Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Do these decor trends need a rest in 2016?

When does a trend become overused and tired?

Sometimes certain trends are grabbed by many homeowners,  and before you know it they are everywhere and you may begin to feel like you have reached your viewing saturation point.  I get this feeling a lot on Pinterest. It might be a pattern, a wall treatment or specific fabrics.  I find myself thinking... please no more.

Does it really matter to the average homeowner?

Only you can answer that question. I'm not censoring  what a homeowner chooses to use to decorate a home. Rather I am  just commenting that certain  design decisions seem to be very overused, and as a result  if you want to have a home that is a little unique or individual, these design decisions are probably not the way to go.


chevrons, bedding

I have always been a lover of geometric prints.  There was a time when I loved chevron designs, but that affair has ended!  Too bad I have to say good-bye;  perhaps in ten years we will have a reunion.

Animal prints

animal prints

I have to work hard to warm up to animal prints, but  I agree that their  organic spots and stripes are very interesting when you want to include  patterns in a room.  Maybe one or two  animal prints might be good, but more than that becomes overdone.  I like to  introduce them using small items like a  box or a pillow because they are easier to replace when you get tired of them.

Blackboard walls

blackboard wall, kitchen

Having been a teacher, I left blackboard walls behind years ago.   I think they work well in  a child's playroom or bedroom because they serve  a functional purpose, but they are dusty. Think about allergies too.  There is something messy and not quite right about them in main rooms of a  home.

Gallery/salon  walls

gallery wall photos

I love  smaller gallery walls that are very organized.  Too many items and you end up looking at the organization (or lack thereof)  and not the individual  pieces of art.

Baskets everywhere

bathroom shelving, baskets

I have  baskets in my home here and there because they are functional, but I am always careful  not to overdo it.  I don't want someone to walk in and think ... the house of baskets.

 Text as art

text art walls

  Yes, I like quotes, I even collect them and I love text.  Their use as art  just seems to be way overdone in the last few years.

Faux taxidermy

faux taxidermy, white deer heads, vignette

 Here's another design  motif  that when  used in the right setting  added an individual note to a space in the past, but not anymore because faux taxidermy is  everywhere and I am still trying to figure out why.  Are you a lover?


dining room starbursts

Another beautiful motif that has reached the boredom point from overuse.  As a lover of circles and rays I would have to think  long and hard before using a starburst in a design right now.  Too predictable!  Another element on my revisit after 5 years list.

Large horizontal stripes

black and white stripes

When this image first popped up on Pinterest I was attracted to the strong graphic nature of the stripes.   Very quickly bold, equally sized and spaced stripes were popping up everywhere especially black and white ones.  Nothing was sacred as they appeared  on walls, rugs, pillows, tables etc.

And how about you?  Do you have design elements or objects that you think need a rest?  Perhaps you love some of my "tired" choices and want to argue for their continued use.

Does burlap work in contemporary decor?

Ideas for using burlap in crafty, country decor have taken over my Pinterest feed lately.  My own decor is a mix of contemporary and mid-century modern with a generous application of contemporary art.  Burlap just doesn't seem to fit with that mix.  But wait...  just tell me something doesn't work, and I am on a journey to prove otherwise.

 Currently in my art practice I am questioning public expectations for certain materials.   Perhaps that's why I am thinking about burlap.   All those country/homey pins for burlap  got me thinking about raising the ante, by taking burlap  out of its country comfort level.

So let's explore the question.

I like burlap because it ...
  • has texture;
  • is a natural fibre from the jute plant;
  • is a renewable product because of its source;
  • is  available in several  neutral colours and can be dyed; 
  • is relatively inexpensive;
  • can be used without sewing;
  • accepts paint well;
  • comes in a variety of widths and qualities;
  • has an open weave for introducing  different materials into design. 

On the other side are several drawbacks...
  • it is smelly; 
  • cheaper varieties are very coarse; 
  • it is usually stiff and doesn't gather well; 
  • the weave is uneven

Here's a collection of commercially produced products using burlap.  Obviously, this isn't the burlap you wrap your trees with in fall!

There are also lots of options for DIYers or to purchase from sites like ETSY. 


Window Treatments 




Now it's your turn....

You want what? Not in Newfoundland

Rant warning!

Have you ever noticed how your location impacts design because of availability of products?

I live in a terrific city, St. John's,  on a beautiful island, Newfoundland, in the North Atlantic known for its culture and brightly coloured homes.

 But there is a downside to living on an island; it doesn't always provide ready access to a lot of products especially in interior design.   Judging by the homes for sale on in my local area,  this is a common problem for more than me or my clients. That being said, every now and then you find the perfect solution to your design quandary at local businesses.  It just shouldn't be a sporadic event.

