About Me

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Beyond just being me, I am a wife, mother and entrepreneur constantly on the hunt for new ideas on how to live my best life. Visit me at www.clementsinteriors.com.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Restoring and Repurposing

As a professional interior decorator, I am constantly on the hunt for new and fabulous finds for my clients. I regularly help them replace unwanted items in their homes with the latest-and-greatest decor trends available in what seems to be an ever expanding home fashions industry.
Typically on a renovation site I am presented with the question of what to do with the materials removed during the demolition process. In the course of doing business, our company has made many trips to the local dump to dispose of unwanted materials. Recently, some on our crew carefully removed and chose to reuse some cabinets from a site which were destined for the dump but where in perfect condition. Though this may sound elementary to some, I was thrilled to see the materials were not going to waste and were in fact being put to good use elsewhere, and I was even happier to know that there were people who saw the intrinsic value in these items. It made me begin to question my own role in the cycle of wastefulness, one that went far beyond the extent of my personal recycling and composting habits at home.
Since that experience, I have begun to ask myself some tough questions: Does my role as a decorator unnecessarily overshadow my role as a member of the larger society who should be making more of an effort to protect the environment and avoid needlessly adding to landfills? Do I as a professional have a greater opportunity and responsibility to be lending a helping hand to those in our community who are in need and simply want to build a home of which they can be proud?
So, I turn the tables on myself to see what I am made of, and I look to the wonderful charitable organization Habitat for Humanity to help me consider what impact I can make by learning to creatively “re-purpose” old building materials and household items; to help with looking away from the home decor trends laid out like an all-you-can-eat-buffet by the industry around me and towards setting my own trends which will ensure that I avoid unnecessarily contributing to the growing wastefulness problem. I cannot vow to be perfect in this endeavour, but I do vow to do my best.
If like many, you’ve already heard of Habitat for Humanity, here’s what you may already know:
· Habitat consists of over 35,000 volunteers and 72 affiliate organizations from coast to coast.
· Habitat Canada is a member of Habitat for Humanity International which is now building a new home for a needy family every 21 minutes.
· Habitat for Humanity Canada is a national, non-profit organization working for a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.
· Habitat’s mission is to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty.
If like me, this is where your knowledge about this organization ended, here’s what you’ve been missing:
· Habitat for Humanity has building supply stores open to the public which accept and resell quality new and used building materials.
· In addition to building materials, some of the Habitat ReStores carry items like furniture, appliances, fabric, lighting, window coverings and other household items.
· The sales made at Habitat for Humanity Re Stores generate funds to support Habitat’s building programs – the dollars you spend in the store help ensure that new homes will be built for those in need in your local communities.
· When you purchase something from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, you reduce the amount of used materials that are headed for overflowing landfills
I have challenged myself in my own life and where possible in my professional life, to make a habit of regularly visiting the Habitat ReStore to search out useful building materials that when purchased, will be reused and not dumped into an already crowded landfill while simultaneously ensuring my money goes to a worthwhile organization, and equally importantly – will save me money!
I hope you will accept my challenge to drop by your local ReStore and to discover this untapped resource in your local community, and I encourage you to visit www.habitat.ca and click on ReStore to find a store near you!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Budget Art!

Adding artwork to your space needn't require a second mortgage!

I created this eye catching collage by purchasing simple clear glass black frames to display old family photos. A decorative clay tile with a favorite quote, hung in the centre of the collage helps to define the theme of the collection while adding a distinct textural feature to the display.

The beauty of using these types of frames is that the clear glass automatically incorporates the wall colour in your room, eliminating what can often be a difficult and confusing decision about choosing matte colours.

Keep the look simple by using one colour or style of photo; try incorporating black and white or sepia prints of current family photos for a warm, antiqued look.

Happy framing!


