Friday, December 3, 2010

Royston. 1st of the Christmas Tour homes..

OK.. so on to more cheerful things..
Last week I mentioned that I was hoping to get photos from a charity Christmas house Tour to share with you guys, and I'm happy to say that of the 5 houses on the tour I have photos of 4.

The organisation that puts together the event is a local charity called the Anderton Theraputic Gardens Society.

Every year they put 5 local designers together with 5 home owners, and the partnerships work together to put on a creative and original display of Christmas decorations for ticket holders to enjoy.

This was the 5th annual event, and it has quickly become a firm favourite in the local pre Christmas events calender.

So let's start with the largest of the homes on display this year in a small community just south of Courtenay called Royston.
This beautiful newly built West Coast home sits on a small acreage of mature trees, providing the perfect sanctuary from life's stresses.

Photograph courtesy of the ATGS.
The home owners searched for more than a year to find the perfect spot and then waited another 18 months before the stone and timber home was ready to move into. Now looking forward to just their second Christmas in their new home, it's clear that they feel the wait was worth it.

This is the sight that greeted us at the entryway.. The soaring timber ceilings warming a space that might otherwise feel intimidating... but which in fact feels homely and welcoming.  
Turn left and you discover a comfortable seating area with a gorgeous roaring fireplace, and three feature Christmas trees. One gold, one silver and one red.

By the way, I know it has nothing to do with the decorations per se, but the coffee table is indeed a genuine Noguchi. The home owner proudly pointed out the signature etched into the glass... found only on original pieces. It is a thing of beauty to be sure.

The dining table was set for guests. I particularly liked the decorations created for the backs of the chairs. Essentially a very simple concept but very effective, and something any of us could achieve in some form or another.  The deep wine colour and gold accents on the table were pulled from the rug below. Elegantly festive.

The light fixture was impressive and imaginatively handled... and I dare say could have seemed a little OTT but for the huge scale of the room. As it was though I think it was my favourite piece of all. The long chains of real crystal came from the decorators own collection, and added a lush  sparkle..   providing a nice counter point to the natural elements in the design. 

Here's a particularly pretty view across the table to the living room beyond. You can really get an impression of the sheer scale or the space.
I should mention at this point that the decorator responsible for all this is local design maven Judith Moore, who together with collegue Alice East used a combination of the home owners own decorations, and others contributed from local stores including Judith Moore Interior Design. Plus of course as I've already said, pieces from Judith's own personal collection.

To the right of the dining area is the kitchen, complete with granite counters, gleaming stainless steel appliances and an enormous central island. There is plenty of room for guests and enough space, in the home owners own words... 'so that two people can work together without bumping into each other'...   Since the units are in white.. my own personal favourite colour for kitchens..  it was always going to be a hit with me. I also loved the simplicity of the design, with plain subway tiles as a backsplash and wonderful granite floors that stretch throughout the open plan kitchen and dining area. But way beyond that, it again captures the relaxed feel that is so prevelant throughout the whole house. Quite an accomplishment in such a grand home.
What Christmas decor there was in the kitchen was simple and low key.. which is exactly as it should be.

So there you have it.. the first home on our grand tour..  I'll just include one more photograph, again not really of the decorations, though there are some on top and inside.
But of a simply fabulous pine display cabinet that the home owners had custom built for them in Italy.
During the construction porcess, the home owner discovered that the alcove you see above, designed specifically for this piece, was being built only about half the required width. Luckily he spotted the error before too much work had been completed, but he jokily points out the the downstairs loo [which is behind this wall] is now tiny and L shaped, because about 4 feet was pinched from it to create an alcove big enough for this monster.

So thank you to the event organisers, designers and home owners for all their help and co operation.. which enabled me to create this post.
House number 2 early next week..
Night all..

Jo xx

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nikki the Wonder Dog....

Not really in keeping with the usual subject matter of this blog but I can't help that just for today..
This post is in loving memory of our puppy Nikki who we had to put to sleep yesterday.
I'm not going to bother you all with the details.. suffice to say that she was 15 and a half and she'd had a very good and happy life... and I want this to be a celebration of her, and NOT at all maudlin.

'Go away.. he's mine'... 'oh and btw I look good from this angle don't I !' 

