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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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Home Office: A Cultural Norm.


Long ago, in a not so far away place, I pondered whether or not to allocate a small space at the bottom of the basement stairs in our first semi-detached home for a pseudo “home office”.  At the time the concept of needing a specific place in your home dedicated solely to office work was relatively uncommon.  Unless you were a lawyer or a doctor with a home based practice, the concept of working regularly from the place you lived was largely an idea that people only spoke of.
At the time I was overwhelmed at the thought of trying to work full-time while raising in any sort of reasonable fashion, a challenging baby.  Email had just been introduced in our office, the internet was a new resource we were to consider and I had just received my first laptop at work, though it still required a docking station.  Enjoying the relative freedom my new computer allowed me, I went to my boss to plead my case in favour of working from home.  After being laughed out of his office, it occurred to me that the mere notion of not appearing in the office on a daily basis was perhaps too much for him to bear.  How would he get in touch with me?  How could he know for certain I was working?
Zoom ahead 15 or so years and at least that many wrinkles and you’ll find an office is not only common in homes, but that full blown businesses like my own are often run from the house. 
It’s interesting to me that most average homes built prior to the mid 80’s do not have a space allocated ANYWHERE for an office.  There’s the front hallway, the living room, the laundry room, the kitchen and 2 or 3 bedrooms.  Perhaps home builders prior to this time did not even consider the nature of one’s home to be such that it needed to accommodate for office work.  It might be difficult for some to imagine or remember, but there was a time when everything moved slower and working from home was all but unheard of.  Stores were closed on Sundays, people cooked BBQ over charcoal and work stayed in the office, which wasn’t in your home.  The term “don’t bring your work home with you” was an important value to which people held firm.
Post 1980’s home builders typically added some form of a home office in a centrally located space on the main floor, perhaps signifying a growing importance of the role of work in our lives.  Those who owned older homes looked to re-purpose a spare bedroom or a room in the basement solely for office use.  Over the years I have designed some sort of built-in to hold full libraries, filing systems, computer networks and book collections in almost every private home I have worked in.  The office migrated and took up permanent residence in our homes.   
Now well into the 21st century, the notion of not bringing your work home is a concept all but forgotten.  In fact, people bring their work home, on vacation and sometimes even to bed.  But as technology pushes us to work faster, leaner and smarter it’s been my experience that those who work from home are shedding off the confines of their home office and with the great strides of technology, are requiring less space not more. 
In fact, the kitchen office which has space enough for a laptop, a few hanging files and some storage for family paperwork is an idea whose time has likely come.  Work has drifted once again and is now out of the home office and taking root in the heart of our houses.  A centrally located work space allows for any family member to work while keeping the family computer(s) in a safe and easy to monitor common area in the home.
The nature of the home office spurred by changes in communication has seemingly undergone a cyclical metamorphosis.  Home designs while still fundamentally family-centred have been influenced by technology by allowing work to become more pervasive in our lives than ever before. 
I have to admit that when I close my eyes and picture the house of my dreams, the office is nowhere in my view; it’s not in the kitchen nor even a separate room.  But since work is still as important as ever, it might as well be somewhere it’s convenient for me to keep a watchful eye on it while I tend to our family’s busy life.
Cheers!
Janice

Monday, May 28, 2012

Get Creative with Pegboard!

Peg Board. Who knew?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rush Job

It’s no surprise that we lead increasingly face paced lives. What I strive to do as a designer is to make it look like life hasn’t won the race over my clients. I relish the projects where there has been as much allocated to the ‘time budget’ as there has been to the ‘financial budget’. The renovations that really impact me do so because they are aesthetically pleasing and because they have evolved gradually over time, including thoughtful details of a life lived.

Several times in my career, I have been hired by someone who's in a rush to get a project started and completed. Getting the answer “Yesterday” when I ask about project timing is always a concern. I don't know of a tradesperson or contractor who hasn't experienced a client with an unreasonably short deadline. What I know for sure is that regardless of the investment, a rush job can in the end look just that, rushed.

When planning your next design project consider this stress-saving information:

1. Understanding the time factor can make the difference between a satisfying renovation experience and a miserable one. Done properly, a renovation should move at a reasonable pace. It should not be done hastily nor drag along endlessly. Your contractor should keep you apprised of his schedule.

