Furnishing & Decorating a New Home

If you’ve recently purchased a new home like myself, or planning a move in the near future, it can be daunting to think about how you’re going to furnish and decorate the new space. Downsizing likely also includes purging or simplifying your belongings. Moving into a bigger home comes with extra tasks such as purchasing or collecting more furnishings. But even moving into a home of similar size can mean redistributing, purging or purchasing new pieces.

Since I’ve moved several times, I feel like I’ve streamlined my process to create a more stress-free transition. Creating a plan ahead of time is the most helpful thing at such a stressful and busy time. Here’s what I recommend:


  1. Figure out your budget.
    If you’ve downsized or moved to another city, perhaps you’ve made some extra money and can set aside a healthy budget for new furnishings. Congrats – now’s the time to spruce up your furnishings or invest in some new pieces. If you’ve purchased a more expensive home, perhaps your budget isn’t as large and you’ll have to get creative on how to stretch what you have.   Whatever the case is, know what you realistically can spend and plan accordingly.

    If the budget is minimal – invest in staple furniture and add secondary pieces at a later date
  2. Decide if you’ll be hiring help.
    Maybe you love design and are looking forward to this process – great! But if this process seems daunting, you don’t have a design eye or you’ll be tackling some larger renovations, be sure to hire the right type of help for your budget and project. Decorators, designers, contractors, trades people or architects may be some of the help you’ll be looking for. Make sure you do your homework on whom you’re hiring by asking for referrals, looking at customer reviews and looking at certification when necessary. If you can, I do recommend living in your space a little before finalizing plans for any renovation so you can get a true sense of what your family functionally needs from the space.
If you don’t get a layout of your home, check builder sites for blueprints or draw one of your own on a walk through
  1. Get a floor plan.
    This step is likely one you haven’t thought about but can save you a lot of headaches ahead of time by ensuring what items you are moving or purchasing will fit in your new space.  If you’ve just built a new house or purchased a newly built home, you’ll likely get a floor plan when you are designing or purchasing the home. If not, ask your builder or realtor if this is available to you or check the builder’s website to see if they have floor plans posted. As a last resort create your own floor plan. On a walk-thru, bring some graph paper, a pencil and a measuring tape. Taking lots of pictures can also help.
Travel is a great way to source inspiration for your home – Drake Devonshire Hotel


  1. Find inspiration.
    If you’re purchasing a lot or even a few new pieces, you want a new style or some new ideas on what to do with a space, looking for inspiration may be necessary. Take pictures during your walk-thru if you like the way the previous owners arranged their furniture. If you need some fresh ideas, click here to check out the post for my top 12 places to find inspiration.

    Home must haves include everyday essential items to make a functional living space.
  2. Create a list.
    What do you need? Create a detailed list of all the pieces you see yourself needing in the new space. Go through what you’ll be bringing over and what will be lacking or needs to be replaced. Think of everything from window coverings, rugs, appliances, organization and seating to artwork, paint, wallpaper or lighting. If you’ll be doing a renovation, this list will be more extensive to include other items like flooring, tile, electrical and more. Then prioritize the list if your budget is limited.   I like to create 3 groupings. What are the essentials to have when you move in? Think functional items like appliances, somewhere to eat, sleep, sit, safety (especially if you have kids or pets), and something to create privacy if there aren’t already window coverings. What are your next important items? Maybe side tables, coffee tables, dressers, side chairs or storage pieces. These are items that will likely impact your function of the home but aren’t as necessary as your first list. And finally your third column will include most things that are decorative. Area rugs, new light fixtures, artwork, pillows, etc.

    Check out my list for our new home:

1st Tier


2nd Tier

Accompanying Pieces

3rd Tier


Formal dining table & 6 chairs Foyer table, seat, mirror and coat tree Patio chairs
Family room sectional 2 additional dining room chairs Art work, decorative pillows, lights and plants for multiple rooms
3 counter stools Office desk Kitchen refresh items
Towel bars & toilet paper holders Bedside tables for kids Powder room refresh items
Blackout blinds for nursery & kids bedroom, washroom blinds Master bedroom reading chair and side table Area rug for dining room
Guest room bed and side table


Curtains for family room & dining room
Coffee table New curtains for master bedroom & kids room


Sourcing items can be fun as you browse style and prices at local and online sources – here I was sourcing our bed at Cornerstone Interiors – Cambridge.
  1. Research and source.
    Now determine based on your budget and needs, what you’ll be purchasing right away and what will have to wait. Going online to source items will help you determine costs for things and what may have to move from column to column.  For me, my first list was purchased before we even moved in or within a week. My second column was going to mostly be purchased within 6 months of living in the house and my final list will be an ongoing list as I work room by room, completing each space to my liking. If you need assistance sourcing, either email me for my assistance or to inquire about where some of my favourite places to shop for furniture and accessories are.
Before purchasing custom furniture, double check all room measurements to be sure sizing is correct.


  1. Purchase, store or furnish.
    I cannot emphasis enough that you need to make sure you’re checking measurements against your layout from earlier and factoring in taxes and delivery if necessary against your budget. I knew we were going to go for a custom sectional for our family room and I wanted it right for when we moved in. Having a layout of our space and specific measurements helped me build the perfect size and layout for this expensive purchase. If you’re purchasing ahead, you’ll likely need to store the items ahead of time. If you can arrange delivery for the day after you move in (try not to do the day of – as you can get delayed with getting your keys), otherwise order after you move in if you can’t store items or it won’t be convenient to do so.


