cover for the off-centre hole.
  • Drill a hole in the bottom of our pantry broom cupboard, to allow an electrical cord to feed through for our new stick vacuum.
  • Repair a very tiny leak in the new plumbing and tighten up the faucet, which is moving at the base.
  • Connect the air duct under our peninsula, so the heat can get through to the front hall.

Our contractor has become very busy with other projects, as one would expect of a good contractor in the Fall, and has been unable to find time for us.  As I write this, he is scheduled to come by next week.  Fingers are crossed!

Meanwhile, another not-so-little problem has been added to the list: half our basement and garage lights are out, and we don’t know why.  One evening, my son hit this light switch, and the lightbulbs blew in the fixture on this switch, as well as several others.  However, the breaker didn’t go. Now we need an electrician, too!

Who knew one flip of a switch could cause so much trouble?

Who knew one flip of a switch could cause so much trouble?

While we wait, I guess we’ve missed the mess of the renovation, and the thrill of change — the big ‘reveal’!  We’ve decided that our dining room wall could use more character and texture, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to brick the wall to match the one in our front entry.  We had discussed it during the renovation, but apparently I decided against it for some reason.  Who knows why?  Perhaps I prefer to do things the hard way, so my husband can struggle with our 8 foot fireplace all over again….

In case you've forgotten, here's the dining room as we last saw it.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the dining room as we last saw it.

Next time you have a Sunday free, here’s How to Brick a Wall in a Day:

Step One: remove the furniture

Step One: remove the furniture

Step Two:  Remove fireplace

Step Two: Remove fireplace

Step Three: Make a mess in the living room that you just finished decorating.

Step Three: Make a mess in the living room that you just finished decorating.

Step Four: Set up a work area.

Step Four: Set up a work area.

Step Five:  protect floors and surrounding walls. Step Six:  Put marker screws in holes for fireplace plates, so you don't brick over them.

Step Five: protect floors and surrounding walls. Step Six: Put marker screws in holes for fireplace plates, so you don’t brick over them.

Next: Spend the rest of the day applying adhesive to the wall and cutting the mesh away from brick sheets to fit them together.

Next: Spend the rest of the day applying adhesive to the wall and cutting the mesh away from brick sheets to fit them together.

Don't forget to drill holes for those markers we've placed so the fireplace can go back up!

Don’t forget to drill holes for those markers we’ve placed so the fireplace can go back up!

Et Voila!  A brick wall emerges from the rubble.

Et Voila! A brick wall emerges from the rubble.

It’s not really finished until we add the mortar between the bricks — but that’s a project for another Sunday.

Oh, yeah -- we also need to replace the fireplace, but not until after the mortar is applied.

Oh, yeah — we also need to replace the fireplace, but not until after the mortar is applied.

There are not enough hours in a Sunday!  We’ll have to live with it like this until next weekend.  And when that’s finished, there’s always the new mailbox and house numbers that are waiting to be installed outside….

week 17 - mailbox, numbers in waiting

Until the house numbers are installed, no one knows whether we are house number 75 or 77 — the neighbour on one side is 73 while the other is 79 — something we didn’t realize until we took the old number down. Let’s hope we don’t need the fire department before our house number goes back up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 16 — Small changes that make a BIG difference

Because our renovation was so extensive — complete exterior, windows, custom kitchen, and half our main floor — our budget just wouldn’t stretch to include all new decor outside the kitchen.  So, like any decorator worth her tassels, I challenged myself to make my existing living room and dining room decor work with the new scheme.  This meant that I had to make little changes that would pull old and new together.  Here’s how I did it….

Old dark wood blinds with new patterned drapery.

Old dark wood blinds with new patterned drapery.

I’m a big believer in the power of pattern and colour to pull disparate items together.  This could come in the form of fabric, wallpaper or an area rug.  In my case, I needed to pull my warm, dark furnishings into the new gray/beige/neutral scheme.  When I found this Kravet fabric, I knew it was the perfect blend of my old and new colours.  It has just enough dark elements to ‘talk’ to my darker blinds and furnishings, but with plenty of light neutrals to freshen up the entire scheme. Custom drapery is never inexpensive, but in the big scheme of things, this fabric was critical to making old and new coexist.  Plus, it never ceases to amaze me — even after 20 years in the business — how much drapery adds to any room.  This was a worthwhile splurge!

I also selected a warm neutral paint colour that walks a tightrope between my warm old colours and my new neutral finishes.

