Thursday, January 31, 2008

Restoration Hardware comes to Calgary!

I just confirmed today that one of my favorite American chains, Restoration Hardware, is coming to Calgary! The store will open at Southcentre Mall in late 2008.

I first discovered Restoration Hardware whilst living in Toronto in 1999 or so, right after they opened their first Canadian store at Yonge & Eglinton, about a block from my office building! As you can imagine, I often spent my lunch hour roaming the aisles, admiring the wares. I dreamed of owning my own home and adorning it with Restoration Hardware's genteel old world charm. Ideally I'd love a real character home, with original fittings, but if that isn't can buy the shiny new version at Restoration Hardware!

They also sell lovely home decor products, with gracious clean-lined furniture, nobel Italian bed linens, sumptuous bath products, classic area rugs, refined draperies, and various other lovely reproduction and old-fashioned-looking items. If you need a classic umbrella stand, a hat rack, or an upscale laundry bin, this is your store!
But most of all, I loved the historical-looking hardware...the fine little knobs and hinges, quaint hooks and brackets, elegantly scrolled register covers, cool Arts & Crafts house numbers, and mailboxes of yesteryear, each one a lovely little character study...

And the paint...what sublime colours! I know I'm not the only one who loves silver sage (right Linda?) and the pretty brown flax colours and the soft gray ash colours and those butter yellows! Just a small and perfect collection of necessary colour!

I can't wait for the new store, which will be a 5 minute drive from my house!
Oh, and even more decor news....Crate and Barrel will open in the same mall in 2009! Thank heaven for globalization! As proud a Canadian as I am, I've always loved shopping in the USA. Now I barely have to leave home to do it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Home Office dreams...

I'd love to use this as an office cabinet (from Tine K)!
In the next few months, I really need to buckle down and get our home office organized.
I painted the walls six months ago, but that's as far as I got! The wall colour is a lovely slate blue from General Paint, called Scribe. It is an intelligent and beautiful colour. I highly recommend General Paint (which is a Canadian company from Vancouver). Their paint covers beautifully (my office, below, took one coat) and as far as I'm concerned, beats Benjamin Moore for coverage by a mile! I know it's blasphemous to say that to a crowd of decorators, but I said it!
Benjamin Moore does have wonderful colours, but it doesn't cover as well as Pratt & Lambert or General Paint. I've bought their top-of-the-line paint for 3 different rooms and had to do several coats to get the colour and coverage I wanted, which still did not match The Chip. In fact I went back to the store and the guy said "well, if you want it to match the chip, I will have to increase the pigment by 50%". Duh. I don't think I should need a custom blend to match The Chip. At General Paint you don't! The colour is bang-on! And the General Paint spreads thick and smooth, like melted chocolate!
But I digress...
We haven't bought any proper "office" furniture yet. I really need a good work surface which can accomodate a keyboard tray. Having the right ergonomic set-up is especially important with my neck pain and headaches.
But instead of worrying about technical details like buying a new iMac, a new printer and a suitable desk, I'm busy day-dreaming about pretty furniture to organize my books and files and things...
I love the kitchen cabinet (above) from Tine K's website. Luckily, Ikea has a very affordable cabinet which is reminiscent of this, except with sliding doors. I like the Ikea cabinet and think it might be a good interim purchase, considering that it could take years before I find a suitable antique cabinet!

Ikea Granemo cabinet, available in Canada for $549

Until then, I dream about what might be...the possibilities for an office are endless.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Interior Design (and Life Update!)

