Breaking up the squares

Round table versus square

Breaking up the squares? What am I talking about? And exactly what does shape have to do with design? Well, actually a lot. It is one of the things that we unconsciously notice in a room and it can either make us feel at ease or uncomfortable.

Think of a room that you may have been in, that is all rectangular and square furniture. A large rectangular sofa together with square armchairs and a square coffee table and end tables. Add the square or rectangle shaped art and perhaps even an area rug that is, you guessed it, either a square or rectangle. Often you’ll see institutional waiting rooms, like hospitals, schools, community centres which are decorated like this. This doesn’t help with our sense of unease or make us feel like we want to stay awhile. Everything feels hard and well….not so friendly.

Now, think of a room that has rounded or curved furniture. Typically you may see this in spas, bars and coffee houses. Round tables with chairs, a cute curved banquet to sit at or a friendly furniture arrangement around a round coffee table or ottoman. Now don’t you feel more comfortable and want to stay awhile?

It is the same way with our homes. Too many squares and cubes like armchairs and sofas? The remedy is simple. Round, oval or asymmetrical accessories or furnishings. Ottomans, coffee tables, end tables or mirrors in a rounded shape are the perfect way to counteract all the squares and rectangles that are so common in our fixtures and furnishings. An asymmetrical piece like a cowhide rug or even artwork will also help break up all the squares. Even by adding in a round vase, pendant or table lamp can change your room’s feel. This is definitely one of the most common things I suggest to a client during a consultation.

Another benefit to using oval or round furniture is that they often help with traffic flow. If you have a tight dining room consider swapping out your rectangular dining table for a round one. All of a sudden the flow is better and it is more conductive to table talk. Same thing goes for a round coffee table.

This is the before of the kitchen above. A kitchen is obviously primarily square due to all the cabinetry, sink, countertops and appliances. Add that to the fact that they are all hard surfaces. Just by changing out the rectangular table for a round one in this example served two purposes. It breaks up all the squares and it makes for an easier traffic flow to the sliding door. To read more about this renovation, click here.

Rectangular table versus round

Ahh..now that’s better.

So consider even adding in a round pendant light or mirror to your room that is full of cubes, it will definitely help to break up all the squares!

 

 

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

Are you looking for help to furnish a room? Here’s my six steps that you can follow to furnish your perfect space. I’ll be using one of my client’s living room as an example. Click here to see the original post. 

Here’s the before so you can see where we started from.

So you can see from the before pictures that we were basically starting from scratch the only thing that we kept was the television.

FUNCTION AND FEEL

The first thing I asked this client was questions on how she wanted the room to function. This is key to having a room that works for you and your family. Form always follows function.

For this client, she wanted space for her and her son and to entertain guests. She knew she needed more storage, better lighting and comfortable seating. She also wanted to address the drapery treatment and was already planning to put in hardwood floors.

I also ask my clients how they want the room to feel. This really helps to fine tune your design choices. This client wanted fresh, beachy and bright. So take a moment to think how you want your room to function and feel.

LAYOUT

So once you have the function question answered, draw up a little sketch or use an online program of your space. I use the paid version of Room Sketcher but they do have a simplified free version available here . Better Homes and Gardens has one as well. I haven’t used it but you can click here to go to their site.

Play around and see what works. This is the key step you need to furnish your room. At this point don’t be too concerned with colours, these design plans often have limited colour choices, right now you are most concerned about what will fit.

If you are looking at your family room and you need seating for 4-6 people. Well, now you can decide whether you want a sofa that is long enough for napping, with a love seat and a chair. Or do you want two love seats and two chairs? This is where you will see what will actually fit and what won’t. Keep in mind that you need a minimum of 3-4′ of space for traffic flow areas and that coffee tables should be at least 18″ from sofa/chairs to be useful and comfortable.

FOR EXAMPLE

Here’s what the living room and adjoining dining room layout looked like for this client.

Living room and dining room layout

Living room and dining room layout

If the program has 3D rendering it will really help you visualize the space. I find it very useful to help clients visualize and for deciding on item’s heights. This is also where I focus of the shapes of items. Since most furniture is square or rectangle I try to incorporate some round, oval or irregular shapes to balance the design.

Living room 3D rendering

Living room/dining room layout 3D

A sectional worked well in this small living area and maximized the seating as well as comfort factor. A colourful occasional chair adds some pattern and can be pulled up closer to the sectional when company is over or even used at the dining table when needed.

