So Canadian, eh? : Kelly James

My fabulous guest this week is a super savvy blogger who was one of my first followers when she was  partner of a fantastic design blog, Design Ties. Now she is the author behind the amazingly colourful and entertaining blog, Jax Does Design. Her love for art, her dogs, travel, everything design and Canada are evident in her blog.

Please welcome....

Kelly James.

She is

Kelly has been such an avid supporter of Canadian bloggers. I love reading her posts as she explores neighbourhoods in her town, travels to fabulous places, visits the Atlantic Coast seaside or just talks about art and design with such wit and charm.

As an Ottawa based designer,
she is not afraid to embrace colour and creates such amazing spaces.

My favourite is this gorgeous glamourous bedroom she designed.

A soothing bathroom.

Her amazing kitchen {what's for dinner Kelly?}

Her laundry room. Don't the tiles remind you of beach glass?

Her calming bedroom.

Her amazing office.

Photos courtesy of Kelly James

Tell us a bit about yourself? What is you background? Your education? Did you study art/design? Have you always wanted to be an interior designer?

I’m married to the ultimate “I can make that” guy, Brian. Only it takes him forever to actually make it! We have two dogs – a Black Lab named Squirt and a Catahoula Leopard Dog named Jackson. I have a BA in English from Concordia University in Montreal, and then I went back to school in1999 after I moved to Ottawa and got a technical writing diploma. Tech writing is boring, though – not nearly enough creativity, and it’s very repetitive. I never studied art or design. I really stink at drawing and painting – I have trouble drawing a stick figure ;-) But I’ve always been creative and I LOVE to write. Still trying to get published in a home décor magazine (hint, hint, House & Home and Style At Home!) I can’t remember exactly when I first became interested in interior decorating – definitely not till after we moved into our current house in 2001, based on what our previous house looked like! Actually, it was probably the move to our current house that inspired my desire to decorate.

What made you decide to start blogging?

My friend Victoria at Edin’s House suggested that we start a blog together. I actually had no idea what a blog was at the time, but I liked the idea of combining my passions for decorating and writing, so I said sure, why not. We launched DesignTies in January 2009, and then when Victoria needed to take a break from blogging in August 2010, I decided to start up my own blog, JAX does design.

What have you enjoyed about blogging and what has surprised you along the way?

The best part of blogging is meeting (both virtually and in real life) other design bloggers who have the same passion for decorating and design. I’ve made a great group of decorating friends here in Ottawa because of blogging – we call ourselves the TBBs, but if I tell you what that means I’ll have to kill you ;-)
What’s surprised me about blogging… I’d have to say it’s how much it can take over your life! I was spending so many hours searching the Net for pictures and researching post topics, I felt like I was glued to the computer. I’ve cut back on my computer time drastically over the last couple of months, which has reduced the amount of time I spend blogging. Now I’m writing about two posts a week.

Do you find having a blog has helped your design business?

I was hoping it would, but it hasn’t really. I did get a client in Calgary through my blog, and it’s directed more people to my web site (by more, I mean 6 a week instead of 0!) Oh well, good thing I have a day job that pays the bills!

Any tips for aspiring designers?

Make connections with other designers and aspiring designers in your city. It’s so important to have a support network, especially because many designers who are starting out work alone, often from their own home. My friend Donna at dh designs started up a group here in Ottawa called Ottawa Design Network Group. We meet about once every 6 weeks to discuss mainly the business side of design. It’s all about sharing the knowledge and providing ideas and support for each other. 

What do you like to do in your free time {that is if you have any}?

In the summer, I spend as much time as I can outside. I love to bike, garden, swim, kayak, canoe, walk the dogs… we eat outside on the back patio and BBQ a lot too. I just started playing the fiddle last September. Natalie MacMaster has nothing to worry about! I’ve been doing Ottawa Valley Step Dance for six years, and started Irish dance last September. I also play volleyball, but the last time I played I ended up with a broken finger that’s still in a splint. So I won’t be playing volleyball again any time soon! I also love to cook, and I’ve gotten hooked on a lot of Food Network shows. Maybe I’ll be an extreme cake decorator one day ;-)

Where do you go for inspiration for your blog, for your design work?

Most of my inspiration comes from other design blogs and décor magazines. I’m also often inspired by random items. For example, the design for our guest bedroom was inspired by two purple throw cushions that I picked up at HomeSense. Really, inspiration is all around us – sometimes it happens along at just the right time, and sometimes it hits you later.

You are a devoted pet lover and owner, what tips do you have in incorporating pets into a design scheme without sacrificing style?

The two most important things to remember are that nail scratches on hardwood flooring adds character and furballs have great insulating properties ;-) I look at it this way – a home is designed for living in, and my dogs are a part of my home and my life. If that means scratches on the hardwood and fur on the sofa and slobber on the windows, I can live with it J Living stylishly with dogs is a lot like living stylishly with kids – use sturdy fabrics that can stand up to wear & tear and dirt, because you know your dog is going to jump up on the sofa when you’re not looking! And don’t put cherished  breakable items on surfaces where a wagging tail could knock them onto the floor.

