Design & Decor Blog

how to: throw a themed party

theme party1 how to: throw a themed party
While I have a passion for space and furniture design, once a year in June, I get my ultimate event planning fix! This year, we decided to host a themed party called Secreto de Verano, meaning Summer Secret. Our concept was ‘A Night in Buenos Aires’, where we focused on creating a lively atmosphere that was both beautiful and romantic. We wanted to generate an experience full of rich culture for our guests by offering the best caterers, music, and entertainment.

Our wonderful caterers started up their ovens and supplied all of our guests with delicious and authentic appetizers, ranging from warm Argentinian ravioli and mango salad to nitro dulce de leche ice cream from Origin Restaurant. We also had vivacious dancers and performers from Axe Capoeira and a crowd inspiring DJ from Bellosound spinning all night.

Throwing a themed party is a fun and playful way to way to celebrate, be it with 10 friends or a thousand.  Here are some tips to help you create the perfect event, whatever size your party.

Stay focused on your goal and follow these simple steps:

1 Have inspiration
If you are hosting a themed party, keep it simple and stick to your topic. Themes do not have to be cheesy! You need to draw from exciting, genuine sources for inspiration and keep your party plans authentic.

theme party2 how to: throw a themed party
2 Offer simple menus
Make sure your food choices are concise and delicious. There is nothing worse than being overwhelmed with food at a party. Flavourful appetizers and delicious finger foods are easy to manage, make less of a mess, and are still filling.

3 Create a mood
Lighting is one of the most important parts of a party. An event should begin with brighter lighting, followed by dimming as the evening rolls on. A quick way to add extra glow in any room, day or night: tried and true candles.

4 Play a perfect playlist
It is very important to take the time to create a playlist suited to your guests and your theme. This way, you are not being constantly interrupted to change a song or switch a CD and are able to enjoy the celebrations.

5 Invite compatible guests
Extend invitations for your party to people that are like minded. Regardless of whether they are strangers or not, they will have something to talk about. Your guests should feel comfortable and be entertained by one another; this will make your party a true success!

6 Game on
Get your guests engaged with optional games or dancing.  It helps to create interaction and memories, creating an overall experience.

Designer and entertaining expert Andrew Bockner is the owner of Andrew Richard Designs, a Canadian luxury furniture brand celebrated for its materials and designs. Andrew Bockner creates custom, unique experiences to enhance both the space and lifestyle of his customers.

5 reasons to get a bean bag chair

Have you ever sat in a bean bag chair and just uncomfortably sagged into the floorboards? I used to own one and it didn’t take long for the filling to deflate and become a useless lump. Clearly, the bean bag chairs of yore had an expiry date. How disappointing.

But years after I had retired my chair and given up on the concept, I receive an invite for a bean bag chair event with Beanbag Boss. They’ve brought them back and I was definitely curious.

Well, I went. I saw. They impressed.

bean bag stack2 5 reasons to get a bean bag chair

Read the rest of this entry »

7 reasons to download the royal tour app

Do you have royal wedding withdrawal?

Despite the intense build up that led to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the round-the-clock coverage dropped off soon after and the world was left in awe of the whole event.

Fortunately, the Department of Canadian Heritage has your back. They’ve released a mobile app for 2011 Royal Tour to Canada! Download it to your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad and keep track of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they tour the country from June 30th to July 8th.

royal tour app 7 reasons to download the royal tour app
{ Screen captures from my iPhone }

Not sure if you want to download it? Here 6 reasons why you should get this app:


1 Itinerary
Stay on their royal heels with an up-to-date itinerary of their trip to Canada.


2 Photos & videos

Find the latest pictures and video clips of Will and Kate during their Canadian tour.


3 Events

Keep on top of public events and RSVP through the Crown in Canada Facebook page.


4 Social media
Follow what’s happening with who and where on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube right from the app platform.


5 Share with family & friends
Write a personalized message to your friends and family with a virtual postcard. Choose from existing images or take your own photos to create and send them via email or post them on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.


6 Weather

It even has a weather app so you know exactly how to dress when in view of the royal couple.


7 The price is right

The app is free. FREE!


Are you going to download the app?

tea light lantern

Fab find
Tea light lantern, $4.99 each; ikea.ca.
fabfind rotera lantern tea light lantern
I live for those late summer days, taking advantage of the beautiful weather until the sun goes down. For those long days spent outside until the fresh night air hits, add some mood lighting with these tea light lanterns. You can put them along your deck, around your garden or hang them from a tree. The soft glow of the tea light candles will add a relaxing ambiance while you sit back and enjoy a peaceful night outside.

bedroom makeover: the paint has dried (and I love it!)

Yesterday I had my bedroom painted and I was a little nervous about the colour – it was looking really white, when what I had chosen was a pale grey. But once all the coats were finished and it dried, it looked amazing! The colour, Pegasus (D30-1, Olympic Paints), is soft and refreshing and such a nice change from the dark colour I had before. I was also impressed with Olympic’s Colours of Inspiration line, which I used in my bathroom as well. The colour selection is lovely. I had a hard time making my choice out of the 1,200 colours in the palette but I’m thrilled with the final results. Even better, the paint is zero VOC and very low odour. I couldn’t smell the paint at all, which was fantastic. If you’re considering painting a room, you should check out these colours. Here’s how my paint job turned out:

paint after3 bedroom makeover: the paint has dried (and I love it!) Pegasus from Olympic Paints is a soft, feminine grey and the perfect colour to lighten and brighten my bedroom.

More photos to come as I decide on new accessories!

bedroom makeover: the paint

Here we go again! Renovating and redecorating – it’s a slippery slope! Having just finished my bathroom renovation, I can’t help but continue to look around and see what else needs updating. First, I shopped around for inexpensive accessories to add some colour to my living room and foyer. Now I’ve turned my focus now to my bedroom. (And I will be updating the backsplash in my kitchen but one thing at a time!)

The bedroom is being painted as I write this and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it turns out as lovely as I’m hoping. I selected a light, dove grey paint from Olympic (Pegasus, D30-1). Right now, it’s looking really white – I’m nervous that it won’t look like the warm grey I was planning on. But I’m trying to breathe. It needs multiple coats to cover the mid-tone brown that’s on the walls and it needs to dry. I’ll keep you posted but here’s how things are looking … and welcome to a candid look at my bedroom, messy bed and all:

paint before bedroom makeover: the paint I loved this brown paint when I chose it years ago – it made the room feel really cosy. But now it’s time to lighten up and turn my bedroom into a space that’s more cohesive with the rest of my place. Whites and greys dominate now – so stay tuned to see the changes I decide to make in here.

paint after1 bedroom makeover: the paint OK, I know it’s only one coat of paint but it’s looking really white. I hope it dries to look like the lovely grey I chose!

6 things to avoid when renting an apartment

Do you rent? It’s been 8 years and I’ve had 12 apartments. Apparently that’s not enough because here I go again!

300px East 57th St Apartments 6 things to avoid when renting an apartment

Image via Wikipedia

Apartment renting
I’m still a renter. Don’t worry, I’m okay with it. I’ve had enough experience by now to know exactly what to look for. How to budget. What necessities I can’t live without. Which neighbourhoods I like. I’m a confident gal now.

The list
What’s become even more important is what I don’t want. Here’s my top 6 list of things to avoid when apartment hunting.

1 Carpet
It just loves holding onto dust, hair and dead skin. Not to mention sucking up stains.  Save yourself from the allergies or asthma and just avoid it. Some landlords will even remove it if you ask nicely. Or they will eventually. If you don’t rent it, that is.

2 Tiny ovens
As a renter, I’m not looking to invest in the latest appliances, so the ones in the apartment need to be up-to-date. Older apartments still have those ancient, half-sized ovens. Can’t fit a cookie sheet? Can’t rent it.

