Thinking About Backsplashes

I love backsplashes. There, I said it! As far as kitchens go, backsplashes are kind of my favourite thing. There are so many different styles and options to choose from, all of which can completely change the vibe of a kitchen. We’ve been watching a lot of home reno shows lately and the one thing all of the kitchen ones have in common is how much emphasis is placed on the backsplash. And it make sense. Aside from the cabinets, the thing that draws people in the most is the wall in your kitchen. Incidentally, the backsplash is also the one place you can really get creative with pops of built-in colour and patterns. Where your cabinets, appliances and countertop tend to be uniform in colour and style, your backsplash can be as wild and crazy as you’d like.

First off, you need to decide the look you’re going for in your kitchen – rustic, modern, metallic, vintage, retro. This will determine what kind of backsplash to go looking for. Making the backsplash decision should not be left until the last-minute as an afterthought – a good backsplash is included in the planning of the kitchen from day one.

Subway Tile: a fabourite. Big, white and bold tiles with definitive grout lines in between. Adds a modern/rustic charm to any kitchen. via The Kitchn.

Subway Tile: a favourite. Big, white and bold tiles with definitive grout lines in between. Adds a modern/rustic charm to any kitchen. via The Kitchn.

Mediterranean Accent: bold and beautiful, this style works great in a large accent space. Perfect for a bare bones, white kitchen. via Design Sponge.

Mediterranean Accent: bold and beautiful, this style works great in a large accent space. Perfect for a bare bones, white kitchen. via Design Sponge.

Modern Metallic: for a much more modern look, this backsplash pops. It's enough to just have a section of it rather than have it cover your whole wall. via HGTV.

Modern Metallic: for a much more modern look, this backsplash pops. It’s enough to just have a section of it rather than have it cover your whole wall. via HGTV.

Checkered: I LOVE this style. The blue and white is a nice colour combo, but you can get creative with the choice of tile colour. This is a very bold pattern that adds a vintage feel to kitchens. via Design Sponge.

Checkered: I LOVE this style. The blue and white is a nice colour combo, but you can get creative with the choice of tile colour. This is a very bold pattern that adds a retro feel to kitchens. via Design Sponge.

Bold and Black: For a completely bold look, all black tiles do the trick. Against stainless steel appliances and a white/light kitchen, you're making quite a statement. via House Beautiful.

Bold and Black: For a completely bold look, all black tiles do the trick. Against stainless steel appliances and a white/light kitchen, you’re making quite a statement. via House Beautiful.

For some DIY tips (if you’re feeling adventurous and want to take this on yourself), HGTV has some great tips on how to tile your kitchen backsplash.

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Think you know wallpaper?

I’ve always had an aversion to wallpaper. Specifically, I’ve had an aversion to that yellow/green 70s style wallpaper plastered in every room of every grandmother’s house. You know, the one with the awful patterns that people in home reno shows always point to and say “THAT will definitely have to go…it makes this (kitchen/bathroom/living room) look sooo outdated!”

But, as with most things, it doesn’t help to think about what something was but rather look at what it is now. Wallpaper has made a huge comeback lately, and I’m totally ready to jump on the bandwagon. With modern design and aesthetics, wallpaper (like decals) is a great way to decorate without painting just one colour. Unlike decals, however, wallpaper requires you to commit a bit more – getting it up and, more importantly off, can be a bit of a challenge. But if you’re up for it, wallpaper can add some great dimensions to a room:

Wallpaper can be used on any wall...including the ceiling! I love the subtlety of this particular design, via Apartment Therapy.

Wallpaper can be used on any wall…including the ceiling! I love the subtlety of this particular design, via Apartment Therapy.

 

I love this pattern for a kid's room or nursery. From Jill Malek, c/o Apartment Therapy.

I love this pattern for a kid’s room or nursery – either as an accent wall or the whole room. From Jill Malek, c/o Apartment Therapy.

 

The look of texture this wallpaper brings is fantastic. Imagine this as a backsplash in a kitchen! Via Anthropologie.

The look of texture this wallpaper brings is fantastic. Imagine this as a backsplash in a kitchen! Via Anthropologie.

If you're not quite ready to take the plunge on a full wall or even a full room of wallpaper, you can simply take a sheet of it and frame it up for a touch of design and unique pattern in a room. Via Real Simple.

If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge on a full wall or even a full room of wallpaper, you can simply take a sheet of it and frame it up for a touch of design and unique pattern in a room. Via Real Simple.

 

I really like the idea of using a geometric pattern wallpaper as a backsplash or as an accent wall in a living or bedroom. If you’re up for a little reading, Houzz has a brief history of wallpaper, from its origins in the early-15th century to today. You’ll see the textures and designs evolve over time, and may even be inspired by something very retro. And, of course, here are a few tips on how to actually apply your fabulous new wallpaper.

Contest Alert: Small and Cool? Yes, please…

small cool

Apartment Therapy (aka my go-to home style website) is currently running a really cool contest. From now until May 20th, people are invited to submit pictures of their apartments for the 9th Annual Small Cool Contest. This contest sources entries for the coolest, smallest apartment out there and really showcases the fact that even tiny spaces can make a big impression.

If you live in the States there are some amazing prizes to be won that can go a long way to help you with home decor or renos. If, like me however, you live internationally, you’re competing for the glory of being featured on their site (which isn’t a bad prize, to be honest).

My favourite so far in an entry from Singapore – just 570 square feet, with irregular walls to boot, and it looks so spacious and well-decorated. Really inventive use of space and decor.

Two views of this cool Singapore apartment

Two views of this cool Singapore apartment

If you’re currently in an apartment that’s small (1,000 sq ft or less) but so stylish, you should totally enter!

Gingham Style

gingham

Ok, so I’m fairly sure that the “Gingham Style” joke has been made before…a lot. That aside, I’d like today to talk about that ever-popular pattern – gingham. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with it. On the one hand, I love how some of it looks. On the other…it seems to be everywhere, which given the boldness of the pattern, can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. But I’d like to start embracing it a bit more as part of that “rustic chic” I love so much. It reminds me of The Wizard of Oz, and it’s so classic vintage.

Gingham is typically found in clothing (like these men’s shirts or this woman’s skirt), but in the last while, it’s making a big debut in homes, too:

Couch: bold gingham against a muted, neutral background

Couch: bold gingham against a muted, neutral background, via CB2

 

Tea Towel: picnic-in-the-park feel, all the time

Tea Towel: picnic-in-the-park feel, all the time, via West Elm

 

Table Runner: looks so great against a wood table.

Table Runner: looks so great against a wood table, via Pottery Barn

 

Storage Basket: adds a pop of pattern to ordinary storage

Storage Basket: adds a pop of pattern to ordinary storage, via Bed, Bath and Beyond

 

Plates and Cutlery: perfect for springtime and backyard dining.

Plates and Cutlery: perfect for springtime and backyard dining, via Elle Decor

While I’m still looking on how to best add a splash of gingham to the apartment, I think it’s a perfect spring/summer pop of colour that brings to mind barbecues and picnics in the park. In my opinion, this pattern does well with subtlety so while I would likely not buy an entire gingham couch, I do love the idea of having some napkins, or a set of plates around for a bit of en vogue flash.

If you’re looking for some more ideas on decorating with gingham, you can read this article at Apartment Therapy, or check out the writeup in Elle Decor. I’m also sure your grandparents have some gingham hanging around that you can use (after all, what was popular once tends to become popular again at some point)!

Hop Into Bed

In life, there are a few choices you just kind of have to get right. Things like who you marry/live with, your career, whether you have kids or not, where you live…and your bed. The bed is pretty much one of the best things ever invented and I’m not exaggerating when I say I wish I could spend more time in it than I already do. Right now, we have an Ikea bed (the Malm collection, which has lasted me well for going on 5 years now), a good ol’ Sleep Country mattress (not too firm, not too soft), bedding from Crate and Barrel (a previous version of the Tikkula collection), and two awesome pillows from CB2.

the bed

But sometimes things need to change and we will be swapping everything out over the next little while – out with the old, in with the new. First stop: bedding.

A few cool bedding sets: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 -

A few cool bedding sets:
1 – Anthropologiebedding like only Anthro can do it. Total flower-child vibe
2 – West Elmgreat pattern with a really unique and bright colour
3 – Tommy HilfigerMonochromatic stripped colour scheme that stands out just enough
4 – Whole Home: I call this “lumberjack chic” (part of the Canadiana Decor)  
5 – Ralph Lauren: classic colour-blocking with black and white
6 – Crate & Barrellove the big bold pattern on this, and the navy blue

When choosing bedding, as far as I’m concerned, there are only 3 things you have to consider:

1) Style: there are so many different types bedding patters and designs. You can go plain white, or one colour, or patterned. It all depends on what kind of look you are going for with your room. I have dark furniture and black and white photographs up on the wall, so the brightness of the bedding we have now appealed to me as a pop of colour in the room (and it matched with all the red accents I had throughout the house).

2) Thread Count: thread count refers to the number of threads woven together in each square inch of fabric. The general rule of thumb is “the higher, the better”, but there are exceptions. Typically, you want anything 200/250 and higher – this will ensure that the sheets are sturdy enough that they won’t stretch or wear down and break with each washing. But, you don’t want to get too high (anything higher that about 500-600) because then the fabric becomes unbreathable and traps in body heat at night. The so-called “sweet spot” is in the 250-400 range.

3) Fabric: cotton is generally what you will be working with (though bamboo is becoming more and more popular). There are all types of cotton, but for pure quality, I would suggest 100% cotton (breathable, easy to wash, perfect no matter the weather), organic cotton (if you’re more environmentally conscious and willing to spend a bit more), or Egyptian cotton (the mother lode of soft, cotton, premium bedding).

I would suggest getting a second set of sheets and pillow cases (plain, white and less expensive) that you can use when you’re doing a big wash if needed. Bedding is a true investment. If you spend the money upfront in a good set, it will last you for quite some time even through daily use and frequent washing. Plus, a good set will give you a good nights’ sleep – so no more counting those sheep…

Hey look! We have a balcony!

Now that the spring thaw is in full effect (and we’ve hopefully had the last of the snow/hail/cold storms), my mind has turned to one of the key features that made us rent this apartment: the balcony/patio. I love the idea of having a space to be able to hang out with a couple of friends, have dinner, or just a glass of wine on those perfect summer nights in a couple of months.

Right now, this is what we are working with…

balcony - before

I know, it requires a bit of TLC. But I’ve found some ideas that I can’t wait to get started on!

Plants:

I mentioned before that I’m anxious to get working on my green thumb. This balcony will be my testing ground. I’m going to try to get a planter or two in there, and maybe even get some tomatoes going (!)

Ikea White Hanging Planter

Hanging plants are awesome, and I love the lace-like details on these planters from Ikea

Wood Box from Home Depot

This is where I will plant tomatoes…or just some pretty flowers

Lights:

Pretty much anything I pin or look at or love when it comes to future outside decor involves some kind of light set up. I love candles, naturally, but am also a huge fan of hanging string lights. There’s just something so romantic about them on summer nights (until the bugs start biting…that’s when I crack out Citronella – like this candle).

globe lights from Pottery Barn

Hanging lights, strung across the top of the balcony.

Crate and Barrel Vine Hurricane Candleholders

Add a pop of colour with these candleholders from Crate and Barrel

Colour:

In an ideal world, I’d spruce everything up with colourful patio furniture and paint. But given the temporary nature of this new place, we won’t invest quite yet in anything more permanent. Instead, accents will make their way outside via things like pillows and decor pieces.

cabana pillow

Red stripes outside to match the red couch inside!

Add a nautical element in the city with these cute decorative buoys from Pier One Imports

Add a nautical element in the city with these cute decorative buoys from Pottery Barn

Colourful way to plate those yummy summer BBQ foods

Colourful way to plate those yummy summer BBQ foods

BBQ:

This is what I am most excited about! I’m not really involved much in the choosing of a barbecue set (I leave that to the man who knows what he is actually doing), I can’t wait to spend some time grilling and enjoying the outdoors this summer. One of the first things I will make? This grilled corn with parsley and garlic…mmmm…

The Writing’s on the Wall

One of my favourite trends/hot items in decor these days is wall decals. Wall decals are a relatively inexpensive and easy way to change-up the design of your home or certain rooms on a more regular basis. They’re doubly awesome if you’re a renter – save yourself the hassle of nailing art into the walls, only to have to cover it up when you leave. More than anything, though, they look damn cool!

Decals can be small and impactful, or can help you create larger designs on entire walls that replace additional paint jobs or wallpaper (a couple of tips here on whether you should decal or wallpaper). Decals work really well to spruce up those odd spaces that don’t quite fit furniture or any other artwork; they’re good for a bathroom or bedroom (especially a kid’s room, since interests change so often); and they look awesome in kitchens whether as part of the backsplash or on the walls above the cabinets.

The key pieces of advice for getting decals up is to ensure you have a clean, smooth (as much as possible) surface and plenty of time and patience (the bigger the decal, the more likely you will find little annoyances like bubbles – but the end result is totally worth a few frustrations!)

wall decals

1.  An example of something more seasonal you can do in a reading nook or den are these Cherry Blossoms from Surface Collective.

2.  This large colour block from Blik is a good way to really add a pop of colour to an entire wall. Kind of in the vein of those accent walls I like so much.

3. For a girl’s room, a ballerina tightrope walker from Household Words adds a little whimsy and romanticism to the room. This would look great over a desk or above a bed.

4. One of my favourite decals is this birds on an electric wire from Household Words. My parents have this up in their bathroom and the quirkiness of this decal mixed with the modern vibe of their bathroom is such an amazing combo.

5. A unique way of decorating above a bed is with this negative Decal from Peel Monkey. I like that it’s negative space that you’re looking at – something that’s a little bit different and eye-catching.

6. Keith Haring Barking Dogs from Blik – I had this up at the condo and, unfortunately, left it there when I moved. I desperately miss it.

7. Giant Gerber daisies from Roommates

8. If you’re looking more for a whole-wall-replace-the-wallpaper decal option, there are tons to choose from like these polka dots from Urbanwalls.

Removing decals is even easier than applying them, so you can change your mind as often as you like!

Gone Haywire

If you ever happen to be lying on the ground in my living room (no judgement on how you got there), I apologize because I’m hiding a dirty secret: the cables under my TV are a disaster zone.

wires gone haywire

Aside from the fact that my messy cables are (I’m pretty sure) a mini-fire hazard, they look so unappealing! I kind of pride myself on being one of those women who gets technology – I can work my way around wiring a sound system, and can get the TV/cable/internet working when it isn’t (usually by unplugging  for a bit and swearing under my breath). But one thing I’m not proud of is how much of a mess everything looks on the ground. I’ve tried the old twist tie method, and have taken pains to label all my wires and trying to have them neatly wrapped and folded so they take up less space. For whatever reasons, I’ve clearly failed.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one with this issue, which means there are answers to my problems. There are a lot of really cool cable storage solutions out there. Some favourites I’ve found:

The Hansen for Tivoli Audio cabinet - made for a particular type of speaker, but the idea is awesome.

This was featured on Design Milk recently, and looks awesomely retro. The Hansen for Tivoli Audio cabinet – made for a particular type of speaker, but the idea is awesome.

Now you see it...now you don't!

Now you see it…now you don’t! I love the industrial look of these Bluelounge Cableboxes…and I love that they come in a bunch of colours.

Ikea simplicity - this box does exactly what it needs to do, looks good and is the best value.

Ikea simplicity – this box does exactly what it needs to do, looks good and is the best value.

If you’re looking for a solution that’s a little more fun to set up and less costly, there are some really cool DIY ideas out there for how to wrangle those finicky cables. Apartment Therapy has an awesome idea of using rain gutters to hold your cables under a workdesk or you can try this handmade charging station  which looks so great and is so practical.

So now I have no excuse for not getting a handle on my cable scandal…

Accents (Not The Language Kind)

Within a span of about 24 hours, a strange apartment in a brand new neighbourhood became “home”. And I don’t mean it just became the place we call “home” when referencing where we are going after a day at work or a night out, but it actually strangely felt like home. It felt familiar in all its strangeness. I attribute a large part of that to having all of the previous furniture in the new place. When I walk in, everything is “mine” (typical only child…)

I’m a big fan of investing in (and maintaining) accent pieces. Accent pieces are those pops of colourful decor or unique pieces of furniture that are associated with you and your style. Right now, for me, that’s a giant red couch from Structube.

My big comfy couch...and Audrey

My big comfy couch…and Audrey

So I recommend taking the time to find something that just screams “you”. Something that, when people see it in a store or in a picture, they immediately think of you and your own individual style. This could be something like this couch, or a wall, or a really funky table ornament.  Some key rules of thumb to follow when picking an accent piece:

1. Limit to 1 per room – it should work to draw your eye to a focal point, and too many will

2. Big or small, it doesn’t matter so long as it’s unique and stands out (just enough without clashing with the rest of the room)

3. Choose an accent colour for the whole room, or floor, or even house. It can create a nice flow and tie everything together without having to stick to one particular design scheme. I have red touches throughout my living room and kitchen (in the form of a tea towel, mini storage containers, a candle…)

4. Most importantly, don’t force anything. By nature, accent pieces stand out and make a statement, so make sure it’s something that speaks with you and that you’ll be happy with in a week, a month or a year.

For inspiration, here are a few awesome pieces I’ve found while looking around:

accent pieces

1. Bright green pop of colour via this sculpture from Structube
2. This pebble stone makes for a really cool accent coffee table
3. All teak side table – how awesome would this look beside a metal bedframe?
4. Fantastic vintage metal tin for all sorts of storage

Flower Power

I will admit, I’m not the best at maintaining plants in my home. But that doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely love them. Now that spring is right around the corner, thoughts turn to blooming trees and flowers. On my list of homey things to become good at this year is creating (and maintaining) flower arrangements. In preparation for that, here are 3 easy steps to getting your home spruced up with flowers for spring:

vases

The vase can easily act as an accent piece in your home (like the red and white poppy  vase from Anthropologie), it can be a more neutral choice with a pop of colour (like the Kauai vases from CB2), or it can be a simple clear vase that allows the flowers to pop on their own (like the Kanist vase from Ikea). Or, you can have a mixture of all 3 with different flower arrangements throughout your house.

flowers

Tons of gorgeous flowers come in bloom during the spring months – daffodils, peonies, orchids, freesia… Lots of colours, sizes and textures to choose from. My personal preference for flower arrangements is picking one main colour and working around that palette – for example, choosing a daffodil as your main flower means you can have other yellows (like a yellow poppy or a daisy) as well as whites and oranges (like an orange tulip or lily of the valley). Find something fragrant (but not too fragrant) and something that will live well indoors. Make sure there is enough light where your flowers will be, too – you don’t want your arrangement to wilt sooner than it has to.

Love the style of this arrangement from HGTV

Love the style of this arrangement from HGTV

As far as I’m concerned, there is no “right way” to arrange a vase in your home. Sure there are tips and tricks and professional opinions, but so long as the flowers speak to you and they show off your home style and personality, you can’t go wrong. My personal thoughts are to have one more “out there” arrangement at a focal point in a main room (accent vase with unique mix of flowers in complementary colours) then use more neutral arrangements throughout the home in places like your bedroom, dining room and even kitchen (particularly if you have an island). Make sure to trim your flowers before placing them in the vase, and switch out the water once a week to help keep them as fresh as possible for as long as you can.

For a bit of inspiration, you can go here and here to see some awesome arrangements. Now if only the weather outside would warm up…