IMG_4608 copy
Once your essential furnishings are in place, add in accent and decor layers for a personal touch!
  1. Arrange, decorate & remember your home is a living space.
    Place items in the most desirable layout. If it’s not working, rearrange or move to a different room. Once the base furnishings are in place, add secondary furniture, rugs, and finally accessories and décor. Don’t stress out if your home doesn’t seem complete. Homes are living spaces that will develop and change over time as you accumulate, purge or adjust to family needs and décor trends.


If you’d like specific help for your home, please do not hesitate to ask and I would love to assist you with your new home.

When It’s Time To Move On

It’s almost Spring which means 2 things – Spring cleaning (we’ll get to that one next) and real estate season!

In February we discussed ways you can fall back in love with your home, but there are times when you know it’s just best to move on. There could be many factors that lead you to this decision, some of which could include:

  • Space has become too big or too small
  • Location isn’t right for your lifestyle
  • Finances have changed
  • Relationships have changed

Deciding when to pack up can be a difficult decision to reach for yourself and/or your family. Emotions can run high and there can be a lot of fears in relation to letting go, making the best financial decision and fear of the unknown ahead. I am not a Real Estate Professional, but I know a little about moving, as I have moved 12 times and have learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are my suggestions on ways you can minimize the stress of this time and things to pay careful attention to:


  1. Hire the best – don’t try and sell your home yourself unless you’re a Real Estate Agent. It’s such a large legal investment that it’s not worth saving the money with all the potential risks involved. Let the professionals educate you, help you price well and know what the best moves are.



  1. Get real about your finances – if you are barely making payments on your monthly expenses now, chances are moving to a higher priced home isn’t the best decision for you. Sit down with your bank or mortgage expert ahead of time to get your financials in order so know what the budget is before emotions get tied to potential new homes.


  1. Know your timeline – do you have a hard and fast date you need to be out of your home or do you have some room bridging dates with a new home? Will you need time to complete some renovations before you move in? Do you want the kids settled before school starts? Knowing this head will help you stay firm with conditions in offers, closing dates for the new purchase and general preparing for the big move.


  1. Staging – the general public has a hard time picturing potential in spaces, so it is your job to stage your home to showcase a generic idea of what life could look like for the general population. If you don’t have the eye or time for this, hire a stager to complete this necessary task.  Here are some specific ideas:
    1. Convert specifically designed rooms back to formal dining rooms, offices or guest rooms.
    2. Remove all personal photos and objects from rooms (basically anything that would make a potential buyer think of they type of people that own the house instead of picturing themselves living there).
    3. Paint all rooms a neutral or light colour.
    4. De-clutter everything (including closets, basements and storage spaces – rent a storage unit if you must).
    5. Simplify furniture and create ideal layouts in rooms.
    6. Take care of general maintenance you’ve been putting off – touch up dings in the walls, replace burnt out lights, broken handles, leaky faucets, chipped trim, etc.
    7. Place fresh flowers and bright accessories in rooms to provide a fresh and clean look.
    8. Give your home a thorough clean before photos, showings and open houses.


  1. Create a moving plan – Writing out everything ahead of time that will need to be taken care of can relieve last minute stress. Think ahead and consider the following: Do you need to hire a moving company? When do you need to start packing? Who will you be asking for assistance on the day? Will a great distance be involved in moving and you need to book overnight accommodations? Make arrangements for pets and kids if necessary for moving day. Contact Canada Post about forwarding your mail. Where do you need to contact for a change of address once you have moved?


  1. Prepare the family – Including kids in the process of selecting a new house and preparing your house for sale can help them greatly in processing what this change means. Answer fears they may have but let them know about what exciting opportunities lay ahead (will they get to pick a new paint colour for their new room? Will they be living closer to relatives? What parks are close by they may enjoy?). Have kids help pack up their rooms and toys allowing them to decorate boxes with their names and pretty drawings. (If you need to keep kids busy while you pack, a box with markers or a roll of bubble wrap can buy hours of fun!) . Allow them to visit any walk-throughs of the new house if possible so they can know where their new home will be and plan out how they want their new room to look. Walk the neighbourhood or visit local parks and restaurants so they get a feel for what their new neighbourhood is like.  As something special for kids to look back on, take a family photo in front of the house on or just before moving day, and allow them to take something small with them, like a rock from your garden, they can put at the new house.
    If you have pets, walk the neighbourhood together, visit parks and let them smell out their new neighbours.



Once you get the keys to the new place, a whole new ballgame begins. Stay tuned for the April’s blog post about Making A New House A Home.



Where To Dine With Your Valentine

I love a good night in, but with Valentine’s Day around the corner, you may be looking for a different place to take a loved one for a special meal. Many restaurants offer specific Valentine’s Day specials, but remember you don’t have to get out on February 14th to celebrate time together. If the day doesn’t suit or you want to avoid the prearranged chaos, try a different evening, weekday lunch or weekend brunch instead. It’s about making the effort to arrange something and spending time with someone you love, whether it be child, spouse, friend or sibling.

If you’ve been checking out my Tour This Town posts you’ll know I love checking out and recommending amazing restaurants and cafes, so I’ve selected my top 10 independent choices in the area (many of which have not hit my Tour This Town posts yet). Here are my recommendations:


Photo credit – Yelp
  1. Easy Pour Wine Bar & Restaurant– Blair/Cambridge

This is my top choice almost every time. This converted heritage house is intimate and perfectly charming. The food is delicious, wine list is impressive and they have the friendliest service. You can also catch live music some nights. My must get dish is the mixed board to share over a glass of wine!