2. Have an appreciation for the fact that it takes a GREAT deal of time for your contractor to pull pricing together. Unfortunately, the larger the job, the longer getting pricing can take. Good contractors and trades spend their days working on sites and often only have evenings in which to pull pricing together and see new clients. Requesting information from many different sources/trades and getting everyone to respond with quotes can be an arduous task. Be assured that during peak construction times it will take longer than you anticipate.

3. For major renovations, consider creating your design plan and budgets one year for implementation the next. Be on guard and ask for references from the trade who's available to start your renovation tomorrow.

4. As in life, Murphy's Law can apply to renovation work, so if you anticipate that there will be interruptions in the work, you won’t be shocked when they happen. Whether due to back-ordered products or trades delayed on other sites, delays do happen. Think about building a buffer into your deadline to allow for any extra time required to complete your project.

5. Like many of us, trades and their families take vacations. Often they've planned their time off the year before and can't change their schedules.

6. It might sound elementary, but ensure those working at your home have access to a washroom. If they have to go to the local coffee shop to use one, things are going to take longer than they should.

7. Renovating is a process. If one part of the process is delayed then a number of other elements of the project can be delayed. Letting the process run its course can make the difference between a quality job and a poor one.

8. Count on these timelines when ordering products: Natural stone counters will take 2 weeks from the date of template. Custom cabinetry generally requires 6 to 12 weeks depending on the manufacturer. Special order light fixtures require 4 weeks. Custom windows can take 6 to 8 weeks. Custom furnishings take 6 to12 weeks.

Look to your reliable contractor or designer to help you keep your project on track and help make your renovation project a satisfying one!

Cheers!  Janice

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Design Magazine Hell

I love design magazine's, really I do.  That said, I get frustrated with the propensity to show homes that are for the most of us, not real.  When reading these magazines, know that they, like fashion magazines show ideas and homes that don't necessarily reflect reality nor do they reflect the way people live today.  Like trying to fit into a size two dress shown on the model in the fashion mags, owning a home with towering 11 foot ceilings and room to spare for libraries and book ladders, is just not what the average Joe or Jane lives in.
Unfortunately they will never show the real deal.  The mess that needs cleaning up after Sunday dinner, the hairs on those nice white bathroom floors or the dust bunnies that collect on the beautifully polished dark walnut hardwood. 
This article by John Hill gives some wonderfully creative ideas on ceiling solutions.  I have only a handful of clients for whom these strategies will work and even fewer clients who own homes like these.  I can't help looking at the images and thinking, "where's all their stuff?!"  Picture perfect for sure, but functional and budget friendly?  Not so much.  Doesn't hurt to enjoy the view though!

Cheers!

Janice
http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/2239846/list?utm_source=Houzz&utm_campaign=u98&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery0
 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Prepare for the future! Your TV and you.

Interesting article.  Hard to believe we've come so far.

Cheers!http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/2242148/list?utm_source=Houzz&utm_campaign=u94&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery0  Janice

Monday, April 30, 2012

Hospice Care

A recent story about a cause dear to my sister-in-laws mom.  She's a trooper trying to get some important needs met.  Check out the link to the Globe article.

Cheers!

Janice
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto/globe-to/a-toronto-hospices-biggest-hurdle-isnt-finding-land-or-staff-its-the-city-itself/article2416446/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=Referrer%3A+Social+Network+%2F+Media&utm_content=2416446&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Budget-friendly Design!

Amazing work proving once and for all that budget does not always drive good design.  Check out the link and be amazed!

Cheers!  Janice

http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/2072809/list?utm_source=Houzz&utm_campaign=u90&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery2

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In the Garden

Thinking about hiring a landscaper?  Click on the link above to check out some useful tips.

Cheers!

Janice

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Preparing Your Home for Sale - Stage 3: Staging

When discussing the last of the three steps in preparing your home for sale, I could go on for days about the proven benefits of staging your home and the statistics that demonstrate that a properly staged home will sell faster and for more money than a home that is not staged. I could bore you to tears with how to place your furniture just so, and why indigo blue is not a colour you want on the walls of your family room when you’re selling your home, but I won’t. In the end, a few hours with a good stager will help you determine what furniture should stay and what should go, what elements of your space you need to change and what works just as it is. Staging is a process that for each house is as individual as the house itself.


What I will tell you is that there are two major things you can do to significantly improve the odds of selling your home quickly and at the best price possible. The first, de-personalizing will go a long way to making your Realtor’s work more efficient and effective. The second, creating an experience will help potential buyers connect with your home.