I have some exciting news! I've signed up for an Interior Design class! The class starts this Tuesday and runs 8 weeks at the University of Calgary. We don't have an interior design degree available in Calgary, but there are certificate programs available at various schools. I've decided to take the U of C class because they have a very cool Visual Design certificate available, where I can take courses in photography, art, and interior design.
I'm so excited!
The bad news is that my headaches have been brutal for the past week. I was trying a new drug, which seemed to work at the beginning, but which caused insomnia as a side-effect. For the first couple of weeks, despite the lack of sleep, my headaches seemed to remit a bit. Then, the lack of sleep (4-5h per night) caught up with me and last weekend I started having brutal headaches. All this week I've had migraine activity and had 5 visial auras (visual disturbances which last about 20 minutes each), one on Tuesday, one Wednesday, two Friday and one yesterday! On Thursday night I woke in the night with an excruciating migraine on the left side of my head. That was the worst of it, but I've had moderate migraines all week.
These conventional migraines are uncommon for me. Usually I have what they call "chronic daily tension type headache", which is an entirely different category of headache, but believed to be part of the same spectrum. These may range from mild to severe, with severe ones about once a week or every two weeks. Most days, I have a moderate headache which varies throughout the day, becoming worse at times and better at times.
Occasionally I have conventional migraines, especially with searing pain in my right eye. But it almost never comes with a visual aura, and never becomes "full-blown" as they say. I have only had two auras in the past two years, and this week I had five, so you can see why I am troubled! My regular headaches can be severe but they feel totally different from a migraine. The pain is all over the head, diffuse, and is a dull sickening pain. My migraines are very sharp and pointed and generally sit in my right eye, or behind my eyes, or in my face.
* you can guess I've stopped taking the new med to try to get my sleep, and headaches, back on track! But this drug, since it affects serotonin, should not be stopped abruptly. Rather, you work your dosages down slowly. I did this for 2 days, taking half a dose, but then I said "screw it!" and stopped cold turkey on Friday. Well, I'm now having flu-like symptoms, which my pharmacist says are withdrawal! I'm aching and sore all over, my neck is so stiff I can hardly move it, and I just want to sleep. Plus, I still have a bad headache. Last night I didn't sleep well, but I hope as this drug gets out of my system, I will return to "normal".
I just want my life same old headaches, please! I have learned to live with those (if you call it living) , but cannot handle them PLUS migraines PLUS visual auras, PLUS insomnia and feeling exhausted. I want me back!
I will see my neurologist again in a few months. Until then, I will hobble along on the old meds and live with my regular headaches, which seem almost like a fond memory compared to last week!
Sorry I am not visiting your blogs much. I feel like hell and just can't sit at the computer. Even this has been too much!
I do miss you all and wonder what you are up to! I promise I will catch up soon, and see what you have been doing. Until then, thank you for your sweet words and thoughts. You are darlings, and your sentiments mean so much when I am feeling so crummy!
See you soon!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I really want to climb in this bed (right now!) and draw the curtains. They are lovely curtains, and I would admire them a while and then hopefully fall sleep for four days straight. You see, I've been feeling rather un-well the last couple of days.


Besides still having a cold (since December 18th), my headaches are acting up. I've been on a new med since just after Christmas which is causing insomnia. In the hopes that side effects would dissipate, I've continued taking it, only to become exhausted over the past week, from lack of sleep. My chronic tension-type headaches had still been steady but yesterday at work I had a migraine aura (scary visual disturbances) which lasted 30 minutes, followed by a pretty bad migraine. I laid on the couch all last evening.


Today I woke up exhausted and feeling hollowed-out and raw. Like a good girl, I came to the office. Let's face it, if I took days off every time I felt crummy, I would never be here.


But the scary thing is, I had another aura this morning! In my colleague's office, while we were deep in a technical discussion! I suddenly felt dizzy and lost vision partially in my right eye and had holes in my field of vision. I didn't panic, but it is upsetting when you're in the middle of a conversation to have to excuse yourself for no apparent reason (or having to awkwardly explain what is happening and why you are nursing your eyes and rubbing your forehead and looking around the room and putting a hand over each eye to see if the aura is in both eyes or just one...and then running off!). If you ever had an aura, you will know what I mean.


So I sat there and carried on the conversation (I am an excellent faker...being in pain all the time I am accustomed to appearing normal). But the aura was very persistent and intense and weird and I wasn't sure if it was an aura, or something worse, especially since it was the second time in 24 hours! I eventually excused myself and came back to my office, where it went away after about 10 more minutes.


I do have a migraine component to my headaches (e.g. occasional one-sided pain, sharp pain in right eye), but I only have had visual auras about once a year and moderate migraines after them, usually in my right eye. So the last two days have really upset me. The auras were aggressive and the pain more intense. Oh, how I just want to sleeeep!


Right now, I have a migraine in my face and eyes. I want to go home. But I have to prepare for technical meetings tomorrow. I came over to read blogs for a second (which I am trying not to do at work, which is why you may notice fewer comments from me these days!).

Two days in a row is odd for me to have a real migraine, on top of the chronic regular tension-type headaches! What's going on with me? Is it the new drug, or exhaustion? I hate to stop the new drug because I am desparate to find alternatives.

I will let you know how it all goes. I am seeing the company doctor tomorrow and will discuss with him. I also have a call in to my neurologist to discuss this new drug and the insomnia.