Yes, I know in this world of technology anything is possible, but if you are super fussy about undertones and/or comfort, it would not be smart to order a big ticket item without setting your eyes on said object.  That leaves custom ordering from fabric samples and hopefully a floor model to test for comfort and waiting 8 to 10 weeks or more. Is my impatience showing?

 What about when you need something in a few weeks or you don't have a grand budget?  Back to roaming the limited selections and hoping something has magically appeared since your last visit.  Sometimes it has!

I admit trying to find  the simplest things often cause me the most angst.   Now don't get me wrong, I am not looking for odd or far out things. I love more soothing, monochromatic schemes and often describe my own personal style as blah with lots of art and fine craft. Sometimes blah is difficult to achieve! 

 I went to Homesense weekly for six months to find the type of lamp I wanted for my living room.  I was just not willing to spend $200.00 on a lamp.

My lamp and another Homesense gift from a friend

The last month has passed me by as I tried to source a specific wallpaper for my upcoming kitchen reno.

 I  finally located  sources for  the mosaic wallpaper in the US and England.  Perfect you might think.  So did I, until I found out the $7.00  US  6 x 6 in. sample would cost me $56.00 by the time it was delivered to my door. That didn't include GST or whatever else Canada Post decides to ding you with at the door.  Not going to happen!  Move on to the next idea.

More than colour and next to texture, I love subtle patterns and in tile the Italians know how to do pattern well.  Again I knew what I wanted,  I could even paint a picture of it if requested. That's  more depressing when you can do that,  and I have seriously considered painting my own  tile if all else fails!


 Online I found the exact thing I wanted  on a tile site in England.  With hope I tried two local tile suppliers who assured me nobody is looking for patterned tile like that.  I am!  I am all about monochromatic patterns.  It's just not in style in this area I was told.  More reason to choose it in my book.   I have visions of me getting the 15 sq. feet  I need in England this fall and making all 7 of my travel companions each carry some home for me. Don't laugh this might happen, if I can't find a Canadian supplier or a comparable tile .  One last place to check out.  Fingers crossed.

And IKEA's  floating shelves are only available onsite.  That's my latest disappointment.

I am worn out before the kitchen reno even begins.

 Do you have similar frustrations where you live?  How do you get around them?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

7 Tips for creating a DIY summer house

March is the month when my heart beats a little faster because spring is on its way and opening our summer place begins to be a reality. Each year at this time I plan what the coming year will bring in repairs and DIY projects.  This post summarizes some of our past projects and how they have come together to create our special place. It is modest and quite ordinary looking when viewed from the outside, but  we have a million dollar view, and an interior that reflects our interests and skills.

 We are perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the Bonavista Peninsula in Newfoundland and through the seasons we see icebergs, seabirds, whales and beautiful full moons.  One October I even saw my first display of the Northern Lights. Come along for a virtual visit to Ryall's Seaside Home and Studio.

View outside the studio window mid summer

After the storm

Full moon over Bonavista

It's a magical place and it hardly matters what goes on inside, but over our years here things have evolved to reflect who we are and what we think is important.  While some things happened because of  circumstances and individual interactions, many of our decisions were based on principles we considered important for us. Perhaps you will find them helpful if you are starting on a summer house adventure. 

Look outside for colour scheme inspiration 

Before we ever put plans on paper, the colour scheme  was etched in my mind because of the time I  spent in the community when I was younger.  The inside is a continuation of the outside - ocean, pink slate, meadow, beach and fog. It goes without saying that you need to do all the painting yourself!

 The slate helps tie the colour scheme together and references the  prominent hills visible from most of  the windows.   I choose  purple (taken from the slate) for an accent wall behind the cabinets  and on the wall behind the dining table. I'm not fond of accent walls, but I felt the room needed a bit of energy, and paint is always an inexpensive way to create effect.  I also used colour blocking as a way to transition from room to room and create visual interest in this small space.   To me it feels like a walk on the beach with the slate hills backing the ocean. 

Decide what's important

The whole  floor plan revolved around the placement of my art studio to avail of north and east light. That left our kitchen area very compact, centrally located but quite functional given its size. There is also a built in buffet opposite the kitchen and additional storage in a pantry closet.  Our splurges were the slate floor and the butcher block counters, so the cabinets were built on a shoestring budget using shelving laminate and doors purchased at a salvage store.  They were finished with a colour wash and varathane.

The  wood floors are local spruce stained with the same wash, and protected by five coats of water-base varathane. They have held up exceptionally well considering we never remove our outside footwear. 

After 13 years the cabinets started to turn very pinkish  and I repainted them this past year with Benjamin Moore's Advance in Winds Breath  (one of my favourite dirty whites).  At the same time I painted out the accent wall and promptly changed  it back.  It just wasn't the same space without it.   So much for refreshing my decor. 

summer house, DIY kitchen, BM winds breath, stained glass transom
Designing Home: Kitchen cabinets BM Winds Breath 

Decide what you can do yourself

 You would be surprised what you can do yourself with a little help from You Tube!  Make a list of the things you are willing to do and get yourself educated if you can't do them already  We laid our own tile and slate, put down the wood flooring and finished it, painted every room and made  and installed the door and window trim.  That was all before we started to make or alter furniture. 

