Get Your Home Clean for Christmas

We’re just ten days away from Christmas, and you probably have your shopping done and the menu planned. In your haste to finish these annual tasks, however, you may well have forgotten one of the most important: cleaning your home. You will likely have many relatives and friends coming by over the next two weeks, and you want to make the best impression possible this time of year.

Here are some tips on how you can get your home clean for Christmas:


Think about where your guests will be during the days ahead, and make a list of what needs to be done in these spots. Prioritize the ones which need the most attention (eg. the dining room and living room are high traffic areas, the basement not so much).

Clean the Kitchen

Make sure that all food preparation areas are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Remove any superfluous materials in the general area; you will need as much room as possible to work and move around freely.

Eliminate the Clutter

You with have a lot of people, gifts, coats, boots, and other things to deal with, so try to make some extra room. Look around each of your rooms and decide on what won’t be needed. These things can go into the basement or attic for now (or into the garbage, if you have been putting it off).

Enlist Help

The family enjoys Christmas together, so there’s no reason that everyone living under this roof can’t help to clean it. After all, they were the ones who made it a mess in the first place!


The crack in the living room wall you didn’t have time to fix? Christmas decorations can hide it for now. That stain the dog made on the rug in the corner? Try putting the Christmas tree there this year.

There is nothing wrong with a little cheating when you are down to the wire. However, you must promise to add these forgotten tasks to your New Year’s Resolutions list.

Happy Holidays!

Energy Savings Tips for Canadian Winters

Another winter is almost upon us, and Canadians need to start thinking about their yearly energy costs. There is nothing worse than dealing with Christmas credit card bills in January, and getting a second dose of shock thanks to a higher-than-expected energy bill.

Here are some tips that can help to reduce that pain and make your home more energy efficient throughout these colder months:

Get a Programmable Thermostat

You don’t need the temperature up quite so high while you are asleep, but will you remember to adjust it before bed? How about in the morning when you are stumbling around looking for coffee? A programmable thermostat will do the work for you. Higher end ones can even be controlled remotely through your smartphone. Even keeping your temperature down just a degree or two throughout the winter can save you a noticeable amount of money, while having very little effect on your comfort level.

Use Colder Water

Whenever possible, use colder water when bathing or washing clothes. If clothes are not coming out as clean as they used to with hot water, try pre-soaking them.

Electricity Savings

Even when they are not in use, electronics like televisions use power, so unplug them. A plug bar with an On/Off button makes this easy.

Make sure to always clean the lint trap before running a load of clothes in your dryer. This reduces the amount of electricity needed to effectively dry the clothes. It also reduces the possibility of fires.

Many homeowners look forward to making their houses bright and colourful for the holidays, but the related hydro costs can be enormous. LED Christmas lights look just as wonderful and use far less electricity. The upfront cost of buying new lights will be recouped in almost no time.

Avoid Idling

No one likes to get into a freezing cold car, but leaving your car idling for minutes on end with the heater blasting wastes a great deal of gas over the winter season.

Christmas Tree Shopping Tips

We are already more than halfway through November. Americans are preparing for Thanksgiving and Canadians are already planning for the Christmas season. Most families choose the first week or second week of December as the perfect time to put up their Christmas tree.

Here are some tips that will help ensure you get the right tree for your home and experience the least amount of hassle:

Measure the Room and Doorways

This seems like a basic step, but it’s easy to forget: measure the area where the tree will be. Figure out the maximum height and width available to you. You don’t want to have the top of the tree staining your ceiling.

Make sure that the tree will also clear your doorways and not damage anything in the area where you will be bringing it in. Also, measure your tree stand to ensure that it will accommodate the trunk size. It is a considerable hassle to shave the sides of a trunk and this will also hasten the tree’s demise.

Choose a Fresh One

The longer your tree stays fresh, the more appealing (and less messy) it is. When looking at prospective choices, run your hand along a branch. If many needles come off, the tree will not last until Christmas. Needles that don’t give off a scent when crushed are another indication that a tree is past its prime.

Give it a Shake (or a Blow)

Most trees are tied for transport, but make sure that the proprietor has either shook the tree or blown off the dead needles using a leaf blower. That guarantees less of a mess in your home.

Open Up the Trunk

It’s wise to saw off a bit of the trunk before placing it in your stand. This makes it easier for water absorption, which also helps to prolong the tree’s freshness.

For the Love of Cottages

Everyone has their own idea of the perfect vacation. Mine takes place at our family’s traditional, wooden cottage in Southampton, Ontario along Lake Huron. I love everything about our cottage, from its location to the neighbours, to our traditional wooden furniture that provides the perfect rustic look and feel. Because that is important when you want to escape the city and everything that reminds you of the hustle and bustle.

My main goal, however, is to do as little as possible. The cottage provides that rare chance to slow down and appreciate everything around you. I love the sound of the fog horn, the birds in the trees, and the cool evening breeze. I feel so relaxed up here that it is truly a home away from home.

A Second Home

Your primary home will always be important, but for many of us cottage owners, our heart really belongs to our vacation dwelling. I just gravitate towards the cottage because of the stress-free escape it offers. The closest thing I experience to anxiety is remembering that everything downtown closes by 6:00.

I also love the familiarity of life up here. Some people might call that boring, but it’s actually quite comforting to know that I can count on the fact that there will be nothing out of the ordinary to disrupt my relaxation routine.

Lounging by the Lake

Even after coming up here for so many years, I never take the pleasures of the lake for granted. I only swim a handful of times each summer, but I sit by the lake and watch the waves almost daily. The rhythmic in and out of the water puts my mind at ease. I also enjoy feeding the seagulls, even though we are not supposed to do that.

Time with Your Children

Time with my kids at the cottage was always magical. They are adults now and one has children of her own, so I get to relive that magic with two lovely grandchildren. I can already tell that the magic of this part of the country will mean just as much to them.

Getting Your Home Ready for the Winter Months

OK Canadians, Thanksgiving is now behind us, which means Halloween is around the corner, which, alas, means that winter is imminent. Whether you like the colder months or not, there is no getting around them if you are planning on staying in the country. Even if you plan to flee South for a few months, it is still necessary to make sure you house is ready to withstand all of that ice, snow, and wind.

Here are some things that should be on your “Ready for Winter?” checklist:

Check your roof

There is nothing worse than trying to deal with a roof leak (or worse) during the height of winter. Go up on the roof (or have a professional inspector do it for you) and see if there are leaks or signs of potential trouble in the coming months; have repairs done now. While you are up there, clean out the eavestroughs; not doing so can lead to ice and leaking problems.

Mulch leaves

Rather than continuing to rake the leaves off of your lawn, use your mower to mulch them. They will decompose over the winter and that will help to sustain your grass during those long months of ice and snow cover.

Get that chimney cleaned

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, you will want to use it over the winter. In addition to having enough firewood, you need to make sure that the smoke can easily exit the chimney, lest it back up and come back down into your home. A chimney inspector will let you know whether you need a cleaning and also perform a safety check, so that you won’t have to worry about chimney fires or carbon monoxide.

Avoid frozen pipes

While the pipes in your home may have proper insulation to avoid freezing and bursting in February, you still need to make sure that there is no water in your exterior faucet and lawn-irrigation system.

Why You Should Choose Wooden Furniture

It seems like there are more options than ever when it comes to furnishing your home. Even if you are on a fairly tight budget, you will likely still have to spend a good amount of time deciding just what you are looking for and what type. Even with all of the many innovations of recent decades, there is still a very high demand for wood furniture. Sometimes it may not be the most economical choice available to you at a given outlet, but it is one that many people continue to make quite enthusiastically.

Here are three reasons why wood continues to be such a favourite:

It will be around for a long time

In an era where it seems like few things are made to last, wood is a wonderful exception to that rule. There is a very good reason why wood was the material of choice for furniture for hundreds of years even before the invention of plastic: Mother Nature’s resiliency. Many trees live to a great old age despite adverse weather and other destructive conditions, so you know that the material they are made of can survive all manner of wear and tear. The same might be said for concrete, but what would you rather sit on: a concrete slab or a comfortable wooden chair?

It looks beautiful

What would you rather have in your home: drab and dull plastic or the natural beauty of wood? Even if you live in the middle of the largest city, having wooden furniture can help to provide that welcome connection to the outdoors and natural living. The natural grain of wood also gives it a wholly unique beauty because no two pieces are the same.

Better for the planet

While there is legitimate concern about deforestation, the harvesting and processing of wood into furniture is much easier on the environment than the chemicals used in the creation of plastic furniture. New and refined processes also help to minimize the amount of waste created through wood production.

The Joys of Custom-Made Furniture

Are you the type of person who likes to see their personal sense of style and individuality reflected in the design of their home? If so, chances are that you would prefer to have custom designed furniture versus something you would buy from a catalogue or chain store.

If you are not yet sold on the joys of custom-made furniture, here are a few points that might help to change your mind:

Perfectly suited to your needs

With custom-made furniture, there is no need to compromise. You simply order what you want, choose the dimensions, and the final result performs exactly whatever function you need it to. Ready-made furniture can often be taken home right away, but there is almost always an element of compromise where you may end up with one piece that does not really suit your needs at all and another that only partially does. Custom-made furniture completely eliminates that situation. Got something you need to fit into a sharp corner? Not a problem! A craftsman works with you to plan and design the piece so it works perfectly in that spot.

Supporting local craftsmen

Most ready-made furniture is created overseas in factories by the thousands using machinery. If you choose to have your furniture custom-made, you are supporting local businesses and who would not want to help Canadian-owned firms, particularly when so many of them do excellent work? Especially if much of their work is done the old-fashioned way?

Spruce up your old furniture

In addition to having all-new furniture created, you can also have your old furniture repaired, revitalized, and just all around brought back to life. Damage repaired, a new coat of paint, new finish…if you believe in conservation, it is entirely possible to keep your old furniture both functional and looking good for years to come.

How to Avoid Interior Design Mistakes

Designing the interior of your first home can be very exciting, but also a bit daunting. There is a lot of responsibility in this task to get things right, and any errors might prove to be quite costly. Here are some tips on how to avoid making interior design mistakes.

Know What You Can Spend

The look and style you go for may be contingent upon what you can afford. It’s best to know that dollar amount before you even start. If that total seems a bit low for what you had planned, don’t despair; it just means that you will have to get creative and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Think Three Dimensionally

When you have walked into a particularly striking room, we’ll bet that one of the things that struck you was just how three dimensional the layout looked. Nothing is more boring than a room that has everything the same shape and size. A room should be multi-layered and offer interesting things to engage the eye in both the foreground and the background.

Don’t Forget Your Walls

Many people are so concerned about elements like rugs and furniture that they forget about their walls. Just because you have the perfect color chosen does not mean that your walls cannot further accentuate the look you desire. If it is in your budget, think about some complimentary artwork to accent those walls and increase the overall effect of the space.

Choose the Right Focal Point for that Room

Every room has a focal point that serves as the main point of interest; the rest of the design then either revolves directly around it or adheres to a theme related to that focal point. For example, in a bedroom, the bed would be the focal point. Decide what the main function of each room is, make that your focal point, and then design accordingly.

2018 Colour and Design Trends

Colour and design trends are something that change on a yearly and in some cases even a monthly basis. Let’s explore some of 2018 colour trends and designs.

Trend 1 : Memories : Returning to the classics of 1940s French Fashion, art deco and art nouveau. This colour trend evokes a romantic spirit with highly stylized design that is luxurious and feminine. Colours of this trend include, blue-greens, lacquer red, dark-brown wood hues and bronzed caramel, lightened with touches of greyish pink and gold.

Trend 2 : Natural Wonders : These colours and trends were inspired by nature and innovation, there is a human desire to be surrounded by nature but not leave the city. The want to go back-to-basics and focus on well-being without giving up modern comforts of city life. Colour of this trend are casual with springtime and seaside influences, with coral tones, aquatic blues and overexposed colours with sunny contrast like salmon, lobster, pebble and ocean.

Trend 3 : The Stars : As fantasy experiences increase with the use of virtual reality , life is being experienced through dreams and imaginations – unnatural nature. Retro, vintage tech is trending, along with futuristic possibilities. Colour are insured by the exotic and unnatural natural world of fantasy. Pastels are layered with lacquers and glow. The influence of technologically based colour creates layers of gloss and bling, with shocking pops of rose, hot pink, dark blue and 1980s retro colours.

Trend 4 : Adventures : Through myths, lore and legends, oral storytelling recalls the historical narratives of cultures and people throughout the world. The call to adventure and new worlds are for those who desire to be transported to faraway lands. These lush, extravagant colours are found in nature such as reds, emerald greens, amber, laval black and mystic purple with infusions of laval black, earthy brown, dark reds, blue and purple.

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Trend 5 : Childhood Joys : creating a fairytale for one’s life adds joy and pure love of life. It reflects the comfort and routine that allows the child to be free to dream of other worlds. Colours are chic, sophisticated basics with classics of navy, burgundy, grey, and beige, along with near primaries of blue, green and orange.


The Difference Between Interior Decoration and Interior Design

Your new home is well on its way to becoming everything you hoped it would be. The exterior has a fresh coat of paint, the roof has been repaired and shingled, the driveway has been repaved, and both the lawn and garden are looking lush and alive. All that’s left is to spruce up the interior.

The consensus is to trust this important task to a professional, but does that mean you will need to hire an interior decorator or an interior designer? Here are the essential differences.

Interior Designers

Members of this profession undergo formal training that focuses on such components as spacial planning, drawing, and architecture. Those successfully completing these studies may start their own companies or first gain experience, in an apprentice or employment capacity, with another interior designer. Some areas state that those identifying themselves in this occupation require certification indicating that they have met minimum standards of knowledge and ability.

Interior designers can help to plan a space from the ground up or supervise renovations that change the dimensions and/or function of it. They usually do this in conjunction with contractors and architects.

OK, that doesn’t sound like what you need as the structure is finished, and you are happy with how that part of the house looks. How about an Interior Decorator then?

Interior Decorators

This profession does not require any form of accreditation. That said, the best interior decorators are quite knowledgeable, thanks to completing schooling related to their profession. When interviewing prospective interior decorators, be sure to ask them about their educational background and how it might relate to the work you wish them to do on your home.

Interior decorators collaborate directly with clients in order to accurately reflect the latter’s wishes. When they have that information, the decorator will make additional recommendations and then enlist suppliers in order to acquire the materials needed.

This is indeed the professional you would look for to help finish this aspect of your home’s redesign. In addition to speaking with designers, it also helps to shop around, checking out reviews and getting feedback from past clients before making a decision. You can also ask to see examples of the designer’s previous work.