Tag Archives: outdoor spaces

Decorating Tips for the Holidays


There are two approaches to Holiday Decorating. The first is relaxed while enjoying the spirit of the Holiday Season. The second, is stressful with a desire to get everything done, or done just right! If you take a few simple steps, holiday decorating can be fun and stress free. 

Sort through what you have before rushing out to buy more. This will save you money as well as time. I always forget what decorations I have in storage, especially the newer ones. Most years we buy a special new piece or two (three or four). Christmas is our favourite time of the year! My hubby and I both discovered we shared the same favourite Holiday when we were on our Honeymoon and discovered a year round Christmas shop. We were like 2 kids in a candy store! We still have nearly all the purchases we made that day for our tree. We have simply added to our Christmas décor over the years. So, I usually start by bringing out all my accent pieces for the home. My garlands and sleighs with snowmen, reindeer, ornaments for my mantle, etc. That way if some was damaged or broken I have time to replace it if I want to. I usually pick a weekend in November and do just my accent décor then I have time to buy more if I need just the right piece for “that” one space that doesn’t look quite right. 

Leave yourself as much time as possible. Holiday decorating can be overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once. The next big projects are my Christmas trees. I usually have 3 at home and 2 at the cottage. I did say Christmas was our favourite Holiday, right? Our main tree is very traditional with many of the ornaments we purchased back on our honeymoon. It is a special family tree with years of ornaments from ours girls, and special ornament additions we’ve made over the years. If I’m feeling particularly stressed that year, I will only do one tree per day. I start in late November or early December so I have time.  We have a tree in our piano room decorated in burgundy and gold with some black accents for the piano. We are still renovating our rec room (hope to have that completed in the next few months) but I still have a tree at the bottom of the stairs to greet people! Of course, we have our fireplace and mantle decorated in the rec room as well. At the cottage, our main tree is even more rustic than the one at home. After all it is the cottage. Finally, most years I also put up a small (6’) tree in our sunroom at the cottage as well. This one is more whimsical and fun, like our sunroom.

One of the things that make décor cohesive and interesting is having it meaningful. Our main tree is very rustic with a very beautiful tree skirt that I bought years ago that had matching throw pillows. So our tree skirt and throw pillows blend with the rest of the décor in that room for a wonderful look! We have a beautiful blend of colors from the room that we use on our tree. Burgundy from our accent chairs, golds from our walls, and black from our piano. It all blends beautifully and looks “right”. Having décor meaningful takes time and is developed over time. There is no time to start like the present. It doesn’t have to be big, just a few small pieces each year and before you know it, your Holiday décor is special and speaks uniquely of your family.

I finish off with some nice outdoor touches. Micheal’s was having a great sale, as they often do this time of year, so we found a combination of accents sticks that we blended together for our large planters by our garage. They are simple but beautiful. We also have small 3’ Christmas trees on either side of our 2 front doors to greet guests during the holiday season. It’s that extra splash of “happy” to welcome friends and family. Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without my hubby’s Christmas lights. He loves his lights!  We have them along the front of the house, on the 4 small trees at the doors, along the fence and of course around the garage doors. Holiday lights can be as simple or as detailed as you want. Home hardware has a beautiful and simple light called an “elf light”. It takes 10 minutes to install and casts multi colored speckled lights on your home.  Very beautiful effect in next to no time!

Finally decorating your holiday table. Again, this can be as detailed or as simple as suits you and your family. You can go all out for a centerpiece and colored placemats and matching napkins, with matching napkin rings. Some people still have special table clothes they use only on the holidays. Use what is meaningful to you and your family. This is where I find most people’s traditions tend to be similar to what they grew up with. Then of course, we add a few of our own special touches!  In setting a table for the holidays, dinnerware can really make a table look stunning. Small little accent pieces that go with the décor in your home from accents on the stemware to décor sprinkled on the table. You can go all pout or stay as simple as you feel comfortable with! If you do want to be more elaborate, leave yourself time to plan it all out and have it ready well in advance. There is nothing worse than scrambling at the last minute! You may even wish to set out the décor and centerpiece the day before and just leave the glasses and dinnerware for the day of. You will have enough to do that day so save some time and stress.

