How I designed and updated a log cottage living room with a plan and on a budget

Since lots of you had questions and wanted to see a bit more about our log cottage that was published in Ottawa at Home summer edition, I thought I’d share how I designed and updated the living room on a plan and with a fairly strict budget.

Here’s how it looks now.

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

It’s a large living room and some of the furniture was left behind, which was great for us, even if it wasn’t entirely our style. So I worked a lot with what was left and what we brought from our other cottage.

Pictures do say a thousand words so here’s a quick breakdown of what was changed and how.

So to take it step by step, here’s what I did:

The sofa and love seat were such great quality and in perfect shape, so it was easy for me to decide to slipcover them in a white denim. They are slipped off and washed once or twice a year as needed. I must confess I do put throws on them where they are likely to get soiled to avoid having to clean them more often. I love that they make the room a little brighter as all wood interiors can get dark.

The area rug was too traditional for my liking so it was donated and in it’s place I had a faux sisal wall to wall rug cut and bound to size. This is the perfect thing to do when you need a specific size or a very large area rug. It has held up nicely and it hides sand very well.

I just removed the swag drapery treatments as I think the view speaks for itself and privacy isn’t an issue,  and with the large roof overhand that is typical of log buildings, we didn’t need them for sun protection. Simpler and more light, both big pluses in my book.

The clock and console table were actually not left by the previous owner so that was an easy one. I would have removed both of them regardless as there was far too much furniture in the space, in my opinion.

The coffee and end tables had glass inserts and were very high for some reason. They have been relocated in the cottage and I purchased one end table and coffee table from Urban Barn (when I was lucky enough to win a gift card from them). They are made from repurposed wood and I love the rustic feel and look of them, though they do strike a bit of a challenge when placing your drink on them (watch out for the uneven surface).

The other end table was replaced by my grandfather’s travel trunk from the early 1900’s. I just had a piece of glass cut to fit the top and it has been the perfect thing.

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

And on the other side of the room.

We upgraded the wood pellet stove for a wood burning insert and that has been well worth the change both aesthetically and financially, as it has lowered our heating bills substantially in the winter.

The two pink swivel chairs were functionally perfect for the space, especially since I added a tv right behind them, so now you can swivel to watch the fire or the tv. However, their fabric was threadbare and since pink wasn’t my favourite colour for this room, I had them reupholstered in an exterior fabric that will hold up to use and abuse. I also had them raised a few inches as they were very low to the ground.

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

The window seats were completely redone, with new foam and durable fabric. The pillows are a combination of ones I have made, knitted or picked up at various shops.

Of course, I added my own decor items, like the large clock above the mantel (I’ve actually switched out this clock for an even larger metal industrial style one, since this picture was taken), some antique books and candles on the mantel itself.  You can’t quite see them in these pictures, but to help my budget, I used images from a great desk calendar and put them in inexpensive frames. They are stacked to give them a bit more presence on the wall.

The floor lamp by the way, was an old gold plated one with a rather small pleated shade. I spray painted it in black and pick up a larger drum shade and it is like a whole new light.

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

The cute little turquoise cabinet was a hand me down gift from a neighbour, it was orginally in a dark brown wood finish, so I decided to paint it a fun colour for the corner. The swing chair lives right here in the winter and in the summer it goes out to the back deck.

Obviously, budget wise we didn’t do this all at once, but it was pretty much the first room I tackled since it is one of the most used. I had a plan and as cash became available I just kept going down my list. That is really the key…to have a plan. I know you may find things as you go along, and they made fit into the plan but you really need to have a pretty good idea of where you are heading. That will also help you to avoid getting off track by spending more money then is necessary.

Exciting news


modern cottage kitchen

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

This kitchen will soon be featured along with the rest of my log home cottage in a local magazine. I’m so excited. Once it’s published and available I’ll let you all know.

And did you know that it was an award winner? Click here or on the picture below to see the DDA video showcasing it.

2017 Silver award Kitchens DDA


How to properly light your kitchen

So how do you properly light a fairly dark kitchen? I was asked this question recently in my Facebook group – Empty Nesters – Reclaim your Space (click to join). So here’s my two cents on how to light your kitchen so you aren’t squinting when you are trying to create your gourmet meal.

There are three types of lighting:

  1. Ambient or  General Lighting
  2. Task Lighting
  3. Accent or decorative lighting

You really want to layer all three types of lighting so that you don’t get a spotlight effect in your room. And I always recommend dimmers for most lighting, even in a kitchen, especially if you will be entertaining.

For a kitchen, an example of all three types of lighting would be:

  1. Ambient or General lighting – this is typically potlights (and yes, put them on a dimmer), one or more large overhead lights or track lighting. This is the overall light for the room. If you are using potlights your designer, electrician and/or contractor will have recommendations for you on their spacing in your ceiling. This is dependant on the size of the room, placement of fixtures, work areas and the size and light beam of the potlight you are installing.
  2. Task lighting – this is lighting that directly lights your work area, think of a reading lamp. This would be your under cabinet lighting in a kitchen, or pendant lights over a sink, island or peninsula.
  3. Accent or decorative lighting – for a kitchen this can be wall sconces, glass cabinets with interior lights or a decorative lamp placed on the island.

Here’s a visual showing all three types of lighting in a kitchen.

So in this example, the ambient or general lighting is the potlights. The task lighting is the under cabinet lighting, the pendant lights over the peninsula and the fan light over the stove. The accent lighting is the in cabinet lighting.

Proper lighting in a kitchen is essential and one of the first steps when planning your kitchen renovation.


it’s important to directly light your work areas.

How to furnish and love a long narrow living room in 5 easy steps

Do you have a long narrow living or family room? Are you a little puzzled on how to go about using it to it’s full potential or at the least making it appear less long and narrow? These quick tips are sure to help you then.

1.  First off, do not make the shorts walls a featured area. That is, don’t paint it a different colour than the other walls or put wallpaper on just this one wall. That will draw your eye right to the other end of the room and emphasize it’s narrowness.  So, no accent walls of paint or wallpaper, and if possible, do not put the television or fireplace there.

2.  Do try and place the television/fireplace or other focal pieces, on one of the long walls. This will redirect your focus there.

3. Place furniture away from the short walls wherever possible. This way they will be drawn more into the center of the room.  Creating two seating areas works well in this kind of room and enables it to be used to it’s full potential.

4. Built ins or shelving units are your friend.  They can be used on the short walls to create some additional storage and they will inevitably cause the room to be shortened in length. Especially if one of the longer walls has a focal point, as in the image below, the window wall will draw your attention before the shelving unit does.

5. Don’t be afraid of larger pieces of furniture, like sectionals. They take up less space than a sofa and love seat and give you just as much seating, if not more, and allow you to stretch out to watch your favourite shows….hello, Netflix.

Recently, I did up a floor plan for a client with just this dilemma and here’s the two options I gave her.  There is an interesting closet like space at the end of the room that we needed to work with, you know….. old homes and all their character.  This space was particularly challenging as it had two entrances and two windows so they had to be accommodated and the natural walk or flow needed to be addressed. Also, keep in mind drawings are for design layout purposes only and not necessarily suggestions for colour or specific pieces.
Option 1 – 
  long narrow living room
The end of the room closet area was brought forward by using a console with a piece of art above and two matching chairs in front as the secondary seating area.  The remainder of the room is focused on the television set in the middle of one of the long walls with a sectional facing it.
long narrow living room long narrow living room
Option 2 – 
The left side of the room remains the same, with the right side accommodating a built in bookcases and storage.
long narrow living room
long narrow living room
So what’s your favourite Option?