Photo credit – wilhelmskw.com

      2.     Wilhelm’s Café & Bar – Belmont Village

I can’t get over how gorgeous this new hot spot is. Casual yet sexy, meet up for an pre-dinner drink or some afternoon snacks with your loved one.  Snuggle up in a booth or grab a drink at the bar, you’ll feel the warmth of the space and the glow from the village.


Light Retouch 128
Photo credit – Mandy Blake Photography
  1. Timeless Café – Waterloo

This place holds near and dear to my heart because we had our intimate wedding here several years ago.  Rustic and charming, this converted hen house brings the relaxation of a country setting right through your meal allowing you to linger on flavour and conversation.  For something different, try a casual breakfast with a loved one to start your day or check out their usual date night with live music on Thursdays.


Photo credit – stillwatersplateandpour.ca
  1. Still Waters Plate & Pour – Paris

If you’re looking to impress with a spectacular view, this is your stop!  A large selection of options and some tasty combinations are found in their menu.  Enjoy the casual setting while taking in the breathtaking view of the Grand River.



  1. Imperial Market & Eatery – New Hamburg

For something new, try a small town treasure with comfort food in a farmhouse vintage setting. Reserve dinner in or simply enjoy a meal to-go, such as their rotisserie chicken meal, for a quieter meal at home.



  1. Casa Rugantino – Belmont Village

Nothing is sexier than fresh pasta and Italian wine. A classic choice with mouthwatering options in an freshly updated gathering place.  Gorgeous and delicious, you can’t go wrong taking anyone here and ordering anything off the menu.


Photo credit – theberlinkw.ca
  1. The Berlin – Kitchener

If you’re looking to impress and be impressed – this is your stop. Carefully curated dishes, the menu is always changing and sure to be a delight to your tastebuds. An unpretentious ambiance creates an approachable atmosphere allowing you to direct your attention to high-end, mouthwatering plates.



  1. Relish Cooking StudioUptown Waterloo

New location coming soon! If you’re looking to spice up your Valentine’s outing, try joining a cooking class together, or for the ultimate date, book your own private cooking class. Learn from the professionals, watch a demonstration or get your hands dirty, all while enjoying some delicious food. From pizza making to culturally diverse cuisine, you’ll be sure to find a class that excites your tummy and date!


Photo credit – Red House Instagram

        9. Red House – Uptown WaterlooNear the heart of Uptown Waterloo, this gem keeps their menu fresh and fun. You can’t go wrong with going for any meal, but I recommend mixing things up and taking your special someone for a Saturday brunch and having the crème brulee French toast!



  1. The Common – Stratford

Stratfords culinary scene just improved greatly with this new restaurant. A theatrical ambiance with a delishious approachable menu, this restaurant is sure to delight all the senses. If you’re going for lunch, I highly recommend the buttermilk fried chicken thigh sandwhich.


These additional options are on my list to try next:


Where will you be enjoying a meal for Valentine’s this year?

Home to Love – how to really love your home again!

Awww…. February – the month of LOVE!

It’s easy to fall in love hard and fast… especially when we’re house hunting. But what happens when we fall out of love with our house after years of being in a relationship? Or perhaps we have been connected in a prearranged relationship with a space we never drew these positive emotions from?

Just like with human relationships, love can grow stale, weak or disappear completely. We can get tired of looking at the same walls and dealing with the same dysfunctions, day after day.  If you are not looking to move, a little effort can help restore the relationship. But how can we fall in love all over with a home that has somehow let us down or become boring? I’m glad you asked!

The key to get the spark back is to pour love back in to our homes. Here are some suggestions:


Are your spaces not allowing you to live life the way you wish? Is it more work to prepare for a shower in your small bathroom than it is to enjoy the feeling of being fresh? Is your living room more of a toy graveyard you can’t stand looking at, rather than a relaxing place to converse and gather with loved ones?

I suggest you get out some notepaper and write out the name of every room in your home. Beside each room write out what specific functions you need that room to have (ex. Kitchen – space to prepare 3 meals a day for a family of 4). Now get real – rate how you feel that room is currently functioning. If it is not a high enough number (say at least a 7/10), you need to analyze the reasons why. Maybe your entryway is lacking space to hang jackets. Maybe your dinning room is lacking enough seating for your family or your closet is jammed so full you don’t dare open it to put anything you actually use away. These are all fairly simple fixes.

Pick one of those spaces and get to work making it function the way you need it to. Get a coat tree, buy a bench, clear out your closet and throw away items you’ve saved for a rainy day.  A room that functions the way you need it to will help you feel more at peace in the space and create a more functional daily life.


Bring In Beauty
What do you love to look at and be surrounded by? Enveloping your home in beautiful things will help you feel attracted towards it and maybe forget about some of the areas you aren’t able to change. Cover walls in art or photos that make you smile. Bring in objects with a personal connection from family members or from travels afar. Infuse colours and textures you love with pillows, throws, rugs and drapes.

This is an easy way to start pouring love back in with little commitment. You can easily swap or switch out anything that isn’t sitting right.



