So Canadian eh? : Nicole Scott

Tomorrow I get to meet my latest guest during our fabulous Blend 2012 event sponsored by Ikea Canada.

 A blogger and designer who makes her home on Vancouver Island in our fair capital of Victoria,
please welcome....

Nicole Scott from Nicole Scott Designs.

She is....
Nicole, is a contract historian by day and super decorator by night. It is through decorating her first home that she unleashed her creativity and eventually felt more comfortable to begin taking on clients. A fabric obsessed gal like myself, she has also recently opened an Etsy shop selling her pillow covers, using a plethora of richly coloured and patterned fabrics, making them one-of-a-kind.

She recently participated in the One Room Challenge alongside myself and 18 other bloggers and made-over her office, which is stunning! Being inspired by Emily Clark's recent office do over, Nicole's is simply amazing.

 Be sure to pop over to Nicole's Etsy shop to check out her pillow covers!

Tell us a bit about yourself. What makes you tick? What are you most passionate about? Were you always creative? What did you study in school? 

I’m passionate about decorating interiors and I’m passionate about Canadian history too. I have always been creative and curious so I suppose my two career paths are not that surprising. As a girl, I used to make houses with my cousins out of hay bales at our family’s farm… constructing walls and furniture and laying quilts out to make it homey. I even dragged old broken down appliances to my “house” in a wagon to make the kitchen complete. I was always into living spaces with my toys like Lego and Barbie and I remember one of my babysitting clients owned a drug store and the mom saved me design mags with the covers ripped off throughout my teens. My job as I saved up for school was at IKEA which is a design nerds dream…imagine my first apartment! Even with such early passion for design I chose a career path that was familiar to me and acceptable to my family. When I went to University I thought I was leaving to become a teacher but I didn’t like it in practicum and by then I had already been captivated by history classes and I soaked up as much as I could. After school I went on to work as a contract historian and I’m still doing it 13 years later.

 You work as a professional decorator? Were you always involved in the design scene? If not, what made you decide to take the plunge? 

 No, I’m definitely new! When my husband and I moved to Vancouver Island a few years ago we bought our first house and that’s when the designer in me really came out. I have always dabbled and helped friends and family, but this house needed work and I was ready. Our move also coincided with a downturn in the economy and I wasn’t working as much in the research field so I slowly started a blog and then started to channel my research efforts to the subject of design and decorating. I struggled with all the “yeah but” statements and worries about money etc so I understand all too well how hard it is to transition from a day job to a creative pursuit. Describing it as a plunge is perfect, because that’s what it is…just start…amazing things will flow from just simply starting in a small way. Now that I am a few years into it, and as I look back, I am so glad I took steps in this direction….I was uncertain then and now I’m really happy.

What have you enjoyed about having your own design business? Anything not so pleasant? 

 I have really become accustomed to making my own hours as a consultant so my favorite thing has been, and continues to be, working from home on my own schedule. It was a must that I am able to be home with our sweet old dog K-man too! I’ve got the business and project management part of my design work down (mostly) but I would say my challenges have been in the area of handling clients. I’ve been a nerd working alone in the archives for a long time; of course my social skills are a little rusty! I found out right away that working for other people is not as easy as it looks on TV. Balancing other people’s wants and needs and listening as well as knowing when to make suggestions is something I work on. I’m always thinking about how to approach topics and provide great visual tools to guide my conversations with clients so we clearly understand one another. Dealing with husbands and wives is another interesting dynamic! But my favorite is when I click with someone on a design issue and I really love it when they are brave and follow my suggestions/advice. Being brave with décor decisions means that they trust me and that’s a great feeling! I have noticed one subtle side effect of actually working as a decorator and that is that I don’t actually shop as much for my own house anymore. I would say this is an unpleasant side effect… my husband would disagree.

What tips would you have for anyone aspiring to branch off on his or her own? 

