Saturday, December 25, 2010

Winter window fixes

The cold snap reminded me that the windows in my new-to-me condo needed attention.   I finally took some time and made the insulated drapes for the balcony sliding doors and used a new lining that is flannel backed. Like the new black out linings it drapes much better than the older versions of the same thing and the price was actually less than regular drapery lining.  I took down the plastic verticals (they were there when I moved in) and installed a double rod, put some crinkle sheers up and then the soft yellow drapes and I love them. And the room is so much warmer.  If you want to do something like this yourself, look into the pre-made panels available that have blackout lining built in. 
I made  removable insulated liners for the bedrooms; I didn’t want to use black out lining - I like as much light as possible, especially in this dark season -  so I used a very thin cotton quilt batting that also drapes well and these rooms are  a lot warmer now too.
I don’t like to repeat myself but I thought this might be the time to remind you that you can make a difference in your heating bill by fixing your window treatments.
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.  Think about this: 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.
If you’d like to know how much of your heating costs are going out the window, e-mail me;

Space Heaters

So there I am, shivering from being outside in the COLD, standing in front of the space heaters in the hardware store. I needed to buy one and I didn’t have a clue which one to get. The clerk couldn’t help, so I picked one on sale and took it home. Then I did some research and found that I had bought the wrong one. 
I should have taken a page from my design training and really looked at what I needed before I bought one. So, to help you not make the same mistake, here is your space heater primer. ( These all refer to plug in electric heaters ).
To heat a whole room with a constant heat the best is an oil-filled radiator type. They take a bit longer to warm up but are very efficient. No fans though. 
To heat a  space with  fan-driven heat: Ceramic heaters. 
To heat a small space quickly, like your toes under the desk; choose a radiant heater. The feeling is like sitting in the sun.  The most efficient of these are the halogen heaters; they work with the same principal as halogen light bulbs and come to temperature almost immediately.
Do you need a thermostat? auto shutoff? timer control? oscillating fan?  Think about the answers before you go shopping. 
NEVER use a space heater with anything other than the recommended extension cord.  A regular household cord is not good enough, don’t risk it.     
It would seem that a 1500 watt heater would be ‘better’ than an 800 watt heater. This is not necessarily so.   An 800 watt radiant heater will do the job it was intended to do quite nicely.
How much does it cost to run one?
Divide the watts by 1000 and multiply by the cost of electricity per hour and you have your hourly cost. Here we pay  6 to 9 cents per kilowatt hour. Lets use 10 cents.
A 1500 watt heater: 1500 divided by 1000 = 1.5. Multiply this by 10 cents = 15 cents per hour.  But, if an 800 watt heater is all you need,  the cost drops to 8 cents per hour. A light bulb costs .6 of a cent per hour, a computer and monitor 4 cents, a fridge 10 cents. 
I returned the heater; got the correct one and now I’m much warmer and I saved money too. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Older Home

I’ve been asked to do a window treatment in an older home. The homeowners are very lovingly restoring this beauty and are taking care to do it with period appropriate designs.  We have a photo to work from; it’s a perfect design for the room and the home. But, it’s a very complicated design - one that isn’t done often and  so I have had to do some homework.  I’m very fortunate to have  access to a network of people like me throughout North America  and I asked for advice. I was directed to a gal in Georgia who had done exactly what we are planning here  and was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from her.  She shared invaluable information and suggested I look at another site that was specific to ‘Old World Window Fashions’. ( From that site I was directed to a  gal who actually teaches old world patterning and  I’m going to attend her spring course). 
As I was looking at the older window fashions  I was struck by how similar, in many ways, they were to what we do now with our window treatments. Good fabrics, well considered design; good construction. In his definitive book on the subject, published in 1887; one of the most prominent window drapers in the US; Frank Moreland; states: “In most cases the choice of colors is controlled by the previous treatment of the rooms; for usually the hangings are the last things considered, and the draper the last person called in.” Did you catch that? The window coverings should be the last thing done in a room. Not the first. 
I know I’ve lost sales because I advised potential clients to wait to make the decision on window coverings.  I know the temptation is there to pick fabric and run with it; matching the room furnishings later. Believe me, though, it’s a lot easier to pick fabric to coordinate with the walls and furniture than it is to pick a sofa to match the drapes.  Your windows will have specific requirements, heat and light control, privacy, functionality - and don’t forget budget. You won’t know all of the requirements until you have lived in the room for awhile.
So - back to the older home. We are taking our time; we have fabric to work with that is presenting challenges; the design is a challenge too; but the homeowners have waited and now know what the room needs and what they’d like to see.  I’ll keep you posted

More floor plan

If you want to continue on with your floor plan you have a few choices to make now. You can draw it to scale   and add outlines of furniture; you can go on line and do a computer generated floor plan or you can call a designer and get a floor plan done for you. 
Here is why you should do one of these things:
Your floor plan is the map for the room. It tells you where the furniture will be placed, it shows the size of the furniture.  With the addition of lighting it shows what type of fixtures you will need and where they will be placed. If you are working on a living room, it will now show the shape and size of the coffee table and it will show the size of any area rugs you need. You will have sizes for any occasional furniture or floor accessories. 
The size and type of each piece of furniture, lighting or accessory should be listed on a sidebar of the plan.  This is your room shopping list.  Now, when you are selecting elements for the room, you will know exactly what you need and in what size.  Just like we know that that we should not go grocery shopping when hungry, we should not do room arranging without a plan.  If you have existing pieces that are to be used in the room you will know where they will be positioned and what their intended use is. You won’t buy extras or pieces that won’t fit.
The next step in the process is to decide what style of room you are doing. You could, for example, want to do a Victorian room, or an Art Deco room, or a Retro room. Or you could be doing a Contemporary room  which often incorporates antiques and new pieces; this is the most common style for this area. Look at some magazines, go online, get a feel for what you want. We’ll continue with this in the next floor plan column.
 I can do a floor plan for you - it could be just a floor plan or could be the start of a whole room design; elevation, floor plan and mood board.  See one at; connect to the Gallery via the flashing book and go to the ‘Visualize This’ feature. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Old Dogs and New Tricks

