Friday, December 18, 2009

How to light a room Part 2

Because this is a re-print of my column, Part 1 is below as it was published 2 weeks ago. Please read it first.

Now that you have set the task and ambient lighting in your rooms, go back and look again and decide if the room needs any Mood lighting. Are there some very dark corners? Consider a pot light shining up into a large green plant. Very dramatic and very inexpensive. Is there a great painting on one wall? Perhaps an overhead light is needed to highlight this. Don’t overdo it though, just because there is a corner doesn’t mean you have to light it.

Your lighting in each room needs to be both direct and indirect, of various intensities and at various heights. The direct lighting is that which lights a specific task, ie a light over the music on the piano. Indirect would be the light that is in the ceiling of the hallway. In both these instances, the light shines down. Make sure you have some light that shines up as well- some lamp shades direct light in both directions. ( NOT the floor lamps that look like a plate on a stick... leave those in the store, please). If all the lighting in the room is directed in one direction and sits at one level the room can appear cave like and very heavy.

The most challenging lighting I ever did was a very large family room/dining room in a home in Calgary. When we were done there were 21 different light sources in the room. (This is not just table or floor lights, this includes sconces, overheads and pot lights). They would never all be on at the same time, but each had a specific purpose and it allowed the homeowner to change the lighting of the room quickly depending on the many tasks that took place in the room.

Speaking to several people at lighting stores in the area, a reoccurring comment is that new home builders or renovators rarely put enough light outlets into the rooms in the initial planning and have to ‘fix’ the problem later. They realize, for example, that there is not enough light in the hallway for Grandma to see where she is going. Here is another instance of how important it is to use the professionals that are available to you. Take your room task list and floor plan to a good lighting store and ask for advice.

And now that you have the lighting fixtures in place, buy some fluorescent bulbs and some natural spectrum bulbs and decide what kind of light works best for the room.

If you would like a blank ‘Room Usage Task List’ to help you get started, e-mail me at

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to Light a Room Part 1

Techspeak: A lamp is the bulb. The apparatus that holds the lamp is referred to as a fixture.

I did an install not long ago where there was hardly enough light to see anything I was doing. In a recent issue of House Beautiful (my favorite shelter magazine) 10 designers speak about the biggest decorating mistakes we make in our homes and 4 of the 10 mention lighting. On a recent ‘Cityline’, lighting was talked about as being a decor maker or breaker. When I teach the lighting section of the interior design course, the demonstration of different types of light always brings the biggest oohs and ahhs.... So here you are; Lighting 101: First of all, if you have the luxury of planning your lighting in a house while it is being built PLEASE hire an interior decorator or designer to help you plan the lighting. Most of us have to deal with the existing lighting but we will follow the same path to the right lighting.

Here is the key: light the objects in the room, not the room.

So first you need to decide what will happen in the room. The ‘tasks’. A telephone table is in one corner. It requires light, either a table fixture or an overhead that focuses on that area. Put that on your floor plan. (Object being lit: the writing surface) If there is an area for reading, light is required there, (object being lit: the book being read) place the appropriate fixtures or overheads in this area on the floor plan. If it is a bedroom, decide where the bed will be and place bedside lights on the floor plan. Place lighting near the wardrobe or chest of drawers. Is there a walk-in closet? You may want to put lights at the entrance and inside the closet. Once you have put all the Task lighting on your floor plan, go back and look at the room and think of how people will move through the room - this is the traffic flow and add whatever is necessary to the floor plan. Lighting needs to be thought about here to ensure there is enough light for people to move around the room easily. This is the Ambient lighting.

In the next column we’ll finish this plan and look at mood and ‘direction’ of light.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to mix patterns

I’ve been on the internet several times in the last week with a young gal in Ohio who is having real trouble mixing patterns of fabric in a family room. She had picked two main fabrics that were what she wanted but there was something ‘wrong’. After quite a few e-mails back and forth, and some internet searches of fabric sites for examples, we found a solution to her problem and now she is a happy gal. It occurred to me that what we discussed might be of interest to some of you.

Here are the ‘guidelines’ about mixing fabric patterns.

The fabrics must relate to the ‘theme’ of the room. For example, if you are working on a sun room the fabric should most likely not have designs of cars and trucks, more likely it would have flowers, or pastoral scenes. ( Think back to the column on unity).

The colors in the fabrics that are the same as the color scheme must match the color scheme. No ‘almost the same color’ - must be the SAME color. Different shades and tints are OK, just do not vary from the same base colors. ( A shade is a color with black added, a tint has white added).

Pay attention to scale. A very large print needs to be paired to a print of a scale that will compliment, not exaggerate it. For example, a very large floral works very well beside a medium sized plaid, or stripe.

Think how the fabrics will appear when viewed from across a room. Often small prints or stripes dissolve into another color when viewed at a distance. I remember a hotel lobby where the carpet was orange and navy blue, up close. The right colors for the room. At a distance it was mauve.

If you are mixing patterns of all one type - all florals, for example, as well as color there should be something similar in the patterns - a leaf or a flower or even just a ‘squiggle’.

If you have two prints that you really love, but don’t relate well to each other, find a fabric that will bridge the two. This third fabric should have elements of each of the other two; colors, lines, patterns, something.

Ask for help. The ladies in the fabric stores here are really good at this. They do it a lot and love to help you put fabrics together.

