A Living Room Makeover: Matt & Melissa's Story

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Matt & Melissa - my first design clients! After starting a very beautiful relationship, they were moving in together. I've known Melissa for a while now so when she broke the news, not only was I super excited for them, I knew this was going to be a project close to my heart. That & she might have also shouted HELP! Her new place felt like a guy's dorm room & reminded one of a dark cave where light hardly ever shines through. I'm never one to turn down a good challenge so I braced myself for what I was about to see. She was right...the place needed some love.

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Decorating a rental apartment always poses design challenges because structurally there isn't much you can change. You work with what you have and make the space feel like your own and give it personality. Add to that a limited budget (which isn't a bad thing!) and you have to really love the thrill of finding the right piece at the right price. Taking the time to understand your clients' needs and their story is therefore the most important thing you'll do in the design process. 

Melissa works in PR and is charming and chic with an amazing fashion sense (she's also one of the most organized people I've met when it comes to planning her wardrobe). Inspired by old Hollywood/classic styles, she pretty much carries Paris in her heart! Matt works as a TV producer and is a huge cinema buff. You'll find bookcases full of DVD collections that he claims are 'prized possessions' (I was able to convince him to part with some of them ;) ). Matt's vibrant personality means that things are always light, fun and interesting. Bring both of them together & you're going for a modern look with hints of nostalgic and classic finds in an airy and brighter apartment. 

Here is the small but significant transformation. A change of paint colour (Sea Froth, Benjamin Moore), a new wallpaper treatment (Sherwood Taupe, Graham & Brown) and a bit of styling can make a world of a difference.

Coming home from a long day of work should always be about comfort and warmth. It's the worst feeling to come to a place that you cannot enjoy or call your own. The work lies in the small details - enhancing what's important in your life be it through things you enjoy, objects that remind you of good memories, colours to liven things up or just a more functional space. Where you live should tell your story and I love that Matt & Melissa's redecorated place speaks to their new phase together.

First clients always have a special place in your heart, especially if they're as lovely as mine. Thank you for welcoming me into your home and allowing me to turn a man cave into a comfortable space for the two of you. Hope you continue to enjoy & grow in it.

Today is a BIG day

Two years back, I may have been slightly crazy and over ambitious to pursue a passion in interior design while being in a full-time advertising career. I made the decision that it was possible to be two things at once...only if I wanted it bad enough! With some motivation from within and some from the then close ones, I took up design school. It has quite possibly been the most grueling 2 years; instances where I was working for 60-70 hours, going to classes, working on projects and trying to maintain relationships were all too common. I can't lie that there were many times I wanted to give up a dream because it was just too tough! As I finished my final exam of my 2-year program tonight, I can't express how ecstatic I am. I did it! I'm done - I'm a certified professional interior decorator today. It is possible to be what you want to be; to find a path that not many people choose. It's difficult but every bit doable. Over the last 6 months I've been on a roller coaster. I've been beat but I've also been my best. Today is big because I know how much I fought to make it happen and I thought I would never make it; the fear of failure stinks. It's finding the belief within and surrounding yourself with positivity that makes the 'best' trump the 'beat' though.

This little time has taught me that things will find a way to come together. And when in doubt, listen to your gut feeling because it tells you what you need to do more often than we give it credit for. Be a dreamer and make it happen for yourself because no one else will do it for you! You'll always have people who believe in you and push you forward. Some will stay and some may leave - but in the end it is all you!

So to all those challenges that came up in these 2 years, that made me want to quit much of who I am - I'm too strong to let go that easy :)

And to all those joys and small wins that also came to me in various forms, thank you. I feel nothing but gratitude and I am blessed.

I can finally sleep tonight!

Small Space Win: Converting a Den into a Functional Bedroom

It's been over a year that my sister and I moved into a 1+1 bedroom apartment unit in downtown Toronto. We love the neighbourhood, how close we are to the waterfront and honestly, compared to other condos in the area, the price was something I could afford. The only thing is that IT IS really built for one person and we've tried to make this apartment work for 2 girls. My sister who moved to Toronto for university, left a lot of her things but she still has a lot more than a den can hold. Moreover, there isn't a lot of shared storage space in the apartment. Since she's going to school, she also needs space for A LOT of books. After trying to make the room work as is for the 1st year, it was time to do a much-needed room makeover. The process started while my sister was away for summer vacation but took some time to complete and put up on the blog.

Before - Plan View

Before - Plan View

This is what we started with before. Aside from the space being small, the room poses a challenge with a traditional style heating/ac unit. The width of the room didn't even allow for her twin bed to fit in horizontally. We made the bed work vertically for the time being, but it never left much room for anything else, and definitely not much walking space. Besides the drawers chest and under the bed storage, there wasn't any room for books. They found a home on the floor instead!

