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.


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.


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!


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.

Designs From the Mat… Returning Home


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.

Living It Large with Less

Before photo of the Exterior front

Before photo of the Exterior front

Final Exterior full view (some landscaping still to be done)

Final Exterior full view (some landscaping still to be done)

Small space living … starting out or emptying the nesting … or somewhere in between?

The average American home in the 1950’s was 900 sq.ft, with 3.2 occupants.  The average American home today is 2300 sq.ft, with 2.3 occupants.  That means today’s average American lives in more square footage than a whole family in the 1950’s!!  “The average new single-detached home in Canada is about 1,900 sq.ft. and new home builders expect them to get smaller in 2012.” says the Canadian Home Builder Association.  Most large residences have more circulation areas like stairways, hallways and corridors which is unused space just for circulation from room to room…. that can equal up to 40% of unlivable space in many of the typical track house design … and you have to provide lighting, heating and cooling to all of that space!!

Do we really need all that space to live comfortably??

Living in a smaller place doesn’t just mean ultra modern and expensive high rise condominiums.  Although high-rise condos are a fabulous option if you have the budget and want that lifestyle.  Consider that renovated factories are being turned into up-scale loft apartments … not just for artists and musicians anymore.  Neighbourhood revitalization is taking place in large and smaller cities all over, changing once dark and dangerous streets into family and pedestrian friendly, tree-lined street scapes with cafes, shops and parks.  For a home with easier access to the street, single family homes, whether an in-fill, a renovated older home or a new up-scale town-home are available in posh downtown revitalized neighbourhoods that you may not have ever considered living in before.  A well designed smaller spaces can be organized to satisfy functional requirements as well as aesthetic sensibilities.


Living in a smaller space can also allow you to afford a more luxuriously appointed, with all the bells and whistles type home… possibly in a neighbourhood closer to your work or your hobbies.  Think of your smaller living space like a decked-out sport coupe instead of a basic large 4-door sedan.

A condominium that offers extra features such as roof top gardening beds, barbecue areas, swimming pools, exercise rooms, spas, game rooms and theaters can extend your living space.  Even if you have a mere 600 square feet in your condo, these additional spaces would allow you the luxury of amenities that would otherwise be quite pricey.  Many condominiums also have spaces such as recreation rooms with large kitchens and furnished apartments to accommodate family events and overnight guests.  Just watch out for the condo fees… nothing is free!!

The downtown re-development of many cities has seen an increase in high and medium-rise condominium buildings which allows more people to live in the footprint of the previous building site.  Also, redevelopment of industrial and office buildings into condominiums has re-purposed long empty spaces.  The movement of people back into cities’ downtown cores and extended neighbourhoods will slow urban sprawl, keeping precious farmland and delicate natural spaces from the developers… for now.  Urban planners have increased easier access to natural green spaces for urban dwellers as the positive physiological and psychological effects of natural habitat are well know.  People just feel better and are happier living with access to nature and fresh air.

Moving closer to work and having a short commute is worth more than a big house.  Many who make this move say they have an increase in quality of life as so much of their day that was once taken up with commuting is now available to them.  Also, the cut in your daily commute makes your environmental footprint slightly smaller.

Even if a downtown condo isn’t your idea of easy living and prefer the fresh air of the country, a smaller residence could still be beneficial.  Country living could allow one to build an efficient off-the-grid abode… perhaps with modern and not-so-modern building materials and techniques.  A smaller residence requires less lighting, heating and air conditioning… easier to clean and maintain so more time can be spent in the garden… or tending your pygmy goats and heritage chickens.

Environmentally speaking, with a smaller dwelling, less resources are used in the building and maintenance of your living space.  We are well on our way into the second decade of the 21st century and still large track home builders are pumping out monster-size dwellings with “just to code” level of energy efficiency, despite governments’ commitment improvement of standards. Large swaths of what was once pristine farm land or forests are being leveled for more sub-divisions of clone housing.  From the Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) web-site:  “Sustainability and innovation become the watchwords for this decade as governments focus on cleaner energy, the environment, and sustainable, yet affordable communities.”  It will take a larger commitment from more citizens to push for greater changes in standards to reach sustainability goals.  Perhaps the cable TV shows that have been promoting these monster homes as the desired norm have a social responsibility to show everyone how small spaces can be fabulously chic and livable … and definitely more sustainable environments!!Living room detail shot

Whether you prefer downtown, deep in the country or somewhere in between, one can live a small-space, sustainable life-style in comfortable, stylish fashion.  It just takes planning, creativity and professional execution. Doing things twice or even three times is a huge waste of resources… and details that are not finished with precision are noticeable and take away from all the good things you’ve done in your home. If you’re not a pro, hire a pro to add value to your home and your life.  The small investment of hiring a designer is always money well spent too, as you get access to designer products, services and possibly product discounts, but more important you will achieve a small living space that will work just for you!  Love your small space living!!

Note:  Average American house size: