Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why Peer Mentorship Is Essential For Entrepreneurs | Modenus BlogTourKBIS

Photo by Tori Aston from Modenus BlogTourKBIS 2016

It was 2011 and I was riding high on a phenomenal full house reno that had recently finished to huge success. I was one of the lucky ones. I had come through the 2008 market crash without my business following suit. I had clients who were either smart enough or wealthy enough that the market didn't effect our projects, and after a decade in business I was really starting to find my stride.

And then it happened. For the first time ever in a decade of business. 3 dishonest clients in a row stiffed me - a polite term for the financial and emotional trauma of what went on - to the tune of more than 10K. It wasn't the dollars of it, it was the absolute shock. It felt personal. I felt like someone had scraped out my insides and left me hollow. I was a house of cards just waiting to be blown over by a gentle gust of wind.

Well, the gentle gust of wind came more like a tornado in the form of two serious car accidents 6 months apart, right on the heels of my business betrayals. Suddenly I found myself in physiotherapy 5 days a week. For two years. It was a full time job. My whole world as a business owner came to a complete stop, and oddly, the business pain was almost as intense as the physical pain.

It was during my season of physical recovery that I launched The Curated House and started to look for a design sisterhood. The truth is, the business of interior design can be very isolating. Yes, we interact with wonderful suppliers and clients, but often we lack a trusted peer group with which to share our highs and lows - our best practices and horror stories - especially when we own our own businesses. And as I've learned, it's shared experiences that make us stronger.

It took some time for me to find the courage to start sharing my story in small doses. It was like testing the waters to see if they were too cold to go deeper. No one likes to go from designing and building/renovating 3-4 million dollar homes to landing flat on her badonkadonk. But there I was, and I needed a hand up.

Over time it got easier to share - bit by bit - and I found there were more kindred spirits out there than I'd expected. Turns out, I wasn't the only one. I kept whispering to myself "It's not just me" in amazement as I heard the stories of others. Many amazing designers, in fact, had been beaten and bruised along the way, and worst of all, left feeling like somehow it was their fault. Funny how a business that can appear so glamorous from the outside can be painfully otherwise behind the scenes.

My first real design sister - the kind who feels like family and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt would do anything to support my success - was Lisa Canning. This girl knows how to love hard, and she was God's hand reaching out to help me up off my ass when she came into my life in 2013. And because of my experience with Lisa, I knew that sisterhood was indeed possible.

Enter Veronika Miller and BlogTourKBIS 2016. Before even meeting her in person, she shared some of her hard-won wisdom with me. She said, "Here's the thing. I spent years being a woman and trying to 'handle it'  or 'fight through it.' It's when I started to ask for help and allow others to see my weakness that the knot unraveled. It's actually what made me strong."

It was Veronika's vulnerability with me that gave me the courage to more than dip my toe in the waters when I arrived at BlogTourKBIS. And guess what I found? The waters were warm. I met 24 other designers ready to share not only in an experience together, but also to share the real stuff of what it takes to run a design business. The good, the bad and the ugly. Our five days together were another step in redeeming my design story. Five days of fun and wicked blisters and way too many selfies. Five days of amazing food and design inspiration and sharing our real selves with each other. I hate clichés, but this trip was one I'll never forget.

All 25 of us slathered in mud masks as we experienced Mr. Steam's incredible steam therapy together

I share all of this with you because I've learned over the years that a story that remains untold helps no one. I share this with you because I know that some of you out there are feeling like you've been knocked on your ass in business and you need a hand up. Well, I'm here to tell you you're not alone. And I hope you'll find the courage to tell the real story of who you are and what you've experienced with your whole heart. Share your story with someone you can trust so that you can experience the grace and kindness and hope that is waiting for you in the hand of someone ready to help you get back up again.

Let me clarify: Sisterhood does not require crisis. Sisterhood can be formed over glasses of champagne and laughter and mud masks and Chinese-Mexican fusion. But sisterhood (and brotherhood...real community) is what you'll need when the hard stuff hits. And sista, it hits. That's why I'm grateful to say that my design sisterhood got a whole lot bigger thanks to Veronika Miller, Modenus and BlogTourKBIS 2016.

