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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]

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]

Power Windows … Musings of the obsession of windows in our lives

 

Window in Window

A window is a frame through which we see the world. Some views are full of wonderment, others frame that which is not so pleasant with our world. A window, unlike a door will only be looked through, never exited through… except in an extreme emergency… Actually and metaphorically.

For every new building I’ve ever worked on, the selection of the windows has been the main obsession for the project. I’ll use the word “obsession” a lot when referring to windows because it is a huge part of both the interior and exterior function and aesthetic of any building. Not to mention the large percentage of the budget they eat up. Designers of buildings since the beginning of recorded history have been obsessed by windows.

Norfolk Church

Early examples of window architecture are exhibited in every culture… from a hole in the wall adding animal skins, weaved grasses, wooden shutters to carved stone lattice. In ancient Far East, paper was used as a window covering. Small pieces of glass were developed in 100 AD in Roman occupied Alexandria, Egypt. Windows have allowed us the ability to see our enemy coming from afar while we stay protected within our abodes. The colourful stained glass of European churches has wondrously guided illiterate followers with pictured stories of the Bible. Later in time, the size of your windows exhibited the status and wealth of your family. Windows were covered in the interior with heavy draped fabrics… the more money you had the thicker and fancier the drapes were. The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles was a stunning showcase for France’s new plate glass technology of the 1680’s.

Store front

Store front

The agenda of windows has not changed much since ancient times, except we add energy efficiency to the list of reasons for purchasing the best windows that we can afford. Ancient designers knew the benefits of window locations. Not just adding vantage points in buildings for spotting marauders but strategically adding windows for best lighting of interiors, efficient seasonal heating and cooling from the sun’s rays and air flow throughout the interiors. The architectural term is “fenestration” which also includes doors in the category. Since the advent of structural glass and industrial steel in the late 19th century, fenestration such as skylights, glass floors, and mile high curtain walls have been made possible.

 

As well as real objects, a window is a metaphor, as in Queen Elizabeth’s proclamation that she “did not want to make windows into men’s souls”. Through romantic poetry and art, the window is a magic casement of symbols of hopes and dreams. That which appears outside the window seems to be better than what we have within. Modern day artist, film director Alfred Hitchcock was fascinated by voyeurism and used the window as a setting in his film Rear Window. There are whole books dedicated to the meaning of windows in dreams. University psych courses abound with deep meanings for windows. A certain company has made a fortune with a computer program using the name. Windows are deeply rooted in our collective unconscious… there is a reason why we don’t like windows behind our bed’s headboard!!

A window will determine a lot about an interior, such as how much air, light, heat, cold, view and much needed privacy one will or will not receive from their window. On the exterior, it’s all about aesthetics. For windows, they do not just following the rule “form follows function” but add a layer of status and metaphor to the mix… a perplexing thing they are. That’s why designers and architects love, love, love windows…. obsessed!!

Window Lattice

got space? Are you having Emotional Interface with it? Whaaaaaat!!??

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It’s ok to admit it.  Everybody wants it.  In fact, in most places it is expected.  Emotional Interface, that is.

What is Emotional Interface you ask?  If you are a web-designer you are well familiar with the name and the concept.  What works in the virtual world should work in the real world too, no?  Architects and interior designers could learn a thing or three from our virtual design world cousins.  In 2010, Aarron Walter, Director of User Experience at Mail Chimp gave a presentation called “Learning to Love Humans”.  In his presentation, he says:

“Humans, though cute and cuddly, are not without their flaws, which makes designing for them a challenge. By understanding how the wet, mushy processor works in these hairy little devils, you can design interfaces and web experiences that will have them hopelessly devoted to your brand.”

Our ancient ancestors were very good at Emotional Interface.  For them, it was as simple as sitting around a fire pit, sharing stories, dancing, meditating and posting the days events on the cave wall.  So, if you have linked, shared or participated in a space then you may have achieved Emotional Interface. Human needs dictate that we require functional, reliable, usable and pleasurable spaces.  You know when one of these elements is missing in a space:  Where is the door?  Is this the right door?  Can I open the door?  Wow, the door opened for me!!  A positive Emotional Interface experience = pleasure.

Cave Painting Cartoon

Technology plays a huge roll in making our living spaces more pleasurable. From old tech like refrigerators and vacuums to new tech like the AI thermostat “nest”.  They all have a function that can make life a little easier for us. Although both creepy and awesome, the “nest” thermostat learns your room temperature desired patterns so that one day you just leave it alone and it will just know what temperature you want your room to be.  It is kind of like raising a child… but then there is always the teenage years… “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?  Dave, I really think I’m entitled to an answer to that question.” … or for the younger crowd … “The cake is a lie”.

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The spaces that you create for yourself tell the world of your values… you are visually communicating your brand as it were.  What are you telling the world about yourself?  Our cultural and social upbringing influences how we feel about the spaces we inhabit and our expectations of what they should give us. Restaurants are a good example of expectation of an emotional interface. Depending on the quality of the food and prices on the menu, we expect a restaurant to deliver an equal or better offering in service and the physical environment.  Food, service and decor are the Holy Trinity of a successful restaurant… just ask effing Gordon Ramsay!! … aaaaaand we expect it to work out or we give an unfavourable review and the relationship ends.  It is harsh, but like Mr. Walter says, designing for us hairy little devils is a challenge.

“Interior spaces are often the primary interface between users and the built environment and can have a marked influence on our sense of belonging, comfort, emotion and productivity.” Arqua Design

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Every element of design in our environment plays an emotional toll on our soul. The shape, size, colour and texture create a composition of balance, contrast, pattern, proportion and more … that’s a lot of combinations and permutations that could go horribly wrong!!  Be kind to the design!!  Know that everything evolves, the designers are taking note of what works and doesn’t and there is always another toy arriving to distract us from those pesky negative emotions and give us one more pleasurable experience.

“The only intuitive interface is the nipple. After that it’s all learned.” – Bruce Ediger

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