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Big Style, Small Spaces

Big Style, Small Spaces: Enjoy the Winter

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Big Style, Small Spaces: Enjoy the Winter

After the holidays have passed, when winter settles in and the snow piles up around the windows, it’s tempting to put on pajamas, watch old movies and snuggle with the family. After all, the holiday rush is over, and you don’t really have to go outside.

That’s exactly when I conjure up images of my childhood. When you’re young, the winter doesn’t bother you – in fact it is an invitation to get outside and make snowmen, have snowball fights, skate and ski. It’s just what you did, you didn’t think about it twice, because it was always great fun.

As we get older, though, winter isn’t quite so welcome, especially the remembrance of cold, wet feet and hands. But it’s so important to keep moving, even though you can get lulled into inaction at this time of year. Not moving can lead to unwelcome weight gain – definitely something I want to avoid. But it’s really important to have a plan every day. I like to go for a walk in the morning, take the dog and get out and get moving, even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes. And Lucy loves it, too.

One of the things I like about having a dog, besides totally loving my Lucy, is it actually keeps me active, forces me outside to walk and connect with the other dog lovers in my neighbourhood. You don’t want to hibernate no matter what age you are – and if you don’t have a dog, hiking is a great option.

My husband, John, develops and builds townhomes. He always carefully picks the locations to be close to established downtown areas and close to greenspace. When you’re close to nature, get out there for a hike or cross-country skiing – the city of Toronto is very good at maintaining the trails and pathways, keeping them clear of snow so it’s easier to walk, and, weather permitting, you can strike out off the main path on your skis.

But it’s important to dress properly. Layers are the key — a t-shirt, a sweater and then the jacket. I prefer to wear the new leisure kind of winter pants, which are kind of between a sweat and a dressier pant. I love my jeans and they’re great but they don’t keep me warm like these do. It used to be about the bundling up but now with these technical fabrics you don’t have to feel like the Michelin Man. And they’re available in just about any good sport goods store.

As for an overcoat, if you’re out walking get something that reaches your knees, preferably down filled, and if you’re being more active — say on cross-country skis — get a nice parka that at least covers your behind. Wear a toque, and if you’re in really rough cold weather, like Calgary, go for a full balaclava to cover your face, which also protects your delicate facial skin. I look a bit strange, but at least I’m warm.

The biggest problem I encounter is the fingertips – I usually wear mitts when walking the dog because it lets me move my fingers and keep them warm. When driving I wear gloves, but the secret I’ve found to warm fingers is mitts with glove liners. Same goes for hiking boots – there are good insoles out there to add to your boots, designed for winter to keep moisture and cold out. They also work in skates.

When buying boots for outdoor activities, get ones with good treads to keep from slipping on slippery sidewalks. Public paths you don’t have to worry about because the city keeps them cleared. And if you live in a Dunpar community, like I do, the snow removal comes with your purchase.

Another challenge with winter is where to store your gear. What I like about my home is that you walk through from the garage right into the lower level. While the closet won’t stow all your skis and skates and so on, there’s good space to keep your coats, mitts, hats and scarves. But the garage is a goldmine – it’s the perfect place to install built-in storage, or freestanding units, like Ikea sells. It’s a good investment to get built-ins to store winter gear for easy access, or summer furniture. You can hang your bike from the ceiling and your skis and poles on the wall. You come in from downstairs and there’s some room to hang your coat and leave the boots outside.

Let’s face it — winter is here, so let’s embrace all it has to offer.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.



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Big Style, Small Spaces: The Perfect Dinner Party

Big Style, Small Spaces: The Perfect Dinner Party

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Big Style, Small Spaces: The Perfect Dinner Party

Keep It Simple!

Whatever the season – summer’s ease or fall’s cocooning – my rules for hosting the perfect dinner party are always the same. Keep it simple.

First the decor. I don’t bump up the decoration for an autumn dinner party – I will have already changed to a more seasonal look with deeper colours, like oranges and reds, through cushions and throws. These serve double duty, since at this time of year, even with the heat on, one of your guests is likely going to feel the chill, so you can pass these around to warm up. I’ll also switch out my summer sisal carpets for thicker wool ones.

I might add some extra dried grasses, or fresh flowers to a tall glass vase for the kitchen island or centrepiece for the table.

Personally, I don’t use a dining room for entertaining – I like having friends around me while I cook. Even when I’m having a couple of girlfriends over for tea or a glass of wine, we still sit at the island. Otherwise, we’ll pull up club chairs to have a really good gab but in the kitchen area.

Dinner parties I do right in the kitchen and we eat at the kitchen table. Before dinner, everyone mills around the island having drinks and appetizers, which I also keep simple.

For big festive meals – Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. – I like sit-down dinners. But even when there are lots of people, or maybe even more when there are casts of thousands, I like to keep it simple. And I don’t ask so many people I can’t talk to them, so at most 12 to 14 people.