I was doing some research the other day and came across a statistic that I thought I’d share: Ideas that are being explained with the use of verbal and visual tools are 6 times more likely to be understood than ideas being explained with verbal tools only.  I have know for a long time that the phrase ‘I just can’t visualize it’  coming from a potential client was one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. I can see the finished product very clearly in my head but I am not an artist.  So a few years ago I took drawing classes. I had to label the drawing I did of a shoe to explain what it was.   I spent hours learning how to draw simple examples of window treatments so I could better explain my vision but  they never were to my total satisfaction. 
As my business grew and my knowledge increased, it became more and more important for me to find a way for my clients and I to communicate on this non-verbal level.   About 3 years ago I found  software that fit the bill  and have  since been working with the program on and off.  A few months ago I took the proverbial bull by the horns, signed up for the advanced course and have spent the last 6 weeks with my nose stuck in my computer. The result is that my hair is a mess, the dust bunnies have grown up to full rabbit size and  the cat doesn’t know who I am anymore but I can now produce some really good renderings for my clients. I can, for example, take a picture of your living room, design some drapery on the actual windows and  fill them with the actual fabric you have chosen so you can actually SEE what things will look like after everything is done. Similarly, I can take a blueprint, or a floor plan and design the furniture layout in scale for you.   I can paint the walls a new color, add a new rug or  show you what the sofa will look like with a slipcover. 
I have my clients to thank for this. They are the ones who pushed me to get better, to find new ways to meet their needs.  It was one of the most difficult courses I’ve ever taken but I learned a really valuable lesson: You CAN teach old dogs new tricks.
Click on 'The Gallery' to the right of this post to see some of these renderings..

Floor Plan continued

Continuing with the floor plan.
If you’ve been doing the homework, you should now have a floor plan with the appropriate ‘seats’ in place.  This very simple exercise shows you where people will sit in the room and what type of furniture you need in that room.  Now you need to look balance and traffic flow.
In design school, we worked on floor-plans that we divided into 4 quadrants and  we really looked at how they related to each other.   Doorways have ‘weight’, they occupy space  equal to  the door swing and if the door opens out, at least 36 inches inside the room is considered door space.  Get your floor plan with the seats placed on it and draw a line through the center horizontally and vertically. This creates your 4 quadrants. Look at the placement of the seats. Are they all smushed into one half of the room making   one quadrant much busier than any of the others? If this is so, the room is not in balance and you need to give some thought to additions to the room that will help fix this. If you have, for example, a fireplace and seating in one quadrant, what is on the opposite wall to balance this weight?  Use a bench and a large picture, an armoire, some bookcases - something to counter the fireplace. The large picture window on one wall needs to be balanced on the other - again use furniture, or large accessories to accomplish this.  This takes some work and imagination, but it will be worth it.
You must also look at the traffic flow. How will people move through the room? It is not a good idea to have the main traffic flow pass between the sofa and TV, for example. Nor is it a good idea to force people to walk around furniture or plants to get from one side of the room to the other.  We are creatures of habit and we will find the path of least resistance, even if it means moving something out of our way.   I use the example of Frasier Crane’s living room on the TV show. Traffic was directed from the main door to the rest of the apartment  by the placement of the sofa and table in front of, but backing onto, the fireplace, leaving a clear pathway-  a natural direction for traffic instead of in front of the sofa;  between it and Marty’s TV.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The floor plan continued.

Now that you have your floor plan drawn to scale you have done all of the tedious work. Just a bit more homework and then you get to play.

Write down what the room is used for and how many people participate in those activities. This should include the possibility, for example, of having seating for 10 in the family room when the kids bring home their ‘significant others’ for Sunday dinner. ( Does anyone still do that? I hope so). Do you need one corner for reading? One corner for the computer? Write it all down. This is called the room usage list and it drives the amount of seating, and therefore the type of seating, the room will require. For example; if your dining room table normally seats 4, but you need it to seat 8 on occasion, you will need a table that expands; the space to expand it into and chairs to accommodate the extra guests.

Once you have this usage list completed, cut out some small squares that will represent 30” square. This is the ‘seat space’. If you need seating for 10, cut out 10 squares. Put your floor plan inside a plastic binder sleeve, ( you can write on this with a highlighter and it erases easily) If there are some ‘givens’ in the furniture - such as the piano- sketch these in first. Now place your ‘seats’: 3 for a sofa, 1 for a chair. In the family room, extra seating may be the extra dining room chairs, or a large ottoman, or a bench under the window but again, you need to fore-plan so the room remains functional at it’s optimum seating capacity. Orient your main group of seats toward the focal point - a 3 seater sofa, for example, toward the fireplace or window.

Play around with this, next column we’ll continue on.

An update on the Corded Blind recall and new guidelines... The American National Standards Institute and the Window Covering Manufacturers Association have published the new guidelines for the manufacture of blinds with cords. The American Window Coverings Association is ‘translating’ the document and those of us who manufacture these blinds should have clear guidelines in the near future.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A few loose ends

This column will be a bit of a catch-all, so please bear with.

