All posts by Dave Gray

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Dinner date

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Dinner date

There is no doubt that entertaining at home has changed. While dreams of wining and dining with a large group of family and friends maybe be put on pause for the time being, a thoughtfully planned, small group dining experience is a great way to socialize. You’ll want to keep everything on an intimate scale, staying within your bubble, with lots of room for everyone to feel comfortably apart.

REED EXTENDING DINING TABLE IN ANTIQUE UMBER. FROM $1,175. POTTERYBARN.CA

Here are some easy tips for creating a dining space that is entertaining ready!

Table talk

GLOBETROTTER MEDALLION TABLE RUNNER IN PATTERNED GREY. $35. SIMONS.CA

Whether you choose round, square or rectangular, your dining table should comfortably fit in your space, match your home’s aesthetic and stay on budget. It’s important to measure the table-to-wall distance so that diners can get out of their seats easily. The general rule of thumb is to leave 42 to 48 in. between the table and the walls.

We don’t often think of a tabletop as loud or quiet, but metal and glass tend to amplify noise, whereas wood tends to absorb noise for a more comfortable dining experience. And, the best way to keep guests at the table is with comfortable chairs, so it’s a good idea to test out seating options before you buy.

Layering isn’t just for fashion

To design an entertaining dining experience, think about layers when you’re choosing textiles for the table, the dishware, decor and lighting. The tabletop is the base of your canvas. If it’s beautiful, show it off and consider using chargers rather than placemats. Chargers tend to add a sense of formality, and they’re easier to clean up after use. Use your best dishware and serving ware. I’m a big fan of using the “good” dishes year-round. If you enjoy them on special occasions, why not treat yourself and bring them out more often.

SKOGSTA DINING TABLE IN ACACIA. $679. IKEA.CA

Add multiple lighting styles and brightness to your dining space to help set the mood. Lighting on dimmers is a great way to control lighting. If you have a centre chandelier over the table, keep the light low and add candles on the table. An easy decor trick is to put battery powered LED candles into a large glass vase or add in seasonal items or greenery for an extra special touch.

RASKOG UTILITY CART in grey-green. $39.99. ikea.ca

Tip: One of the most versatile and
stylish items in home decor is
the bar cart. A rolling bar cart
can be your busboy! It can
help you serve courses and
load up dishes when clearing
the table. Just roll the cart into
the kitchen for fast and easy
cleanup.

Enjoy entertaining

Especially during these unprecedented times, you want your guests to feel extra special and pampered. But, don’t get caught up in the formalities of being a host. Prepare as much as you can beforehand. Set your table the night before and pre-make any apps and desserts. That way, you ensure you truly enjoy what entertaining is all about – being together.

Designer, spokesperson, author and television personality, Jane Lockhart is one of Canada’s best-known experts in the world of design and colour. janelockhart.com

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What to Expect from a House Inspection in Canada

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What to Expect from a House Inspection in Canada

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A house inspection is a vital step to consider when shopping for a home, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. While it can be exciting to find a dream house, knowing what’s behind the walls can be quite tricky. That’s where a home inspection comes in.

A professional house inspector will examine the condition of the house you are about to buy to ensure it’s in great condition. They can identify flaws that buyers can’t, making them an ideal choice for potential homeowners. So, what do home inspectors look for?

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House Inspection Checklist for Homeowners in Canada

What does a house inspector do? When hired, a house inspector will examine both your home’s interior and exterior to see if they can find something wrong. They can also find things that could potentially pose significant risks in the future.

After examining the entire house, the home inspector will give you a detailed report covering all the findings. Some home inspectors will even give pictures and the potential timelines for certain projects, including systems or components not performing properly.

New build homes tend to have few or no flaws, simplifying the inspection process. So, buying such homes can help you save a lot on the house inspection cost. Thanks to home builders like Paradise Developments for building flawless structures in Aurora.

As inspectors examine a home you intend to buy, make sure you accompany them. It will also give the home inspector the chance to show you how various house items operate. You’ll also get to know the location of all the shut-off valves in the house.

The house inspection checklist below will ensure that the house is in good shape. Here are the things to check during a home inspection.

