Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's All the Fuss About VOCs?

What are VOCs? VOC is an acronym for Volatile Organic Compound. VOCs refer to chemical compounds that tend to vaporize into the atmoshere. While not everyone is affected by this off-gassing, many people are very sensitive and can become quite ill.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), interior latex flat coatings must have a VOC level under 5 grams per litre to be considered Zero-VOC. IMHO, zero means zero. I'm not however, suggesting that a 100% Zero-VOC paint is a good idea. In fact, the VOCs in the paint help the paint to perform better. Certain VOCs give paint more open time. This means the paint dries slower; while impatient painters won't like the idea of a slow drying paint, it's a good thing as it self-levels, eliminating roller and brush marks.

Low-VOC paints must have a VOC level under 50g/l. Again, this is for flat latex paints. The higher the sheen, the higher the VOCs.

Another big misconception is that when you buy a "no-" or low-VOC paint, that's what you're taking home. That would be true if you took the can off the shelf and started to paint. While the base can be "no-" or low-VOC, the tints or colorants are not. Tints can more than double the VOC level. A lighter colour will have less VOCs than a darker colour.

There are two dominant testing methods for VOCs in paint. Test Method 24 was once the most popular method, but is no longer considered as accurate at low levels (not registering any VOCs or levels that are too high). Test method D6886 is now considered the more accurate test.

I personally recommend C2 paint for all my clients and indoor products. Their new LOVO line was created to surpass their premium line in quality and eco-friendliness. Low odour, great coverage and gorgeous colours (though it can also be tinted to match any paint brand or custom colour) are just a few of the pros C2 offers. All their bases also test at 25-40 g/l making them a smart choice for a low-VOC paint.

"C2 doesn't want to go green just for the sake of going green, but only if it also makes the product better."

Lee Martin, General Manager of Randall's Paints and Executive Board Member of C2 Paints.
Here are a few good websites if you want more info on VOCs:

Remodeling Recon Blog

Austin Energy

Consumer Reports

Randall's Paints

Northwest Renovation

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Great Deals at Fabricland!

There's nothing I love more than a great find...except a great find at a low price! I'm a big believer in spending money wisely and finding budget friendly solutions to home decor problems.

My favourite store right now is Fabricland. I usually hit the one in Kanata on Hazeldean since I'm in Bell's Corners, but the one on Merivale is full of interesting fabrics and accessories too. They actually had quite a few more cushion covers than the Kanata store the last time I was there. And if you're a Sewing Club Member you get all sorts of discounts, usually in the 40% - 50% off range.
Here are a few of the great finds I've come across:
A pretty pink and green scheme for my baby girl. I didn't want a baby pink cutesy room that was too precious, but being my only daughter (and ally in a house full of testosterone!) I had to have some pink. I also wanted a room that would last her a few years. Paired with creamy walls and off white furniture, the colours pop in this fresh and pretty scheme.
Pink, cream and green checked fabric - reg. $21.95/mt
Pink tweed - reg. $14.95/mt
Botanical - reg. $16.95/mt
Trim - reg. $7.95/mt
All 40% off at time of purchase
This is my main floor colour scheme. Sophisticated blue-gray and brown are accented by a brighter blue and a few green accessories (like the dog bed, which I didn't include a picture of).
Drapes - ready made - reg. $24.95 for 2 panels
Large scale floral - reg. $21.95/mt
Small scale floral - reg. $16.95/mt
Blue circles cushion cover - $14.95
I already had the dark brown cushion, but I purchased a button-making kit for $5.95 and made the button with some discontinued fabric I had lying around.
All 40% off at time of purchase.
More cushion covers. Also $14.95 each and 40% off.
Some great floral fabric. A bit hard to tell from the picture, but the flocked pattern is bright pink in some spots - you can kind of see it on the right hand side. On sale for $8.00/mt. What a steal!
More cushions. The cream feather cover was $14.95 and 50% off, I believe. The two blue ones are from Homesense (another great place to shop for deals! Can't wait for the new one at Bayshore!) and were about $16.99 each.

