Tag Archives: how-to

Open Concept Design Tips

Open Concept SoHo Loft with Elevated sitting roomsecond view of SoHo open concept loftImages via Twisted Sifter

Whether it’s modern condo spaces, new build homes, or renovations to character houses, open concept seems to be the layout du jour.   As someone with an open concept apartment I can attest to the improvement to the flow of our home and yes, I’d go as far as to say life generally.  Being able to cook, do laundry or eke out some work time while also ensuring the kid is safe is a massive time saver.  And when we entertain we are always falling behind schedule, so to be able to visit with our guests while they enjoy a drink and we finish up (or invite them in on the cooking action) makes us look like casual fun people rather than time-sucking jerks who can’t get our act together. I know all the latest research is saying multitasking will be the downfall of us all, but honestly can I get a Hip-Hip Hooray for the open concept plan.

Open concept living, dining and kitchen areaImage via House and Home

The question that comes up is how to decorate this space; how to use the most of the sometimes meager square-footage we’ve got.  So here is a list of tips and tricks from the design experts:

Colour Scheme

accent wallImage from Deviant Art via Pinterest

Colourful accent wall in open concept spaceImage via Interior Home

For open concept spaces one big room means one big look.  Obviously the same wall colour in your open concept kitchen and living/dining area will go a long way to creating a cohesive space.  But don’t feel tied to this as a hard and fast rule.  Choosing various tones of the same neutral colour can help to divide a space while keeping the cohesion.  Accent walls can also be dazzling in open concept spaces to punch up interest and define one space from another.  If you’ve got trim – baseboards, mouldings-  throughout the space, do keep this the same colour. And while we’re at it, it may seem like one of those no-brainers, but before you settle on your paint colour follow the wall to its end.  In some open concept homes a wall can extend through an entire floor or across multiple floors.  Be sure your colour will work in what might be a very different part of the home, with different lighting and mood.

Furniture Layout

Bookcase room dividerImage via Homestilo

Both layout and the furniture you choose for an open concept space are key.  Layout will help set one space apart from another and defines your space’s flow. What you choose may need to do double duty so look for pieces that are finished on both sides. Open book shelves and step chests are wonderful room dividers that also provide much needed storage.

Big Burl Step Chest divides a spaceImage via Greentea Design

You’ll want to make sure your furniture is sized appropriate to your space.  For smaller footprint condos, smaller sized furniture won’t take over your space.  In grand lofts with soaring ceilings, don’t be afraid to go big like the step chest pictured above.


area rug in open concept living-dining areaimage via Morgan Design Inc

Generally the flooring will be the same throughout an open concept space. It’s area rugs that will become important.  Rugs can help divide up a space by holding a grouping of furniture together.  If you’ve also chosen one wall colour throughout your space, a pretty area rug will add loads of visual interest.  Just don’t go wild with rugs, especially in smaller spaces, where you’ll end up cluttering up and shrinking your room if you’re placing them in the entry way, living area and dining room.  Choose one area and lay a special standout rug.


Mizuya Pantry - the Konoha

Mizuya Pantry in the living roomImages via Greentea Design

The last thing to keep in mind is that what’s glorious about an open concept space can also be a bane.  Mess and clutter feels magnified, inescapable.  Having some closed door storage is a good option for those who can’t live a minimalist life.  Choosing a good transitionary piece of furniture will bridge spaces well.  These Mizuya Pantries can function as a hutch and pantry in the intermediary space between the kitchen and dining area.   They also work just as beautifully in other areas of the house too.

Happy decorating everyone!

Massage, Asian Style

Chinese Tui Na Massage

Tui Na Massage. Image via City College of Acupuncture.

There are not a lot of bliss-inducing activities that would equal a good massage. The cares and worries fade away and the world is reduced to the another human’s touch.

We all need to be touched — and it isn’t just a psychological need, but a deep-seated biological need. Babies need it to flourish, and grown-ups are no different. Asian cultures accept this and have embraced massage not as a relaxation technique, but as a healing tool.  It was considered part of health care in China as far back as 3,000 BC. Massage is said to unclog or unknot the body’s life force, or Qi (chi), thus restoring health and well-being.

Massage, the way Asians do it, is a product of centuries, even millennia, of learning and developing. No wonder it feels so good. And there’s a certain simplicity and unfussiness about it — no special beds or tools, no oils are applied to the skin, and you stay fully clothed.