We also had this rather dull looking off-white paint colour, which my sister destroyed by putting up pictures with cheap bluetack (notice it below). I was left with a wall full of sticky stuff to scrape off.

Wall Paint

Wall Paint

I wish I could make this room into a luxury bedroom but that's not going to happen so it came down to prioritizing 3 key things that I wanted this room to do:

  • Sleeping area: Fit the existing twin bed with under-the-bed storage, while leaving some room to walk (and not bang your knees on the corner every morning)
  • Storage: Ample storage for books and cloths as well as an area to display travel finds and jewelry
  • Depth: Room should feel bigger and brighter

The room was given a full makeover keeping the above in mind. To start off, I chose CIL 'White Lilac' (colour matched it to a Para Paint as I was already getting 'The Silhouette' by Para Paints for the living room) as the paint treatment across the room. The colour is light and feminine and has given the room an airy feel.(Tip: make sure you get a good quality painter's tape, one that doesn't take your newly painted surface with it. I chose the 3M Scotch Blue for this project).

The next challenge came with adjusting the bed so it would fit horizontally. This required a bit of handy man work where I had to take out the side casing of the bed to cut the width and re-level the bed with a wooden plank. The casing is to hold two bed frames as one unit (one pulls out as a guest bed but isn't needed). I'm pretty proud of my Ikea hack here as the bed was a perfect fit after the adjustment and opened up the entire room.

In order to add extra storage and display area, the room has a nice little niche, used for small shelving on either side. I added 3 to each side, leaving the middle for picture frames or artwork (still looking for the right one!). Since the space opened up, I was able to fit a lean bookcase and add storage boxes for papers.

Finally, the most fun part of the project was styling it with my sister's travel finds, pictures and few new accessories.  A mirror was hung above the dresser to give more depth to the room, and the jewelry that was hidden away in drawers, displayed on top. I also put up a jewelry hanger on the side walls (believe me, this girl has a lot of jewelry for a 19-year-old!) and added a lovely Chevron laundry hamper in the small space between the dresser and heating unit.

Here are some pictures from the final look. (Now the challenge is to keep it looking like this!)

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What do you think?

Design Finds

I love thinking about this blog and jotting down all the things I want to update it with. Although I work in the digital media industry by day, blogging for myself has been a bit of a challenge. I overcommit to updating it every 1-2 days, then push that goal to once every week, and now here I am months later with not as many posts as I had hoped. I need to find the 30 minutes to pen my passion projects. Over the last few months I've captured interiors and home furnishings that have captured the eye. Often times its quicker to pin them on Pinterest boards, but here are some of my favourite finds taken at various design / craft shows 2012.

Silk Orchid Collection: "Vintage sari silk dresses are collected, unravelled and then hand-knotted into these exceptional, one of a kind masterpieces."

Elte Silk Orchid Rugs

Elte Silk Orchid Rugs

These Jazztec armchairs by Modallion / Barrymore Furniture were by far one of my favourites at IDS 12. The Kilim back and vibrant colours blew me away.

Vibrant Armchairs

Vibrant Armchairs

I've looked out for vintage typewriters over the last year so obviously this stood out. I want one for myself although not as big and perhaps one with a different colour - I'm thinking pastel shades like a mint green or a pink.

Vintage Typewriter

Vintage Typewriter

Where industrial style pendant lamps were more common in commercial areas, we're seeing more of these types of pendant lamps in homes. A lamp like this has an industrial feel yet it's modern. I'm visualizing this in a loft in a dining area or a work space. While the lamp featured above (wish I could remember which showroom to credit, I completely forgot to make a note of this) was definitely a fav, I'm also loving another industrial look with this Directeur floor/table lamp at Urban Barn.

Lights - check. Camera. Action.

Industrial Pendant Lamp

Industrial Pendant Lamp

Snob probably deserves a blog post of their own as I'm continuously impressed by their collections. Every time I pass by their exhibits, I connect with it because it's globally inspired, feels natural, handmade with each design having its own personality. Everything in the image above is put together so well and I was especially drawn to the colours. I'm currently trying to redecorate my living room with similar blue and yellow tones. Love tag on this one!

Snob Exhibit #1

Snob Exhibit #1

Snob Exhibit #2

Snob Exhibit #2

I found Just Clay at the One of a Kind Show back in spring. There was a dearth of really talented artisans offering unique handmade artifacts and Just Clay was one of them that stood out for me. The Ontario based potter Indira Singh creates functional pieces which are beautifully painted. I ended up buying the tray on the side - perfect for a dresser for dropping my jewelry (when I have a dresser ;), for now it's in my bathroom above my vanity).

Just Clay Exhibit

Just Clay Exhibit

Just Clay Tray

Just Clay Tray

On a recent visit to CB2 while walking Queen St. for project inspiration, I came across this wall art that is constructed with folded newspaper strips. How awesome is that! It gets the mention for creativity and visual appeal. Sadly, great finds like these also sell out quickly...I've never seen this on display again.

