Design Experts

Inside design: Samantha Pynn

Inside design: Samantha Pynn

Inside design: Samantha Pynn Author: Style At Home

Design Experts

Inside design: Samantha Pynn

Style at Home design editor Samantha Pynn debuted her new TV show, Pure Design (HGTV Canada) fall of 2008 -- and we couldn't be prouder. In her seven-plus years in our design department, she's scouted some of the magazine's most glamorous homes and produced some of its prettiest stories. In her current incarnation as TV host, she helps viewers achieve sustainable designs that don't skimp on style.

STYLE AT HOME: It seems that, culturally, we're moving away from bragging about how much we spend on items and are more impressed with the deals we get.
SAMANTHA PYNN: Yes, that's the trend. How many times have you overheard this conversation? "Great shoes. Did you spend your whole paycheque?" "Nope, I got them at Winners for 60 bucks!" Scoring deals makes us seem smarter about our money and our choices. Don't get me wrong -- I love fancy things. I always gravitate to the item with the biggest price tag because I believe that when it comes to quality and craftsmanship, you get what you pay for. But I really love a steal that looks like a million bucks. And sometimes making minor adjustments to a piece can accomplish that.  

S@H: Are there ways to fool the eye and make things look more expensive than they really are?
SP The quick answer is yes. For years, I had an inexpensive knotted-pine desk with curved legs. I had it professionally spray-lacquered with a coat of highgloss black paint and added some inexpensive hardware. Now the desk looks like a high-end piece and has a hard-as-nails finish. Spraying isn't the best for the environment, nor is it as inexpensive as whipping out a brush and throwing on a coat of paint, but I've come to the conclusion that you should do things once and do them right. The same is true for upholstery. When you're investing $300 for fabric for an old chair, make sure the chair's webbing has been repaired and its frame has been reinforced, too.

S@H: When is it worth spending a fortune on something?
SP: When you really love it. I'm not talking about buying something on a whim, although if you have the money, wonderful, knock yourself out. But if you find yourself visiting something at a store every weekend, or you're thinking about it on your coffee break or while you're driving, fess up. You're having a love affair with that piece, and you should surround yourself with things you love.

S@H: What are the biggest mistakes people make with their decorating dollars?
SP: Working on Pure Design, I've discovered that people buy stuff without having a plan or solid vision for how they'll use it in their home. When items don't work, it costs money, and worse, it's superfrustrating -- the type of frustration that brings people to tears. I can completely empathize; I once purchased a big sectional sofa for my living room without measuring it. Although the sofa fit, it completely overpowered the room. You have to start with a floor plan and some inspirational tear sheets. They'll save you from making costly mistakes.

S@H: When is a bargain not a bargain?
SP: Temporary fixes are never a bargain. Sometimes we buy items because they're inexpensive. I constantly hear people say "I got this because I needed something." Two years later, they get rid of it because it's not working. That's a waste.

S@H: Can you recount a personal victory with respect to beating the bottom line?
SP: I found a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes for $180 at Holt Renfrew Last Call that are so sexy and stylish. Oh, you meant furniture! Well, I found a $25 lamp and "upcycled" it with a new $75 shade. It looks awesome, like a brand-new lamp, but one that nobody else has. And here's another project: I bought three Malm chests from IKEA for $89 each and butted them together to form one large piece that I topped with investment lamps. It looks like I spent a bundle!

Splurge or save?

Save by buying vintage pieces. "Many of them are well made and are built to last," says Samantha.

Splurge on upholstery. A good upholsterer will make a piece last and look gorgeous, too!

Save by refreshing a favourite desk or chest of drawers with a coat of paint.

Splurge on classic pieces you'll have forever, such as white dishware, white bedding, and a wool rug.

Save on the fun stuff, like accent plates, vases and colourful pillows.

Splurge on fresh, seasonal flowers. "It's amazing how much of a pick-me-up even a single bloom can be," says Samantha.


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Design Experts

Inside design: Samantha Pynn