Chinese painting depicting Tui Na massage. Image via Lands of Wisdom.

Tui na (“push”, “grasp”), is part of the arsenal of traditional Chinese medicine, and involves touching and kneading key points in the body, using a similar anatomical road map as acupuncture.

Japanese doctor giving anma massage. Image via Yotsume Dojo.


Shiatsu massage. Image via Zen Shiatsu.

These Chinese techniques eventually found their way to Japan, which is geographically a stone’s throw away. Japanese an ma (“press”, “rub”) which later gave birth to shiatsu (which translates to “finger pressing”) massage, is largely derived from the Chinese way.

Thai Massage. Image via Worldwide Health.

Illustration of Thai massage points. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Thai massage is locally referred to as nuat phaen boran, which means “ancient-manner massage”. This one’s my favorite — mostly because it feels like doing yoga, only somebody else is doing it for you. It is sometimes called “yoga massage”. Thai massage draws on different massage traditions from different parts of Asia, but its Chinese and Indian origins are the ones most clearly felt.

The interior of a Thai massage spa. Image via Trip Advisor.

Giving a Massage

If you want to try giving a massage, there’s no reason why you can’t be good at it. Touch is a universal language, and you only need practice in order to speak it well.

I am by no means a professional masseuse, but in my family, I am the go-to girl for massages. So here are a few pointers I’d like to offer for a successful first try:

  • Set the atmosphere. Get help where you can. The recipient of your massage will more likely not notice your inexperience if their other senses are involved. Create a spa-like ambiance. Dim the lights, light up a scented candle or incense stick, play some soft music.
  • Get a few massages yourself. They’ll familiarize you with what feels good.
  • Massage muscles, not bone — this is wisdom from my Dad. Muscles appreciate a massage more. Concentrate on fleshy parts — butt, calves, shoulders. Don’t press on the shoulder blades, but rather the muscles around it; not on the spine, but on the parts on either side of it.
  • Remember that pressure is distributed equally in the area of contact. So use more when using your palms or the length of your forearm. Ease up when using smaller points, such as thumbs, fingertips or knuckles.
  • Look out for reactions. They’ll give you hints on whether what you’re doing feels good or not.
  • Read up and watch videos. Whatever massage style you’d like to try doing, there are tons of how-to vids and articles out there.

So that’s my two cents’ worth on this. Good luck and enjoy your massage! I had a blast “researching” for this post!

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Weekend Project: Turn a Globe into a Lamp

World Globe, basis for the Globe Light

Photographs by Eric Cator

This weekend I was out exploring with my husband and I had just finished telling him that I could never be a minimalist because I can’t resist a good find when I spotted a garage sale sign. Cut to ten minutes later and I am walking home with a vintage globe. I almost passed it up because it was sans base, but it was free and I loved the pastel colours.  So home with me it went and here is what it became.

Globe Light Finished Product!It was just the thing for my son’s room, and overall I’m pleased with how it turned out.  In case you want to try making one of your own I made up a small tutorial.

What you’ll need:

Light fixture with cord
low wattage or LED bulb
white paint
paint brush
exacto knife

Cut the bottom of the globeStep 1: Decide Where to Cut

First, take your globe and decide where you want to cut your hole. For simplicities sake I chose a latitude line that was already there but if you want a larger or smaller hole you can draw one using a compass.

Remove the bottom of the globe
Step 2: Cut Bottom off Globe

Next, cut the bottom off your globe. I found that making a series of shallow cuts using an exacto knife worked best for getting the cleanest edge, as the globe was too thick to cut through in one pass.  My apologies to those living in southern New Zealand or the South Pole, they couldn’t be spared.

measure and cut opening for cordStep 3: Measure and Cut Hole for Cord

Measure the width of your plug and draw a circle with the same diameter on the top of the globe. Using the same shallow cutting method as before, cut out the hole. I encountered a small metal ring at this stage, but was able to pull it out with pliers.

a coat of white paint on the inside of the globeStep 4: Paint Inside White

Paint the interior of the globe white. You could try painting it a different colour, but I chose white because it offers the most light reflection. Let the paint dry for at least a couple of hours.

finish by installing the cord and hangingStep 5: Install cord and hang.

Enjoy your new light and brush up on your geography at the same time.

