Category: design lesson

Spring Cleaning

Are you feeling it yet? The enlivening energy of spring makes way for the new to come into your life. Be ready! The full moon this weekend signals a particularly good time to clean and clear out clutter in your home (and in your life).  As the chart below indicates, the time immediately following the full moon is about releasing, letting go and gives an extra energetic push behind clearing clutter and spring cleaning in preparation for the new beginnings of the new moon. Need a little more inspiration? Check out this clutter clearing post! xo

moon cycles

Thanks to Nine of Water for this helpful chart!

3 key habits to change to stay clutter free

Ok, so you feel really great about clearing out your clutter and want to keep it that way, right? If you don’t change a few key habits, you might find yourself back in the exact same cluttered place. Don’t let this happen to you!

3 key habits to stay clutter freeOne: Stop the retail ‘therapy’!
There is a psychology to purchasing – when you feel down or unbalanced and go shopping to make yourself feel better, you end up choosing things that are not really you and will not feel good to you once you are feeling better. This is where we tend to impulse shop, overspend and regret our purchases. Replace retail therapy with a healthier alternative; go for a walk in nature, exercise, talk with a friend, read a good book…you get the picture. Changing this habit will stop bad purchases from becoming future clutter.

Two: Be thoughtful about everything that comes into your home.
Yes, EVERYTHING! From junk mail to gifts, know that everything that comes into your home affects your energy in some way, so choose a positive influence. Get in the habit of asking yourself how something makes you feel and if has negative feelings around it, let it go immediately! Don’t put it somewhere to ‘decide later’, just let it go now.

Three: Be grateful for the things you have.
I have a small newspaper clipping in the bottom of my Christmas ornament box that I ‘find’ every year that says to be grateful for what I already have. To want what you already have is liberating! Being grateful in the context of clutter clearing simply means honouring what you have by keeping it clean, in good repair and ensuring it has a place. Organizing your belongings and tidying up each day will help to keep the peaceful atmosphere you’ve created.

This was meant to be the last installment of my clutter clearing series – but who I am I kidding, clutter clearing is never completely finished. As we grow and evolve, so should our living spaces. We will need to keep at it so our homes support our newest dreams, adventures and the lives we want to lead.

Here are a few of my favourite books on organizing and clearing clutter to keep you inspired! xo

clutter clearing and organization books




healing properties of crystals and how to use them in your home

I promised a while back to give you the inside scoop on shungite, the stone powder we mixed into the primer for our bedroom. Why did we do this? Being sensitive to EMF’s, we wanted to create a wi-fi free zone and protected space for sleeping. See full post here.

Shungite is an ancient stone found in northern Russia that has been credited with many healing qualities, one of which is to provide protection from the electromagnetic radiation that comes from computers, cell phones, microwaves, televisions and wi-fi emanations.

This stone is also used for healing purposes and considered a ‘miracle healing stone’. It is positive, grounding, calming, and associated with the base chakra.

I work on a computer a lot and find it helpful to wear a shungite bracelet. I also find it especially helpful when I am visiting Toronto. (Wi-fi in the subway cars? Are you kidding me? Let’s bounce radiation around a metal box with people trapped inside and see what happens over the long term. Don’t get me started…)

Other crystals that are wonderful for your home:

Amethyst – protection, overall healing, aids with sleep and dreams

Citrine – cleansing, creative, abundance, joy

Rose Quartz – calm, loving, peaceful energy

Selenite – comfort, peace, protection

Clear Quartz – cleansing, healing, balancing, amplifying

Tourmaline – grounding, protection, balancing

My go-to source for information on crystals, and the one I use in designing my healing bracelets and jewelry is The Crystal Bible by Judy Hall. You might also find this great blog post helpful from The Luminous Spirit, titled Crystals 101: How to Use Crystals and Which Ones to Start With.