A television console with cupboards, a large coffee table with drawers and shelves and a dining room buffet situated between the living room and dining room offers storage for both rooms. It also gives her a place to put a larger table lamp and add in a small gallery wall.

My client ended up going with a sofa with a chaise lounger at one end instead of a full sectional as she didn’t want to block too much light from the window. The key here was she knew what size of sectional/sofa would work and then she went shopping. She also decided to wait on getting an area rug and see if she really missed having one or not. Design is fluid and often Plan B or Plan C is utilized as you go along.

FURNISH

Now make a list of the pieces you will need to furnish this room. Perhaps you will be using something you already have. Just make sure that the dimensions work in your layout. Remember to measure everything so that you don’t have any unexpected surprises. It’s also very important to measure your main door frame or any stairs to ensure you can get any larger pieces of new furniture in your house or up or down the stairs!!

This is also where you want to think about window treatments. Do you need blinds and drapes, or just blinds. Is privacy or sun protection an issue? If so, you definitely want to ensure you have blinds or at least lined drapery.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

Also don’t forget the lighting and smaller case goods, like end tables, foot stools, night tables, etc…. This is the best place to play with placement and see if you can fit in a floor lamp or perhaps even a large house plant in that corner.

Here is the mood board for this project. This was done up together with a list of items to be ordered/purchased and their costs.

Mood board living room and dining room

BUDGET

We can’t forget the budget. It really does make some decisions for you. I am a splurge and save kind of gal, as I love a few luxury pieces but then my practical side comes in. I LOVE to find a bargain or perhaps repurpose or reuse an item.

Make up a spreadsheet with the list of the items you need to purchase/find on the left and then start sourcing with your budget in mind. As you go along you will have to decide where to splurge and where to save or perhaps plan for a larger purchase over time.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

COLOUR SCHEME

Now this is where the colour scheme comes in. Are you using some existing pieces? Use them as your guide. An area rug, art piece or even the fabric on a throw cushion can be your jumping off point for the colour scheme. Keep in mind the colours in the rest of your home and how much light this room gets. If this is a main room, you want to ensure that it won’t clash with the hallway or other rooms adjacent to it.

If you need further inspiration or are starting from scratch, look around your home, what is your favourite room? What colours are in there? Or do a Pinterest search and just start pinning rooms that you love. A common colour thread will emerge quickly.

Once you have decided on the colours of all the major pieces you can now choose a paint colour. Paint colours should always come last. As it is much easier to choose a paint colour to go with your sofa fabric than the other way around.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

ACCESSORIES

Once you have made all these decisions and ordered your furniture you can start the fun part. Accessory shopping! You can either shop your home or hit the stores for the finishing touches. I like to keep at least 10% of the budget for accessories. Don’t skip this step, it gives your room it’s personality. Buy more accessories than you think you’ll need so that you can try them out in your space. Just make sure that there is a good store exchange policy so that you can return the items that are not needed.

Furnish a room in 6 easy steps

That’s it you are done!

Now sit back and enjoy your perfect space.

And if all of this seems way too complicated or time consuming for you, just contact me.

I’d be happy to help design your perfect room.

Whether from start to finish or by just giving you the design plans to do it yourself. It’s entirely up to you.

A log cottage kitchen transformation

Well after a loooonnngg break, I’m back at blogging. I hope your summer has been going along well, mine has been busy, as per usual with projects, cottage company and gardening. But of course, come January I will be wishing for that summer busyness. In today’s post I’m sharing my log cottage kitchen which we recently renovated. This post will showcase my steals and splurges on this kitchen reno.  So sit back, grab a coffee or tea and follow along on my log cottage kitchen reno adventure. Huh, maybe renoventure….it really should be a word.

log cottage kitchen with blue cabinetry, stone island and open shelving

So this kitchen started looking like this.

Before Kitchen

So let’s start with the bad:

  • lots and lots of wood, so much so that it felt dark and dingy
  • drop down breakfast bar on the island that was too low for anyone to actually sit at
  • the wood window shutters, more wood??
  • leaking sink and faucet
  • ineffective and insufficient lighting
  • false ceiling over sink, which made that area even darker
  • floral backsplash
  • chipped and lifting countertop
  • desk area that was not functional

However, it had lots of good:

  • size and layout was great
  • flooring is in great shape
  • stone island wall
  • most cabinetry boxes were in great shape
  • two large pantries which were still working well
  • vent downdraft was existing
  • corner china cabinet
  • lots of windows
  • lots of counter space

So our TO DOs were to:

Before kitchen

Before kitchen Before kitchen

So there were definitely lots of places where we could save money. Originally I wanted to keep the cabinet fronts and just have a few made to match and then paint the entire kitchen.  However, once I took the cherry fronts to a few companies for an estimate on refinishing, they gave me the bad news that the finish on them was in such bad shape that they would have to be stripped bare. Which was going to be approximately $100 per door, not including the cost of spray painting them. So…onto Plan B – all new cabinet fronts. I can’t say it was inexpensive as it was a custom job but I am thrilled with the results.

The plan on computer via Sketchup. I love that it actually came out really close to my original plans.

Log cottage design with ketchup Log cottage design with sketchup Log cottage design with sketchup

Cabinetry

The decision for a blue/grey colour for the cabinets was made shortly after we moved in and it was still my top choice. With all the orange of the wood, the cool tones of the blue/grey are a soothing visual relief. It complements the wood and allows the remaining wood in the kitchen to sing. No one used to notice the log ends by the pantries before but now everyone points them out.

log cottage kitchen with blue cabinetry, stone island and open shelving

Once we had a good look at the cabinetry we realized that all the lower drawer cabinets were sagging so we made the decision to have all new lower cabinetry made. We also removed the desk under the window. Due to the lower windows in this area, I decided to have cabinetry made to look more like a piece of furniture here. The two large cabinets house all my big platters, bowls and serving dishes and the open shelving offers some display area.

I had been going back and forth on whether to use butcher block here or continue with the quartz countertop. However, once the quartz fabricator did his measurements we were looking at having to purchase two slabs to cover the entire kitchen. So the butcher block was the perfect way to keep the budget in check and since they were from Ikea they were a steal. Plus they are a great match to the existing wood.

The existing china cabinet was refaced and I had new seeded glass installed that looks like water droplets, so pretty! I also had new lighting installed so it can be lit for entertaining.

The center upper cabinetry was all removed and I added in one small upper cabinet where the existing microwave cabinet had been. This was specifically for glasses and mugs as I knew this would be the tea/coffee area. Black cabinetry hardware was added with square knobs on the cupboards and cup pulls on the drawers.

log cottage kitchen with blue cabinetry, stone island and open shelving

The rest of the cabinetry boxes stayed and just fronts were made for them. I also had the dishwasher and fridge panelled to match. This was a splurge but I DO NOT regret a penny of it. In fact this is my hubby’s favourite thing in the kitchen.

Island

I also wanted to keep the stone island as there is a matching fireplace and exterior garden walls. This stone is local and comes from a closed iron ore mine that my father-in-law used to work at. So there’s sentimental and practical reasons for keeping the stone. My husband wanted the kitchen to have two colours so I was happy to accommodate this by painting the island in a soft black, which was pulled from the stone colour.

However, once the new induction cooktop and downdraft fan were bought we realized that the existing island was about 2-3″ short in depth to accommodate them.  My carpenter was a genius in managing to keep the stone front of the island, by propping it up while the rest of the entirely new island was built around it.

The fun with the island didn’t stop there. Because of the drop down breakfast bar the stone was too short for the now one level island. This shortfall was fixed by having a piece of wood cut to fit and painted the same black/grey as the island. And then of course there were the holes left when the existing supports were removed. My husband, was the hero at this point when he found stone that would fit and fixed all the gaps. Lastly, custom corner corbels were added to each end of the island.

Log cottage kitchen with stone island

Open wine storage was added back on one end and a beer/wine fridge now installed in the island, holds even more. About 6″ of unused space at the far end of the island became a cupboard with narrow shelves perfect for holding cat food supplies. An electrical outlet was also added on the far end of the island for convenience.

Shelving

The live edge wood shelving was a real labour of love. I knew I wanted them to be floating with no visual means of support and that took some doing. We purchased the shelving rough from a supplier and had them cut to size. I spent many, many hours taking off the bark and sanding them down. Then my husband went to a welder to have custom supports made that were then drilled into the log walls to ensure they would be completely stable. Then the shelves themselves had to be drilled to match the metal support dowels. We were thankful that we found all these amazing labourers in our little town. Once up we both loved them and they were definitely worth all the effort.