Stay tuned for my favourite trends and highlights from KBIS 2016! I'll be sharing lots of design goodies with you in the weeks to come. But somehow this just had to come first.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How To Buy A Home And Have Someone Else Pay The Mortgage | Responsive Homes with Bobby Berk

We all have one - a vision of our very own dream home. A space to host the most fabulous parties, to live a meaningful and connected life, all the while easily entertaining both indoors and out. But paying the mortgage on that dream home can sometimes feel out of reach.


Enter the brilliant space planning of the Responsive Homes we recently visited as a part of the Modenus BlogTourKBIS in Las Vegas. With interiors designed by Bobby Berk and built by Pardee Homes, these innovative spaces blur the lines between indoor and outdoor living with an apparent simplicity that belies their clever flexibility. But beyond designs that include sliding walls that open to invite the outdoors in, these unique floor plans offer homes that really can pay for themselves.

Targeted at Millennials, the Responsive Homes are uniquely designed with main floor "lock off" suites. The suites include a bedroom, bathroom, sitting area and small kitchenette that allow the homeowner to rent the space out to either a long term renter or - at higher short term rates - via online rental services like Airbnb.

Not only does the rental suite option make a new mortgage payment easier for Millenials in the short term, but it also offers a space that will flex with the needs of the home owner, evolving into a nanny suite, for example, when future kids come along. From bachelor parties to birthday parties, these houses will have no problem growing with their owners through the many seasons of life ahead.

What do you think? Are you inspired by this innovative approach to space planning, either for your own home, for a child's first home, or for an investment property? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

And stay tuned for all of the many design finds I spotted at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. I've got lots of great highlights and exciting trends to share with you in the coming weeks!


Monday, January 18, 2016


If you've been following along for awhile, you'll know this reveal has been a long time coming. I was keeping it under wraps so that I could share it with you designer style, in PRINT no less in Style At Home magazine!

Having kept it from you for so long, I was thrilled to open this month's beautiful issue of Canadian shelter mag Style At Home to see Noah's artful, handsome bathroom on its glossy pages. In case you missed it, here it is in all its glory:

Clearly the Fornasetti Nuvolette wallpaper by Cole & Son {available through Kravet to the design trade only} is the star of this show, but I love how the custom wood vanity sits in modern relief against the slightly traditional dreaminess of those etched clouds. The custom chevron floor {for which my husband will forever win the Husband Of The Year Award after installing said custom pattern} just adds another layer of detail and warmth, bringing this quiet colour palette to life with texture and modern sophistication. Noah is officially the luckiest kid on the block!

I'm in Vegas this week checking out the latest innovations and design trends in the Kitchen and Bath industry as a part of the Modenus BlogTourKBIS, and I promise to share all my juiciest finds with you very soon. It's bound to be an adventure-packed, design find kind of week! Keep an eye on my Instagram and follow the hashtags #designhounds, #BlogTourKBIS and #KBIS2016 for a behind-the-scenes look at all the fun. Can't wait to share more with you soon!


Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Local Gift Guide for Last Minute Shoppers

We've all been there. Work life or home life or real life has just been crazy busy and here we are a mere week before the big day and our holiday shopping isn't quite done. No judgement, friends! It happens, and sometimes we just need someone to point us in the right direction. That's why this year I decided to do a local {Toronto/Oakville} Gift Guide for those who are panicking from the last minute rush. All of these gifts are ones you can pick up at a local shop in either Toronto or Oakville, and all of them are guaranteed winners under the tree. Ladies, you may want to pass this one along to your sweet man with an espresso and a hug and a wish for light traffic and easily-found parking spots.

ONE + TWO: I love a good piece of jewelry under the tree, and local love BluBoho has you covered with an absolutely gorgeous selection of treasures. These origami posts and this glittering half-moon pavé necklace are guaranteed to elicit squeals of delight. With locations in Toronto and Oakville, this is your one stop for all of the jewelry lovers on your list.

THREE: If you haven't experienced the wonder that is Technical Cashmere yet, you need to get yourself into your local Kit + Ace. The only problem you'll have is choosing what to give {and perhaps what to keep for yourself!}. I fell in love with the Bryden scarf and {hint hint} would love to find it under our tree Christmas morning. If their product wasn't gorgeous enough, each of the stores {yes, there's one in Oakville as well as Toronto locations} are uniquely designed by partnering with the local creative class on things like light fixtures and art installations that are truly inspired and unique. Clearly the folks at Kit + Ace speak my love languages. Technical cashmere + the creative class = all kinds of yes.