Until then, here are some scenes I like, from Shoot Factory. I like their visual simplicity. They make me happy!

Monday, January 21, 2008

What I Like About...

When I look at decor photos in magazines and online, I'm usually quick to decide whether I like or dislike a room, regardless of the style. I am seldom on the fence with my tastes.
I can appreciate a beach house, a mountain lodge, a slick city apartment, or a simple suburban bungalow if it is well done. Now that's where it all becomes subjective because what I consider visually arresting may seem horrible to you. Isn't it great that we are all so unique in our tastes, so subtly different in what warms our hearts?
In an effort to develop my innate taste, I look carefully to identify the particular qualities that I love about a room. What instantaneous essence does a room possess that makes me love it (or hate it)?
Here are some rooms I like, for various reasons.


Although this room is a bit fussy for my tastes, I love the subtle use of colour with those pretty pinks and blue-greens. The beautiful panel screen is an odd but graceful piece, and the little stools are whimsical and cute:

This room is all about bright colours, but they blend beautifully. The glorious rosy orange curtains are a perfect foil to that bright primary blue wall, a colour I would not have picked but which seems perfect! The traditional chairs in silky mauves are totally unexpected, but harmonious with the blue. Pure fun! The gray chair in the foreground and the bookshelves seems to ground the room: *

As you know, I love pale rooms. But I also adore dark wood! Here I love the use of a beautiful traditional heirloom Persian rug and dark furniture with a light and airy beach house. So unexpected! And that darling round coffee table is another sweet surprise, breaking up all those straight lines of the overhead beams:

Who doesn't love an alcove? What looks, at first glance, to be a charming english cottage reveals a travelling spirit with bright pink and red fabrics and exotic floor tiles! The graphic vase speaks of magical places...

I'm mad about pale walls and brightly-coloured chairs, especially in pink, my all-time favorite chair colour! Every room needs a pink chair. Who can be sad in a room like this, with TWO pink chairs!!!?

Another cheerful room. The decor isn't to my taste, but the colours are undeniably pretty. And the nautical theme isn't too overdone. I love these candy blues and reds with crisp white walls. If these were crayon colours, I would pick them all as my favorites!

This room is way too busy for me, but again I love the pale walls and furniture with the blue and pink accessories. Living in an all-white world works for me when I can have these pretty, gentle, romantic colours all around to mix and match:

An elegant pale room, with sophisticated blue accents. I'm a sucker for a dignified pattern on a pillow! This room says "sophisticated people live here":

White done to elegant perfection, with a dashing mix of pattern (four different ones?) and texture on the chairs. A flourish of dainty pink flowers tops off the romance!

Another crisp white beach house, with all-white furniture, but lots of texture and variety in accessories. Notice that the blue accessories match the gorgeous abstract painting over the fireplace. The wool rug and sofa table also look like great character pieces, spicing up a very simple room! Of course, the amazing architecture and windows mean you could decorate this space from Walmart and it would look great:

A simple, pretty landing. I like the fluffy round rug, which softens all the vertical lines!

Classic serene white with lots of rustic elements: a great coffee table, stools, rugs, and basket. Clean and new but honest and approachable:

I threw this one in because I do love a modern space. The windows are killer,and I love the long wood bench and 4-cube ottoman. I could live without the black leather sofa and the hide rug. I even like the odd vertical fireplace, which is utterly unique:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Winter Comes (& Tulips Too!)

Just last week I was complaining that we've hardly had any snow in Calgary this winter. And then I remembered that here near the Rocky Mountains, winter comes in January (and lasts until April)!
I took some pictures of our front yard yesterday. Sorry the photos are dark, but I can't adjust exposure on my wee Canon Powershot. I can't wait 'til I get a new digital SLR for my birthday! I have a request for a Nikon D300, which I will tell you about later!
This is the first substantial snowfall (still small by Canadian standards) since November. This snowfall doesn't compare to east coast snowstorms. My parents, who live about an hour from the ocean on the east coast, have already had several major snowstorms in their area!

The photo below shows our beautiful stone bird bath. The cord you see is the new bird bath heater, which I got David for Christmas! The birds really appreciate the water supply, especially at this time of year. If you want to be popular with the birds, put a couple of bird baths in your yard!
The heater maintains the water at about 1°C, just above freezing. The water does slowly evaporate and needs to be refilled every few days. The water bath has been very popular so far with sparrows, chickadees, and a beautiful pair of big blue jays. The big blue jays sit there and play and drink and splash, and their colour is indescribably pretty. And we don't have to put peanuts out to attract them, like our neighbours do!

And one last photo. Here are some tulips I bought yesterday, dreaming of spring time! They are the palest, prettiest pink.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Interior Design: The Law of Evolution of a Room

We’ve all heard the quote “focus on the journey, not the destination.”

I think this applies beautifully to the complex world of interior design, where nothing ever seems to go according to plan and your vision remains simply that…a vision. The room ends up looking totally different from what you'd planned.

Let me give you an example to illustrate:

Imagine that your living room furniture is a neutral beige and white. You decide you want to re-paint your walls a simple white, and introduce pale blue drapes...something Very Dreamy. But you look and look and you can’t find a lovely pale blue fabric. In fact, you can’t find anything remotely like what you envisioned! You do, however, find some gorgeous florals. In fact, there is one exquisite pink and green floral which has ample white in it. It would be so pretty with those crisp white walls and neutral furnishings! But what about your blue? Your heart's been set on it ever since you found a handsome wool rug (which you can afford) that has a trace of the finest blue in it. And you already have a small collection of pale blue pottery you wanted to use to accessorize! Darn. And what's worse, the pink in the floral print isn't quite the right pink to work with your one odd piece of furniture: a pale pink slipper chair. You wanted to replace that chair anyway, but not yet. Maybe you could slip-cover it white? What would that cost?

Suddenly, not being able to find blue drapery fabric means a complete re-invention of the room. Now you’re doing white with soft green and pink! Very pretty, but you need to start scouting a new rug. And your accessories are no longer be relevant. And you suddenly need to slip-cover a chair.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it's because this is The Law of Evolution of a Room.

The evolution law says that, in decorating, you must be very, very flexible. You must be comfortable changing your mind on a dime. You must be systematic and spontaneous all at once. And you must never be too fixated on your vision, no matter how noble. Or if you are fixated on a vision, you must have lots of money and/or time to accomplish it (with time and money, you can do anything after all...maybe even become an astronaut).

If you do have a vision and you're sticking to it, you should be willing to sacrifice everything you already own by moving it to the basement forever, or painting it white, or selling it all on e-Bay. But for most of us, we are stuck with what we own, and have to work around it. Our vision becomes a chore.

The second axiom of The Law of Evolution of a Room states that when you’re decorating a room, everything hinges on everything else. I need to procure this before I can buy that. This colour suddenly doesn’t work with this new other thing. Roadblocks abound. You can't get new knobs for your kitchen cabinets until you choose a light fixture for your dining room, since you want to coordinate the metal and finish. But you can't pick out a light fixture until you decide if you're keeping your traditional table or buying that cool new one you just saw. Everything becomes horribly dependent on everything else, like a giant flow diagram with arrows pointing in all directions.

Which is why they say to focus on the journey (for your sanity). Because the truth is, you will never ever get to your destination. And if you do get somewhere, it's likely not the place you were aiming for. So do your best, relax, and change your mind a few hundred times. After all, who are you to challenge the universal laws of decorating?

Monday, January 14, 2008


In October 2007, House Beautiful featured a pared-down, traditional, serene and sensible style (music to my ears!) they called Belgian Style. I saw photos of this style a few months prior when designer Kay Douglass' own home was featured in the magazine. Apparently Axel Vervoordt, the famous Belgian antiques dealer and collector, launched this eclectic style when he assembled the key elements in decorating his Antwerp castle!

When I think of Belgium, I regret to say that nothing stands out distinctly in terms of style. I know I should be rapped across the knuckles for saying so, but it's true. Of course there is famous Flemish art and literature, but I cannot separate Belgium from France in my head, I'm afraid, when it comes to decor! I've travelled in Belgium twice (albeit as a starving but stylish student), and do recall very grand cities with weathered but stunning historical architecture, broad boulevards, wonderful small restaurants, and lots of pigeons in the train stations! I also recall a lot of un-approachable boutiques, which I was not well-dressed enough to step foot in.

My favorite experiences in Belgium were watching a live chess game (played with human-sized pieces!) in a square in Brussels, and visiting the Atomium, a giant molecule you can go inside! Hey, I was an engineering student after all. Naturally, I also enjoyed the complex and plentiful Belgian ales and the delightful waffles (not to be consumed in a single sitting).