Monday, April 27, 2009

We Now Resume Our Regularly Scheduled Programming...

Hi Everyone!

Well, I'm back from two weeks of stress, hard work and not enough sleep. My application to the OSEB (Ontario Self Employment Benefits) program is complete. The program is basically in place to help people who have been on EI (in my case, Mat leave with my DD) to start their own business with funding and business coaching.

I had to write a mini business plan, complete with financial projections (blech), a marketing plan, etc. all within a week, which is why I was not writing anything here. Then I had to present my business with prototypes during a half hour interview. Nerve-wracking! Not really sure how it went, but fingers crossed!

So here's the idea - instead of just being a regular interior decorating service, I'd like to become more of a consultancy - in that after a detailed interview with a client (either in person or over the internet), I would do all the sourcing (paints, fabrics, yardages needed, furniture, etc.), draw a floor plan and create a board. I would then mail the package to the client so that they could implement the design as their budget and timeframe allows, but have a completed plan to refer to. That way they're not struggling with purchases, not know whether they will fit or match existing pieces and are also not committed to completing a whole room or house all at once.

Since I didn't actually have a client to work with (and very limited time to complete my "package"for the interview) I used my own bedroom and redesigned it for the most part the way I would like it (though I've already changed my's hard designing for myself!).

Here's the board and display I created for the interview:

A close up of the board:

A close up of the bed perspective:

A close up of the floor plan (done in my DS's Crayola markers and pencil crayons - my Pantone markers are still missing...grrr):

A close up of the drapery fabric - LOVE IT!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Please Hold...

Hi everyone,

I'm applying for a government program which offers funding and business coaching to new businesses and so I'm going to be taking a small break from Blogland; about a week or so should do it. The application process is fairly involved and competitive and I need to devote my attentions to it. I have a few posts on the go, so there will be lots to read when I get back.

Wish me luck!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Rules? Bah!

I've been toying with writing about decorating "rules" for a bit, but after reading House and Home's May issue, I decided to stop toying with the idea and get on it.

I often tell clients that there are no more rules when it comes to decorating, in response to their questions "Do people still do that?" or "Can I do that? Does it work?". We are at a point in interior design where anything goes. It's your house - if you like it, go for it! Be brave! Be bold!

Gone are the matchy-matchy days of the exact same pattern on the bedding, drapes and wallpaper, or the sofa/loveseat/chair set right off the showroom floor. It's too much. I can't handle it. Where's the creativity in it?

It's all about mixing and matching, and making your home reflect who you are and what you like. Now if you like a pattern so much as to put it on every available surface, all the power to you. I don't want to offend anyone here.

I'm a great believer in what I call" eyeballing". Not the most glamourous of design terms, but I think it's a pretty accurate one. Have you ever noticed that while following the "rules", like hanging your art with the center 60" from the floor or the bottom 8"-10" from the back of the sofa that it still doesn't look right?

That's where "eyeballing" comes in. Sometimes you just have to throw away your tape measure and eyeball it.

Same goes for fabrics - maybe the colours are a little off from one another, or not every colour in your palette is represented or you think you might have too many patterns - if it feels right to you, it is. Which is really the moral of the story here.

But wait! Back to House and Home, what really inspired me to get off my bum and start typing. The cover said exactly what I'd been thinking of for this post - Decorating Rules Worth Breaking. Here are a few examples:

Think Big With Lights

They say the "rule" for lighting a dining table is to find a light 12" smaller than your table and hang it 30"-36" above the table top.The "broken rule" says to find a shade as wide as the table and hang it 30"-32" above the top.

IMHO, the classic pic's light was WAY too small and high, but the updated pics was HUGE! Ridiculously so. Maybe just the angle of the shot.

Downsize Mouldings

Rule: wainscotting should be the lower third of the wall, up to at least 30". Update: make a super-fat baseboard/super small wainscotting 18"-20" from the floor.

Ok, what? It looks hor-awful! It makes the scale of everything look off. It was just weird.

If I'm going to divide up a wall, I like to do it just under half way, or up high as a plate rail. It does depend on the space though.

There was more, but you can see where I'd eyeball some of this stuff. I'm sure there are hardcore designers out there who would be wagging their fingers and tsk-ing at me, but Bah! to them. Design is passionate, emotional and personal. Sometimes the rules just don't apply.

I’m a Barbie Girl!

What woman doesn't have fond memories of her Barbies? I know I do (except a lot of my "Barbies" were actually Jem and the Holograms dolls). The endless hours of dress-up, soap opera story lines and of course for the design divas, the arranging and re-arranging of the furniture.

Good news! There's a new full-size Barbie Home Collection on the horizon!



While perusing May's Chatelaine I came across a beautiful Louis XVI oval back side chair with a stylized Barbie on the back. Apparently the collection includes cushions, art, bedding, rugs and more, ranging in price from $40 to $2000. Sounds pretty reasonable!



Bad news! I can't figure out where to get it!

I tried Chatelaine’s Shopping Guide, but it doesn’t seem to be there.  I’ve Googled every combination of words I can think of only to end up looking at doll sized furniture.  My next step is to call Chatelaine, but since it’s Good Friday they’re not open…so we wait.

I did, however, come across Jonathan Adler Loves Barbie.  This “happy chic” American designer made Barbie’s Malibu Dream House a reality in time for her 50th birthday last month.  According to several sources, his Barbie home collection is set to hit US shelves in September 2009.  It must be all hush-hush as I can’t find a whole lot about it.  I’m also somewhat uncertain as to whose home these pieces are for…ours or Barbie’s.  The Louis XVI chair seems a little more elegant than Jonathan Adler’s style, which is bright, funky and a little kitschy. 


 Barbie’s original cardboard home in 1960


Barbie’s new 3500 sq.ft Malibu dream house designed by Jonathan Adler


 So this is where Barbie and Ken…uh…nevermind 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Speaking of Sweet Things...

Although this isn't design related, (unless I'm going to turn this blog into a lifestyle blog a la Martha Stewart, though as my husband can attest, I am NO Martha Stewart!) I had to share this coffee cake recipe because it's so simple and so good!

It also makes your house smell fantastic and would be great to bake before an open house if you're selling.


1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
4 tbsps. butter or margerine
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1tbsp. sugar mixed with
1 1/2 tsps. cinnamon, reserved
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees
-Butter an 8" sq. cake pan
-Mix sugar, flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl
-Work in butter or marg. until mixture resembles coarse meal
-Add egg and milk and blend until you get a sticky batter
-Spoon into pan and smooth out
(it's very sticky, so don't worry about it being
really smooth - the lumpiness gives it character!)
-Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over top
-Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean
(it took 30 minutes in my oven)
This coffee cake is great because it's quite plain, so you can dress it up by adding chopped nuts, fruit, chocolate, even some instant coffee! Get creative! My mum (who gave me this recipe) suggested doubling the sugar/cinnamon mixture and swirling half through the batter. Try it at home and let me know how it turned out!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Big Slice of Cherry Pie

This is exactly what Ottawa needs more of - businesswomen working together to help each other out. Cherry Pie was a networking event for women that I attended last night and I'm really glad I went. It was a lot of fun and I met some really great women.

Cherry Pie was held at Lago Bar and Grill, a chic and contempory new restaurant, on Dow's Lake. It was basically run like a trade show with booths throughout the main dining area and offering everything from eco-friendly baby products to custom cupcakes to spray tanning.

Here is one of the
owners of Lago.... whose name I missed because of the noise. Sorry!

Some fellow businesswomen having a good time.

One of my favourite things was the Barter Wall. You could put up a huge neon sticky note with your services and what you were looking for. Mine said "I do: INTERIOR DECORATING I need: SURPRISE ME!" I thought it was a really neat way to let others know what you offer without having to introduce yourself to strangers. I guess that's what networking is all about, but it's just not my style.

Here I am with my good friend Jennifer Spallin. She's a CFP with Richardson Partners Financial Ltd. and your best bet if you're looking for sound financial advice. She's also a very cool chick, for someone who crunches numbers all day!
For more information about Cherry Pie see their website at: