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Design Inspiration at ICFF

My head is spinning with design inspiration from the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in NYC. I love this show as it really gives me a glimpse into the direction of interior design. If I had to pick one word to describe the overlying theme, it would be artisanal as so many pieces had a handmade feel or look to them.


This desk by Stilvoll is a work of art. Comprised of 400 pieces, it converts from a standing work table, with a built in easel, to a standard height desk by adjusting the number of blocks in the legs. A wonderful example of form and function.IMG_3798resizeWorkstead produces gorgeous lighting and furniture. I salivated over the entire vignette of  leather chair, ottoman, table and brass lamp.IMG_3807resize

Just look at the detail and workmanship in the doors of the credenza by Ethan Abramson. Live edge is still very current on wood pieces of furniture.



This handblown glass from Toronto glass artist Jeff Goodman was gorgeous. It had a matte finish and beautiful colours. I especially liked the special process they use to produce the white glass with the textured appearance. This process also makes the glass very durable.IMG_3791resize More handblown glass, this time by Buoyant. The cluster of seeded clear glass creates a stunning chandelier. I would love one of the table lamps for soft ambient lighting.IMG_3775resize

Shakúlt creates glass that looks like it was spun out of honey. The texture of the globes throw beautiful shadows when lit. Super dramatic when the globes are clustered.IMG_3829resize


Bathrooms were not exempt from the artisan trend. Concrete is a terrific material to create organic forms. Lowinfo did just that with this series of concrete hand washed basins.IMG_3773resize This line of bathroom fixtures by Cielo has a beautiful matte finish and unique colours making them look like they were made in the pottery studio.IMG_3774resize Victoria + Albert designed this freestanding vanity and sink with a blend of matte and glossy finishes. Note the biscuit colour making a comeback.IMG_3794resizeThese plumbing fixtures by Rubinet have also been designed to have a handmade feel. Some look like they were put together from copper piping!IMG_3828resize


This was just a fraction of what I saw at ICFF. Many new ideas will percolate out of what I absorbed and will be reflected in my future designs. I hope you enjoyed my tour!


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My “A” Team

As I was finishing up some last minute details on a clients bathroom renovation, I thought about how lucky I am to have an “A” team of people that I can count on to get my job done properly. My team will do favours, rush orders, provide extra services, give better prices, and be there to answer questions and help solve problems when they arise.


Now this hasn’t happened by accident. As I regularly use the same trades and suppliers, they have gotten to know me and appreciate my business. They know that their great service will pay back in my continued business and in recommendations to clients and friends.

This is not to say that you can’t walk in off the street and get good service somewhere. I am talking about the above and beyonds that come from developing a relationship with someone. This alone is a great reason to work with a designer who has such connections. All the details, all the headaches, and all the communications will be taken care of for you.

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Here’s a perfect example. A client of mine was having a kitchen redone. The granite was selected and we were waiting for the cabinetry to be installed for the final countertop measure. The cabinetry ended up being delayed and this left a very small window of three days to have the granite cut and installed before the fabricator closed down for holidays. Normally, this takes 10-14 working days. Now, this was a family with 3 young children, and my “A” team granite guy did not want her to be without a kitchen for 3 weeks. So, as a favour to me, he managed to measure, cut and install the countertops in that narrow timeframe. How is that for service?

This is something important to think about next time you are undertaking some renovations at home. Hiring an interior decorator will save you time, money and headaches so you don’t make those expensive mistakes! Otta Decorate would love to help you.


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Design Resolutions

This is the time of year that resolutions abound. Rather than focus on the popular diet and lifestyle kind,  I thought it would be appropriate to share some design resolutions near and dear to my heart. I have been guilty of all these over the years, but now I am much older and wiser and should know better!


  • Don’t buy something just because it is on sale or cheap. You may be able to find some perfect deals that will make your heart sing, but more often you will be ultimately disappointed with your purchase and it will cost you more in the long run when you need to replace it.
  • Don’t buy anything you don’t truly love. Otherwise you are just settling and it won’t have long term staying power.  Plus, you are guaranteed that it will work with all the other pieces you have collected that you also love. Your home will be a happy place because you are surrounded by things you love.
  • Don’t follow trends. This especially goes for big ticket items like large pieces of furniture, bathrooms and kitchens. They have 5-10 year cycles if you go trendy. Instead, keep the main bones neutral and classic. Then add in smaller touches that  reflect trends you love and that are easy to switch out when you tire of them.
  • Don’t be afraid of paint. Like they say, it’s only paint and it won’t cost you a fortune to change!  A new colour can completely update your room and a fresh coat of the same colour will feel fresh!
  • Don’t try to completely finish a room in one go. A well designed room should look like it has evolved over time, not purchased intact from a furniture store showroom. If you follow the above points, then this will happen naturally. Be patient. It takes time to find pieces you truly love and to collect meaningful treasures on your journey through life.


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Office Design vs. Residential Design

I have just put the finishing touches on my latest office design project and thought it appropriate to reflect on the differences in designing an office space compared to a clients home. This project was for Montreal’s Root Data Center; a hip, youthful startup with a very limited budget. Creativity was going to play an extra big role in this one!


The initial consultation works the same for both types of projects. I need to get a feel for where the client is coming from; their likes, dislikes and wishes. We talk about the overall feel they would like to achieve in the space and how it will be used.  We talk budget; how much they think they need to spend and then, realistically, what they will need to spend to get the look they desire. Then, off I go to create a design concept to be presented at our next meeting.


Now for the differences. In office design there are more users to please; employees who need a stimulating work environment to keep them happy and productive. There are clients who visit the office and need to be met with a design that appropriately projects the company’s image. Existing space needs to be divided into a reception area, offices, board/meeting room, washrooms, staff/client kitchen, workout area, employee “playroom”, and the whole secure area of the data centre’s core business. There are also many more building code rules to adhere to in office design.


Finishes need to be more durable than in a residence due to increased wear and tear. It is not easy to find office furniture that looks great at a good price. This is where the creativity comes in! In this case, I modified the reception desk with corrugated metal to better fit into the overall design. As a wall treatment for the feature wall behind the reception desk, I used panels of inexpensive cement board, fastened with large bolts, and spaced so the orange paint behind shows through.  A custom neon sign mounted on orange corrugated metal punctuates this wall. The seating area was furnished with blocks of multi coloured upholstered cubes. They are office quality. But the backrest was customized by covering it with the cement board rather than the laminate from the manufacturer. The seating arrangement is grounded by the large “art installation” mounted on the wall above. Because the seats are low and backless, something substantial was needed behind them. I took a pallet from the construction waste pile and wound orange and yellow extension cords around the boards and finished it off with a construction work light. This was low budget and has big impact. It also ties in the raw wood from the “packing crate” coat closet that divides the large reception area into two spaces, yet can be wheeled out of the way when one large open space is desired.


My client wasn’t happy with the look of the boardroom tables available in his price range. We decided to look at other options and found a local furniture maker who customized one of his table designs to make it seat up to 10. The large thick planks of wood and steel beam legs give it just the industrial look we were after. The price was comparable to the low price range office furniture we looked at, but this table is much nicer to the touch and will last longer. Thinking outside the box works in commercial design as well as in residential!


Artwork, due to the budget, was mostly sourced at Homesense and provides pops of colour and texture throughout the space, just like at home. There was no need for area rugs on the polished concrete floors so that differs from residential design. In summary, despite the differences in how a space is used, good design is the common thread in both office design and residential design. It is still critical to understand and listen to your client every step of the way in order to pull everything together to give them a look they will love!


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