I hope that any of you who are actually taking the time to do a floor plan will take this week and finish it. In the next column I’ll help you continue with the process of designing a room by looking at the usage of the room and what that means to you and your floor plan.

Sundial lighting in Vernon now has stock of the spray chandelier cleaner.

Once again this week I had to witness the very sad outcome of what happens when you don’t test your paint color first. The interior of this home hadn’t been painted in a long while, the walls were a soft beige. The homeowner chose a color based only on a small paint chip and bought enough paint for the entire job. Unfortunately the natural light in the room has a very strong effect and instead of a soft pastel it has become a rather overwhelming acidic color. There is talk of re-upholstering because some of the furniture no longer works. The house is also open concept. The color they chose is also a trendy color. I would wager they will be re-painting within a year. You can check my website for my column ‘How to choose a paint color’ from June 5, 2009 if you are thinking of painting. Please do this.

Winter is coming. So, now is the time to look at your home and make sure you don’t have any heat ‘sinks’. This is what I call those places in the house that suck the heat out of a room. The crack under the door, the window that doesn’t shut all the way or the fireplace that takes all the warm air up and out. Get your drapes cleaned now if they haven’t been done in a few years. I will come and take them down, get them cleaned and rehang them for you. This is also a great time to have your venetian blinds cleaned of all the summer dust. Be careful cleaning them. Often the cords or tapes are cotton and too much water will cause shrinkage. Clean each vane. Tedious but necessary. When done, close the blind and lightly spray with static guard, close the blind the opposite way and spray again. The static guard helps keep dust from ‘sticking’.

And.. Happy Anniversary to me!!! I’ve been writing this column for two years now. Thank you for reading.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Floor Plan Part 2

How to make a floor plan.

First of all, you do not have to be a drafting genius to do this. But you do need to do it.

Get some 1/4 inch graph paper. Each square on the paper will represent 6 inches of floor. If you are a metric type, get metric paper use 10 cm per square.. or whatever.

Draw a rough outline of the floor, note the doors and windows.

Go back and measure the room, measure the floor inside the casings. For example, wall to wall may be 60 inches wide but the casings takes up 1 inch, therefore on the plan, the floor is drawn as 59 inches. Why??. Because if you draw 60 inches, and buy an armoire 60 inches, and the floor space is actually only 59 inches you have a problem.

Mark the door openings as to the size of the opening, not outside casing to outside casing. Mark the window inside widths on the floor plan as well. Indicate all the measurements on the rough floor plan. Include things like the distance from the window to the wall... When you have all the rough measurements,transfer the information to a new plan with nice, straight lines. You do not have to mark the measurements on the graph paper - it would become really crowded if you did and remember that each square is equal to 6 inches on the floor so you don’t really need the measurements on the plan.

And, even though they are not actually on the floor, indicate the wall electrical outlets, cable or satellite positions and any telephone lines. Also add the heat vents, radiator if applicable and the fireplace and hearth. Put the doors in, indicating which way they swing.

If you don’t want to do this yourself, hire a designer or decorator to do it for you. I, for example, will do a floor plan, a furniture plan, and elevations of the main areas. ( ‘Elevations’ are rather like snapshots of one part of the room, showing the floor and the wall and the furniture as it would appear if you were standing in the middle of the room.) See one on my website

Once your floor plan is done indicate the traffic flow, add furniture and lighting. Then it’s time to get to the fun part, picking fabric and surface finishes. That is done on a story board. More about that in the next column.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Floor Plan

Number one on the list of things to do if you are considering a room make-over, a renovation or especially if you are building is a floor plan of each room.

Here are a few of the ways a floor plan will help you:

It will tell you the size of the furniture you should have in the room. Have you ever heard about the new sofa being delivered and not fitting into the room? A floor plan would have foreseen this.

Working with a room usage list, it will tell you where to place lighting in the room.

It will tell you the size and shape of the coffee table, area rug and dining table.

It will show you how people will move through the room, and will prevent traffic flow problems.

It will help you plan seating for the maximum number of people you foresee having in the room.

It will tell you how big the armoire to house the T.V. should be and what size that T.V. should be. Yes it will.

It will tell you how big the bed can be and what size the bedside tables should be.

It will tell you how to make the living room conducive to conversations.

It will show you if the room is ‘balanced’ or not. - We have all been in rooms where the majority of the furniture is on one side of the room, giving the room a feeling of more weight on one side than the other. It feels off center.

It will save you money because you won’t be buying anything not on the plan.

It takes a bit of time to put one together, but, like a business plan, once you have done it you will wonder how you managed without it. When you go shopping for a piece of furniture, you will know how big it should be, think of the time you will save if you can say to the furniture salesman ’ My sofa should be 80 inches long, don’t show me anything other than that, please’. It will save you money; no more impulse buying. We have all bought something, thinking ‘Oh -I’ll make it work’ only to find it is too small, too tall, too wide, and the piece ends up in the basement.

In the next column, I’ll explain how to do a floor plan to scale.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Walk along main street.