This question is especially important to me because just a short time ago I was on the fence.
 - Prepare yourself whether you are self taught, or through design school so that you are knowledgeable and professional.
 - Own your talents and creativity. As an academic I struggled with posing as a decorator without a design degree. I worked my whole adult life in university and then as a research professional and in my world that’s the proper way to go about things. One day my hairdresser asked me if I saw a beautiful painting if I would ask the artist if they had an art degree or if I would just appreciate how talented that individual was and accept that they were an artist. She changed my way of thinking that day.
- Make Room– You don’t have to have to quit everything else in your life to explore your design ambitions just make a little room in your life and it will evolve as you do.
- Persevere and Patience. Unless you have a roster of rich friends with bad taste chances are you are going to start out slow. I’ve only had a handful of jobs to date and only one of them paid actual money…the rest were trades for other services which were fine by me. Each job is a space in my portfolio and another referral so in my mind this is a great way to start.
- Be yourself. This one sounds kind of silly but honestly, I’m serious. So many of us, me included, look at all the fabulous designers and bloggers out there and admire what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and it is tempting to try to emulate or follow that exact path. It’s harder than it sounds to be yourself and figure out why you’re unique but it is essential. I’m trying to remain inspired by all the fabulousness I see all around, and stay “me” at the same time. It’s hard.

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

Blogging has connected me with so many like-minded people who are supportive and enthusiastic about design so YES, blogging has really helped me personally. I am inspired and in awe of some bloggers creativity and marketing power within the industry. It’s big business! I haven’t harnessed the potential of “the blog” yet for business purposes. I think going forward my blog demonstrates to prospective clients what I like, what I’m doing and shows a little of my personality so they can tell if they’d like to meet, or…maybe not. I do try to be mindful of my ultimate goal, and so I remind myself now and then that I am a professional decorator who also has a blog.

 How would you describe your design style? 

 I’ve heard the term “edited mix” used to describe eclectic spaces I love by designers like Brad Ford, Thom Filicia and Jason Martin. So I’d like to lump myself in with my designer crushes and say my style is sometimes eclectic and usually a budget conscious edited mix of contemporary and DIY.

Where/what are your go-to design sources? 

 I use a combination of local stores, online shopping and Used Victoria (our local craigslist) to find what I need. Some of my favorite local stores in Victoria are Trade Roots and Chintz & Co. and I admit that I visit HomeSense allot! I’m a flea market and Swap meet regular too! Every time I go to Vancouver I pop over to South Granville to visit the usual suspects and I also try to make it to the Cross. I have a real fabric addiction that is currently being fed by late night online purchases. What gets your creative juices flowing? Blank walls / spaces and design dilemmas for sure. As soon as I walk into a new place I have ideas and I love hearing peoples design problems and working out a functional and beautiful fix. I am inspired daily by reading blogs and magazines and I love trying new arrangements or DIY projects.

You are launching your own line of pillows this fall. What made you decide to foray into the world of soft furnishings? 

 I have been making pillows for myself and clients for a little while so it was a logical next step. I wanted covers that I wasn’t seeing around town in stores and I knew I could make them for less than what some online stores were charging. So I did it. I had lots of encouragement from clients and friends and my Etsy store is literally launching in a few days and I’m so excited!

 Where do you hope to see Nicole Scott Designs in the future? 

 You never know what opportunities may come along…I would like to think that I am setting myself up to be open to new ideas and collaborations in the future but I don’t have a specific vision other than to say I would like to build up my portfolio and be proud of its contents.

 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?

When I think of Canadian Design I think of houses and the past rather than design as a concept. I picture west coast homes inspired by First Nations and nature in BC, European influences in 60’s ranchers in Edmonton and modern country homes in Calgary. I see Victorian style farmhouses, mis-matched lakeside cabins over the prairies, and old world buildings and grand stone homes in Ontario and Quebec. I envision saltboxes in Halifax, colorful fishing villages and quirky & innovative homes scattered all over the north. Canada is such a young country (145 years old this year) and it was built by immigrants and influenced by every culture imaginable in order to dot our landscape with all sorts of designs. A history comprised of so many influences has created a unique design story that people around the world can relate to in one way or another because they can see a little of themselves, a little of the familiar, woven into the Canadian esthetic. Of course, not every house is whispering a tome of Canadian history or culture, but the ones that do are what draw people in, capture their imaginations and set us apart.

