Wednesday, April 23, 2014

American Dream Builders w/ Nate Berkus ~ Week 5

Happy Wednesday!  Are you enjoying the sunny and mild weather? It must be the long, dreadful winter that makes me wanting to just stay outdoor when the sun is out for as long as I can.  Knowing the next few weeks will be very busy, I am already planning my next mini getaway for the May long weekend.  I know … I work so I can go on vacation.

Speaking about busy and in need to re-charge, I have absolutely no idea how the designers at Amercian  Dream Builders managed to create the master pieces week after week of challenges and team dynamics without much down time.  This week presents a unique challenge when Nate divided the two teams, 8 designers, into 4 pairs.  The task is to design and decorate a blank canvas modular home within 5 days.  All four homes are unfinished (so no demolition required) and they are identical in layout.  The designers have the chance to pick all the finishes and be creative in space planning to make their home standout from the others.

images via American Dream Builders
It is no surprise to you all by now that Lukas and Erin are two of my favourite designers in #DreamBuilders.  They never fail to impress and inspire me on their creativity, design aesthetics, and attention to detail.  This time, the two has teamed up to put their designer stamps on this modular home and man I wish I am the home owner!!

images via American Dream Builders
The space is an eclectic collection of edgy contemporary vibe with mid-century iconic pieces + heirloom-inspired treasures.  The kitchen is fresh, crisp, streamline, and highly practical.  By confining the intimate living room to the front of the house, Erin and Lukas were able to create a small dining room right in the kitchen.  That modern, oversized chandelier has always been one of my favourites and I think it is the perfect subtle yet dramatic statement in this space.  

I am crazy about the lush green painting at the "foyer" and I am sure many of you also love that brushed brass table lamp by Ralph Lauren.      

images via American Dream Builders
The overall colour palette is neutral and creamy white.  However, there is nothing flat and boring about this home.  The use of grasscloth wallpaper, rope details on mirror, woven baskets for storage, handcrafted wood side table, vintage lighting and furniture pieces, and the hits of inky black all add character and charm to this "new build".      

I absolutely LOVE this home!

images via American Dream Builders
Up next Elaine and Darren.  One would expect the spaces, both interior and exterior, to be photo perfect and the duo did not disappoint us.  Darren has done it again with his garden to wow the judges. Just check out how fantastic the house and its landscaping look against the picturesque backdrop.  

images via American Dream Builders
Effortlessly elegance is Elaine's signature style, and this home exudes just that with the soft and creamy palette, along with the layering patterns and textures, for a rich, luxurious home.  The colour of the kitchen cabinet echoes the light colours in the living room, however I am just not too crazy about this particular colour as cabinet.  It reminds me of the classic birch finish from IKEA: a finish I often spray painted if possible.   

images via American Dream Builders
Here is the serene bedroom with a fantastic walkout to the backyard.  I love that pop of bright Malachite green on the desk and how it adds a wow factor in this neutral bedroom.  Now here is something no one else has done in this week's challenge: a dividing wall between the bedroom from the rest of the home.  By installing a shoji screen that's light and semi-transulent, it provides privacy without intrusive to obstruct the openness and traffic flow in the space. #brilliant  

images via American Dream Builders
This is my favourite shot from Darren and Elaine's home.

images via American Dream Builders
Jay and Nina put together an urban sophisticated home.  I am a sucker for architectural details and Jay has surely delivered well designed and executed delicious trims/ moulding details on a weekly basis.  Although I do like Lukas' outdoor dining room the best for function, Jay's front porch has the aesthetic and style I long for.  

images via American Dream Builders
The judges were floored by the panels (Jay's expertise) and the taste and sophistication level of the furnishing and finishes (Nina's signature style).  However, they have found the layout awkward, making the home with small footprint feels even smaller than it is.   

images via American Dream Builders
The dining area is easy to the eye and again, reflects Nina's and Jay's high standard on craftsmanship and taste.  I probably would have given this dining room a high score, but Lukas' and Erin's daybed/lounge area (same spot as the dining room at Nina's and Jay's) just blown me away. So "B+" for the dining room.  