You have to put on a great playlist. I subscribe to Apple Music, Spotify and Google Music and have a lot of playlist favourites from soul to jazz. My dad introduced me to jazz and I developed a love for Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billy Holiday, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane and Count Basie, among others. I developed a taste for soul as well, everything from Al Green to Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Curtis Mayfield – the list is pretty endless. I’ve more lately come to chill mixes with bands such as Jamiroquai, Zero 7 and Morcheeba, a sound that mixes soul and jazz and which is great for a Sunday afternoon.

When it comes to the menu itself, I go for simple every time. But simple in my books doesn’t mean potluck. Call me a control freak, but I like to cook, and I have something specific in mind and not everyone is a great cook. I also like to keep the menu simple and prefer it uncluttered with a bunch of different dishes.

During the week, meals are super simple, but weekends I’ll make something more complex, like an osso bucco or a rich marinara pasta sauce, or a big beautiful chicken curry, all dishes that take time to build and layer. Even better is making the dish a day or two ahead so the flavours really set. Just keep the dish in the fridge and then heat it up.

When it’s a holiday, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, I have more people for dinner, but rather than turkey, I’ll roast two capons (never with stuffing inside, only on the side). With that, I’ll make smashed potatoes — parboil, shake in the pot so they break up, put them in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and cook at 350F until they’re crispy.

Instead of potatoes, I might do an easy pasta with pesto and a bit of cream, or an eggplant parmesan. I will often do a vegetable stir fry to avoid having them overdone, so a nice mix of snow peas, asparagus, carrots, broccoli and squash works well.

In the fall and winter, when you have warm and nourishing mains like these, it’s best to pair with a beautiful fresh salad or two. Sometimes all it takes is fresh local arugula with dressing, or salad greens with sliced purple onions, almond slivers and a vinaigrette dressing. If that comes after dinner, serve with a wheel of cheese and beautiful crusty bread. Then I like to finish with a very light dessert, like gelato or fresh fruit salad.

Whatever you do, no going cheap on anything. A million elaborate dishes won’t impress your friends as much as good quality, delicious ingredients served simply. That includes wine; there are lots of good wines for around $20 but you do not get a great wine for $10. I don’t care how well you shop, it’s just not possible.

Not everyone knows wine, or which is a good one to bring. Rather than offend a friend by saying they brought a terrible bottle of wine, I now tell guests what I’m making for dinner and what wine I would like them to bring, right down to the name, year and price. It’s like wine training for your friends, and actually they’re happy with that.

A few brief tips on hosting:

  • If you’re hosting a large party, select people who know each other, or at least people you think will get along.
  • Ask about allergies.
  • Cook something you’ve experimented with already.
  • Clean as you go. There’s less mess at the end and you also won’t have dirty dishes staring you in the face during dinner.
  • Keep the menu simple and avoid cooking items you have to constantly watch – you’re supposed to be a guest at the party, too.
  • Prep as much as possible ahead of time.
  • Delegate work to guest, not just in prep but in clean up.
  • Keep your cool. If you’re stressed and anxious, everyone else will be too.
  • Music – make up some playlists specifically for dinner parties.
  • Lower the lights and light the candles.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.



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Big Style, Small Spaces: Get Ready for Fall

Big Style, Small Spaces: Get Ready for Fall

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Big Style, Small Spaces: Get Ready for Fall

With fall just arriving, you’ll be transitioning from outside to inside and your interior needs a little transitioning, too.

Bring in warmth and brightness by changing pillows, drapes, throws and even rugs. You want to make your home warm and welcoming, so transition from summer’s cool bright colours to the deeper more intense colours of fall. Plump up the textural palette as well with luscious mohair, wool or cashmerelike fabrics. Increase light and sparkle with mirrors.

Bring the outdoors in with bouquets of fresh flowers, or by gathering dried ferns, grasses or leaves still on the branch and arrange in a tall glass vase for the hall table or in a big bowl on the dining room table.

Before putting away summer things – wardrobe or decor – conduct an edit. Deciding now what you’ll use next year will free up valuable storage space. It’s also a good time to declutter the pantry of old spices and packaged foods with overdue best before dates.

With children back in school, you’ll also want to make your home more functional so that weekdays are free moving rather than frustrating. Get their rooms ready and top up supplies. With each age and stage, needs change and instead of homework at the kitchen table you may have to set up a desk in their room with good lighting and organized storage. The best role for a parent is set things up so they can become independent, and more responsible.

In the hallway, install enough hooks for hanging coats and school bags and place a bench underneath. You’ll need trays to hold wet, dirty boots that will start to collect soon enough.

Start cooking. Get out the jam and chutney recipes, can those tomatoes and peaches.

When it comes to signing up for fall activities, however, be careful how much you take on. September and October always feels like the start of a new year and the temptation is to overdo the intentions. By Christmas you’re dead on your feet. Instead, consult your bucket list and see what is most important for you and your children — in other words, prioritize.