3 Single sinks
Ok, this isn’t an automatic deal breaker, but size does matter. I like to cook. This requires lots of pots, pans, dishes, and utensils. If it isn’t a double sink, it needs to be big.

4 Water damage
Sounds obvious, but the nightmares of ceilings falling and walls crumbling are real. So very real. Don’t let renovations and paint fool you.

5 Outlets
I embrace the age of technology. And you can’t be tech chic when the batteries are dead. Make sure you have enough outlets and that they’re in spots you can reach them once the room is arranged. Power cords running along floorboards is so not chic.

6 Middle of nowhere
I was raised in a city with public transportation. Convenient? Yes. Reliable? Not so much. I know how easy a delayed commute can ruin the start or end of my day, so I make it easy by being on a good, direct transit line. Not to mention nearby amenities. If I can’t walk to a grocery store or bank I’m probably not in the right spot.

Do you rent or own your home?

 6 things to avoid when renting an apartment

the new kobo touch + you could win one!

kobo touch the new kobo touch + you could win one!
If you haven’t made the switch to an e-reader, I urge you to consider it. A book fiend myself, I’ve always treasured my novels and have always surrounded myself with bookcases overflowing with favourite reads and reads yet to come. But when I was introduced to Kobo, things started to change. It was love at first sight and I haven’t looked back. It happened quickly and unexpectedly. I hadn’t planned to end my love affair with actual books – and of course – there are classics and favourites that will always fill my bookcases. But I’m so in love that I’ve had the following exchange with my boyfriend. More than once.

him: If you had to choose between me and your Kobo, what would you choose?
me:
{long pause}
him: {long, awkward silence}

The Kobo has revolutionalized reading for me and the new Kobo Touch (indigo.ca, $139) has taken things one step further. Here’s what I love best:

- The infrared touch screen makes using this device so simple to use. It’s intuitive and with just the tap of a finger, you can flip the pages, enlarge the font and zoom in on PDF files.

- It’s smaller, more compact than previous incarnations of the Kobo. The paperback size makes it easily portable. Throw it in your purse and you’ll always have something to read when you’re left waiting at the dentist.

- Kobo uses E-Ink technology to simulate the printed word on a page. It’s easy to read and because the screen isn’t backlit, it doesn’t feel like you’re reading on a computer or other handheld device. The glare-free screen is easy on the eyes and feels like a real book.

- The Kobo Touch holds up to 1,000 books! Not enough? Add a memory card and it can hold up to 32,000 books. So when you finish one book, you don’t need to wait til you get to the bookstore to pick up a new one. You’ll always have a full library right at your fingertips.

I love the feeling of Kobo’s signature quilted back and it’s got WiFi capability too, which means you can order books on the go. I’ve been reading more books more quickly ever since I converted to Kobo. And as a frequent traveler, it’s ideal. No more lugging heavy books around with me. It’s super light and I always have options, depending on what I feel like reading.

must-have accessories
The new Kobo Touch comes in white, black, silver and lilac and there are an array of accessories. Here are my faves:

kobo accessories the new kobo touch + you could win one!
1 The Verso Clip Light (indigo.ca, $16.99) is perfect when you’re reading in the dark at night. Just clip it onto the top of your Kobo and you needn’t turn your sidetable lamp on. The flexible neck means you can adjust the light as needed to brighten your pages.

2 The Book Style Cover (indigo.ca, $29.95) will not only protect your Kobo Touch but gives it that ‘real book’ feeling that book lovers will appreciate. Elastic bands on the inside will hold your Kobo securely in place and there are also inside pockets. Available in purple, black, navy and natural.

3 Don’t have the Kobo Touch? There are new accessories available for the WiFi Kobo and I love that you can now get the Book Style Cover (indigo.ca, $29.95) for this version. The older Kobo is slightly larger than the new Kobo Touch so be sure to get the right size cover. How fun is the pink?

Want to win one? {Of course you do!} We’ve got four to give away. Enter here. Good luck!

textured porcelain bowls

Fab find
Naturalist bowls, $8 each; West Elm.
fabfind naturalist bowls textured porcelain bowls
From West Elm’s “Modernist” collection, these bowls comes in four different patterns. Using a special printing technique, they are beautifully made with branch, leaf and floral prints. The exterior of the bowls are also textured to mimic tree bark, making these colourful pieces look and feel organic. They look absolutely gorgeous on a tabletop or used for display.
Do you like the natural look of these bowls?

my apartment makeover, part 2

I’ve received such lovely feedback from the before and after photos of my apartment, so I’m happy to share some before and after photos of my furniture makeovers too!

I decorated my apartment while working at a high end design firm, which was great because I had access to trade-only resources that offered up beautiful custom furniture and fabric for clients – but it was also hard because I grew accustomed to working with a certain level of quality that wasn’t exactly in the budget for a young couple starting out in their first place. Thanks to the wonderful world of vintage and consignment shopping, however, I was able to source affordable raw material that I then transformed into my own custom pieces for a high end look at a more realistic price point.

tuxedo chair before my apartment makeover, part 2

I jumped on a craigslist ad that a couple leaving the country posted in effort to sell off their furniture, which gained me a clean-lined vintage chair for less than $25!

jessica tuxedo chair after my apartment makeover, part 2

Inspired by a crisp and classic YSL tuxedo jacket, I had the talented team at Cooper Bros. spray the dated wood frame high gloss black and convert the loose back cushions into a tight back. Contrast welting and button tufting in sumptuous black velvet made the ivory vinyl fabric pop (I chose the vinyl for durability and its fabric-like appearance so I could commit to white without worrying)

console before my apartment makeover, part 2

One accent piece I sourced on craigslist received a DIY treatment inspired by Hickory Chair’s Stephanie vanity

console after my apartment makeover, part 2

After arranging to pick up the console in a parking lot at Yorkdale Mall for $130, I sanded the existing antiqued cream finish down and painted it out in glossy black using a roller to achieve a smooth finish. I used metallic gold paint for the detailing and love how it creates the illusion of ormolu.

jessica bench before my apartment makeover, part 2

Another vintage find, a bench that I inherited from my grandparents, was the perfect place to use a favourite fabric that I only needed a yard and a half of to update and could afford to spend on.

bench after my apartment makeover, part 2

I wanted a modern graphic to contrast with the traditional cabriole legs, so I turned to the Missoni-esque flamestitch pattern“Flair” from Kelly Wearstler`s fabric collection for Lee Joffa.

jessica setee before my apartment makeover, part 2

One of the biggest investments in the apartment is my prized setee and it is a solid example of putting money into something special that you know you will have for years to come. I drove to Oakville with my mother in her truck to pick up the $100 antique I found on Craigslist. I had Cooper Bros. open it up to see exactly how much TLC the piece required. I knew the whole process would set me back far more than the initial cost,  but because I picked it up from the previous owner directly and worked with trusted trades, I still only forked over less than half of what I would ever pay in a brick and mortar store for the finished product.

after setee my apartment makeover, part 2

The setee’s curvy lines provided a perfect foil to carry off the black and white striped treatment I had been longing to use, and after months of searching I finally found a fabric at Primavera that had the colouration, saturation and graphic impact I was looking for.  Having Cooper Bros reinforce and gild the frame in a warm golden tone befitting a Parisian antique, making a new down-filled seat cushion and topping it off with blush round tufted velvet cushions made the craigslist find a picture perfect piece that I will have forever!

The moral of the story is, all you need is imagination to realize a piece’s full potential! With either the skills for a DIY makeover (or contacts of trades with the skills), you can rescue someone else`s forgotten furniture and turn it into an individual masterpiece!

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