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A Minimalist Christmas | The Tree Alternative

With the world of things like Pinterest at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that people are jumping at the alternative of easier and smaller Christmas Tree solutions. When I was 18, I had rushed my boyfriend (now husband) to a big box store to buy a fake tree on sale. It had lasted several years which is great, I love decorating trees, but in a few of the places I had lived over the past few years, it was not ideal to have even the smaller scale tree I had. I didn’t even know there were other options!

It’s hard for people to justify investing in a tree that they only have out for a month in a year, and still be able to store it (and storage is valuable real estate in the apartment world!). Along with the tree, the decorations, lights etc., also need to be stored somewhere, so now it’s impeding even more.

For those who love the traditional tree-feel, I’ve seen many people go for the 2-3’ trees (in various colours: white, purple lights, black with red lights, traditional green with white or multi-coloured lights), which can be placed on tables (read: away from mischievous pets, and small fingers). I know my hubby and I lived in this very cramped basement apartment for 2 years where my (what I thought was small) 6’ tree took up most of our hall space! It was very invasive! A 3’ tree would have been far more practical, but still offer my love for decorating trees.

I have some friends who have kindly provided/shared with me some of the things they’ve done to overcome their tree space challenges.

1: The DIY Tree

My friend Morgan says: “Each of the top smaller pieces are on their own and the longer bottom lengths are cut in half so they’re each 2 pieces.” She followed up to mention her boards are comprised of cardboard, cork, batting and then felt. As of right now they’re tied together and hung with a string in the back, however she’s looking at finding a better hanging solution. She puts a little shout-out on Facebook to her friends, who collectively (over the years) make her decorations for her tree. It’s a great solution for conserving her space, while also creating a personal touch to her space.

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2: Au Natural

I really love this look; my friend Jessie was inspired from something she saw on Pinterest. She actually had her dog find the sticks, “I used a pocket knife to debark and make them the right length. I used walnuts to polish them.” Which is a great personal touch. She adds lights and a few simple colour themed decorations to it to help keep it simple, but still stunning.

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3: Simple Tinsel

This was a fun and very simple artistic way of giving that look of a tree, just up on the wall! My friend Meagan here used tinsel by itself. Please be careful with tinsel if you have pets, it can be very harmful if swallowed. That said, it’s a fun way to create texture in a very simple way! There are many ways to put a creative spin to this, or if you do not like tinsel, you could use other variants of garland, or purely just lights etc. The options are endless!

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These of course are just a few of the very many choices out there in the world. Feel inspired and have fun!

Wishing everyone a very happy holidays from Nested Green.

Designers and Trades | Working hand in hand

Hey everyone!

As we welcome the release of our new website design (I hope you like it!), we are also working on several new exciting opportunities. We won’t spoil that…yet.

With September approaching and kids starting to head back to school, parents and other adults alike head back to their daily routine to start dreaming about their home. This is what people do, right? Some people dream of simple fixes, others, full make-overs. After deciding what you’re looking into doing, you determine your budget and finally you look up contractors in the area to do the work.

Here’s where it can get tricky. Your contractor can make or break your experience. Some people hire friends, contractors others have used and recommended, or take the gamble with someone new entirely. Ample amounts of research should be done to determine who will best suit your project, including interviews, if necessary. It can become very stressful sometimes!

When you hire a designer, like us *hint hint*, we do that process for you. We are your advocate, and that’s what we are paid to do. We want this process to go smoothly for you, and we know who’s great and who’s not-so-great in the industry, and can offer our best advice for who to pick based off of all your needs. If you want to hire your friend, no problem, we can still make sure they do their job professionally.

We have heard so many horrors of people who have experienced the fly-by-night contractor, and we cringe and empathize towards those people entirely! A young couple with a new baby decides to get their bathroom done and the contractor fails to pay the trades even though they are responsible for that. The contractor goes MIA. The client is then out of pocket paying for the trades that never ended up getting paid or even worse, trades start a legal action case. No one ever wants that, but if the client has not done their due diligence of in depth research of who they’re hiring, there is that potential risk.