FOUR: I've had a design crush on Tom Dixon for forever and a day, and I'm thrilled to say that you can find a thoughtfully curated selection of his beautiful objet at the lovely Medulla & Co. on Queen St. This gorgeous trio candle gift set {gold, copper and nickel - oh my!} each have their own subtle and unique scent, the perfect gift for the design lover in your midst.

FIVE: If the design-lover on your list to really feel like you did your research, pop into your local Indigo or Chapters and get them a copy of Jean-Louis Deniot's Interiors. This stunning volume will transport you to a place of Parisian perfection, with countless pages to drool over, filled with all of the delicious details that make Deniot one of the most internationally recognized designers of the moment.

SIX: I'm pretty sure that coffee is its own love language, and the folks at Pilot Coffee Roasters are definitely fluent. I'm not ashamed to say that heir beans are all you'll find in our house. It's worth the drive to East Toronto. If you can, give your love an experience along with a bag of perfectly roasted beans and take them to the tasting bar on Wagstaff for a wine-tasting-esque tour of everything from espresso to Chemex perfection and even the wonders of a deconstructed latté.

SEVEN + EIGHT: If you want to join the cult of Chemex, you'll want to pick up the Chemex from Pilot and then get in line for the perfect pouring kettle from Monarch Methods. Hand crafted in Toronto, these copper beauties take the guess work {and weighing} out of a perfectly brewed Chemex experience, taking the ritual of coffee making to a whole new {more beautifully designed} level.

And that's it, my friends! My top picks for lovely last minute treasures that will feel anything BUT last minute when they are unwrapped on Christmas morning!

More than thoughtful presents, my wish for all of you is that you would experience the gift of each other's presence over the holidays. Slowing down to savour each other is truly the best gift we can give and receive at any time of the year.

Merry Christmas, lovelies!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How To Make Holiday Cards The LEAST Stressful Thing On Your Holiday To-Do List

I love the Christmas Season for all the warmth and cheer and merriment. I love the opportunity to reach out to the people who matter to us with messages of love and gratitude. But I don't love the rush. The stress. The endless to-do's. Over the years I've found that if I'm not careful, the holidays can pass by in a blur of busyness and I've lost the opportunity to savour what matters most.

Christmas cards are one of those items that - if I'm honest - have been a stressful to-do on my list in years gone by. In fact, in the most stressful of holiday seasons, they've just fallen off the list altogether in deference to my sanity. But the last couple of years, I've been able to send our cards with a light heart and free spirit because they've just been so dang easy. The secret to my holiday happy sauce, you ask? Minted.

Not only do they offer fresh and beautiful, fully customizable designs I love, but they allow you to import your address book and they address all your envelopes in advance so that half the work is done for you before the cards ever arrive at your door. This year I got all of our cards prepped and out the door in one evening. Honestly, it took me about an hour. Not the typical scene of Christmases past, let me tell you! But having written a personal message in the customizable cards already {you can read my merry little message below}, we signed them and added additional messages in some in no time flat.
Add to this all the charming design details like custom liners for your envelopes and the ability to truly personalize with your own photos on all sides of the card, and I'm in love. Paper products ARE a love language, after all, right?

As it turns out, gifts are a love language too, and we've got a lovely one for one of you, my friends! Not only does Minted produce gorgeous, customizable stationary, they also produce limited edition art, business cards, customizable party decor and now even textiles for the home, all designed by independent designers. With this much awesome to choose from, who wouldn't want $100 to spend however you choose?


Here's how to enter:

1. Follow me and Minted on Instagram
2. Like my post {I'll post it tonight} sharing our personalized Christmas cards for this year
3. Tag 3 friends on the post

Easy peasy! I'll announce the winner on Instagram on the 23rd, so you've got a week to get in on the holiday cheer. Scoop up an extra entry by sharing my post on your Instagram feed.

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, joy-filled holiday. May your to-do lists be short and your laughter-filled evenings be long!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Holiday Style | Secrets to Styling a Sophisticated Mantel

One of my favourite elements of holiday decorating has always been dressing my mantel. The lush yet simple layers of greenery add a warm holiday spirit to our home and their fragrance is intoxicating all throughout the season.

There is of course no one right way to style a mantel for the holidays, but for me it always comes down to cedar, magnolia and stockings. Some years I will add in clusters of fruit like clementines and pomegranates, and other years {like this one} I keep it simple with more of a quiet elegance, letting the greenery take centre stage. I thought I'd share my super simple process with you, including my secret to hanging stockings without putting holes in your mantel!