If you’re like me, over the years you’ve squirreled away just enough stuff to make your space comfortable and familiar. You’ve surrounded yourself with wonderful personal belongings that tell people who you are. Whether it be a collection of antique china, the stuffed animals on the spare bed that once was your child’s, or all the family photos over your fireplace, we all strive to make our homes a reflection of ourselves and of the life we’ve led in the years since we moved in.

After placing a great deal of focus on making your house a home you now face the often difficult task of ridding your space of all the items that made it uniquely yours, but you must do so in order to prepare for the prospect of someone else living there. Stripping your home of your personal touch is a very important part of getting ready to sell.

The reality is, prospective buyers going through your home may not like what they see and for many homeowners this can be a difficult pill to swallow. Your taste in décor, the wall colour selections you so painstakingly made and the shag carpet for which you searched high and low to give your bedroom that je ne sais quoi, simply may not appeal to everyone. Your personal tastes and indeed your personal belongings, often distract a buyer from seeing your property as somewhere they could picture themselves living. Such distractions can make it difficult for them to feel a connection with the house.

De-personalize your home by removing any and all (or at least as many as possible) personal photos, monogrammed items, kids’ trophies, children’s artwork and drawings on the fridge… anything that indicates that your family lives there. Taking the “you” out of your home removes all emotion and sentimentalism from your property, allowing others to connect themselves with your space.

Once your home is de-personalized, you need to “set the stage” for it to be sold. Create an experience for people viewing your property so that they have an emotional reaction to your home. Doing so will increase the chances that a buyer will feel it is a space they want to live in.

Pay special attention to the front entrance by making it welcoming, open and bright. A good …rather great first impression is something no one forgets. Make beds with serene, relaxing linens so buyers find a space they would want to return to. Ensuring the lights throughout the house are on will give a sunlit, warm impression of your home. Putting on some quiet music will go a long way to making your house more inviting and buying fresh flowers for a few of the rooms will add colour and life. I have even gone so far as to bake some pre-mixed cookies just prior to a showing to ensure that sweet smells permeate the house. There’s nothing more inviting then the smells of fresh baking!

Put effort into creating a cozy and inviting house that is free from items that identify you as the homeowner will ensure that your space is staged for the perfect buyer!

Cheers!
Janice Clements

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aurora Home Show

A huge thanks to all those who came out to visit us at the Aurora Home Show this past weekend!  The turnout was great and we were pleased with the number of new people in the community we were able to connect with. I'm grateful for some of the feedback we received from visitors and am excited about the inspirations it's given me for my next column in The Auroran!  Keep an eye open for it!

Cheers!

Janice

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wowee Kazowee! I love this stuff!

Imagine, magnetic wallpaper your kids can play with and move around!  It's a new story EVERY day!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Preparing Your Home for Sale - Stage 2: Repairs

Two weeks ago, I supplied readers with tips for tackling the often arduous task of preparing their homes for the spring real estate market.  If you managed to get any of the de-cluttering work done, be proud of yourself, it’s a huge task!

In providing staging services for my husband Wayne, a Realtor with the local Keller Williams office, I have seen firsthand the results of listing a home properly prepared for sale.  A well cleaned property with all outstanding repairs addressed is proven to sell quicker than one in disrepair.  If you’ve sold a home in the past you know the nuisance of keeping the house tidy while it’s on the market; add children into the mix and you’re potentially primed for many a family feud.  Clearly, minimizing the number of days your home is on the market will simply make life easier.

Perhaps like me, you create a mental list of much needed home repairs each and every time you clean.  While you can likely spot many areas requiring maintenance, sometimes it’s what you don’t see that can be the most problematic.  Consider hiring your own home inspector before you list your property and for a few hundred dollars, you’ll gain piece of mind knowing that the larger elements of your property (such as foundations, roofs, windows, attics and electrical work) have been given the once over.  Displaying a written inspection report and the related repair bills during open houses will show potential buyers that you have already taken steps to ensure your property is in good working order.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to hire a home inspector, be sure to check these elements of your property to ensure they are up to snuff:

Floors:  If you’ve already invested in the polish of hardwood but notice major scratches that might be undesirable to potential buyers, consider hiring a flooring specialist to repair just those areas that are damaged.  Often times, specific strips of hardwood can be replaced, improving the overall look of your floors. 

Broadloom can warm a home and create a space that’s comfortable and inviting; unfortunately it also traps dirt and odors.  Large stains and/or smells such as mold, smoke or pet urine draw attention to an element of your property that potential buyers will feel compelled to repair or replace themselves.  There is perhaps nothing more off-putting than the smell of cat urine, so ensuring that your home is free of such distractions will serve you well in your efforts to successfully market your house.

