Designer and artist Michelle Morelan’s Lake house, photograph by Tracey Ayton

Designer and artist Michelle Morelan’s Lake house, photograph by Tracey Ayton

Master Bedroom Plan

I previously mentioned that the master bedroom has been stumping me.  I’ve toyed with the idea of painting our walls black or charcoal, or maybe a deep navy blue or even deep greeny-blue teal.  I loved the way the navy blue feature wall worked in our condo - deep and intimate, and art looked awesome on it.  And I feel like we have the space and the natural light to do this without the room feeling dark and depressing.

I already have grey bedding and grey silk drapes, so with black or blue walls I don’t want it to go too cool. I really want to bring in some brass accents and some pops of poppy red, rusty orange, gold, or chartreuse to warm it up.  And I’ve really been feeling teal and emerald green lately.  So, I finally brought these seemingly disparate ideas together into a mood board.  And I think I like it!


We have a settee in the room that could be recovered in the paisley fabric or I could cover it in a grey velvet I have already, and use the paisley and plaid for accent pillows on the settee and bed.  

We have a tufted headboard I made, but I would reupholster it in a natural creamy colour to pop against the dark walls.

And I reeeeally want to find some solid medium-tone oak 3-drawer dressers to use as side tables… so I’m regularly scouring used furniture sites… fingers crossed.

It’s obviously a work in progress, based on finding and creating the different elements, but it’s nice to have a direction now!

Wood Kitchens

97% of the kitchens I tend to post or pin are painted kitchens.  I just love the freshness of a white or cream kitchen, or the interest of coloured cabinetry.  It fits the cottage/coastal vibe that I tend to be drawn to.

But up until January we were planning on having wood-tone cabinetry in our kitchen.  Long ago Sean and I debated this, and I figured I’d make a concession to have wood cabinets, because I knew they could be beautiful, if we did them right.  I studied wood kitchens to figure out what works and what I loved.

When we got to the builder showroom for our RTM, though, we couldn’t find the just-right tone of stain.  The closest one was just a little too dark/espresso, and any lighter it went too red or yellow for me.  That was when Sean suggested we go with painted cabinets.  Um.  Yes.

And even though we have a painted kitchen, I still believe a wooden kitchen can look amazing.  I understand people’s complaints about how painted kitchens show the mess, or just aren’t their style.  So here are a few wooden kitchens that inspired me, from when we were headed that direction, and a few observations about what makes a wooden kitchen work.

(But in the end this is my input, you just go with what you love!)


(Kitchen of Mark Challen, Design by Priscilla Wikkerink, Photographer: Donna Griffith for House & Home)

This kitchen by Priscilla Wikkerink was my primary inspiration picture for a wood kitchen.  I love the wood tone - a perfect chocolatey brown - not too dark, too red, or too purple.  In general, my rule would be to keep your stain neutral.  If you look at a stain and you can pick out an obvious colour (red, orange, yellow) it’s probably going to feel either dated or overwhelming.  If it stays within neutral tones: browns, beiges, greys, it’ll be easier to live with for a long time.  

I also love the contrast with the wood in this kitchen: crisp shiny chrome hardware and a clean white backsplash.  Especially in wood kitchens I think some contrasting fresh white keeps things feeling contemporary and light.


Design by Gideon Mendelson

This kitchen by Gideon Mendelson was another one I kept in mind.  Notice the contrasting countertops.  But also notice the very high ceilings and plentiful sunlight.  Here’s the kitchen from another angle:


Design by Gideon Mendelson

I’m not saying you need to have a ginormous kitchen to go with wood.  (That last kitchen was quite small.)  But be conscious of the size and openness of your kitchen, and how much natural light you have.   If your kitchen is airy or big or open you have more freedom to use darker wood tones than if your kitchen is darker, closed in, or small.  If your kitchen is smaller and closed in consider taking some steps to lighten it up and keep things from getting too dark:

  • Use lots of contrasting white, shiny materials (like in the first kitchen).  Reflective surfaces and light walls, counters, and backsplash will keep things from getting too heavy.
  • Consider open areas with no upper cabinetry to lighten things up.  Whether you put open shelves up or just have open wall space for art (I love art in a kitchen!), it’ll let the space breath a bit.  

In Keri Russel’s kitchen pictured below, the dark wood is balanced out by the frosted glass panels in the upper cabinets, a small open shelf area for cookbooks, and light countertops and walls.