Be Inspired To Live
Many times the best relationships are ones that inspire us to be better people. The same should be for our homes. Is your kitchen allowing you to cook the best food you can? Is your home office allowing you to function in an organized and creative way? What about your bedroom? Is it the refuge you need at the end of a long day? This is where you can combine beauty and function and have it transform your daily life. Surround yourself with things that will push you and motivate you to be the best you, you can be and then live your life.  Live life between the walls that surround you.  Dance while you clean the dishes, colour at the dinning room table with your kids and snuggle in their beds reading stories.  Let your home be the vessel to a memorable and purposeful life.


Get Started Right Away!
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Don’t wait until you have such hatred built up that there is no way to feel love with your space once more. Start small or dive in head over heals. Perhaps knowing that you’re willing to love again can be enough to start seeing why you fell in love with your home in the first place.


Need help bringing love back to the relationship with your home?
Message me here – I’d love to help you!

*All images are my own.

Budget-Friendly Renovations – where to spend and where to save!

When you want a room to gain a new feeling or function in a different way, we sometimes think a big renovation is the only way to improve things.  But there are many ways you can improve a space with very little money.   You can create a huge impact even with a small budget as long as you can invest a little time, are strategic with your bucks, and are willing to take a risk.

Photo credit – Studio McGee

The first step to try is to just move things around.  Are you not liking furniture placement?  Try to switch out a large sofa and move in some arm chairs coupled together.  Spruce up your foyer by adding an old dresser and a bench.  Bedroom feeling bland?  Move your bed under the windows and switch out stale matching end tables with something modern or vintage instead.  Try new curtains, paint, bedding and/or area rugs for simple mood enhancers if moving things around doesn’t do the trick.  Maybe your bathroom is feeling builder grade – why not switch out the large mirror for one or two statement pieces and improve the faucets and lighting with an upgrade?  Small changes can totally improve a space, but sometimes we do need more.

Photo credit – Cynthia Weber Design

But if you are tackling a renovation, one of the best ways to save money is to keep the footprint of the room and any plumbing or electrical where it is. Changing any of this up will require you to, more than likely, hire professionals and your budget can go out the window quick. Another great way to save money is to use existing pieces you have or to at least purchase off the floor models instead of custom pieces and fixtures.

Knowing where to spend your cash for the biggest impact takes consideration and planning. Create a reasonable budget, source your items thoughtfully and execute with precision, knowing your time and effort will save you tons!

Photo credit – Birmingham Home & Garden Magazine


Here are some of my top areas to spend and what areas to save your $$ for the biggest impact with a tight budget:


  • If you need any electrical, plumbing or structural work done – hire a professional and spend the cash. No one saved any money by YouTubing how to install a new receptacle only to have it not work (or worse have some damage done to your home). You’ll probably end up forking out the cash in the long run anyway so save the stress and extra money trying to do it yourself and just hire a professional.
  • Durable furniture – if you don’t already have investment pieces or can’t repurpose stuff you already have, spend the money (unless you have a new puppy…). Buying an Ikea dinning table that you’ll want or have to replace in in a couple years is not a wise decision, compared to just buying something solid to begin with.
  • Paint and supplies – I have done my fair share of painting to know that paint and roller quality can not only impact the final product, but the amount of effort you have to put in to the job. Purchase wisely.
  • Mattresses – Don’t cheap out on something you will spend so much of your life on. Quality mattresses create quality sleep – plain and simple.
  • Fixtures and hardware– facets, handles and knobs are a great area to spend a little extra to really elevate the feel of a space.
  • Statement fabrics – if you want something like your drapes or throw pillows to have a specific pattern or be the statement of the room, spend the money. It can be exhausting trying to find a gorgeous set of drapes at a fraction of the cost.



  • Hired help – the biggest way to cut costs on a reno is to do as much of the work yourself as you can. If you can spare the time, find yourself somewhat handy and don’t care about testing the fate of your relationship, then try to perform tasks yourself (minus electrical, plumbing or structural as mentioned).
  • Area rugs – Personal story here… our living room area rug has been pooped and chucked on by each of our children and dog over the years so unless you live alone and never have people over, I suggest you take my advice here. Buy something gorgeous at your local Homesense and save hundreds if not thousands!
  • Accent furniture – furniture that won’t get a lot of wear and tear can afford to be less expensive. Think end and bedside tables, buffets, stools, etc.
  • Other fabrics – drapes, table linens, throw pillows and blankets don’t have to be expensive. Unless it will be the signature item in a room, save some pennies and cheap out on these fabrics as long as the fit and make are good.
  • Light fixtures – unless you want your light fixture to be the focal point of the room, you can save here too. Many hardware and décor stores have fantastic looking lighting at a fraction of the cost of what you can find specialized lighting stores. There was not an item in our old house that got more compliments than our island pendants – and I got them for a steal of a deal at $125 each! I put a vintage inspired Edison bulb in them to give them an elevated feel.
  • Accessories and décor items – save on décor items by using items you already have or looking at clearance sections in boutique gift shops. Shop at the end of the season for next year when thinking of seasonal or holiday decorations.   If you are saving pennies on a room renovation and still want a luxurious feel, spend a little more in key accessories only to still elevate the space (towels, bowls, pillows, tabletop décor, etc. are good areas to spend more for a big impact).


Hopefully you gained a little insight on how to save some bucks when tackling your next project. I’d love to hear what areas you like to save and spend when undergoing a budget-friendly renovation – share your comments below.