How would you describe your design style?

That’s a good question! I don’t think there’s a word to describe it – I like aspects of a lot of styles. I just read on a blog earlier today the term “vintage glam with spunk”, which inspired a name for my style - “Transitional Glam with a Twist” :-) My favourite rooms are ones that combine old and new with a touch of glam and something unexpected. I especially love the look of a crystal chandelier against an exposed brick wall and rustic wood mixed with metal.

     If you were given the opportunity to meet anyone, who would it be and why?

Ooooh, that’s a tough question! There are lots of people I’d love to meet and lots of things I’d love to do! Hmmmm… something that my hubby and I are hoping to do when we retire is live in different countries around the world for a year at a time. I think the best way to really experience the culture in another country is to actually live it. Some of the places I want to live in are Belgium (I adore Bruges), New Zealand, and Ireland. Canada will always be our home base and we’d come back here between stints abroad. I love Canada!

You live in our nation’s capitol; do you find the decor tastes of homeowners there differ from the rest of Canada? Are they influenced by the politics of the day, or is that a non-issue?

Ottawa has a reputation of being a conservative city, and I would say that there are homes here that reflect that conservative side. I wish Ottawa home owners would be more daring & adventurous with colour, especially on their front doors! But overall, I don’t think the politics of the day really have much impact on how people decorate their homes.

What are your views on the role Canadian design plays in the world design scene? Do you feel that Canadians have a unique sense of style and design, and if so, what is it that you think sets us apart?

Canadian designers are making names for themselves all around the world, which is fantastic! I really enjoy checking out Studio North at the Interior Design Show in Toronto – there are so many innovative up-and-coming designers in the Canada. One thing that stood out to me at this year’s IDS were the organic elements used by many of the designers – wood, paper, glass. One of my favourite designers in Studio North this year was Andrew Ooi – he creates beautiful light fixtures and artwork with paper.

In Canada, I think we’re drawn to designs that are natural and warm. When you live in a country where it’s cold and snowy for half the year, you have to enjoy nature when and however you can – being outdoors in the summer and bringing nature indoors in the winter. And when it’s cold outside, you want to be warm and cozy inside – Hudson Bay Point blankets, fireplaces, wood, warm paint colours, textural fabrics are elements that come to mind when I think about Canadian design. Although each person is unique and has his or her own unique sense of style and design.

Thanks Kelly! You are truly inspirational! Thanks for being one of my first followers and for sending such blog love my way.

XO Barbara


  1. Kelly and I met at a bloggers meet-up in Toronto and she was so lovely. It is nice to get to know her a little more here!

  2. Thanks so much for including me in your series, Barabra :-)

  3. I love the warm feel of the bedrooms that she designed. Thanks for introducing us to another talented Canadian Barbara!

  4. That office is stunning. I'm going to check out her blog. Thanks for the intro:)

  5. Oh Barbara, that a pleasure to get to know Kelly better! I loved the entire interview, and her home office is one of my ultimate favorites!!

    xox Linda

  6. Barbara, I love this series! Lovely post about Kelly - I'm originally from Ottawa so it's nice to get her take on my home town! Hope you had a great weekend.

  7. Is it weird that I am completely fixating on her laundry room??? That backsplash is just so rad! I love the advice for aspiring designers, too, what a great series!!!

  8. I loved this article! So great to learn more about Kelly, her style is fantastic and her office is to die for. She's also one of the nicest, most supportive bloggers and commenter out there.

  9. Kelly is a sweetheart! How nice to see her profiled here! Wonderful interview. Kelly has a keen eye for style and is so kind and supportive of others in the design and arts communities... as well as being a fab designer, writer and photographer!

    Appreciate that Kelly does thorough research on each subject about which she blogs, and writes in such an entertaining manner that one doesn't realize how informative she is at the same time! ;)
    OR DESIGN glassworks

  10. Nice Interview. Kelly is a really sweet person. Glad to have virtually met her :)

  11. Great interview. I love her bedroom with the flowery wallpaper! I am off to check out her blog now. Thanks for the introduction!


  12. As one of Kelly's TBBs, I'm thrilled that you've featured her. Love all her designs. Great interview Kelly and Barbara!

  13. Gorgeous office. Love the wall treatment!!!

  14. What a talented designer! I love the office, and I laughed when I read her experience with volleyball ......... I did the same thing to my finger. Thanks Barbara and Kelly !

  15. Kelly has been one of my BIGGEST supporters since I first started blogging and I just love learning more about her here!! Another fantastic interview Barbara!!
    Nancy xo

  16. The scenery of the gorgeous glamourous bedroom is really charming. i like food for dogs


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