Kitchen of Keri Russel, Photograph by William Waldron for Elle Decor

To keep things light you could also consider a two-tone kitchen (wood lower cabinets with light painted upper cabinets).  It’s a trend that’s stuck around for a while now, and I think it’s nearly made its way to classic. With this look your lowers should be dark, while your uppers are light to keep the look balanced to the eye.  Also, I don’t know about you, but it’s my lower cabinets that tend to get dirtier, so it takes care of that issue.  And then the lighter upper cabinetry keeps things feeling fresh and light, not heavy and closed-in.  (This is an especially good solution if you value your closed upper storage and open shelving is not your thing.)


Design by Tracery Interiors

The upper cabinets really recede in this kitchen by Tracery Interiors, keeping things feeling open (even if there weren’t soaring ceilings it would work.  But I think it is a really good way to go if you do have angled ceilings, so it doesn’t feel like your cabinetry ends abruptly.)


Design by Sandi Holland and Ray Pohl, Photograph by Gridley & Graves for House Beautiful

And looking at this kitchen, having the lower cabinets in wood plus using some great hardware makes the cabinetry feel more furniture-like, which I dig.  You can see how the right hardware gives the same look in this next picture too:


Design by Bill Ingram, featured in House Beautiful, via Garden, Home & Party


Design by Tommy Smythe, photograph by Michael Graydon, for House and Home

This kitchen has black painted lower cabinets, but it would still totally work with wood.  And I used it because Tommy Smythe did this kitchen in 2004 - almost 10 years ago, and people still love it.  Proof of the endurance of this two-tone look.

If a more modern aesthetic is your thing a wood kitchen is a GREAT way to go, as it can add the texture and warmth often needed in a modern space.  Besides, a slab-front door (which is the go-to for a modern kitchen) can feature the grain of a beautiful wood perfectly.


Design by Robert Bakes and Cecil Baker & Partners, Photograph by Thomas Loof for House Beautiful

Notice in this kitchen by Robert Bakes and Cecil Baker & Partners how they use two different wood colours.  This is something people are often afraid of.  But pay attention a few things that make it work:

  1. They kept things neutral.  Both wood tones are neutral - beige, brown tones.  Neither one is too yellowy or red.  And the stone backsplash and walls are greys and whites, not colours.  In this kitchen they let textures take centre stage, and didn’t bring in a bunch of colour to compete for attention.
  2. Also notice that they use wood in three areas (floors, cabinets, island countertop) but restricted the space to only two different colours of wood, since the countertop essentially matches the floors.


Photograph by ACP/CAMERA PRESS for Red UK Online

Here is a great modern light wood kitchen.  Notice: lots of white, open shelves.  An easy recipe for success!  Yet, if you love colour (and all my talk of keeping things neutral depresses you), see how the accents of bright yellow make this kitchen feel so cheerful and colourful?

And most of my inspiration shots tend to be a darker tone, since I was going for a chocolatey or walnut look.  But the trend right now is definitely a bit greyer and paler and more rustic, since “reclaimed wood” is the look du jour:


Stylist Barbara Groen via The Style Files


Stylist Anoukb, photograph by Marjon Hoogervorst, via Desire to Inspire


Stylist Lo Bjurulf via Remodelista

In the end, though, pick a neutral tone that you really love, and don’t worry about the coming and going of trends!

Dining Room Plan

I’ve been posting pictures of our house-building progress… but partly to build suspense (dah dah DAAAAH!!!), and partly to get back to more pretty/less construction-y stuff, today we’re taking a break to share my direction for the dining room design.  It has a long weird side story about giant gold French-ish dining chairs owned by an Iranian mafia family in Saskatoon, which you can choose to read or not.  

Also, I refer a little bit to the kitchen design, which you can read about here.

For many moons I’ve had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted for our dining room.  It went a little something like this:


As I perused my inspiration pictures it became surprisingly formulaic: big, rustic farm table + drippy chandelier + Louis chairs.  Over Christmas we ordered the Norden table from IKEA.  Sean and I both love it, and it fits the simple farmhouse look I wanted.  The chandelier pictured above is, in fact, the chandelier we are having installed in the house.  But the chairs… there’s a story there…


I adore Louis chairs.  I hunted for some Louis-esque dining chairs for months and months.  I convinced Sean that this was what he wanted too.  Then finally one day I found a dining set with some oval back Louis-ish chairs.  They were a bit more ornate than the chair pictured above, not to mention they had gold-leafed frames and gold damask fabric.  A bit over the top.  But I figured with some neutral upholstery and a fresh lick of paint they’d be tamed.  I convinced Sean that these were THE chairs, and they were even worth a trip to Saskatoon to retrieve.  I emailed the seller and finagled a price that was reasonable (though maybe a bit high considering the work I’d need to put into them.  But I didn’t care.  My plan was coming together.  Mwa Ha Ha…)  So we planned to go pick them up on one of our trips up to Warman to work on a few house details.

We arrived at the address we’d been given by the seller.  It did not appear to be that of a psycho killer or drug dealer. Yesss.  (Though, in retrospect maaaay have been the home of someone connected to a foreign mob.  Like, seriously.)  We went to the front door and were ushered by a somewhat tired-looking 30-ish woman into a house that was, on all accounts, normal.  Except for the furniture.  Every piece of furniture in the front living room and adjacent dining room was the same ornately scroll-y sort-of-French-but-not-really antique style.  And all of it was gold, with the coordinating gold damask upholstery.  It looked like maybe the Palace of Versailles Theatre Company had stored some relics in a mid-80’s split-level in Saskatoon.  Who were these people?  There were all kinds of crazy looking tchotchkes and eery religious pictures on the wall too.  We told her we had come to buy, and pick up the dining chairs.  

Through a thick accent and some broken English she ushered us in to the chairs and I was aware of a rowdy crew of boys wrestling in the basement.  She snapped at them to be quiet.  I sat on the chair.  Hmmm.  It was pretty ornate.  And big.  But I convinced myself I could make it work.  She began to apologize for the crack on the gold dining table.  ”Oh, we’re not buying the table.” I said.  She didn’t like that.  I said, “So we agreed on $_ _ per chair”, and I began to rustle around in my purse for my wallet.  ”No.” She said. “$_ _ _.”  She looked offended and appalled at my stated price.  We tried to discuss this, but there was a language barrier and some piece of information obviously missing.  And what was her accent, anyways?  Russian?  Iranian?  I’m pretty decent with accents, but I could not figure it out.  

She proceeded to call her husband and have a rather irritated conversation about how much they would sell the chairs for.  I have no doubt the set cost a fortune originally (it was obviously custom).  But it was not worth that to me.  I figured out through their conversation that they had (hired?) someone else to post the ad online.  And she was not happy with that person.  And that person was the one who had agreed to my price.  Not her.  The phone conversation ended and she curtly informed me they would only sell the chairs for her price.  Ohhhh Kaaaay…  So as quickly and politely as I could, I said we would not be buying the chairs and left.  Sean and I got down the street and into the Jeep and laughed.  What had just happened?  That was so weird.  We couldn’t wrap our brains around who these people were, and how they planned to sell that crazy furniture for that price in Saskatoon.  On the way home we figured they really weren’t THE chairs anyways, and they would have taken a lot of work.

But now Sean was really stuck on the idea of a Louis chair too.  He began doggedly deal hunting online.  He’s really good at that.  And he reeeally loves me.  He came across this GREAT chair from Structube:


"Is this kind of what you want?" He asked,

"Ummm, like exactly what I want."

It was on sale for half price (on an already decent price) putting it near enough to our budget that he was OK with it.  Yesss.  

However the nearest Structube store is in Edmonton.  (Darn you, Saskatchewan, and your limited selection of cool stores.  You’re lucky I love you.)  We looked at every possible way of getting them here - taking a road trip, shipping via a courier - but everything ended up being pretty pricey and not all that practical.  Gah.

So I stewed for a while.  Kept pointlessly checking Kijiji and UsedRegina.

Finally it was time to choose another style of chair.  Goodbye Louis.  The dream was beautiful.  Then I remembered this picture, originally from Elle Decor:


(Image via Remodelista)

Wicker.  Huh.  Did I like it?  

It was tempting.  

If they were outdoor chairs I could take them outside and hose them down.  

Very tempting.  

It had a much more laid back vibe - and I liked that.  I want people to feel at ease in my home, not like it’s fussy.  

Sooo tempting.  

It would probably be more comfortable.

That’s a good point, Justine. 

And, wait - how great would they look with a ticking stripe seat cushion?  


Oh wait, there are rattan chairs for $40 at IKEA?  


My husband gave me a weird look over the suggestion of wicker chairs, but when I showed him a few inspiration pictures and the price he was heartily on board.

Here’s the chair we’re looking at getting:


(AGEN chair, IKEA)

Sean wished for something more greyish, like the Elle Decor shot, and I concur.  I may see what DIY-ing I may have up my sleeve once we’ve had the chairs for a while.  


(Home of Thea Beasley featured on Design Chaser)

But I’m totally digging the casual vibe of a wicker dining chair.


The drapery fabric in the inspiration board above is merely a suggestion.  I’ve loved that Bethe fabric from Tonic Living for a long time, and I definitely want pattern in the dining room since the adjacent living room will have solid drapes.  But I’m totally open to other fabrics, and may want some blue to draw in the blue from the nearby kitchen island.  I really like this one:


(From Tonic Living)

I also like the idea of this navy ikat:


(from Tonic Living)

And this one may have the right balance of light and dark.  Plus it has birds. I like the birds.



I’m feeling even better about the direction of my dining room now.  It’s a little more casual, cool, beachy/farmhouse.  Sometimes it’s nice when buying crazy gold chairs from the wife of a Russian mobster doesn’t work out.


What do you think?  HAve any of you tried the Agen chair as a dining chair?

Kids’ Room: Inspired


(Photograph from

I’m holding back quite a bit on the decorating plan for the house.  Though I have some specific ideas of what I want the rooms to look like, I’m working on the foundational layers of the building process first, and won’t make any major decorating moves (or purchases or projects) until after we’ve moved into the house.

But the other day my dear little boy lamented to me once again that he missed our condo.  He has an impeccable memory for a three-year-old, and can be really sweet and sentimental.  But I was surprised that he still felt that way.  I asked him, specifically, what he missed.  ”My room” he said, “I like the way my room was.”  

Since we’ve been in the Pink House (the house owned by our church) I haven’t done a lot with their room.  There’s a big clunky double bed in there, and an old wooden rocking chair. Plus we jammed in the change table/dresser and the crib.  I did hang a few pictures on 3M command hooks, and did hang the drapes from their old room, but it still feels pretty dreary.  And certainly not like home for him. 

And so, with my heart strings pulled, the kids’ room made it to the top of my priority list for decorating.  How wonderful it would be for that room to feel finished and homey right away when we settle in!  So I’ve been pinning away and looking for the inspiration I need for their room.  They’ll share a room again (though some of the adorable girls’ rooms I’ve come across have me rethinking that slightly…) and I definitely want matching twin beds.  I’d love old brass beds, or painted wooden beds, but my second-hand hunting has not been fruitful as of yet, so we may end up with cheap IKEA beds and DIY upholstered headboards.

You can see some themes running through my pictures: pale neutral walls, with lots of room for displaying the colourful things kids love (books, toys, momentos).  A definite vintage vibe.  A sort of raw, natural feel.  Eclectic art.

Speaking of eclectic art, I just found this cool vintage paint-by-numbers painting on Kijiji… I may just have to pick that one up!


A new frame and this could be a great jumping-off point for the room.  

I’m getting excited - kids’ rooms are my favourite to decorate!  Let the dreaming begin…

Kitchen Dreams

When building a house there’s a whole lotta’ energy going into planning the kitchen. It’s is the design/function/centre-of-the-home-universe.

I’ve been toiling (quite happily, of course) over our kitchen plan. I think our salesperson might be thinking I’m a bit crazy (rightly so) because I keep asking for the supplier websites, rather than settling for the previously-selected show room options like most homebuyers. But I warned you, I’m going to be a snob about the design, and a penny pincher on the cost.

Luckily for me though, Sean made one beautiful concession: when there was no stain colour that really fit the bill (he’d previously swayed me to do dark wood cabinetry), he said “I’m thinking maybe we could do painted cabinets? I think I’ve started to like the look, and all your inspiration pictures seem to have white cabinets.” Oh, you wonderful man, I love you so. Even though my inspiration pictures clearly have very different shades of white, cream, ecru, an grey… ;)

After that, this lovely plan came together:


I’m constrained by the parameters of the builder’s options and our budget - which while reasonable, won’t necessarily facilitate everything I dreamed of. The countertops and floors are, in fact, laminate (which I make no apologies for), and while I would love to get on board the brass train with the hardware, these pulls have the nicest shape I found (and are nicely similar to that used by Kelly Deck in the inspiration picture.) The tile may not happen until later, depending on cost. But overall, I’m SUPER excited. Super duper. Hello, pretty kitchen, I can’t wait to meet you…

Burnham Design
Loving these pictures from the Jute Home portfolio - fresh, natural, sunny and beautiful.  Enjoy!

Loving these pictures from the Jute Home portfolio - fresh, natural, sunny and beautiful.  Enjoy!

Island Girl

So, I started guest blogging over at  Pretty stoked about that.  For my first post I wrote about the current trend in kitchen islands: unique, open style farmhouse tables or workbenches.  Something like one of these:

Design by Susan Brinson, photography by William Brinson, via Remodelista

Design by Margot Austin

And of course, this one-of-a-kind vintage look is perfect for those of us who like to thrift!  So check out the post over at the UsedEverywhere blog.

But you know, I’ve never really been an island girl.  Well, technically I am.  I was born on Vancouver Island.  But a kitchen island - I wasn’t really on that bandwagon.  But lately I’ve been researching a lot about kitchen islands.

I haven’t been researching the cool islands featured in the post above.  Nope.  In fact I’ve been looking for as many pictures as I can of the built-in island - a feature I’d previously never really wanted.  You see, any house floor plan we looked at that showed an island was not for me.  The islands were too small, or an inefficient use of the space (I usually wanted to swap them out for a peninsula), or had weird angular shapes that were clearly designed by builders, not designers.

But as we’ve been studying one particular home plan (that I think we’ll end up building on the farm) I’ve come across a kitchen where an island actually is the best use of space.  And there’s space for a big one.  We’re talkin’ the mothership.  So now I’m pouring over inspiration pictures (in my old computer files, on Tumblr, and in that wonderful new addiction, Pinterest) for islands.  And I’m scouring design magazine articles, blog posts, and design site forums to get the scoop on islands.  So many things to consider!

Designer Daniel Brisset, Photographer André Rider, via Canadian House & Home

One level or two?  Ideal dimensions?  Sink?  Cooktop?  Open shelves?  Drawers or cupboards?  Built in microwave or dishwasher?  Multiple pendant lights or a single chandelier?  Oy.

So here’s what I think I’ve settled on:

  • One large island with a single height (counter height) - no second level for a bar or table height.  I just don’t like the look of the split levels enough - especially since the island is visible on two sides (from the dining room and the living room).  Also, counter height stools will likely be cheaper than the taller bar stools.  So.  Cheap’s good.

Island with counter-height stools, designer Mick de Giulio, via Decorpad

  • No sink, and definitely no cooktop.  This will give a cleaner look and way more flexibility in how the island is used - baking extravaganza?  Science homework?Buffet display?  Art projects?  Board meetings?  (Don’t know why we’d have those…) All possible with no sink or stove in the way.

A single-height island is so much more flexible.  Photographer Chris Lewis, Architect D. Stanley Dixon, designer Betty Burgess.  Via

  • A combination of drawers, cupboards, and open storage.  Just ‘cuz.  I like all of those.

See?  Open shelves, drawers and cupboards living together in harmony.  Design by Erin McLaughlin via Style at Home

  • And I’m thinking I like the microwave built into the island (on the sides facing the other kitchen counters.)  Because microwaves are ugly space hogs.  And I don’t like ugly space hogs.  (Hey, remember the Muppets’ Pigs in Space?  Total mental rabbit trail just now.)  Any thoughts on this?  (Microwave in the island, that is, not the Pigs in Space.)

(Wow, I’m a nerd.  Design blogs should not involve doctoring pictures of Muppets in Apple Paintbrush…)

  • As for the lighting above the island I’m still unsure.  Have to ponder that one…

Island with three pendants

Do you have an island?  Any keen design advice for me?  Now, I’m going to get a measuring tape to see just how big 4’x7’ would be…

(Tove Mauritzson)
Small Home Office Design
mood board to-go by Holly Becker of Decor8
When stopping by Decor8 the other day I was delighted by this picture of a take-along inspiration board.  So I dug deeper and collected a bunch more “mood board” photos for you (many of which are created by Leslie of A Creative Mint for the Decor8 series “Colour Me Pretty”).

mood board to-go by Holly Becker of Decor8

When stopping by Decor8 the other day I was delighted by this picture of a take-along inspiration board.  So I dug deeper and collected a bunch more “mood board” photos for you (many of which are created by Leslie of A Creative Mint for the Decor8 series “Colour Me Pretty”).


Design notebook by Leslie from A Creative Mint via Decor8
How pretty are these glassine envelopes?

Design notebook by Leslie from A Creative Mint via Decor8

How pretty are these glassine envelopes?

grey+yellow inspiration board from Leslie from A Creative Mint via Decor8
I’m such a sucker for grey with yellow!

grey+yellow inspiration board from Leslie from A Creative Mint via Decor8

I’m such a sucker for grey with yellow!