If working with crystals seems overwhelming, try just one. Go to a quality source, and see what calls to you, hold it in your hand and pay attention to how you feel. If it feels great, take it home, study it’s properties and place it in a location where it can greatly benefit.

If you are skeptical about their healing properties, the intense colour and beautiful geometric shape of crystals can simply enhance your home’s decor.

Once a year London hosts the London Gem & Mineral Show which takes place on November 18-20, 2016. It’s a great place to learn more about crystals and purchase something special for your home. Maybe I’ll see you there! xo

amethyst geode

the perfect gallery wall in five easy steps

I was getting really tired of my dining room being a site where we stored construction materials and even though I told myself I didn’t want to touch a room more than once (who made up that rule anyway!) we needed to make a change. So glad we took a couple of days to move out the materials, paint and hang a gorgeous gallery wall (much of our artwork was still stored in boxes since Toronto!) This wall will come down when we open up the kitchen but until then I will enjoy this view.

If you’ve always wanted to hang a gallery wall but weren’t sure how to get that balanced, curated look, this post is for you! Check out my Pinterest board on gallery walls and get inspired to create your own.

Designer tips for success:
start with a freshly painted wall
take your time to play with the layout
add a few sculptural and/or quirky pieces
choose pieces you absolutely love
use a variety of shapes and sizes

Five steps to the perfect gallery wall:

Select your art and lay it out on the floor and play with the layout until it feels just right (Tip: I laid it out on a white sheet so I could see what it would look like on the white wall).

Trace and cut out paper shapes for each piece of art. Kraft paper, clean newsprint and even the back of old wrapping paper works well!

Tape the shapes on the wall and adjust the spacing and arrangement ’til you’re happy.

Measure down from the top of each piece of art to where the hanging mechanism or wire is and then measure down from the centre of the corresponding paper and mark where you will put your nail. Did you notice this is the only measuring needed!

Hammer in your nail and hang the art piece. Remove the paper and repeat with each piece of art.

Sit back, relax and enjoy your newly hung art wall!  Here’s how mine turned out. xo

gallery wall


when things go wrong

Please don’t rip out your hair when things go wrong! Believe me, in every renovation there are things that happen that are out of your control. Items are out of stock, trades get called away on another job, delivery delays, installation mistakes, wrong items delivered, etc.

Here’s how to bounce back:

  • acknowledge that the situation sucks
  • know that everyone who’s ever renovated has also experienced the same frustration, disappointment, etc.
  • take action –  there are decisions that can remedy any situation, it might cost a bit more or take a bit longer but when things go wrong, know that things can be righted
  • be kind to yourself, mistakes happen, learn from them and move on
  • take note of all the things that are going right, stay positive
  • look for the ‘happy accidents’, the mistakes that push your creativity further than it might otherwise go

Ways to prevent the big mistakes:

  • measure, measure and measure again
  • double check your colour matching for custom fabrics, tiles (anything that would be difficult to change later)
  • make sure all of your trades know the details of the overall design plan
  • communicate clearly, directly and frequently with everyone involved on the project
  • stay organized, double check delivery dates, use a calendar to schedule each trade
  • plan for budget overages (10%, 20% for older homes)

When things go wrong it can feel like the renovation stress will never end. It might not seem like it at the time, but trust me, you will forget the things that went wrong and completely enjoy your beautifully renovated space.

In case you are wondering if some things went wrong on this bathroom reno, you betcha! Am I following my own advice? Absolutely! Staying positive and looking for the ‘happy accidents’. xo


design lesson : styling a vignette video

Have you ever seen a beautiful photo in a magazine and wondered… “Do people really live like that?” Well, I can tell you what you already know, most people do not live like the afters you see on HGTV or in design magazines. However, you can have pleasing arrangements throughout your home that give you that magazine look. I made a short video with some design tips to inspire you to create beautiful vignettes (little moments) in your own home. See if you can spot the following design principles at work: balance (visual weight, symmetry), space (positive and negative, scale, proportion), focus (focal point, contrast), rhythm (visual flow, pattern) and unity (similarity, proximity, alignment). This vignette works because of the combination of function and beauty. I hope you enjoy my very first video! xo

the project management triangle

The project management triangle is a good principle to keep in mind for any renovation project. The three elements are: speed, cost and quality. Unfortunately, you may only choose two of the three elements. We have decided for the yellow brick project that we would sacrifice speed to keep the budget in check and assure high quality. When I get a little antsy about the length of time the project is taking (ahem, a tarp for a bathroom door!) Adam kindly reminds me of what we call the quality triangle.

project management triangle

Here is a story that illustrates how the quality triangle is playing out in real life right now. On a visit to Toronto in December I found a gorgeous vanity at a higher end bath store. At $3,000 each, they were not possible within our budget. So we began designing our own and with the help of an expert wood worker friend, a lot of time and patience we are, four months later, almost finished building a pair of lovely floating vanities. The learning curve  was huge but the results are something we are proud of.

To keep costs down we purchased:
IKEA sinks (Yddingen)
Single lever matte black faucets from Rona
Double sided walnut veneer plywood


And, because we choose quality and cost over speed, you will have to wait to see the finished product!  xo

renovation survival tips

Anyone who has lived through a renovation has been there. At the point when the initial excitement has started to wane and months of a project are looming ahead, it is important to find ways to care for yourself, both physically and mentally. Renovation projects can be especially disruptive to your life, and living in the space while renovating, well…let’s just say it’s really important to practice good self care. Some tips to help you manage:

  • clean up after the trades leave each day, you will appreciate the evening so much more and maybe, just maybe, you will actually relax
  • make sure to control the ‘spread’ of the reno, ensure there are a couple of rooms that show no sign of renovations and resist the temptation to use these spaces for storage or work rooms!
  • tape plastic tarps with long zippers to doorways to confine the dust to construction areas (this is a lifesaver!)
  • fill the fridge with simple, healthy foods as you’re not going to want to cook big meals and you will not want to live on take out
  • get time away from the work site, go for walks, spend some time outside
  • make sure your trades can reach you (or your decorator/designer) to ask questions as the project progresses, it is easier to clarify what you want before a decision gets made and something gets installed in the wrong spot
  • take time to relax every day; meditate, go for a walk, talk with a friend, read a good book, watch a funny movie
  • create a binder to keep all reno related materials together (receipts, spec sheets, colour swatches, contact info, etc.)
  • don’t sweat the small things that go wrong, most things can be fixed or changed
  • get plenty of sleep
  • plan regular celebrations of milestones along the way
  • and remember the bigger picture – the renovation is temporary, you will enjoy the newly finished space for many years…xo

design lesson: lighting, an interview with Matt Leslie

Every project needs good lighting and probably none more than the bathroom. We all want our bathroom lighting to do little miracles for us; flatter us each morning, give us good light for grooming and low light for soothing baths. Lighting considerations include function, safety and of course, aesthetics. To get the scoop on the ins and outs of lighting options we asked Matt Leslie from Copperline Electric (who is working on the electrical for our bathroom) to weigh in on some of the most interesting and concerning lighting issues of the moment. (Note: ‘lamps’ are the industry term for light bulbs)

 urban farm girl: What is the most significant change in the lighting world today?

Matt: That would have to be LED lamps. Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s) are a very efficient form of lighting. These lamps normally aren’t much bigger that 11 watts, yet can produce more light than that of an old fashioned (incandescent) 100 watt light bulb. LED’s have a large color range, which provides many options along the color spectrum, from warm yellow to cool blue-white as conventional lamps do, but are also available in virtually any color. Due to their large blanketing flood, LED’s are often able to replace existing lamps and light that same area much more effectively for a fraction of the cost in hydro.

urban farm girl: For those gadget minded folks, what are some high-tech lighting options?