One of my favorite things to do in Vancouver is walk along Main street, from 49th to 52nd or so, cross the street and walk back up to 49th. It usually takes me 3 or 4 hours to complete the trip. This is ‘Little India’ and it is the place I like to go to get my color fix. The sari shops are always busy, it’s fun to stand back and watch the ladies shop. I always go into the bridal shops too, the beaded saris and men’s jackets never fail to take my breath away. There is one little shop that sells only bangles and the jewelry stores defy description. My favorite stop is the Punjab Cloth House. I went in once and told the gentleman behind the counter that I needed some silk chiffon ‘This color’, and pulled out my swatch. He gestured at the floor to ceiling, 30 feet wide expanse of shelving behind him, full of flat bolts of silks and said ‘ You come and look’. I did, and found exactly what I was looking for. Silk chiffon, 8.00 per meter. I often buy the dupioni silk for cushions - it’s about 10.00 per meter. They also carry a very fine, thin silk that is perfect for lining in garments and makes the BEST underslips for summer dresses; about 7.00 a meter.

I’m sure there has been someone, somewhere, who has written a paper relating the physical climate of a society to the use of color in that society. I’ve never been to India, but I understand the natural landscape is vibrant. Think flowers and birds... Now, think of Scandinavia; I think of snow and ice in winter, blue water and green trees in summer, but not a lot of tropical flowers and the decorating style somewhat reflects this.

French Country: summer sun yellow and vibrant blue sea. Tuscan: Terra cotta, olive green, vibrant blue. I think this correlation may explain why some styles work better in our climate than others. I am in a lot of homes in this area, and I have to say that the homes filled with heavy antiques sometimes feel a bit out of place here unless they are well balanced with some whimsy and lightness. Just some things to think about.

I was so very fortunate to be asked by my friend Diane Jewel to attend the Skwlax Pow Wow on July 17. If you haven’t been to one of these events, mark it on the calendar for next year and then make sure you go. I listened, I learned, I was amazed and I was humbled.

While you are in the area, check out Rokkos Fabrics at 6201 Fraser. ( Remember the trick about Vancouver streets? 6201 is at 46th and Fraser - subtract 15 from the first 2 digits of the street address to find the cross avenue.)

Well, the Punjab Cloth house has moved, I guess, to Surrey 12725 80 Ave but there are a lot more cloth shops on Main, don't miss this street.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Every go into a room and see a fixture hanging over the table and wonder why it is hung so high? Or why it looks so small, or so large? Well, there are a few guidelines ( once again, design principles are guidelines, not rules) to help you avoid these oopses.

The size of a chandelier hanging over a table is determined by three things: the size of the room, the size of the table under it and the height of the walls in the room. In a nutshell, if you add the width in feet and length in feet of a room this will tell you the inches of diameter that a chandelier should be. For example, a 10 foot by 12 foot room will accommodate a 22 inch ( diameter ) chandelier. Now comes the exceptions part: take into consideration the width of the table. Chandeliers are very often 1/2 the width of the table. A 48 inch table is balanced by a 24 inch chandelier. But these 2 guidelines work well together, a 10 x 12 room probably doesn’t have room for a table larger than 48 inches wide.

The height of a chandelier is usually calculated as being 2-3 inches for each foot of the wall height. A 10 foot wall, therefore calls for a 20 to 30 inch long chandelier.

The height above the table is generally suggested to be about 30 inches.

So, in the 10 x 12 room with 10 foot ceilings and a table 48 inches wide the chandelier would be 22 to 24 inches in diameter and 20 to 30 inches in length.

If you are hanging a fixture in a hallway, use the wall dimensions to calculate the size of the fixture, and remember that over a stairway the perceived wall height is 2 stories, so the fixture should be longer.

Now to cleaning the thing. Get some chandelier spray. You put newspapers on the table and spray the chandelier with the cleaner and the dust drips off. No rinsing, no taking the fixture apart. It works. (Go to for suppliers.)

Before Katrina I was in New Orleans and happened onto a shop in the French Quarter that had a chandelier for sale that was 6 feet in diameter and 7 feet long. Baccarat Crystal. It had about 300 light sources on it, was from France late 1700’s. Price: $289,000.00. I would have loved to see the room it ended up in.

My favorite chandelier spray is called Sparkle Plenty. The manufacturer says it is available at Home Hardware but none of the three I checked had stock, or planned to stock it. Their stock number is 4521-663. If you call, they say they will order it though.

SunDial lighting in Vernon carries a spray but they are also out at the moment, waiting for supply. Brilliante is a great product, it is useable as a cleaner for glass surfaces as well and they offer free shipping to Canada ( from California) I'll keep looking for a shop that actually has one in stock and let you know.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Shade Fabrics

Shade fabrics.

Summer sun is back. Finally. I’m getting lots of calls about sun blocking drapes and how to prevent sun damage to furniture and floors. The sewlution is very simple, and you have quite a few choices. Any of these will prevent your floors and sofas from getting sun-bleached and will block the heat too. This is a quick summary of what is available; call me or go to my website for more information.

One of the best (and least expensive) is solar film. It’s professionally applied to the outside of the window and will block about 65-85% of the UV rays (those are the damaging ones). From the outside, your windows will look slightly reflective, from inside the window appears slightly tinted. One of my clients had this installed and she told me that it was the first time in many years she was able to leave her front room drapes open in the summer and actually see her beautiful yard. Trademark Glass in Salmon Arm sells and installs this product. I am sure they have references you can call. if not, I have.

All the blind companies sell various levels of sun block shades that work very well, and the big box stores also sell shades that they will custom cut for your windows.

You might want to have shade on the deck, or around your balcony. Shade cloth is available as a knit or a woven, either of which can be fabricated into drapes or panels for use outside. The woven is used in pre-constructed blinds such as roller shades or can be purchased by the meter from on-line sources or at the local fabric store. It provides a UV blockage of up to 95% while still being somewhat transparent. The downside is it looks ‘plasticy’ and is very stiff. Knit shade cloth comes in a wide range of colors with UV protection from 35-90% and can be sewn on a home machine. Knit shade cloth can be purchased on line at They will ship to Canada via UPS. They also sell the woven cloth, as does Fabricland in Salmon Arm.

