4 ways to be a better wife and mother

4 ways to be a better wife and mother

After the summer we have had (which included a sick child in hospital, a car breaking down on our way to Florida, altered vacation plans, increased expenses, and a general necessity to rely on God and be flexible), I've been reflecting a lot on what it means to be a good wife and mother. 

Because there are so many days where I feel like I am absolutely failing at both.

There are days when I scream. Where I nag. Where I am less than gracious. Where I honestly feel like giving up.

And then I take a page out of my own book. Literally- I comb through past blog posts where I discuss struggle and what it looks like when you come out of it and I am reminded there is always a new day. There is always a do-over. And to quote the lovely Cat and Nat from Social Commons, having a bad day as a mom doesn't mean you are a bad mom- you just had a bad day being a mom. 

So for today's post I am re-posting an excerpt from a past post. If you feel like you're having a bad day as a wife and mom this one's for you. 

Last weekend, my husband had a work conference in Montreal- so the kids and I decided to tag along for the ride. Smoked meat and poutine, cuddles in big comfy hotel beds and quality time after working like a maniac- so needed! I am so thankful for the weekend we had. I am most thankful for the time to recalibrate and be reminded of what my most important job is. 

I put in a lot of time developing myself professionally. Recently I was in Colorado for The Platform Conference, yearly I invest in business coaching of some kind, and I am pretty obsessed with reading and gathering info on social media strategies, good business practices and becoming a better interior designer and communicator in general. 

But how much time do I invest in being a good wife and a good mother? The honest answer is not very much. So in Montreal I brainstormed a few concrete ways I could invest in being a better wife and mom. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Do more the night before. 

This has proved to be pretty awesome for our morning routine, and therefore all of our moods heading out the door for school. And for those of you in Toronto or anywhere north of the equator it seems, you know how much more effort it was this week with snowpants, boots, mitts, hats, etc. etc. etc. So I am disciplining myself to attempt to lay things out the night before. School bags with letters / forms already filled in get laid out by the door, and lunches mostly packed saved for the things that are perishable and are pre wrapped in bags in the fridge. I have to work on getting them to lay out their clothes the night before- hoping to instill that habit in them (and myself!) too. 

2. Turn my phone off for uninterrupted, aimless time. 

Or at least put it away out of reach. I think I need to make a "sacred time", where the phone is away. In this time I want to invest in just being present and aimless. Ask my kids questions, be present to my husband in conversation, be available in an undistracted manner. I need to work on this. Update: since writing this post I did a 30-day social media fast which was life changing

3. Be more grateful, and verbalize my gratitude. 

This one is simple. I need to be more grateful for my spouse and my kids and let them know that. If I had a jar and I had to put a dollar in for the number of times I got irritated in a day with everyone, vs. the times I spoke grateful words to them it would be pretty sad to see how full that jar would be. 

4. Be more romantic. 

As a mom of small kids, romantic gestures of any kind are admittedly quite neglected at the end of a day full of demands. The relationship I have with my spouse supports the rest of the relationships in our house, and establishes a culture of care and kindness. My kids learn about love by watching the way I relate with Josh. I best treat him with some fondness ; ) 

In the fast pace of our life with 4 kids (update: now almost 6!) and busy work schedules, there are days that we feel like we barely survive. But there are also days that we thrive. I want more of the latter, and experience has shown me that if I put into practice some of the goals I set out above, like being more organized and more attentive and less distracted, we really do feel great. At mass last Sunday at the gorgeous and historic St. Patrick's in Montreal, this was read in the first reading: "Her children stand up and proclaim her blessed, her husband, too, sings her praises" (Proverbs 31:28). I hope to live up to this both for my own personal standard and for them. 

How do you invest in your job as parents and spouse? Love to know your best practices in the comments below.

How to make a small living room feel large

How to make a small living room feel large

Let me tell you how I live- I live in 1290 square feet on my main floor with 5 kids, one husband, and a baby coming in January! It is small- so if you live small too I FEEL YOU. And fear not, your living room can feel super large with a few strategies. Here are a few ways to do this:

1. Start with a great sofa

Note- it does not have to be small! I repeat- it does not have to be small. In my own living room, I have got a fairly grandiose sofa- meaning, it's got large rolled arms, lots of tufting, and I did not purchase it in the "condo / apartment size" section of a furniture store. It is big and bold and I love it. Make sure you leave enough room on either side of course for side tables- for example I wouldn't want the sofa to take up more than 3/4 of the wall, or determined space in an open concept living room. And why this works in a small space is reason #2…

2. Pair your great sofa with streamlined chairs

A large sofa can absolutely be successful in a small space as long as you pair it with smaller scale chairs. PLEASE DO NOT BUY THE SAME LARGE CHAIR THAT MATCHES YOUR LARGE SOFA. In a small space, this just isn't going to fly. Instea, choose pieces that have slender arms, have legs that elevate it off the floor so they appear not so bulky, or one of my favourite approaches in small spaces- use clear pieces like the ghost chair, or anything with metal mesh or negative space cutaways where you can actually see through the chair so the visual weight is reduced. I like putting a chair on either side of the sofa as per my image above- but of course if your small space allows consider adding small ottomans on the other side of the coffee table, o4 2 chairs on ether side of the sofa. 

3. Ground it all with a large rug

OK- you might think I'm nuts here- you want me to put a LARGE area rug in my SMALL living room? Go with me for a moment. A small rug that does not sit under all the furniture pieces breaks up the visual line. It creates choppy breaks, where your eye jumps from the foot of a chair, to the edge of the carpet, to the edge of the carpet again, to the edge of the sofa- and this is what we want to avoid. In a small space we want to create as harmonious of a visual sweep as possible. Think of how a camera pans across a room in a television show "reveal shot". Instead of interrupting the sweep with a bunch of broken lines that create visual chaos, your small space will feel so much more open and large without as many visual breaks- so go big on the rug and ensure it sits under all the pieces of furniture. 

4. Use pattern

Again I promise I am not nuts. Pattern in a small space? Isn't that going to be super overwhelming? I argue no- the key is to ensure you vary scale and keep things in a harmonious colour palette. As you can see in my own small living room, I went with a bold wallpaper- and kept other elements of the design like the carpet, and upholstery fabrics more neutral for balance. 

5. Use colour 

A harmonious colour palette, I argue, is a great way to ensure a space feels larger than it actually is. And yes- a lighter palette will help a space feel brighter and larger as well- but I wouldn't hesitate from using a dark colour in a small space as long as 1) it is your style and 2) your space is appropriately lit (large windows or sufficient layered lighting). Make sure you repeat a colour (like one of the ones you used in a patterned pillow or wallpaper) at least three times in a space to create visual harmony. 



We all strive to be healthy… right? If you're anything like me, you put working out and eating well on the goals list, eat healthy for a period and then it's right back to old habits again (poutine is my kryptonite). 

After working with the lovely Jenn Pike of The Simplicity Project on a collaboration on her kitchen, let me tell you am I motivated to get back to better habits again. I seriously want to be this woman when I grow up. Her simple approach to good nutrition, balance and harmony in the body is so inspiring- and we extended that same ethos to a kitchen and dining room transformation that I am pretty wild about. 

If you're embarking on a renovation, here are 5 easy ways to update your kitchen:

1. Add a rustic touch

This is a trend that is sticking around- and it a great way to update your kitchen without necessarily having to make a big mess. Some reclaimed wood floating shelves, some gorgeous wooden trays or even just a big beautiful wooden cutting board are easy, simple ways to incorporate this trend. 

We used this trend in Jenn's kitchen with this beautiful table and chair set, and hammered metal pendant lights from Artemano. Made from scratch from artisans sourced from all over the world, it's the handmade touch that makes this trend so popular. Look for items that have a handscraped element like this table and hand carved features like this gorgeous wooden tray set.

If you're tackling the kind of reno where mess is necessary, consider using a hardwood floor with this same rustic element. Again a trend that is super popular but I argue will be around for a while is a floor with a handscraped element like this engineered hardwood from Torly's.

2. Update an appliance or fixture

This is a really easy way to update the look of your kitchen without going through a huge reno. Usually it is fairly simple to replace an appliance of the same size, or a fixture like your kitchen faucet. In Jenn's kitchen (where she teaches cooking lessons and creates healthy recipes that are honestly to die for) we replaced her kitchen faucet with my favourite Delta Trinsic faucet and matching soap dispenser which boasts touch activated technology- so no fumbling with the faucet when your hands are covered in kitchen mess. You simply tap anywhere and water or a controlled amount of soap (magically) appear. The integrated pull down spout is my favourite aspect of the design of this faucet! 

And then when you've enjoyed your healthy meal make clean up a breeze with an efficient dishwasher. I honestly don't know what I did without a dishwasher before- they simply make life easier so you can get back to enjoying time with your family. And this Whirlpool dishwasher has an intuitive sensor that measures how many dishes it needs to clean, and how dirty they are, so it can intuitively adjust itself to the right wash and dry settings. Doesn't get more simple than that! 

3. Change your backsplash

The backsplash is one of the ways you can make a major visual win in the kitchen- on my design consultations it is usually one of the first things I recommend to swap out when you need a kitchen update. This Silver Fox backsplash by ErthCoverings provides another rustic element and just looks like a piece of art in Jenn's space.  Made of 100% high quality natural stone, and since the multi-height backsplash comes in large modular pieces (as opposed to individual small strips) installation is quick and clean.

4. Update your cabinet hardware

Updating your exterior cabinet pulls is one way to create an update in your kitchen. But why not think about updating your interior hardware as well? In Jenn's kitchen we used GRASS soft-close cabinet and drawer hardware. Again, you might be thinking- what's the big deal with interior hardware? No one will see it? Well friends, as much as I want to create exterior beauty, I also want to create AMAZING function in my projects. And quality drawers and hinges that won't bang, slam, or pinch little fingers when in use is great function for me.  

5. Add some colour

This is a fun, and really easy way to update a space and in Jenn's kitchen we had fun with the accessories. I think a space should really reflect the personality of its user- and Jenn is vivacious as they come! So we added pops of orange and teal in accessories from HomeSense. HomeSense is my go-to destination for home accessories at exceptional prices (also- fun fact- do you know they sell kitchen gadgets too? How cute it this orange toaster?!? If you're seeking smart design and great prices on coveted high-end small appliances, the exclusive HomeSense Privé Event launches September 15th at select locations with brand name appliances at prices 20-60% less than in specialty or department stores.).

Style a surface well by using a mixture of textures- I always try to incorporate natural woods and linens, shiny ceramics, sparkly glass, and matte concrete in a space for a modern, on trend look. And don't be afraid of colour- especially in a neutral space (the paint colour is a neutral Cabot Trail by Benjamin Moore), the pops of orange and teal are fun and lively. 

Kitchens really are the heart of the home- and it's a joy for me to help families thrive. If you're looking to thrive in your health goals, definitely check out Jenn Pike and The Simplicity Project.  And if this has gotten you inspired to do you own kitchen re-fresh, I'd love to know what tip you might employ in the comments below!

Special thanks to photographer Dann Tardiff, and to the brands mentioned above who partnered with me by supplying product for this kitchen makeover. 


If you’d rather watch me talk about how you can make easy updates to your kitchen check out my YouTube video below:

If you liked these tips, and want more interior design strategy straight in your inbox, enter your email for my top 10 interior design faux pas and how to avoid them:




How to decorate your room on a budget

How to decorate your room on a budget

I started my career designing a house on HGTV for a whopping $30,000 for the ENTIRE house including the kitchen. It was intense. I dove into dumpsters and flexed some serious DIY. Fast forward almost 10 years and it’s not difficult for me to spend $30,000 on a single room!

But good design doesn’t always have to cost a ton of money- and leveraging my many years of working with clients of all income levels and for a few notable tv shows where budgets are usually fairly lean- I share with you some resourceful ways to decorate your room on a budget with success!

1. Use paint

Paint is one of the easiest ways to achieve drama without a huge expense. For a really dramatic transformation, consider painting a room a really dark hue. My master bedroom is one of my favourite rooms in my house due to the cozy nature created by the dark navy blue that wraps every wall. It’s great for your budget as the drama created by the hue means you can be a bit more simple and demure with art. For $100 – $150 plus some sweat equity you can create some serious drama in a weekend. 

2. Use white 

I realize this is polar opposite to what you just read above. But do you ever notice how many beautiful home images on Instagram or magazines use a lot of white? It’s a really simple approach to make a sophisticated room. White is really easy to layer, and white is a simple staple colour to purchase at retailers of all price levels. I find when you keep a monochromatic colour palette the space can feel serene, textured and more expensive than it actually is.

3. Use Craigslist

I recently created an apartment space for an article for the Toronto Star where we sourced everything through the online sales platform Craigslist. While it takes some leg work (like contacting sellers and arranging transportation), it is a really great way to find beautiful items, from reputable brands, at a significantly reduced prices. 

4. Build slowly with a plan

Rome was not built in a day and neither does your living room have to be. You can do it in stages, and save for pieces you love. But do it with a plan- prioritizing buying some key quality pieces and fill in the gaps as your energy and finances allow you.

5. Make sure one item in the room is really special to you

Regardless of your budget- make sure there is something in the room that is really special to you. This might mean it is a sofa you have been eyeing forever, or a lamp that you tore out of a magazine years ago and have not been able to stop thinking about. Make sure there is something that you will love and think of fondly every time you see it.

What are your strategies for decorating on a budget (that don’t involve dumpster diving!)? I would love to know in the comments below. And if you liked this, you might like my top 10 decorating faux pas. Download that by leaving me your email in the box below and I will send it over 🙂