Matt: One of the most exciting items we are installing right now is Caseta, by Lutron. This is a wireless switching system that can be controlled by your smart phone and the use of a hub via your internet router. Once a switch is installed to control a light you can then use wireless switches to control it from multiple locations. You can set timers with your smart phone for any time of the day, or to follow sunrise or sunset. Imagine pulling out your phone and telling Siri to “turn on the kitchen lights”. The system also offers an event mode. For example, you could have a party mode that would dim the chandelier in the dining room, turn on the kitchen overhead and valance lights and softly light the hallways all from one touch on your smartphone. Another option that I really like is geo fencing. You’re able to set a “bubble” around your house. When you come home, and your smart phone crosses the perimeter of this bubble, any lights that you have programmed will turn on. So you’re never coming home to a dark house outside or inside. One other great feature of this product is that it can be tied in with Nest products such as thermostats and smoke/CO detectors. In the event of an alarm the smoke/CO detectors will tell the thermostat to shut the furnace off as it could be causing the problem or feeding air to a fire. Any lights programmed will also be told to turn on so that you can see when trying to leave the house. So as you can see, this product has many benefits.

urban farm girl: There is a lot of press lately about the dangers of CFL’s. Why is it important to get rid of them and how do we dispose of them properly?

Matt: The big concern with compact florescent lamps is the mercury gas used in the process of illuminating the coating on the lamp. When these lamps are broken, which can happen quite easily, the mercury gas is then released into the air. This is not good because mercury gas is toxic. In the event of a broken lamp you should open the window and leave the area for a while to let the gas dissipate, before cleaning it up. To dispose of a CFL properly it must be taken to a recycling depot while the lamp is still intact. Do not throw them into the garbage.

urban farm girl: What are some of the basics of good lighting?

Matt: Good lighting to me means having a lot of it. I like to be able to put the room a little too bright and then dim it down to the right level. The big thing to avoid is shadowing. You could have enough lights to light up a stadium in your bathroom, but if you look in the mirror and your face is covered in shadow, they are useless. Function must work with design.

urban farm girl: We have all heard of folks who try to do their electrical work themselves. Why is it important to hire a licensed electrical contractor? I recommend homeowners meet with and check references for any tradesperson working on their home. What are the most important questions for a homeowner to ask before hiring a licensed electrical contractor?

Matt: It is important to hire a licensed electrical contractor for a few reasons. Wiring can be complicated and if done wrong, not only could it cause a fire or kill someone, there are also legal regulations that guide electrical work. What homeowners may not realize is there are many steps to becoming a licensed electrical contractor; starting with apprentice, licensed electrician, master electrician and finally licensed electrical contractor. Licensed electrical contractors, in addition to the homeowner, are the only ones that can take out a permit for electrical work on a house and all electrical work requires a permit and inspection from the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). So when hiring, the most important thing homeowners need to ask for would be their ESA/ECRA number. This is the number issued to an electrical contractor by ESA. You can also go on ESA’s website to find a list of electrical contractors in your area.

Matt Leslie is a licensed electrical contractor and the owner of Copperline Electric. Since 2011, Matt has been a leader in the industry providing high quality, licensed residential and commercial electrical service in London and Southwestern Ontario. With proper electrical permits, you’ll feel safe in your home knowing your electrical work was completed with the highest quality, and is up to local code requirements. All that, and, in this humble urban farm girl’s opinion, one heck of a nice guy to work with. xo

biggest ‘might as well’ EVER!

My plan was to finish the upstairs then take a break to work on the garden over the summer. I got home from yoga today to find this! Apparently it is much easier for the plumber to get to the bathroom plumbing when the kitchen ceiling is removed…I guess we ‘might as well’ do the kitchen now. All I can say is Shane and Adam are lucky I was in a blissed out yoga state… just going with the flow, breathing in…breathing out…breathing in…breathing out…xo