See you tomorrow Nicole!

XO Barbara

Another Fabulous Rast Hack

I are all wondering, I thought she said she was going to post less? Yes, you are right but I am up at 5 AM, my son had early hockey practice and I have a hour to relax and enjoy my coffee. Why not write up a post? Can't stay away.

 As many of you know, I love a good Rast hack. I had this amazing Rast hack land in my inbox this week sent by a reader, who is also Canadian, eh?

Inspired by a Rast hack that I had featured on my blog, Michelle from La Vie En Fuschia, {my rough French translation is "The Life in Fuschia"} created a Union Jack inspired Rast hack for her nursery. 

I hope she shows us photos of her finished nursery soon - it is looking amazing.

If you want to know the steps she took to create this masterpiece, head over to her blog.

I love when readers send me photos of things that have been created after seeing inspiration on my blog. So if you have been inspired by anything you saw on my blog, feel free to send it my way. I would love to feature it!

XO Barbara

Life Right Now.....

So here we are at Monday again. I can't believe how quickly the week flies by!

 I am feeling a bit overwhelmed right now and have decided to scale back my already sparse posting to less. I will keep up with my So Canadian eh? series , but post when I have a moment or inspiration hits.

Why you ask?

You know I told you I got a teaching position that was supposed to be one day a week? It has now evolved to full time. Yes, my teaching partner has decided to call in "sick" since the first week of school, and those poor students have had several substitute teachers.  It has been chaos. I am now taking over the class until this situation has been resolved. My heart breaks for the cute {and occasional orangutans} second graders... we have had tears of anxiety, parents concerned and staff in disbelief. I have never taught full time and in order to make it a success for those children and my sanity I need to focus on getting my units in order and the curriculum covered. So bear with me as I get that all in order and get adjusted to my new "normal"
And there is a class room that needs decorating! 

So a few impending half-finished DIY projects are put on hold as well.

One project that has started but has slowed to a halt was I switched my son and daughter's rooms. In the process I created a mom cave, now my office, which will be my daughter's room when she comes home from university. It is a small room, but we figured after dorm living, it will be a castle!

 Another quick switcheroo, for those following me on Instagram, is I switched my living room drapes with the ones that were in my daughter's room. I felt the stripes were too much for my now son's room and plain white ones would be best. With no time to hit Ikea, I just switched them up. I think they look great in the living room, perfect for winter. I call that shopping the house.

Sorry - grainy iPhone photos. 

 {Yes, they need to be re-hemmed}

 The chandelier came down, and it hung up in my mom cave {aka D's room}.  I have since re-painted the holes, brought in a bed and hung up art work. The silver leaf dresser needs to go, somehow crystal knobs and boys don't mix, go figure? My daughter doesn't want me painting over it, so I am on a hunt for a new bedside table. I want to paint it kelly green!

When I have a moment I'll photograph my "mom cave" so you can see how I incorporated my daughter's furniture in a different way! 

And my bistro chairs are in the kitchen but I still want to do one more thing to them! One of these weekends when I am free, I'll get to it! In the meantime, here is a peek. Also sad, grainy iPhone, too lazy to whip out the camera and switch lenses, then stage, etc. I think you get the picture.

{Can we all just agree that those venetian blinds on the back wall are hideous?}

So, there you have it. My life right now in a nutshell......

XO Barbara

So Canadian Eh? : First Home Dreams

I love writing this series, it has been such a pleasure getting to know Canadians across this great land of ours! After I sent out a tweet looking for more "So Canadian eh?" interviewees,  I had a chance to meet some "new-to-me" bloggers! This week's blogger wears many hats. Not only does she have a zoology degree under her belt, she and her fiance are renovating the most amazing country home, one room at a time!

Please welcome.....

 Ashley from First Home Dreams.

She is.....

Ashley, a former West Coast girl {high five!} , now makes her home in rural Ontario with her fiance in the most incredible country home that looks straight out of a storybook. They are slowly tackling the renovation of their home, bringing it into the 21st century. From large scale renovation projects to simple furniture makeovers, Ashley is creating an amazing "first home" that many of us would be envious to have. Paying attention to the history of the home, they are painstakingly restoring historical bits in the home, such as the locks and windows! But not only can they renovate, restore, re-upholster, paint, demolish, but they make their own maple syrup!

A gorgeous hand-me-down antique secretary adds the extra historic ambience in her home.

It's the beautiful details, like the outdoor lights that adds extra character to an already charming house.

They have restored the cast iron rim lock on their can read about how they did it here.

Cozy Christmas in the country.

Can you believe they have sugar maple trees on their property?

Another stunning DIY, her arm chair makeover.

A vintage inspired bathroom.

 You should read the story about the "shack" and it's demise.

Tell us a bit about yourself, describe your journey into the world of design and blogging? You have a science degree yet you seem have a creative side as well, were you always creative?

 I grew up on Vancouver Island before deciding to pack up and move to Ontario to pursue a degree in Zoology at the University of Guelph. I love all things science, especially when it comes to animals and nature. As for design, well…Sarah Richardson is really the only designer that I can name off the top of my head, and that’s thanks to watching episodes of Sarah’s Cottage with my mom. I am not a designer in any sense of the word - I just enjoy flipping through shelter magazines and Pinterest, and thinking about putting my home together in a way that I find comfortable and makes me happy to look at. I say thinking about because we’re a long way off from having a well-designed home. We’re only one room into our full house renovation! My mom has a creative side (painting, drawing, decorating), and as I get older I’m finding that in me as I tackle rehabbing old chairs or restoring antique locks. Growing up I was all science and sports.

 What made you decide to delve into the world of blogging? How long have you had your blog? 

First Home Dreams is actually my second blog. My first blog was dedicated to all things dog. I was a foster home for an animal rescue for two years and that was what my life revolved around. But then I moved on from fostering to renovating this old house of ours, and my focus in life switched to learning all I could about fixing up old houses. I noticed a lot of people were documenting their progress, so I figured I could jump on the bandwagon, especially since I have many family and friends back in British Columbia who won’t ever get the chance to actually see our house and the progress in person. I’ve been writing at First Home Dreams for about a year and a half now, and am really enjoying working at it as a hobby.

You and your fiancé are currently renovating the most AMAZING historic farmhouse in rural Ontario. Tell us why you chose to move out to the country and why take on such an undertaking? 

 To tell you the truth, we didn’t really think about it all that much and instead just DID IT. Mike’s family has lived and farmed in the general area for three going on four generations, and we knew we wanted to live out this way one day. A friend of Mike’s parents was selling the place, so we took a chance. It just sort of fell into our laps…we hadn’t been thinking about buying a house until we heard about this one. Both Mike and I’s parents took run down houses and turned them into wonderful homes, so it just seemed natural to move into a fixer upper. Ripping out crumbling plaster has turned out to be way more work than we thought it would be, however. While we aren’t involved in farming, we do make our own maple syrup from trees we have on the property, have plans to put in some big raised garden beds next spring, and I’d eventually like to convince Mike to get some laying hens. So far he just rolls his eyes. But what’s country living without some livestock?!

Any renovation survival tips you care to share? Proud moments? Disasters?

 I try to keep reminding myself that it’s not a race. Mike has got this down. Me? Not so much. I would love everything to be done sooner rather than later, but things take time and stuff costs money, even when you’re DIYing almost everything. “Behind the scenes” stuff like replacing an oil tank, an electrical panel, and jacking up the floor is still great progress for the well-being of your home, even if it has little effect on the visual appeal. My proudest moment would be not losing my mind when the structure affectionately referred to as the shack attached to the back house collapsed during our first winter due to heavy snow load. The shack collapsing probably counts as a disaster, too. When we finally finish our bathroom, THAT will be my proudest moment. It was a gut job in the truest sense of the word (we even replaced all of the floor joists). Starting a full house renovation with one of the hardest rooms probably wasn’t the best choice, but it’s been really rewarding to see the transformation, albeit slow.