Some things can’t be avoided, though, like the backyard and you don’t want to wait until the first snow falls. Here’s my fall checklist for the outdoors:

  • Hose down furniture, retractable awnings and cushions, letting them dry completely before storing.
  • Wrap planters and if they’re terracotta, remove the soil and turn them over to avoid cracking from rain and snow.
  • Store chairs, table and umbrellas if you have space and, if not, then wrap them to protect from elements.
  • Thoroughly clean the barbecue.
  • Mulch the garden and plant bulbs.
  • Clean the eaves and downspouts or hire a pro to do it. I don’t feel comfortable hanging off a ladder to clean my own eaves, and the handy guys who do it are very reasonably priced.
  • Seal around doors and windows with caulking or weather stripping, dryer and bathroom exhaust fans and any pipes or vents that exhaust to the outside.
  • Check the roof for damaged shingles to replace.
  • Shut off and drain outdoor faucets.
  • Change furnace filters.
  • Hire a professional to check and clean the fireplace and to check the attic for water damage or nesting animals.
  • Remove window AC units and store. If you have a whole-home AC, partially cover the unit – covering to the ground traps in moisture.
  • Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Empty rain barrels.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.



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Big Style, Small Space: Ten Ways to Prolong Summer

Big Style, Small Space: Ten Ways to Prolong Summer

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Big Style, Small Space: Ten Ways to Prolong Summer

by Lisa Rogers

We Canadians love our fall and winter, but we look forward to our summers even more. Especially when they’re all too brief and fleeting. But I have ways – 10 of them in fact — of pushing summer well into fall. And here they are:

ONE

Extend your time outdoors. Hang a hammock (as an added bonus, they’ll be on sale by now) and schedule time to enjoy it. Keep a stack of summer type design books nearby, such as India Hicks Island Style, The Big Book of the Hamptons, Hinckley Yachts or Creole World.

Add a fire pit to your deck, fill a basket with throws, candles and mosquito repellent and stow just inside the back door. You can still find tall tropical plants with glossy leaves and brilliant coloured flowers, so put a couple out on the deck.

TWO

Bring the outdoors in. Snip fern branches or hosta leaves from the garden and place in vases. If the weather turns chilly, bring those lush tropical trees inside. The ones with flowers are showy, but fig, banana and rubber trees are just as nice. If for some reason you can’t have real plants inside – your cats chew them to shreds for example – then go dried. Long grasses in a large vase, whether on the floor or the side table, look beautiful.

Brighten up the bath with aqua and white Turkish towels, hang a thick white cotton shower curtain and fresh new summery bathmats. I’m a huge fan of yellow, it’s vibrant and warm like the sun and mixes beautifully with white, straw, black and warm wood tones – think yellow-and-white striped towels or a bright yellow and white tablecloth.

Pull out accessories in summery colours, and put away the darker ones until later. Ditto for cushions and throws – those in bright blues, greens, pinks, yellows and corals will have you feeling summery all through the fall.

Keep your blinds open to maximize natural light – only in the hottest part of the day should you close or lower the blinds.

THREE

Permanently remind yourself of vacations with your travel photos – of the white sand beach you visited last year, the Tuscan countryside with grape-laden vineyards, or the crashing surf in Santa Monica. Have them blown up and hang with or without frames. Fill a large glass jar with seashells – better yet, fill several large jars with them (and occasionally hold them to your ear to hear the ocean.)

FOUR

Smells are routed through your olfactory bulb, which is the part of the brain that analyzes smells and is closely connected to the memory and emotion parts of the brain. Which is why smell is such a powerful reminder so fill your home with the summery smells of fruit, or Lampe Bergere’s scented oils and herbs in the kitchen window.

FIVE

In summer, I’m a huge fan of the put-it-out and forget-about-it mode of decorating. (Let’s face it – that about sums up my year-round approach.) White cotton and natural materials like seagrass and raffia are visual cues to me of summer. So I love white slipcovers, seagrass carpets on bare floors, raffia baskets, wood blinds, white denim or cotton duck curtains (reminds me of a sailboat) and wicker chairs. No law says these have to be put away in September. In fact, the longer you keep them out, the more summery your home will feel.

SIX

Food, glorious food! Cook like you’re in the middle of summer: Tuscan and Greek (gazpacho, roasted peppers, barbecued whole chicken, shish kebab), Southern soul food (black-eyed peas and creole shrimp), or Southwest TexMex (margaritas and chili rellenos).

SEVEN

Schedule weekly cleaning and home maintenance tasks according to the weather forecast. You should only do housework, organize closets for back to school, weed the garden or scrub the kitchen on rainy days. When the weather is beautiful, schedule your own day around it by meeting a friend for lunch or coffee outside, rent a cottage for a week or weekend in September and eat every dinner al fresco.