Most importantly, remember the Holidays are about spending time with those you love.  Enjoy time with family and friends. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to make you happy and feel good! Relax and enjoy! Happy Holidays everyone! May the peace and love and joy of the Holiday Season be with you all!


Fall Has Arrived!


Fall is my favourite time of the year! I officially have my fall décor out and am burning my fall “pumpkin spice” candles in my office as I catch up with my paperwork. I’m enjoying a breather the last 2 days catching up on 3 months of paperwork! Looking back I can’t believe we made it through the craziness and last few months of spring/summer.

Back in the spring we were staging/de-staging every day. Many days we were doubling up and de-staging one and staging another in the same day. Logistically, this is very challenging keeping straight what’s coming back and what’s going out without mixing anything up! We did have a few times when we grabbed the wrong bin/ bag of goodies and someone would have to chase back to the shop for the right décor. Thank goodness we moved into the new warehouse earlier this spring before things got really crazy! We had the space to sort multiple jobs and keep them packed and ready to go days in advance if necessary.

Things very briefly slowed down right around the end of the school year then we were going non-stop until the end of July. As fast as were setting up and completing a stage another one would sell! It’s really been non-stop for months now! We completed 9 stage jobs in the last few weeks before school started and we have already had 3 of those sell! 2 sold within hours and one sold the following day. One sold for $15,000 over list price on the first day showings started! Yes, bidding wars are still happening. Fast sales are still happening. On a street of 7 listings, our staged home was the first to sell. Others are still for sale months later and a few have been removed from the market, unsold. Homes have to be fairly priced and in very good condition for a fast sale. Of course, staging is a huge benefit. The staging makes the buyers connect emotionally with the home when they see it! As the number of listings increases, competition continues to grow, and sellers are making more of an effort to get their homes sold.  

Small repairs or improvements that sellers previously refused to complete, now are done without question if they want the home sold fast. Staging is becoming much more common is all price ranges. Literally we’ve staged homes anywhere from $200K all the way up to the 1.5 Million price point. As always homes in the lower price ranges sell faster. There are just a much higher number of qualified buyers below the $350K mark than there are in the $500K price point. As a result higher priced homes often take longer to sell.  Add the number of available new builds in that price point and the market is highly competitive for sellers in the mid – upper price points.

If you are thinking of selling this fall/winter or spring take the time now to complete all exterior work.  Pressure wash stucco, siding, eaves and fascia. Get you exterior windows cleaned. Trim back and shrubs or overgrown trees/plants. Pressure wash driveways and sidewalks. Repair and old decks boards and treat with a new coat of paint while the weather still allows! Exterior maintenance goes a long way to showcasing a well maintained home and sends a fabulous first impression! The key is to get that fabulous first impression and then continue to impress the buyers more with each new room they explore! Get all the outside work done this fall while you still can. The impression it makes on Buyers in the winter months will be well worth the effort now.

Home staging is about getting people’s attention! It’s about making them want to see your house rather than the one down the street. More importantly, it’s about all the preparation that goes into getting your home ready for buyers to see! From the first time we come in for a consult, we address all exterior and interior aspects of preparing a home for sale. Everything from trimming trees/shrubs for a great street appeal to pulling weeds and washing driveways and sidewalks. Cleaning windows and a complete cleaning inside the house. Interior cleaning is everything from lights to walls to baseboards. I even insist Sellers wipe down the dust on the hot water tank and furnace. Mechanical equipment that is caked with years of dust does not look well maintained. Mechanical equipment that is sparkling clean looks well maintained and gives sellers a sense of confidence. Of course, any repairs or maintenance issues that need to be addressed before the home is listed. Once the home has been de-cluttered, cleaned inside and out, it is ready for staging. We then come in with the final touches and leave your home ready for the photographer and for the Buyers to fall in love with!