Use your skills to create unique pieces 


Everyone has interests and skills that can be used to create individual, unique spaces. Use them in your own space. My friend is a quilter and when I go to her house, that shows.   Our particular skill set is art, stained glass and carpentry. My on-site handyman/partner created the  beautiful stained glass  over the refrigerator to let light from the porch area flow into the central kitchen.  His handiwork continues in the dining area. 

stained glass in driftwood, seaglass construction, reclaimed wood table, summer house
Designing Home: Table from reclaimed wood

The table  and bench were made from lumber salvaged from a hundred year old building being demolished.  The dining area is across from the kitchen and the purple accent wall continues.  Our mid century modern chairs were saved  from a trip to the dump when a local company was renovating their offices.  You can probably tell we are not interested in perfectly matched sets of things.  

My frequent trips to the beach has resulted in a soaring sea glass collection. Apart from storing it in a large glass jar, I wanted to highlight the range of colours and shapes in a sampler.  You can see the end of it under the painting. The stained glass piece beside the window is reminiscent of the various ocean colours outside the window.  The driftwood came from a local beach. 

Consider function first

I still can't believe I bought this sofa and chair! It is cuddly, puffy and brownish - not at all what I am attracted to. Function won out over all my aesthetic beliefs. I gave up on my dream of a white slip covered sofa as not conducive to gardening, wood working, hiking and painting.   This one was durable and cheap.  I'm learning to like it.

The trunk was built by my father when I was a teenager; he was a thrifter too. It is a coffee table, storage space and ottoman all rolled into one.  

Use your interests to accessorize 

The most interesting objects in your home are always the ones that reflect the interests and individuality of the people who live there.  Going to a big box store might give you lots of options and showcase interesting objects, but  without connections your purchases will look flat and sterile. 

This vignette sums up our summer lives and connections.  The lamp is a cast off from my daughter, and it needs a lighter, textured  shade that will come in time.  The antler was picked up by a friend on a hike along the hill that backs our house.  It sat outside for years and is bleached and subtly coloured.  I love the rhythm of it with the other natural references on the table top.   The jar contains large shards of pottery collected from  beaches in the area.  The carved sea gull is a pal for the ones that constantly swoop outside the window. The assemblage was created from bits of wood from beach walks over thirteen years, and we love our local birds, trees and wildflowers.

From pussy willows to a boot remnant each object on this  studio table has a connection to me. The books reflect my art interests.  My sister gathered the pussy willows for both of us.  The starfish is another ceramic love, and the colour, texture and shine work nicely with the natural materials around it.  A visiting friend was  beach walking and found the plastic glasses frame and the side of an old leather boot and gifted them. Their presence reminds me of the changes that the passage of time creates in the world and the importance of friendship.

Look at old things in new ways 

 This table was left over from the days when covered tables were all the rage. I quite like its broom handle style  legs and I love circles.  Obviously it had things going for it in my mind. I used left over paint from the house and tape to create a bullseye pattern;  the pattern adds a little punch of energy wherever I place it. It's not all savings in our house, fine craft and original art are my weaknesses. Remember the adage above, decide what's important. 

The dresser in our bedroom was purchased at a second hand store.  I described its transformation here.  I just knew it would be spectacular in gray.  Warning:  Sometimes new hardware can cost more than the original purchase.  The lamp was remodelled from another second hand purchase and it's transformation is in my previous post. The beach assemblage is one of my current pieces. 

Designing Home: Bedside table from hotel furniture 

When we built the house, a second hand store we frequented had a whole stock of night tables from a hotel that was being refurbished. They were solid wood, right down to the dovetailed drawers.  Unfortunately they were a harsh brown with a laminate top and black metal.  Look what a little re-visioning can do. Stix primer will adhere to anything, and spray paint is my go to for metal. 

Designing Home: Repurposed louvered doors  

Our main bathroom didn't  have any storage, but it had a small alcove area.  We reused  the top half of  louvered closet doors  from out town house to create a cabinet for cleaning materials, supplies and extra towels etc.  It also provided a place to display more of our objects from seaside life and travels. Check out more louvered door ideas for summer homes in this post.

Designing Home:  Studio table from computer desk 
My studio is an accumulation of bits and pieces of altered furniture to suit my needs.  My painting desk is an old computer table with a rolling cart pushed under it for storage. Over the years the  table top became stained with paint so I covered it with a vinyl adhesive. It is so much more restful than the black one.  Its placement  under a window allows for optimal scenic view and light for work.

This table started out as one of two built -in night tables for my daughter's bedroom over twenty five years ago.  It has had three lives since then.  It was just the thing to bank each side of the futon in my studio.  Love furniture you can paint especially for an informal summer look.  I also like the extra storage for books and the large top for display and some handy storage.  Our two hats kept falling off the closet shelf so now they have a new home. 

A friend asks for your help and you come home with a gem.  This old stained glass window was headed to the dump, but my husband knew it would serve some higher purpose.  We removed the broken coloured glass and replaced it with clear textured glass and added mirror to the middle pane.  It is one of my favourite pieces in the whole house.  

And there you have it, 13 years of re-inventing materials to create a relaxing, cozy, budget friendly summer house. 

Seaside DIY lamps

 My summer house is casual, softer edged and more DIY than my town home. Its decor  reflects its location and   our budget  restrictions for a second home.   About 75 % of the furniture  is built or adapted by my seriously skilled hubby or purchased second hand.   It goes without saying that when  I decide I need something to fill a spot, second hand stores are my go to solution.

 I added new art work in the master bedroom last year and I knew I couldn't keep the current lamp arrangement because the art was too commanding and the lamps too mismatched and small.  But I sure did like  my jar of pussy willows.

 I was appalled to realize I had this  small lamp for 13 years and I never did repaint the night tables.
 This is a perfect example  things in a home you are going to address and never do.

Moving right along,  I moved the pussy willows,  got the night table painted, and mounted the artwork.  You can see the problem with the lamp; it is totally minute and  doesn't connect in any way with the art work.   I wanted something with more substance and felt it needed to overlap the artwork slightly.

I found two of these  frames  at Value Village.  I liked the fact that the base looked a little like a fish and the top was boat shaped. It had strong lines and wasn't fussy.  Of course the price was right.

 But black wasn't going to work in my seriously beachy feeling home.

A little painter's tape and then my trusty  Krylon stainless steel spray paint came to the rescue.    

I made the  lamp shade out of paintable textured wallpaper and adhered it to the metal frame with two sided carpet tape. The paper had lots of heft  and added a bit of texture to the room; it was also cheap because I had some in my art studio. 

And after all that I decided I would put new bedding on the 2016 purchase list, something much lighter, and the dresser will be repainted a lighter  BM Edgecomb gray.  The walls are BM Revere Pewter, and have been the same colour for 13 years.  Long before gray was a trend and it will be gray long after it ceases to be a trend.

Oh yes, the wood assemblages are  temporary because they are going in an exhibition this summer so the lamps might be very lonely, hopefully forever. 

How predictable is your decor?

 Yes, I've been Pinteresting too much again. It's one of the best ways to see what the common trends are in interior design.  I am not talking about the "cutting edge" ones touted as design trends for a particular year, but the ones that you know average people usein their homes.  These common elements are sometimes referred to as "decorating crutches" because anyone can use them in any space.   I bet you know them already because they are constantly flying by your eyes on Pinterest or Instagram or in home decor stores.

 Check out some of the hallmarks of decor predictability in 2016  compiled from an evening of online viewing. Here are a few pics for you.   Can you see any similarities in these spaces ?

Here's what I came up with...
  • overly coordinated fabrics and accessories 
  • trays used to corral vignettes on tables
  • stacking books in vignettes 
  • pale rugs 
  • lots of  candles 
  • box store art
  • art that gives you directions (word art)
  • antlers and faux taxidermy 
  • empty frames ( is it a conceptual art statement or just a thing?)
  • dishes that match a room's colour scheme
  • accessories covering every flat surface
  • cute holiday and seasonal vignettes
  • beachy colour schemes 
  • hurricane lanterns
  • girlie chandeliers 
  •  mirrors everywhere  
  • mason jars used for every conceivable purpose
  • fake topiary
  • changing  seasonal/holiday displays 
  • gallery walls with everything apart from real art 
  • large wall clocks 
  • bleached wicker 
  • overuse of baskets for storage
  • and abundance of pillows and throws
  • gray everything
  • pale wall colours
  • family references and a touches of sentiment
How predictable is your decor in 2016?

 Is it a bad thing to be predictable?

  Probably not.

 We like what we like, and likes are developed through exposure (repeated viewing). In today's world of social media we do a lot of viewing.  Likes are also shaped by your social circles, your decorating budget, and what is  readily available in a local area.  Sometimes we want to be the same as our friends and we model each other.

We all have things we are attracted to and use in different ways in our homes. From the list of overly used elements above  I  am guilty of: stacking books as fillers and to vary heights,  using trays to corral objects in vignettes,  layering with  throws and using an antler in various arrangements (but it's a real one found on a hike) and I do have a thing about pillows.  I am happiest in light rooms and gray has been my go to neutral since 1985.  How about you?

Stay tuned for 10 ways to interject a little decor rebellion in your space.