Log cottage kitchen with live edge open shelving detail

Now they house all our everyday dishes and a few special pieces that I rotate once in a while, when I tire of the view.

Countertops, sink and faucet

As I mentioned above I used quartz for the main counters and butcher block for the lower cabinet by the window. I am still in love with these quartz counters. They have a casual, natural feel and the slight veining in them helps to disguise any dirt.

Quartz countertop

iPhone pic

For the sink I originally wanted a farmhouse sink but it wouldn’t work with the angled corner of my kitchen without moving the dishwasher and since I was trying to keep the costs low, I went with Plan B again. A stainless steel, rounded square sink.

log cottage kitchen with blue cabinetry, quartz counter and sink and faucet detail

I went back and forth on either a double, single or one and a half sink. I ended up selecting the one and a half sink. Since the area wasn’t too big, a double sink would have meant two tiny sinks. So the convenience of having two sinks won out.

log cottage kitchen with blue cabinetry, quartz counters, sink and faucet details

The Artesso articulating faucet was generously donated by Brizo in exchange for my blogging about it.  I loved this faucet and planned alot of things around it. I knew I wanted a dark finish to contrast with the light cabinetry and counters.

Log cottage blue kitchen with faucet detail

She’s a beauty and I absolutely enjoy her every day.

Lighting

I also wanted dark finishes on my lighting but I love the look of mixed metals. So I went with dark finishes but with little hints of bronze.

Log cottage blue kitchen with lighting detail

log cottage kitchen with blue cabinetry, stone island and open shelving

As you can see in this picture above the large pendant has a dark grey and bronze finish.

log cottage kitchen with blue cabinetry, stone island and open shelving

The articulating sconces are also a dark finish but with bronze necks. The sink pendant also has a dark  finish but with clear glass.

The wall you can just see on the left I made into a chalkboard. It’s a fun place for everyone to put messages.

Backsplash

I kept the backsplash neutral and clean, since there were enough finishes and textures going on. So even, though I love a fun cement tile, I kept it simple. This large scale subway matte tile has a handmade look and with the soft grey grout it is pretty timeless.

Log cottage blue kitchen with white subway tile and live edge wood shelves

It covers the entire back and side walls of the kitchen. We painted the walls above the cabinetry the same colour white as the tiles to keep the flow.

Log cottage blue kitchen with white subway tile and live edge wood shelves

This was not quite a complete gut but it was certainly transformative. Most people who had seen the kitchen previously, think we have enlarged the space. It just goes to show how light and brightness can make such a difference your home.

Now, how can we transform your kitchen?

*Photography credit: Melissa Kew Photography – all photos except before and iPhone pictures

 

 

How to design and furnish a sunroom

Boy, it’s a hot summer here so far. So in honour of the season, I’m sharing my log room sunroom that I designed and furnished when we bought our log home a few years ago. So whether your sunroom is actually a covered porch, a screened in 3 season room, a Muskoka room or a free standing gazebo, these tips will help you.

Here’s how one side of the sunroom looks now.

Log home sunroom

And the other side.

Sunroom design

blue log cottage sunroom

Blue log cottage sunroom

This is what I started with.

Before sunroom

I bought more substantial and darker wicker furniture and had the cushions made with sunbrella fabric so that there was no worry about sun damage or a wet bathing suit. I chose blue fabrics that complemented each other but that were not the same for interest. Instead of a coffee table I went with an ottoman. It can be used for your feet, as an extra seat or for putting a tray on and using as a table.

Blue log cottage sunroom

The various throw pillows were made by me and I selected more contrasting patterns but with the same colours of blue as in the upholstery. I primarily used blue in this room but with little touches of a soft green. It shows up on the table base, on candle holders and on a few other decorative accessories.

blue log cottage sunroom

A small corner shelf adds a little display area and makes the corner interesting. A little round glass table holds a table lamp and in the other corner a larger table is for display and to place a drink or two. A floor lamp brings much needed light into this corner.

blue log cottage sunroom detail

My grandfather’s ice saw from the early 1900’s takes pride of place over the window. You can just see it on the picture below. An indoor/outdoor rug with a fun french poem written on it anchors the seating area.

blue log cottage sunroom

The little piano stool, from a barn sale, is painted a fun turquoise that matches the curio cabinet in the living room.

Turquoise piano stool used as table in sunroom

And here’s how the other side of the room looked like before.

before sunroom

First up we had to do a repair on the floor tiles right in front of the door. Since the existing terracotta tiles were not available nor would they have matched I went with a different pattern terracotta tile for this area, I think it makes it look like an accent rug.

blue log cottage sunroom

We also took out three of the six skylights as the lower ones were too close to the edge of the roof and leaked all the time. We kept it as an eating area and this is also where we often play cards. Removing the shelf allowed for a larger table and chairs. I also hung a black industrial style pendant light. And for a little bit of fun, I painted and placed some old oars as wall art on this wall.

log cottage detail

Log cottage sunroom

The other side of the room, which you don’t see has a large bookcase across from the table. And there are two sets of french doors which take up the rest of the wall space.

Sunroom detail

If you’d like to read about the other rooms in my log cottage, click on the links below. And stayed tuned, as I’ll be sharing more of the rooms throughout the summer. You can also read about my log cottage feature online in Ottawa at Home’s summer edition by clicking here. 

Log cottage living room 

Log cottage bathroom 

All photos except before pictures:  Melissa Kew Photography

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

Here’s how it looks now.

Log home living room with white sofas and blue swivel chairs

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

Since it is a large living room, I worked mostly with the furniture left behind and what we brought from our other cottage. By repurposing and reimagining a number of pieces I was able to keep within our budget.

Pictures do say a thousand words so here’s a quick breakdown of what changed in the cottage living room.

Before picture of log cottage living room with design changes

The sofa and love seat were great quality and in perfect shape, so I quickly decided to slipcover them in a white denim. Slipped off and washed at least once a year they stay clean and fresh. And putting throws where they are likely to get soiled helps keep them clean longer. I love that they make the room a little brighter as all wood interiors can get dark.

Donating the traditional area rug to a shelter allowed me to have 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.

Removing the swag drapery treatments lets the view speak for itself. Privacy isn’t an issue and with the large roof overhand that is typical of log buildings, sun damage isn’t either. Simpler and more light, both big pluses in my book.

Even if the large clock and console were left by the previous owner, I would have removed both of them,  as there was far too much furniture in the space.

I relocated the existing occasional tables within the cottage and purchased an end table and coffee table from Urban Barn, with a lucky gift card win. Made from repurposed wood they have the rustic feel and look I was going for. Though they do strike a bit of a challenge when placing your drink on them, with their uneven surface.

My grandfather’s travel trunk from the early 1900’s replaced the other end table. I just had a piece of glass cut to fit the top and it has been the perfect thing. If you want to learn more about cottage decorating click here to read an Ottawa Citizen article that I contributed to.

Antique trunk fitted with a glass top to use as a table

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

And on the other side of the cottage living room.

Before picture of living room with design changes

We upgraded the wood pellet stove for a wood burning insert. 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. Even more so after I added the tv behind them, so now you can swivel to watch the fire or tv. With their threadbare pink fabric, they needed a makeover.  By raising them up a few inches (they were quite short) and reupholstering them in an exterior fabric they will be used and abused for many years.

log home living room with white slipcovered sofas

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

New foam and a durable exterior fabric completely updated the window seats. The pillows are a combination of ones I have made, knitted or picked up at various shops.

Adding my own decor items, like the large clock above the mantel, makes it feel more like us. Since this picture was taken this clock has been switched out for an even larger metal industrial one. Antique books, candles and other decor items are displayed on the mantel itself.  You can’t quite see them in these pictures,  but I used images from a great desk calendar and put them in inexpensive frames. By stacking them on top of each other, it gives them a bit more presence on the wall.

Originally this floor lamp was gold plated and very dated. I painted it black and bought a new drum shade to give it a new lease on life.

Cottage living room with stone fireplace

Photo credit: Melissa Kew Photography

The cute little turquoise cabinet, a hand me down gift from a neighbour, got a fresh coat of paint. The swing chair lives here in the winter and in the summer it is enjoyed on the back deck.

Obviously, budget wise we didn’t do this all at the same time. Being one of our most used spaces, it was high on the priority list. 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. You may find things as you go along that aren’t in the plan. That’s okay just as long as you have a good idea of where you are heading. That will also help you to avoid getting off track by spending more money then is necessary.

How can I help you design your living room?