Windows:  Check for cracks and gaps and ensure all cranks and screens are working properly.  The mere age of your windows may be a good indicator as to whether or not they require replacement.  Do your window coverings need repair?  If you have broken or bent blinds remove or replace them.

Colours:  “Repairs” can and typically do include painting of some sort.  A fresh coat of colour will help ensure your walls are free of scuffs and will allow buyers to see the beauty of your home.  If your colour palette resembles a rainbow, consider painting at the least the main areas in more neutral tones to ensure a broad range of buyers will see your home as a place they can envision themselves living.

Lighting:  Good lighting can help draw attention to the best features of your home.  Ensuring that all fixtures are current looking, in good repair and that you have adequately lit spaces helps buyers see all those things you love about your home.  People won’t buy what they can’t see.

Winter repair:  The winter months can wreak havoc on your property.  Take time to clean up the remnants left on your lawn during the cold months, remove any dead plants from your gardens and prune damaged trees and shrubs.  As the weather warms up, ensure your garage and front doors are in good condition and paint them if necessary.  Sweep and clear out your front and back porches. 

While investing in your home prior to selling might seem like a futile endeavor, be assured that money spent on repairs and clean-up increases the visual value of your property.  Spending a few dollars up front will go a long way to help your Realtor get the best price in the least amount of time when selling your home!

Join me in two weeks for the final step in prepping your home for sale:  Staging!

Cheers!

Janice

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Preparing your home for the Spring... market.

I don’t want to jinx it so I’ll cross my fingers when I say it feels like spring has sprung!  For some homeowners the warmer weather stirs up up the desire to rake the front lawn of winter grime, clean out the linen closet and open the windows to let fresh air flow.  For others, longer days and sunshine means working double time to begin the process of getting their home prepped for sale.
Looking to list?  Maximize your property’s potential value by creating an environment in your home that any buyer can envision themselves living.  Sound easy?  Well, it can be easier said than done if you look around at the personal clutter and collection that has made its way into your life over the years.  It’s that very clutter than can be distracting for potential buyers, so priority must be given to removing things that represent the property as your home.  Often the thought of stripping away our most personal treasures and homogenizing our home into being merely a house, can be difficult.
You can make the process easier by breaking the mental and physical work down into three stages: 1) De-clutter, 2) Repair, and 3) Set the Stage.
For our purposes, let’s focus on what for many can be the most daunting part of the process:  Stage 1 – De-cluttering.  If the thought of a thorough clean out makes your head spin, start with a priority list and these helpful tips:
1.      Give yourself PLENTY of time.  Don’t leave the clutter clearing until the last minute.  If you start now, there’s still time to prepare your home for the spring market. 
2.      Divide your home into sections and attack one at a time.  There’s nothing more daunting then being faced with an entire house that needs help.  Divide the work up one room at a time to help make the task more manageable.  When you start clearing out a room, don’t stop until it’s done.  DO NOT under any circumstances move items from one room to another.  You’re just delaying the inevitable.
3.      Be merciless.  We ALL get caught up in the “It-meant-a-lot-to-me-15-years-ago” line of thinking.  If it’s something you haven’t seen or used in a year (or dare I say, since you moved into your home) get rid of it.   
4.      Give things a new home.  You’d be surprised at the items people will pay good money for.  If you’re cupboard and bookcases are jammed with things your kids no longer want, its great fodder for sale!  Better yet, consider donating some of the larger items to organizations that will put them to good use, like your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. 
5.      Enlist help.  Recruit your kids and you’ll find that weeding through the clutter can also be a great way to stroll down memory lane.  You’ll be able to reminisce about life in your home as you sort through items that bring back wonderful memories.
6.      Follow the ABCs (Always Be Clearing).  Establish a new rule of not leaving things around and vow at least for the time being, to not toss things into the spare room, spare closet or spare drawer.
7.      Pitch it now or later?  Not sure if you should hold onto a larger item until you get into your new space?  Think about the properties of the item:  is it multi-functional?  Could it be used differently and effectively in your new home?  If so, it might be something worth storing until you get into your new space and can see it in a new light.  
8.      No more!  Commit to not purchasing anything new (especially larger items) until after you’ve sold your home.  The less you have to store, the better.
9.      Keep only what’s necessary.  Remember that space sells, stuff doesn’t.  It might be uncomfortable to think about, but when buyers are looking through your home, they will likely open cabinet doors and kitchen drawers.  Filling these places with “hide-it” stuff will take away from how spacious your home is. 
10.  It’ll all be worth it!  Remember the more you do now to prepare your home for sale, the better position you’ll be in when it comes time to move.  You’ll be moving less stuff, will pay for less storage, and can move into your new space with only the items you really cherish.
Watch for my next column on tackling the repairs often needed around the house to ensure potential buyers see your property as a true gem!
Cheers!
Janice



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Colour Confidence

Well, it seems like a simple concept. You’ve heard from all the experts that a fresh coat of paint is the most economical and quickest solution to revitalizing any room. How complicated can choosing a paint colour be, right? No big deal.

Consider for a moment that Benjamin Moore alone has in excess of 3400 colours to select from! Add in the colour palettes of Para, Farrow & Ball, Behr, and Pittsburgh to name just a few, and suddenly, finding a colour is kind of a big deal.

Like choosing baby names, colours can elicit strong reactions and emotions from people, potentially making the process of colour selection a painful endeavor. Moreover, research shows the psychological responses to colour are numerous, from bringing up childhood memories (good or bad) or having an impact on one’s appetite, to affecting a person’s ability to sleep soundly.

From personal experience in helping clients select colours, I have learned over the years to avoid reference to the word “pink” when dealing particularly with males simply because the mere mention of this perceived feminine colour results in cringes more often associated with sucking lemons. I worked for a newly married couple who ultimately chose a paint called “Maid of the Mist” because that was the place of their engagement. Each of us has a distinct relationship with colour, but most do not approach it with much confidence.

So how do you improve your colour confidence?
Keep in mind that our eyes only recognize colour because it reflects light, so increase your chance of successfully selecting something appropriate by looking at colour options several times: in the morning, at midday, in the evening, on a bright day and on a day that’s overcast. Each time, the appearance of the colours will change. Be sure to make your selection while looking at the colour only on the surfaces on which it will be painted; do not make a final choice in another room or worse, at the paint store! It can be difficult to make these choices in a room that is already painted, so open the blinds, turn on the lights and cover a small section of the walls with a couple of sheets of white printer paper. Then place your paint chips on top of that paper so you can get an accurate view of the new colour options.

Emotions and lighting aside, most people do not consider is that colour is relative. A colour only looks a certain way when it is placed next to another colour. Put a pale blue paint chip beside a white one and the colour intensifies. Place the same colour next to one more violet in tone and the blue may appear greener than when it is beside the white. Colour comparisons are an important part of selecting colour and will help you eliminate what doesn’t work. Knowing what doesn’t work is as important as knowing what does.

Of course, in making your selection, you want to get inspiration from other elements of your room, so look to a favorite sofa fabric or a much-loved piece of art and pull from them a colour you already love to get the ball rolling. Remember if you think you will keep it simple by choosing white, whites also have subtle colour – some are cooler (bluer), some are warmer (yellower). Be sure to compare them so you know what you’re getting. Ask your paint supplier about the most popular whites available as they often work well with many colours.

While wall colour can be the one element that gives a room that wow factor, don’t feel it is your only option for establishing colour. You can create a ‘blue’ room without putting a drop of blue paint on the walls, by introducing blue accessories and fabrics. The paint colour you select can be more neutral in tone, creating a wonderful backdrop on which to highlight your fabrics, accessories and furniture.

I’m a firm believer that there is a right and wrong colour selection to be made, but colour preference is as individual as you are and is nothing if not subjective. Your walls are likely the largest easel you will ever have to work with, so go ahead and have fun! And remember, it’s just paint.

Cheers!

Janice

Monday, February 27, 2012

Age and the Oscars

I am guilty of planning my evening so I can sit in front of the television, bowl of icecream in hand to watch the annual Oscars show.  I'm likely more known in my house for 'shusshing' my children in an effort to catch every detail of the annual festivities.

In the past, I had an emotional connection to this show.  I tuned in faithfully with my mother and would weep while a shaky first time winner delivered a speech that made the hair on my arms stand on end.  The historic win of Halle Berry and emotional speeches by the likes of Jamie Foxx, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon would take my breath away in relief that times were changing.  Seeing the "In Memorium" segment gave me pause to think about how time has passed so quickly and with it has taken some of my favorite artists.

Admittedly this year, there were brief moments where I took pride in seeing a Canadian Octogenarian claim a golden statue and an African American woman claim control over her races' history.  However, over the past couple of years I have become increasingly jaded about what I perceive as a show produced so that the top 1% can gather to celebrate themselves.  We are all keenly aware of the names of the A-list stars of the big screen, and heaven knows we're innundated (and at times fascinated) with news of celebrities, the lives they live and the lengths to which they go to appear to keep themselves young and relevant.  This year in particular, these efforts seem to be getting longer in-the-tooth, so to speak. 

Billy Crystal, while talented and funny in his time, simply seemed to be an out-of-place, botoxed host forced into reliving the old days.  Unfortunately he seemed to be caught in the whirlwind attempt to drag from the vaults the once formal, classy event in an effort to breathe gracious life into the show in it's current format, where sadly the artists and the audience are both increasingly jaded.  Cut to the image of a rakish Angelina Jolie all but flashing the audience as she walked across the stage.  What I perceived as a frightening and vanity-filled appearance by this otherwise talented woman made me wonder how members of this influential community focus on body image and scene stealing before seeking to be dignified while aging gracefully.  If the producers of this years show were looking recapture some of the glamour and grandeur of Oscars past, they failed miserably.

Never before have I experienced an Oscar show were the canvas of aging seemed to have such a broad brush stroke, exposing a huge divergence in the manners in which celebrities deal with the inevitabilities of the passing of time.  For me, grace seems to be the element which separates the "Greats" from those merely "Talked About".

Sadly, the Academy producers can't seem to figure out the balance between honouring the past, while not stretching too far back in an effort to drag it into the future.  The show's producers would do well to look to publications like the annual Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue to see how to see how it's done. Perhaps they should look to the iconic images of Annie Leibovitz as inspiration when creating a formula by which they can meld the old and new with class, dignity and style.  Simply making 'old' look 'new' for the sake of television just isn't working anymore.


Cheers!  Janice

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Orphan Master's Son

From the reviews this looks like a heavy book, but I think I might pick it up anyways.  Sounds like it might shed some light on a very mysterious region of the world.

Cheers!

Janice

Monday, February 13, 2012

No you can't pick my brain.

Love this article from Forbes.com - it should be read by EVERY self employed person.
Knowing your value is just as important as providing it to your customers.

No you can't pick my brain!

Cheers!
Janice

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beef and Black Bean Enchilada Bake recipe - Canadian Living

Haven't tried it yet, but I intend to.  Looks delish!
Beef and Black Bean Enchilada Bake recipe - Canadian Living

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One Man's Trash...

I'm struck by an article I found in Canadian Interiors Magazine.

Upon first read, I was impressed by the ingenuity and sheer strength of intent that InterfaceFLOR demonstrates in the pursuit of recycling post consumer waste or in their words "trash-industrial sludge" into a building material that is functional, aesthetically pleasing and best of all, eco-friendly.  My read on the article was initially purely from a designers perspective, and I gave kudos to any company who could recycle waste to make it useful.

As mentioned in my recent column in The Auroran, most of today's consumers are at least moderately concerned about knowingly adding to the problems facing our community landfills, and to that end are generally supportive of any efforts to recycle and reuse any material possible. 

To InterfaceFLOR's credit, they appear to be making every effort to meet their mission of reaching "a zero environmental footprint by 2020."  Moreover, they are "...a great example of how ingeniously this refuse can be reinvented into something highly functional, deceptively luxurious and beautiful..."

What I find interesting and perhaps ironic about all efforts made to recycle and reuse post consumer goods is that we find ourselves in 2012 trying to clean up the environmental mess we've created by processing and sanitizing our waste, making it somehow palatable to our sensitive constitutions while many countries (third world or otherwise) are reusing, let's just call it what it isgarbage in ways that most first world countries cannot even imagine.  Around the world and indeed right here in our own backyard, there are communities of people living in it, building their shacks with it, putting their underpaid children to work on piles of it and dare I say, eating it if necessary.

Consider for a moment the often controversial 'dumpster divers.'  According to reports, it's a growing trend in the United States and has for many become an acceptable and economically feasible way to procure food, whether for reasons of necessity or just because the habit of dumping perfectly good food is unreasonable.  By all accounts 'dumpster diving' points a decidedly judgemental finger at our propensity to waste what many find to be food suitable for consumption.  Can you imagine if an educated, gainfully employed but habitual dumpster diver born and raised in our society finds the food we waste palatable, the impact that same "waste" might have in affecting the lives of those in our world who are less fortunate?    

What particularly fascinates me is the wide range of acceptability within communities and across borders regarding product and food quality.  Perhaps if we North American's would widen our quality tolerance for the food, goods and services we purchase, we would find our landfills a little less crowded.

For me, and probably for the movers and shakers at InterfaceFLOR, the phrase "One man's trash is another man's treasure" has never been so telling.

Cheers!

Janice
          





Monday, February 6, 2012

February is the month of LOVE

It’s February, a month that celebrates l’amour! And hand-in-hand with all that is L-O-V-E is the all important ingredient of creating a space that will help spice up your love life.

What do you think when you hear the word sexy? I think of Matthew McConaghy, Will Smith and my husband of course, not always in that order.

But how do you live sexy without packing your things and moving with your besties to New York City? You can start by looking closer to home and checking out the surroundings in your bedroom — the place where you begin and end your day.

‘Sexifying’ Your Bedroom

Who’s kidding who? If done right, the bedroom can be an intrinsically über-sexy space. It’s relaxing, quiet and secretive, a ‘close-the-door-on-the-rat-race-and-noise’ kind of space.

These days ‘sexy’ is an attitude: it’s confident, intelligent and single minded. Most of all, it’s not contrived. Living sexy is a headspace that can be directly affected by your private surroundings. Best of all, it’s guided by individual preferences and moods.

How, then, do you create mood and sexify your space?  Think about the essentials that unconsciously affect your senses: touch, sights, sounds and scents.

Touch

Make your private surroundings relaxing and luxurious with materials that feel good to touch. Smooth leather headboards, warm fur throw pillows, soft silks, and not just good — but great — sheets. Go for the Egyptian cotton, 300 thread count or better.

Sights

Create a clean, uncluttered space strictly for adults. Banish the kids’ stuff and family photos to other rooms. (Keep a few of only you and your beloved, of course.)

Sounds

Spin some sexy tunes, some cool R&B or slow and sultry jazz. (Coincidently, this also helps drown out the screaming children on the other side of the door.) Don’t worry about feeling like a geek. Consider a special iPod speaker system in your bedroom or piping music throughout the house.

Scents

Lighting candles might sound clichéd, but give it a go. Try scents that remind you of your private time: vanilla, lavender, and — dare I say — chocolate. (I’m not sure if there are chocolate scented candles out there, but if there aren’t, well, someone needs to get on that!)

Sexy Room Styles

Is there just one style of sexy room? No way!

Sexy rooms are as individual as the people who occupy them. Have a look in your wardrobe. What do you wear that makes you feel sexy? Let the things you love in your closet guide you in choosing your room style. In fact, sexy can be masculine or feminine; urban or rustic.

Masculine - Think warm grey flannel, leather throw pillows, pinstripe upholstered armchairs, black lacquered furniture, and a sleek and slim wall mounted T.V.

Feminine – Loosen up with a touch of lace, cashmere throw pillows, mirrored furniture, jeweled lampshades, soft white sheers and comfy chaise lounges. Use lots of throw pillows for ultimate comfort!

Urban – Try a smooth black leather bench at the foot of a clean-lined bed (forget the bed skirt), chairs with cool chrome arms, stiletto legged bedside tables, black and white photographs in black frames and lamps with sleek drum shades. Mixtures of dark woods with light fabrics or leather are very Urban sexy!

Rustic – Unwind in antiqued leather, overstuffed down filled armchairs, soft silk duvets, open hearth wood burning fireplaces, warm woolen blankets and sepia- tone photographs.

Most important of all, make sure your bedroom reflects your sexy self. Décor that mirrors your personality and makes your private space relaxing and serene makes it sexy!

Cheers!  Janice

Friday, January 20, 2012

"The customer is always right." 
I can't remember the last time I heard this phrase used with any sort of weight behind it.  In this day of globalization, multinationals and the Occupy Movement, I think it's difficult to say that we actually even believe the statement anymore.

Being an entrepreneur who must be constantly in touch with my customers, I would suggest that from a small business person's perspective, the customer may not always be right, but they should always feel as though they're right and at least should be satisfied.  A tall order, indeed.

Common knowledge tells us that with the quick dispersement of information across the internet, on Twitter or Facebook pages, it is increasingly difficult for anyone providing a service to control the perceptions of their abilities and quality.  In a few keystrokes, a company's name, reputation and cumulative years of experience can be quickly, unilaterally and annonomously sullied.  Is the concept of fairness, once a belief secured with a handshake, now a long-lost business principle of a bygone era?

