Monday, 30 May 2011

Dan's cardinal sins of decorating. Outdoor edition.

Now that it's finally warmed up outside, rather than throwing my shoes in the car and heading to the gym I've been able to do three of my favourite things. First, I get to jog around the block. Second, I'm getting some fresh air and don't have to worry about being intimated by all the scary jocks and lastly, as I'm jogging and enjoying the fresh air / sunshine / jockless combo I get to critique the homes around my neighbourhood.

And though there are a lot of really nice homes in and around my neighbourhood, there also a few that could use a bit of, to say this. I'm sure we've all had this happen to us - we've been jogging, walking or driving down a street filled with beautiful homes when suddenly we come across one that that stands out - for all the wrong reasons.
Sometimes you'll come across a place that just makes you cringe - maybe it's the paint colour, or the landscaping or perhaps the rusty old Buick parked in the front yard. If you're like me you'll stop, put your iPod on pause and just stand there, almost in awe of whatever it is that the homeowner has done to unintentionally add attention to their residence.

front porch couch

And though we all want people to stop and stare at our homes from time to time, we want them to looking at the elements of our residences that make a great impression rather than having them wonder what the hell we were smoking when we were considering our home's exterior finish and landscaping.

ugly back yard garbage junk pile abandoned car Mesa Arizona home house for sale
Therefore, to help you keep from having your neighbours picket your home and throw eggs at you any time you try to lounge on that old couch that's currently sitting on your front deck, I present to you my cardinal sins of decorating - outdoor edition.

1. Christmas decorations should only be seen at Christmas time.

christmas decorations and lights still up in summer

I'm sorry, but when it comes to Christmas decorations, I am not one of those individuals that believes that it's okay to leave them on your house throughout the year. I do not want to see your icicle lights hanging across your garage after the month of January. I don't care how cold it is where you live. The same goes for inflatable   snowmen and other giant characters. I'm still seeing lights all over the place, but luckily I haven't seen any Virgin Marys, reindeer or over-sized cutouts during my evening runs. If you've still got Christmas stuff outside, do me, and your neighbours a favour by packing it up.

2. Landscaping with rocks, old cars and gravel will only make your neighbours hate you.
Before considering any landscaping projects in your front yard consider walking or driving around the block and taking a look at everyone is doing. Well, maybe not everyone else. If someone has a Buick parked in the garage and unkempt hedges, keep driving. But no, seriously, take a drive. Get a feel for what others are doing. Grass? Shrubs? Maybe a couple of tasteful looking flowerbeds leading up the driveway? All good ideas. Giant rocks? Old vehicle parts in flower beds? Giant solar frogs in flowerbeds? Not good ideas. Not sure what you should be doing? find a friend that has a good looking yard and ask them what they'd do. Or, consider bringing a landscape designer or even a landscape design student in to give you some tips and ideas.

3. Colour me wrong. Finishing your home in a colour so ugly and garish that I should come over and slap you.

The Purple House Italian Restaurant - Homemade Italian Cuisine

There are people that have taste and there are those that don't. Some people are born with it and should be allowed to pick out the colour of their home. The people that aren't born with it should not be allowed near paint chips. 

It's one thing if you live in a unique environment where everyone selects bright and unique colours for their homes. Where a bright purple or or mint green home might be encouraged. But when you live in suburban Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada - you decide to go out on a limb and paint your house pink, I will come over and slap you.
Though you might think that you're being unique and are creating a home that has a distinct feel to it, what you're really doing is offending your neighbours and creating what will probably be known as the neighbourhood eyesore. Again, drive around and see what your neighbours are doing - if everyone is doing earth-toned colours, it's probably a good idea to stick with lots of earth-tones. Are people sticking to the tried and true whites, browns, reds, etc. to accompany their post-war style homes? Again, probably a good idea to follow suit. If you really want that bright colour....consider using it as an accent colour for planters or for cushions on your patio furniture, or inside where your neighbours don't have to see it.
Still feeling lost? Hit up your local paint store for some advice. While the summer student working behind the desk might not be the best person to be giving ideas on what colours you should go with, you will find some great books and pamphlets produced by the different paint companies that show classic colour combinations.

4. Murals do not belong on garage doors.
While I can appreciate all of the hard work and creativity that goes into creating a mural, I'm one of those guys that strongly believes that they have no place on garage doors. Call me a prude, or a whatever you want, but seriously, I'd rather not see a lovely forest scene on the front of your home anytime I drive by your place.

I've only come across one mural door during my time in the city, but it seriously takes the cake for being one of the ugliest - I'd like to throw a picture of it up here, but I have this goofy fear that somehow the homeowner will discover it and be offended by my comments. Then again, that's kind of the point of this whole post. The particular door that I'm thinking about is on a newer home, finished in pink stucco. This particular home has a double car garage with a door that has recreated a wharf complete with fishing boats and lobsters. At some point I'll be brave enough to drive by and take a picture. It's pretty horrific. I'm surprised that the homeowners aren't being egged on a regular basis....cruel but true.

5. Unkempt landscaping will not win you any friends (unless you like small rodents).
Here's a secret that I'd like to share with you - yards require upkeep from time to time. If you're going to have grass, shrubs, trees or flowerbeds, chances are that at some point or another you're going to have to get out there are cut that grass, trim those shrubs and branches and dig through those flowerbeds to keep them looking good.

Being the apartment dweller that I am, I'm stuck with pots. But there are times when I'm wandering around and I see beautiful homes where the homeowners have let grass take over their front flowerbeds. Gorgeous perennials and shrubbery being choked out by bush grass and dandelions. There have been a few times where I've been tempted to pull off my roller blades (that's right....I'm one of those guys) and walk across someone's front yard to start weeding. I'm not saying you have to go all Martha on me and plan thirty different perennials, etc, etc, but make what you've got look good. Pickup some check annuals or look for perennials and bi-annuals that grow quickly and keep weeds away.

And while I could go and on and on with further cardinal sins (and I might just have to) I'll basically sum up this post by saying that your home should be someplace that you take pride in, not an excuse for your neighbours to gossip and discuss how lazy you are. Think about it - you've invested a pile of coin into purchasing your home. Why not retain or add to the value of your residence? Not only will your home end-up looking good, but your neighbours will actually want to talk to you and you'll feel good about where you're add and over what is yours - regardless of whether it's an 800 SF bungalow or a 3000 SF suburban split-level. 

That and I won't be forced to come over and slap you.

Why have what's on the left when you can have (with a bit of work) the home on the right?!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Weekend project? I think so.

Oh the lowly shipping pallet. Designed to get goods from point A to point B and then cast aside faster than you can say the word pallet.

And while a bulk of these pieces are destined for the landfill after one or two uses, some of these pieces get a second life.
That's right, a few lucky pallets are given a purpose other than being tossed on top of college frat party bonfires...some of them end up as headboards. You read that right. Headboards.

While others end up as daybeds.

Intrigued yet? I know I am! While sourcing out images for 'How Crate it is' I came across a couple pictures of shipping crates that had been re-purposed and given fresh new lives as furniture and home accent pieces. This afternoon while trying to focus on a boring project at work, I kept thinking about these pallet projects. I even went as far walking out back to the warehouse at work to see what was available.

And while I haven't figured out what I'd like to create out of old shipping pallets, or how I'll get them home, I'm totally into the idea of giving some lucky pallets a new lease on life. If I could, I'd even go all out and try something nifty like the pallet accent wall (where can I find that buck?!?).

Wanna know the best part - warehouses and retailers have stack upon stack of pallets that they'd love to give to you. That's right. No coin out of your pocket! With a little elbow grease, perhaps some paint or stain, pulls or casters you can end up with a piece that's uniquely you!

Here are a few more of my favourite pallet creations -

And lastly, how sweet would this bad boy look in a retail space at Christmas? When the time comes and I'm in my own shop (a guy can dream) I'll be stealing this idea!

Let your imagination run wild!


All pallet project imagery -

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Thank you Oprah.

So this week marks the end of Oprah's talk show and everywhere you turn people are looking back at some of the shows biggest and best moments. Every entertainment show seems to be showing the same old, same old - 

Oprah wheeling out a red wagon filled with fat (I actually remember watching this with my Mom)....

Tom Cruise (we won't even go there....I don't want 'them' to come after me).