images via American Dream Builders
My favourite room of Nina's and Jay's home is the bedroom.  It is well executed and the only thing that bothers me is the placement of the curtain rod.  Perhaps I would have closed up that window all together and create a more dramatic headboard for impact.  The bedroom has a set of french door to the backyard and a large window on another wall, I think the team could afford to block up a problematic window.

images via American Dream Builders
Dan and Vanessa have created a home with multiple personalities.  I generally like Dan's rooms and sort of 50/50 with Vanessa's spaces.  For this week's challenges, the judges think there is just way too much going on and I agree. 

images via American Dream Builders
The space feels a little cluttered and I think the brand new kitchen actually looks dated due to the cherry wood cabinet and black counter / backsplash.  I am not understanding the pendant in the kitchen and the random accent colours in the living room (turquoise, yellow, mossy green, and orange).

images via American Dream Builders
The room I do like is the bedroom.  Dan's idea of creating a "checkerboard" effect is innovative and very effective.  I do like the cherry blossom inspired wallpaper but a little unsure about the pattern on the beddings (especially the chevron pillow).

images via American Dream Builders
So here is my take of this week's challenge.  Did you watch the show? Which room is your favourite and what tip did you pick up this week? 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Weekend Fun ~ 04.21.2014

Hello Monday! I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing and joy-filled Easter long weekend with friends and family.  Chris and I had a fantastic time up north to unwind and rejuvenate, especially knowing that we both will need to be re-energized for another couple of hectic months ahead.  The weather was perfect with bright blue sky, a few fluffy clouds, and we had an amazingly scenic drive.


I have been to the spa many times but I have never stayed until closing time.  The scenery in the evening is rather different than daytime don't you think? #magical


We also went for a hike on Sunday and it surely was nice to see the forest is finally waking up! It won't be long now until the trees start to bloom.  Chris and I may just have to come back for the May long weekend!


So living in the city all my life also means I have never seen a circular rainbow around the sun on a bright sunny day before.  Pretty spectacular hey? Have you seen this before? Folks told me this is a "sun dog" and it is not all that "uncommon".  There you go: city boy out in the woods!     


Cody and I also spent some quality time together at Wild Apple Hill B&B.  Just look at how adorable he is! xoxo


After a delicious early dinner at Flying Chestnut (my favourite restaurant), we headed back to Waterloo and this was right there in front of us.  I think the sign was trying to tell me to stay for a few extra days! Do you believe in signs? I think I should!


Happy Easter Monday friends!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hello Good Friday + Happy Easter!

Hello Good Friday!  Are you enjoying a late start this morning?  Yours truly was up bright and early this morning for a mini photo shoot at #ProjectChris.  This balcony received a complete makeover in 2 short weeks and since I am only in Waterloo on weekends, this bad boy literally was done in 3 days!  No pressure right? The result is amazing (if I may say so myself), and you will get to see it real soon!


With the balcony makeover completed, Chris and I decided to treat ourselves for a last minute getaway up north at our favourite spot.  This is looking very appealing for my tired, achy body.  


Of course I will have to bring along my favourite reads with me.  This brilliantly written and colourful book by my dear friend, Mr. Bright Bazaar, just arrived a couple of days ago and it is coming with me this weekend.

room images via Bright Bazaar
Mary's book also arrived last week and I am beyond excited for the personalized note from Mary! I will also bring along this luxe and glamorous book.


Now it's time for me to start packing.  Have a fantastic time friends! Happy Easter long weekend! 

image via 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

American Dream Builders w/ Nate Berkus ~Week 4

Hello Wednesday! Even though it doesn't quite feel like spring outside after Mother Nature decided to drop 20C in 12 short hours on Tuesday, I think it is time for us to start planning for cottage season.  I don't know about you but for those who do not own a cottage, knowing the contact of a fabulous spot right by the lake for a little piece of heaven in the summer is definitely priceless.