But style...I can only think of french things when I picture Belgium. Axel would be disappointed in me. I guess I was not prescient enough to know that I should file more mental images, to fulfill my needs as a future student of decoration!

So with this frenchness to my Belgium thinking, I was not surprised to discover that Belgian style resembles traditional French style(!!), except it's a lot more laid back. In Belgian style, things are very simple, with only a complicated piece or two (like a single curvy chair).

Rustic, worn elements are welcome and cherished in this style. It has a practical sensibility, Belgian style, and it's un-cluttered!

Belgian style is about raw materials....reclaimed wood, stone, and natural fabrics like linen.

And best of all, it features a serene colour palate, with whites and subtle, muted neutrals. Some of the colours (those grayed-out slate blues and red roses) remind me of faded jewel tones!

Chair backs are notably high and narrow...I am not sure of the origin of this look, but find it quite regal. A character piece of furniture, made from reclaimed wood, or old doors, or weathered boards, is vital to this style. Elegant iron lanterns, like in Italian and French country styles, are omni-present.

Hey, Belgian style is perfect to freshen up your dreary old castle with all that dusty stuff you have rattling around in there! Just think what you could do with some linen, some old boards, and a gallon of Farrow & Ball's Slipper Satin?

But seriously, this is a solid style and every element delivers:

It is clean, pared-down, has traditional roots, and uses salvaged and reclaimed wood and natural fabrics. There is humble craftsmanship present in the ironwork, stone-work, and woodwork. It has a soft, serene palate which looks very suitable for naps and long baths. What, I implore you, is not to love?

The following books were recommended by House Beautiful as primers in the style. My neighborhood library will be seeing more of me soon....

All photos courtesy of House Beautiful.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Simple Living

A perfect hallway...crisp white shelves! And a pocket door! And that heart-breaking pink chair! And that art!
Since the Christmas season (with all its glorious excess) has ended, I’ve become fixated on simplicity and clean lines.
The hallway and stairwell of my dreams...
I think all my new year’s resolutions (or lofty desires, as they should be called) relate to the idea of living a lighter, less cluttered (and more liberated) life. Maybe it's just the claustrophobia of winter and the cold-weather blues, but I'm dying for long hours of soft natural light, fresh air, and wide open spaces. I want my interiors to provide this...
My dream office
In essence, I'd like to find some inner peace this year. And where better to start than by finding some outer peace? A cluttered mind is the devil's playground (or something like that...). I'd like less STUFF to tie me down. I want better, not more. I'd like to encourage a still mind, which might become a more content mind with a little meditation, some prayer, and perhaps...a tidy and well-organized home? I can only hope!

Living Room from Domino. A pretty rustic rug and no coffee table!


I will admit...I love shopping. I love to browse and touch, to admire things. I love considering where they might fit in my life. But I am not a complusive spender. I see things I like, but rarely things I love. Calgary doesn't have the best selection of luxury goods and home decor. In my estimation, it's rather mediocre for such a wealthy town. So when I go out searching I always seem to end up empty-handed, and have to settle for second-best, third-rate. In this town, if I waited for things I love, I'd be walking around naked and living in an empty house.

But having said that, I still want to try harder, to not bring home things unless I really love them. I want my heart to say a big emphatic YES inside from now on. I can see with this philosophy I will be lucky if i can spend a hundred bucks this year. Rolling storage bins and an utterly adorable candy pink lamp! Bravo!A serene room. Maybe a little too simple. But what's outside that window?

My heart is leaning towards restful simplicity, spare interiors. Oh, how they liberate your mind...
Bedroom from Domino. I love the floating shelf.
In the last few days I've felt tempted to go through and paint the whole house white, and remove 80% of the things from every room. I feel like a ruthless photo editor when I stare into every room and see clutter. I need space. My body craves it.
This year I intend to sort and organize and appreciate more the things I have. I will improve storage. Storage is my new mantra. I will bring less home, and throw out (or donate) all the things we don't use and don't need. I will strive to create cleaner spaces with less embellishment. There. I feel better already.
Our house has a "Needs List" as long as my arm. It needs a ton of cosmetic work (trim, new doors, light fixtures throughout), and there are several rooms I haven't even "decorated" (
the laundry room, the family room, the back hall, the office, and the main bathroom) yet.

But I’ve decided to stop fretting over these spaces and take my time and wait until each room whispers in my ear that it is time…time to develop a cozy functionality, and to make it simply beautiful!

All photos Living Etc except where noted from Domino!