The key to this part is leaning art. If you're able to lean a piece of art or a large mirror on your mantel you have everything you need to hang stockings without making any holes in your beautiful surround. Here's how:

Using a long piece of ribbon, tie one stocking onto the end of the ribbon. Feed the length of the ribbon behind your artwork or mirror and then attach the second stocking onto the other end. I chose to use an organza ribbon for it's subtlety and transparency. 

Next, layer branches of cedar onto the mantel, allowing it to drape over the ribbon, disguising the mechanics of your styling secrets.

Next, add your branches of magnolia, tucking them into the layers of cedar to hide the ends of the stems. I also chose to pot two mini myrtle topiaries and sit them on either end of the mantel for more symmetry and visual balance.

And honest-to-goodness, that's it! Time to light a fire and cozy up with the ones you love as you enjoy the Advent season.

Wishing you and yours a season of peace, joy and heaps of love as you enjoy your festive decor. And bring on the fireside snuggles!



Artwork: Anewall
Fireplace screen: Anvil Fireside
Christmas stockings: Anthropologie

Thursday, November 12, 2015


We made it! I honestly feel like we could rename the One Room Challenge "Survivor: Designer Edition." Crowbarring your own space in alongside client work and completing it start-to-finish in 6 weeks? Well, as my lovely friend Lisa Canning said last week, it feels a bit like having a baby. While you're giving birth you're like "Why am I doing this again?" and when it's all done you're totally blissed out on the afterglow. Here's to the bliss, friends, 'cause this baby is OUT!

I'm so thrilled with how everything came together in the end. The balance of dark and light, cool and warm, and the mixed layers of texture make this room both sophisticated and inviting - the essence of liveable luxury. The gorgeous Zena Holloway Angel print from Citizen Atelier is absolutely breathtaking in her pride of place, flawlessly finished with a Framed & Matted gallery frame. I find her truly mesmerizing! I love how the metalic silver linen drapery from Kravet frames her with a radiant glow.

Gratefully, the CB2 Crane Floor Lamps {see above} arrived at the 11th hour, and I love them. Lighting game is on fleek. I decided to repurpose a pair of end tables I already had and I think the caged brass bases create just the right airy feel next to the luxe Kravet black velvet tufted sofas. They also play beautifully off of the custom rift-cut oak coffee table which I love pretty hard.

I added a custom solid wood helix on the other side of the room to balance the wood tones and the warm against the cool of the black velvet {see below}, and I'm thrilled to finally have a piece that I've designed for clients over the years in my own home. I'm a lover of wood in its natural glory, and this piece {though you can't see it very well} is pure poetry with it's mind-bendingly torqued shape. I'll be sure to post a shot of it on Instagram this week so you can get a better look.

I am thrilled with how the Thibaut ikat wallpaper turned out, especially given that we successfully installed it ourselves! It's the perfect warm and textured backdrop for the art, like the gorgeous David Graham White piece you see above. 

I'm also thrilled at how the canvas-stretched mural from Anewall turned out when resined with Art Resin. If you missed the tutorial on how to do this yourself last week, you can check it out here!

In the hands of my amazing furniture maker, the Metrie mouldings definitely transformed our fireplace surround and mantel into a thing of elegance and beauty. Add to that the custom herringbone mosaic tile from Creekside Tile and a black curved fireplace screen from Anvil & Co and it's a pretty huge transformation from the before.

I'm quietly delighted with how the shelf styling turned out. For me, styling a bookcase is a labour of love that is as much about curating your story as it is about making things pretty. I tend to add, tweak, edit and repeat until I get something I'm happy with, and I was zhushing this bookcase in little bits as we worked on the room over the last few weeks to get it just right.

The subtle yet sophisticated brushed brass Lewis Dolin pulls from Upper Canada Specialty Hardware are the perfect finishing touch on the cabinet doors of the built-ins.

To say I'm happy about the transformation of my desk area would be a major understatement. I actually LIKE sitting at my desk now. Just like with the laundry room, I'm reminded once again of the power of good design to transform our quality of life. I love my DIY modern pin board with Kelly Wearstler-esque nailhead detail. The radiant Kravet Contract reptile pattern velvet mixed with the faceted antique brass nail heads offers an elegant canvas on which to pin fabric memos and inspiration images, though I confess I may leave it clean for awhile so I can enjoy it in all its modern simplicity.

The trio of art above the desk - framed in gorgeous Framed & Matted gallery frames - fuels my sense of wanderlust and quite simply makes me happy. The two pieces on the left - limited edition prints from Minted - work brilliantly with Amy Friend's emotional and moving Babushka {Blue}.

I like a bright work area {and I'm somewhat obsessed with symmetry} so I framed out the desk area with a pair of acrylic and brass column lamps from West Elm and love them. They're timeless classics that I can repurpose in any room of the house should I choose to do so.

As you can see, the great debate on what colour to paint the gorgeous faux bamboo mahogany chairs from 55 Downing St. ended up with a "no paint" solution! My Brazillian walnut floors have a lot of variation in them, and I am a fan of mixing wood tones for a more interesting space. Add to that the madcap dash to the finish line of this design dare, and not painting them turned out to be the perfect solution! I really do love them, especially finished with the Kravet dove grey mohair seats and Bermingham & Co. lumbar cushions. Check out my Instagram for a straight-on shot of the chairs side by side from yesterday's feed.

As a pair {perched atop the super warm and cozy lambswool rug} they face into the family room for a beautifully balanced floor plan, and one of them easily pulls away to sit at the desk when I'm working. It's an elegant, flexible solution to a room with more than one function! It is practical and pretty without looking utilitarian. Perfection.

I can't believe it, but that's it! I'm grateful and delighted to have this room completed and can say that my family is already connecting more and feeling inspired by the dramatic transformation of this luxe family room makeover. 

Huge thanks to Ashley Capp for being such a delight to work with on the photography, and to the one and only Linda from Calling It Home for corralling all the designers daring enough to dive into this adrenaline-fueled biannual design event!


Black Velvet Tufted Shelter Arm Sofas - Kravet | Ikat Wallpaper - Thibaut | Shelf + desk - Custom | Rolling Desk Drawers - IKEA | Pin board fabric - Kravet | All frames - Framed & Matted | Desk lamps - West Elm | Wall Art - Citizen Atelier, Art Interiors, David Graham White, Minted, Anewall, Art Resin | Crystal Docahedron, Coral Mounted on Lucite, Geode Mounted on Lucite, Gold Stretching Greyhound, Michael Aram gold candlesticks - Elte | Leather Bound Books - Vintage | Sepia Sketch in Bookcase - Purchased on the streets of Paris | Lewis Dolin Brushed Brass Pulls - Upper Canada Specialty Hardware | Glass Cloche, Glass + Brass Box - Indigo | Sea Urchin - Paxton Gate SF | Silver Hurricane - Ralph Lauren available through Elte | Faux Coral - House Warmings | Tibetan Fur Pillows - Fibre by Auskin | Python Print Fabric - Kravet | Herringbone Faux Fur Fabric {on blanket} - Kravet | Ombre Chevron Fabric on Bench - Cassaro | Reupholstery of Bench - Switch Studio | Paint - PARA Paints | Silver Linen Drapery Fabric - Kravet | Sewing of Drapery + Pillows - Hollie Cooper | Hexagon Pencil Cups - CB2 | Lucite + Rose Gold Kate Spade Tape Dispensers + Stapler - Indigo | Brass Wallhanging File Holders - CB2 | Voluspa Candle - Indigo | Sheepskin rug - Costco | Mouldings for Fireplace Surround + Mantel - Metrie | Custom Nero Marquina Herringbone Mosaic - Creekside Tile | Curved Black Fireplace Screen - Anvil & Co. | Rift Cut Oak Coffe Table + Helix End Table - Custom through The Curated House by Sarah Walker | Silver Tray - Heirloom | Vintage Opera Glasses - Heirloom | Coffee Table Books - Indigo |

Be sure to check out the stellar work of these designer daredevils. There are some incredible finished spaces to be seen as a part of this year's One Room Challenge, my favourites being those by Design Manifest and Kimberly Whitman. But that said, they're all gorgeous!!

Apartment 34 | Arianna Belle | Because It’s Awesome | Coco+Kelley | Christine Dovey | Design Darling | Design Indulgence | Design Manifest | The English Room | Vanessa Francis | Hi Sugarplum | Honey We’re Home |Jojotastic The Pink Clutch | The Pink Pagoda | Simplified Bee Style Your Senses | A Thoughtful Place |Kimberly Whitman | The Zhush | Guest Participants

Until next time, darlings!

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