Happy Home Habits


Happy New Year everyone!

The start of a new year usually motivates us to get our lives and homes into tip-top shape. I’m not sure if it’s because we need to find a home again for all those holiday decorations or the empty spaces they seem to have left once they get taken down, but after the holidays our homes suddenly feel like they need to get back to the gym again. Getting back into some healthy home habits can not only make our spaces feel refreshed and organized, but they can also help daily living become more functional. These are not big things and they don’t have to take a lot of time, but they can have a big impact on our day-to-day living.  Here are some of my top healthy home habits for daily living:


  • Make your bed every morning. This is a simple one but it definitely makes an impact on how you start your day. Making your bed not only gets you up and focused for the day, but also helps prevent you from falling back under the sheets. Besides, a well-made bed is so much prettier to look at than a big sheet ball.


  • Open your window coverings and let the sun shine in. Whether you are the type of person who is better woken with the fresh swish of the curtains, or would rather not have your neighbours see you until you are fully dressed, letting the sun shine in has this awesome power to suddenly elevate our mood and get us motivated. A well-lit space is also a lot brighter, cleaner and larger feeling.


  • Don’t let junk pile up. Ok I’ll admit this is a tough one. We all have that junk pile or let’s be real – table and counter tops. It’s stuff that we don’t want to deal with or decide if it’s garbage or needs to be kept and instead of just deciding, we place it in a nice pile hoping it will magically disappear. I’m sorry to break it to you, but it doesn’t disappear and when you pile it, you suddenly have to deal with it again later so why not just deal with it the first time and get it out of sight. Suddenly your surfaces will feel a whole lot larger and rooms less cluttered.


  • Wipe surfaces. Keep your counters fairly clear and wipe clean and dry. You don’t have to perform a deep cleanse and polish everyday, but if your counters, tables and dressers are kept free of debris, you can wipe them clean with next to no effort. Clean counters after clearing them, tables after every meal and dressers and other surfaces as needed. No one enjoys putting their laptop down into a smudge of jam left by the kiddos at breakfast or having a coffee cup leave a ring on their antique table.


  • Stay on top of laundry. Do a load a day if you need to instead of waiting for the weekend and making your washer do a marathon. There is nothing attractive or enjoyable about having mounds on the bedroom floor and your closet has nothing left but an old prom dress and a stale pair of pants that don’t fit. Also, use attractive baskets in your room or bathroom for a good-looking alternative to the laundry hamper. Using one might make chucking your clothes more appealing rather than scattering them recklessly across the floor.


  • Put dishes away. I have a general rule to turn the dishwasher on every night before bed and empty it every morning before going anywhere. It helps keep counters clean too if you put dirty dishes into the dishwasher after every meal and hand-wash others as needed. Look for pretty dish towels, great smelling soap and antique plates to keep brushes on for a more attractive workstation.

    Processed with Rookie Cam

  • Tidy up before bed. Have kids help participate in cleaning up toys before they go to bed. Check your kitchen countertop, tabletop and bedroom floor for a clear surface before getting some shuteye. Suddenly you’ll be able to fall asleep quicker and wake up happier.


What daily habits do you find help keep your home in shape?  Leave a comment below and share what works for you.

Tips for the Holiday Hosting Home

The Holiday Season is upon us and for many that can mean opening up your home and hosting gatherings with family or friends. Whether you are hosting a simple family dinner or multiple parties, getting your home in shape early can help you truly enjoy the event and spend time with loved ones. Get your home hosting ready for the holiday season with these tips and ideas:



Declutter and forget the dust
You will likely need as much surface space for food preparation, dinning, games and decorations over the holidays so take care of the stacks and piles of stuff that have been building up in your home. Don’t worry too much about dust or doing a deep clean every time someone comes over, rather keep things in continuous decent condition. This will prevent stress and free up time for food preparation or to enjoy company.


Take care of what you’ve been putting off – as far in advance as possible, change the burnt out bulbs, fix the broken table leg and figure out or replace the appliance that isn’t working. Fill gaping wall holes if you please or finally get around to hanging up that painting that’s been sitting on the floor. Make sure you are proud of your home and that it’s a reflection of you but don’t start any major renovations or projects you can’t complete within sight of your gatherings.

Spare sleepers
– if you are likely to have overnight guests during the season, get your spare bedroom in shape or borrow an air mattress if need be. Your guests should be gracious for whatever bedding you can spare them, but try to get them as comfortable as possible. Get kids to share a room if you can spare a separate room for longer-staying guest and always plan for unexpected sleepers after a party with great wine. Wash extra bedding or purchase new sheets and pillows ahead for the ultimate comfort. Always have extra pillows and blankets available for guests who like to cozy up during the night. If you truly want guests to feel cared for, offer up your master suite and spend a night bunking with the kids.

Bathroom essentials – make sure your bathroom is stocked for day or overnight guests with everything you can image them needing. Freshly laundered bath and hand towels, beautiful smelling soaps and mini toilet trees are all must-haves. Keep feminine products hidden but available for those that need. Ensure you have a lined garbage can for any bathroom waste. To make guests feel pampered include individual lotions, soaps, cloths and towels in baskets or glass jars. If you have only one bathroom or will be sharing, clear away as much of your family’s products as possible to allow guests room for their things.

– hosting means guests will be coming and going. Your entryway will get a lot of use during this season so ensure you have a functioning and beautiful greeting to your home. Space to hang coats and store guest shoes are a must. Decorate your entryway with holiday trimmings to ensure guests feel a festive welcome. Click here to read my Entryway Must Have post to ensure you have the best functioning space.

Seating – somewhere for each guest to sit when visiting is a must! Whether you are hosting a dinner party or large family event, ensure there is at least one seat per person. It is not essential for all seats to be in one room or at one table. For formal gatherings, you will likely want everyone to be able to sit at one table. Bring chairs from extra rooms and mix them with your formal chairs for an eclectic look. For potlucks or larger family gatherings, consider casual seats in family rooms, island stools or separate small kids tables. If a meal is complete and the party has moved to a more comfortable space, move extra dinning chairs to the living room so everyone has a seat.

Ambiance – the holidays are full of a joyous spirit and festive spark but you can definitely enhance this in your space by paying attention to a few things:

  • SMELL – add some homey and festive smells in your house with lightly scented candles, diffuser, home cooking or baking. Don’t overpower a space by mixing scents in different rooms or going with a strong unfamiliar scent.
  • LIGHTING – make sure you consider what your lighting needs are depending on the type of function and time of day. Intimate dinner parties demand candlelight whereas large family gatherings can benefit from multiple light sources. The right lighting can make a dinner party linger or totally break an intended ambiance.
  • ATTITUDE – a host’s attitude determines the feel of the gathering. If you are prone to be overcome by stress easily, perhaps hosting a large gathering is not the best choice. Acknowledge what you are or aren’t comfortable with and outsource where necessary. A gracious host should be able to welcome guests while completing last-minute tasks with a calm attitude to set the party up in fine form.
  • COMFORT– no one enjoys a rock-hard chair for a meal that carries on for a few hours. If your dinning chairs are hard, consider adding seat cushions for much-needed comfort. Ensure lounge spaces have cozy throws to warm up chilled guests and have large pillows lying around for kids to take a seat on the floor for large gatherings.
  • SOUND– the ultimate kick-start for any gathering is picking the right soundtrack. If you have large gatherings and family members are musically talented, encourage some live caroling for the group. For lively affairs pick a soundtrack that has an appropriate tempo. For more intimate affairs, a classic jazz soundtrack played softly in the background often is a good choice.IMG_8170Stock the pantry – nothing is worse than having to drive out to the store last-minute to pick up a necessary ingredient for that dinner recipe. Stock up early and with more than you think you’ll need on not only baking and cooking staples, but snacks and drinks and household goods and staples too.IMG_8173
    Prepare for the unexpected
    – you can probably plan to need an extra party gift (or 3) or have an unexpected guest pop by at some point over the holidays so prepare for it. Stock up some of your favourite bottles of wine with cute wrappings or bags. Prepare a few gift baskets for hosts or family members who dropped off your Christmas list. Fill your freezer with premade cookies and casseroles for extra lunches or snacks during the holiday season. Prepare whatever way you can imagine for meals that have yet to be planned and guests you have yet to invite.
    IMG_8172Traditions – don’t forget to stay true to holiday traditions you love. If a tradition is stressful or way too costly, forgive yourself (or obliging family members) and let it go. If you have way too much going, try combining events by having a girlfriend gathering that doubles as a holiday cookie exchange or a family photo shoot while picking out or decorating your Christmas tree.

    IMG_8171Get everyone involved – write out tasks ahead of time and get the whole family or some of your close friends to help you. Kids love decorating cookies and sisters are perfect to plan dinner menus with. Decorate your home with your mom or mutually help neighbours with your outdoor Christmas lights.  These may even become new traditions.

The holidays can be a stressful time of year but they sure as heck don’t have to be. If you prepare your home and plan for events accordingly, you can be sure to love the events you work so hard to host and actually enjoy the time you spend with loved ones this season.


Tour This Town – St. Jacobs, ON

Well known for the amazing Farmer’s Market and Mennonite history, the quaint town of St. Jacobs is bustling on any given weekend in the summer months. Leading up to Christmas, the streets fill up with lights and decorations as the town comes alive in festive spirit.

Recently, St. Jacobs was voted in the top 3 for small towns in Canada by Expedia, so it’s no wonder it’s made our list of Towns to Tour.  Many people think they have been to St. Jacobs without even being to the town because of the amazing Farmer’s Market and outlet stops just 5 minutes up the road near North Waterloo.  But the downtown of the village is a must-stop for checking off some of those hard-to-buy people off your Christmas list and learning about some of the Mennonite Heritage of the town and people.  The many shops have an array of merchandise, specialty products, homemade treats and quality furnishings.

Here are my top choices to shop at with some honourable mentions as well:

Timber Barn – An amazing showroom of not only solid building materials and customizable furniture, but some awesome gift ideas, décor pieces and home-goods as well.  Although must of the store has a rustic edge, there are some lovely modern and traditional options to spruce up any space. They have everything for your home and I can’t wait to use some of their pieces in some upcoming projects.  There are many hidden nooks in this store so take your time as to not miss a treasure.


Stone Crock Bakery – This is one of the founding shops of the tourist town today and I will warn you, it is likely you will leave the bakery 5 pounds heavier (if not in bags, then your tummy). Behind the abundant displays of breads, pies, muffins, donuts and more, you can see many of the hardworking employees rolling out dough or mixing batter.  Visit their restaurant, meat & cheese shop or booth at the Farmer’s Market too for more delicious goods.


Artefacts Salvage & Design– Just 2 short blocks off the main road, where the train stops for those traveling from the Farmer’s Market, is a rustic barn housing hundreds of years of one-of-a-kind artifacts, building supplies and furnishings. These reclaimed materials are available for purchase as-is or you can customize anything you see into a beautiful piece of furniture or décor for your home.



Shadetree – It can be easy to miss this store on the main street as it is set back a bit and immersed in the shade of a beautiful tree (hence the name). But this old home is filled with theme-filled rooms of decor, accessories and gift ideas. The rooms go on-and-on so keep traveling back and up as your arms fill with wonderful finds.

Here are just a few other places worth popping into:

Home Hardware Furniture, Jacob’s Grill, Exclusive Elements,
Block 3 Brewing Company, The Village Silos, La Creme

Something to keep an eye on in the village are these two transforming properties which both have a rich history:


If you want delicious comfort food, to see some horse-drawn carriages and Mennonite heritage, amazing specialty shops and solid quality furnishings, St. Jacobs should be a must on your shopping list!

Entryway Must Haves

Entryways can be confusing spaces to design.  In the last couple weeks I have been helping many people who have been requesting assistance with their entryways. Whether it’s a front door, back door, mudroom or side door, these spaces are often neglected when considering functionality and décor.  Whatever door is your most used entrance, it needs to perform on a very functional and aesthetic level.

Plan3b Option 1 option3-e1511833122197.jpg

One of the most challenging elements of the entryway is the amount of walkways that usually flow through the space. Outside doors, connecting rooms, stairways and sometimes closets and power rooms all can connect to the main entryway. Considering traffic flow is important when designing how a space needs to function because you don’t want items blocking walkways. Having multiple walk-throughs also can make a space feel busy. Having a light or neutral colour scheme can assist with keeping things calm and making them feel bigger.

Sarah M. Dorsey Designs

When deciding what elements to add to an entryway, make sure you check off my 4 must-haves:

  1. Somewhere to set – when you or a guest walk into a house, you usually have something to set down immediately. Whether it’s a purse, wallet, drink or keys, a space to set things is very useful directly inside a main door.   A console or entry table is the most common choice for foyers. If you’re working with a mudroom sometimes a desk can work. A side or backdoor sometimes have limited space so a thin wall shelf may have to do the trick. If the space is small, don’t add a full piece of furniture, but rather mount something directly to the wall to keep the space from getting cluttered.
  2. Somewhere to hang – you will need somewhere to hang coats, jackets and bags in an entryway. A closet nearby is the best choice as things are easy to hang and kept out of sight. If there is none, consider a coat rack or wall hooks.
  3. Somewhere to gaze – a mirror has dual function in this space. Not only is it functional for allowing you to check your appearance before or upon entering a home, but it also can help enlarge and brighten a dark or busy space. There are many beautiful choices in a variety of sizes so don’t settle on a plain rectangle slab.
  4. Somewhere to sit – chairs and benches are best in long or large spaces. If your entryway is small or narrow, consider a stool or ottoman. If your entryway opens up onto a landing at a stairwell, you may have to forgo the extra furniture and consider the stair your seat.


Something else to consider in an entryway is floor coverings. Generally some sort of tile is best in an entryway to allow easy clean ups for wet or muddy shoes. But whether you have tile, wood or carpet, adding a doormat or rug by your door or main walkways can help soak up wet messes, allow for easy cleanups (pick a washable rug if you can) and allow for some visual interest by adding another texture, colour or pattern to your design.



Here are a few additional things to look at when remodeling or enhancing an entryway:

STAIRS– if you have an old oak stairway, consider painting things out to instantly update the space.

PRIVACY – if you have a lot of windows or a glass door, consider getting your glass frosted or switched to a textured glass to add some privacy.  When windows are present, select coverings if you like.  If you live in a rural location, you might not even need to consider this.

DOORS – sometimes a white interior-side of an outside door can seem blah or prone to dirt and smudges. Consider adding a pop of colour to your space by painting the door. Upgrading your door to a solid wood choice may also serve best in your space.

ART/PHOTOS – you want the first thing you see when you come into your home to be beautiful and welcoming. Sometimes family portraits or beautiful art can be a great choice to enhance a space especially if you have a lot of wall space. Size and groupings should be considered for the size of your space.

WALL-COVERINGS– if you have a massive foyer, consider adding moulding or use paint in a darker colour to enhance the space. Sometimes wallpaper can be a great choice for entryways too. Depending on your style, paneling, shiplap or rails could also be considered.

LIGHTING – ensure your space has adequate lighting, especially for a dark or small space.  This is also a great way to add some interest or update an outdated room. For tall spaces pick an appropriate sized chandelier.   Semi-flush or flushed light fixtures come in a variety of styles for smaller spaces. Wall sconces or recessed lighting can also be considered depending on the needs and size of your space.  Entryways are a great space to take a risk with lighting so try something unexpected and stunning!



To create the most welcoming and functional entrance, be sure to consider adding the 4 must-have elements to any entryway. Main entryways need to function at the highest level for smooth mornings, happy returns and welcoming all guests. Be sure your entryway has been considered or spruce it up using some of the tips above.

Want specific advice for your entryway?  Message me here!