I decided to consult with my friend John the Plumber, who is very well known in our Ottawa plumbing community, regarding this issue. He mentioned that “it can be a problem, no one ever wants to go after a client. We do our best to resolve the situation before things get dirty.” Even as designers, we prefer to work with people we know, or that the client knows first hand. If we are working with someone new, we make sure to do our homework so our client can trust them in their house. John, who’s company vans are very visible and clearly well labelled, has taken every measure to legitimize his business to help his clients feel better about who they’re hiring.

This economy is very social-media based, and companies rely on word of mouth and social advertising as a key foundation of business. With that, it’s so easy to get scammed by businesses or people alike now. Some businesses that have been around for more than 25 years may not need social media because they are already well established businesses. But us newbies over here rely on it. Ottawa is a small city, and one bad word can really affect your brand. When we hire companies, we make sure they reliable, and ultimately they want the same results as we want to give our clients:

MAKE SURE THE CLIENT IS HAPPY!

This is the foundation of any proud business owner.

Make sure to do your homework when looking to do that new renovation, having a designer along with you will help guide you into the process and give the best results for you. Happy dreaming!

Chalk Paint | Re-finished Dresser

A client had found this mid-century modern dresser through an online buy and sell website, at a great price. The dresser offered a great look and fit her space perfectly. Though the original owner had attempted to refinish the dresser themselves, there were some distinguished characteristics that did not make it quite as desirable as she had hoped.

Though the condition of the dresser was perfectly fine, and functionally it works well. You can see in the before photo above that the top is very high gloss, of which also included many drip marks from the varathane – we collectively felt that it took away from the vintage look this dresser was intended. We also wanted to modernize the dresser in a fun way. After contemplating a back-painted glass top, we decided ultimately to do through a more economic, and custom route.

Katherine and I love chalk paint, and we have done a few projects via this route. Our client also loved this idea, so we took on yet another project!

We had to start by really sanding down the original surface (and I mean really sanding it down!). We had decided to paint just the box, leaving the drawer fronts (which were still in its original condition) and legs. Chalk paint doesn’t require you to sand, but you do get a better result when you do.

Having extremely curious supervisors (my cats) lurking around the project made it a little difficult to work, but we managed. Gandalf loves our dropcloth… hopefully it stays that way!

It required about 3 coats, I think we did 4 on the top. We did a 1/3 mix of pure white and an off white, creating a really soft and warm white. We then did 2 layers of clear wax on the side panels, and 3 layers on the top. We loved the way it turned out because it balanced out their side tables perfectly!

Above is to show the side table, notice how we’ve created an inverted version of it. After delivering the dresser back, there were some last touches needed, including a good buffing from the wax finish.

Final photos! What a difference! : ) It stands out, creating a modern touch on a reclaimed piece.

Green Jobs | A little Speech

While juggling a few different things in business right now, I have an exciting update on a recent event we were very pleased to participate in. Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) had invited us, well… Katherine, to speak to students and those interested in a career that revolved around the environment. The speakers promoted passion but also sustainable business structures to help inspire those interested in this field.

With approximately 50+ students and those interested in changing career paths, it was actually a larger turn out than we expected. The few other speakers were engineers and large corporate businesses focusing on sustainable environmental factors from a much larger scale.

With a quick speech from most speakers, Katherine insisted on telling us where she got started in the business. When we spoke to the many people eager to chat with us, they seemed inspired and enlightened to find a natural business… on a smaller scale. This made us very happy!

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Of course our evening went much longer than we anticipated… with hearing hopes and dreams from many others, we attempted to guide them in the best direction possible to help achieve their goals. It made us both so excited to see so many eager faces ready to jump into the work of environmental design (and living!).

Suffice to say, Katherine enjoyed telling her story so much she (and I) can’t wait to go and do something like this again! Despite her recovering from illness, she did very well in her speech… come take a look for yourself!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uH1UEEvhv8&w=420&h=315]

The Lighter Side of Laundry

There’s nothing quite like climbing into fresh clean bed sheets baked on the laundry line in the summer sunshine. Crisp linens, towels and under garment are one of the benefits of hanging your laundry to dry. The other huge benefit is the energy savings from not using your dryer.  As well, if like us, no air conditioning means no unwanted heating from dryer or oven when temperatures hit the sweaty level.Laundry 1

Today, as temperatures far exceeded the sweaty level, I noticed a load of laundry had finished its final cycle. Call me crazy, I jumped for joy. Not for the realization that my 19 year old son was doing his laundry without a word of prodding from me but that I could hang these damp clothes with the clear blue sky and sunshine!

A clear sky is key to a relaxed laundry day for us line users. One large dark cloud can have us running with empty basket and pin bag at break-neck speed screaming… “It gonna rain!!!”

Breaking up laundry day throughout the week is a good tip… if you can. Sheets and towels can fill that line up pretty quick. Luckily they dry rapidly when you have full sun and humidity levels are low.  wind-power-clothesline

Weather forecast for tomorrow says partially cloudy with chance of rain… So I’ll go to work instead. No need to call in sick for laundry tomorrow!!

Show us your laundry line.

Designs From the Mat… Returning Home

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It feels like I’ve been off my Yoga mat for years. It has been a very long winter with a previously busy autumn. Our cottage renovation clients have kept us rocking over this past year, for which we are very grateful but to schedule an interior renovation project to be completed over the Christmas holiday season is not a great idea. Seems like everyone came down with one sort of illness and then another. Not to mention our hardworking suppliers and tradesmen taking their holidays… they are allowed to do that at least once a year. Tales of faraway travels to sunny destinations are not always welcomed listening when bathroom remains bare bones and wanting attention.

Our team did pull through despite snow storms, delayed deliveries and those mentioned illnesses. We are coming down to the finish line, which despite what is displayed on TV design shows does not all appear overnight from the back of a large truck and then set up magically and camera ready. Products are out of stock, discontinued, arrive late, not what you ordered, damaged and so on… the good news… as we always assure our clients… It is going to look fabulous when it’s done.IMG_20150220_133825

Spring has been late arriving in our parts but our clients’ baby came early… another scheduling hiccup. A pleasant little mister who we hope enjoys his newly renovated crib… meaning the home, not the bed. Hopefully we will have the stunning freestanding bathtub installed before he’s in need of its use.

Our lovely clients and their new babe (and older K9 babe) spent their first weekend in their nearly completed renovated cottage these days past. As the snow slips off the roof and into the lake, dreams of skiing and snowmobiling drift into thought of picnics, boat rides and water skiing. Plans for decks, landscaping and hopefully a screened dining porch loom in our future.

What a wonderful year it has been for us. Although, after this winter of winters I’m ready for some hot Hatha Yoga to warm me up and work the kinks out. Time to prepare to be mindful for our next projects!! Welcome home!! Namaste.

Plan your Reno in the Winter | Tips for the savvy shopper

IMG_4454Here at Nested Green we’ve interacted with many folks who have expressed starting their renovations in the spring or summer and some into the late fall. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s great you want to get started! However, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress because of schedules, availability of product or contractors and most importantly, affect what you want. The most important thing about planning for Spring/Summer renovations is to plan over the winter.

Why?

There’s lots of reasons why you should plan your renovation over the winter:

Contractors are busy people. Often they’re booking weeks or months in advance, and naturally they are always looking for work. By planning late fall or early winter, booking them in advance, at least for consultations for early spring with plans to renovate later is very key to their scheduling. This way they can try to schedule you into their books based on your schedule, and not theirs.

You have a few months to keep dreaming. This is extremely important in any design planning. This of course involves booking your Interior Designer/Architect *wink wink*. Joking aside, whether you hire a designer or not, it’s extremely important to browse the world of Pintrest, Houzz, and all the unlimited resources we have at our fingertips to discover what you want, and even more importantly, what you don’t want. Make a list of priorities and what you’re willing to compromise on, this will help you narrow your needs/wants in your renovation and design and get what you want. What do you want the space to look like? What are your dreams? If you’re not hiring a designer, do a lot of research into the products that are available and this will help with coming up with your….

BUDGET. I really shouldn’t have to say more than this, but be sure to evaluate your financial situation before starting a renovation or project of any kind. Determine what type of renovation you’re doing and make sure to do research on the types of products you’re interested in and what the average costs are for doing these renovations/construction. Make sure to allow for unexpected costs as no one knows what’s under old floorboards or behind walls that might unleash a whole can of something.IMG_4492

To add to this, if you’re intending on renovating an older home like a heritage home, be sure to get the right people in to evaluate the situation appropriately. Your project may add up quickly if you discover you want to renovate your bathroom to find out all your plumbing is lead or electrical is knob and tube. Things like this are completely against code, and are required to be fixed immediately. It could mean the difference between getting all new electrical and getting the upgrades you wanted… which would ultimately impact your design, and of course you would be left disappointed.

Account for product delivery and ordering. By planning during the winter, it offers lots of time to measure and quote out the products you want as some are 4-6 weeks while others are 10-12 weeks. By ordering these in the right timing, it will prevent your project from being delayed any longer than necessary. Additionally ask about your designer, architect and contractors timeline…how much time do they need to get started? Designers often need 4-6 weeks depending on complexity/technicality and project, but it may require submitting to an architect technician with a BCIN (Building Code Identification Number) to then submit to the city for permits. Please be aware that technicians charge on the upwards of $1000 for their time to review and stamp the project. Once submitted to the city, permits could take 2 or more weeks depending on the project. If this is already completed by the end of winter, then in the spring you’ll be all set to start!

Consider your return on investment. Do property research of those around you and if you need to, get your property evaluated by a real estate agent. Be sure you’re not putting unnecessary funds into your property that you won’t see when you try to sell your house. Play it smart: use the budget efficiently in the right project upgrades (an interior designer can help with this!) and it’ll increase your property value but still at realistic pricing. All too often we see houses trying to sell for far more than they’re worth for the area.

Lastly, be sure you’ve planned around your project. Updating your only bathroom or kitchen? What will do you then…will you stay somewhere else? Something that must be considered especially if there are children in the home. Respect your contractors time and space, if you are getting in their way, this will delay your construction and cause aggravation all around. Stay at a friends/family’s house, go on vacation, stay in a hotel etc. until your project is at a reasonable stage.

Thanks again for tuning in, I hope these tips helped… please share this to your friends/family or anyone looking to start a project in the near future!

– Jennifer.

[image from dailymail.co.uk]

Architecture in Business | Review: Shopify

Hi Everyone… Jenn here!

We’re big fans of businesses that innovate and create business for others, even better when there’s quality of life and morale among the employees. We’re doing a special blog post about a company called Shopify. If you haven’t heard of it we highly recommend you check out their website. In a nutshell, this business helps create e-commerce websites and takes a very minimal percentage from those company’s sales in compensation. Their process is easy and fantastic for those eager to jump into their business but have no idea where to begin selling.

So why mention Shopify? Well, my husband David works for a company who is building their new headquarters (100k square foot of office space), located in our National Capital. This past Monday I had the luxury of being invited to an open house for his work employee’s families before Shopify employees took occupancy only a few days later. I wish I could post the many photos I took (legality reasons…boo!), however their Twitter account as well as Linebox on Facebook (the Architect) has been posting sneak peeks of it. They have some very fun ideas and I love that each floor seems to have a relevant theme (ie: one floor looks like the great Canadian outdoors full of the most adorable bean bag bears as chairs and gorgeous hand scrapped log walls). David had told me that they [the CEO’s and Architect] had gone to Google headquarters, along with Amazon and few others to feel inspired for their new space.