EIGHT

Host a canning party with friends. Late summer is when you can pick up bushel baskets of peaches, tomatoes, cukes and rhubarb. Each person should bring a recipe, mason jars and the fruit or vegetable of choice. You provide back-up supplies of mason jars and lids, pectin and sugar.

NINE

It’s still possible to have a beach day well into October if you prepare properly. Either make a picnic, or take the portable gas or coal stove along with hamburgers or slow-cooked ribs to put on the BBQ. As long as you have sweaters, fleece throws and blankets for late afternoon or evening chill, you will be comfortable. Even if the water is too cold to swim, you can still put your toes in, build a sand castle, or go for a long leisurely walk along the shore.

TEN

Starting planning ahead for next summer, booking things like theatre or outdoor concerts early so you can’t opt out. Make a note to start getting your home summer ready by March so that you’re not wasting precious outdoor time with contractors and maintenance people.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.



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Big Style, Small Space: It's Summer: Enjoy the Outdoors

Big Style, Small Space: It’s Summer: Enjoy the Outdoors

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Big Style, Small Space: It’s Summer: Enjoy the Outdoors

With summer finally here, it’s no surprise that Canadians are dying to get into the backyard, which is why we’re spending more on making that small patch of real estate into a heavenly oasis. Long gone are the white plastic chairs circling like wagons around a Plexiglas table, and in their place are fire pits and heaters, deep-seated sectional sofas, teak dining tables and chairs, and lights, lots of lights.

All of this exponentially increases the time you spend outdoors listening to the birds, or the burble of a water feature, watching the sun set, and connecting with friends and family.

Even if you don’t really have a backyard, you can create the same experience on a deck, balcony or terrace. And furniture manufacturers are eager to provide all your needs for making that possible.

Before you buy anything, though, figure out how you will use the deck. Is it where you’ll go read, lie in the sun, have friends over for dinner? If you don’t like to eat outside and you prefer to sit out and read or lie in the sun, invest more heavily in living room-style furnishings rather than a dining table.

The outdoor furnishings of today are higher quality for better looks and durability. The frames last longer, the water-resistant fabric retains its shape and the cushion foam stays comfortable.

There’s also greater choice in materials and styles. In the wood family, there’s teak, ipe or treated pine, but you can also get metal mixed with wood, or solid aluminum or stainless, or iron for a clean contemporary look. Of these, teak and aluminum last the longest.

Loose flooring tiles in teak alternative wood are easy to install and creates an immediate room setting, especially on the concrete of a condo balcony. Add a rug to pull the look together – there are plenty of outdoor carpets to choose from.

And when it comes time to place the furniture, think about where your eye will rest when you sit in a particular spot. If the view isn’t great, reorient the sightlines by moving the furniture around.

THE OUTDOOR LIVING ROOM

Comfort is king when it comes to furniture and that includes being waterproof — nothing worse than sitting down in a chair that oozes moisture from the most recent thunderstorm.

Privacy is an issue in a condo or a townhome but a row of boxwoods or ornamental grasses in matching containers along the edges of your deck will fix that. If you already have privacy lattice or bamboo screening up, create an instant retreat by adding some wallmounted terra cotta planters.

A hammock is a worthwhile investment for the afternoon naps or evenings spent gazing at the stars. Add bright colourful pillows and surround the area with container plants and you have a vacation destination right on your deck.

For even more visual interest, add artwork to the deck walls — wrought iron grills, architectural salvage, window frames (with or without mirrored glass).

Anything that adds the sound of water is welcome in the backyard, like a fountain that’s powered by a recirculating pump.

INSTALL MOOD LIGHTING

Decks aren’t just for daytime. Add lights around your deck to set the mood. Small white lights are magical when strung from the house to a tree. Add candles around the edges of your deck or patio – flameless ones are safer. An ethanol fire pit not only creates mood but keeps feet warm, and the best thing is they can be moved around.

Music adds to the ambience – just not so loud your guests can’t hear each other or that the neighbours will complain.

DINING AL FRESCO

When shopping for a table, look at the expandable ones. Materials range from classic wrought iron to teak (both pretty pricey) to wood and metal – all great looking but distinctly different in style.

Chairs should complement the table, though they don’t have to match exactly, and if your deck is on the small side, get the stackable kind.

An umbrella will shade the table from sun and rain but if there’s enough space check out a pergola. It works as a nice architectural feature, shade for a living area — especially fitted with a retractable canopy system — and can be screened in against bugs.

PLANTING/CONTAINER GARDENING

The deck is a perfect place to let your inner container gardener go wild. They come in all shapes and sizes – the bigger ones you can put on rolling carts to move. But you can grow anything out there as long as you have the right light and soil — tomatoes, herbs, colourful flowers.

If you live in a condo tower, what you can plant depends a lot on what floor you’re on. Wind affects what you plant especially because it drops the temperature significantly, removes moisture and brings in a lot of dust. Some plants are better than others at standing up to these elements, like evergreen foliage plants, euonymus and ornamental grasses.

Once your outdoor space is set, you’re not going to want to leave. You’ll already be enjoying the weekend while everyone else is fighting traffic to the cottage.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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Active Home: Stretch Out The Seasons

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Active Home: Stretch Out The Seasons

Photography, courtesy of Lisa Rogers

Trying to extend outdoor time in our seasonal climate, and squeeze as much living as possible out of our backyards, has become a national preoccupation. With the addition of fire pits, heaters, deep-seated sectional sofas, dining areas and lots of lights, it’s easy to accomplish.

ELEMENTAL FURNISHINGS

The quality of outdoor furniture has come a long way. There are far more durable and water-resistant options available, but good quality does cost more.

When it comes to frames, there are all-wood ones, like teak, ipe (an exotic hardwood) or treated pine, as well as ones that are a wood/metal mix that include solid aluminum, stainless or iron. Hardy resin/wickers inject a weathered Hamptons’ look.

Whatever style you choose, stick to a minimal colour scheme that complements your home. Turquoise and lime suggest a seashore theme, while green and red are pure Muskoka, and black and tan are fashionably uptown.

Consider your sight-lines when positioning furniture. When sitting, make sure your eyes rest on a pleasing view. If not, reconfigure.

If you don’t have a deck, balcony sized furniture can be arranged to create a similar experience. If you’re short on space, consider an expandable table and stackable chairs. Storing cushions and dining essentials can be a challenge, so incorporate a waterproof bench or a cubby by the back door. Keep extra throws on hand for chilly evenings.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS

Even the smallest water feature can add a soothing ambiance to an outdoor space. There’s nothing like flickering flames from an outdoor fire and candles. Depending upon your space, flameless candles may prove to be a safe alternative, or string small white lights through a tree or along a fence. Ethanol fire pits are a great option, but check first with your condo board.

Long gone are the days when you had to put a speaker in the window from your massive stereo system. Playing music outdoors is easy, and it sounds great. Tune into your favourite playlist through your computer, phone or Sonos speakers, but ensure that the neighbours don’t have to listen too.

CLANDESTINE MEASURES

Typically, an outdoor space is more private if you’re living in a low rise home, than a townhome or condo. Imaginative fixes to counter balance this concern include the installation of lattice or bamboo screening. Also, you can place boxwoods or ornamental grasses in tall, matching containers along the edge of your deck – they not only create privacy, but augment your deck-scape.

Umbrellas come in all shapes and sizes, and can be positioned to shade targeted areas. If space isn’t a concern, consider a a pergola. Not only is it an attractive architectural feature, but it can be fitted with a retractable canopy system and screened in to keep out pesky pests.

Take the time to smell the roses, listen to the birds and watch the sun set every evening by increasing the time that you spend outdoors this summer – and fall.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes, and has appeared on Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV, Flare TV and The Shopping Channel. Lisa is a regular guest consultant on City’s Cityline.

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Big Style, Small Space: The Joy of Dining Al Fresco

Big Style, Small Space: The Joy of Dining Al Fresco

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Big Style, Small Space: The Joy of Dining Al Fresco

In Italy, dining al fresco is the rule rather than the exception, and it’s a tradition my husband and I embrace especially living in a townhome. We may not have a backyard, but we have a gorgeous low-maintenance deck and it’s perfect for entertaining outside.

The key to al fresco is simplicity, and quality — a simple menu with the best ingredients. I like to get fresh organic chickens, season them with lemon, rosemary, kosher salt and pepper, and put them on the barbecue rotisserie. Serve them up with grilled zucchini or Chinese eggplant and a bowl of pasta with homemade pesto, cherry tomatoes and lightly steamed peas. Since tomatoes are so fresh right now, I make up a salad of sliced field tomatoes, arugula, and burrata cheese.

Antipasto is also good in summer because it can be made ahead and keeps well outside the fridge – spicy salami, buffalo mozzarella with basil and balsamic, baguettes with dips, marinated olives, pecans toasted with maple syrup and cayenne, grilled radicchio drizzled with olive oil, balsamic and served with figs and gorgonzola.

Instead of dessert, I like to put out a bowl of fresh fruit — cherries, watermelon, grapes, peaches — and serve a big chunk of parmesan alongside. But if the farmers’ market has fresh fruit pies I’ll warm one up and serve it with crème fraiche.

DRINKS

I like the crisp bite of cool French rosé on a summer’s day but with dinner opt for more robust reds and nicely layered whites – French chardonnays especially, and Italian merlot/sangiovese blends.

However, I can still be enticed with a margarita – lots of lime, Cointreau, gold tequila, hold the salt – and I can imagine summer will go on forever.

Be sure to set out jugs of water, too. Packed with savory, tarragon, mint, cucumber, pear, mango, watermelon and ice it’s like the spa.

DISHES

Say no to plastic. It’s not so difficult to bring out china dishes, stainless or silver cutlery and stemless wine glasses. Unless you’ve got one of the new melamine lines – beautiful and virtually indestructible.

DECOR

For large groups, you may need to pull a folding table and extra chairs from storage and cover with bright vintage tablecloths. Because summer nights can still get cool we have the firepit ready to go and I keep a basket of cotton throws handy to put over bare shoulders. A tent or gazebo set up on the deck is also effective at cutting cool breezes and protecting guests from rain.

Candles add instant atmosphere to any table, as do small lights strung through the trees and around railings. Don’t forget music – best if you have a stereo system hooked up outside, but if not grab the boom box and your playlist. And keep cans of bug repellent on hand.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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Big Style, Small Space: Spring is in the Air

Big Style, Small Space: Spring is in the Air

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Big Style, Small Space: Spring is in the Air

by Lisa Rogers

And that means it’s time to wash away the winter doldrums

The arrival of spring means longer warmer days and an urge to head outdoors. But when the sun starts to pour in your house, it also shows how much housekeeping we let slide over the winter as we cocooned against the cold. There’s a reason it’s called spring cleaning, and for me that’s not only the time to deep clean but also the time to shed any excess. This is especially true if you’re getting ready to sell your home in preparation to downsize.

I love spring cleaning and approach it in a very organized way with three foolproof steps – purging, fixing and deep clean. When it’s all done, I invite friends over for dinner on the deck with good wine and music wafting out of open windows.

FIRST THE PURGE

We’ve talked on Cityline about the best ways to clean out your closets, and I’ve found it helps to enlist a friend, someone you will be totally honest about what still works for you — and what doesn’t — whether clothing or furniture. Another way is bartering with yourself; each thing you keep means getting rid of something else, which forces you to weigh the intrinsic value of each item. Purging is best done all at once, but if time is limited, do it in stages, room by room. I’ve found it works to remove everything from a room, except essentials (e.g. bed, dresser, night tables) then reintroduce items. It’s much harder when downsizing from the family home because the accumulation of family items comes with so many memories. That’s where digital photography comes in. Take a picture of most of the items, keep a few things and get rid of the rest. Give your children the pick of whatever they want, just don’t expect them to take it all.

Get rid of old tools, duplicate pots and pans, projects you’ve been meaning to get to but never will, and the paint cans stacked in the furnace room. Some of the big box stores, like Rona, recycle leftover paint. For the rest, box it up and either donate to the thrift store or leave it at the curb with a free sign on it.

When it comes to larger items like furniture it depends on whether you’ve already purchased a new home. If so, use the floorplan to decide which existing pieces will fit. Most will be too big and heavy but to make sure, hire a design consultant who can help visualize how things will look in the new space. Better furniture stores have designers on staff who can help but obviously they’re there to sell furniture and I don’t recommend buying anything new before you move or at least have a floorplan.

Sometimes you can get so caught up in purging – or worn out by the process — you’ll be tempted to call the consignment shop to come and take it all away. That’s when you need to step away because some things are worth keeping — like that French armoire, which is a timeless bridge between traditional and contemporary.

NOW THE DEFICIENCY LIST

Walk around the house and create a deficiency list of all the small stuff you’ve ignored, such as broken drawers, leaky faucets and loose drawer pulls. Note where paint needs to be touched up on walls and cabinets, where you need to re-caulk around sinks, fixtures and mouldings, or re-grout between floor or wall tiles. Do hardwood floors need touching up, refinishing or replacing?

Check outdoors; cracks in the cement foundation or loose mortar between bricks will require hiring a professional. Determine if the trim needs painting or if there are missing roof shingles. Does the deck need re-staining or planks replaced? Are the stair rails secured?

FINALLY, A DEEP CLEAN

Start at the top of the house and work down, focusing on one room at a time. Get a basketful of great-smelling cleaning supplies (like Mrs. Meyers), slip on the earbuds and crank up the playlist.

Stow the winter stuff — clothes, bedding, throws. I use plastic bins that slide under the bed for most items, including bedlinens, but wool goes in a cedar-lined closet (which is easier and less expensive to create than you’d think).

Clean baseboards, picture frames, windowsills, blinds, cabinet pulls (Vim degreaser really works on these) and cabinets. Wash shower curtains, replace plastic liners and remove clutter from tables, counters, nightstands, coffee tables and dressers.

An area that really takes a beating during winter is the entryway, front and back. Dirt and salt is embedded in the floor, doorframe, screen door and walls. Don’t forget to vacuum and wash the rubber mat.

Odours, from pets, especially, are probably embedded in the carpets. Sprinkle baking soda, then vacuum. Adding a few drops of essential oil to the baking soda will give you an even fresher smell.

Furnace filters need to be replaced or washed.

Pick up baskets of flowers or potted plants for the porch or deck and also for inside. Freshen up the pillar candles, splurge on fresh flowers, stow front hall clutter in cloth baskets tucked under the bench or table.