This blog:  http://custservicestories.blogspot.com/  has started me thinking.  Some great insights into the importance of understanding the customer service experience.  I'm going to have to ponder this matter for a while.  Even if you're not in customer service, we're all service providers to someone, our shareholders, our bosses, our families.  Certainly we are all customers to some degree.  The question for me is, are we losing hold of the concept of 'do unto others?' 

Cheers!
Janice  


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yumma.  As you can tell, I am no vegetarian!  Check this out.
Steak with Mushroom Sauce
Ingredients

4 (about 4 ounces each) well-trimmed beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon), 3/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper
1 teaspoon(s) olive oil
1 (1/4 cup) large shallot, minced
1 package(s) (10 ounces) sliced white mushrooms
1 package(s) (4 ounces) assorted sliced wild mushrooms
1/4 cup(s) port wine

Directions
1.Sprinkle steaks on both sides with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add steaks and cook 8 to 10 minutes for medium-rare or until desired doneness, turning steaks over once. Transfer steaks to platter; keep warm.

2.To drippings in skillet, add oil and shallot, and cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add mushrooms and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and cook until liquid evaporates and mushroom mixture is golden, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add port and 1/4 cup water; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Spoon mushroom sauce over steaks.

http://ca.delish.com/recipefinder/steak-mushroom-sauce-2665

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Decorator’s Nightmare.

It’s a Saturday morning ritual in our home to pour over the newspaper flyers that land on our doorstep.  Somehow each time I think I will miraculously find that one great home décor deal which will make the weekend tradition worthwhile, or at least worth the messy black smudges on my fingertips. 

For me, browsing the flyer pages gets the home improvement juices flowing.  The notion that absolutely everything that is ‘wrong’ in our house must be fixed immediately or better yet yesterday, is overwhelming.

I’m certain my husband spends many Saturday afternoons avoiding direct eye contact with me as I purposefully roam from room to room surveying the state of affairs that is our home.  Suddenly the draperies in the dining room look tired, the kitchen could use repainting, and if we’re going to repaint, what about replacing some furniture?

The thought process I go through amazes me still today.  Having been an Interior Decorator for some 16 years now, I still catch myself falling back into pre-decorator thinking.  The notion that “I’ll buy something inexpensive to fix the problem for now” still lingers even though I know better.  Perhaps we can blame television shows (on which I am guilty of appearing) and shelter magazines which make it look easy, attainable and instantaneous, with images of all the beautiful things in other people’s homes.  If only the looks were only cheaper… okay, free.  Free would be good.    

I whip myself into a home-decorating frenzy that is only placated on Monday morning when I’m thrust into the world to take on the renovating challenges in my client’s homes.  Truthfully, I’m not trying to keep up with the Joneses.  I’m just trying to keep up with me!

So, what’s a person to do with too many home renovation ‘wants’ and not the budget with which to tackle it all?   

Many homeowners struggle with the concept of “having it all, NOW.”  Not biting off more than we can chew seems to be lost on today’s consumer (I’m guilty as charged).  To conquer this, I approach my work - and encourage my clients to follow my lead - with a plan first and completing the room as a secondary priority.  Too often people try to spread their budgets (large or small) over as much space as they think possible.  With a finite number of dollars to spend, they try to redecorate the entire house. 

I am an ardent proponent of tailoring your timelines to meet your budget requirements.  When planning how to spend your decorating dollars, you must ask yourself, “Does my budget realistically allow me to purchase all the items for my home at once?”  A browse around a quality furniture store will quickly give you the answer.

My motto is “Do it once and do it right.”  I regularly suggest that clients take money allocated to designing two rooms and consider spending it only on one.  This will allow you to purchase the best quality items that you can afford while beginning to make long term investments for your home.  This approach coupled with purchasing classic styles will ensure that your money is not wasted on items which need to be disposed of five years down the road because they are already in poor condition…with a home that’s finished for now… not finished for years to come.

Moreover, consumers are probably just as concerned as I am about unwittingly adding to the problem of our community landfills.  Until relatively recently, little consideration has been given to the disposability of modern consumer goods.  When I think about the number of mere cell phones I have thrown out over the years, I shudder to think about how the waste management problem is compounded by the frequent disposal of much larger furniture items bought because people wanted ‘the-look-for-less’.

Purchasing quality Canadian goods and home furnishings is not a thing of the past.  Doing so will help boost our economy while improving the condition of the world we’re leaving our children.  Your home is likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make.  Shouldn’t the things you fill it with reflect its value?

Janice xo