Blackout lining for your drapes is a great solution. The new blackout is very soft and drapes beautifully. If you are having new drapes made, or just want removable liners for existing drapes made, this lining provides total sun block and wonderful insulation and using this fabric as a lining will increase the R-Value of your drapes by 3-5 points.

So, there you go. You can have sun-blocking, have it look good and fit your budget.

Friday, June 18, 2010


I was miserable at math in school. My Grade 10 teacher agreed to pass me if I promised never to take math again. (True story). I use a lot of math in my business now, fractions, decimals, converting meters to yards, inches to centimeters. I’m pretty good at it and do most of it in my head. Who would have thought. I also flunked potholder in Home Ec. Here are a few things you may not know but might be a good idea to tuck away for future reference. Because so much of what we use in the decorating world is from the U.S. a working knowledge of both inches and meters is essential.

A meter is a little more than a yard. ( A meter is actually 39.5” but we’ll use 40” for ease of calculation, a yard 36”) Every 4 inches is .1 of a meter or 10 centimeters. So, if the pattern says 1 yard is required, this is 36” divided by 4 equals 9; you would need .9 of a meter. If you need 7 yards, this is 7 times .9 = 6.3 meters. 2.5 centimeters is one inch.

How much paint is needed? The wall is 10 feet wide and 8 feet high. 10 times 8 = 80 square feet on the wall. If there is a huge window, 8’ x 6’, for example you can subtract 48 ( 8 x 6 ) from the 80 and the actual square footage you need to paint is 32. This is also the basic formula used to calculate wallpaper requirements and flooring. There are 144 square inches in a square foot.

The width of a window is the measurement from side to side. The length is the measure from top to bottom. Measurements are always written as width first, then length.

How do I know how much that foam cushion will cost? If you are buying foam from most retailers the price will be listed per foot of ‘thickness’ but is actually calculated in board feet. If you can do this yourself you will get a much better idea of exactly what you are paying. A board foot is a piece of something 12 inches wide, 12 inches long and 1 inch thick. A piece of foam 12 x 12 x 2 is 2 board feet. You want a cushion 24 x 36 by 5 inches thick. 24 x 36 = 864. This is the square inches on the ‘surface’. Divide this by 144 ( the number of square inches in a square foot ) and we get 6. This is the square feet on the surface. You want the cushion to be 5 inches thick. So.. multiply 6 by 5 and you get 30 board feet in your cushion. Don’t fall over when you see how much foam costs per board foot.

Fun stuff; nothing to do with home decor: To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit , add 15 and double it. 20 degrees Celsius plus 15 is 35, times 2 is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Just reverse to take Fahrenheit to Celsius. To convert kilometers per hour to miles per hour, multiply the first digit by 6. 60 kph is 36 mph. 65 kph is the 36 plus 6 times 5 = 3 for a total of 39 mph.

And lastly, one of my favorite nonsense bits for all of you who travel to Vancouver. To find out what the avenue is crossing a main street at a specific address, subtract 15 from the first 2 digits of the address. 4500 Granville is at Granville and 30th.

Down in Duvets

I remember my Dad telling me that 2 inches of newspaper is as warm as 2 inches of feathers. I’m not sure if that is actually true or not, my Dad had a lot of this kind of knowledge stored in his brain, but I’ve learned some things about down ( as in duvets) that follow along with this theory.

The warmth of a duvet is dependent on the amount of warm air trapped in the fibers of filling. The quality of down is measured by fill power and good down duvets will have this figure listed on the label or packaging. Fill power refers to the number of cubic inches that one ounce of compressed down will ‘fill’ when uncompressed. If the number is 500-550, it is considered good with higher numbers 550-700 being the best. So, a high fill power rated down will give a higher loft and trap more air, thus being warmer than a lower fill power down. This is also the fluffiness factor. The same thickness can be achieved by adding more down of lesser fill factor, but this increases the weight of the duvet. Duvets are also rated by weight, a king size bed duvet would be 50 ounces for the warmest, 35-40 ounces for the medium and 30 for the light.

Down is not feathers. Down is what grows on the bird at the base of the feathers. Feathers are not interchangeable with down and a feather pillow, or comforter is decidedly different than a down one. Most down found in ready made duvets is harvested from young birds that have been raised for consumption. Eiderdown is considered the ‘gold standard’ and is harvested by hand from the abandoned nests of the Eider duck, in Europe, and the cost of an Eider down duvet can approach $12,000.00.

Down is warmer than synthetic insulation ounce for ounce, it retains its shape and loft and will wick body moisture away but down looses it’s warmth when wet and is difficult to dry. It is highly compressible and lightweight but requires special cleaning and may contain allergens. It certainly wins in the fluffiness category but needs to be shaken and fluffed daily to keep this look.

I understand that in some European countries employees are allowed a certain number of days off work per year (just ‘cause) and they are often referred to as ‘Duvet Days’; days to just stay home and snuggle under the down duvet. What a good idea.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More about color

In the early 90’s the whole ‘Southwest’ decor style came at us. Peach and blue; geometric borders, ceramic coyotes, zipper paintings. I remember one house in Alberta done entirely in this color scheme that was so cold feeling in the winter it was very uncomfortable. Then some smarty pants designer re-did the color scheme to deep red, blue and green and it worked. The vibrant colors complimented our climate and matched our state of mind .