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I have so many more amazing home/interior finds to share, but this post must get published so for now take this as instalment #1. A more frequent update of great ideas can be found on my Pinterest boards.

In a Fabric Wonderland

One of the most interesting things about being at design school is that we get to have fun field trips once in a while where we go to different showrooms and get insights from a variety of experts from kitchen planning, bathroom design to the latest fabric trends. Our latest visit was to the Robert Allen / Beacon Hill showroom at Designer's Walk, where we got an insider's view on some of the latest collections, different kinds of fabrics available, and the functioning of the showroom.

I was in fabric heaven as you can see below!

Fabric heaven

Fabric heaven

Fabric wall

Fabric wall

Some interesting things I picked up from the visit (some more obvious but still noteworthy)...

- Latest fabric collections are coming in deeper, vibrant punches of colours versus muted shades. Check out these gorgeous purple fabrics from their latest collection.

Purple Fabric Samples

Purple Fabric Samples

- Grey continues to be the popular neutral colour in fabrics. Interestingly, I've recently been drawn to more grey shades in interiors as well as fashion. It's easier to work with as a base colour whether it's on your wall or the colour of your couch.

- You'll be seeing a lot of Ikat and Damask prints in interiors. Keep in mind though that an Ikat print is not the same as a real Ikat traditional weave. An ikat print like the one below would look fab on an armchair or a footstool.

Batavia Ikat

Batavia Ikat

- One of the designs catching a lot of attention is the key maze pattern as seen here.

Finally, I loved the fabric sample board on display at the showroom...I want one of these in my room using some of my fabric samples floating around.

Fabric Sample Board

Fabric Sample Board

All in all, the visit was extremely helpful in bringing theory to practical application. I was blown away by how much there is to know about the world of fabrics. I'm now armed with more information and of course more samples for the next project.

Sari, Silk, Saffron

This blog was started as a home for curating interesting finds across the internet that spanned culture, travels, design, advertising or anything inspirational. It’s been a while since this blog was updated as things have been busy lately.

I’ve been inspired to revive this blog but to shift the focus on Interior Design & Decorating. A year back I made a goal that  I would finally pursue my dream of starting interior decorating. I’ve since enrolled myself in a program and on my way to the ‘decorator in a making’ status. I love what I do professionally (digital marketing/social media) but design has been a dream of mine for too long and I just can't shake it out of my system. I haven't been able to let go since my 10th grade Design & Tech class in Kenya. 

Why ‘Sari, Silk and Saffron’? Although, various cultures moulded me, my roots will always be South Asian. I’ve had and always will have a strong influence of the Indian culture growing up and love the rich heritage, traditions, fabrics and colours. There is a natural pull in bringing that influence in my daily life and hence the blog’s title includes an Indian inspired clothing, fabric and colour.

Sari - one of the main pieces of clothing worn by Indian (and other South Asian) women, it’s length, fabrics, style and colours make it one of the most glamourous garments for a woman. It is traditional yet modern and now has been transformed into multiple uses, slowly inspiring home furnishings and textiles.

Silk - this fabric has a long history in India and although mostly used for vibrant, rich saris, I’ve seen the most beautiful drapery and cushions designs in silk. This fabric truly is timeless and so much can be done with it to create a regal style.

Saffron - if you’ve visited India, you know India is a country of colours. Saffron is one of the popular and symbolic colours found in Indian culture because of its spiritual history. It’s warm and powerful, and can add a focal point to any space.

Through these inspirations, I will make an attempt to document my journey towards a globally inspired interior decorator. Some will be styles and trends I find online, other posts will be about my own experiences and projects. And some other posts will still be random treasures I find online not related to this field.

Keep reading for more :)

Scrabble Designer Edition

For the geek in me:

Andrew Clifford Capener has created the A-1 Scrabble designer edition. An old, but loved game, this edition is a way to revive it. It is, however particularly directed at those who have an appreciation for typography by giving them the ability to choose what font their scrabble set would come in. Packaged in a solid walnut box, the set includes 6 magnetic board pieces lined with cork for protection. Beautifully designed. Wish-listed.

(via Design Milk)

While in Berlin

Berlin is my temporary home away from home. I’m here for my 3rd visit this week to see the family. There is just so much to learn about this city so the focus of each trip has been different. The first visit was learning the history of Berlin (or whatever you can take in as the history of this city is extensive and Berlin is constantly changing to rebuild itself). My 2nd visit was about family time - my parents live here for the time being and hence Berlin keeps calling me back.

This week’s is also about the family but also to spend some time exploring the city further in the short time I have here. I've come across two really thorough Berlin guides on Design*Sponge, one that’s for the designer in you and the other a city guide. I’ll be using these to guide my exploration.

Check these out if you're ever planning a visit to Berlin:

1. Berlin City Guide

2. Berlin Design Guide