9 easy steps to go all the way with design


Are you struggling with finishing or even starting to design a room. It’s something we have all experienced, even us decorators and designers. Life is so distracting sometimes and it can be hard to move forward.

However, the key is to keep making decisions and to focus on ONE ROOM AT A TIME!!! I know, I know, I always say that your home should be cohesive and it does but trying to design a whole home can be hugely overwhelming for most. So tackle one room at a time and I think you’ll see that one room leads to another.

Here’s the way I do it:

1.  Make a plan – decide on how you will be using the room, who will be using the room and what you need to do that properly.  If it’s a family room and you will be using it to watch television and do crafts – then you need to have comfy seating for the television watching and a large table with appropriate flooring and lighting for craft time.

2.  Plan your lighting – lighting is so important to a room.  Just think how annoyed you are when you don’t have the proper lighting when you are trying to do something.  Make sure there is ambient lighting (the general lighting for a room) and the appropriate task lighting (such as table lamps for reading or pot lights set over the craft table).  Decorative lighting can be added as well for mood and ambience in the form of sconces, candles or a decorative floor or table lamp.

3.  Style and colour – this goes along with #1 in that you need to have an idea of what style you would like.  The best way to do this is with magazines – pull out pictures that you like and keep a file or make a pinterest board (I’m going to post some tips on keeping your pinterest boards on point).  After you have a bunch in the file or pins on your pinterest board, a clearer picture of your style will emerge and you can use them as inspiration.  Colour will also show up in these photos – however, I still feel that the colour of the walls will be determined at a later stage once you have the bigger pieces decided upon.

4.  Large pieces – now is the time to invest in the larger more expensive pieces for the room.  Such as a sofa, area rug, draperies and case goods.  These are the items that you will be keeping for the long term and they form the base of your design.  This is where you usually spend the bulk of your budget and because of this I usually stick with classics and neutrals for these items.  You can however diverge from this tract, if for example you love red and fall in love with a red sofa.  GO FOR IT!  This is what will make your room, you!

A note here about pattern – if the larger items that you have decided upon are all solids you may want to add some pattern either in the area rug or in a smaller upholstered chair or ottoman to give the room some pizzazz.  Otherwise I would consider adding some wallpaper to the walls instead of a solid paint colour.  The key with pattern is to ensure that the pattern sizes are not all the same – for example, if you have a large pattern on the area rug then have a smaller pattern on the ottoman, so vary the scale of your patterns.

5.  Shopping – Okay now that you’ve decided on the larger items and you know how much they cost, you can form a budget.  This will guide you as to where you can splurge and where you can save.  A great room always has some of each in it – that is what makes it interesting.  Remember to keep some money for paint and accessories (usually about 15-20% of the budget).

6.  Paint colour – now you can pick the paint colour. I look at all the major items purchased and the rest of the home and then decide what would be the best colour choice.  Since paint is one of the most inexpensive parts of the design process and there are so many paint colours this is the best way to go about it.  Once I know the main colour of the walls, I can then go on to the next step, accessory shopping.

7. Accessories –  I do up a list of what I think I’ll need – such as: small round end table, gold framed rectangular mirror approximately 24”x12”.  This is also when I check to see if there is an abundance of one shape or another in the room.  If there are lots of square items, I balant with some round smaller items and accessories.  Most decorators and designers will pick up way more accessories while shopping so that they have a choice when doing the final placement.  You just return the items that you don’t need, so make sure the store you are shopping at has a great return policy.

8.  Keep on track – Now is when you’ll usually get distracted and start looking for items for another room in your home.  Try and keep focused and only purchase for the one room – your budget will thank you and you’ll have one room done instead of all of them in progress.

9.  Put everything in place – if you have managed to hold off now is the time to put everything in place.  Of course, first off the room should be painted and then the larger items positioned in place. Then the smaller furniture pieces and accessories, such as artwork, mirrors and decorative pieces are added.  And Voila!! a perfectly finished space!!