About this time the economy was getting busy and our interiors became softer, colors more muted, lots of beige and taupe. Lots of monochromatic schemes. Not much color anywhere as we all cocooned in our great rooms and stainless kitchens. We were very busy outside our homes and wanted the interiors to be soothing; places of refuge from the hectic day to day life.

Take a look at the shelter magazines on the stands right now. COLOR is what it’s all about. As the economy struggles, our homes become the go to place for inspiration and ‘cheering up’. Lots of purple -the color of power and luxury. Orange is around again - the color of health and mental activity. Vibrant blues are the colors of creativity and intelligence.

What makes this decorating cycle a bit different is the way the bright colors are appearing. The walls of our rooms are staying soft; muted versions of the bright hits of color that appear in the rooms. Red leather sofa -no; red cushions, yes. Lamp shades, area rugs, vases, art; maybe some painted accents but mostly the vibrant colors are removable.

Color will affect your state of mind. If you want your space to be more invigorating, for example, choose a color that will help you achieve this, like orange, and add it to your existing rooms. There are many shades and tints of each color so you should be able to find one that works with your existing scheme. Do some reading on the psychology of color. Do a few pieces at a time. You don’t need to spend a lot of money but you do need to have some fun.

As a side note, while researching for this I read several times that tests have shown that babies cry more in rooms with yellow walls....

Please visit my website for more information and for re-prints of all my Design Dilemma columns.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to choose an area rug.

I’ve decided I need a new area rug for my living room. There are an infinite number of prints and styles and colors and prices available and it can be overwhelming. I know I’m working backwards; I should be decorating the room based on the rug but this will just be more of a challenge. I made a list to help me stay directed:

I need a rug with the colors that exist in the living room.

The space it will occupy is a rectangle, so rectangular or oval are the shapes I will look at. I need a rug 10’ x 12’; the edges need to be secure under furniture.

I have a cat so no wovens. I don’t want a super expensive rug; this rules out most wools or handmades.

My colors are rust, cream and black so pastel colors are out. The only print in the room is my favorite chair which is slipcovered in a retro tapestry of elongated ovals so I’ll look for a soft design that hints at these ovals.

I have enough stuff in my purse so rather than haul around a bag of fabric swatches, I put together a mini color board using paint samples and stuck it on the back of a picture of my favorite chair and wrote the size of the rug I need. I carry that in my wallet.

By listing what I need I have eliminated many rugs; cutting down my shopping time considerably.

Don’t forget the possibility of choosing a carpet from the carpet store and having it cut to your specific size and trimmed. Not nearly as expensive as you might think and it’s a great way to get a large area rug or an odd sized one. Look for roll ends.

Most furniture, home improvement and flooring stores now carry area rugs that will fit my price range. I will bring a few small ones home on approval and see how they work before ordering the large one. I’ve been looking online too. One website I found lets you take a picture of your living room and apply their rugs to it.

I'll post a picture of my chair/color card this weekend..

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is a ‘workroom’?

A drapery workroom is the place where the magic happens for fabric fashions for your home. If you are doing some home decorating on your own it is a good idea to find the local workroom and make friends with

the operator. Just like any professional, a workroom operator will have invested considerable time and money in training and equipment and the workroom is a reflection of that. I generally wouldn’t take my car for

service to the guy operating out of his garage in the back alley so please don’t be surprised if the quality of work you receive from the home sewer is not to the standard of a professional workroom.

Professional workrooms usually work to a standard consistent throughout the industry. For example, most professionally made drapes will have a hem that is 4” deep, turned twice. There is a reason for this, the weight of the hem helps keep the drapes hanging properly and allows ample fabric if alterations are necessary. All hems should done on a blind hemmer so the

stitches are not visible on the right side of the fabric. – All professional workrooms have industrial blind hemmers and this commitment to professionalism costs about $1000.00 and does just this one thing.

The largest cutting table I have seen in a workroom was one 6 by 14 feet. Most workrooms have tables 5 feet wide and 10 feet long which enables them to cut, handle and press large pieces of fabric with ease and accuracy. If your chosen workroom is using the floor, or dining room table, as a cutting surface, rest assured your drapes will most likely be crooked.

Like any professional, the workroom will be associated with other professionals; supplies, like the cord used in cushion welting, will be of a superior grade to that available at the local fabric store ( it won’t shrink, for example).

A professional workroom will be able to assist you in calculating the fabric required for your home d├ęcor project and most likely will not charge you for this service. Many workrooms are operated by people with

interior design or decorating training as well as superior sewing skills. These professionals spend their days handling fabric. If you have questions, call them. They are usually quite willing to help the ‘novice’.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Selling my House

Use a professional.

I know I sound like a broken record but here I go one more time. We can’t do everything ourselves. Ask around, find someone with good references and then let them guide you. Chances are really good you won’t regret it.

I recently sold my home; bought a new one and moved my workroom to a separate site. All within 2 months. Now that it’s done I am rather amazed at how fast the whole process happened. I love my new living space and while my new workroom is smaller than the previous one the downtown location makes it easier for clients to come and look at my 150 fabric books.

While I really believe being in the right place at the right time helped a lot, I think that a few things I did helped the sale along. The first thing I did was get a good agent. I asked around; ‘Which agent is selling the most right now?’ I kept hearing Doris Mills and Linda Rohlfs. So I called and spoke to Doris. Perhaps I could have saved money by doing the sale myself, or going to a lower commission sale but I wanted to sell and fast. And have you seen the paperwork involved in a sale?

