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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.

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.

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.

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

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!!

In Pursuit of Happiness… Our Natural Desire to Feather Our Nest

Every spring our North American bird friends spend endless hours finding the perfect fixings for thier new digs. Searching for the best ingredients for solid structure, waterproofing and of course comfort, readies thier new home for thier expected little ones. Well that explains birds, but why do we feel the need to make our homes look like the cover of Architectural Digest?
Is it just that magazines and television expose us to the best spaces that money can buy? Do you take those visions as a challenge or do younfeel deeper about the rooms in your home? Do you feel the need to keep up with the Joneses whether you can afford it or not? There are as many reasons for the “nesting” feeling as there are … well… people. Decorating means different things to different people and to each his own… beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
For the lady late in her pregnancy, her “nesting” instict kicks in with the impending birth of her child. So is our desire to nest a hormonal reaction or natural instinct? Young couples that move into thier first home are so compelled to spend every last cent they have… or more… to make thier new nest the home of thier dreams.
Perhaps your pursuit of a fabulously sexy pad is motivated by your desire to hook-up. Both ladies and gents of single status who are looking for love, very much take the feathering of thier nest seriously. Making one’s self attractive to others at all levels. This activity is not like a web of deception but displays one’s desire to attract someone of quality or at least show your financial ability to keep up with Joneses.
Does your home make a statement about who you are or who you want people to perceive you to be? Do you want to experience a certain feeling as you walk through your front door? Is it that feeling many of us get as the holiday seasons set upon us, certain scents, colours and objects take us back to a warm happy place… most of the time. Make note of how you feel the next time you walk through your home’s entrance. Is it stress or relief that you feel? Can you recognize what it is about your home that ingnites emotions in you? Being able to notice any negative reactions you or your family may have when you enter your abode will direct you to what your next weekend DIY project should be. If you can’t put your finger on the source of your pain, you may need to call for professional help such as an interior designer.
What is your house pride motivation? Some folks feel that cleanliness is most important but let the clutter slide. Others pride themselves with orderliness, but the dust-bunnies are still safe to reproduce under the bed if time runs out in the housekeepers schedule. Then there is the personality of one who conquers both clutter and cleansing; demanding it from others in the home too. Is your desired space an empty box with little embellishment or do you prefer a full house of furniture, decorative objects and things of memories past? Where do you fall into this scale?
Do you let your budget or line of credit guide you in how much you spend on your nest? Or do make due with hand-me-downs and gifts? One may think that feathering your nest may take a great deal of cash. It can be done on less than a dime but it may take just a little more time and a fair amount of elbow grease to achieve. Consignment shops that specialize in household furnishings and accessories are a great source for finding unique and affordable things to fill your home.
There is a statement in design that says “form follows function”… meaning our spaces should be shaped by our activities but usually we have to stuff ourselves into a container we can afford and make the best of it. Depending on where you are in your life, your home may be a 5 bedroom single in the suburbs or a 24th floor bachelor loft in a re-developed downtown neighbourhood. You may feel that finishing your space to suit as many future buyers as possible is a good investment. Perhaps that is true in a short turn-around property, but in a long term living situation furnishing and decorating (as well as renovating) it is best to make choices that will make you happy. Of course, there are others such as family, future family or pets to considered in any nesting decisions you make.
Nesting is more than the pursuit of material possession, creating a living space that functions well and that you enjoy can add to the overall quality of your life. Happy Nesting!!

More reading:
Want to hook-up: http://ca.askmen.com/top_10/dating/top-10-ways-to-impress-a-woman-with-your-home.html
Keeping up with the Joneses and other rules: http://www.viewalongtheway.com/2013/06/6-decorating-rules-to-live-by/

Locavore your Living Spaces… Sourcing Design Products & Services Locally

The name “Locavore” is a popular name tag of Foodies who support food production as close as possible to thier community.  Where you live and what major centres that are near by may influence your decision of how far you are willing to have your home building and decorating products shipped.  I live near a city center that has New York, Toronto and Montreal within a 500 kilometers distance.  I am fortunate in that way but you may live in a prairie or mountain state or province where city centers, having a greater abundance of design sources, are at a much further distance.  We must remember that we are doing the best that we can to achieve our personal standards. There are many products such as textiles, door hardware and plumbing fixtures that are scarcely produced in North America anymore.  Unless you have an unlimited budget, you may have to forgive yourself for having to purchase items produced overseas.  I’m always on the lookout for artisans to fill the void of locally produced products. How does your local purchasing affect your community?  Most importanly, your money stays in your community.  As well, you are supporting the development of artisans skills and building a resource for quality of products.  Your support of local artisans may possibly increase the notoriety of specialized products in your region… think “Shetland” wool and “Waterford” crystal.

Where do you go to find what you are looking for?

  • Search on-line first!!  The easiest research and shopping you can do from the comfort of your sofa!!
  • Furniture – new, hand-made … the Amish community for example is prized for thier furniture production – includes the ability to custom order to fit your design criteria.
  • Thrift shops – especially if you’re handy and ready for a DIY project.
  • Up-cyclers – they’ll do the DIY and dumpster-diving for you!!
  • Recyclers of building products and architectural elements.
  • Crafters – whether on-line or at your local Farmers’ Market – beautiful products such as naturally dyed cotton t-shirts recycled into braided rag rugs, not just for country decor anymore… again, Amish quilts are highly coveted!!  Knitted blankets using local wools would be an investiment your grand-children could inherit!!
  • Artisans of textiles such as weavers, quilters… wood and glass works for vessels, dishes, pottery, plates and windows… metal works for items made from iron, steel, tin and aluminum especially for hardware and decorative items.
  • Antique dealers, estate sales and auctions – Antiques (and thier modern mass-produced look-a-likes) can be edited to fit into desired design styles… paint, change hardware or leave original finishes and hardware to maintain the future historical value.
  • Curb-side pick-ups (aka dumpster diving!!) – free treasures to be found, but you should take care thof yourself and be very discriminating about what you touch… avoid upholstered items (bugs, molds, disintegrating toxic materials).
  • Local College or Art Schools – up and coming artists, craftsmen and women are always looking for a way to make a living from the craft they studied… furniture, textiles, decorative household items, art… You benefit by obtaining less expensive products, unique ideas and untainted creativity.  Schools that specialize in historic artisan crafts such as stonework and millwork (cabinets, trim, etc) for example are a great source for new professionals to add unique details to your home.

What to look for…

  • always go for quality … it lasts longer
  • recyled … organic …. natural materials
  • non-toxic finishing ethical production (no harm to animals or people)
  • ask yourself if you really “need” it… and how do I feel about it!!??

Can’t find what you are looking for in your neighbourhood… think about supporting craftsmen and women working with sustainable development projects, home-base businesses, fair trade and community collective businesses… the money from your purchase goes directly into the community where the artisans are located.  Not only would you have a well crafted and unique product but you will also have a warm feeling that you are part of building productive and healthy communities world-wide.  Look for these traditional types of products (especially locally traditional products) as well as the term “social responsibility”… bonus for organic products too!!  Although the product list is endless… third party certification from NGO bodies such as:  “Fairtrade” ( http://www.fairtrade.net) … “The Fair World Project” (http://fairworldproject.org/) and “Fair for Life” (http://www.imo.ch ).

  • textiles, weaving, knitting, sewing
  • pottery & ceramics
  • metal work
  • woodwork, carving
  • glass work
  • woven grasses (baskets, rugs, wall coverings)

Your wallet is a powerful tool and “Big Business” is very concerned about how you use it.  How we spend our money sends a huge message to the marketplace… one that says “make me happy and I may spend more money with you… and so may my friends!!”  That message to industry is strong and can be relentless.  The Locavore mentality can help you to: reduce your personal carbon footprint by purchasing less travelled and packaged products; be conscious to avoid so many of the toxic chemicals used in the mass production of furniture and textiles; reduce the amount of plastics and synthetic materials used in household items and thier packaging; when your items have long out-lived their use and can no longer be repaired or renewed, the disposal of your item will return to the earth with less of the usual toxic residue; and benefit personally by obtaining unique and quality products that last longer than the mass-produced and become heirlooms to many generations. make a difference to your or someone’s community by building local economies. Embrace the emerging “Locavore” tradition and feel good about your consumerism… but please be kind to your friends and family if they don’t understand yet… they will someday, just by your example.  Happy Locavore Shopping!!