I have visited my fair share of cottages and most of them come with decor aesthetics dated back to … well, the time these cottages were built.  They are rustic, charming, and they also need a little design refinement to glorify the look.  That was exactly what the designers had to do at Week 4 of American Dream Builders.

image via American Dream Builders
Lukas … he is hands down one of my favourite designers on the show.  His design is always sophisticated, tailored, and edgy.  Take this front porch for example.  It is relaxed, cozy, inviting, and stylish.  Though mostly new, the furniture pieces look like they were collected over time and Lukas had unified them by dressing them all in one common element: a light greyish beige.  That sofa just looks so comfortable and those natural tree stump side tables/ stools are perfect for the space.  The styling is spotless and hello sconces!!  #LOVE

image via American Dream Builders
And if you are looking for inspiration to create your very own one of a kind lighting fixture, Lukas has done it again.  This time, it's a branch from the woods, sprayed white and wrapped with string lights.

image via American Dream Builders
This is a sleek kitchen with all the modern day conveniences + a hint of original flair thanks to the original wood-burning stove.  What a dramatic juxtaposition between the exposed wood on walls / ceiling and the streamline, contemporary kitchen in black & white.  Lukas, you rock!! 

image via American Dream Builders
Erin was in-charged for the living room and what a fantastic job she did to create this serene space for the family.  The room is nicely edited to the core essentials + a few designer additions including the lighting fixtures and the window treatment.  

image via American Dream Builders
The dining room works seamlessly with the living room.  The oval rug, the drapery panels, the painted vintage dining table, the original wood stove, and that vaulted ceiling … #LOVE!!

image via American Dream Builders
Here is an amazing shot of this beautiful country dining room.  Job well done Vanessa!

image via American Dream Builders
Sleeping capacity is at a premium for this large family and this is how Dan maxes out the occupancy of this log cabin: a full bed and a bunk bed.  What I like about Dan's space is that he has created a cozy country bedroom with furniture pieces and accessories that were passed down from generation.  The grandma hand-made quilt, the painted dresser, the mismatched pillows, and a trendy statement ikat rug are just a few of my favourite items in this dream bunkie.    

image via American Dream Builders
Now it's time to check out the other team. Jay did a phenomenal job with landscaping and the curb appeal of this century-old country getaway.  No major structural changes and it's amazing to see how a few well-chosen gallons of paint could do to breathe new life into a home.  The silver sage works beautifully with the stone work and I love how the bright orange doors pop.  

image via American Dream Builders
This outdoor fire pit and dining room show how thoughtful Jay is in creating fantastically designed and functional space for the family.  I love camp fire (in fact, that's one of the reason I go on canoe trip with Chris), and who wouldn't want to dine at this outdoor dining room with string lights for ambience?  Both items are now on my wish list for the future country home.

image via American Dream Builders
Nina's living room is light, airy, and fresh.  What I like about this space (other than the obvious: the colour palette) is how you could transform and update your typical country room with wood panels to a serene family getaway.  Effortlessly elegance is what I see from Nina week after week, and if you are looking for country home inspiration that's not all about wood tones, here is a beautiful space to kick start your creative process. 

image via American Dream Builders
The dining room is slightly underwhelm, especially when comparing to the dining room by Vanessa.  I agree with the judges that the two branches at the corners probably have missed the mark, but I do like the choice of cheerful yellow drapery panels.  

image via American Dream Builders
Elaine's bedroom is elegant and inviting.  I like the green and blue palette with the mix of creaming white, and the framing detail on the wall is one of my favourite elements this week.  How appropriate and perfectly charming for a country bedroom?

image via American Dream Builders
If you are looking for more design inspirations for country bedroom, these are the great work by Team Blue on Country Chic.

image via American Dream Builders
So what do you think of this week's challenge on cabin transformation? I now more than ever wish I have a cottage to re-imagine!  Happy Hump Day friends! xoxo

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekend Fun ~ 04.13.2014

Hello Monday!  I have been asked numerous times this very question: where do you find time to do all that you do on designs, events, projects, shoppings on top of a full-time day job?  I actually don't know the answer to this question.  I have always tried to be as efficient as possible (i.e. start boiling water for noodles, then set laundry in motion, and then come back to put the noodle in boiling water, and laundry is done after dinner … you got the picture) and to make decision fast (quick analysis and don't second guess).