Switch up your accessories – tablecloths and napkins, rugs, pillows, bedding, throws – storing the darker winter items for more colourful summertime ones.

DON’T FORGET THE OUTDOORS

Rake up dead leaves and branches – exposing the soil helps warm it up – and mulch the garden beds with a good quality black double ground. Mow the lawn, pull weeds and edge the flowerbeds.

Add compost that has been “cooking” over the winter; if you have none, check your municipality for compost giveaway days.

Clean the eaves to allow rainwater to flow freely out. Pressure wash bricks, windows, trim, doors, concrete, vinyl siding, driveway and deck floor. Clean the barbecue and check the gas tank. Polish the brass — mailbox, knocker, lamps. Clean out window boxes and urns, replenish the soil and plant with a pretty mix of bulbs and greenery and add baskets of potted spring flowers to the front porch.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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Big Style, Small Space: Squeezing More Out of Your Existing Space

Big Style, Small Space: Squeezing More Out of Your Existing Space

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Big Style, Small Space: Squeezing More Out of Your Existing Space

The lifestyle advantages of condos and townhomes can’t be denied – not only low maintenance but also great access to local amenities, green space and transit. But the downside, especially for condos, is the shrinking sizes and zero storage.

While good design has gone a long way toward overcoming a few of these challenges, not all condos and townhomes are well designed. So if you’re looking to purchase, you need to do your research– not just the quality of building construction and level of interior finishes, but also the way the suite has been laid out. Because end results are not always what they appear on paper. Bulkheads, vents and outlets often end up in places you didn’t expect, which makes for challenging furniture placement.

Condos now start at around 400 square feet, but I always recommend buying as much space as you can afford. A suite of 740 square feet will get you two small bedrooms with tiny closets and an open-concept principal area, which gives a feeling of space but there no walls to place storage against. Townhomes, because they don’t consume a big footprint but give three or four levels, offer more space, but you can still run into storage issues.

But there are ways to squeeze more space out of that condo.

For example, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t cook all that much, work you’re your builder’s design centre to see if you can customize the kitchen. Like opting for smaller appliances to make more room for cabinetry. If an island is included in the plan, see if it can be lowered so it doubles as a dining table with storage beneath. If there’s a sink in the island, see if it can be relocated to the wall to give you more counter and serving space. If a tall upper cabinet is available as an upgrade it’s well worth the extra expense for the storage they give. Some luxury condos and townhomes give you all of these as part of the standard package. It pays to check.

I also recommend hiring a designer or a space planner because they understand all three dimensions of space and can help draft a plan for squeezing out more storage options.

DECLUTTER AND PURGE

Reduce your furnishings list to only what is necessary: sofa, ottoman, dining table and four chairs. Ditto for the kitchen. You really don’t need a bread machine or a pasta maker in a condo – there’s a reason they’re for sale at every yard sale you stop by.

One of my good friends is a professional organizer and she swears by using an egg timer when you’re doing the purge because it forces you to make fast decisions as opposed to agonizing over every little thing.

You don’t want to strip it down so much that it’s bare and not homey, but just enough to create an unimpeded sightline. Check out the condo-sized furniture available from almost every store and manufacturer – pieces have been shaved down without losing their style or function. Some even come with storage tucked underneath.

CREATING STORAGE

There’s nothing like built-ins for using space well while creating storage. Their advantage is that they go right to the ceilings and recede into the overall floorplan. For example, built-ins on either side of the window and a window bench below with storage underneath blends seamlessly into a room, adds tons of storage and takes up very little space.

For the bedroom closet, I always recommend hiring a professional company to design the components. They really know how to use every inch, giving you maximum storage for how you actually use it. That doesn’t work so well with teenagers, however, or smaller children, because they like to be able to see their stuff. Believe it or not, visible belongings tend to be kept tidier because kids are actually proud of their rooms. I’d even consider removing closet doors and then outfitting the interior with cubbies, hanging shelves and vertical shoe racks.

Teens, however, tend to be disorganized – blame the prefrontal cortex – so if you can create a functional foundation everyone will be happy. Kids need desks, preferably with drawers, but also open shelves for books and display items. A bulletin board will keep schedules and notes in sight.

Now if you must go out and purchase storage items, here’s my list of the must-haves:

  • Filing cabinet for papers with clearly labeled categories.
  • Rolling carts for under the bed storage. A queen bed has 30 square feet of available space below decks and you can store a ton of things.
  • Drawer dividers for kitchen, bath, office and bedroom.
  • Stackable plastic drawer units inside the bathroom vanity for that jumble of toiletries.
  • Use vertical space: book or magazine racks attached to the wall keep clutter off the floor; stainless kitchen spice shelves can be used in the bath to corral the small bottles.
  • Closet systems, but figure out in advance what kind of storage you need. You’ll need more long hanging space for dresses and pants, but if you prefer separates, double up on the short hanging. Systems are available at big box stores, but consider hiring a professional because they’re challenging to install. The same goes for inside your kitchen cupboards – these systems really use every inch of space.
  • Floating shelves mounted on walls above sofas, or in the kitchen area, for storage and display that doesn’t close in the space.
Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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Big Style, Small Space

Big Style, Small Space: Look Down for the space your growing family needs

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Big Style, Small Space: Look Down for the space your growing family needs

by Lisa Rogers

With rising house prices — and the associated closing costs — more people are opting to stay put and create the space they need inside their current home.

One logical place to expand your living space is the basement. Think about it; it’s existing real estate with walls, a floor and plumbing. Even when you spend money to increase light and warmth, it’s still cheaper than an addition.

First step is to think about what the space will be used for. Media room? Home office? Craft centre? Playroom for young children? Teenager hangout? Bedroom for a nanny, in-law, teenager, or occasional guests? The answer will help determine what needs to be done and whether it justifies the extra expense.

Although basements are extra space, they come with challenges, such as low light, colder temperatures and the potential for dampness, so I recommend you get a professional to walk through with you to determine how to address those issues. The main things to cover are moisture, flooring, lighting, extra plumbing for a bathroom, whether the heating and cooling can be diverted into the space and various building code requirements.

In new homes, this isn’t an issue since most are built with basement use in mind. But the low-ceilinged basements in older homes were never meant to be inhabited and may require digging down for sufficient height. They also don’t have a lot of light, but if you’re going for a full-scale reno, it might be worthwhile to incorporate window wells, or to enlarge existing windows. Adding a walk-out to the backyard will dramatically increase the light. It’s also a good time to increase insulation and to improve access to the lower level; the typical narrow stairs are a real deterrent to heading down there.

If your basement is already finished (walls, plumbing, electrical) you’re probably just looking at an update and there is so much you can do, fairly easily, to make a dramatic transformation. The three areas that give the most bang for buck are flooring, lighting and storage.

FLOORING

As much as I love hardwood, it’s not always practical in a basement because of moisture potential. But there are some very good quality laminates and engineered hardwoods that are both durable and water-resistant. To keep things cozy, put down area carpets, which can be switched out when your style tastes change. You could install broadloom, which is warm but does run the risk of mildew because of the basement’s higher humidity level.

If you’re going for a complete renovation, consider installing a thin rubber membrane on top of the concrete slab which prevents moisture seeping in and acts like a barrier between the slab and sub floor.

The one splurge I highly recommend is radiant flooring – it warms the floor while reducing utility bills because warm feet make for warm bodies.

LIGHTING

Recessed lighting was made for basements – they don’t hang below the ceiling line and the light is bright, especially if you use LED bulbs. Just like your main floor, add floor or table lamps for a homey atmosphere and to increase task light for things like reading.

STORAGE

When you’re planning a renovation, use some budget for built-ins, especially if you are planning on an audio-visual media centre. A combination of closed and open storage works well in this area and makes it easy to put games and toys away.

For storing tools, paint and seasonal decorations or sporting equipment, steel or wood shelving systems work best. And if you can tuck them away out of sight of the main living space, so much the better. This is where the area under the stairs comes in handy.

Use stacking plastic bins for storage — just make sure to label the contents so you know where to find stuff when you need it.

If you have some space in the utility room, invest in shelving systems on wheels so you can move them out of the way when you need access to the furnace.

Cubbies are really flexible and easy to build. Line them up floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall. If you’re feeling really creative, attach to the wall in artistically arranged rows. They’re also ideal to fill those awkward spaces, like under the stairs.

Cupboard systems that go right to the ceiling work well and allow you to create zones with like things gathered together — all the holiday decorations, sports equipment, camping stuff and tools.

Some things, such as papers, books, photographs and family ephemera, are probably located elsewhere away from potential moisture.

UPDATING

If everything is in good shape and all you need is a cosmetic fix, here are a few ideas that will transform it into a destination, especially in winter months:

  • Go light, bright and bold with the paint. Even if it doesn’t go with the rest of your home’s style, this is where you can make a radical, fun departure. Deep tones will serve to cocoon the space, but given that most basements lack light, the better choice is to go very light with creams, greys or beiges.
  • Go to town with artwork — the bigger the better. Put down a kilim carpet on whatever floor you have installed — they look great layered on top of broadloom — and make the space homier.
  • Use mirrors to bounce around the light you have. Frame small windows with wide curtain rods and full drapery to give the illusion of a big expanse of glass.
  • Switch up your lights for LEDs, which are much brighter, and last longer. Update the bathroom accessories. Add new pillows to the sofa. Change the bedding in the guest room.
  • If you have outside access, like a walk-out, or you’re in a townhome where the lower level accommodates the garage as well, turn part of the area into a mudroom. A rolling clothes rack is ideal for holding coats and jackets.
Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes (DunparHomes.com).

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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