Doris provided a video:‘ Fit to Sell’; that is a great tool for sellers. As a decorator, I knew I had to remove all personal items. I keep a fairly lean house anyway so this wasn’t too much of a stretch but it did involve packing and quite a few trips to the thrift store. All the pictures came down, all the knickknacks went into a box. The closets got cleaned out.

I was a nervous wreck. My agent kept calm and kept me calm. When it came time to actually move - I had 2 moves to do, one for the workroom, one for my house; I was presented with that wonderful surprise of a professional who provides over and above the required. I got a moving van - at no charge.

The whole house selling experience is another example of the truth that using a professional will save you money in the long run. If had tried to do this myself I’m sure I’d still be filling out forms.. not sitting on my new balcony watching the sunset.


We have all seen ‘Sell this House’. Roger the stager works magic, with very little money. The homes sell quicker and for more money than homes that are not ‘staged’. So what is this all about anyway?

Staging is the preparation of your home for sale. It involves the de-personalizing of the space and the optimization of the home for appeal to the widest spectrum of potential buyers. This means, among many other things, that all the family clutter and photos get packed away; the wallpaper borders will usually come down, any unusual or odd wall colors are neutralized; design principals are applied to furniture placement and the interior and exterior of the home is made to appear at it’s finest. As an interior decorator I can say that the main difference between what I do and what stagers do is that an interior decorator strives to make the space personal to the homeowners; the stager must strive to make the space appear impersonal, yet still inviting, to as many people as possible. The design principals are the same for both professions. Traffic flow is still traffic flow. As an interior decorator, I am aware of decor trends but they are not my prime focus; a stager must be very aware of what is selling in her particular area; what trends are catching the eye of potential buyers. Interior decorators have an eye focused on the long-term; stagers must work quickly and often with a small budget; knowing that their work may very well be short-lived.

What does it cost? That depends.. some stagers work for a flat fee that could be based on hours of work or square footage of the property. Some stagers work for a percentage of the budget for the staging. Some stagers can supply furniture, rugs, linens or accessories, for example, and charge a rental fee for these items as well as a consultant fee and some stagers will rent the items for the homeowner. An in-home consultation is the first step.

According to some statistics I uncovered, staged homes sell faster than unstaged and for 7% more. Staged homes appeal to a broader range of buyers than unstaged; buyers feel staged homes are well-maintained, inspectors often believe the home is better cared for and staged homes often get better appraisals than unstaged homes.

So,., it might be a good idea to get that consultation if you are considering selling.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wallpaper, continued

I’m currently working on a top floor room that has very large exposed beams in the ceiling and on the walls. Unfortunately this beam is off center on the bed wall. We want a headboard but this 8 inch wide vertical beam throws everything off center and out of balance. Back to design principals: If you have an architectural element you don’t like you can ignore it, accent it or camouflage it. We can’t ignore or accent this beam so I’m opting to camouflage it by either painting it out or wallpapering the entire wall. Voila, off-center beam gone. I’d like to use a good textured paper and put a fantastic upholstered headboard against it.

Wallpaper has many uses. It can help conceal troubled walls, it can make a small room appear larger or a huge space appear more intimate. It can draw attention to the focal point, or it can be the focal point. It can establish a theme.

In a small bedroom consider wallpapering the bed wall only. In a really tiny bedroom ( or powder room), consider wallpapering the entire room and ceiling too. Remember the contrast guideline? Contrast is what makes rooms appear cluttered and small. The consistency of walls of all the same paper will increase the perceived size of the room, not decrease it.

If you like to change your decor a bit by the seasons, put wallpaper inserts in a headboard, or use it as a large piece of wall art. Totally removable papers make this easy. Wallpaper just the insides of the china cabinet or closet. I’ve seen wallpaper used on the risers only of stairs but I’m not sure about this one. The contrast rule comes into play here too and when I looked at the stairs all I could see were the risers. Not sure this is what was intended.

Remember tin ceilings? Anaglypta and Lincrusta were the original vinyls that replicated these ceilings and are still available but much less expensive paintable papers are readily available to fit every decor style. A leather wall? Why not. These paintable papers are so effective if done properly it’s difficult to tell them from the real thing. They also make wonderful dados.

As with so much in fashion and home decor, styles evolve and come back over and over again. Welcome back, wallpaper.

What's new in Wallpaper

When I worked at Chintz and Company in Calgary, the Crown Wallpaper showroom was just down the street. I used to love going in there, just to spend a few hours looking through the books, putting fabrics and papers together, designing imaginary rooms. Like a new coat of paint, wallpaper can dramatically change a room and unlike buying a purple leather sofa it can be changed when we change our minds. Wallpaper is making a huge comeback in the interior decorating world. I was a bit trepidacious about this trend at first ( remember the borders that were everywhere??) but after looking at the new papers and how they can be used, I think I might have changed my mind.

As with so much else, new technologies have made new wallpapers. Gone are the paste brushes and non-stick ‘prepasted’ papers. I like the fact that there is a truly removable paper now, it comes off easily and does not damage the surface underneath. No steaming or scoring required. York has SureStrip and Easy2; Sherwin Williams has the EasyChange paper. Renters, are you paying attention? The Wallpaper Company has produced wallpaper ‘tiles’ in 24 colors, again totally removable; available in some Home Depots. is the place to look at 2 dimensional wallpaper tiles that are constructed from bamboo pulp.