Stripes in the new rug play nicely with the new drapery.

Stripes in the new rug play nicely with the new drapery.

My other big gesture was a new striped area rug, in shades of cream, beige, gray and dark green.  It adds graphic punch that updates my old furnishings, while also combining old and new colours.  When I saw this sample, I knew it was my ‘magic’ carpet.

See how the stripes and drapery brighten my darker furniture without alienating them.

See how the stripes and drapery brighten my darker furniture without alienating the darker pieces.  The range of colour in the drapery is key to the whole scheme.

The stripes are repeated on my stair risers.

The stripes are repeated on my stair risers.

In a small house like mine, and in many newer, more open floor plans, it is essential that your decor flows from the front door throughout the entire home — or at least to the public spaces.  With that in mind, I had the striped broadloom from my living room rug added to my stair risers at the entry.  I could have left the existing carpet — it was still serviceable — but this is so much more interesting. Besides, I had to cut off 36″ from the broadloom in order to create my new area rug, so it only made sense to use that piece for the stairs.  The additional cost to have it applied to my stair risers was minimal.

The old carpet inside my entry is hard-wearing and hides everything. The new stripes on the risers makes it look more modern, The zigzags outside the door are repeated inside.

The old carpet inside my entry is hard-wearing and hides everything. The new stripes on the risers makes it look more modern but would not be as serviceable on the entry floor.  The zigzags outside the door are repeated inside on furniture.  How’s that for flow?!

The quickest way to update my old sofa was to add new toss pillows.  The rectangular blue velvet cushion was a box-store find that repeats the background colour of my sofa.  The zigzag embroidered pillows with beaded fringe trim were custom-made to echo the new lighter colours as well as the flamestitch patterns on my front porch carpet and my pre-existing wing chair.  I filled them with feathers rather than foam for a more luxe look and feel.

week 15 - cushions

For my next trick, I’m going to update my old dining room by adding new chairs — from Lowe’s!!  A new 36″ x 84″ dining table is on our wish list, once we decide on materials and finishes for it.  Meanwhile, we are working with our old 48″ x 68″ oval table.  Prior to the renovation, the  existing chairs were on their last legs — literally!  Only one was salvageable.  When we spotted these chairs at the original price, I thought they were nice.  When they were marked down to $50 each at the end of the summer, we took them home.  They are comfortable and practical — outdoor fabric is washable — and the fabric and bronze finish work with our new decor.  Even if they only last a few years, they won’t owe us anything.  We may even be able to use them outside after we replace them!

Would you guess that these were outdoor chairs?

Would you guess that these were outdoor chairs?

We used the sole surviving dining chair from our old suite to update our old desk, which now sits at the top of the stairs, minus its hutch.  We also added lighted sconces to this wall, to create a focal point that is viewed from our front entry.  This would not have been possible had we kept the old hutch on top of the desk.  This is literally a lighter, brighter approach.

The one functional chair from our old dining suite now sits here.

The one functional chair from our old dining suite now sits here.

Speaking of lighter and brighter, one of our other changes has made a huge difference to an old wall unit.  We switched out the interior lighting for LED bulbs and they make everything inside sparkle.  This is a trick already used in retail display, where the right LED lighting can make diamonds, and other treasures, sparkle more inside their display cases.   We also retrofitted the bar shelf, removing the acrylic shelves for glassware, and moving the light to the rear (complete with LED stick, of course).  The bar folds down to become an end table as required, with display space inside.

week 15 - cabinet lighting

We updated light fixtures throughout the main floor during the renovation, opting for cleaner lines.  Rather than replace this lamp, I found a new shade to replace the old bell-style shade.  The cleaner lines of this modified drum shade update the entire lamp for a fraction of the cost of a new lamp.

This lamp is 15 years old, but I've refurbished even older ones with  new shades.

This lamp is 15 years old, but I’ve refurbished even older ones with new shades.

 

There you have it — 10 small changes with big impact.

Week 15 — Countdown to Thanksgiving Dinner

Why are the last few days before a big event always the most hectic?  Just once, I’d like to coast into a big day with my feet up and everything done well before the event.  No, wait, I think that’s called retirement — I’m not ready for that just yet!

This past week has been an eventful one as we prepped for our big Thanksgiving ‘reveal’ to our first dinner guests since the renovation.