I’ve had a busy few weeks, I’m just finishing an article for an international design and drapery magazine about the magnetic valance and Roman blind headrails I make. ( See my post here of April 2, 2009 about these magnetic headrails). I’ll put a link to the article on my website in the Articles Archive as soon as it’s published.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

R-Value and Drape Insulation

In the last week I have had several requests to add lining to existing drapes. For those of you who have been thinking about it but need a bit more information, here is a brief summary of the infomercial I presented at the Shuswap Women in Business meeting last month.

Hunter Douglas, one of the largest manufacturers of window coverings suggests that up to 25% of our annual heating bills go out the windows. They have produced a variation on the honeycomb shade, the Architella with an R value of 7.7. So what is R-Value anyway? R is a measure of resistance to heat transfer. R-Value is not the best way to measure a window’s heat loss protection value but it is the most common. (U value is the insulation rating for transparent objects.)

A home with 4” studs must have R-12 insulation. If you have a double insulating glass window with 1/2” air space between the layers, the R value of the window is about 2. Add a single layer of fabric, almost no increase, add a plain lining for an increase of about 1 for a total R value of R3. Add a black out lining; R-value is up to about R5 or 6. Add an interlining, and the R value jumps to about R9. Add an insulated Roman Blind and valance and the R value of the whole window treatment becomes about R16. Remember that the window treatments you are using to reduce heat loss must be snug to the window and layers will provide the best protection. If you have a blind inset into your window frame and the gap on each side is 1/8”, over 80 inches (40 inches on each side) this equates to a 3” x 3” hole in your coverage.

As a full service drapery workroom, I will add lining to existing drapes, either a permanent or removable liner, or you can find pre-made panels at Zellers or Fabricland or through many on-line home decor stores. If they are blackout liners, you will get the most protection against heat going out the window in the winter and heat coming in during the summer. If they are too long they can be hemmed.

Thanks to all of you who came out to watch me work on the wing chair at Fabricland. The chair cover is done, stop in and see it or have a look at it on and connect to the Gallery via the flashing book icon.

Have a read of my post of December 8, 2008; 'How much does it cost to heat one window?' Lots more info there.

If you'd like to know how much YOU are spending to heat your windows, e-mail me at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Unity in Design

The room feels right, the colors work well together, the lighting is just so, there is a feeling about the room that everything belongs there, everything has a purpose and that purpose is to make you feel at home in the room. This room has unity.

Unity is achieved by having all the components in the room blend together through common denominators. It starts with the mood of the room; does the room feel warm and calming? There will be no elements in this room that do not fit this mood. Everything is placed with consideration to it’s surroundings and to the scale of the room. Items placed next to each other intensify each other. One small plant is lonely, three small plants make a group. The plants relate to the vine design in the carpet, the scroll work on the iron coffee table base reflects this theme. Repetition increases the feeling of unity.

The room is balanced, there are no crowded corners on one side of the room, empty corners on the other. The traffic moves through the room easily, never interfering with the function of the room.

The proportion of the furniture is in keeping with the size of the room and each piece of furniture is in balanced scale to the piece next to it.

The color of the room is in keeping with the style and the mood of the room and all elements in the room relate to the color scheme.

The room has an abundance of textures and natural, geometric, abstract and conventional patterns are found. ( Conventional patterns are ones that almost look like the real thing).

A line is a path of action of a design. Lines suggest the eye move or rest; each room should contain curved, horizontal, diagonal and vertical lines. The room will have rhythm and the eye will move easily around the space.

Sound like a lot of gobeltey-gook? Next time you look at a photo of a great room in a magazine see if you can spot the 4 line directions and the 4 pattern types. Then look for a common theme; look at how the color scheme is used. You may be surprised.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fulling, Felting and Zipper Pulls

I was asked the other day what ‘fulled’ fabric is. Some of the garment patterns are listing it now as suggested fabric for certain designs. So.. most of us are familiar with what felted means; big upsurge in this in the last few years; but rarely do we see real felt which is the result of what happens to a fleece - or a collection of loose fibers. The fibers are treated in such a way as to force them to mesh into a tight, dense ‘fabric’. It’s actually the cuticle of the wool fibers that stand up ( friction ) and lock together. Felt used to be produced by placing a wool fleece under the saddle of the horse until the fibers ‘felted’. Fulling is what happens to a fabric (usually a knit) when the fibers are forced to mesh.

I can’t believe it’s almost October. Remember the July long weekend? It’s the same amount of time to Christmas. This year I’m going to get organized and actually make the drapes for my living room that I have been putting off for two years. The carpenters house is never finished. I’m using a good weight woven cotton, I’m going to use the new soft blackout lining I found recently (and use exclusively now) and I’m going to put a detachable interlining in them as well. The interlining will give a lot more heat loss protection than just the blackout so I’m looking forward to comparing my heating bills this year to last. My living room window isn’t that large but I should still see some change in the heat loss. Now, if I could just get to the three big windows in my workroom, I’m sure I’d see a huge difference.

If you are wondering what sort of heat loss you are experiencing with your windows, you can check my website, connect via the flashing book to the Articles Archive and look at the post from December 2008 ‘ How much does it cost to heat one window’. It’s a re-print of the column that appeared here on December 5.

My favorite new thing right now is reverse zipper pulls. The pull is made so that the zipper teeth are on the reverse side of the pull. Picture this: the zipper teeth face the inside of the cushion cover. The outside, therefore, has only a small strip of zipper tape exposed. Much tidier way to insert a zipper in a cushion or duvet.

Next column is going to be about Unity in design. Some decorators I know swear that this is the single most important part of interior decoration- the make or break element. We’ll see what you think.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The price of custom

We all know about custom window coverings. We all know that they may be very reasonably priced or may force you to take out a second mortgage but sometimes it’s the only way to get exactly what you want. If you buy quality you should only have to buy once. Custom built cabinetry is not unusual, but what about other custom items for home decorating? Lets look at two custom possibilities: Custom furniture and fabric.

Custom furniture: Here is what happened recently. A client saw a headboard in a magazine and wanted one just like it. I e-mailed the magazine, requesting source information. I also made some phone calls and found an upholsterer in the area who makes custom furniture - sofas and such- from the ground up. Long story short: my client had her headboard within 1 week, exactly what she wanted, exactly the right size and at a little more than half the price of the one in the magazine. The work this upholsterer does is exemplary, all frames are screwed and doweled, solid wood frames, hand tied springs.. all the good stuff. His price for a simple sofa is in line with a middle of the road sofa from one of the large furniture chains and you could get exactly what you want - arm style, length, seat depth, cushion type and fabric choice.

Imagine being able to have anything printed on your fabric, in exactly the colors you want. I had a client once who was looking for a toile in blue and terra cotta. We searched for months to find one and eventually gave up. Now, with the new technology used by Adaptive Textiles, we could have had this fabric made at about the same price as a lower high end fabric from a designers fabric supplier. You supply a photograph or a drawing of the print you want on your fabric, choose the colors and the type of fabric and ‘Adaptive Textiles’ will print fabric for you. No minimum yardages and about 15 different fabrics to choose from. They also have a great selection of stock patterns, you add the colors of your choice.

You can have what you want, you don’t have to ‘settle’ because it’s all you can find. Ask a decorator or designer to help you, we have ways of finding answers to the difficult questions. For example, I am a member of an organization of about 4000 people in Canada and the U.S. who are employed in the design industry in some way. Its an incredible resource for finding answers and sharing information.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


As a continuation of the tread count issue - knowing you now understand what ply is and the value of long fibers as opposed to short ones, I thought this would be a good time to explain fabric pilling.

In my experience, natural fibers pill less than man made ones. Usually. Some man made fibers, like acrylic are notorious for pilling which can make sweater shopping a bit tricky. Some natural fibers are known to pill a lot too: merino wool and cashmere for example. A few years ago I coveted a very expensive sweater, I saved my pennies and waited for the sale and bought it. After 2 wearings the pills were so bad I had to get out the shaver - and the sweater content says 100% wool. So - what’s up with that?

Remember that I explained, with regard to the quality of fiber used in yarn construction in sheets, that long fibers are considered higher quality? Here is how that relates to pilling.

Pilling occurs when the ends of the fibers in each thread react to friction, and ‘stand up’. These ends get twisted together and cause a little knot. This is a pill. So, the fewer ends you have in each thread, the less likely you are to have a pill situation. Longer fibers are higher quality. Now, if you cut off that little pill, you have not solved the problem. The little ends are still there, just tucked back down in the thread, waiting for more friction to make them stand up again. And then they pill.

So: friction. I can get a shock when I slip across the linoleum wearing my nylon and cotton socks. Rarely happens when I wear my wool socks. Friction; think static. The polyester skirt sticks to everything, the cotton skirt doesn’t. Now does it make more sense that high quality natural fibers pill less than less expensive, man made fibers?

How do you prevent pilling? Some experts insist washing the garment inside out will help, others say this makes no difference. Some recommend washing with fabric softener but this can cause a decrease in absorbency of the fabric, or even stain it.

I stay away from fibers that I know will pill and hope for the best. Sometimes I get really indignant and return things to the retailer. Should do that more often, I think.

I’ve being writing this column for a year now and I’d like to thank all of you for your feedback, comments and your continued readership. I really enjoy hearing from you; please don’t hesitate to call me, or-mail me at I’d be happy to discuss your decor dilemmas.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The best fruit fly catcher ever

Andrea Smith told me about this one. It is the only one I've ever tried that actually works.
Put some fruit in a tall glass.
Cover the glass top with cling wrap. Make it tight on the sides.
Prick a few needle holes in the top. I used a fairly large needle.
The little stinkers can get in but can't get out.

Another one about saving money

I’m sure you get tired of me harping on about saving money and shopping around but I am a firm believer that we really don’t have to spend a lot to have a beautiful home.

I got some new decorator fabric books from a supplier recently and was surprised to see the Liz Claiborn collection featured. It retails for $42.00 to $110.00/ meter. Fabricland has most of this collection at $24.00 to $32.00 and is on sale now at 50% off that. I have a decorator book of re-cycled fabric. All the fabric is recycled polyester; the fabric is perfect for heavy use furniture or outdoor areas. It retails at an average of about $50.00/meter and Fabricland has fabric that I would bet is part of the collection at $14.98. One of my higher end lines has a black flocked velvet in a great geometric pattern on taffeta, retails at $90.00/meter, at Fabricland it is $14.98. The lower priced fabrics aren’t copies.

