Our Cottage Renovation

This past winter we headed up to our cottage or our ‘cabin in the woods’ (fondly coined by my Father-in-Law) to begin a cottage ‘make-over’.

Structurally everything was sound; this renovation was more about aesthetics.  When the cottage was re-built in the early 1970’s the ceiling was only 7 ½ feet high (will never understand why!!) which not until recently posed any problem.  But now our very tall son whenever he passed under the ceiling fan had a good chance of being scalped!  So get rid of the fan or raise the ceiling?  We opted to raise the ceiling.  And this was also the perfect time to redecorate!

This project that has spread out over many weekends started one snowy day in early January.  During winter we are not able to drive up to the cottage so we walk in from the road.  There is no plumbing, the stove is not hooked up and the power often goes out in the middle of the night.  Brrrrr!  All provisions must be carried in and heated over the wood stove.

My husband and son emptied out the space and piled all the furniture into the bedrooms/bathroom/porch.

We also decided that since we were changing the ceiling we would get rid of the 1970’s wall paneling that in an attempt to disguise had painted red a few years ago.  Not sorry to see any of it go including all the red upholstery.  I realize now I tire of red real quick.  Accents yes, walls and upholstery no!!  Lesson learned.

Notice in the bedroom photo the taxidermy deer head!  This was given to us from friends (who no longer wanted it themselves – it scared the grandkids) and right now we are in debate as to whether it will hang in the new space!!!!  Stay tuned.

All images via Modmissy


Summer Porches

Yesterday I wrote about my front porch and how in summertime it is my oasis.  Today I thought I would share some other porches.  Enjoy.

Nothing says ‘hazy, lazy days of summer’ better than a porch swing.  This one from Better Homes and Garden magazine is the ideal spot for an afternoon nap with its green and white ticking on a watermelon colour swing piled deep with vintage-inspired floral pillows.  Languor away!

Wicker, rockers and wood suggests a country cottage feel.  This porch from Canadian House and Home says “you’ve arrived”, now sit back and unwind.

Nothing says ‘calm and cool’ like a porch decorated in blue and white.  This porch’s appeal is the combination of indoor furniture – a drop leaf dining table and mirror, mixed with director’s chairs and vintage finds.  Cut flowers from the garden appeals to the senses with both beauty and scent.

A porch doesn’t have to be big to be great.  Carving out a spot needn’t be about large square footage but rather any nook can fit the bill.  This porch from Houzz shows how a small space, appropriate sized furniture and a great view is a perfect recipe for ‘drinks at five’.

While away the day drifting into a dreamy evening on this all white porch.  The mixture of a white wicker settee with an industrial-style coffee table provides a nice contrast.   But what I really loved was the unique table.  This large white table top sitting on 2 huge white bases combined with wooden benches is a fabulous update of the age-old ‘picnic’ table.

So…..where will you be spending your lazy, hazy days and relaxed evenings of summer?  Let me know.

Images: 1,3,5 – Better Homes and Garden  2 – Canadian House and Home  4 – Houzz

Blog Podium 2012

This past Saturday I attended Blog Podium “The Business of Bloggingat the newly renovated Arcadian Room at The Bay in downtown Toronto.

With over 200 bloggers in attendance it was a fun-filled, thought-provoking, information gathering event of which I gained so much great advice, knowledge and inspiration from. Phew….now to start processing it all! Blog Podium’s generous sponsors were Para Paints, EQ3, HomeSense, The Home Depot and Blurb.  Sharing her wisdom on how to successfully monetize a blog was Blog Podium’ keynote speaker Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely.  Nicole explained the options of direct sales, ad networks, text links, affiliate links, Google ads and sponsored ads.  Also, how bloggers should sell themselves to businesses and how businesses benefit from bloggers.

A panel discussion followed moderated by Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault of Benjamin Moore/Cityline TV with Christine Dovey  of Bijou and Boheme, Lindsay Stephenson of Little House Blog , Laura Muirhead of Tribal DDB and Cheryl Kozoriz of GlucksteinHome. I appreciated these bright women’s honesty and candor about the business of blogging.

Of course fabulous food had to be involved! A ‘delicious’ cocktail reception with a vendor ‘meet and greet’ took place giving everyone the chance to relax, mingle and enjoy. Lots of laughter coming from the Smilebooth where we had our photos taken by Mango Studios. That would be me in my best pose (covering my face – hate having my picture taken) with Melissa.

Also a big shout-out to Blog Podium’s creators and organizers Lindsay Stephenson and Jennifer Flores of  Rambling Renovators because if it were not for these 2 wonderful ladies I would still be trying to figure it all out on my own!

Thank you to Blog Podium Sponsors and Vendors.