I’ve seen/heard some complaints from other business owners in response to Shopify’s headquarters…things like: “I’ve been in business for 30 years, this seems so juvenile” (since Shopify will soon have a slide into a ball pit in their cafeteria!) and you know what? To each their own. The world of architecture and design is changing for businesses across the world. With technology developing every day, people have become dependent on it, and especially those from my generation and those to come. I know how to disconnect, but I can and often feel lost if I don’t have my phone with me. The other issue is because we sit on the computer for hours on end, we often need to get up and move around frequently to ease our minds. The world of productivity is changing! I know I’m more productive in short spurts, as I become easily distracted… or there are certain times of the days where I feel more motivated to work. Business’s like Shopify want good and hardworking employees. But they also want their best work. Creating things like open spaces, nooks and “telephone booths” (there are at least 3 everywhere you turn all with their own theme!) for privacy to make phone calls or plugging in in a non-traditional space. Shopify’s office space gives people the option of working at their own pace because they want the best results. They have a yoga studio, a massage room, lots of spaces to sit (quiet or communal), and food always available. They even have showers there! Makes you never want to leave… see what they’re doing?

So, if you’ve owned a business that’s remained unchanged for 30 years, chances are you have older employees who (most likely) don’t like this dramatic change! And that’s okay. Large tech businesses like Shopify, Google and Amazon are catering to the younger generation now and using everyday technology to enhance the overall experience so they keep their employees longer. We all know that if we’re happy, we’ll do our best work, and want to come into work – right? I’m sure Government offices could certainly take a hint or two! 😉

Long story short, business owners of all kinds should start evaluating what type of world we live in. People want to be healthy, people want to use the best of what technology has to offer, but we also want quality of life and to be happy with where we are. If we’re happy with our jobs, we’re happier to clients… and if clients are happy, then you’ve got a client for life! And they’ve got friends! Unfortunately, a lot of companies prefer to look at their bottom line, and they forget what valued employees look like. People who work in a company that aren’t happy with where they work, often won’t recommend others to become customers/shop/employees.

Learn from Shopify’s business (or Google even) and see the difference between their success, and yours.

Designs From the Mat … Finding Creativity in all the Right Places

Yoga Posture

My mat of choice, at one time not long ago, was in a dojo for martial arts. Despite the joy of punching, kicking and throwing others to the ground… and reciprocated… that practice didn’t allow for contemplative time not to mention the unexplained bruising.  Time and space that I use for planning spaces ended up being in bed at night when I should otherwise be sleeping soundly… not possible when working out spacial challenges and clients’ expectations. Fortuitously, an injury to my foot led me away from the combat arts.  The kinder, gentler me has taken to the yoga mat and found peace and a better time and place to be creative.

Besides reducing blood pressure, improving sleep or relieving body pain, mindfulness helps creativity.  Meditation quiets the mind and allows the brain more room for creative thought.  Everyone is creative, not just artist, writers or musicians.  We all carry out tasks in our daily lives that require us to think creatively to solve, improve, nurture or manage.  Finding a connection to your creative self is not always as simple as bruised toes.  Your journey will differ from anyone else.  There are studies to verify the positive aspects of all sides of the creative spectrum.  Find and nurture what works best for you.

Everyone’s creative process differs.  Even my own depending on what challenge I’m working on such as writing.  I prefer a busy coffee shop and a deadline to achieve my best work.  Then when I’m on the computer laying out spaces or drawing plans with AutoCAD, I want quiet, no distractions. Doing math… Do not disturb.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” ~ Albert Einstein

Silence your inner critic. Talk your ideas over with someone who will listen but not be unkind to your thoughts.  Be creative with your love. Share it often.

I’m done writing… out of coffee … back to the yoga mat. I’ve got a new smoothie bar that needs some creative attention!!

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Living with Multi-generations Under One Roof… How to Get Along

It was only suppose to be a temporary situation… maybe a few months at the most. Almost 8 years later and we’re still living in my parents home. I bought a house in the town where my parents retired to. For me and my two children, living near their grandparents was going to make life easier for me, a single parent, to be able to pursue my career in the city an hour’s drive away. Knowing that my kids would have breakfast in the morning and dinner at night, as well as, to and from school safely while I battle rush hour… making the drive a little less stressful. For my parents and children, with son in elementary school and daughter in high school, getting to know thier grandparents on a personal level was priceless.
The house I bought was a real deal, a handyman-special for sure… as were all the properties I looked at in my price range. To my benefit though, I knew what I was getting myself into… so I thought. On the surface the house looked liveable but I didn’t need the house inspector to tell me that there were problems. Most century homes that haven’t been renovated in 40 years usually have issues. I’ll save the details of my reno at Helen Street for a series of blog posts I’m planning for later. So we settled into my parents house for what we thought would be a short term…. but life happens and plans change with or without your consent. Lost jobs, lacking consistent income, parent illness and subsequent death, started and failed business, depression, loss of relationships, new relationships, found self, launching daughter, comforting mother, guiding son… life happens and everything happens for a reason.
I’ve come to understand there is a difference when a living situation is thrust upon you or if you are allowed to choose the living situation carefully. In this case, with me and my children moving in with my parents … we didn’t have a choice of living situations when the house we want to live in was and still is unliveable. I understood this completely when my daughter who was recently married, talked to me about her and her new husband starting a family and worrying that they wouldn’t have much flexibility in thier activities with little ones around and no help. Quickly I said “I’m your go-to Grandma!!”, then added that life could be even easier for them if we just lived with them. So I suggested we look at pooling resources and coming up with a plan of action. Who pays for what? How would things get decided? Who cleans the toilet? The list goes on, but at least it is discussed. Time to finish the repairs and sell that house the we have never lived in.
Multi-generational living is not a new concept. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1950’s when the idea of the “Nuclear Family” was being widely promoted. What it meant was that smaller family units swarmed into suburbs and out of the cities and left aging parent on thier own. There are many cultures living in North America that for them having many generations live under one roof is very common. Typically in North America, if you still live in your mom’s basement, people may think there is something wrong with you. There is even a term for that… failure to launch. More and more families every year are embrassing age-old communal living. Whether it is for financial reasons or for built-in security, there has been a surge in the past 5 years of multi-generational homes.
Successful communal living starts with planning the living spaces where everyone will have thier own zones for functionality, privacy and noise control. Everyone needs private and quiet sleeping spaces. Not all are on the same sleep schedule so planning these spaces are very important to the success of your living situation. If time and budget aren’t a huge barrier for you, designing and building a home specific to your families needs would be ideal. If a new building is out of the picture for you, consider hiring a designer to organize your existing property to get the most efficient living spaces out of it.
The Players and Other Considerations:
Pets … who’s pet is it anyways? cost, allergies, cleaning, feeding, poop, noise; Small children … noise, toy management, bath time, quiet sleep space, discipline rules (Mom & Dad get to set them), little friends, babysitters;
Pre-teen & teens … video games, friends, partying, latenights, electric guitars, loud music, eating right, privacy, sleep-overs, emotions, more discipline rules (Mom & Dad still get to set them);
The Parents (and thier partners and extended families) … long work hours, meal making, chores and the division of work, privacy and intimacy, discipline of children, financial obligation, retirement, travelling, entertaining;
The older parent(s) … noise (24/7 TV on top volume), hobbies, meals and the difference of taste, health issues, sad widow(er), sleeping hours, mobility issues, special equipment;
Dealing with Stuff … material stuff and emotional stuff… and the laundry;
Storage… and enough pots in the kitchen for everyone!!
Some Benefits of Multi-generational Living:
*  Extra eyes on the little ones… and not-so-little ones;
*  Consolidating resources and decreasing costs such as utility bills, insurance, mortgage, rent, vehicles, commuting, child and elder care;
*  Sharing of household duties (more hands to wash dishes and toilets);
*  IT problems will be resolved quickly (as long as you’ve got techies around to hit re-boot);
*  Increase of familia bonding through meals, activities, chores and play time… quality time!

Every living arrangement has it’s pluses and minuses… we choose to dwell on the positive. Having your aging parents close to you can be a comfort knowing that they are well taken care of by all of the family. There are so many benefits but like any relationship, communication is the most important tool for multi-generational families to live successfully under one roof. I’m looking forward to my next living arrangement!!