I don’t get a commission from Fabricland, I would name any store that helped my clients save this kind of money.

I have the need for a tension rod on which to hang a curtain, the span is about eight feet. There are no tension rods on the market in Canada that will accomplish this. I could buy components from a drapery supply house in the States and try to put one together even if they say 84 inches is maximum. The components would cost about $50.00, and it might not work. So, I did some thinking and a bit of research and I’ve found a way to make a very sturdy rod that will span this 8 feet, won’t require a center support and total cost is about $10.00. I shopped around and asked a lot of questions and finally found the parts I needed at Lordco. Very helpful young lady in the parts department.

One of my favorite ask around finds: Awhile ago I needed a way to fit a finial of one size onto a rod of another, it had to be secure, easy to install, be fairly light, hopefully be a bit adjustable and be paintable. I went to G&H Ornamental (wrought iron masters) and was lucky enough to speak to George. I had the problem parts with me, I explained the situation and asked for help, thinking they could fabricate a part for me. After a few minutes of thought , George went outside and cut a small piece off his garden hose and showed me how to make it into a ‘gasket’. I keep a foot or so of clear tubing in my toolbox now; in different sizes.

I want you to go out there and make these great finds too. As the man with the vest says; ’Save your money’.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thread Count

You don’t have the time to research every home decor decision you make. It’s my job to help you. So here; I hope; is thread count explained and what it means in bedding. Please remember that there are no legal guidelines for listing thread count and there is no international standard for labeling bedding.

Lets start with how these threads are constructed. Fibers are spun to form one long strand. This is called a thread. Now, lets take 2 threads and twist them together. This is called 2 ply. This is what happens when yarn is made - think of unraveling a piece of yarn. Did you get 2 or 3 or 4 threads? If 4 threads are twisted together, it is called 4 ply. The 4 ply yarn takes up more space and if you were knitting a garment it would usually be thicker with 4 ply than with 2 ply.

Now lets weave that 2 ply ‘yarn’ into cloth. If we use 100 pieces of yarn per inch we have used 200 threads ( 2 threads per piece of yarn). This is 200 thread count. If we used 50 pieces of 4 ply yarn ( 4 threads per piece of yarn), we would still have a 200 thread count but there would be

fewer pieces of ‘yarn’ per inch. Usually the higher the ply, the shorter the fibers in each thread, and the less quality. Longer fibers produce a silkier feeling thread, they are considered higher quality; producing a more desirable fabric and a 1 or 2 ply fabric is more ‘delicate’ than a higher 3 or 4 ply.

There is some discussion in the industry regarding this method of calculating thread count. Some companies say one piece of ‘yarn’ is one thread count, no matter what the ply, some insist that 2 ply equals 2 threads. Few companies list the ply of the ‘yarn’ used, but if you can

find it on the label it is a good indicator that the manufacturer is using top quality fibers and is proud of that fact. So with this in mind and the fact that there are no guidelines or standards across the industry, the thread count of the sheet you are looking at really doesn’t mean as much as you have been lead to believe.

So how do you choose a good sheet? The best advise I can give you is to buy from a retailer who knows about sheets. Ask questions. I talked to Ginny at Victorian Impressions ( go in and see her 1000 thread count sheet) and she shared some specifics you might want to know about. Ginny sells beautiful upscale bedding ( and home decor items, lingerie and women's clothing). She carries one particular brand of sheets from a direct supplier. This means she is not dealing with a middle man and her prices are reflective of this. She has dealt with this supplier for quite a few years and knows their products well. The quality of the cotton used in their products is superior and the workmanship hits a very high standard. One of her sheet sets list the ply of the yarn ( 2 ) and she can tell you how each sheet washes; what the feel will be after laundering. This is important. For example, her sateen sheets will retain the smooth, satin-like finish after washing. This is because the fibers used are of the highest quality and that fact coupled with the weave of the sheet is what produces a sateen finish; not a chemical applied to the product. Have you ever seen what happens to 'chintz' after washing? This is a highly polished, tightly woven cotton that was used quite a bit in home decor in the late 80's and early 90's. When washed, the finish came off and the leftover fabric looked, and felt, like a rag. The chemical finish is what gave it a stiff feel. This sizing is often applied to inferior cottons to give it a more substantial feel. If you think a fabric may have a lot of sizing, you can check by pinching a layer of the fabric between a moistened thumb and forefinger. Hold it tightly for 5 seconds or so. Release the fabric and check how much 'stick' there is on your fingers. This is the stuff that will wash out. You may find a bit of 'stick' on some sheets and the more inferior the quality of the sheet, the more 'stick' you will feel.

Considering that we spend about 1/3 of our life in bed, a good quality sheet can make this time a lot more enjoyable. Polyester and cotton blend sheets are usually less expensive than 100% cotton and they won't wrinkle as much but when I think polyester, I think 'plastic'. It doesn't breath like cotton and most polyesters do not absorb moisture well, making for a less than comfortable sleep on those hot nights. I. personally, will opt for comfort over wrinkles every time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Arranging Pictures

I'll be posting some lighting information within the next while. Bit busy in the workroom right now..