You don't need Kitty Kelley's new biography 'Oprah' to brush up on Winfrey's most shocking moments. From her dates with Roger Ebert in the 80's to publicly reprimanding author James Frey for lying in his memoirs, the soon to be ex-Queen of Daytime Talk is an open book.<BR><BR><B>The couch jump heard 'round the world</B><BR><BR>In 2005, the then 42-year-old Tom Cruise had just started dating actress Katie Holmes. By the time he made it to Winfrey's couch in May of that year, he was quite literally ready to burst. After a few questions about his relationship with Holmes, Cruise suddenly jumped up on the couch, wildly shaking his fists like a champion. The shocking act got immediate attention nationwide and even spawned a new term for going overboard, 'jumping the couch.'

That time she made soccer moms everywhere cry when she gave away Pontiacs.

<B>"You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car!"</B><BR><BR> Those were the magic words for the 276 people in the audience on September 14th, 2004, as Winfrey gave a Pontiac G6 (worth nearly $30,000 a pop) to everyone. She later told USA Today, "I wanted it to be bigger than Santa Clause and not to be an act of a fairy godmother, because that's not who I am. Who I am is a person who understands what it means to give back." Indeed!

And who can forget Oprah's favourite things? (side note....I tried to find the Maya Rudolph SNL parody, but no cigar).

All that aside, what in my opinion is the best thing Oprah ever did for us?

She introduced to us to one Mr. Nate Berkus.

Yup, that's right. After 25 seasons of Oprah, I've come to the conclusion that the best thing to come out of her show is designer Nate Berkus. And while I could go on and on (and possibly on) about how easy on the eyes he is, I'm here to share and discuss his design.

Nate has an awesome sense of style that's classic yet fresh and throws in unexpected elements. I love the sense of formality that's anything but stuffy. Yup, pretty much American classic at its finest. And the best part - Ms. Winfrey has given Nate an awesome platform to showcase his talent. So while she might be saying goodbye to her own program, she's recently helped Nate launch a program of his own.

And while I could ramble on for awhile, I'll cut to the chase. Here are some of my fave Nate designs -


Guess what?

Guess what? I'm going to be guest blogging over at Freckled Nest tomorrow! Leigh-Ann is a real doll who has an awesome blog & web design business! Plus, she's also from Winnipeg! She's currently enjoying a much deserved break and asked that I share my favourite Winnipeg thrift hot spots with her audience. I'm more than happy to be doing so and hope that you stop on by to learn more about where I find my treasures!


Dan's guide to picking out a couch (and liking it afterwards).

In most of our homes, the couch, sofa, davenport, chesterfield or divan is the focal point of our living room. Generally, it's a major investment that isn't as easy to switch out as the accents that also make up the room.  It's a buy that shouldn't be made without doing a bit of homework. Walking into a store and picking out the first piece that's somewhat comfy is not the answer. Trust me on this one.

I made the ultimate mistake when purchasing my couch. I panic shopped and purchased an in-stock piece from a big box retailer - it was a Tuesday evening and I realized that I was going to be having company over that Saturday. Realizing that I wanted to have somewhere for them to sit other than the floor, I decided to hit up as many stores as I could, as quickly as I could.

My camel coloured beast right after delivery
Though I ended up a piece that was in my budget and is of decent enough quality, there are a number of things that I will do differently when I purchase my next couch. Therefore I offer to you, my own tips and guidelines to make sure that you end up with a piece that you truly love, rather than a camel coloured beast that looks out of place with the rest of your space (I'm really not bitter about it....).
Tip Number One - Don't panic shop.

That's a given. But seriously, take the time to wander around showrooms, furniture stores, thrift shops, etc. to see which pieces stand out to and really catch your attention. I did this, but when it came down to crunch it, rather than let my guests sit on my lap or on folding furniture, I jumped the gun and purchased the first piece that looked decently made, fit into my budget and wouldn't look horrendous in my space.

anthropologie decor
Tip Number Two - Test drive potential suitors.

Get your mind out of the gutter!! When I was wandering around the furniture store where I bought my couch, I sat on a few pieces, but I didn't dive into them, or flop around on them like I would a piece in my own home. Think about how you live and how you use your couch. Will the piece be sat on when you're entertaining? Do you nap on the couch? Do you want a cozy couch where you can snuggle up with your partner and watch a movie without being squished? My advice to you - jump around on showroom pieces, flop into chairs, lay on them, make yourself cozy in them. If you're going to be spending the coin, make sure you get what you want. Take it from me, there's nothing worse than spending half of the evening feeling like I'm going to fall off of the couch...and neither of us are big.

Tip Number Three - Know your style.

To be fair, my camel coloured beast isn't the ugliest thing that I've ever seen. It's actually quite handsome. That said, it's not what I was originally going for. It really isn't me. I wanted something casual. Something big and cozy with overstuffed seat and back cushions....a piece that I could basically live on. I wanted a sofa with a removable slipcover that I could throw in the wash so that I wouldn't have to worry about getting jam or whatever on the upholstery. Instead, I've got classic, formal and micro suede that, pardon the language, is a real bitch to keep clean. I hate the upholstery on my couch. It's a dust magnet and I swear that at some point Mister is going to knock me out if I 'pull a Dan' and go all crazy on him for having a piece of cheese resting on one of the arms. I got it scotch guarded which helps, but I'll never go with micro suede again. That said, there are people who adore micro suede for whatever reason....

Tip Number Four - Spend as much as you can.

When it comes to purchasing a couch you want to buy the best piece that you can possibly afford. Seriously. You should look at your couch as an investment piece - the more that you can afford to invest, the longer your piece will last. Sure you could go to your nearest big box and buy a door crasher two piece living room set (never, ever do that) for the princely sum of $799.99.... but seriously, how long do you expect that set to last? You might get three years - possibly five out of the set. Typically these pieces are import, which isn't necessarily a bad thing - there are a number of great import pieces, but a bulk of these pieces feature sub-par fabrics, stitching and fill. 

When it comes down to it, you can buy a 'choice' couches for $499.99 to $699.99, 'decent' couch for $799.99 thru $999.99 and a 'good' couch for $999.99 and up. I'm not even going to discuss those couches that you see for prices higher than the cost of my last car...I love designer pieces, but really, who of us can afford pieces that expensive?

Avoid at all costs (for obvious reasons)
Plus, when it comes to purchasing selections from your local big box furniture outlet, you're often limited to colours and finishes shown on the sales floor. If I hadn't panicked, I would have waited 6 to 8 weeks for my custom upholstery selection. It's totally worth it when you can get the colour and finish that you really want.

Related to this, I bring you my next tip -

Tip Number Five - Pick your couch before you pick your paint colour.

This is a tip that I failed to follow in my own home. I wasn't sure when I was going to purchase my couch and wasn't prepared to live with 'rental white' walls, so went ahead and painted. However, being that I painted my walls in earth tones, I lucked out for the most part. That said, I am thinking of shaking up the colour scheme this summer. The last thing that you want is to end-up with a room that looks like this...
And lastly, I bring to you, 

Tip Number Six - Think outside the box.

There are a gazillion furniture stores, designer boutiques and online retailers that sell some amazing couches. However, if you're open minded (I hope you are!) why not wander down to your nearest thrift store to see what's on offer. I'm serious.

Sure you'll see a lot of ugly upholstery, rips, tears and mysterious stains. That and the bad 90s marshmallow upholstery that's been hitting up thrift stores as of late....but seriously, there's a lot of great pieces to be found. Look beyond the ugly upholstery, rips, tears and you'll see some great classic shapes. These  pieces can be snapped up dirt cheap and allow you access to a 'semi-custom' piece. Thrift stores are filled with well constructed pieces looking for a second life. With widely available for under $150 + whatever you choose for fabric and finishing and the cost of upholstering you can have a piece that will last longer than anything found at a 'don't pay for 15 month' sale. That and the piece will be uniquely yours, which I dig.

So there you have it. My guide to picking out a couch (and liking it afterwards). The only question left is who's out there that wants to buy a slightly used camel tone, micro suede, Canadian made couch? Just kidding (although, if you're me up)! I'll be living with my couch for a few more years (I think), and I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to make it work it my space. If all else fails and I get sick of the camel micro suede there's always the option of a slipcover & throw cushions!


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