Sunday, December 21, 2008

Magnetic Roman Blind and Valance Headrail

Muslin for the blind, a jacquard for the valance.
This decorative valance and functioning Roman Blind  are attached to the metal door with my latest goodie: magnetic headrails.  What makes this one different is that a valance or shade can be attached to it with velcro or staples. I've been thinking about this and trying different things for quite awhile. I've  got it now - the blind functions and the rod is secure.   And no holes in the metal door. If you would like more information or would like to order a rod, e-mail me at

How do I decide if I should slipcover or re-upholster?

 Most of us became aware of slipcovers in the early 90’s when the  ‘Shabby Chic’ style of covering  became well known. They were loose fitting covers, skirts puddling on the floor, often using several different fabrics. Custom slipcovers  have changed and now  are usually very fitted. ‘Fit like a Glove’ - that is the school of construction I follow.   Slipcovers are everywhere. Spotlighted on Cityline recently and featured in Style at Home in a summer issue  they are experiencing  a huge resurgence. Slipcovering is a great way to add style and detail to furniture without spending a lot of money. Consider the following:

Slipcovers are now less expensive than upholstery.  I learned a new way of doing covers last year and now, instead of several days to cover a piece, I can do it  in less than half the time and I don’t need to have the piece in my workroom. So I can charge a lot less  and you save money.    A wing backed chair uses about 8 meters of fabric, the cost of fabric for the chair on the  cover page of my website was less than $60.00 - we waited for the fabric to go on super-sale.

Slipcovering, if done correctly, will appear as if it is upholstered. (Take a look at the slipcovered pieces at  Fabric choice is not  as  limited as upholstery because almost any natural fiber  or blend fabric of medium weight  can work - from drapery fabric to denim.  Consider the possibility of using a Sunbrella fabric - one that won’t fade in the sun for use on chairs for the patio or sunroom. 

They can be removed for cleaning.   Dry-cleaning is recommended  unless you have an industrial sized  laundry setup. You don’t want to put 10 to 16 meters of fabric into a regular washer/dryer.  Ironing the pieces would be nearly impossible.  

You can have additional cushion covers made so spills won’t matter quite so much. You can mix and match fabrics and use home decor trim.  We often see Christmas cushions appearing at this time of year - why not have a slipcover made that uses Christmas fabric as well? Or use a great print for a summer cover, a chenille for winter.   

Slipcovering does not interfere with the original covering - for sentimental or antique reasons you may not want to damage the original upholstery. 

 A slipcover is  a garment for your furniture.  It can’t solve all  the problems underneath but it can certainly camouflage some of  them.  

So - to slipcover or re-upholster? If you like what you have read so far, consider slipcovering. If your piece  squeaks, wobbles or sags  it is probably a candidate for re-upholstery. 

 A word of caution: I recently  purchased a pre-made  chair slipcover.   It was made by the most well known brand of ready made slipcovers and I wanted to use it in my slipcover displays - showing the differences between a ready made and a custom made cover.  It  cost just over $100.00 and it looked so bad I returned it. I knew that even if I put a big sign on it saying ‘ready made’  someone  seeing it in a slipcover display would assume that I had done it.   Trust me, one size does NOT fit all.  It doesn’t in pantyhose  and it doesn’t in  ready-made slipcovers.

Now - for all of you who have been told that sleeper or pull out  sofas can’t be slipcovered - the good news: new techniques and products have made it possible to do these pieces as well.  

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How much does it cost to heat one window?

If your double paned window is 50” x 50” , and you heat with gas, an estimated $37.00 per year  of your heating bill is going out the window.  This ONE window only. How many windows do you have in your home?   With the right window coverings you could save almost half of this money.

What happens to this $37.00 with different types of covering?

Type                 Estimate of Dollars saved/year      % saved

A venetian ( mini)  blind                        $1.12            3%

An unlined curtain                                $.74             2%

A top of the line cell shade                  $15.32             42%

An interlined blackout drape             $16.00           44%

An interlined, snug fit Roman blind   $18.00           48%

Same window, electric heat, will cost you  about $27.00 per year.

Type                       Estimate of Dollars saved/year     % saved

With a venetian                                  $.63             2%

With an unlined curtain                        $.42            1.5%

A top of the line cell shade                   $8.66              32%

 Interlined/blackout  drape                  $9.00              33%

An interlined, snug fit Roman blind    $10.00             37%

I’ve been in this business for about 20 years and I know that good insulation is provided by cellular shades and insulated drapes and blinds but we haven’t been able to actually estimate a dollar figure on per window saving  until recently. The upsurge of interest in R-Value has made a lot of  new information available. I wanted to share this with all of you who are concerned about your heating bills; as you can see  there is a way to decrease the amount of money going out the windows without  actually replacing those windows.

 If you would like an estimate on  how much your windows are costing you and what solutions are available to you  within your budget, e-mail me at or  check my website and click the link  to Articles.  I can give you estimates on heat loss cost  for single, double and triple glass, electric or gas heat. 

I would like to thank my sister, Judy Erlam, for  successfully navigating the murky waters of cubic feet per gigajoule, degree days and fuel cost multipliers  in order  design the system that makes it possible for me t0 provide you with the estimates.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saving Money on Draperies

 I often hear that custom made drapes are just too expensive. Here are 3 of  my favorite stories illustrating that  drapes can be done without taking out a second mortgage. One of the easiest ways to save money on drapes is to  establish a good relationship with your decorator/sewer, make a plan that includes a budget and be willing to wait just a bit.

I recently did a bedroom window with a blackout Roman Blind, 2 floor length side panels and a beautiful Empire valance with matching trim.  The client wanted a specific type of floral print and the color scheme  of mustard yellow-green and burgundy was somewhat unusual- but beautiful.  I showed her photographs of similar windows I had previously done and did a design of the treatment onto a photo of her window so she could see exactly what the finished look would be and, after  we looked at a lot of fabric samples, ( I have a library of about 200 fabric books ), I felt I had a very clear understanding of the fabric she wanted.  

We did find fabric in one of my books that was wonderful, but at $60.00/meter it would have been a real stretch on her budget.  We agreed to wait for the fabric to ‘appear’ and she, bless her heart, agreed to trust me.   About 3 weeks later I found just what we were looking for on sale in a store in another town. The original price on the fabric was $29.98/ meter. We got it for $6.00/ meter; the print and color were perfect.  We saved about $550.00.

The fabric was a top quality cotton print, no flaws, no mis-printing.  Often these large stores get fabric that is the end of the run and are able to sell it at very low prices.  Or they deal directly with the fabric mills for all their fabric and are able to re-order fabric  or order large quantities at very competitive prices.

 Last spring a client picked a fabric from a book  of  one of my suppliers - in California.  The day the fabric was delivered, at an end cost of $74.00/meter, another client brought  me the same fabric -that she had purchased in Vancouver for $26.98/meter.  I talked to the owner of that store and found that the store buys directly from the mills. Now I order from the store, or send my clients there.

One of my favorite  ‘wait and it will come’  stories is Miras ’ kitchen. She painted her kitchen a glorious color - called  Pear. Except that it was Granny Smith Apple Green. She loved it.  I  was having a lot of trouble finding  a small plaid fabric  with apple green and terra cotta ( the floor color) .   A country kitchen, big French doors, huge over-the-sink window and a large picture window. We needed about 35 meters of fabric and we knew we wouldn’t be able to find that much  in a store, so special order was our only option.  If I could find it. 

 As a last resort I called one of my fabric suppliers and told her the story, asking her to keep her eyes  peeled for something we could use. She called me back later that day and said she had gone to the warehouse and found just what we were looking for and because of the unusual color  the fabric was on sale for $5.00 a meter.   She sent us a sample and it was exactly what we were looking for.  Mira and I were doing a lot of work together so I passed the fabric cost saving directly to her. She saved about $1000.00 on this one room.  I made my money on  the construction, the drapes were fantastic and my client and I were both happy.

Developing a good rapport with your decorator/sewer will save you money. If she is good she will keep looking for just the right fabric, at just the right price for you. She  wants you to be happy, you want to have the look you want without over-spending. Take your time. It is almost always worth the wait.

Have a look at the brown and yellow bedroom on my website It was done totally with Fabricland fabric, total  fabric cost for window treatments, chair and bedspread was under $250.00 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Valances on In-opening Doors

Putting valances above doors is  a stickler.  Selecting window coverings  can be frustrating if the placement and type of window does not lend itself to the style of drapery we want. 

I am often confronted with the necessity of  putting a valance on a door that opens in to the room. This is most often French doors  with windows on either side and the top of the French door is a different distance from the ceiling than the side windows.  Problem number one is that the doors open in, and therefore it is not possible to mount a valance above the door.  Problem number 2 is the difference in the height of the windows. 

There is a new  hardware system available that addresses both issues.  The valance is fastened to hardware that mounts on the door and the valance moves as the door swings open.  The height can be adjusted to match the height of the valances on the side windows, providing an unbroken visual line and giving the appearance of one long valance. Stationary side panels are often hung to complete the  illusion of one window and  almost any style of valance can be adapted to this system, from a simple gathered valance to a smart box pleat or a formal swag treatment. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Christmas Help.. really

With Christmas just around the corner - the  shelf-stocking elves are hard at work at Canadian Tire already-  we often find that the projects we planned to finish this past summer are still on the ‘list’.  But with the economy, or rather lack of it, being a huge part of our lives at the moment, we want to make sure our money is being spent wisely. With decorating, you want to remember to  put your money where you can see it.  If you need new curtains in the kitchen or drapes in the living room this is the time to do them. Fabrics are on sale- both in the stores and through this decorator and if you act soon, you can still have the new look in time for Christmas.  So - spend a bit of money on fabric and use the following tips to get the rest of the house spiffed up.

1. De-clutter your public spaces.   You may not realize how disconcerting your clutter is to your guests. You are used to it, they are not. We all want our home to be calming and inviting;  especially at the holidays  so get rid of the old magazines and nick-nacks. Don’t just put stuff in baskets on shelves - get rid of it - because once the baskets are full - where will the  new stuff end up? Right-  on the coffee table or the floor. 

2.Get your carpets cleaned. This accomplishes two things. First, you get clean carpets and second it forces you to move everything and perhaps take the opportunity to really look at what  is adding to the ambience of the room and what is not.

3.Paint is one of the least expensive ways to change the appearance of a room. The smaller your budget, the more you need to hire a decorator to help you choose colors.   - You can’t afford to make mistakes and a one hour consultation will cost about the same as a gallon of good quality paint.  

4.Consider an area rug for the living room - yes even if you have carpet on the floor. Area rugs help define spaces, set the mood for the space and, if chosen carefully, can help tie mismatched pieces together.  Find several you like and take them home and try them out. 

5.Make sure the lighting in your rooms is adequate. Lighting can add dimension where there was none before and take a room from typical to dramatic with very little expense. Decorators trick: light the objects and tasks in the room, not the room.  Get educated about the different types of light bulbs. Most of us are careful to use energy efficient  bulbs but you need to be aware of what they do to the color of your wall paint, your sofa fabric  and your face. In some areas  you may opt for a natural spectrum light bulb.

6.Choose accessories for a room with the same care as you choose ear-rings to coordinate with your dress. Get rid of the old, tired cushions no matter  how sentimental you feel towards them.  The optimum size for sofa cushions is 20-22 inches and you can customize pre-mades  with trim or buttons. Get down fillers - (check out Jysk or Ikea).  Imagine one good down cushion on each end of the sofa in a beautiful fabric. Huge impact. 

 I believe  that Christmas is about quality: your  family and friends and not about  quantity: the number of presents under the tree.  So, give yourself a break and  don’t try to do everything.  Pick a few chores, get them done  soon - with the help of a professional if  need be - and focus on keeping your heart happy.  You, and everyone around you, will thank you for it

How to Choose a Coffee Table

So - picture this living room: Two recliner love-seats, one recliner chair, one recliner sofa, a 40 inch T.V., corner fireplace, electric piano, full sized organ and 3 small end tables - all around the perimeter of the room.  The tiny coffee table in the middle of the room was an octagon about 20 inches in diameter and was about 3 feet from any seat. It looked rather peculiar- a little lonely island. 

The client  wanted a new coffee table for the middle. She  assumed that is was necessary to have a  regular coffee table-  but the problem was that when the recliners were all in use (as they often were), the foot rests just met in the center - almost touching the little octagon - like a big sunburst.  After agreeing that the most important function of the coffee table was to provide a place for someone to put down a glass or plate , it became apparent that the coffee table in the middle really didn’t meet the function criteria at all. When the recliners were not in use ( as when the ‘ladies came for tea’) the table was too far into the middle of the room to be used. 

The solution? Nesting tables. Three small tables that sit one under the other that could be pulled out for the ladies but would still provide a cup or glass spot for the recliner users.  Nobody said you have to have one big coffee table.  

The lesson here is that it is important to  look after the function first.  Then decide on style.

What do you want the table to do? Hold magazines?  How many clickers do you need to store? Is it necessary to have drawers?   So - think horizontally, you may not need a traditional coffee table at all , but if you do, this is how to choose: In a nutshell, the coffee table should reflect the shape of the space it occupies.

Let me explain. Look at the shape of the area where the coffee table is to sit. Is it rectangular or square? Measure it if you need to. If the space is rectangular, the coffee table should be rectangular or oval. If the space is square, the table should be square or circular. The style of the room needs to be considered:  generally an oval  or circular table is more traditional and works well with formal living rooms; whereas square or rectangular  tables lean to a more contemporary feel.  Keep the children in mind; rounded edges are much safer for the little ones.  Glass looks great but most often  demands daily cleaning.