*All photo credits – Pinterest (excluding drawings)


Sourcing Inspiration

The first step to create a great space is to figure out what your needs are and then to look for inspiration.  Finding inspiration for a design plan can be easier than you expect. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a minute to look around, see what speaks to you or even work with what pieces you already have. Here are my top 13 places to find décor inspiration when I’m tackling a project:

The Vic – Picton, ON
  1. Restaurants –I love food. I love to go out to eat (no cooking or cleaning… sign me up!) and I especially love trying new restaurants. Not only can it open your taste buds up to new flavours or combinations but it also can open your mind to different design ideas. Restaurants are also prime examples of showcasing durability and functionality of spaces since so many people engage there daily. Some top things I’ve found inspirational in restaurants are: lighting, material combinations, feature walls, tablescapes and mood enhancers.


  2. Magazines –The obvious inspiration choice would be home magazines (my favourite is Canadian House & Home), but anything from fashion, travel, crafting and fitness can provide information on new products, colour pallets or spark inspiration for object placement.

    Piper & Oak – Paris, ON
  3. Décor Stores –I love visiting independent décor and gift shops. Obviously I love supporting local but even when I travel I love checking out what my destination has to offer in terms of shops. Not only can you find beautiful throw pillows, décor objects and works of art, but seeing how someone else with a design eye layers objects, places items together or combines patterns can be refreshing and inspiring. I dare you to check one out today and not be inspired in someway.  Check out my Tour This Town page (New Hamburg or Paris) to explore some new shops.

    Oil paint on canvas
  4. Art –The perfect art piece has the ability to suddenly inspire the style for a whole room.  Without even pulling a piece into a room, you can also just use the colour pallet as inspiration. Visit a bookstore and flip through some art books or check out famous paintings online.  If you’re in the mood visit a local gallery or craft show to purchase a piece for your space.

    Huron Park – Kitchener, ON
  5. Nature –Nature is God’s original palette. See what colours are together in a wild flowerbed. Check out the combination of textures on a forest floor. One of the most important ways to have nature inspire your design is to purposely pay consideration to the nature that you can either view from the space you are designing or what is surrounding. Let the colour palette outside lend itself or directly contrast what you are doing inside.

  6. Friends Houses –Have a friend who’s got an eye for style? Visit their house (you may have to bring some wine). Ask them what colours are on their walls. Ask them where they got pieces. Maybe they’re crafty (like our friends Jason & Monika who created the stunning pieces above for their stairwell).  Pull inspiration from the people you enjoy spending time with.

    The Art of Entertaining: Relais & Chateaux
  7. Entertaining/cookbooks –Whether you have a stack of books on your coffee table or are browsing books at the local bookstore, entertaining and cookbooks offer wonderful full-page colour glossy pictures of beautiful tables, dinning spaces and dinnerware. Let that be a starting point for you if you’re stuck. (Warning this idea may lead to an expanding waistline if you find a cookbook with amazing recipes too!)

    Pinterest image – credit – Cherishedbliss.com
  8. Pinterest –A classic choice! Enough said.

    What patterns/colours are you drawn to?
  9. Clothing or fabric –If you want a clue on what style you are naturally drawn to, check out your closet. What fabrics or patterns are popular? Are you more drawn to neutral choices or bold patterns? Do you have a diverse selection or is your closet full of jeans and t’s? You’ll quickly be able to tell if you’re up for a more relaxed décor style or if you’d like something with some more finesse. Look for patterns and colours you naturally are drawn to and use that as a starting point for your space.

    Drake Devonshire, Prince Edward County- Check out the original architectural features highlighted through exterior colour choices
  10. Bones/features in your home –If you will be working with what you’ve got going on with your home, then consider it instead of ignoring it. Maybe you have fantastic trim work or windows that are worth a second look. You’ll want to make choices that highlight these features with colour, coverings and placement of objects. Likewise, if there are features you don’t particularly like but will be staying in place, make considerations to minimize their presence by covering them up or drawing the eye away from them. Ugly flooring – no problem.  Pick some large area rugs to help cover them. Old windows you’re not able to replace yet – no problem.  Hang a curtain rod high and wide on the window to let drapes fully cover the window frame.

    Family heirloom antique dresser
  11. Objects of meaning -What is your favourite piece in your home? Have a favourite heirloom piece of furniture or personal painting? Maybe there’s a quilt that just makes you relax by looking at it. Whatever pieces you have that you can’t live without, must fit into your new styling. Even if it’s an old farmhouse table that’s been in your family for generations, it doesn’t mean you must follow a distinctly farmhouse style guide. Make sure whatever you are most drawn to is placed into consideration for your new plan.

    Instagram – photo credit _rafterhouse
  12. Instagram of designers/celebrities –Follow a variety of people. It’s ok if someone you enjoy doesn’t like the same style as you. Perhaps they will lead you to a source for somewhere you’ve never shopped before. Maybe they’ll post something that combines colours you’ve never considered putting together before. Instagram is great for visual inspiration and product sourcing.

    Drake Devonshire Hotel
  13. Travel –Hotels, restaurants, local shops and sites can all provide inspiration in unexpected ways. Pay attention on your next trip to textiles, furniture arrangements or colour palettes. Don’t travel much – no problem.  Take a trip through a travel book or local ethnic restaurant. Plan a trip online (without booking) to check out hotels, restaurants and attractions at any destination around the world. Be inspired by how other communities and cultures furnish and decorate their spaces.


I hope you were inspired by some of the ways I am inspired.  Have other things that inspired your spaces?  I want to know what inspires you and your home design.  Please add a comment below.