Corporate blog review: Decor8 — July 31, 2015

Corporate blog review: Decor8

Today I’m looking forward to sharing a rather exceptional corporate interior design blog with you and reviewing just what makes this blog stand out from the rest. Meet decor8.
This blog, launched back in 2006 by Holly Becker, started off as most blogs do. Small. Back then Holly was a design student in Boston. Fast forward 9 years and Holly is now the proud author of a series of best selling books and her blog has become award winning in the world of interior and lifestyle blogs.
So how did she do it?
I think the answer is fairly simple. Holly simply loves what she does but there are some other key ingredients reviewed below.
Personal touch
The site has a really personal voice and it is gentle and mild-mannered. Holly attributes her success to her loyal readers who have helped to share her blog. As bloggers, we all know the importance of sharing posts, and even with Holly’s success, she still doesn’t forget to mention the “little people”.
Digestable text
While we don’t want endless blogs of “the top 5” or “top 10”, sometimes they are necessary. Especially when handing out decorating tips. Holly users a combination of numbers, clear headings and photos to make text informative but easy to digest (see below screengrab).
List screengrab
Beautiful photography & up and coming designers
This site is brimming with drop-dead gorgeous images of beautiful designs and the designers behind them. The images speak for themselves but Holly often introduces up and coming designers too – like the hugely talented British interior designer Luke Edward Hall.
Clear categories
I appreciate a good category and being able to find it with ease. It helps with the user experience and creates a sense of order. On Decor8, categories feature prominently  in the tool bar  and there are 10 distinct categories to choose from (see below screengrab).
Breaking news
If something is trending in the ‘decorate, design and lifestyle’ world, then this blog has it covered. If you are curious or simply need some inspiration, see what’s trending right now. Think factory windows (yes that’s correct). Think fabulous.
Jon Oron
Image source: all images are courtesy of
The site is also hugely shareable across most current and emerging social media platforms, which is a big plus. The site is also optimised for mobile.
Room for improvement
The only challenge is that some articles are a little on the long side so that is one area which could be reviewed as too much text can be off putting to the user.
Aside from that, I really think I’ve stumbled on a great read and I am signing up for the e-newsletter quicker than you can say “remove that hideous wallpaper now”.
Behind the scenes renovation interview — July 23, 2015

Behind the scenes renovation interview

Renovations are one way of getting a step closer to your dream home. Since moving to Toronto, I’ve noticed just how many peers and colleagues are doing some form of reno. And while at times the thought of it sounds very daunting, I’m also rather intrigued at how the whole thing works.
In this blog I interview a friend, Taryn Green, who together with her husband, had no background in renovating properties. Despite this they managed to turn their house into one hell of a home.
Read on for a very honest and inspiring tale of a house reno in Toronto’s Riverside.

Q1: Is there ever a good time to renovate and if so when?

A: Renovating is stressful, expensive, and time consuming so I’d generally suggest avoiding renos when you have other things going on in your life that share those qualities. Consider how it will impact your day to day life: Will you have to relocate? Do you have major expenses coming up? Are you on a really strict timeline? If so, you may want to wait or adjust your scope. That being said, we recently started a reno project when I was 30 weeks pregnant with the goal of completing it before the baby arrived.  Recognize that your life will be somewhat thrown into turmoil for a while and try to manage your expectations. You are going to experience delays and setbacks so it’s wise to prepare yourself mentally and financially so you can stay as zen as possible during the process.

Q2: How did you plan and schedule your renovations?

A: In our case, we were working with a very old house that needed a lot of behind-the-scenes work. A room by room schedule would have been challenging because so much work was needed throughout. We were fortunately able to move out while we gutted the entire house and addressed all the structural, electrical and HVAC issues at once. We’ve been gradually putting things back together floor by floor. We started with the main and second floor so that we’d have somewhere to live and have since done the third floor. The basement and kitchen will be the final phase and are in progress now. Every home and project is different so the planning and scheduling is dependent upon existing conditions, what your ultimate plan is, your budget, etc. I highly recommend seeking the advice of a contractor and architect during the planning stages. Even if you don’t hire them for a whole-house reno, they will be able to give you insights into the best way to schedule the work in order to minimize disruptions and costs.
Sneak peak of some during and after photos:
Living room during reno
Living Room Demo
Living room post reno
Living room post reno
Living room and staircase during reno
Living room and staircase
Living room and hallway during reno
Living room post reno
Living  room post reno
Hallway post reno
Hallway post reno

Q3: What did you enjoy most about the process?

A: I loved watching the progress day to day and seeing a space come together. It’s exciting to anticipate each stage and watch your vision come to life. We also did some of the work on our house ourselves and I really enjoyed learning new skills throughout the process. It was empowering to learn how to use a saw and a drill and build something with my own hands.

Q4: What advice would you give to someone considering renovating? 

A: It will always cost more and take longer than you expect. Planning is also critical – allow time for planning, procurement, scheduling contractors, etc. If you’re making all your decisions on the fly, you risk backing yourself into an expensive, stressful corner.

Q5: What was the most disruptive part of the process?

A: Demolition is messy and very noisy. Plaster dust finds its way into everything.

Q6: Where did you find your inspiration?

A: All over! We got ideas from restaurants we loved, hotels we’ve stayed in, and other homes we saw while we were house-hunting. Design magazines are great but most people aren’t going to be featured in Architectural Digest so I especially love “real home” tours on Apartment Therapy and design blogs that show the entire process of a renovation.
A *HUGE* thanks to Taryn for her thoughtful response to my questions and for sharing such awe-inspiring and beautiful photos of their renovation project in Riverside.
I hope you found this interview to provide you with a solid understanding of the considerations surrounding a renovation. As well as a little inspiration for the brave who are up to the challenge of a reno, both mentally, physically and financially!
A renovation is by no means a challenge to be approached lightly, however as demonstrated in the interview and photos, the results can be truly spectacular.
Online review of CB2, Toronto — July 18, 2015

Online review of CB2, Toronto

Today I review modern furniture store, CB2 in Toronto. I hope that you will find this review helpful and that it may assist you in narrowing down your interior design hunt.
Pros of CB2: Modern, clean furniture, lighting, accessories and all things ‘house’; ‘affordable’; vibrant display; airy loft; relaxed but helpful staff.
Cons of CB2: Limited back end stock; delivery is not included in the price.
Overall experience: Having moved to Toronto in June 2014 first on my ‘to do’ list was to try and make my house a home. The Queen West area of Toronto is known for its unique furniture shops and after scouting out the various haunts, I can highly recommend CB2. A year on with no need for any more furniture, I still find myself strolling into CB2 on a lazy afternoon. I despise shopping so if you knew me, you would appreciate the significance of this statement.
When my husband and I moved from London, England to Toronto, we made sure that our furniture joined us too.  Our beautiful mid-century modern was shipped across the Atlantic and six weeks later, our condo was beginning to feel somewhat homely.
The major challenge? Lack of lighting.
Major solution: CB2.
Upon entering the store in Queen Street West, my husband and I were greeted by a laid back but helpful sales assistant. For the sake of this post we will call him John. We explained our brief, showed John photographs of the condo and he gently pointed us in the right direction, pointing out the various pros and cons of each lighting fixture. While this may sound slightly dull, it was a huge help to us to know exactly what types of lighting would work well in our space.
Possibly the most important part of the entire process was that John was helpful, but not over bearing. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about sales assistants who get too involved or influential in the buying process. Being a Brit, it’s still taking a while for me to adjust to the overly zealous north American sales approach! Two hours later, having reviewed every light in the shop as well as discussed the up-coming stock, I felt confident that not only was I buying stylish and unique fixtures, but that these were made of quality. Delivery was a two week lead time and we found this to be true to the day.
The over all experience for me was superb. Gorgeous stock, great customer service and hassle free delivery. If these are also your values, then check out CB2. You may just find that you become a regular!
Exterior of CB2:
Exterior of CB2 on Queen St West
Exterior of CB2 on Queen St West
Rose petal table lamp
Photo of my first CB2 light fixture purchase: the divine rose petal table lamp. Sold out but you can still buy the gorgeous rosie smoke table lamp. While stocks last!
Top three need-to-know design shops in West Toronto — July 10, 2015

Top three need-to-know design shops in West Toronto

The post crafted below is a guest post that I have written, on the assumption that my article features in the hugely popular, BlogTO. This is a daily weblog, covering all local news and culture in Toronto.
In particular, I believe that my blog would sit well in the City and Culture, Fashion and Style section. There is definite synergy with my blog and other fashion/style posts featuring in this section so I believe that I am already talking to an engaged and interested audience, who I hope will enjoy my post. In addition, design shops are becoming increasingly prominent and popular in Toronto, so there is growing interest in all things design. What makes my post unique is the geographical focus – West Toronto. Enjoy!
Guest post for BlogTO:
Whether you are looking to renovate or rebrand your home, this list covers off the top three need-to-know design shops making waves in Toronto, today.
Number 1: I have a crush on you
Aside from its adorable name, this shop is a gift shop meets gallery, based in Toronto’s Liberty Village. Its founder, Amy Kwong, takes inspiration from her travels and fellow artists, musicians and clothing designers living in the surrounding area. The end result? Truly unique products that are not only functional, but will make you smile. Take the Rob Ford china plate or bowl. Contemporary and smart and with a portion of the proceeds donated to CAMH, what’s not to love?
China plates, Rob Ford
Image source:
Number 2: CB2
This store is a modern destination from Crate and Barrel, that first opened its doors in 2000.  With 11 urban stores under its belt in America, CB2 has recently ventured to the North and now you can buy what they claim to be affordable, modern home furnishings, in your very own Toronto. Based out of a lofty show room on 651 Queen Street West, this store covers everything from cutlery to couches, wall art to wine glasses, extraordinary light fixtures to egg timers. Take advantage of their sale through July 20. Good luck bargain hunting!
Finger wall clock
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Number 3: Toronto Designers Market
Last, but by no means least, the Toronto Designers Market. Possibly one of Toronto’s best kept secrets, down to the fact that it only opened its doors on May 31. Located at 1605 Queen St West, this 3000 square foot space features over 30 different designers showcasing their creative masterpieces.
From jewelry to clothing, furniture to household items, this space has it all. And with the space being affordable, you are guaranteed to see the latest raw talent, emerging from the creative designers and entrepreneurs across Canada. The market runs from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am – 6pm, so get yourself down there and get inspired!
Blue dresser
‘Today’s guest post, Katie Houghton, founder of Property Monarch, blogs about all things house-related in Toronto. To read about her musings on renting, buying, design and more, check out Property Monarch.’
Beware of online property scammers — July 4, 2015

Beware of online property scammers

This week I have recorded a three minute (well, 2:59) vlog on what you need to be mindful of when using classified sites to find a property. I include tactics adopted by scammers as well as provide you with a legitimate search site which will help you find the right property, with minimal hassle. I hope you enjoy watching!
Beware of online property scammers
Less concrete jungle more trees, please. — June 21, 2015

Less concrete jungle more trees, please.

As a non-Canadian, when you think ‘Canada’ many wild and wonderful things come to mind. Largely the legendary outdoors, forests, hiking, nature.
But you can be forgiven for forgetting all of this and more, when living in Toronto. Now I get that Toronto is a city and not The Muskokas, but it is still seriously lacking green, open spaces, often found in other major cities, such as London, England or Paris, France.
In fact, it’s pretty remarkable that such a new city has lacked the foresight of urban planning, which if done correctly, would help make Toronto look and feel more balanced and less concrete jungle. But fear not, you don’t have to sit back and watch another condo shoot in-to the air. There are plenty of ways for you to get your voice heard so that Toronto can indeed, be more green.
Before I get too many backs up, I do need to acknowledge that there are a number of beautiful open spaces in Toronto. Take Trinity Bellwoods for instance. This park has a tonne on offer, from tennis to hockey, dog parks to picnics. Take your pick in this community hub and enjoy restoring your inner-calm.
However, if you’re living in the outer suburbs, then good luck. These areas lack the same kinds of green space amenities, often found in the city’s central areas. If you are living in a higher density area, with decade old city planning strategies, then you’re probably missing out.
What to do? Get involved in your community and be the change so that Toronto can get closer to being a green, liveable city that nurtures creativity and opportunity for all.
How-to? Connect with City Planning and find out how you can get involved and make a difference, locally. Really passionate and want to go one step further? Your City Chief Planner and Executive Director, Jennifer Keesmaat, invites you to take part in shaping your city by inviting you to attend various events; from the Chief Planner round table to Toronto of the Future at Metro Hall. To find out more about how you can be the change, visit City Planning or check out Jennifer’s informative blog Own Your City on the range of issues affecting Toronto.
There really are no excuses for not getting involved in shaping your city. A great example already in the works are Linear Parks – the idea is to link underutilized green spaces and connect these to communities. The hydro corridor in Earlscourt Park to Spadina road is just one project which Torontonians are hoping to transform into a linear park called the Green Line. 
If this takes off, the Green Line would connect a number of neighbourhoods, plus nine city parks.
That’s a lot of green space.
If you’re feeling disgruntled at the lack of open space, then I hope this piece has inspired you to be the change so that you may help make this great city, even greater.
(Image source:
The dangerous world of a product that delivers — June 12, 2015

The dangerous world of a product that delivers

The world of advertising is a funny thing. Promising to deliver so much, and rarely keeping that promise.
The diet world springs to mind as an example of an industry that talks a big game, yet its success stories remain slim.
I identified the dieting world as just one example of a concept largely failing to deliver. It is fair to say that there are a whole host of brands out there that do not keep their brand promise. In many ways, we’ve almost come to expect a slightly less than perfect version of the truth.
Take cleaning detergents. They rarely remove that dreadful red wine stain on your brand new silk shirt. The pen that decides to leak all over your white sheets? Good luck with that one. But, then you knew that when ‘it’ happened. You knew that the end was nigh, despite having your cleaning product to hand. And that’s because products that promise the earth do not perform like they suggest they do.
Unless your product is called Knock Out.
Back in 2011 my husband and I were living in a beautiful garden flat in Crouch End, North London. We had been living there less than two months and were settling into our new surroundings. Our landlord had left us with a few bathroom cleaning detergents, adding that due to the age of the property, sometimes there were issues with the drains. Having lived in converted London homes, this was nothing new.
It was a rare Saturday afternoon where my husband, Chris, took it upon himself to give the bathroom a spruce. We were having guests from Canada arriving mid-week and I imagine he was trying to be helpful.
Chris cleaned the bathroom and kitchen. Life continued as normal.
The next evening, our lovely neighbours who had been away for the weekend, returned to their basement flat which they had called home for 15 years.
Their flat was completely flooded. The ceiling of one of their bathrooms and the kitchen had completely collapsed. The ceiling was entirely exposed, as were the partially destroyed drains which were collecting the water from our dishwasher, washing machine, toilet, sink, shower and bath and transferring this to the floor of our neighbours flat. Furniture and photos were damaged. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage.
What could have possibly caused such catastrophic destruction? Yes, you guessed it! The industrial strength sulphuric acid product, Knock Out, had indeed largely knocked out the infrastructure of our neighbours ceiling. Now neither of us were expecting that.
Fortunately for us, our neighbours (believe it or not), laughed at the situation. They received a hefty insurance compensation and asked us if we would use the same products towards the back of the flat – they really wanted to upgrade their second bathroom.
Moral of the story? Some brands do deliver their brand promise.
Five realities about renting — June 5, 2015

Five realities about renting

Whether you intend on living solo, renting with friends/strangers, or are simply curious about the do’s and don’ts of the rental-sphere – you’ve come to the right place. Housing can be a minefield and adding other people to the mix, well, things can ugly real quick. But, if you arm yourself with my carefully crafted list, you may just get through the rental-sphere unscathed. And maybe, just maybe, you may make a few friends along the way.
1. Landlords take no prisoners – organize your finances
Rule number 1. Unless your parents are your landlords or you are benefitting from some serious ‘mates rates’, it is highly likely that you will have to pay rent. Not only will you have to pay this privilege every month, you will most likely be required to put down a six week security deposit. On your departure, should the property not be as it was found, expect this deposit to return to your account looking considerably leaner.
And if you have been a terrible tenant, then don’t expect anything back at all. Those parties were a really bad idea, on reflection, weren’t they? Make sure you keep on top of your finances and only buy frivolous fashions knowing that your rent is already accounted for. And be good! Future landlords may require a reference from a previous landlord and no one wants to take on a bad tenant.
Bank-of-Mom-and-Dad (1)
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2. Vet your Landlord – not all are created equal
Will Ferrell’s hilarious sketch The Landlord sums up everything that can go wrong with a bad landlord. From harassments over money, bad language, intimidation and abuse – the landlord does all this and more in response to her tenants late rental payment. While this is largely for comic value, there is an element of truth.
Be sure that you vet your landlord before you sign on the dotted line. Ask questions – if they’re not able to answer now, then they sure as hell won’t when they’ve got your cash. So be smart and don’t get scammed. Do your research and be confident in this new financial relationship.  If there are red flags then it may be smarter to walk away.
Image source:
3. Visit the property – in person
As attractive as the photos may appear on Craig’s list, it is very foolish to put a deposit down on a property that you’ve not seen. We all know the camera lies and there are plenty of scammers out there waiting to take your six week security deposit.
Go to the property – and go with a friend/agent so that you are not alone and potentially in an unsafe environment. Inspect the property – does it have everything the ad details? If not but the landlord says it’s coming, then get this in writing. At this stage you have the upper hand – so take advantage!
Image source:
4. Don’t just sign the lease – read and understand it
The lease is a contract between the tenant and the landlord. This is a legally binding document and it’s hugely important that you understand it. Typically there are two types of tenancies – fixed term and periodic. Understand your tenancy and its implications so that you are well informed to know your rights. For example, periodic leases are commonly monthly or weekly which may suit your situation but if you’re looking for stability and a longer lease, then fixed term is the one for you.
Love your furry friend more than life itself? Well make sure the lease allows pets and if it doesn’t then it’s back to the drawing board.  For more information on what to look out for when signing a lease read this informative article from CIBC.
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5. Put your stamp on it
You’re probably two steps ahead and already know that before customizing your new home, you need to check that the lease is OK with you painting a wall and inserting a few nails to hang up your art. Assuming this is the case, then awesome. Create away! If your landlord is less than OK with you recreating Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, then there are other options. Free standing art, lamps, throws, rugs and pillows can all add colour and texture to a room.
So don’t leave your personality at the back door – express yourself and create a space you love coming home to.
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Consider this – real estate at your fingertips? — May 29, 2015

Consider this – real estate at your fingertips?

Location, location, location. The number one rule in real estate and in the perfect world, the mantra you should be adopting so that you have the right house in the right location. This investment naturally sees a ridiculous financial return, all the while your neighbours watch your dog/cat at your beck and call and they deliver freshly baked cookies every Sunday.  Now back to reality. While location is of course, hugely important, there are many other factors which you need to be considering when renting, buying or investing. Read on to discover the key areas that you need to be on top of, if you’re serious about your next move.
Getting your finances in order
It’s a dirty word but if you’re serious above your next move, you’re going to need some of it. Money. Not necessarily huge amounts, but enough to either get that first rental deposit down, or 20% of that mortgage. If this is filling you with panic, relax. It’s never too early to start your savings plan and you can learn more about this and how mortgages work at BMO – my bank of choice.  The biggest advice I can give you is to wise-up on all things financial. There’s no need to be ignorant with this much information at your fingertips. So what’s holding you back?
Location Location Location
We know how important location is, but we also know that what we don’t know, we don’t know. Did you know, for instance, that Toronto is considered as “the city of neighbourhoods”? With over 140 neighbourhoods across the city, you are bound to find the right spot for you. A huge benefit of renting is that you can immerse yourself in a neighbourhood and move on when it’s no longer doing it for you. Having this much flexibility is not to be sniffed at, and I’ll cover the pros and cons of renting versus ownership in a future post. But for now, get inspired and learn something new about your city. Check out the inspirational blogTO and prepare to learn something new about Toronto!
So you’ve got your finances in order, you know where you’d love to live, now you need to start looking at real estate.  My guess is that if you’re anything like me, you were doing this way before looking at your finances. Some may view this as impractical, I prefer to view it as motivation. And the best place for you to focus this motivation? By viewing  the largest multiple listing site in Canada, Realtor.Ca. From condos to houses, renting to buying, East to West – this site has it all covered. And anyone who is anyone is featuring their stock on this site, so stay ahead of the curve and download the app so that you can keep abreast with the market.
House happy
Congratulations on the move! Crack open the Prosecco and get ready for the real work to begin. Whether you’re renting or buying, the likelihood is that a small reno is in order. Stuck for ideas and unable to see past the avocado bathroom and woodchip wallpaper? Fear not. That’s what Houzz is for. Prepare to be truly inspired by this gorgeous site which pulls together beautiful homes and rooms, and helps inspire you to create the home you’ve always dreamed of. It’s like having your own interior designer, without the fees. What’s not to like?
I hope these points have got you thinking about real estate and taught you something you didn’t already know. If there are other sites you think will add to those covered here, please get in touch – I love to be inspired!
Image source:
Overview — May 22, 2015


I like to think I know a thing or two about property. In the last 10 years I have lived in eight different London, England locations and now I find myself in Toronto, not even a year in, and already itching for my next move. Put simply, I love change and even more than change, I love property. LOVE PROPERTY.
In this blog I will share with you my advice on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of renting and home ownership. Intended for the experienced but young professional, parents are welcome to snoop too, as we all know that the bank of ‘mom and dad’ is playing an increasingly crucial role in all things house.
I will also share tips on how to design a home that reflects who you are, so that when you are home, there is nowhere else you’d rather be. I think it is SO important that your home design is an extension of you and that this shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for the home owner. Everyone has the right to their own oasis, no matter how large or small.
The vibrant neighbourhoods of Toronto will also get a review and I will help match you to the neighbourhood that best suits you, reflects your needs and personality. Whether you’re keen to be near the latest pop up shops and craft beer breweries, local markets or mall, or maybe you prefer a balance that allows you to indulge in your weekend cottage escape? These locations and more will be covered.
I hope my blog will serve as educational and inspiring, and at the very least, allow you to make informed decisions about your future. A home is so much more than bricks and mortar and in today’s economic climate, home ownership may just be the smartest move you’ll ever make. Conversely, the flexibility of renting a property may suit your lifestyle and allow you to pursue passions the previous generation would have only dreamed of.
Confused? Don’t be. Follow Property Monarch and wise up to your options as there’s a big wide world out there!