This is what a new apartment looks like at Ikea.
(For more of an explanation, see yesterday's blog post.)
This is what a new apartment looks like at Ikea.
(For more of an explanation, see yesterday's blog post.)
Generally speaking, a house (or condo) is always more than just a roof above your head. It speaks to your lifestyle choices, your future plans and your personal style. Really, it’s an extension of you, and the life you want – as well as the one you want to showcase to friends and acquaintances.
But sometimes, when you step back and take a look at that home, you realize that it’s all wrong. That you’ve somehow ended up on a path towards backyards and nurseries and hour-long commutes when really all you want is a small space where you can actually keep up with the maintenance and cleaning.
And then, on a deeper level, you realize that nothing about it really reflects you at all.
A few months ago, this realization came crashing down around me. My marriage had crumbled and Casa Speedy reflected the life I thought I was supposed to have – the husband, the home office, the room for a nursery and space for a family to grow, plus a backyard where I was supposed to play gardener.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved that house. I loved the gleaming hardwood floors, the fun feminine damask wallpaper and the storage space. But I didn’t love what it represented. Nor the fact that I was miserable much of the time I was living there.
To some extent, the house had become yet another trap in a life where I was already feeling stuck on a path I wasn’t all that confident about. Sure, from the outside it looked like I had everything together – a lovely husband, a great job, a beautiful home – but my days were filled with begrudging obligations and a sense of dread.
So, in quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do – I am, after all, a planner who chose to become a journalist at age 7 – I moved out in April. I left the house that I’d poured money and creative energy into, and the life that I’d spent the past six and a half years carefully building. I had no plan.
First I stayed with friends, living out of suitcases. Tears, wine and chocolate were all on the regular menu, but slowly my new life started to take shape. I started exercising again, even signing up for a half marathon in the fall. I stopped having migraines for the first time in five years – a miracle unto itself, as those blasted things had created a further level of rules and restrictions on my life; like no caffeine after noon and always getting eight hours of sleep at night. I reconnected with friends. I started to rediscover things that I’d loved, like music and books. Suddenly, I had stories to tell when friends and family made their weekly calls. And I started smiling again.
Logistically, it was a nightmare. For a homebody like me to be separated from my routines, my carefully chosen baking supplies, my pet and my full wardrobe was a recipe for daily annoyances. Whether it was another morning of getting ready and finding only one strap for my preferred frock, or wishing I had a pair of shoes that were still back in my other life, there was a flood of frustrations that came along with my decision. Yet I never really wavered. Instead I pulled on another summer dress, a different pair of shoes, and went out and bought that new baking pan.
And, throughout the process, it killed me to not to write about all of this. After trying to pretend for so long that everything was OK, I wanted to shout the truth from the rooftops, along with words of reassurance that yes, in fact, I’m happy now. I wanted to explain why I wasn’t writing about my renovations and decorating projects. But I couldn’t. Because life is messy and emotions are complicated.
Now, four months later, we’ve decided to sell Casa Speedy and I’ve got my own space again. Newly moved in, there’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s my own little grey, white and purple haven. As for the story this one tells – it’s shiny, new and full of opportunities, much like my life these days. It’s tiny, but it’s all mine, and I can’t wait to share it with you – but that’s a post for another day.
When I first moved from Nova Scotia to Toronto three years ago, my luggage included six very heavy boxes of books. Since, that collection has only expanded, which brings up the question of how best to display all of those cherished, and space hogging, pages.
My current set up involves two bookshelves, eating up a full corner of my partially finished basement. Plus an extra shelf upstairs. At least I colour-blocked them?
For starters, I have too many books to alternate them with shelves stacked sideways and pretty accessories! Plus, I can't help but wonder, what do people with less space do? Sacrifice their libraries?
I don't really want to downsize my personal library, so I started to explore other storage options. Here are some of my creative favourites:
The Umbra Conceal bookshelf ($14 for the large), which actually turns your books into their own stacked wall art.
Using dead wall space, like above the door or up in the rafters, as seen on HGTV's StyleSheet blog:
Or how about converting an unused fireplace into your new library - as spotted in this shot from Domino?
Or, you could always just resort to piles on the floor - or a staircase, another Domino idea, picked up by the Two Tall Girls blog:
Like clockwork, each month when I first crack open the pages of a fresh stack home decor mags, I'm struck with the desire to clear surfaces, keep only what I can stow away in hidden storage and, quite simply, de-clutter my life.
This SoHo loft, featured in the New York Times, is one of those envy-inducing pads.
I can't help but drool over the clear surfaces, the countertops with only a carefully placed swish-looking appliance or stylized fruit bowl, and the general feeling of airy lightness and simplicity that comes with a minimalist approach to decorating.
I also enjoy thinking about how simple it must be to maintain - a quick dusting of your clear surfaces with a microfibre cloth, a quick dance around the room with a broom, and voila, your space is spotless. Imagine the time you'd save if you just had less stuff!
Of course, the risk with a bare-bones pad, in addition to not having a melon baller in case of emergency, is that they can feel a bit cold. White walls, acrylic, glass and stainless steel are sleek and modern, but they don't exactly scream 'Welcome home.' These kinds of spaces really require a mix of textures and wood tones, along with some quirky personal accents, to warm them up. (Get more tips for a swish condo here).
But, I do believe that, regardless of your space, you can find a balance where you get the light, easy-maintenance vibe of a minimalist space while still keeping it homey and personal.
So, this weekend, I'm challenging myself to think about how I can live with less. What items are superfluous? What's useful, and what's just clutter? Should lead to some interesting sorting!
And, I'd love to hear your thoughts! What do you really need in your home? Not just to scrape by, but to feel really comfortable? And how much of the stuff you own is just a by-product of having the space to store it?
You see, without going into too much detail, over the last few months I too have been "renovating" my life -- breaking down old habits, creating new priorities and routines, essentially, ripping the whole thing down to the studs -- and can't help but see the parallels to totally gutting your home.
Odds are, when you bought your home you compromised. Maybe the space was smaller than you wanted, the layout was a little choppy or the neighbourhood wasn't quite right. You figured with time, you'd be able to spruce it up and make it work for you. Plus, there's always quick fixes to keep patching it along - a fresh coat of paint here, a new drawer pull there, and voila!
But, eventually, those temporary solutions start to wear a bit thin, and you decide it's time to finally jump in with both feet and find something that really works for you.
In a home, that means modernizing kitchens, blowing out walls, changing colour palettes and finding organizational systems that suit the way you live. In life, while there are no clear floorplans, you're still analyzing the way you live and trying to create a "space" that's healthier, happier and, quite simply, more "you."
And it isn't easy. The moment that first sledgehammer or drill hits the wall, when you've hit the point of no return, you're instantly left second guessing what on earth you've gotten yourself into. What was really so bad about that cramped kitchen? You certainly could have lived without that walk-in closet. Maybe a coat of paint really was all it needed. And perhaps your old routines weren't so terribly unhealthy?
Of course, by that point, it's always too late to go back.
Once the initial shock wears off, you're left tackling a logistical nightmare. There are countless mundane decisions that demand your attention every minute as you try to figure out what's going to fit in with your new reality. Bills mount, and timelines stretch on and on. You wonder if it's ever going to end, and what happened to your nice orderly pre-reno life.
Everything feels like a mess and you just can't wait for the dust to settle.
But eventually, the light at the end of the tunnel starts to emerge. You get to see the new pieces - whether it's those killer kitchen cabinets finally being installed or your new exercise regime finally kicking in - coming together and you're reminded why you started the whole lousy process in the first place.
Because, in the end, you're getting exactly what you want and need. You've reinforced the foundation, brought all the elements up to code, and made room in your life for more of the things you enjoy.You've made your life, and space, work better for you - which is never a bad decision. But it's OK if, like after each time you move, you still swear to never do it again.
Whether it's a lack of quality sleep, an urge to cozy up with a good book before bed or the desire to simplify my life, I find my thoughts have increasingly been turning to the bedroom these days. In terms of decor, of course!
The master suite tends to be a tricky area to decorate. For starters, it's hard to make it a priority. Who's really going to see it? It's much easier to justify splashing out on your dining room or living area - places where you and your guests will be spending your waking hours. Plus, who really wants to spend time arranging and dusting knick knacks you're likely only going to see before you nod off at night and flee the house in the morning?
But, the argument goes, the bedroom is also supposed to be your personal oasis; a tranquil space to relax. It's hard to do that when you've got builder's beige walls and a stack of unpacked boxes hanging around. (Check out Colin and Justin's tips for getting the most out of your bedroom.)
At Casa Speedy, the master bedroom makeover came midway through the decorating list in an attempt to balance off these two needs - the public space to entertain and a personal retreat to relax.
With the heavy lifting - painting, accessorizing and the like - done, I'm still perusing pretty spaces but am mostly preoccupied with those mundane maintenance tasks to keep what I've got presentable, both for myself and those guests who inevitably ask for a tour. Of course, that to-do list includes making the bed.
But lately, I've been questioning my routine. I've always (well, since my teen years) been a huge fan of a neatly made bed. I find it can make your room look put together and much, much cleaner with minimal effort. Plus, as far as chores go, it tends to be a quick one!
What changed my mind? For starters, I came across a study that says an unmade bed actually helps with allergies and asthma by eliminating the moisture that dust mites crave. Breathing easier is certainly a plus for the unmade bed.
Then on Monday I interviewed HGTV stylist Lisa Quinn, author of the new Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide to Domestic Liberation. While the full story will be in this Saturday's paper (and stay tuned to Yourhome this week for her list of the 10 things to clean - in order - when guests are coming in 30 minutes), I couldn't resist sharing her thoughts on the bedroom a little early.
For starters, she says we should be skipping all those fancy, colour-coordinated sheets. Instead, she suggests having just two sets of simple white sheets for each bed in the house, because they don't fade, they're interchangeable and they're easy to clean. I certainly get that logic, and anything that cuts down on my laundry time is a plus in my books.
She also argues in favour of a rumpled look for bedtime and beyond. Not just for time-savings, but also because of the message it sends. Quinn says those tightly fitted sheets and rows of throw pillows (in my defence, I have only the one!) are "uptight and prudish", while leaving the bed unmade is romantic and sexy, "like tousled, after-sex hair."
So, now I'm tempted to leave the sheets askew a few mornings a week, while accepting that I just simply can't imagine leaving it unmade when company's coming.
What do you think? Is it time to give the unmade look a try? Or do you already rock the rumpled look?
While my three bedroom semi is certainly more than enough space for Mr. Speedy and I, like most older homes it's a little lacking in the storage department.
We're lucky enough to have these his and her wardrobes in the master bedroom, but I still find it a bit of a challenge to keep everything organized and within arm's reach (especially on those frantic rushes out the door on weekday mornings).
That's when I realized I wasn't using a prime piece of storage real estate - the inside of the doors! Armed with a few adhesive hooks, and a little bit of patience after they fell off the first time, I was able to create a bit of hanging storage for belts, bathing suits and the like.
For $5 worth of hooks, I've cut about 10 minutes of digging around my closet out of my morning routine - valuable time to savour a hot cup of tea!
What are your tricks for keeping your closet organized?
The lovely weather this weekend had me spending a lot of time on my back deck, with some cool beverages, and inspecting the new growth in my garden.
Of course, I wasn't alone in my excitement to get back out in the yard - my pet bunny Allistair was also
pretty thrilled to have grass to munch on again!
While the holiday was a stretch of self-imposed relaxation, I can't wait to whip the yard into shape this coming weekend - and see what other plants survived my slightly neglectful gardening style.
For tips on getting your own garden ready for spring, check out our Outdoor Living guide.
Rather than going out and buying all new accessories for spring (though it is certainly tempting!) I like to start by giving all my existing accents a good cleaning and then re-deploying them throughout my house.
I find that after a while, I stop seeing all those carefully planned vignettes. By re-arranging the pieces, I get a new appreciation for them along with a whole new look - and don't need to spend a dime.
For example, candlesticks that had been hanging out on my mantel have found a new home grouped together as a centrepiece for my table.
A vase that had been filled with winter-themed baubles, also on my mantel, has been filled with limes and paired with a bottle of gin and a martini glass and tealight combo on a serving tray on my dining room console.
I also see it as an opportunity to switch up my artwork, which, like my accessories, also tend to fade into the background after a little time. I started with the piece above my mantel, shown, swapping out my makeshift snowflake artwork for a streetscape (made from Ikea fabric).
These minor changes have made my home feel fresh again just in time (*fingers crossed*) for the warm weather!
Read more tips from "Make life easier" March (and please share your own tips in the comments, too!)
My bathroom has been bugging me for a while. The baby blue is just so not my style, and the misaligned, peeling flooring leaves a lot to be desired. Plus it's very, very small. But, overall, it was functional, so I tried to ignore it for as long as possible.
And so, last weekend, with only a day left for those Home Renovation Tax Credit purchases, I picked up some paint - with the delightful name of "Anonymous" - and new flooring.
After an hour of scrubbing, pulling down the icky medicine cabinet over the toilet, taping and other painting prep, I was totally ready for the first (and mercifully, what turned out to be the only!) coat of my paint and primer combo.
Then, it was time for a fresh coat of white for the wainscotting and trim - I had no idea how discoloured it was until I started with the paint brush!
Still to come is my new flooring, installing a towel bar and some shelving to replace the old medicine cabinet and finding a new, snazzier light fixture for above the sink, as well as a new shower curtain.
But, even with at least another weekend's worth of work to do, I'm thrilled with the results. It feels more sophisticated, more complete (painting the radiator to match the wainscotting made a big difference) and more like my own space!