Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Can't sit still...

Today is Christmas tree day! That means that the natural tree is (finally) home, it's in the living room in its stand and the branches have just barely opened up enough to be lighted and decorated. 

It feels like we're the last family on our side of town to get with the program - I keep seeing beautiful, lit and decorated tannenbaums adorning the front windows of all our neighbors in the evenings.

The decor theme this year will be much like the theme of many years in the past - birds and snowflakes and forest creatures. I picked up some great ornaments on sale at Superstore and some other cute ones at Indigo this year. I kind of like the partridge in a pear tree look, I guess.

As much as I fret that we're late in getting started, I have to remind myself that we're still only in Advent, the Christmas season really starts December 24th and carries on for nearly two weeks until the Feast of the Epiphany in January, so there isn't much of a rush. The part that makes me sad is that for most people, the Christmas trimmings are on the curb side by the time we're only onto three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree...

Photos (hopefully) to come!

DIY Rating: 10 
Who doesn't love decorating a tree? Seriously!

The caveat here? 
Stay away from all those crazy magazine tree photos - they will drive you nutso!
Unless (and only maybe) the tree photo is from a real person's house, 
yours will not look like theirs unless you have a team of 
5 designers and a lighting crew and a 
fancy schmancy prop room and backdrop!

Friday, December 2, 2011

In Principio...

Every endeavor has to start somewhere...

For those who are less nerdy than myself, the title of this post can be translated to "In the Beginning"...

And that's pretty much where we're at over here at The Do-tique.

Luckily, there has been some progress and I can show you where we've gotten to so far.

When we started, things were brown, very brown...The front entry was sort of like a dance party between the 70's and the 90's and no one was really getting along.

But after a bit of Sarah Richardson's Bisque paint and a few Restoration Hardware knock-offs found in the clearance bin at Homesense...this is what happened:

Still debating whether we should paint the inside of the door in a dark colour or possibly paint the wall around the door in a dark grey...
Kinda like this:

Sarah's House Season 4
Photo Credit: Stacey Brandford

I regret that we don't have the original photos of the living room any more, but here's where things are at so far - we carried the Bisque through into the living and dining areas:

Workin' on that equestrian chic part with the saddle (beside hutch)

I picked up almost all of the pieces in this room at an antique auction in Napanee and in barns north of Kingston before we moved west.  The trouble was choosing furniture for a home I hadn't lived in yet that didn't really go together in the first place. Plans are to have the side chairs re-upholstered in more modern fabric with a bold red pattern and a cream/neutral field. The footstool will probably go and this is the sofa that will arrive on Monday and be placed facing the blue love seat:

Fabric will be a lighter, neutral natural linen colour and
I changed out the legs for a turned shape to go with the antiques.
For fabrics, I'm thinking of drapery and accent pillows and like styles like these:

All three fabrics available through Tonic Living in Toronto

Next will be a coffee table and different dining room chairs.

Maybe this one from Urban Barn?

So, what do you think? What would you add? Take away?

As for the DIY aspect here, the light fixture was pretty easy to change. The long story is that we had an antique brass fixture that we inherited from my mom and it got dropped part way through installation and broke. The more modern light was easier to install...and made it up in one piece. The mirror involved Hubby driving home with his head poking up through the sunroof since it only barely fit into our pick-up truck, uh, I mean sub-compact, 2002 Mazda Protege. My mom contributed the painting part, which saved us a tonne of work.

As for the combo of antique + new furnishings (including new sofa), I put out roughly $3,850 to decorate everything you see in the entry and living room including paint. Expecting to spend another $1,000+ on drapes, coffee table and lamps/accessories. My fave Ralph Lauren lamps just got marked down at Homesense to $80 from over $200, so those might be coming home tomorrow...

We could have an entire blog post on my journey through antique shopping and auction bidding but I'll summarize to say that before you hit the auction scene, spend a LOT of time going around to different shops and dealers to develop a taste for what styles and items you like and what they cost retail. It will really help you decide what to bid on and how high to go in an auction sale that can get pretty overwhelming, pretty quickly.

DIY Rating: 5 
You could bring in a consultant from almost any furniture store 
for roughly $100/hr to help you do a room like this pretty quickly. 
It just might not look quite as unique. 

This project is more like a personal hobby or labour of love. 
Time invested hunting out interesting and bargain priced items is probably 
well above what any sane person would put in but very enjoyable for me.

I also think that though my time input was higher, that I got 
some great pieces for a fraction of the retail price.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Lord Denver Horse Tryptich Print - which I really want, but is too big for my house...

For a long time, I've been looking for a way to bring a little bit of that equestrian element into my home-decor style in a way that it sophisticated and not over-done. I'm talking a little something Ralph Lauren, a little something Badgley Mischka a little something Madonna at Ashcombe House, a touch of Lady Amanda Harlech, but a bit more modernized. So far, the look includes one small block print of a farmer's horse that I got at Pioneer Village when I was a kid.

When I get my English country manor house, I'll have something like this in the mud room so that I'll always be ready for a morning hunt...

In reality, I'm thinking of something more along these lines:

I'd love to put my saddle on display in the front entryway in place of where this photo shows a wood pail, but my biggest worry is that my saddle, surprise, surprise, kind of smells like horse. Maybe a low bench instead with a couple of old riding helmets might work better.

On a side note, if I were a slightly strange looking statuesque model, this is how I'd probably dress for work - forget about a handbag, just grab a Hermes saddle for the road...

But finally, the Piece de resistance that inspired this post in the first place, a suburban California horse stable cum art studio designed by million-dollar designer Kathryn Ireland. It's probably the most true-to-life representation of my dream club-house and hangout spot. 

Some of the photos I've seen online show the equestrian occupants hanging out in the studio part of the stable, which makes this space purely the stuff of fantasy - I have a toddler who wrecks my house already, there is NO WAY even a horse I really like would ever be allowed near anything designed for by Ms. Ireland! Interestingly, the room is painted in exactly the shade of white that we nearly (but didn't) painted our ground floor in last week...enjoy!

DIY Rating: TBD

Still have to give this look a bit of a try - 
will probably aim for artwork 
and stay away from more fanciful decor choices 
like adding a real horse to my art room 
or placing the boots I really ride in anywhere near my bed 
(which is something I see in a lot of magazines!).

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Muddy Bath in Guilin Shanshui

This is pretty much what it feels like in my living room. For that matter, in my dining room, family room, kitchen, stairwell and basement! Yes, my whole house is painted in various shades of dark brown. 

At first, I kinda liked it. It looked pretty good when I viewed the house before buying it. But, after a couple of months of living here, I'm feeling like it's really getting under my skin. Part of the problem is that a lot of our furnishings are wood, our flooring is honey-oak and every time I like a photo in a design magazine or blog, the walls are a shade of off-white.

I've been speaking to a few different design folks and they agree with me that for some reason, brown is a very, very popular colour in Regina. Even the "Fine Living" magazines here featuring million-dollar homes show most rooms painted in brown. I'm not sure I get it.

So, after our last White, but not Quite Right adventure, we've decided to return to Sarah Richardson's palette and give this one a try as an overall main floor living colour:

Paint Name
  • Bisque
  • Bisque lends a softening effect when applied to cabinetry as an alternative to bright white.

We're only one coat in, but so far, it's coming out as a nice, soft, warm white. Photos to come!

I should also share that it was a bit of a mishap that led to this choice... We started out with Benjamin Moore's White Dove but when we put some samples on the wall, it didn't look at all right. After some thinking, I discovered that the chips have a date code on the back and the chip we'd chosen was produced in 2001 - it had yellowed over time! With a fresh chip, we realized the sample was in fact the correct colour (and was also too stark for me). This was a good learning experience!

DIY Rating: 10 for testing out sample pots before buying 
(I'm learning my lesson after two failed attempts at white!)

As for my colour choice...I'll let you decide once the before and after photos are ready!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Shop'n DROP!

Sophia Loren in her bedroom

Do you ever buy your furniture in sets?

What's strange is that most furniture showrooms are designed to show shoppers a full matching suite for each room, but real-life professional designers never buy furniture that way. If you take a close look at design magazines or tv shows, they way that they put rooms together looks good because they use an eclectic mix of pieces that work, but don't match. You won't often see anything that looks like a furniture showroom in Canadian House and Home!

It's this kind of matchey-matchness that makes
this site so hilarious to look at!
Image via Catalogue Living

However, dear reader, do not be deceived into thinking that look this is easy for us mere mortals to achieve! There is a unique talent at work in creating a certain unique and seamless looking decor. I've recently decided that the reason it's such hard work is that one must be an expert shopper in addition to having a flair for colour and space.

Image via HGTV.ca (Sarah's House Season 4)

Just to get a sense of what I mean, take a look at the shopping guide for the new Sarah Richardson House Season 4 main living room here.

It's amazing the number of different stores and fabrics and paint colours that she sources for the room and is able to manage and pull together for a seamless look. I sometimes get overwhelmed in just one store trying to pick just one item - it gives me a new respect for what a designer is able to manage in their mind's eye.

Some of the tricks that I've heard of and/or used are to put together inspiration boards and to shop slowly and accumulate things you love over a longer period of time.

I've recently started an account with Pinterest to try to organize my thoughts and save digital images of what I like. It's frankly a lot of fun. I want to find a use for it in business by saving images of great marketing pieces that I see online and in real-life - still need to get around to that...

On the tv shows about decorating, like Sarah's House, it appears that they are working in a linear fashion and decorating the room in one shot, start to finish, in about two weeks time. Maybe you can do that if you're a superstar with a great support staff. I suspect what's really happening is that they're shopping out different parts of the house simultaneously and just showing a linear documentation of the process. I think in a regular house, you're going to have a lot of incomplete spaces for quite a while adding bits and pieces to each room as you find things that work. 