That’s it! The trickiest thing might be finding a globe that you’re willing to repurpose. I’ve found they often turn up at antique stores and flea markets, but there are a few places online that you can also purchase them from.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Posted in Design | Tagged , ,

How To Transfer A Photo To Canvas

How-to Wednesday!

My partner took this photo the other day during our outdoor egg hunt.  I was struck by the neat textures of the fence, the graffiti, the reclaimed window frames on the brick wall and the cool filter effect of our little guy’s red jacket.

I thought how cool that would look blown up on canvas.  So rather than buying the seeming never-ending Groupon deal for said service, I googled how to make my own.

Apparently it’s not hard and all you need is:

  • Blank canvas
  • A laser printout or photocopy the same size as your canvas (use plain old printer paper)
  • Gel medium (I used glossy because that’s what I could find in the acrylic paint section of the neighbourhood art supply store)
  • A fine spatula or foam paint brush to apply the gel medium
  • Water bottle

Step 1

Apply a thick coat of the gel medium to the canvas.  Cover the entire canvas in an even coat (hint:  good lighting is key to ensure you haven’t missed any spots which seemed awfully easy to do).  Apply your printout, image down and smooth away any bubbles.  Let this dry completely, minimum 4 hours, though I read overnight is best.  It’s during this drying process that the gel medium reacts with the toner to pull the image from the paper like voodoo magic (or chemistry if you’re being technical).

Step 2

Once completely dry, spray the back of the paper  with water and then very gently begin to rub the paper away.  This is pretty time intensive and a bit messy.  Rub gently applying even pressure or you’ll rub the image and medium away too, leaving blank canvas (experience is speaking here).  Apply more water as required, the idea is to saturate the paper so it comes away easily.  And you’ll find that the canvas will dry only to reveal more paper.

Step 3

Close up of the canvas.  Final image coming soon!

Cover the image with a thin layer of gel medium to seal the image.  And Ta-Da!  Photo on canvas, complete with a neat weathered look.

A couple of notes:

Choose an image, whether black and white or colour, that will lend itself well to an imperfect transfer.  The result is a kind of rustic, weathered look.  Also don’t forget to mirror the image you plan on using before you print as it will go facedown on the canvas.

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The Possibilities of Chewed Paper

Papier mache doggie

"Franske" by Janneke Neele

I’ve always loved the optimism and hope that are so intrinsic in paper. Blank paper represents all sorts of possibilities associated with tabula rasa, that blank slate that waits to be filled with marks — words, forms, colors. But even after a sheet of paper has served its purpose, it amazingly still holds so much potential! It can be recycled and reborn, and not just as a blank sheet. It can take the shape of anything — anything!

That’s the magic of papier mache — “chewed paper” in French. When paper returns to its pulpy, chewed up state, it becomes an obedient biddable medium waiting for a creator’s command.

Wands inspired by Harry Potter

Harry Potter wands by my friend Karen's boys.

Penguins made with papier mache

Penguins created by one of Karen's sons.

I decided to try my hand at this pulpy craft ever since my friend Karen started talking about papier mache on her blog, and how her 2 boys always had tons of fun creating mashed up paper versions of their favorite characters. But, procrastinator that I am, my materials just sat in a sad old box and, and my plans just got pushed into the back of my mind, hopefully germinating, biding its time until it hatched into fully formed works of papered fabulousness.

So I thought I’d look for some papier mache masterpieces in the great big internet to pump up my enthusiasm for the project, and get those creative juices flowing. Hopefully they’d generate enough heat so as to get me off my lazy behind and start something already.

Bowl with gold leaf on the inside

Bowl via Etsy

What I discovered is that papier mache objects can run the gamut between decorative yet functional objects (above) to fine art (below) that truly exist for its own sake.

Papier mache sculpture

by Janneke Neele

Papier Mache Zebra Bust

Via Anthropologie

I love that the text hasn’t been painted over in this zebra bust. What a lovely texture.

Kashmir Papier Mache eggsThese papier mache eggs have beautiful and intricate designs hand-painted by Indian artists.

Papier mache fruit centerpiece

via Martha Stewart

Decorative teacups

DIY papier mache teacups

How gorgeous is this? This teacup project is one that I’d really like to embark on.

Side table made of papier mache

Papier mache table via West Elm

If like this side table from West Elm, Prudent Baby has an awesome DIY project that comes awfully close.

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