Home staging is not just about furniture and accessories – it’s the whole package! Everything you need to do to get your home sold fast and for the best possible price! 




Eye Catching Curb Appeal & Yards


Curb appeal is one of the most important and often most underrated details when selling a home.  When Buyers first drive up, they are already inspecting your home with open anticipation.  If they like what they see on the outside, they are that more excited about seeing the rest.  The first impression is always the outside! Make it the beginning of a promising and fulfilling experience. 

During my house/cottage searches over the years, I remember many times when we would be meeting our Realtor at the house.  There were a number of houses that I just drove away from without even seeing the inside.  If the outside looks that bad, I certainly have no desire to see the inside.

Grass should always be neatly trimmed and cut and free of weeds.  Having a yard that is cut but that is nothing but weeds isn’t well maintained.  There are products that are available to kill weeds and encourage lush grass growth.  Make sure you take the effort to trim the edging.  Cut grass with 2 feet of grass growth under trees doesn’t look maintained.  It looks lazy and sends the message you do not want to send.  “This seller cuts corners wherever they can!”  Plant some flowers or buy some potted or hanging plants.  Keep in mind, you do have to water them, especially in the heat. 

Remove all clutter and garbage from the yard, especially beside, behind the garage and the shed.  Hire a guy to come and take it off to the dump if you do not want it. Just look on Kijiji there’s a long list of guys offering to do so. If it is something you need/want to store, do so in a clean and tidy manner.  This also goes for sporting equipment. 

Trim any trees/shrubs so they do not attack Buyers as they walk to the front door.  Remove excessively large trees.  Many trees roots cause problems to foundations and to water/sewer lines.  Repairs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  Some trees roots grow out along the surface of the soil, like poplar; others grow down and out.  When you have a tree that is 25-35 feet tall; it has quite an extensive root system.  Quite often large trees like this, conceal the front of the property and take away from the curb appeal – all you see is tree!

Please use the front door.  A number of homes do not have a sidewalk to the front door.  This forces buyers to use the back door – which never has the same wow factor as the front entrance.  A bit of gravel and sidewalk blocks are inexpensive!  They are easily available at Home Depot and are no more than an afternoon job.  Take the time to invite buyers into your home.

Pull any weeds you have.  This always drives me crazy.  People have their homes for sale, weeds are taller than the Buyers children, and Sellers are frustrated that no one wants to buy their home.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve told Sellers the weeds need to be pulled before we come to stage, only to show up and find it’s not done.  The Realtors typically take pictures immediately after the home is staged, so now the online photos clearly show the Seller doesn’t look after their yard. 

Remove last years’ leaves and debris from the gutters, so you don’t have small trees sprouting from your gutters.  It should be common sense but seems to be a common issue.  There are companies that you can hire to do so if you do not have time or are uncomfortable on ladders.

Make sure your windows and doors are clean and the exterior is clean, paint is still in good condition, if applicable, and please make sure the paint color is neutral and appealing.  Ensure walkways into the home are easily accessible and clutter free.

Finally make outdoor living spaces look as good as you can.  If you have a deck, stain it before you sell if it needs a fresh coat of stain.  Set up some lawn furniture and add a few plants to create a nice welcoming outdoor living space. 

When selling in winter, driveways and sidewalks must be cleared and shoveled.  Ensure there is a walkway from the street to your sidewalk.  Climbing over huge snow banks with young children can be dangerous as well as frustrating.  Ensure you took the time and effort to do all yard/home maintenance above before the snow flies.  Clean up the yard and the potted plants and the flowers.  Put things away so the yard looks neat and clean, with a blanket of snow.

Finally, ensure you take care of any maintenance issues; eaves that are loose/missing; or down spouts that have fallen off; peeling paint around windows; cracking stucco; etc.  These are all important details when getting your home ready for sale.