And this weekend, I actually asked myself this very question as juggled between different projects.  Before I tell you what I was up to this weekend, here are a few of my favourite shots from beautiful blue sky, fresh spring blooms, to latest finds.


After having the stunning drapery by Tonic Living in the box for over 2 months, the living room is finally ready for its crowning glory.  We measured many times to make sure: (1) the joint of the two curtain rods is hidden by the middle bracket, (2) the drapery panels are wide enough to cover the entire wall (just in case if my measurement was wrong), and (3) the drapery panels sit gently on the floor.

Well, all our hard work pays off and the drapes look incredible!


Remember this little stool I found at HomeSense a while back? Here is how it looks like now thanks to Tim at Beresfold, who has turned the base from chrome to this sensational brushed gold finish.  My initial thought was to top it with marble and of course that was until I found this black tray with mother of pearl inlay for only $20!  

This side table will live happily ever after in the living room … or at least that's my plan at the moment.


Another makeover I tackled this weekend was the the balcony at #ProjectChris.  From uninspiring bare space to gorgeous outdoor oasis, this all happened in ONE WEEK!  That's probably why I finally asked myself: how did I do it all? 

As for the full balcony transformation post, you will see it in a couple of weeks.   


 It is time to kick start this short work week! Wish me luck friends! xoxo

Friday, April 11, 2014

Critical Listing + Tips on Investing in Pre-Construction w/ Lisa Colalillo

Hello Friday! Are you ready to enjoy the double digit temperature this weekend?  Spring weather also means the real estate market is getting super active again.  Chris and I enjoy walking around our dream neighbourhood and be the occasional guests to tour some open houses.  Now if you have bought a new place and in desperate need to sell your current home, Critical Listing on HGTV Canada may just be what you need to watch. 

In each episode, the homeowners get tips from experts Jo Alcorn (interior design), Carson Arthur (exterior/ landscaping), and Lisa Colalillo (real estate) on how to improve their home to maximize its appeal to potential buyers.  The transformations are incredible and the investments on renovation/ upgrade have increased to the value of these homes tremendously.    

images via Critical Listing on HGTV.ca
First impression is key and if you are looking for ideas to boost the curb appeal or to extend the entertaining zone right to your backyard, here are some of Carson's makeovers:

images via Critical Listing on HGTV.ca
Jo has been our design expert on TV for years and I am still amazed that Jo managed to squeeze any dime five times to complete these dramatic transformations with limited budgets.  Fabulous transformation Jo!     

images via Critical Listing on HGTV.ca 
Of course the interior and exterior can only do so much to increase the overall appeal of the homes to the prospective buyers.  To make sure the reno budget is money-well-spent, you've got to research on who will likely buy your place, what are they looking for, and what is important to them.  This is where Lisa, our real estate expert, comes in with her detailed analysis / information specific to your property, neighbourhood, and demographics.


Just as you think I am busy enough as-is, Chris and I are planning to purchase a pre-construction investment property.  I'd purchased my own home a few years back and just guided Chris though the purchase of his condo.  But I have never dealt with a developer on pre-construction project and a friend of mine had a not so pleasant experience, so I decided to ask Lisa a few questions on how to best equipped myself for the next adventure.

  • What to watch out for when considering an investment in an up-and-coming area?

Lisa:  Who is going to be the end user? Students? Family? Know who the end user is and make sure the area you are investing in will appeal to that end user. For example, Infrastructure and transit add tremendous value to an area. Being walking distance to a subway station can increase the value of a property by 20% in comparison to properties that doesn't have that accessibility. The Millenial generation (under 30 years old) prefer to walk /bike rather than drive so if that is your end user...transit is crucial. Especially in larger cities.