One of the most interesting picture walls I’ve seen was a compilation of about 60 pictures, all different subjects, all different sizes and frame styles that were displayed on a wall; covering the wall from the ceiling to the floor, wall to wall. What made the arrangement work is that each picture contained the exact same shade of blue. This is one of the keys of good picture arrangement: a commonality. In this case it was the blue, it could be the subject - all pictures of nature, or pictures of the dog , it could be the frame, it could be the color - all sepia toned for example. To unify an arrangement, there needs to be some reason for all the pictures to be together.

A client of mine was the keeper of the family photos. She had photos everywhere; every book shelf, every wall, every table top. The clutter this created finally got to her and she asked for help. We used the big piece of paper technique and hung all the pictures on the wall behind the sofa. A real rogues gallery. 10 years later she has changed the arrangement to accommodate new photos but the gallery is still the focal point of her living room and she is quite proud of it.

A few ‘guidelines’:

Just like picking an area rug, the picture arrangement shape takes its cue from the space it is going to occupy. A rectangular shape suggests a rectangular or oval arrangement, a square shape suggests a square or round arrangement.

The arrangement should never be wider than the object over which it is placed. If your sofa is 80 inches wide, the arrangement over it should not be more than 80 inches wide unless you increase the visual width of the sofa - with lamps on tables, or a large plant for example.

There needs to be at least one ‘suggested’ horizontal and vertical line.

The spaces between the pictures should be consistent.

I am often asked 'How high do I hang pictures?' You hang pictures so the center is at eye level. Will the person viewing the picture be sitting or standing? If there is one main picture in the grouping, place the horizontal center of it at a height where it will be viewed straight on. If you have a grouping on a dining room wall, this picture should be placed where the center will be on level with someone sitting at the table, if that is how it will be viewed. In a long hall arrangement the horizontal center should be placed for someone standing. If all the folks in your home are really tall, mount the pictures higher.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How to hang pictures

So you have gathered all your family photos and decided to hang them together on that long hall wall.  10 pictures; hopefully only 10 holes in the wall. Chances are really good there will be more than 10 holes. Hopefully the pictures  will be straight. Hopefully they will look like some thought went into the placement.  Hopefully  they will be spaced evenly.  Here is how to do it with no extra holes and no crooked pictures. I promise. These instructions don’t address the issues of arranging the photos, I’ll  talk about that in the next column, but if you just trust yourself chances are you will get a good arrangement anyway.

First, measure the space of the wall onto which the pictures will be hung and make a piece of paper this size.  Lay it on the floor.   

Number each picture in your grouping.

Lay the pictures on the paper, move them around until you have found an arrangement that appeals to you. 

Once you have the pictures well placed, draw around each picture with a marker.

Remove each picture and write the number of the picture on its place on the paper.

Hang the paper on the wall  - just tape it up. Make sure it is straight on the wall. 

Now you need to make a picture hanging tool.  You need a piece of 1x2  board about 24” long.  Into one end of the 1x2, in the center of the 2” side  about 4” down from the top ,  insert a long  drywall screw so that it goes through and sticks out  the other side at least 1/2”.  Basically what you have is a stick with a screw through the wood, the head of the screw sticking out one side about 1/2-1”,  going through the board and sticking out the other side 1/2”. 

Pick up one of your pictures, hook the hanging wire onto the head end of the screw.  Holding the whole thing like a sign in your left hand, position the picture over it’s particular spot on the wall diagram and gently push on the very top of the 1 x 2 with your right hand. The screw will  poke into the wall, indicating exactly where the hook or nail for the picture should be. 

 Put the nails or picture hanging hooks into the wall  at each screw ‘poke’ - right through the paper. Rip the paper off enough to mark the wall with the picture number. Do this with all the pictures, take off the paper and hang your pictures.   Done. 

This is a picture of my picture hanging tool, from the side, the top and with a side view of a picture hanging on it, ready to mark the wall with the exact position of the picture hanging hook or nail..

Friday, July 3, 2009

Permission To Do Nothing.

I got a call  the other day from a lady I initially talked to about 2 years ago when she had just moved into her new home and needed some window coverings. I went to see her, did some designs on a photograph of her window, found some great fabric and after several visits we decided she wasn’t ready to make up her mind. Two years later she tells me she still can’t decide what she wants on the windows but thinks she should do something and so I asked her, again, why she thought she had to put anything on the windows at all. Privacy is not an issue.  She told me she frequently sees really nice drapes in other homes and keeps thinking she should put something on her windows. Key word here  is ‘should’. It’s not what she wants to do, it’s what she thinks she should do. 

I went to install some drapes last week and the homeowners new dining room set had been delivered. Beautiful  dark wood table with a lovely lighter wood top, chairs to match.  She told me she was going to have to find chair pads but didn’t know what to look for.  I asked her why she thought she needed chair pads. (This is a grandchildren friendly home and I know chair pads can be crumb magnets... ) She said she didn’t know, just thought she should have them.  I pointed out that chair pads slip around, the ties rarely stay secure , she would be covering up the beautiful wood and  the chairs are comfortable without chair pads. As she was thinking about all of this I told her she had permission NOT to put  on chair pads.  I saw a light go on for her. 

Just because you have a window does not mean you have to cover it. Just because the dress is on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Just because your neighbor has drapes on every window and each room is  totally coordinated doesn’t mean your house has to be that way.  Your home is individual to you and your needs. What anyone else thinks really doesn’t matter - you are the one who has to live with it. If it is not comfortable for you, it’s wrong. Just that simple.  So please, stop listening to the mavins on TV telling you what colors are  ‘in’ and what is a ‘must’ for this season’s well dressed home. Don’t let the cable guy  tell you where your TV should go. I know you all  appreciate your well-meaning relatives and friends but  just remember:  it is YOUR home. 

You have permission to do nothing.  

Saturday, June 20, 2009



We recycle so much of what is in our homes yet many people are mystified when it comes to what to do with their old drapes or blinds and the pieces end up in the landfill. First of all, maybe they aren’t really  ready for the big bin yet.

Many blind distributors are trained on repair of their product so you may be able to have  broken cords or missing slats repaired locally.  Consider having blinds re-cut to fit a smaller window. If your verticals are vinyl consider painting them  with Crylon paint- add a new fabric valance and side panels for more pizazz.

When removing blinds make sure you keep all the hardware. Put it in a small bag and attach it to the blinds.  If you want to really be helpful, take a picture of the hardware as it sits on the wall and include that. 

 The Churches thrift store will take blinds and drapes.  Call the Women’s Shelter and the Salvation Army. You could put an ad in the paper and give them away.  If you want to sell them, be realistic about the price - usually  about $5.00  to $10.00 per hundred of original price.

Drapes and curtains (drapes are lined, curtains are not) are prime candidates for in-home recycling. I recently took down some living room drapes and re- cut and re-pleated them for use in 3 basement bedrooms.   The fabric was in  good condition and we didn’t even have to put in new lining (good quality lining to start with.) We saved hundreds of dollars by doing this. The fabric would also have been quite suitable for a slipcover, or duvet cover, or big floor cushions. 

Perhaps you like the drapes but just want an ‘update’.  Think about attaching a trim or band of color  to the leading edge, perhaps re-styling the drapes will do the trick. If you have recently installed blinds and don’t need the full drape coverage re-cutting the drapes to side panels and a valance is a good idea. 

Consider trading with a neighbor or  having  Roman Blinds constructed for another room.

It could be that your drapes are fine but you require more light control  and heat loss protection.  Lining can be added - to the existing drapes or as a separate curtain- that will provide just the coverage you need. 

With  the amazing assortment of fabric  available now it is almost always possible to  find a  complimentary fabric and use the old and new to re-do a spare room. Don’t forget the impact of good trims and the special look created by mixing patterns. I have 150 fabric books to work from and the gals at the local fabric stores are really helpful when co-ordinating patterns. Have fun..

Friday, June 5, 2009

How to choose a paint color.

Once again, the additions to the column appear here in gold type.

It seems that choosing a color to paint the walls is one of the most difficult for a lot of DIYers.  In my Interior Decorating short course we spend at least 8 hours learning about  colors. This is  the summary version  of part of that   but the best advice I can give is to hire a professional for a one hour consultation. The cost will be about the same as a gallon of good quality paint.  Could save you a lot of money. And remember - if the worst happens and the color is really bad, you can change it.

First of all it is important that you test the paint color in the room where it will used.  Purchase a tester -or a liter if necessary -  of the paints you have chosen and test them. This does NOT mean painting several colors on one wall. Your eye will see a blend of the colors, not each one individually.  Go to the dollar store and get some white poster boards and paint  one color on each. Keep them away from each other and  move them around the room, see what happens to the colors at night. 

How to choose the color:  Start with a color scheme.   The easiest way is to take  your scheme  from an  existing  one: the sofa fabric, a painting or a cushion for example. Don’t  try to re-invent the wheel;  people get paid a lot of money to design these color schemes.  Get paint samples and match the 3 basic colors in your ‘inspiration’ piece:   the background color, a mid tone and  the most vivid. Match the colors exactly. This is your color scheme.  Now look at the samples in terms of intensity.  If you change the intensity of one color, change the intensity of all 3 to the same degree.

The main color is the background color and  should appear on 60% of the surfaces in a room  ( walls, drapes, floors) - there is your wall color.  The mid tone color  should appear on 30%  ( large upholstered pieces; the occasional chair, the upholstered seat of the vanity,  the banding on the drapes. the bedskirt) and the accent color on 10% ( accessories- cushions, vases, coffee table accessories). 

These colors can appear in different forms:  various textures  or surfaces and prints. The values (intensity) can vary somewhat;  just stay on the color - no mixing blue-green and yellow-green for example.  If you are not familiar with a color wheel, go buy one at the art supply store and spend some time with it. 

The website will get  you started.

Some other things to consider when choosing a color scheme:  Have you ever been in a red  based room when the sun shines through the windows?  Or have you stood in a blue bedroom with a blizzard swirling outside?  The color of the room intensifies the feelings of heat and cold. So think about this a bit. If your bedroom faces north maybe blue is not the best color for it.  You might want to consider a warm color - in the reds, oranges, or  yellows side of the color wheel.  If your living room faces south you might want to forgo the terracotta based color scheme and choose something from the blue or green side of the color wheel.  I had occasion once to do some work in a white house. The walls, carpets, furniture, tables, chairs and even the piano were white.  There were no window treatments on the 12 foot high windows. On my initial visit to the house there was a Calgary blizzard happening and  I felt like I was standing outside.  It was the coldest feeling room I have ever been in.  

We put some valances and side treatments on the windows that helped a bit but the all white scheme was still very overpowering. 

If  you have read  my previous columns, you know a bit about contrast. High  contrast color schemes tend to make rooms seem smaller - your poor eyes jump from color to color . If your room is small, you might consider a color scheme of two colors in muted tones, or even a  monochromatic color scheme with lots of texture. 

Do you want the room to feel warm or cool? If cool, pick a main color from the cool side of the color wheel,  pick from the warm side for a warm room. This is a guideline. It is not written in stone and it is based on a 3 color scheme. Many contemporary spaces are 2 color schemes, but the same guidelines apply.  Hope this helps.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Other Uses for Things

Information that is in addition to the column is in italics and gold colored.

For a special occasion my nephew wanted to wear the navy blue suit in which his grandfather had been married in 1947 but there was a fairly large sun bleach spot on one shoulder. My sister, the Queen of Fix-its, used navy blue floral spray paint  to camouflage the spot. ( Floral spray paint stays ‘bendable’).

A client recently told me she was going to try to cover some plastic vertical blinds with fabric. I suggested she try  Crylon Paint instead. This paint is amazing and was made especially for painting plastic, like the ratty old plastic lawn chairs you thought you’d have to throw out. Crylon paint comes in a good color selection, available at  Hardware Stores .

My Quilters erasable pen is one of my favorite tools. It makes a great, bright purple  mark that fades to nothing  or can be removed with the built in eraser.  I use it in the workroom to mark fabric ( it’s intended use ) and at installations to mark the walls for  bracket placement and things.  Available at Fabricland

If your venetian blinds are dust magnets, spray them with static guard. It helps keep the dust from sticking and makes them easier to clean.  Also - use a  washable wool duster for cleaning them. Wool will actually pick up the dust, not just move it around like feather or polyester dusters do. 

If you are a sewer and need to trace your patterns, try medical  examining table paper. It comes in a roll, is semi-transparent, quite strong and a lot less expensive than the commercially available pattern tracing paper.  Available at the medical supply store in Vernon- behind the large downtown Safeway.

I recently had to install a curtain as a room divider. We could have only one center support, the rod was 12 feet long and the support had to hang from the ceiling.  I used a pipe stand from the local plumbing/electrical supply house. It cost about $4.00, as opposed to the $20.00 and up that similar supports cost from  drapery hardware  suppliers. Got this one at EMCO, they are metal so they can be painted to match the curtain rod color.

The cat peed on the new very expensive brown  leather sofa. It left a large dark green stain.  The Queen of Fix-its tried a lot of leather cleaning  products that didn’t work - but in the end Magic Eraser took the stain out totally. Stain is gone, so is the cat. 

Here are a few more ‘Other Uses’:

To mount a curtain rod inside the window frame a ‘J-hook’ from the plumbing department  can be painted and mounted to the frame and will accommodate up to about  5/8” diameter rod.  They cost less than a dollar each.

 I use releasable  zip ties to transform a flat sheet into a fitted sheet.   Drape the sheet over the mattress, in your left hand gather up all the excess fabric at one corner,  holding it close to the top of the box spring. Put a zip tie around the bundle, snug everything up and then tighten the tie well and tuck it under the mattress. Zip ties are not usually releasable but the automotive industry has them, they are available through Napa special order but their minimum is a  bundle  of 100 for $24.00. I got mine at Bumper to Bumper for 6 for $4.00. If you want to order some, call me and maybe a few of us can go together on a bundle. I certainly don’t want 100 of them....

Here is an ‘Other Uses’ from the President of the Canadian Drapery Workroom Association, Lori Crank:

A product named Green Works - it is a "natural glass & surface cleaner" made by Clorox, comes in a spray bottle like any other glass cleaner. Liquid is clear and works as an excellent spot remover on fabric. Of course test an area first - but I have never seen residue from this product. My little lifesaver!  Lori

Friday, May 15, 2009

Off Center Things

 I worked with a designer who loved asymmetrical things. If I hung a picture straight in the show room, she would come behind me and skew it just a bit. All the furniture in her living room was off centered, just a bit.  We did a Christmas Show Home one year and  one of my jobs was to go behind her and straighten everything. She took great delight in finding a window off center in a room.  She thought it showed some individuality.  I believe I am in the majority when I say that off center windows are really annoying. 

Here’s the thing about architectural elements in a room that you do not find pleasing and you can not change: you can camouflage it, you can ignore it, or you can accent it.

Camouflage it: remember what I’ve said about contrast? Here is a prime example of how to use that knowledge: Make the offending ‘item’ blend into it’s surroundings.

Ignore it:  This is a personal choice. If you have recognized a feature as being ‘bad architecture’ chances are good you will not be able to ignore it; but if you can, go ahead. You are the one who will have to look at it and live with it. 

Accent it: Make a statement out of item.  Draw attention to it, make it the focal point of the room.

I promise you that the most effective way to deal with architecture that you can not change  is to camouflage it. 

Suppose the window is off center.  Use drapes and  have them centered on the wall. Please look at the brown and yellow bedroom  in the Gallery on my website, for pictures of this problem and the fix. 

You may not care if the wall is in balance or not. If that is so, then put blinds on the window and away you go but remember this: asymmetrical  decorating is very difficult to do well. Unless you are a bit of a genius with balance and scale, no matter what you do the room feel slightly off kilter until you deal with the off center situation. This applies to most architectural  elephants in a room.  The easiest fix of all is to call a professional and get some good advice. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

This is the latest article in the Design Dilemmas series. I have added comments not published in the newspaper and have highlighted them in gold.