You are taking on an overhaul on your home and getting married in the near future,  how have you managed to keep your relationship intact throughout the chaos? 

 We’re getting married in February, and taking the whole shindig back to my hometown of Nanaimo, BC. To be perfectly honest, it’s been sort of overwhelming. Reno decisions AND wedding decisions?! We are no DIY power couple. We fight more often than we agree; we lose our tempers and yell. We play the “you said”, “no, you said” game. But, we typically have similar tastes in style, so eventually end up finding something we both can live with and enjoy. I think it helps that we’re both very independent individuals, with great groups of mutual AND separate friends. We don’t get bogged down in renovating and almost never turn down a social engagement because we’re busy working on the house. We don’t tell each other “no” when the other wants to go out and do something. Projects take longer that way, but for our sanity, it’s the right choice. We both have full time jobs as well, so we need to be able to wind down sometimes rather than getting amped up by working on the house. We don’t want life to pass us by while we’re up to our ears in plaster dust!

How would you describe your design style? 

If I could have five words…comfortable, cozy, vintage, cottage, farmhouse. If you had of asked me a year ago, though, that answer would have been “I don’t know”.

What are your go-to sources for anything design related? 

Besides Pinterest, I spend a lot of time on the forums at Some of the restoration work done by members there is absolutely outstanding.

Who/what inspires you? Any design idols? 

Sarah Richardson. I think you’ll find her name a gazillion times on my blog. Also, the guys at This Old House. Their ability to balance restoration and renovation is inspiring. Knowing when to restore and when to replace or reproduce is a skill that we’re still learning!

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us!

We don’t have a microwave! Not because we have anything against microwaves, it’s just that we don’t really have a place for one right now and we don’t miss it.

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?

This is a tough one to answer, because as I said I’m not a designer and definitely not up to date on the happenings of the industry. I tend to think in architecture more than I think in design, and find that often the style of a house, in addition to the culture in a given area, will drive interior décor decisions. Each province in Canada is so different, that I think Canadian’s in general do have a unique sense of style and design because they are able to pull from so many different influences. Salt box houses in the Maritimes, Victorian farmhouses in rural Ontario, and Craftsman homes on the west coast. I am admittedly ignorant of the architecture in the prairies, and would love for someone to enlighten me! I think it’s our culture and heritage, and how we include that in our design decisions (like showcasing a Hudson’s Bay Company wool point blanket!), that sets Canadians apart.

West Elm: Finally Open In Vancouver!

Well, folks, we have arrived. We finally have a West Elm here in Vancouver! I was beyond is the icing-on-the-decor-store cake. 

And lucky me, I was invited to the media preview night the day before the store was opened. Not only were we fed delicious appies and wine but we had 10% off the whole store! It was a fabulous night, dj's spinning up tunes, wine, canapes, and enjoying the company other  bloggers, who I now consider friends, to ham up in the photo booth!

Here is Tracey Ayton (her photo made it to the cover of Sept Style at Home} and I!

I was so overwhelmed by the deliciousness of the store that I need to go back, I have a few gift cards that need spending. I am in love with the West Elm aesthetic, so up my alley. The earthiness, the texture, the layers and the whimsy are decor perfection!

But here are a few photos from the night, I snapped them with my iPhone so they aren't the most amazing photos.

 Fabulous table setting idea, load up on pillar candles, bottles, hurricane lanterns to create a cozy atmosphere.

 West Elm has the BEST lighting.

 Me with the VP of PR for West Elm, Abigail Jacobs, and on the far right, the creative director of West Elm, Vanessa Holden!

 Another fabulous light fixture.....

The satellite bar.

 I am in LOVE with this pendant. Not sure how it would work in my kitchen, but I love it!

 Trend alert: Off centered mat

 Cinnamon sticks for breakfast anyone?

And.... HELLOOO! Where have you been all my life?

So make sure the next time you visit downtown Vancouver, pop into West Elm, you won't be disappointed!
West Elm is located @ 2947 Granville Street

XO Barbara