When I first came to live in Canada about 8 years ago, Nikki had already been with Bill for almost 7 years.. and she was very put out at the arrival of a new woman in HER house.
When I first arrived I got a lot of looks like the one above [and the one below for that matter] from her ladyship.. unlike her older brother Norman, who adored me from the off.

Norman did not care for photos.. Nikki in the background is sulking, as you can see.
But then Norman liked to nip noses and Bill wouldn't let him do it to him.. so I guess I was an easy target.
Then Bill went away for 6 months, posted to the middle east and Nikki and Norman and I were pretty much on our own.. and over the course of those long long months we fell into a happy state where we all just sat sprawled on the sofa eating chocolate.
I also taught her to walk off the lead and obey commands, like sit, which she really got quite good at, and stay.. which she did when SHE felt like it.

One of our favourite indulgences was always for her to crawl in next to me after Bill went to work at 6 in the morning. Especially after Norman died in 2005.. then it was just us girls for most of the day.
Of course it wasn't always necessary for me to be there at all...
Mummy is quite surplus to requirements actually.
Those are Bill's pillows she's asleep on.. I guess she could smell him, so it was always a favourite place.

So over the years Nikki and I came to an understanding... I was the head bitch in the house, and I made the rules.. and I had HER permission to say so ;o) .
That having been said she was always a daddy's girl.. as evidenced here by her ability to jump and sit on this precariously soft foot stool so she could watch out of the window for his return from work one day. I found her like this, having come in from the garden to find out what she was doing..
Just waiting Mummy.

Bless her.. Nikki awaits the return of the chief.
And although over time I came to be a very close second, Bill was always her favourite.. quite naturally, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

She liked to sleep when he slept..

 And work when he worked.. or played for that matter.

'Manchester United will win that one daddy, better put Berbatov in your team'..
Now that I come to think of it she liked to sleep a lot... and even though we had had her 'fixed' so to speak.. she wasn't always alone..

Please forgive the faux fur.. it was hiding a REALLY ugly Laz-y-boy.
She was an absolute tart when it came to having her picture taken, and unlike Norman who's backside I have dozens of shots of.. since at the first sight of a camera he would turn tail and flee.. she was ALWAYS front and centre when it came to photo time.

Flower girl at my sister's wedding in 2008, in our garden at home. 
She LOVED to sun herself.. and was always able to find a sunny spot, usually at the top of the stairs where the sun streams in through the sky light.
Or in the garden....
Just last August on the now much greener grass out the back.
Or on the brand new carpet that we had just had laid in the living room, before any of the furniture had gone back in..

Dreaming of digestive biscuits, or chasing the ducks at the pond, no doubt.
And she never looked cuter than in this is the last photo I took of her, last Thursday.
She had just had a rather severe hair cut and was feeling a little chilly round the nether regions what with all the snow.. but that didn't stop her posing for a series of shots from all angles..

So there you have it... Nikki the wonder dog.
Almost everything was entirely on her terms.. she loved you when she wanted you, she was aloof when she didn't. But she was our dearest companion and we loved her more than it's possible to say with just stupid words.
I'm going to end with my very favourite photograph of Nikki and Norman with Bill on Airforce beach from the summer of 2005..

Rest In Peace darling girl.. we will always love you.

Mummy xx

Of course Bill has his own perspective which is beautifully heartfelt..
He's such an old softie, and he adored that puppy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas decoration house tour..

Every year a handful of  local home owners hand over their homes to local interior designers and decorators, to have them decorated for a charity event.
Christmas decorated that is..

Home owners and designers work together to come up with original ideas as well as inventive and traditional ways to decorate thier homes for the holidays.
Once the decorations are done the charity sells tickets to the public to tour the homes, and this year the tours are this weekend.

I've been to this event with my other half every year for the last 4 years, and the decorations on display really help to put you in the Christmas mood. But this year for the first time I'm actually helping with the event.

Photo courtesy of Country Living.
Sometimes the homes are somewhat strange, like the alpine inspired 1960's home that honestly felt like we'd been transported into another time period altogether... and not in a good way.The home owners had a number of rather strange collections, china dolls, stuffed animals, old gramophones, and the decorations had been done without the help of a designer. We left.. quickly !

Photo from Articlesbase.

Fortunately that was a bit of an aberration and the other 24 homes we've seen over the last 5 years have been gorgeous.
Anyway.. I haven't seen all the other houses yet, but Bill and I are doing the full tour tomorrow, so if I'm allowed I will try to take some photos.

Saturday is the local shopping street's Midnight Madness shopping event.. and there's a wonderful Craft Market down in Royston on Sunday. All of which will be much easier to enjoy, if not as pretty without the snow.

Hope you all have a good one..

Jo xx

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's snowing...

Yes folks it's snowing here... We were expecting it but it's still more than we thought...

It's quite unusual to have snow in November here in the Comox Valley.
We had one big dump last November, but it was just one night.. and right at the very end..

This time it's been snowing on and off for days.. and bitterly cold, like we never never get here. Three nights this week it was -15* to -18*... and on Vancouver Island that's unheard of.
Normally you only know its winter in BC because the men wear waterproof jackets over their shorts.

Over a foot Jan 2007.

Of course we do get heavy snowfall once in a while...

This photo for example was taken in January of 2007.. when over a foot and a half fell in 24 hours.

What we don't normally get is the incredibly cold temperatures.

Apparently we have smashed our average snowfall record for November by miles already and there are still 6 days left.

The good old snow shovel will be getting plenty of use when the old man gets home.

That poor hanging plant was lush and green just 10 days ago. In fact the hanging strawberry plant that's behind me as I took this photo was still giving fruit just last week.

Now that I come to think of it I should probably have brought those green pots into the garage these very cold nights.
They were a real bargain from one of the stores I like Red Living bought last summer. As I recall all three cost less than $60 [about 30 quid].

Oh well they seem to have survived OK but I guess I won't really know til I try to move them. Fingers crossed.

My other hanging basket is still hanging on by its finger tips, and given the cold is doing incredibly well..

Still pretty.. poor thing :o)

The forecast says this will turn to rain tonight and that temps will rise about 10*.

Pity.. Hope we get some more for Christmas.

Jo xx

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tongue and Groove wallpaper

A very very short one today, just to feature a new product that I am absolutely going to try the first chance I get.
We Brits call it tongue and groove, our cousins across the Atlantic call it beadboard or wainscotting, but whatever it was called it's always been solid... until now.
A blogging friend of mine..' hello Clara' did a post recently about what she was thinking of using on her bedroom walls and this new paper version of beadboard is one of her potential choices..
I knew I'd just seen it used in a magazine, and thought it was a blinding idea.. so I went to find it, and here it is..
Photograph courtesy of December's Style at Home magazine.
I have to say I love just about everything about this vignette, from the wallpaper above the dado and ALL the light fixtures, to the Barbra Barrie inspired washstand by Kohler.
But the fact that the tongue & groove below the dado rail was a wallpaper, just blew me away.

At the end of the day I'm guessing it's just a striped/grooved anaglypta, but it's just so convincing looking.

What's also great of course is that like any anaglypta it's actually designed to be painted, so there's really no disadvantage to using it in place of the wooden/MDF alternatives.

There are lots of different brands I'm sure.. but this one they used in Style at Home is about $30 [15 quid] a roll.. so it's not that expensive either.

Now I come to look online it seems this stuff is everywhere.

The real thing does still look great though.

So it seems I'm coming quite late to the party... with many bloggers it seems having caught on to this product already over the last couple of years.

In fact it's interesting that bloggers had caught onto it when the magazines evidently hadn't.

Which leads onto a topic I won't cover today, but that I have been thinking about more and more lately and will blog about soon.

Namely.. 'Are home decorating magazines now obsolete ? Discuss'.
I know what I think.. but more on that next time.
Jo xx

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another favourite store.. DUDUZA.

Duduza is a relatively new Bed & Bath store in my closest shopping centre in Comox.
The main street of Comox frankly doesn't boast much in the way of shopping. There's been little or no restrictions on what can occupy a 'retail' space and sadly it means there's bugger all to look at. Unless of course you are interested in window shopping: banks, credit unions, investment brokers, Subway, chiropractors, the post office, insurance brokers, doctors offices and an optomertrist. Then this summer a very nice shoe shop closed.. only to be replaced by a day spa, who promptly white out all the windows. So there's another 'shop' gone.
There are a couple of bright spots though..
The Cottage Gardener.. a sort of shabby chic inspired decor and clothes store which has nothing whatever to do with gardens.
A very nice cookware shop called Otters.. and it's next door neighbour Duduza.

The owners are a mother and daughter team, Carol and Ali [Ali was born in Johannesburg, which is where the store name comes from.. Duduza is and African word meaning comfort].
They've been open for about 18 months and I've been a regular customer from the beginning.

I know for a fact that my husband is an even better customer because I've had a gift from here for every birthday, christmas, anniversary since they opened.
Of course they have a fabulous range of bedding and towels that goes without saying.

My favourites are the brands made entirely or partially from bamboo... which apart from being completely sustainable are incredibly soft.
They also wash well.

Everything in the store is presented so beautifully... I rarely fail to find something to take my fancy.

Some of my favourite bits and pieces at home came from Duduza.

When I did the before and after post on the downstairs loo I included a shot of this little shell handbag... which is one of theirs.
The other thing I like is that there are allsorts of products that you just don't get at the bigger chain stores in town.
They are fine in their way.. but there's nothing like stumbling across something and knowing that 2500 other people in town WON'T have it.

Coming from the UK that was always one of the problems with buying anything from, for example, M&S. Especially clothes.. since the chances were you would probably see someone in the pub wearing the exact same thing.

They have also introduced a nice range of genuine badger brush [don't worry it doesn't hurt the badgers :o) ] shaving kits from world famous English suppliers to the Queen.. 'Kent'.
Last year I had to use a supplier in Victoria so buy a replacement soap for my husband's 'Kent' shaving bowl. Won't have to do that anymore.

What's also nice is that they always have something new.. when I went in to take these photos I found a range of acessories from American designer Jonathan Adler which I'd never noticed before.. and a new range of eco friendly loofars and bath products too.                                           They also have pretty much the best range of shower curtains in town. Which considering I don't have a shower that needs a curtain shouldn't be of interest to me..
BUT I love to use shower curtains as fabric, or as curtains.. and I have bought several from Ali and Carol over the last couple of years, for exactly that.
They are often available in the most fantastic prints.. and yard for yard at MUCH less than a designer equivilent would cost from a fabric outlet, especially if you don't have access to a good one.. which I don't really. [Note to the Brits.. shower curtains here tend to be ordinary fabric, not the plastic ones we're used to. To stop them getting wet you buy a cheap plastic liner which hangs inside.]
Here are several that I could easily find a use for right now..

This linen one with the elephants on would                             Gorgeous colours in this one.
make a great cushion fabric.

I love the huge cabbage rose print.. above left. What a wonderful basis for a room scheme.  And the linen one on the right would be great for covering an upholstered chair seat, or making accent cushions.  

Great accessories too.

Fabulous range of gift tags and cards.

So there you go.. Duduza. Love it
Jo xx

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where I lived next..

I posted a few weeks ago about my first flat and it's generated more interest than anything else I've posted about so far.
So I thought I'd post about the apartment I moved to next.
I lived in my tiny shoe box for 2 years and four months and in that time can you believe more than doubled my money. Don't worry 3 years later the flat I bought next was worth half what I paid.. such is the vagaries of the british property market.
Now I must apologise up front for the quality of some of the photographs. That's because they are scanned from the estate agents details produced when I sold the flat to move to Canada.

This is the outside.. look I even drew a little arrow on the pic to show you which one it was.

This place was quite a move up from Rowlands Rd in terms of size and location. In fact my first flat would have fit in it's entirety into the lounge here. It was part of a development called Westlake Gardens, built on a former market garden to the north of town in the late 70's.
There were about 8 or 9 blocks of flats built around beautifully landscaped gardens with a man made lake shaped like a figure of eight, with willow trees and a bridge.

This isn't the view from my flat obviously because I was on the second floor, but this will show you what it looked like on a gorgeous summers day.

We regularly had residents have their wedding photos taken here.. not surprising really.

My flat had a nice view over the surrounding houses north to the Downs.

What was also great about these flats was that because they were built in the 70's they were really spacious and sturdily built. All the walls were solid concrete and because I was on the top floor there were no problems with noise, like I'd had from upstairs at Rowlands Rd.

When I first viewed mine I was immediately smitten. There were several different styles of both 1 and 2 beds.. and this one was the biggest.
The girl who had the flat before me [who I knew a little bit] had very nice taste, plus she was having an affair at the time with the boss at an expensive local kitchen company.. so it had a brand new kitchen.

I moved in Chritsmas 1988.. having spent a couple of months on my mum and dad's couch since the completion dates didn't line up. There was a sort of buttery cream on all the walls of all the principal rooms except the master bedroom which was a flat sort of pale green. Here in this photo you can also see the deep [and I'm sure very expensive] shag pile carpet which was also everywhere. I also inheirited her [equally expensive] beige linen curtains.. well in the lounge anyway. Which was just as well, because as I discovered years later when I replaced them, those windows were huge and bloody expensive to cover. This is the only photo I have that survived from that time.. but even so there on the right hand side of my bamboo and wicker cabinet is Bernard, the weeping fig, who readers of my initial post have met before.
This must have been very early on because I changed the paint and carpet within a year of moving in. Before I moved out Bernard grew to fill this entire corner.
Lot's of gifts and hand me downs in this picture: the tulip lamp was from my mum, and so was the chair, although it was originally my sister's... AND which under the quick fix peach fabric.. was bright purple velvet.
The little pine [always my favourite wood] desk I bought from a chain store.. might even have been M&S, and you'll see on the wall my continued love of displaying art as a collage. That's one design preference that has been a constant. 
I realise I've forgotten to show you the layout.. In my first post I drew the plan by hand, but thanks to blogger mate Clara I found some free plan drawing software.. so here you go.
The corner in the photo above is the bottom right hand corner of the living room in this plan.
As you can see it had really nice spacious rooms.. and a great big hall, which I don't have any photo's of, but which had an art collage down it's entire length, virtually floor to ceiling.
I've just found a couple of very early pics of the kitchen.. I must say though I was just taking these to note the condition of the appliances for insurances purposes, so don't expect too much. What you can see in this one is the Laura Ashley 'Sweet Pea' wallpaper border I put up all round the kitchen. The kitchen units had plain white slab doors and a white counter. The handles were a pale turquoise. You can also see the original cork tiles on the floor.. back in the days before 'cork' was fashionable again.

By the time I came to sell the flat in 2002 this was what the kitchen looked like. The basics were the same but I'd laid a pale laminate on the floor...  It had been freshly painted.. more than once.
Again sorry about the grainy photos..

The wallpaper border had been replaced with what looks like real tiles but which is in fact that tiling on a roll.. the original incarnation of which was so ugly on the bathroom walls in the shoe box. The product was vastly improved by this time. So much so that the buyers thought that it was real tile. I'd also put a soft  sheer at the window.. just a fabric remnant really, but it introduced a bit of colour without blocking light.
From a design perspective I realise that this demonstrates that White kitchens is another of my 'design constants'. The kitchen being pretty much the first thing I painted when we moved into our current house. 

This is the master bedroom.. which had a great range of fitted wardrobes, but they were a nasty orangy pine. I painted them an antique white and changed the handles to brushed nickel. This room got repainted a couple of times over the years, and it's the only place I didn't change the carpet. So being a soft mossy green, it really dictated the 'Apple white' on the walls.
The pine chest opposite the bed is still with me.. it's now my bedside table... and the brass bed is now in our spare room.. 'The Mauve Room' which is virtually done so I'll post on that soon.

Finally then the changes to the lounge..

Again over the years there were various changes. The buttery colour was painted a far lighter soft cream pretty much straight away.. Then in 1991 ish I put a wall paper border at dado rail height and sponged below it in a teal green.. which I also chose for the then new velvet drapes. You can see them in the photo and I sold them with the flat. The sponging was painted out and the border removed in 2000. It was all soft white from there on in.

The shag I replaced with salmon pink carpet.. I know !! but it was a popular colour combination in the early '90's, and in fact it too was replaced with a beige burber shortly after this photo was taken.
I had a huge pine corner unit built for me from old church pews.. which housed my hi fi and tv and such.. you can still see that in this photo.
The Welsh dresser on the right is now in my dining room. The Welsh pine table and wicker chairs are in the breakfast nook... and the cream settee and chairs are in my Living room.

Overall I think it's fair to say my style was still quite feminine.. but a lot less so over the years and bear in mind I had no masculine influences at all to take into consideration. Which now I do try to. Plus once that carpet had gone from pink to beige.. most of the 'girlie' went with it.
It's also less cluttered than before.. visually rather than literally.

Oh and one last thing.. see that huge plant filling the far corner almost to the ceiling ? yep.. that's Bernard.

Jo xx