So, as you sit in your matching love seat, sofa, chair combination with the slightly too small rug and side tables that match your coffee table, don't fret too much! It takes time and talent to shop out that quintessential eclectic look that is you and isn't as easy as it looks! There are basements and guest rooms and used furniture websites to help you split up those sets and keep only the pieces that work with other things you love.

DIY Rating: 5
Reading the source list for Sarah's living room helps 
one to realize there is a lot of work and talent to pulling together a completed space.

It might be worth bringing in a designer to give some direction to your plans.

Start small and don't be surprised if it takes 1-2 years to create what happens in 30 minutes on TV!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey

External Turkey Roaster via Life.com

Starting tomorrow (and actually, a little bit tonight) your grocery store is going to be a madhouse. Haven't got your wine cellar stocked yet? The parking lot at the liquor store will need traffic police. Sharpen your knives, break out the pie dish, dust off the extra leaves for your dining table, it's Thanksgiving weekend and it's time to whip up the big feast.

Except not for me. 

Don't get me wrong. Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday of the year. I love turkey dinners and I love having a big bunch of family and friends over at my place to celebrate.

With moving only 6 weeks ago, looking after little B. full-time and both of us working, The Do-tique just isn't quite ready for a big holiday production yet. 

That's why we're choosing not to do-it-ourselves this year and opting to leave dinner to the experts instead. You'll find us trying out the Thanksgiving buffet at the Hotel Saskatchewan with another young family that just moved here about the same time that we did. 

Hotel Saskatchewan
No shopping, no prep or cooking or clean up. Lots of time to take naps and walks and have friends over for dessert and maybe even unpack a few boxes.

The other upside? Works out to be considerably less expensive than DIY (especially when you consider labour). The only downside is that you'll be the only one in the office not having a turkey sandwich next Wednesday since leftovers aren't usually included!

Missing all our far-away friends and wishing all my dear readers a Happy Thanksgiving! 

DIY Rating: 0 Sometimes, you just have to choose your DIY battles

When life gets way too hectic, no shame in leaving 
the hard work to the experts and heading 
out to a hotel or restaurant for a holiday meal. 

Most places have special event menus and seating times 
and though things get tight closer to the date, we've always managed 
to find a last-minute reservation when we've needed to.

Friday, September 23, 2011

White, but not quite right...

Have you ever tried looking up advice online about picking paint colours? Let me tell you, there are a lot of tips out there! However, it's fairly well-accepted that this is one of the most difficult steps in decorating and you really have to be in the exact space with the exact chips/samples to make a final call.

This time, I thought I'd try out the new(ish) line of Sarah Richardson paint colours offered through Para. If you're a newbie to this sort of marketing, the plan is that the famous designer picks out their top colours from a paint line and they are sold sort of as a feature set. So, if you like a particular person's style, you can get their look by choosing their top colour picks from the line fairly easily. It can make the job of looking at a full range of tints much more approachable.

Here is a clip of SR talking about her line and the process of picking colours:

Did anyone else catch the Christie Mansion in the 
background for the Tommy Smythe comments here?

The truth is that most people get paint colours wrong and that includes even the real super-star designers. (I don't have the clip, but there are even scenes on TV where the illustrious Sarah Richardson realizes she's got a miss!)

Our goal was to pick out a creamy white for the office. Something like this: 

I may also mention that Benjamin Moore alone has 160+ shades of white, so it's not an easy colour to get right!

This is what I picked out:

  • Sunbeam
  • Paint Code
  • SR45
  • Sarah's Advice
  • Sunbeam is a toasty white that can be used to warm a cooler palette.

And this is how it turned out on my wall:

(The photos are quite dark, but you can hopefully see how golden yellow this turned out!)

Quite a bit more yellow than expected. 

What went wrong here? I mis-judged my own instinct to go with something that looked paler and muddier on the chip and took this one at the suggestion of the paint rep at Lowes - who did also admit that she herself had never worked with these colours. (Mistake #1! Never take product advice from someone who has never used what they're selling you!)

So, loyal reader, what can you do if the same thing happens to you? If you have a reasonably good understanding of how colours work, you can almost always have a gallon of paint re-tinted. What I did was request a small shot of brown tint to tone down the yellow and a few shots of white to pale the colour and reduce the saturation. The end result looks like this:

Even with daylight and overhead lighting, this room is still dark and the shade
 came out more "french vanilla" or yellow than creamy white.

I'm not 100% happy, but we'll see if we can work with it once furniture goes in. What do you think?

The lucky part is that the actual painting is the easy step and our hard work prepping the walls won't have to be repeated in order to adjust the final look of the room. 

DIY Rating: 6

It takes time and practice to master the art of choosing paint colours. 

Look for an experienced sales person at the store 
to help give some suggestions on good tints 
to offer their expertise in re-tinting your choice in case it doesn't work out!