  • What to look out for when considering buying a pre-construction project? How to avoid troubles (i.e. project delays, quality issues, plan changes by developer) in the future?
Lisa:  You must plan for delays...they are almost guaranteed.When doing your PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection), if deficiencies come up that need to be fixed...you must Follow-Up! Follow-Up, follow-up! or it'll never get fixed and then the time period that the builder is responsible to fix it with expire.

  • What condo size is most popular as rental and future resale where potential tenants/ buyers are likely young professionals? 

Lisa:  The best type of condos to buy...(easiest to rent as well as easiest to resale) are 1 Bedroom plus den...if the den has a layout which makes them easy to use as a 2nd bedroom that's the hot spot!

  • when picking finishes, how to avoid "upgrading" too much? What are the most popular and "money-well-spent" upgrades for best returns in different areas such as flooring, kitchen, and bathroom?

Lisa:  Again knowing who the end user is going to be or what your goals are is important...are you buying to rent it out or to flip and resale? If your are going to rent...stay within the standard finishes, because tenants won't take care of it the way an owner would (especially if students) ...if you are flipping it...know who is the client that will buy it from you...do they care about granite counters, etc...in larger cities these finishes are almost expected as many builders have made them standard finishes in their projects...as you move further away from big cities they may not be as important.

  • When going to the grand opening, what to look out for and how to narrow down the many options to the perfect one when you only have minutes to study/ evaluate the plans and to make the big decision?

Lisa:  Understanding layouts is very important. Most people have a hard time picturing what the unit will look like by looking at plans...that's why buying from plans will always be cheaper than when there's a model suite to look at.
I look at a project in this order:

1) outside building: what's on each side of the building? Look at neighbouring buildings and how they will effect view, shadowing, etc..this may determine to stay away from one side of a building or to be at least a certain floor or higher.

2) once I've narrowed which side of the building has the best view, exposure, etc. I look at the layouts available on that side (I like 1Bedroom plus dens)

3) Review layouts: Best use of space without structural poles (create unusable space), open concept is best. I like layouts that are wide (i.e when you walk-in they extend to your right and left, versus the bowling alley style that run longways. The wide layouts always feel larger to buyers (and has more windows) which creates more value.

  •  Top tips to equip yourself for a successful pre-construction development / investment.

1) There's an interim occupancy charge you pay to the builder from the time you occupy the unit until the building itself is registered. Buy a higher floor unit because if you are going to pay a fee anyways at least you will get something (better view) for the extra charge.

2) if you are buying as an investment, and paying your deposit with debt ( I highly discourage it) keep in mind that there are always delays...so make sure you can carry the debt payment on your deposit for 3 years or however long it takes for the project to be ready, before you start making a return on your money.

Thanks so much Lisa for your very helpful tips.  Are you looking to purchase a pre-construction property? Do you have tips to share with us? I would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

American Dream Builders w/ Nate Berkus ~ Week 3

Hello Wednesday! It is Week 3 with American Dream Builders and the competition is getting intense! With members eliminated in the past 2 weeks, Team Red desperately needed to win.  The transformations this week were incredible and both teams had made me very jealous of the lucky home owners!

images via American Dream Builders
This week is all about Spanish style homes and Team Red has definitely striked a home run at this bungalow.  I mean, how could you not fall in love with this stunning living room?  It is intimate, it is sophisticated, it is rich in architural references, and it's Dan's first interior room!  The tile and the chandelier are truly magnificent and they set the tone for the room.  The earth tone colour palette and the layering of different textures/ patterns work beautifully together in the space.     

images via American Dream Builders
I still can't believe the final fireplace design was a result of "we didn't get enough tiles".  Dan did an amazing job to come up with a solution that incorporates a stained fireplace mantel that feels authentic to the origin of the tile.  The craftsmanship on the tile cutting is just beyond.  Good luck trying to get a tiler to do the same in your own home. 