I also like the fact that the the layer of the covering that lies against the wall in many papers now is breathable, so no more moisture or mildew problems. Many of the papers are also made with Eco friendly products and some of the new adhesives do not off gas. And wait till you see the patterns and textures. Everything from soft, hardly noticeable classics to vibrant, huge prints in every color and decor style imaginable. Just for the fun of it, check the Crown Wallpaper site ( Farrow and Ball shows paper designs in black and white, you click for the colors you want to see. will custom make your wallpaper. Flavor-Paper does hand silk-screened papers, custom designed too, that are like no other papers I’ve ever seen. ( scratch and sniff... no kidding).

Along with all these new papers and tiles come what we used to call decals and are now called wall art. Even tromp l’oeil murals. So, new products, new styles and new ideas. Next column will be a bit more about the use of wallpaper in the home.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Ah, the lure of the magazine stand. I can get into trouble there but I’ve learned to curb my buying and tend to stick to my favorite 4 or 5 ‘shelter magazines’ and I don’t buy them all every month. The only one I have a subscription to now is ‘ House Beautiful’; it has proven to be the one I keep going back to for inspiration and information. This month’s issue is all about blue. Blue is not my favorite color ( it is the favorite color of 42% of people, though) but this is a terrific issue, full of examples of mixing textures and prints, of how to use color as accent and how to make totally different statements using the same color. It also covers all decorating styles, from modern to traditional and everything in between.

I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day and picked up an issue of ‘freshHome’. Its part of the Readers Digest family and I had never seen it before. What a surprise it turned out to be. Practical advice, lots of very well explained how-to’s and is really targeted to the average home owner. I think I’ll subscribe to this one too.

When I was teaching Interior Decorating I used Architectural Digest more than any other. I was told that they do not stage rooms; for the most part they photograph ‘as is’.

I like that.

When I look at a magazine for the first time, I often just flip through it quickly to get a sense of how much of it is information and how much of it is advertising. While I like to know what is in the marketplace (a function of advertising) I think that buying a magazine that is mostly ads is like wearing a T-shirt with the designers name on it. Who is paying who?

I have some Architectural Digests and House Beautifuls that are several years old but I don’t keep any others past one year. If there is something in a magazine that I really want to keep, I tear it out and keep it in my inspiration folder. We all have enough paper in our lives anyway.

I’m thrilled that my article on Magnetic Roman Blinds was published in an international trade magazine this month. I’m working on getting it onto my website

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The color primer

I was recently reminded that a lot of people don’t know how color is ‘made’. So here is your primer about color.

There are 3 basic colors. ( Bear with.. some colorists say there are more than this, but that’s an altogether different issue). For sake of expedience, we’ll also use black and white. There is red, blue and yellow. All colors are made by mixing these 3 colors together in different proportions and they are shaded by adding black or tinted by adding white.

A color wheel starts with red at the top (12:00- think of a clock) and in a clockwise direction we see yellow at 4:00 and blue at 8:00. Colors on the right side of the wheel are considered ‘warm’, those on the left ‘cool’.

If we mix red and yellow together in equal proportions we get orange, positioned at 2:00. Yellow and blue make green, at 6:00, blue and red make violet, at 10:00. You can keep mixing the side by side colors to get more variations but these are the basics. Some colors have more of one basic color than another, this gives us things like red-orange where there is more red added to the orange than yellow, creating a color that has a stronger red feel to it than yellow. Some people look really good in blue reds, (‘winters’ ) some can only wear orange reds (‘autumns’).

If you look at colors directly across from each other you see complimentary colors - red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet. If you want to mute a color ( that means to grey it down a bit) you add the complimentary color. So, to reduce the intensity of red, add a tiny bit of green.

A home decorator really needs to understand the color wheel. Combining fabric, or paint, or carpet colors that have different undertones can produce a very disjointed color scheme. One of the best things you can do to help yourself understand the wheel is go to the dollar store and get some acrylic paint; red; yellow, blue, black and white and a little painters pallet and start playing. Make a color wheel. Pick a paint chip color and try to duplicate it. You’ll learn a lot, your decorating schemes will turn out better and you’ll have some fun.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blind Recall

The US Consumer Products Safety has recalled over 50 million window blinds due to the possibility of children strangling on the exposed cords. Health Canada has not issued a similar recall but has issued a warning and is urging consumers to follow the U.S. program and have their blinds, made prior to 2001, retrofitted. If you have these products in your home you need to know what the problem is and how to fix it. At the end of this column will be the list of websites for you to check.

Blinds and shades that have any cords are suspect. If a cord can be manipulated to form a large loop ( through which a child’s head could fit), it is considered a candidate for retrofit. The solution the retrofit kit provides is to remove all the cords and the blind is thereafter raised by feeding each ring ( where the cords used to pass) onto a metal shower ring. While this will work it is a very unwieldy fix. You have to get behind the blind in order to feed the rings onto the shower ring and each column of rings needs to be done separately and you do this each time you want to raise or lower the blinds.

If you don’t want to remove the cords, you can make the blinds somewhat safer. Please move children’s beds away from windows that have these blinds. When the shade is in the up position the pull cords should be firmly attached to the wall with a cord cleat, or fastened above the blind, out of the reach of children. Make sure the tassel on the pull cord is of the ‘breakaway’ style. When the blinds are in the down position, tie all the pull cords into a knot at the top of the cords, close to the head-rail where the cords come away from the blind. This will prevent the cords on the back of the blind from being pulled into a loop if a child tugs on the bottom of the cord.

If you have a fabric Roman blind I can do an alteration so the cords on the back are partially concealed and I have breakaway tassels you can install.

Free Retrofit kit:

Information on the U.S. Recall:

To see the retrofit kit: - click on the ‘Repair Roman Blinds’ at the bottom of the page to see the kit install instructions.

Information on the Canadian position: