How to dramatically improve a dated kitchen: ORC Week 4

How to dramatically improve a dated kitchen: ORC Week 4

I love designing kitchens- they are like a fun puzzle, especially when you get to start from scratch like I did in this recent kitchen above (photographed by the lovely Valerie Wilcox for Style At Home).

But it's not always necessary to start from scratch. Sometimes- like in this kitchen I am tackling for the One Room Challenge- all you need are small tweaks to take the most dated of kitchens and make it shine.

Oh boy- having done the One Room Challenge twice before (my laundry room and my home gym), week 4 is reliably a challenging week! It's usually the week I need to call in some crazy special favours- and while this time around I'm not working on my own house, the homeowners have been doing an incredible job of rolling up their sleeves! But there's still so much to coordinate and plan for in the next 2 weeks ahead. 

This dated kitchen at a cottage property that is very special to me (I recently began my month sabbatical relaxing in this space!) was really dated. But with strategic design and small changes this kitchen is going to be a gem.

Fast update: CertainTeed insulation is in- yay to a warm kitchen:

So much of the space has been painted white. Doors have been taken down, holes drilled, and prepped for their Grass quiet close hardware. And of course winter returned to the lake:


Will spring ever actually get here and stay? Fingers crossed by the time this year's challenge is over this lake is glistening in the sun. 

To see some of the incredible things that the featured 20 designers have cooking up check them out here, and the fun party that is the guest participants here



Why stopping social media was the best thing ever

Why stopping social media was the best thing ever

For the last 30 days I have been without social media. And I survived.

When my husband challenged me to the concept of a sabbatical that included zero social media for 30 days I knew it was going to be hard. And it was really hard. 

For the first 2 days I had literal shakes. I removed social apps from my phone, and when I kept opening my phone looking for the Instagram button I would tap the blank screen where it was. When I would open my phone and realize there was nothing on it to do I would sit there restless and unsettled. Kicking the habit of constantly engaging my mind and my thumbs was a really hard shift.

But then towards the end of that first week I got used to my new normal. I left my phone in my purse rather than having it on my body at all times. I read books with my kids without being distracted. I took walks without being distracted. I basically did normal things in life, that I used to do before I had a smartphone, without constantly being distracted. 

Doing things without being distracted. What a novel concept.

I am a high achiever- in fact, my second Strength Finder strength is Achiever. I have a ton of stamina and can get a lot of things done in a day.

But interestingly, my biggest takeaway from my social media fast was that by doing less, I actually achieved so much more. And the things I did give my attention to, got a lot more of me. 

Here are my top observations from my walk in the Internet desert, and why I think everyone should go on a social media fast.


When my husband would nag me about how much time I spent on my phone, I would roll my eyes and in my head think, “Oh dear husband, how little you know about running a business. Don’t you understand I need to be connected at all times to respond to comments, answer queries, and remain relevant to my customers and growing tribe?” 

Since I also did a work sabbatical and did not want to fall off the face of the internet universe completely, I did pre-program a few things here and there. And I had staff monitor my email and continue to respond to leads and press requests. 

And what happened? Everything continued to operate. I still got comments on things. I still booked design consultations. I still got press requests. And while I did not personally respond to everything, they all got handled. 

The lack of noise and constantly responding to things really helped me see where my gifts could serve my customers best, and where my talents could make the most impact in both my family and my business. 


This might sound a little grade 6 school yard like, but hear me out. I love social media- and I love some of the friendships I have made on my various platforms.

But the absence of social media made me miss certain people. And I picked up the phone and actually called them. And they called me. It was like when I was in grade 6, and what friendship was like back then- you actually spoke on the phone. And it was awesome. 

While social media is an amazing tool for connecting people, and I absolutely see its value 100%, the absence of it made me a more intentional friend, and that was such an unexpected bonus. 


This is revolutionary- be less busy and you get more done! I really had no idea the firm grasp social media had on my life. I kid you not, I was probably engaging in non-intentional (meaning just random scrolling, tweeting, liking, hearting) social media consumption for upwards of 6 hours a day. Yup, you read that right. This 6 hours was not all at once of course- in line at the grocery store, waiting for my order at a restaurant, while my kids played at the park, as soon as I got out of an appointment, the moment I opened my eyes in the morning, and the last thing I saw before going to sleep. You don’t think those little moments add up to much- what’s 15 minutes, right? But string together those 15 minutes all day long and you get 6 hours. 

Imagine what I could do with 6 hours a day?!?

The absence of the constant checking meant my mind was quiet. I was able to think about ONE THING AT A TIME. And let me tell you, that bore a lot of fruit. I wrote. I schemed. I planned. I dreamed. I prayed. And some serious stuff came to the surface that will be key in charting my course moving forward.  


As I shared in my post on why I took my sabbatical, I had become so incredibly distracted all the time, and my family suffered. I was short with the people I love most and not present to the people with whom I can do the most good / the most damage. At the rate I was going, I was destined towards the behaviour described in this article on parents being distracted by their mobile devices. 

Without constantly feeling pulled in other areas, I was more present and more grounded, and I think everyone benefited from it. 


The first observation I found when I started engaging in social media again was that I went right back into comparing myself to total strangers- and feeling envy. No good comes from envy, and I was super surprised how quickly the feeling came over me within seconds.

I write all this because I never thought I could live without social media. And I survived. And I think that you could too. Not cut it out completely, and not necassairly take as long abreak as I did- but to seriously examine the hold it has on your life and how much time you spend living life through your phone. 

SO.. what am I doing now that I have re-entered the social media landscape? 

– I will check social media twice a day, in the morning around 9am and in the evening around 8pm, for 15 minutes, and personally respond to things and engage with friends

– I am using CoSchedule to create all my social media content across all available platforms, and scheduling them automatically 

– I am spending more time focusing on creating content that will serve my readers, than aimlessly scrolling 

Maybe I’ve convinced you of the value of doing a docial media fast, but now is not the right time. Here are some things you can do today to re-evaluate the role of social media in your life:

1. Remove all social media apps on your phone and only use them on your computer.

2. Set hours for social media, like you would a gym class, at a set time of day.

3. Ask your spouse or those closer to you how they feel abput the way you use your phone (brace yourself)!

I’m not writing this post to make anyone feel criticized or to condemn social media as a medium. I wrote this post as a reminder that if we don’t design our lives in a way that reflects what is important to us, it can be so easy to veer off track.

If you found this post challenging, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. 



What happened to renovations being easy? ORC WEEK 3

What happened to renovations being easy? ORC WEEK 3

Every time I have renovated some kind of drama has ensued. Sometimes, it's happy drama, like how emotional I got when my new window was installed in my living room. (I cried, you can watch the waterworks here). Other times, it is dramatic drama, like how I was convinced the stress of renovating my laundry room in 6 weeks was going to send me into full on labour with my fifth child. And many times, you just have to laugh. I recall a time working on a Property Brothers Show where a light fell from the ceiling moments before revealing it to the homeowners and it literally took a camera man, a sound guy, and me some serious ingenuity to get the light to stay in place for the shot. Insert laughter here! 

For this cottage project I am tackling for the One Room Challenge (you can get caught up on this fun design adventure here and here), I had a fun chuckle. Check it out:


As you can see there was a tin backsplash, and it came down super quick (which is usually a bad sign). The backsplash was held up with adhesive and it revealed little to no insulation behind it on what used to be an exterior wall (an addition was added to the cottage at some point as you can see through the window it has been turned into a bedroom). Moisture and the impact of Canadian cold winters and hot summers and the mix of heating a space on the inside when it is cold out and cooling with when it is hot out had done its damage and so unexpectedly, the wall had to be completely re-insulated. 

This is why I always recommend you have a reserve fund of at least 15-20% for the unexpected things that occur during a renovation.

Thankfully my clients had some CertainTeed sustainable insulation left over from a previous project. It’s called ‘sustainable’ because it is made with recycled and renewable content including a plant-based binder that is formaldehyde-free and contains no harsh acrylics, dyes or unnecessary chemicals. We used the highest R-value we could get our hands on (the rule-of-thumb on R-value selection is the colder the climate, the higher the R-value required- and it gets mighty cold on a Canadian lake in the winter!) and I'm thankful that we were able to tackle this now and set this family up for success as once the right insulation is in the walls it will last for the life of the home with no additional maintenance required. It conserves energy and saves you money- and that is always a good thing. If this was still an exterior wall I would have added MemBrane Vapour Barrier  and called it a day! 

Well- we didn't exactly call it a day there. 

We tried out these cute knobs we sprayed in Krylon's Satin Oxford Blue- cute, right?


And we're testing out these floating shelves that I think will look darling in place of the closed cabinet that was there originally. 

In my 8 years of renovating for TV shows and my clients in Toronto and beyond, I have learned that renovations are hardly ever easy- but they are mad fun and so rewarding to watch come together. 

Want to see more? Check out what the featured 20 designers are up to here and what the linking participants are up to here. Stay tuned next week for more progress : )



As I mentioned last week, I am taking part in the One Room Challenge, a really fun design experience where designers and bloggers create a space in 6-weeks and capture all the antics week by week. The whole thing is put together by the lovely Linda at Calling It Home

When designing a space I always think really hard about the overall look and point of view. In my living room and kitchen, I knew I wanted it to feel urban and polished but family friendly. For a recent client space in Aurora, I wanted it to feel really sophisticated and luxe. 

When I design a space I always pick 5 words to define the space, and then filter all design decisions through these words.

For this round of the ORC, I am designing a cottage kitchen- but of course I am going to put a modern spin on it. My 5 words for this space include: industrial, vibrant, rustic, whimsical and relaxed. I'm going to accomplish this in a few ways.

For a little industrial edge in this cottage kitchen, I'll be using these pendants and stools from Bouclair- love how budget friendly they are:

The cabinets in this kitchen aren't very old, and I honestly could not justify suggesting to swap them out as the layout works very well in this space especially given this is a cottage that is rented out for large portions of the year. But to give the cabinets a little upgrade we'll be using GRASS quiet close cabinet hardware on the interior hinges for that nice soft close. It's a small thing to add but to me makes a big difference in the user experience.

I want the space to feel really relaxed and not too fussy or polished, so I have chosen to go with Belanger laminate counters both for ease of installation and low maintenance, in a light grey.

Throw in a gorgeous touch faucet (I am a little obsessed with the design of this Delta Trinsic faucet) 

And this black Maytag range to tie in to the existing black appliances

And there's my relaxed palette! 

To add a vibrant pop, I'm going to spray out the existing cabinet hardware in a bright blue- and then I need to find a whimsical blue fabric to use in a window covering and maybe some table linens or a bulletin board? And I am thinking I might need to do something fun on the floor- because you know how much I love a patterned floor. Tune in next week while I figure that element out! 

In other news, it has been 1 week since I have re-entered the internet world after my month long sabbatical from social media. It is nice to be back, but I am also back with a less obsessive approach, which I think has been great for everyone in my house : )

I'd love to know what projects you've got cooking up and what you've been up to! Let me know in the comments below : ) 

Thanks to my lovely friend and colleague Jo Alcorn for providing me some inspiration with the image of a recent laundry room she completed pictured above!

ORC Week 1: How to renovate a cottage kitchen

ORC Week 1: How to renovate a cottage kitchen

If you've been following my blog over the past few weeks you know I just recently took a full month sabbatical from work and social media. You can read why I did it here.

It's great fun to return back to the land of the internet with another round of the One Room Challenge. The ORC is an amazing blog series where designers, decorators, bloggers, join up to complete a room in 6 weeks and blog about it weekly. The entire operation is the brain child of Linda at Calling It Home and it is seriously amazing. I completed my laundry room and my home gym through these challenges last year and am so excited to participate again.

This time, I am tackling a very special place. As I mentioned at the top of this post, I have just come out of a 4-week break from work and social media. I removed all social media apps from my phone, delegated stuff to staff, and spent a couple of glorious weeks unwinding. It was really hard, and really rewarding all at the same time. I will reflect on this more in a later post but will share I am the most at peace I have felt in a really long time. I have gained a ton of clarity, feel refreshed, and while I am excited to be back on social media, I'm going to be using it a lot more intentionally (meaning, not as much). 

I knew it was going to be really hard for me to detox during the first week (I was ghosting for the Instagram button so much the first 2-3 days!) so I purposefully planned a holiday for my family in a place that has become a very special retreat for us.

We've had the opportunity over the past few years to use an incredible little property on Stoney Lake near Peterborough, Ontario. It's nestled on a quiet portion of the lake, with breathtaking views. In the winter deer walk across the frozen lake to graze on the grass. In the summer, the lake is full of adventure and languid evenings by the fire. Growing up, cottaging was not something my family did and I truthfully never understood its appeal. But now, with 5 kids of my own, I totally understand the value in getting away from city life. As I've experienced over the last 4 weeks, slowing down is simply essential for healthy living and creative thinking. I have had some of my best ideas at this cottage and created some wonderful family memories. 

So when the owners agreed to let me tackle their cottage kitchen I was pretty darn thrilled. It's going to be great fun to create a cozy little space in a place I care so much about. 

This kitchen is going to get a nice little refresh- I invite you to stop in every Thursday to see what's happening. You can see what the featured 20 designers are up to here, and what the link up participants are up to here