images via American Dream Builders
The antique brass hexagon table, the oil rubbed bronze chandelier, and the antique rug in a light blue and sand colorway just had me at hello.  The archway openings and the white painted beams on the ceiling are the exact design details needed to infuse "Spanish" into the space.   

images via American Dream Builders
The kitchen was completely resigned by Lukas and he has brought entertaining at home to a whole new level.  These tiles just put a smile on my face.  I adore the colours, patterns and they work seamlessly with the creamy white cabinet.  The dark dining table helps ground the space and to also give this traditional kitchen an edgy twist (a signature touch by Lukas).  Job Well Done!

images via American Dream Builders
Erin tackled three spaces here on top of her Project Manager role.  That's for sure a handful but she pulled it off beautifully in the bathroom, the girl's room, and the dining room.  You all know I am a wallpaper guy and so naturally I am in love with Erin.  I love how she picked a wallpaper that works with the exciting wall tiles in the bathroom.  I so thought I would just ripped them all out, but now I think these tiles actually work with the Spanish theme throughout the house. 

The dining room was not well received by the judges.  The judges thought it was too busy and not sure how some of the furntiure pieces reference to the other spaces.  For me, it's nice dining room and perhaps just need to edit down a little.  Still #BRAVO with only 5 short days and million tasks to accomplish. 

images via American Dream Builders
Here comes what I believe had won over the community judges: a dreamy outdoor oasis with multiple zones for entertaining + practical functionality.  The front of the house received a facelift with new landscaping and plant materials.  The backyard now has not one, not two, but three entertaining areas.  I love the stone patio with the low tufted seat cushions in mossy green, the fire pit, and of course that outdoor dining room!   

images via America Dream Builders
The star lights, the candle lights, the lanterns, who wouldn't want to be invited to this midsummer night dinner party? 

images via American Dream Builders
While we are checking out the outdoor spaces, here is Team Blue's transformation:

images via American Dream Builders
Not as elaborated as Team Red but it's cozy and has a country chic appeal.  I love the use of terracotta orange as accent to pop the overall green and white backdrop.  In this case, simple is simply refreshing.

images via American Dream Builders
The living room is the first space you see after stepping into the house and it's light, rich in textile interests, and charming thanks to the many shades of golden yellow.  I like the pops of black throughout the space and how it makes the TV seems less intrusive to the serene living room. 

images via American Dream Builders
Here is the other side of the living room and I am loving the vignette! The overall neutral palette is brought to life with that delicious red stool.  Hello to the pair of horse table lamp and a chaise in the room.  This particular tufted chaise is probably not my first choice, but I would love to have a chaise at #ProjectChris.  I don't think we have the space for one: we need a bigger house!

images via American Dream Builders
As project manager, Elaine ensured the entire house has a consistent palette as evidenced by the neutral kitchen and dining room.  The kitchen is calm and relaxed and I actually quite like the striped fabric as window coverings.  However, I do agree with the judges' comments (that it's safe but not enough "Spanish") and I find this kitchen not as memorable as the kitchen designed by Lukas. 

The dining room is intimate and I do like these golden chairs (though I can already hear Chris saying: are they comfortable?).  I also do like these asian portraits, but I am not too sure how they reference to the Spanish theme for the challenge. 

images via American Dream Builders
Nina's guest bedroom is just the place I want to be!  Who wouldn't want to visit a friend and be pampered by such a chic, beautiful room?  My favourites in this room are: the grasscloth wallpaper, the patterned drapes, the gorgeous table lamps, and the design details on the built-in bookcases.  

images via American Dream Builders
Want to learn how to strike gold on a dramatic yet affordable makeover? This fabric headboard/ canopy idea is simple, easy to do weekend DIY project with huge impact! Everything makes sense in the space from window treatment, lighting choices, the use of black accents, and of course to having the breakfast in bed.  #Brilliant Ideas Andrew!  

images via American Dream Builders
So what do you think about these rooms? Which one is your favourite and which one didn't catch your eyes? I would love to hear from you friends.  xo