Street Furniture

Garbage.  No one likes to talk about garbage but our trash, waste, rubbish is a reality of everyday life.  My axiom of, ‘design is everywhere’ includes the lowly garbage bin.  Last summer I wrote about ‘the garbage bin as art’ in my post, https://modmissy.com/2011/08/23/art-in-the-country.  This time I want to write about Toronto’s newest garbage bins, the ones located on main streets for public use.  Referred to as ‘street furniture’ these futuristic bins were designed by Kramer Design Associates www.kramerdesign.com, a design firm specializing in street furniture, signage programs and media architecture.  I would believe that hours and hours were spent at the drawing board creating the design of these newest and innovative garbage bins.  In the last few weeks I have been curious about these bins and in truth have been studying their daily use by the general public.  First off, I like the fact that the bins were designed as closed containers – I don’t have to see the garbage or smell the garbage.  The closed container also keeps varmints and wasps out.  The containers cannot be knocked over spewing nasty contents all over the sidewalk.   I appreciate that they offer recycling options with different sections.  The colour is somewhat bland but do we really need to highlight a garbage bin!?  But here is the interesting detail about this street furniture and the real reason as to why I am even writing about garbage bins.  Located at the bottom of the bin is a foot pedal that when pushed, opens the flaps allowing garbage to be disposed of without having to make any contact.  Great design because I hate touching yucky, contaminated surfaces.  But it was not until just recently that I became aware of this design detail, prior to that I was pushing my garbage through the flaps.  And I don’t think most users are aware of this detail either because every time I pass by a bin there is garbage hanging out of the flaps.  I also asked many friends and they were not aware either that a foot pedal even existed.  I don’t believe anyone stands in front of a garbage bin reading instructions prior to use.  These garbage bins were unveiled to Toronto in 2008 and most of us are just figuring them out now.  As Ray Eames once said, “What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.”  Hhmmm??

Image via Modmissy

Liyuan Library – Stick Memories

I came across an article in the recent Azure magazine www.azuremagazine.com titled Brand New Chapter written by Dan Levin about the new Liyuan Library in the Chinese village of Huairou located 2 hours from central Beijing.  The library, designed and built by Beijing architect Li Xiaodong, helped resurrect the once forgotten rural village into a bustling weekend retreat for city dwellers.  Upon visiting the village Li was “struck by the villagers close ties to the seasonal rhythms of nature and how natural textures define their constructed world, particularly the ritual of gathering sticks from the surrounding hills; they tie them in bundles for firewood and store outside their homes.”  In his plans for the library Li decided to convey the ‘gathering of sticks’ philosophy into his design with a 2-storey steel frame building clad in 40,000 sticks.  Nestled in a valley below the Great Wall of China, the library has become a sanctuary devoted to reading and a natural site for nesting birds.

 After reading this article I was reminded of a childhood memory of the gathering of sticks.  Seasonal rhythms are no more prevalent than here in Canada.  With the changing of seasons we learn to adapt our life to nature.  Our lifestyles change, our activities change with the changing seasons.  For example, in summer time our activities are swimming, biking etc. whereas in winter our activities are hockey, skiing etc.  When I was a kid everybody’s brother played hockey.  More brothers, more time spent at the hockey arena.  I have 2 brothers so I spent a lot of time at the hockey arena.  I remember hearing about one particular father who used his time spent at the arena in the gathering of sticks – broken, discarded hockey sticks.  Hockey sticks back then were made of hardwood, often birch, ash or maple and it was sad to think that after breaking from a hard slap shot these beautiful pieces of wood were castoffs.  But this father had a vision; a repurposing idea.  After years of collecting many sticks, this father with great pride and workmanship paneled his ‘rec room’ walls with hockey sticks!  Except they were no longer hockey sticks, they were beautiful pieces of hardwood applied to the wall vertically to create a natural wall treatment.  How very industrious and green-thinking of this father.  Bravo!

All images courtesy of Li Xiaodong

Balance vs Symmetry

A room that is designed with symmetry is a room that is in a state of equilibrium.  Every ying has it yang.  A sofa in the centre of a seating arrangement, flanked by two end tables, coffee table and a pair of chairs. Matched and a sense of harmony.  Whereas balance being a room with deliberate lack of symmetry.  Not matched but feeling coordinated.   It took me a long time to realize about myself that when it comes to my own personal space and décor, I prefer a room to look balanced without being symmetrical.  Case in point – my living room.  This room took me 3 sofas, actually 2 sofas and then finally a sectional sofa to realize that the room functions better and feels best when it is not decorated symmetrically.  The wall between my living/dining room had been removed creating one large open room.  On the long wall is the fireplace. Where it used to once sit centered in the living room the fireplace now sits at what feels like the end of the long wall.  When I placed my sofa/furniture symmetrically on the fireplace the living room occupied a small space of the overall room.  The living room felt small and there was too much space allotted to the dining area.  I decided that the solution to this problem was to decorate asymmetrically around the fireplace and a sectional sofa allowed that to happen.  My living room has been enlarged and occupies more of the space in the living/dining room.  After this lengthy and $$$$ exercise I realized that I preferred my rooms when they were not symmetrical but rather balanced.  I like my ‘vignettes’ mismatched and I favour items in odd numbers.  I feel the asymmetrical ‘tension’ created makes the space more appealing to me.  




                All images via Modmissy

The Christmas Tree

Have you ever wondered about the Christmas tree?  Not so much about the history of it but rather just the idea of it.  The thought of going to the all the trouble of bringing into your home a big ‘dead’ tree and then decorating it!!??  Think about it.  I mean at some point I am sure you have had a vase of flowers that have been in the house way too long and you think, “OMG, these flowers are so dead they are gross” and disgustingly throw them out.  But for some reason we continue on with the Christmas tree.  Our first Christmas together, hubby and I had no living room furniture as we would rather wait until we could afford what we really wanted.  Therefore the Christmas tree was huge, filling the space.  When we finally got furniture there was no space for the tree.  So because I did not want to rearrange the furniture to allow for a big tree we got a ‘Charlie Brown’ tree which I totally loved.  Mind you the tree was quite tall but very ‘scant’ and could hold no ornaments!  This year I really wanted to find a new alternative; something different in regards to the Christmas tree.  Some ideas I came across were from CB2 www.cb2.com.  There is the chalkboard tree. 

Or the picture frame tree.

Or the outlined in lights on the wall tree.

Of course I could always go with one of the numerous ‘artificial’ trees that are available in an array of colours (white, pink, silver, blue, green etc.) and material (feather, tinsel, PVC).  But lack of storage space is a problem at my house.  I am now thinking that next summer I will venture into the woods up at the cottage and find a ‘Christmas’ tree and start trimming the tree into maybe a topiary or a cylinder-type shape.  But this would take planning and who thinks of Christmas in July??!!



Only One Idea?

Has it ever happened to you where sometimes you just run out of ideas?  Like, “OMG, what should I make for dinner tonight?” or “What should I get X for their birthday this year?” or “How should I entertain the kids this weekend?”  Really very small decisions when it comes to the grand scheme of things but most likely you will try to switch things up as variety is the spice of life and as I always say ‘change is good’.  Which is probably the reason why the other day while sitting at a traffic light waiting for the light to change I looked down a side street and I was dumbfounded? I made a quick U-turn as I just had to get a closer look.  What I noticed was that on both sides of the street all the houses (more than 40) were identical.  They were perfectly aligned; every rooftop, every peak, every window, every porch, everything!  There were slight colour differences but other than that these homes were all the same.  Total carbon copies.  I could understand if these truly were row houses but they weren’t, they were all detached homes built identical to the one next to it.  It made me wonder, did the builder/architect/designer run out of ideas after the first design?  Did the idea of altering a roof angle or a window dimension or a street setback never make it into the design strategy?  Did someone believe that the one design was good enough so let’s repeat it over and over and over and over?  I understand running out of ideas for dinner but really…!  As I wrote before ‘good design is obvious, great design is transparent’.



Now you see, Now you don’t

Isn’t it amazing the difference a few weeks can make.  In my backyard, truly the size of a small ‘courtyard’, my space literally transforms from an open patio into a hidden oasis; a very calm and private retreat.   Both of my next-door neighbours have birds-eye views into my backyard as our homes are all 3 stories high but by late spring my backyard foliage fills in and I am in total privacy.  Over the years I have strategically planted and re-planted many trees and bushes in my backyard.  Not only do the trees provide shade they now provide my anticipated concealment.  The trees have also grown in size that they provide a full canopy over the yard; similar to a huge sun umbrella.  In fact I can no longer see any neighbours, beside me or behind my.  I have created what I call ‘my fortress’.   I do like my neighbours but when you live in the city a little solitude is nice.  Similar to living spaces within the interior of a home, my trees are like pulling down the shades or drawing the blinds.  Sometimes it’s not about what you see but what who you do not see!



Great Design is Transparent

Good design is obvious, great design is transparent’.

I came across this quote some time ago and have had it in the back of my mind pondering its meaning.  I have come to a conclusion that for me this quote means….Good design is obvious, it has accountability, and great design is transparent because it functions in a manner not evident to the user whereas by contrast bad design has no accountability nor does it function well.  Let me explain myself.

Three different homes I’ve owned have been 2-stories.  Three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.  Makes sense, very standard.  Obvious good design.  But where great design should have been transparent was the bathroom door not located at the top of the stair directly in line (and view) of the front door.  Instead in all three homes the house was designed so that the front door, stairs and bathroom door were all aligned so that when you sat on the toilette or stepped out of the bathtub you were in plain sight of anyone who came to call at the front door.  And you know that doors are always left open.  Terribly embarrassing.  Where was the design accountability because this layout certainly had poor function?  What was the designer, architect or builder thinking or rather not thinking when they planned the house?

In my recent home we renovated the bathroom (see my post – My Bathroom Reno) and tore the bathroom wall down to move the bathroom door over so that it was not aligned with the front door.  Great idea.  Now, no one will ever now that the bathroom door was ever in the wrong place because ‘great design is transparent’!