Creating Beautiful Outdoor Rooms

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Anyone who knows me, knows how I love the outdoors! Years ago I embarked on a mission to create a number of outdoor living spaces that were both functional and inviting. As a result we have a beautiful yard for entertaining. 

Designing outdoor spaces requires a consideration of sun/shade requirements for the space. For example, a swimming pool is best when it has sun a majority of the day. This extends the usage on the days when the temperature may not be as warm (as does a poll heating source)! It’s as much about the function as it is visual appeal. Then we need to plan seating for adequate people in the space. So we have a table and chairs, with an umbrella to provide protection from the sun. We also have some lounge chairs for relaxing with a book while others are swimming. In addition, cleaning the pool had to be taken into consideration. Our yard is not level. It slopes down towards the river so the different elevations came into consideration when planning out the space. We have the main deck area with the furniture and the fun space for “living”. We also have a small deck on the opposite side where we can access all areas of the pool for cleaning. There are plans to join the two areas with a walkway in the rear and build a gazebo looking over the pool. We have also re-done some electrical to provide lighting for later evening swims. As a bonus; we even planned some significant storage areas below the pool decks for winter and off season storage of patio furniture and lawn ornaments. The space works wonderfully, all year long!

We also have a 2 tier patio/deck area for simply entertaining. We keep our BBQ on the lower level and have comfortable seating both up and down to entertain and enjoy the outdoors. It is surrounded by potted flowers and yard ornaments to create a warm and inviting “outdoor room”. It’s where my daughter has her glider swing that she can spend hours on listening to music! I even have some wall décor to add just the right touch, and wind chimes for the light breezy sound I love. The lower patio is positioned around a raised planter that has tall growing vines as well as annuals overflowing and spilling over the edges. It is a favorite of humming birds and butterflies all summer long. This is where I sit and look out over the yard and down to the pool area and the rear rose garden. This is where we often sit while cooking dinner on the BBQ while we enjoy a beer or glass of wine. This area has seating in both sun and shade for which ever our guests prefer. My Mom and I usually enjoy sitting in the sun and my Dad and husband usually prefer sitting in the shade! It works for everyone and was planned to do so!

We have sweeping perennial beds around our house on 3 sides, as well as along one side of the fence back to my rose garden and the fire pit. This is the area I plan on renovating this year. Some perennials have overgrown and need splitting; others I just want to remove and start fresh. I have a cute bistro seating area set up under a metal gazebo. Perfect for a nice escape in the afternoon with a nice pitcher of lemonade or iced tea. With lilacs; roses; peonies and a host of other perennials and potted plants; this is the “room” you see from the windows looking out of the back of our house. It is the focal point and is a fun whimsical space with fairies; wind chimes an arch/trellis made by my Dad that leads you down a short walkway and into the metal gazebo with the “tea room”. This area provides early morning and afternoon shade and sunshine later in the evening. It provides a beautiful view of the house and yard with its multiple gardens; decks; pool; and my little sanctuary, the deck off our master bedroom. 

My master bedroom deck is where my husband and I spend our times quietly sipping coffee in the morning, or enjoying a glass of wine later in the day. It has another nice seating area and is surrounded with multiple potted plants. This is where I thank my Grandmother for teaching me the love of the outdoors and the beauty of a garden. My shade garden wraps around this side of the house and is bursting with ferns; hostas and astilbes. I even have a hardy clematis climbing a trellis in this area. It’s one of my favorite places in the yard.

We built a new garage and workshop off on this side of the yard. I plan on moving my potting shed behind the new garage and building a sidewalk along the garage in this area. Think it will need some flowers to brighten it up too! Guess I have some more planning to do … 

Outdoor spaces should be beautiful and functional. Think about who will use the space and how. Remember to take into account sun and shade patterns throughout the day. Don’t build a deck in an area with afternoon sun – if you want a shady spot to relax after work! Imagine what your “dream space” would look like.  Then set about making it a reality, one “room” at a time!