So Canadian Eh: This Dusty House

It is my pleasure to introduce you to a sweet blogger from back east, one I met at Blogpodium in May.
I swear she could be Rachel McAdams twin! But she assured me she wasn't.

Please welcome
Jeanette from This Dusty House

She is

 Married fresh out of university, Jeanette and her husband, embarked on another adventure together, renovating a tiny home giving it amazing splash for little cash.

Slowly they are doing major renovations such as a new kitchen, sprucing up the backyard and bathroom, while also furnishing their home with thrifted finds.

I am amazed at their talents!

What an ingenious way to use high end tile in small amounts to create impact and drama in the kitchen. And that stove! - love!

Their table, lovingly sanded and restored by Jeanette's husband.

A thrift store dresser and baby blanket project.

A cottage garden in the city.

And Jeanette's famous "Rice Guk"!

Tell us a bit about yourself? Give us some insight into who you are, what are you drawn to, where you always creative? Your education?

I grew up on a dairy farm in the middle of Southwestern Ontario, a fact that, I am sad to say, seems to define me less and less as I get older and more accustom to the Big City. Despite not really defining myself as a ‘country girl’ anymore since I’ve been off the farm and living in ‘civilization’ for a solid seven years, the country still has this bizarre hold on me. There’s a pull there that creeps its way into the things I’m drawn to, the things I want to do, and the future I envision for myself. I have always been creative, always encouraged to be creative. It’s a creativity that’s been developed by those wide open spaces, the fields and fields of corn taller than me, the hard work I didn’t want to do...

I have a BA in English Literature from the University of Waterloo. More creative development, I guess you could call it. I met my husband, Mark, there and we moved to Toronto after we graduated, following the jobs. We have a cat, Pekoe, and a cockapoo, Mocha, who round out our little family

Why made you decide to start This Dusty House blog? And has there been anything that you have enjoyed about blogging? Not enjoyed?

I am not one of those bloggers who started out in order to share with friends and family. Obviously, that’s among the results of having my blog, but, more importantly, I started my blog purely and simply because I love to write and I love to share. I have been blogging since December of 2003; I was 16 with a Livejournal account. Oh goodness, I shared way more than I ever should have there... my ability to overshare online has been engaged ever since. In 2009, just after I met my husband, I ‘grew up’ my blog with a move to Wordpress and a little more censoring of my thoughts, but I didn’t really understand the full power of blogging until I started This Dusty House and stumbled upon a whole community of writers, photographers, and designers interested in interaction.

This Dusty House, specifically, came to be because my husband and I bought a house. Suddenly, I had a specific topic, a niche, that interested me and interested others that I could write about it. I absolutely leapt at the opportunity. Most days, I love that writing process. The photos? Well, they’re important. But my favourite part of the day is the hour or so I spend weaving words together into sentences and paragraphs.

As I started to discover the world of blog monetization, I found something I didn’t enjoy: stats. Some days, they can be encouraging, other days, completely disheartening. Learning to focus on how big the numbers are as opposed to how small the numbers are has been a challenge that I’m ready and willing to own up to.

What is your day job? Is it design related?

My day job is not design related, but it is writing related! I am a technical and content writer in the medical software industry.

What is your design style?

I am drawn more towards the traditional than the modern, the ornate than the simple. I prefer colour over neutral and clutter over bare. Bits of country chic and cottage comfort sneak into my home and my collection of inspiration happily. And I consistently find myself drawn to all things old and vintage. For example, I found a beautiful dresser at a thrift store about a month ago. It’s in rough shape, the stain and varnish chipping away on the top and around the drawer hardware. One of the knobs is missing and has been replaced with a twisted bit of twine. It needs a makeover! But that old, well-loved(or well-neglected) condition seems so beautiful in itself that I haven’t even been able to bring myself to replace the hardware.

Tell us something that would surprise us about you!

Even though we have no plans to sell our house, the husband and I can’t resist an open house. We’ve spent whole Saturday and Sunday afternoons hitting up one after another, admiring well-executed staging, murmuring in shock over house prices, finding new ideas for our own house. Yup, we’re the nosy neighbours.

You are a newlywed renovating a house, what are some reno tips you have learned along the way? Any renovation relationship tips too?

Don’t let renovations drag on forever! Our reno involved gutting ¾ of our main floor, moving some plumbing around, adding in electrical, and building a new bathroom and kitchen from scratch. We got it done within 3 months, on our own, with significant help from some knowledgeable friends and family. I’ve heard of far too many nightmares of renos taking years and not moving quickly enough. In some ways, I admire people who can live, indefinitely, in the middle of a construction zone. Hire someone to help, if necessary, but just get it done!

As for renovating with your partner? Simply this: know thyself. Mark and I managed really well because we’re both very laid back people. We can take and give direction without issue. It also helps that his friends are ready and willing to help, which keeps us focused and motivated. We’re ok with the layers of dust that may exist over our lives for the weeks we’re working on a project. If this isn’t you, don’t push it! It won’t be pleasant. Hire your projects out, focus on working on smaller, less crucial projects together and don’t forget to give each other and yourselves a break!

You also author, This Dusty Kitchen, chronicling your adventures of the culinary sort, has there been any dish that stands out that was a total flop? An absolute hit? Do you have a signature go-to dish that you enjoy?

This Dusty Kitchen is pretty new, and some days, I feel like I’ve hardly launched it! On my old Wordpress blog, I posted a lot about food though, so returning to writing about food after a year in the home blogging niche is fun, even if it happens only sporadically.

There is definitely a dish that stands out as a flop. My husband’s favourite food is, hands down, Pad Thai. I was determined to make my own version of it. I tried twice. The first time, it was so spicy, we couldn’t eat it. We don’t throw food out much, but that batch hit the garbage pail and we went out for dinner instead. The second time, it ended up way too salty. Once again, the whole batch ended up in the garbage. I’ve never messed up a dish so badly.

Hands down, my favourite dish so far has been the pineapple and cilantro fish tacos I made back in May. I loved the pineapple salsa. Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t so fond of the cilantro, but since he ate two full wraps, I still consider it a hit.

I’m not sure if it’s really a ‘signature’ dish, but I taught myself how to poach an egg this year. I work from home nearly every Thursday and on the mornings I’m home, that poached egg is my go-to breakfast. I eat it with a single slice of toast, slathered in butter, a few basil leaves on top.

What are your plans for your “dusty house”?

Such an appropriate and timely question! Right now, we’re deep in the planning stage for our next big renovation. Last year, we spent the whole summer and much of the fall getting the house liveable, which meant a brand new kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. But, despite the improvements, our house is still tiny. For a long time, we simply went with the assumption that this was, truly our starter home, a house that will get us into the housing market, but that just won’t do for the long term.

And then, we realized we had another option. Our house is a bungalow. Who’s to say we can’t add some more square footage? Our options out aren’t great - we’re on one of those long skinny lots and our garage is placed is such a way to prevent building back. But up? Why not?

We’re still in the process of designing and acquiring permits, so I can’t even guess when this renovation is actually going to happen, but it’s in the works.

If you could meet anyone or do anything your heart desires, who or what would it be?

I’d like to spend about a month at a cottage, doing nothing but lying out on a dock, reading copious numbers of books, writing, sketching, sharing good food with good friends, a creative retreat, of sorts. I know this desire has been sparked by the four days I recently spent with friends camping in Bon Echo Provincial Park. I would like nothing more than to get back into that deep vacation mode.

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?

Hmm. This is a tough one, because here, I’ll come right out and admit something: I am not a designer. I don’t think about design so much as decor. I feel like I know so little about the industry. Back in January, Kerry from First Time Fancy suggested that I come to the Canadian Design Blogger Meetup and I was surprised! Me? I’m a house blogger with an interest in interiors, yes, but a designer?

I will certainly not claim the title, but I think I can still answer this question anyway. I read a lot of blogs, and many of them are written by designers. As I think about the things my blogging friends are doing, this is what I see: Canadian design seems to come out of a place of no fear, of disregarding societal expectations in order to achieve something beautiful and striking. I think specifically of Christine Dovey of Bijou and Boheme (she sold all her furniture in order to start from scratch! How much more fearless can you get?), Tanya from Dans Le Townhouse (the drama she creates in her home with a crisp pallet and high contrast is phenomenal), Holly, of Life in the Fun Lane (I know I’ve already said I prefer bold colour over white, but the amount of white she has adopted and made to look so beautiful could nearly make me change my mind)... there are so many more. Perhaps that’s a very elementary, outsider kind of observation, but it’s what I see.

Thanks Jeanette for giving us the pleasure to get to know you even more. I enjoyed meeting you in May and can't wait to watch the rest of your house plans unfold.

XO Barbara


  1. Awesome post! I just met Jeanette this week at +Design Series. Love your So Canadian Eh series :)

  2. Great interview! Jeanette is so amazing - her house is so gorgeous and I love how down to earth she is. Learning a few more little tidbits about her was so much fun!

  3. Great post! It was nice to get to know more about you Jeanette :) Hopefully we will meet up at another blogger event soon!

  4. When I saw that picture of her I instantly thought "Rachel McAdams", clearly you're not the only one who sees it Barbara! Gorgeous.

  5. Nice ideas. Love the stove!


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