Here comes the Sun.

Great having the sun back.  Personally I love the heat but if you don’t and the sun is heating up your rooms, here are some reasonably priced things you can do to help control the temperature. 

 In my opinion the best thing you can do is have solar film applied to the windows. It is applied to the outside of the window and can reduce the UV  rays ( ie heat) by as much as 80%. The UV rays are also what damage your floor and bleach out your sofa fabric. This film, if professionally installed, is one of the best heat beaters I’ve ever seen - that still allows you to see out the window. In Salmon Arm Trademark Glass is the dealer I am most familiar with. Several of my clients have had the film installed and all have been just thrilled with the results.  

You can install black-out roller blinds, Roman blinds,  venetians or cellular shades. These work very well, just remember that there will be up to  one third of an inch gap on each side of the blind to allow for hardware. On a window 60 x 40  this gap would be equivalent to a hole about 5 inches square. If you add a good deep valance and side panels, all blackout lined, you will get  good heat protection but this solution  does not allow you to see out. On the gallery I have posted a before and after sequence of a blackout roller blind with a lot of  light seepage around the edges and the result with a blackout lined valance and side panels.  

Shade cloth is available now that will block about 75% of the UV rays and allows great view out, very little view in on a sunny day. This product is sewable and quite inexpensive,  perfect for patio or balcony curtains.  I have this fabric coming, should be here within a few weeks. I will sell it as a finished drape or blind  or as yardage so call me for more information. 250-833-1120.

You can have black out liners made for your existing drapery. There is a new blackout lining on the market that is quite drapeable, much nicer in feel that the older, stiff  blackout lining. These liners can be made totally detachable for cleaning and can be made to attach to almost any drapery treatment.  Totally opaque but fantastic heat protection, both keeping heat out in summer and in in the winter. On the gallery I have a before and after with dimout lining. The sun reflection on the floor is quite visible and the heat control these drapes provide was immediately noticeable.

I have seen fabric disintegrate after being exposed to the sun in just 1 season. I have seen hardwood floors bleached after a short time, and sofa fabric completely ruined by the sun. All these can be avoided it you put the right coverage on your window to start with.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fabric Differences

 Which Fabric Should I Use?

I don’t mind a client bringing their own fabric to have me construct drapes or cushions or whatevers.  BUT often I am asked to use fabric that is not the correct quality or type suitable to the design. So,, for all you gals who want to find your own fabric, you should be aware of a few differences between fabric types. Each category has a specific purpose and while we can sometimes use one type of fabric for another, most often these fabrics do not cross the lines very easily. So, when you are out looking for fabric start in the correct department.  Just as you would not expect an inexpensive, indoor paint to look good and last as an outdoor paint, do not expect a fabric not intended for drapery to look as good as most drapery fabric. These are some of the main differences, by no means all the differences:

Quilting Fabric: usually 100% cotton, usually 45” wide. Usually fairly tight weave. 

These fabrics are very thin compared to most drapery fabric and therefore, in order to use them as drapery, they require special linings. The cost of the fabric itself can be quite expensive and because it is so narrow, more is needed for drapery and coupled with the interlining the cost can quickly approach that of a substantial drapery fabric. And it can shrink so pre-washing is a must if you want to wash the finished product.  Imagine ironing 15 meters of cotton.  

Upholstery Fabric: The easiest distinction here is that the design on upholstery fabrics runs across the bolt, from one edge as the top,  to the other as the bottom.  (Think ‘bouquets of flowers side by side  across the back of a sofa’). This is called railroaded.   Upholstery fabric often has a backing, it often feels slightly ‘sticky’ to  the touch and is usually  heavier than drapery fabric.  It doesn’t drape well and  is not usually  washable  and sometimes is  not dry-cleanable either. 

Drapery Fabric: The design runs up the bolt.  ( Think  ‘bouquets of flowers running up a very tall drape’) The fabric is usually 54 inches wide and it can be as light as a sheer (see-through) to  as  heavy as a  velvet.  Most drapery fabric is dry-cleanable, some is washable and a lot  of it has cotton or linen as part of the content. Depending on the weight it can sometimes be used for light upholstery, slipcovers and bedding.  

Fashion Fabrics: Almost everything else. Really. There are so many fibers and combinations it would be impossible to list them all . Some fashion fabrics, like fine wool blends, work well in the drapery world, and denim and canvas are great for slipcovers, but these are 100% natural fiber fabrics.  Some silks, velvets and corduroy’s  are great for cushions and things but they are not meant to take the abuse upholstery fabric will and usually have a much shorter life span. If the fabric has a viscose or rayon content it may stretch or sag. If it is a stretch fabric it is probably unsuitable for most home decor applications.

Now, having said all that, a decorator I knew used screen door mesh to construct drapes for a hair salon. I have used $6.00 per meter silk from a Sari shop for drapes.  I have used black denim for slipcovers that was initially intended for chefs jackets.   And I made a Grade 12’s grad ‘skirt’ out of 10 meters of embroidered drapery sheer.  Once again, if in doubt, please ask. I take phone calls and I’ll even go shopping with you.