We have all been seated on a sofa that is so far from the coffee table it is not possible to use it, or the table is so close to the sofa our knees hit the edge. Bear in mind that the greatest distance between seated people  should not be more than 9 feet.  More than this and conversation becomes difficult and a coffee table in an arrangement this large would be massive. In a situation like this, you may want to think about breaking up the  space into conversation areas and using  smaller tables.   In a more typical arrangement select a table size that allows anyone seated to be no more than 14-18 inches from the table. 

Now you know how big the table should be;  go shopping with this measurement and don’t look at anything that is not this size. You know what functions the table must fulfill, you know the basic style you want (casual or formal) and most probably the material - wood or iron for example. Stick to your list and you will find just the right table with a lot less shopping than if you went out with no plan at all. 

Choose a Window Covering

Unlike most interior decorating ‘rules’, that are really guidelines, the following guidelines should be regarded more as rules. ( Confused yet??.. It gets easier)

Establish a budget. As with any home improvement plan, expect the budget to be challenged, but start with an amount you are comfortable with. 

Make a list of what you want the window covering to do. ie: protection from sun, privacy, keeping heat out, keeping heat in.. etc. If you have pictures of window coverings you really like, dig them out. 

Hire a professional decorator for a 1 hour consultation. THE SMALLER YOUR BUDGET, THE MORE YOU NEED A PRO. You don’t have money to do things twice. A good decorator will give you advice on all the options available that meet your needs, not just the ones they sell and should be able to provide you with detailed drawings of what the finished product could look like. Confirm with the decorator that accurate renderings will be provided.  They will also be able to advise on color, style and any difficulties you may encounter hanging the various treatments. Your decorator is like an encyclopedia, it is their job to know a lot about a lot of things. They may not know the exact specifics of all window treatments but a good decorator will have an extensive knowledge of what is available. 

  Remember, a blind salesman will most likely not tell you about the newest drapery blackout lining on the market, and the drapery salesman will most likely not tell you about the new blind available at Home Depot. 

Spend some time considering your options, maybe do a bit of research on the internet. You may decide that you want to look after some window coverings yourself - the idea is that you should put your money where you will see it- and have professionals do some areas.  ( Less expensive blinds in the kids playroom, custom draperies in the living room).

 For the do-it-yourselfers head off to Home Depot, the Sears Cataloge or Fabricland and get started or contact the  professional for the type of covering you have selected and shop with the confidence that comes from knowing you have done your homework and you are doing the right thing. 

Designer or Decorator?

I was asked the other day if I was licensed to practice as an Interior Decorator. My client was quite surprised when I told her there are no regulations in B.C.  concerning the use of the title Interior Designer or Decorator. This means anyone can tag the title onto their name and set up business.  Currently the Interior Design  Institute of BC is lobbying to have this changed but  for now here’s some information that may help you make an informed decision if you are looking for help.  

What is the  difference between a Designer and a Decorator?  Quite a lot, actually.   The industry standard is: In terms of education, Designers have completed several years of Post secondary education, for example the DID (Diploma of Interior Design)  program of Mount Royal College in Calgary, or a 4 year university program.  The Designer can be responsible for any aspect of a renovation or initial build, from decoration to guidance on heating and plumbing and  can work with architects, contractors and government agencies -  and  they often specialize in either residential or commercial applications.

Decorators have  completed some  additional education -such as the Sheffield School or a one or two year program offered by a college. Generally speaking, a Decorator is responsible for the interior styling of rooms and often has a specialty. For example, mine color coordination and the use  of fabric in decorating.

Out of respect for the high level of education a Designer undertakes,  most of us who have education in Decoration do not call ourselves Designers. A  Design Consultant is usually someone with lots of hands on experience but no formal education. The confusion for clients comes from seeing ‘Certified’ or ‘Licensed’, ‘Decorator’ or ‘Designer’ and assuming it means regulated or implies a level of education. It does not.  Is this title thing really important?  Well, in the absence of  any regulations,  if I was going to hire a plumber I’d like the guy who calls himself a plumber  to actually have credible training in the profession. 

 The discerning client should ask  questions to establish the real credentials of the ‘Designer’ or
‘Decorator’ and choose the professional who best meets their needs. While actual experience is
 invaluable; training in a chosen field and using the appropriate title indicates a  serious commitment to the profession. 

And what about Staging? Well, that’s another ball game altogether and we’ll look at this profession in  another column.