Monday: kitchen company delivers the extra slide-out shelf we ordered.  No more slow-cooker on the countertop -- which translates to more prep space for Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday: kitchen company delivers the extra slide-out shelf we ordered. No more slow-cooker on the countertop — which translates to more prep space for Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday also saw the arrival of our kitchen valances and living room drapery and cushions.  Unfortunately, the kitchen valances were made to the wrong measurements -- which were exactly the measurements I specified!  (I neglected to add the width of the new window frames -- oops!  That has happened once or twice in 20 years, when clients have framed a window without telling me.  However, I knew about these window frames...)

Monday also saw the arrival of our kitchen valances and living room drapery and cushions. Unfortunately, the kitchen valances were made to the wrong measurements — which were exactly the measurements I specified! (I neglected to add the width of the new window frames — oops! That has happened once or twice in 20 years, when clients have framed a window without telling me. However, I knew about these window frames…)

Tuesday: unwrap the new pillows and drapery and begin the installation process. Love this zig-zag from Kravet!

Tuesday: unwrap the new pillows and drapery and begin the installation process. Love this zig-zag from Kravet!

Tuesday: Colin did a great job of installing my living room valance and drapery.  Too bad I gave him the wrong valance and he had to redo it....

Tuesday: Colin did a great job of installing my living room valance and drapery. Too bad I gave him the wrong valance and he had to redo it….

See the difference? I designed asymmetrical valances to balance the one-sided drapery.    Unfortunately for Colin, I forgot which side was which until I saw it on the window.

See the difference? I designed asymmetrical valances to balance the one-sided drapery. Unfortunately for Colin, I forgot which side was which until I saw it on the window.

The dining room drapery is a mirror image of the living room treatment.

The dining room drapery is a mirror image of the living room treatment.

Hmmm... nice, but still missing something.

Hmmm… nice, but still missing something.

Thursday: Our custom area rug arrives.  Good thing I have 2 big guys to move all the furniture out of the way to get ready.

Thursday: Our custom area rug arrives. Good thing I have 2 big guys to move all the furniture out of the way to get ready.

And.... it's in!

And…. it’s in!

Now that's better!

Now that’s better!

Friday:  Bring home wall sculpture from showroom and fill in that void between the windows.

Friday: Bring home wall sculpture from showroom and fill in that void between the windows.

Thanksgiving weekend: this vignette is okay but it could be better....

Thanksgiving weekend: this vignette is okay but it could be better….

week 14 - LR vignette with branch

A little colour and texture, courtesy of Mother Nature.

I was worried about my too-wide dining table working for our group of 7 Thanksgiving diners. However, I was able to angle it to fit everyone around it comfortably without bumping into the fireplace.

I was worried about my too-wide dining table working for our group of 7 Thanksgiving diners. However, I was able to angle it to fit everyone around it comfortably without bumping into the fireplace.

Thanksgiving Weekend:  I was thankful for my new oven and loooooonger countertops as I piled up the baking -- 4 pies, 2 banana bread, 2 soda break, 2 dozen muffins, and 24 tarts.  No, it's not all for Thanksgiving -- most of it went into the freezer for breakfast and lunch throughout the week.

Thanksgiving Weekend: I was thankful for my new oven and loooooonger countertops as I piled up the baking — 4 pies, 2 banana bread, 2 soda bread, 2 dozen muffins, and 24 tarts. No, it’s not all for Thanksgiving — most of it went into the freezer for breakfast and lunch throughout the week.

Thanksgiving Weekend:  Those long work surfaces also came in handy on Turkey day... hubs does like to spread out!

Thanksgiving Weekend: Those long work surfaces also came in handy on Turkey day… hubs does like to spread out!

Thanksgiving Weekend:  Phew! We made it -- 15 weeks after gutting the old kitchen, we produced a perfect turkey dinner for 7 hungry people.

Thanksgiving Weekend: Phew! We made it — 15 weeks after gutting the old kitchen, we produced a perfect turkey dinner for 7 hungry people.

Hurray! The renovation reveal — and the meal — was a great success!

 

 

 

 

 

Week 14: Almost there!

As with the kitchen, where the finishing steps all happened at the last possible moment before Labour Day, the decorating touches are all going to happen right before our first dinner party.   But we did get a taste of progress over the past week.

The carpet for my stairs arrived.  I've added it to the risers only, in order to avoid scuff marks and to add some pizzazz!   I generally prefer carpet runners on wooden stairs, but not here. Because these steps go directly from our entrance, down to the basement or up to the main floor, we do not carpet them.  That way, we don't have to worry about dirty shoes.

The carpet for my stairs arrived. I’ve added it to the risers only, in order to avoid scuff marks and to add some pizzazz! I generally prefer carpet runners on wooden stairs, but not here. Because these steps go directly from our entrance, down to the basement or up to the main floor, we do not carpet them. That way, we don’t have to worry about dirty shoes.

The new carpet for our front porch also arrived. Why carpet on the porch? Because the concrete is ugly, and at least with carpet I can add pattern.  Just think of it as a really big door mat!

The new carpet for our front porch also arrived. Why carpet on the porch? Because the concrete is ugly, and at least with carpet I can add pattern. Just think of it as a really big door mat!

I love the way the 3 carpets coordinate on the porch, entry, and stair risers.  Are decorators the only ones who obsess about this stuff?!

I love the way the 3 carpets coordinate on the porch, entry, and stair risers. Are decorators the only ones who obsess about this stuff?!

We’ve finally crossed off most of the after-renovation jobs off our list.  Now we can focus on tidying up the renovation aftermath that has accumulated in our utility room.  Remember how the kitchen stairs used to cut into this space? With those gone, we have a full height space for storage.  It has also gotten much warmer without an exterior door in that far wall.  (The downside is that we can no longer store onions and potatoes in here!)

This space will become my office in the next round of renovations.

It ain’t pretty right now, but this space will become my office in the next round of renovations.  For now, we’re trying to organize it and get rid of stuff we don’t need or don’t recognize.

I'm a neat freak, so being able to fit all our leftover paint supplies and other chemicals into this cupboard is a treat.  We removed the doors so we can see what's there.  Besides, the doors got in the way.

I’m a neat freak, so being able to fit all our leftover paint supplies and other chemicals into this cupboard is a treat. We removed the doors so we can see what’s there. There is definitely a trip to the hazardous waste centre in our future — I’ve been storing 16 years’ worth of leftover paint!  Now, if it’s not currently on our walls, it’s not in this cupboard.

We've also been trying to figure out a little glitch with our waste pullout (which we love!)  Those bins at the rear can't be removed without removing the drawer above.  We've checked the drawer glides, and they seem to be extending properly, but why would anyone design a system with removable bins, but not allow for the bins to come out?  That's a puzzle for the kitchen company, I think.

We’ve also been trying to figure out a little glitch with our waste pullout (which we love!) Those bins at the rear can’t be removed without removing the drawer above. We’ve checked the drawer glides, and they seem to be extending properly, but why would anyone design a system with removable bins, but not allow for the bins to come out? That’s a puzzle for the kitchen company, I think.  Either that, or we need a manual to learn how to use this thing! 

The countdown is on to Thanksgiving.  In the coming week, we are expecting our area rug, drapery and pillows for the living room, as well as striped valances for the kitchen windows.

Drapery, cushion and kitchen fabrics will pull all of our colours together, and add a layer of warmth to our rooms.

Drapery, cushion and kitchen fabrics will pull all of our colours together, and add a layer of warmth to our rooms.

So far, we love the way everything has turned out.  Hopefully, we’ll still feel that way when the fabrics and area rug are installed!  It could be a little embarrassing to screw up on the decorating — the part I’m supposed to be good at.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 13 — In a holding pattern

We need to coin a name for this part of the renovation process.  The dust has settled, literally and figuratively, and we are using and enjoying our new space.  But we aren’t quite finished.  Let’s call it a mid-reno breather, shall we?

Because the dust really has settled, and none of the outstanding tasks will kick up more of the blasted stuff, we have had our carpets, furniture and ducts cleared of it.  Hallelujah!  There hasn’t been much point in dusting furniture with all the stuff still clogging our ductwork.  I had (belatedly) changed the furnace filter just before the duct cleaning, so I was surprised when the technician said he had replace it.  “But I just changed it”, said I.  “But it looked like this,” said he, holding up a filter that looked worse than any I have ever pulled out after 3 months, let alone 3 weeks.  Yikes!

Cleaning really did wonders for our furniture, since we had been using it in our cramped basement quarters throughout the renovation period. It was impossible to keep dust and debris away from it.   It was overdue for a cleaning prior to the reno, but it made no sense then.  Now, thanks to The Cleaning Guy, I think I may be able to live with it a little longer, until we purchase some new pieces.

Image

The last time my furniture cushions looked like this, my son was much younger, and loved building forts with them. This time, they are drying out after their cleaning.

Speaking of furniture, we also decided to try out some new felt pads on the dining room chair legs.  My new chairs have metal frames, and we had applied the usual sticky felts, but they were already popping off from day to day use.  In our store, we had taken on a new line called Flexi-Felt Clear, but we hadn’t tried them out.

Flexi-Felt pads are made in Canada -- hurray! Retail price is $8.99 for 4, so the legs on 6 dining chairs cost roughly as much as one of our chairs.  However, unlike the sticky pads, we won't have to replace these every year.

Flexi-Felt pads are made in Canada — hurray! Retail price is $8.99 for 4, so the legs on 6 dining chairs cost roughly as much as one of our  bargain chairs. However, unlike the sticky pads, we won’t have to replace these every year.

The idea is that the pads are attached to a clear plastic sleeve that slides over the furniture leg, so they can’t fall off.  I wasn’t sure I would like the sleeves, but it was the application that became a bigger issue.

It took all my husband's strength to apply the Flexi-Felt sleeves to our chair legs.... I couldn't do it, even with the 'tool' that was provided to help with the task.

It took all my husband’s strength to apply the Flexi-Felt sleeves to our chair legs…. I couldn’t do it, even with the ‘tool’ that was provided to help with the task.

Fortunately, we were okay with the appearance, mainly because they aren't that visible.  Best of all, they don't fall off, and they have made the chairs quieter on the hardwood floors.  We just had to spread out the installation over several evenings, because they were so exhausting to install.

Fortunately, we were okay with the appearance, mainly because they aren’t that visible. Best of all, they don’t fall off, and they have made the chairs quieter on the hardwood floors. We just had to spread out the installation over several evenings, because they were so exhausting to install!

While we were working on the dining chairs anyway, we decided to turn the dining table perpendicular to the wall, for our everyday meals. This allows for the guys to sit side by side to view the TV when Mom's not home.  And it also allows us to sit at one end of the table, without sitting side by side (when Mom's home.)  This is not our ultimate table -- it's too wide to accommodate the chairs next to the fireplace, no matter which direction we turn it.  Ultimately, we need a 36" wide table for this space.

While we were working on the dining chairs anyway, we decided to turn the dining table perpendicular to the wall, for our everyday meals. This allows for the guys to sit side by side to view the TV when Mom’s not home. And it also allows us to sit at one end of the table, without sitting side by side (when Mom’s home.) This is not our ultimate table — it’s too wide to accommodate the chairs next to the fireplace, no matter which direction we turn it. Ultimately, we need a 36″ wide table for this space.

This has been the time to get caught up on all the little jobs that are left over after a renovation.  One of those tasks is to get our security alarms and smoke detectors re-installed.  We haven’t yet found all the door sensors for our alarm system — we’re not sure if they’ve been thrown out or just misplaced.  Meanwhile, we have replaced dust-filled smoke detectors and reinstalled them. Most have gone back where they were before the renovation, with the exception of the kitchen alarm.  Previously, it was inside the kitchen, and frequently went off.  We no longer wanted it on the ceiling in the middle of the kitchen, nor did we want it on any of the ceilings in the middle of the house.

We decided to place the smoke detector on the wall above our living room cabinet, where it is as unobtrusive as possible.

We decided to place the smoke detector on the wall above our living room cabinet, where it is as unobtrusive as possible.

Another job that we’ve been putting off is the scraping of dried paint off the textured glass in our new interior doors.  I wish someone had told us how hard it would be to get the paint colour on the inside edges of the door, next to the glass panes.  After priming the doors with white and painting them in ‘Satchel’, we ended up being able to see the white primer next to the glass, along the inside edges.  We now have to go over the white with the ‘Satchel’, with a teeny tiny brush, then scrape off the excess. Had I known this, I would have used a tinted primer — no more white lines!

Tools of the trade when scraping dried paint off glass.

Tools of the trade when scraping dried paint off glass.

Among the other little jobs we’ve accomplished in the past week: installing the ‘extra’ divider that we were left with after the kitchen was installed.  We used it under our sink, an area that we are thrilled to be able to use.  The area under the sink in our previous kitchen was a nightmare of dirty shelves and general ickiness — we couldn’t keep anything that might touch food there.  What a nice change to actually have use of this area.

Under-sink bliss -- no dirt, no mess.

Under-sink bliss — no dirt, no mess.

Our first dinner guests are coming for Thanksgiving dinner in 1 week — I wonder if we’ll be finished with every little thing by then?