Sunday, April 19, 2009


It's safe to say that 9 times out of 10 when I meet a potential client who has a kitchen they're unhappy with, the conversation turns to their dreams of having an island.
For many homeowners, islands are indicative of a kitchen which is large and spacious, and I dare say many are drawn to them because of what the island means to the attractiveness quotient of their home.
Beyond the obvious aesthetic beauty of having an island, the benefits are numerous. Islands often allow for a user friendly "work triangle" which means that the stove, refrigerator and sink are in close proximity/across from each other in the space, allowing for an efficient work flow for cooks and those working in the kitchen area. An island can also provide for a more effective flow of traffic in a small kitchen, allowing cooks access to the island and work surface from all sides.

Islands can also free up the surface and storage space of existing cabinets which are anchored to a wall. Strategically placed dishwashers, bar fridges and counter-top ranges can mean that the island provides alternate places for large appliances that might otherwise eat up valuable cabinet space.

Finally, and for many most importantly, an island provides homeowners with a more enjoyable cooking environment which can allow them to socialize and enjoy their guests or family while continuing to prepare meals and serve food. A kitchen is truly at the heart of a home and including one in your kitchen design can greatly alter both how you use your space, and your kitchens functionality.

However, many homeowners rush into installing an island in their home without ensuring that there is an adequate amount of space. ALWAYS ensure that you have a MINIMUM of 36" from the edge of an island to surrounding walls or counters. Avoid placing large appliances directly across from each other between a counter and an island so that you ensure not to have appliance doors interfering with each other when they are open.

Do not underestimate how much space an island requires... installing one improperly can ruin an already well functioning kitchen floor plan.

Happy designing!


Good food, good wine and time with friends. There is nothing better in life than spending time and sharing a meal with those you love.

As a girl I was always of the belief that my family was all I had to rely on since I considered myself a bit of an oddball, not fitting in with the kids I went to school with. I certainly was not one of the popular kids and I lived mostly in my head and in my dreams. Then in high school I met a girl named Barb. I'd known her all along but did not become friends with her until we were teenagers. We were inseparable, and she made me realize the value of having a someone who you could share your thoughts and dreams with without the pressure of judgement.

I have since then been blessed with many friends who have supported and believed in me, accepting me as I am, and with whom I have thankfully shared much wine and many great meals. I have said before and think it's worth repeating that I am grateful to have many friends who I consider family and wonderful family members that I call friends.

Share a meal with someone you love! Cheers!

Pepper-Crusted Steaks with Worcestershire-Glazed Portobellos

4 14- to 16-ounce New York strip steaks (each about 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick)
3 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked with mallet
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 pound portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices

Sprinkle steaks with cracked peppercorns and coarse salt. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and vinegar. Stir in mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt. Remove from heat.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to plates. Top each steak with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Tent with foil to keep warm. Grill mushrooms until soft and beginning to release juices, about 3 minutes per side. Divide mushrooms among steaks and serve.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I would like to know how and when in the past two or three decades becoming a wife and a mother became so wrought with socio-economic undertones.

When our mothers were young and newly married, the assumption was made that they would remain at home with their families unless they, God forbid, HAD to work (gasp, gulp!).

I have come across several websites and blogs by women who have chosen to leave their 'professional' lives behind and become full-time, need I say it, 'stay-at-home' moms; the reference made as though the 'stay-at-home' title ensures that there will suddenly be a lack of socially-valued work done on the woman's part. Almost apologetic in tone, a great deal of women choose to broach the topic of their choice to stay home from a defensive, almost scornful viewpoint, one where they perhaps unknowingly demean the real work of running a home, not to mention the mental stress of potentially ending ones' financial contribution to a household that seems to require more and more 'stuff' on a daily basis.

This has become an onerous preoccupation with me of late.

Being a self-employed individual raised with a strong work-ethic, not to mention a healthy dose of Catholic guilt, I have struggled with the question of my place in the world as a woman, a wage earner, a wife and a mother. I was raised by a stay-at-home mother and this notwithstanding, I graduated from university and followed the heavily travelled path of my feminist predecessors into the corporate sphere to fulfill my hard-won place in the private sector. It wasn't all good and glorious, as much to my surprise I experienced the bitter pill of sexism and the 'glass-ceiling' mentality of the women and men around me.

For decades before me, 'feminists' toiled in the name of future generations of women for, among other things, the right to fair and equal compensation in the workplace. And yet, when given the chance to be promoted and move ahead to fill my seemingly rightful place in the upper-levels of the corporate realm, and without so much as a thought to those hard-won feminist battles of the past, I simply opted out. The truth was that despite my hard work and my evident potential to move up the corporate ladder, I was miserable. I hated work - at least I hated the work I was doing. When I graduated from school, no one had ever told me to look for work that I liked. I just had to have a job. Period.

I don't recall a course in university called "Find and Follow your Passion.101" - had there been such a course I surely would have enrolled in it. Or perhaps not. Perhaps I would have thought it an exercise in narcissism. I don't ever recall having a discussion with anyone during any point of my life or educational career about finding out what my passion was, and about the fact that having a passion was an important part of living a fulfilled life. I simply had to have a job. And if I was lucky enough to have a family and a home to live in, I would find happiness - that was the 'American' (and as such, the de facto 'Canadian') Dream. Today, that dream seems truly wrought with misdirection and misunderstanding and one might argue, has chased our generation into a room of cubicles meant to define our role in society.

One might deduce that the race for "having it all" coupled with a potential disregard for our passions (and the ultimate unhappiness that comes along with it), has brought us to this place of global social and economic upheaval, and is now finally seeing people surface with a gasp from the deep dark waters of conspicuous consumption to realize that there is truly beauty and happiness to be found in the small details of our everyday lives. And yet for the generation that follows mine and in the age of all that is televised and written about, the path to success and happiness seems to be knowingly paved with the notion that one's passion is the correct path to follow to find our golden place in the world. In fact, many purport that if you follow your passion, the money will find you. The money will find me? Are you serious?!

Isn't finding out this tiny jewel of information in my forty-somethings a little late? Well, perhaps not. Perhaps figuring out that I'm passionate about all the things in my life and that what I feel strongly about often changes on a daily basis, is not a bad thing. Maybe that's it. Maybe happiness is found in knowing that today I am a Mom, tomorrow an interior decorator, and perhaps the day after a volunteer or a friend. I needn't define myself as solely being a decorator or an entrepreneur, or being passionate about staying at home with my children, as though it's a zero-sum game and at any given time when the pendulum of life swings, something or someone loses out. Perhaps that's the ultimate in narcissism. After all, a wise person likely knows that even when not in the room, life goes on without us, but that we are no less important.

I find solace in knowing that my lack of definition in 'what' I am on a day-to-day basis is ultimately what brings me happiness, and being happy is truly my passion.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This is Juno. She's our 9 month old yellow lab. Not the smartest dog seeing as she occasionally chooses to eat poo.

She just bounded down the stairs to my office with a ball in her mouth - clearly she's ready to play. I have yet to convince her that there's no way I can throw the ball while it's in her mouth. Again, not the brightest mutt, but perhaps the cutest!

Well, there's a first time for everything!

First I said "no Facebook", then I said, "no Twitter" and was even afraid to find out what blogging was. So here I am months later, and after much hand-wringing, blogging for myself.

Who said mid-life begets crisis? Midlife is nothing short of eye-opening for me. I'd be curious to find out how many bloggers are my age or older. I understand that the +40 set are now the largest group of new subscribers on fb. To think we have trouble with the remote controls on the television!

As mentioned in my profile, I am a self-employed entrepreneur (go figure) who is constantly trying out new and better ways to make money - though I do have a healthy interior decorating business - check out my website at http://www.clementsinteriors.com/ .

Any opportunity I get to branch out, I take. So grab on to the branch with me and let's see what happens.