  • Attic: Ensure that there’s sufficient insulation, proper ventilation, and no signs of water damage
  • Basement: No signs of water damage, sufficient insulation, and solid foundation, floors, and walls
  • Bathrooms: Ensure adequate water flow and pressure in the fixtures and a functioning toilet, bathtub, sink, and shower.
  • Ceilings: Check if the ceiling is straight and level and ensure there are no cracks or stains
  • Electrical Systems: Ensure that there are working light fixtures, exhaust fans, smoke detectors, and circuit breakers
  • Exterior Surfaces: Ensure there are no damages on the sides, no peeling paint, and no loose or damaged stucco
  • Garage: Functional garage opener, no ceiling damages, up-to-code electrical systems, and a solid foundation
  • HVAC System: Ensure there are no air-conditioning and furnace malfunctions. Also, check if the water heaters are working efficiently.
  • Kitchen Appliances: Check if all the kitchen appliances are functional, including the dishwasher, stove, fridge, and microwave
  • Plumbing Systems: Ensure there are no damaged or leaking pipes and confirm if the sinks, faucets, toilets, bathtubs, and showers are functional
  • Roof: The roofs’ shingles shouldn’t be loose or damaged. Also, ensure that the gutters are functional and chimneys in good condition.
  • Windows: Ensure that the windows are well-aligned and the drip caps properly installed

A house inspection should occur after making an offer, but before you are fully and financially committed to buying the house. Make an offer to buy the home on the condition of an inspection. You must also ensure that all your bases are covered.

What Does a Home Inspector Look for?

A house inspection aims to give information on your home’s components and systems at the time of inspection. The visual inspection aims at finding anything that’s unsafe, or needs replacement, or requires repairs.

One of the things that most inspectors will check for during inspection is the state of the roof. They will inspect the roof coverings, accessible drainage, flashing, and skylights. However, they might not get to the rooftop but check the conditions from the ground.

The inspectors will also inspect a house’s foundation and framing for any deterioration. However, they can’t report anything happening behind a finished basement’s drywall. If any investigation might cause damages, the inspector will not inspect the section.

Generally, here are the other major things that a qualified house inspector can look at:

  • If the house plumbing and electrical connections require upgrades
  • How good the home’s ventilation and insulation are
  • If there are cracks or other damages on the roof and foundation
  • Structure’s overall integrity

What Happens Next after a House Inspection?

After inspecting the house, a home inspector will provide a detailed report highlighting all the defects that require repairs. Read the report carefully and inquire about anything you do not understand. Issues like unstable roofs and foundations can be very costly.

To avoid costly repairs, you can include a clause in the agreement that you will buy the house upon a successful inspection. If the home fails during the inspection, you can adjust the agreement to cover all the necessary repairs then purchase the house.

How to Choose a House Inspector

When hiring a house inspector, you want someone well-trained, knowledgeable, and experienced in doing home inspections. Look for inspectors who have completed inspection courses on building sciences, home construction, and defect-recognition.

You can hire a house inspector certified by the Canadian Association of Housing and Property Inspectors (CAHPI). They understand the various systems and components of a home. Besides, most of them have a background in construction engineering.

A professional house inspector should also understand all the standards of practice and codes and ethics. Here are the other things to consider when hiring a house inspector.

  • Certifications, qualifications, and training
  • Number of years inspecting houses in Canada
  • Related work experience in the industry
  • References and referrals from friends and family members
  • Knowledge of all the building codes

Final Words

Performing a house inspection will help you understand the kind of house you intend to buy. Consider hiring a house inspector who is qualified and has multiple positive reviews. Such an inspector must have inspected several homes in Canada for many years. Most importantly, their home inspection prices need to be affordable.

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Caladium care

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Caladium care

If you’re an avid shade gardener or just love colourful foliage like we do, give caladiums a try. Pot up a tuber or acquire a plant from a retailer. Either way, you can’t go wrong – and learn how to take care of them all year with our tips.

Caladiums

Mid-October, we dug up our dahlias, tuberous begonias and caladiums. As responsible gardeners who don’t like to see good tubers go to waste, we dig up the bunch and set them in a cool, dry place for the winter.

We are happy to report that our caladium collection is 99 per cent healthy. Despite our best efforts, we had to remove one soft tuber that had begun to rot. Checking on the collection every few weeks ensures any rotting tuber does not spread bacteria to the surrounding bulbs.

We absolutely love caladiums in the garden; they provide colour in the shade where few other plants do, but they do require a bit of extra work. Is it worth it? We have to say yes.

Spring care

In the spring, about six weeks before the last-frost date, pot up the healthy caladium roots to give them an early start. Keeping the knobby (rounded) side up, place them in a two- to five cm pot in a damp mixture of peat and container soil. It is imperative that the soil stay moist, dark and warm (23 to 26 C) until new growth begins. Provide indirect light as soon as you see a shoot, and move outdoors when the danger of frost has passed in May.

As you may have guessed, caladiums prefer a warm, moist environment. They are very winterhardy, depending on the variety, but most prefer shade. Caladiums are not known for their blooms but rather their colourful foliage. Healthy caladiums may produce a bloom which is best removed to keep energy directed towards the tuber. Water frequently to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out below two centimetres deep. Fertilize once a month with diluted 20-20-20. Most caladium varieties will grow 30 to 50 cm tall.

Winter care

Dig up caladium tubers in late autumn for storage, before killing frost penetrates the soil. Brush off soil and allow to dry in a warm environment with good air circulation for a week or two. Cut back foliage after it dies naturally. Store between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius in loosely packed peat moss, keeping several centimetres of space between them.

Recommended varieties

(available at garden retailers midwinter)

CHERRY TART: Suited for pots and baskets; performs well in sunny and shady landscapes.

CRANBERRY STAR: Ideal for pots and as accent or border; best suited to shady areas.

FIRECRACKER RED: Excellent landscape performance; very tall, better suited to the landscape than the container.

GARDEN WHITE: Ideal for use in sunny landscapes or large containers; grows tall, resistant to sunburn.

CALADIUM UF340: Outstanding performance in landscape and container settings; does well in sunny or shady locations; also known as Angel Wing Dwarf White. Some varieties are more tolerant of the sun than others, including: Candidium, F. M. Joyner, Pink Beauty, Postman Joyner, Red Flash, Rose Bud, Sea Gull, Scarlet Beauty and White Queen.

Potential problems

TUBER ROT: Causes tuber to become soft. Select varieties least susceptible to the problem and store tubers properly. Do not store tubers in the refrigerator. A cool, dark area in your basement or cold cellar is best.

LEAF SPOT: Causes leaves to develop brown spots. Remove and destroy affected leaves.

LEAF BURN: Causes brown spots and leaf die-back. Don’t expose leaves to liquid fertilizer, keep plant well-hydrated and from receiving too direct, mid-day sun.

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada. He reaches more than two million Canadians with his gardening/environment messages every week. Ben Cullen is a professional gardener with a keen interest in food gardening and the environment. You can follow both Mark and Ben on Twitter (@MarkCullen4), Facebook (facebook.com/MarkCullenGardening) and Instagram (instagram.com/markcullengardening). Receive their free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com.

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4 Best Architecture Software Programs for 2020

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4 Best Architecture Software Programs for 2020

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Various professional construction workers and contractors desire more than just 2D and 3D modeling with their architecture software. Nowadays, architecture software has become a necessity in the modern, digital age that we live in today. The programs that we have access to these days enable us to easily draw, save, and print plans for our designs.

Some of the best architecture software and platforms integrate Building Information Modeling (BIM) to enable engineers and architects to collaborate on labor, design, planning, materials, and other technical aspects of a project. According to a recent report, BIM has prompted over 70% of the US architects to believe that it reduces several project error risks, while 56% of them suggest that their clients are far more satisfied upon integrating collaboration solutions in their BIM projects.

Fortunately, we have taken the liberty of reviewing several of the best architecture computer programs and platforms based on several coveted features such as user-friendliness, particular functionality, compatibility with other architecture software programs, and being able to help large teams collaborate on and share their projects.

Best Architecture Software

1. AutoCAD

AutoCAD has a long history behind it. It was developed as far back as 1982 and brought about computer-aided design (CAD) from mainframe computers to that of personal ones. Four years later, AutoCAD became the most renowned CAD program around the world. If there’s any other software that rivals the multifaceted features and capabilities of Bridgit Bench, it is definitely AutoCAD.

Architects mainly use AutoCAD as a 2D drawing tool for making floor plans, sections, and elevations. The program allows users to speed up their drawing process by using pre-configured objects within the platform, including doors, windows, and walls that behave like their real-life counterparts. The program also provides particular mechanical, electric, and architectural, among other toolsets to support any manner of design and drawing.

AutoCAD also allows us to change 2D drawings into 3D objects with a vast range of surfaces, mesh objects, lighting, and solids for more realistic and detailed renderings. The program can be integrated with its parent company Autodesk allowing us to access more powerful 3D tools for our convenience.

2. SketchUp

You have a knack for painting and sketching, then SketchUp can help you realize your dreams. Architects can unleash their true inner creativity by sketch drawing, allowing any of their concepts to take physical form. With this software, we can quickly develop 3D drawings faster than we ever could before. It will also help us modify any of our past models with ease.

For those starting up an architecture, SketchUp is the one software you can count on to give you your training wheels. Its image rendering capabilities will certainly surprise you. Although making a 3D model on this software isn’t easy, it is possible if you follow the right steps.

With the latest updates, you’ll be able to use a wide set of new tools like virtual reality, which allows you to walk around your desired project. What’s more, is that SketchUp comes with the biggest 3D model library, where you can add a plethora of objects like trees, chairs, or anything else to your 3D model.

3. Revit

Created in 1997, Revit was built to support BIM workflows and assist designers, engineers, and architects in planning and keeping track of every planning and building stage from conceptualization to construction. Later in 2002, Autodesk acquired Revit, allowing it to be compatible with some of the other best software for architecture like AutoCAD.

It can tackle a variety of disciplines other than architecture, like interior design, engineering, contracting, and landscape architecture. You can quickly and efficiently make 3D designs for any project you have in mind for your model-based building designs and documentation. You can even use it to automatically update floor plans, sections, 3D views, and elevations. Besides that, you can use 3D visualizations to get a view of the building before it’s constructed.

It also features impeccable collaboration where team members can share and also save their work instead of switching between emails seamlessly, FTP sites and, several other platforms.

4. 3D Studio Max

3D Studio Max is an old-time favorite for many when it comes to making 3D animations, games, images, and models. Apart from being used by builders, contractors, and architects, 3D Studio Max has also been used by TV commercial studios, video game development studios, and more.

3D Studio Max is ideal for 3D presentations because it enables users to develop complete architectural visualizations of a project using photo-realistic renderings and professional animations and walkthroughs. This software is also incredible for importing 2D drawings and then turning them into 3D versions that are fully rendered, textured, and lit.

Best Resource Management Software for Architects: Bridgit Bench

Top general contractors and specialty contractors (including architects) in North America use Bridgit Bench when it comes to resource planning and workforce management for architecture projects. That’s because software simplifies the construction process using a construction resource management system that makes workforce planning easier.

Architects use this program for various tasks such as project tracking, capacity management, skills tracking, forecasting, utilization reporting, and much more. Its features are aplenty, including full project history, powerful Gantt views, real-time dashboards, infinite projects and users, order integrations, open API, and dedicated applications for Android and iOS.

Bridgit Bench also offers real-time utilization and capacity management, simplified skill tracking, easy-to-use resource allocation, strong data insights, and visualization.

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Sarah Richardson for Palliser

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Sarah Richardson for Palliser

How did you come up with the four design styles?

Whether someone chooses an entire room or just a single piece, we’ve designed four collections that feel well suited to any home. Some people have a more contemporary style, some gravitate to a lighter palette, and some prefer a coastal feel, so we wanted to offer an assortment of different design perspectives. My goal was to create a collection that’s foolproof and offers something for every taste and style!

What are some of the fabrics and materials you used?

The Shore collection uses whitewashed oak with cream lacquer, woven rattan elements, and is finished with brass accents for a casually elegant yet sophisticated collection that celebrates layered textures.

The Annex collection celebrates the natural character, and wood grain in ash swirl veneer applied in a checkerboard pattern on several pieces for a look that is equal parts rich and restrained while the lines are thoroughly modern.

The Vista collection speaks to consumers who are drawn to the elegance of updated transitional style dressed in light neutrals. With refined parquetry details and pale oyster-hued veneer, the Vista collection has contemporary silhouettes that embrace old world techniques and can easily integrate into any home.

The Boulevard collection takes inspiration from the rounded silhouettes, timeless walnut finish and warm brass tones synonymous with the enduring appeal of 20th century Art Deco design.

What piece or pieces are you most excited for consumers to see?

Shore

I designed the Silhouette chair and sofa for my own home to blend a curvaceous profile and deep, lounge-y comfort. I always want even the most inviting upholstered pieces to be streamlined and elegant, which these are thanks to the sleek frame, rounded corners, and tapered legs. I also love the woven rattan featured in a number of the Shore case pieces. Working with artisans is one of the most fulfilling aspects of what I do, and I got to see craftspeople hand-weaving the rattan in Indonesia.

Vista

With its curved back, arched arm profile, compact proportions and octagonal block legs, the Pier chair is one of my all-time favourite chairs in the Vista collection. I designed it over 15 years ago, and it remains one of the most adaptable chair profiles to date for its go-anywhere flexibility. I’m excited about the Vista bedside and occasional tables with their crisp mitered frames – and the DIY enthusiast in me loves that I mixed the pale oyster stain myself in the factory in Indonesia.

Boulevard

I’m partial to the Avenue sofa and chair silhouettes in this collection, especially on the optional plinth base since this is what I have in my living room at home in the city. It’s a sleek, modern frame that works in any room. There are so many interesting and unique design details incorporated into the Boulevard collection occasional pieces that it’s hard to pick a favourite. Still, the banded profile of the salon tables, the pedestal dining table and the console make these pieces signature style standouts!

Annex

The Promenade sectional is on the top of my list with its innovative design and softly curved lines. It’s comfortable without looking messy, plus it can be configured in a multitude of ways – from a cosy two-chaise grouping to the biggest sectional imaginable. In the case pieces, it’s all about the dynamic effect achieved by using ash swirl veneer in a hand-applied checkerboard pattern that’s scaled to fit each piece perfectly.

I noticed a lot of neutral tones, beiges, creams, ivory and light wood. Is this a trend that homeowners can expect going into the new year?

Absolutely. At my core, I’m somebody who loves to live with the beauty of naturally neutral materials. Cream on cream, mixed with oyster, flax, linen and shell tones are my happy place. Everything in the natural realm is what I could live with until the end of time and never tire of, and that’s why you’ll see a real celebration of naturally neutral tones in every part of my four collections.

With people working and spending more time at home during the pandemic, how do you think this has changed furniture design?

One of the hardest things about 2020 is that we’ve all been at home for longer than we ever could have expected or thought possible. Because of this, adaptability and flexibility in furniture design are more important than ever – you might need a desk to also function as a console table, or a sofa table that has storage and can become a bar or buffet. Although the collection was designed before the pandemic, we wanted everything to be able to go into a multitude of locations, so height, width, depth was thoroughly considered making sure versatility and practicality were always top of mind.

For more information, visit sarahrichardson.palliser.com

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DIY Garland

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DIY Garland

Don’t leave your mantle naked this season! Dress it up with a beautiful and easy to make garland from lifestyle blogger Rebecca Heart of Mike and Me

Instructions

  • Start with a faux piece of garland. Use Command hooks by 3M to hold it up (holds strong, easy to use, removes cleanly). The piece I used in this picture was only $3 from a thrift store.
  • Now using bunches of real greenery ($5 each at the hardware store, I used two) cut small pieces and start filling in the greenery, adding to the faux strand. It’s best to do one type of greenery at a time to make sure it’s even and balanced throughout.
  • Use floral wire or clips to attach it to the faux piece and secure it into place.
  • You can also use the faux wired garland to help wrap around pieces to hold it and shape it the way you want.
  • Go over it to cut any stray or lose looking pieces.
  • Mist it every couple days to keep it alive and voila!

Rebecca Heart is a decor-obsessed, bargain enthusiast based in Toronto. She and her husband Mike run a full-time home renovation and decor blog called mikeandme.ca which follows their journey updating a century-old Craftsman home. From styling tips to decor hacks to full-blown do-it-yourself renovations, this comical and down-to-earth duo provides thoughtful inspiration for re-imagining home decor and loving the space you are in.

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Cover Story: Escape with Colin and Justin

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Cover Story: Escape with Colin and Justin

Celebrity designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan spark serious wanderlust with their new book Escapology: Modern Cabins, Cottages and Retreats. Twentyfour homes from around the world are beautifully captured and accompanied with informative design profiles which will help you create your own personalized escape – whether you are building, renovating or redecorating.

We recently caught up with the designer duo to find out more.

What does “escapology” mean to you?

Escapology, to us, is the social science of “getting away.” In its essence, it’s all about retreating to a special place – a cottage, vacation home or cabin – to decompress. It’s all about shaking off the stresses of our fast spinning world to unwind in a peaceful spot, often with friends, family and loved ones. Now, perhaps more than ever, escape is something about which people dream, and upon which they focus. Few would disagree that life, over the last few months, has changed for almost all of us. With this in mind, we hope escapology will appeal to everyone who’s focused on getting back on track and settling back into an easier way of life. In short – it’s time to reset. And time to relax. And time to love.

What was the inspiration for your book?

We’ve worked in home design for more than 20 years – across various continents – in TV, print media and private commission. We’ve always loved what we do, and positively relish every opportunity we’re afforded to beautify real homes for real people. Ten years ago, however, we started to specialize in vacation homes. We actively seek clients in rural spaces. We adore the rural real estate landscape and felt super driven to share its highlights with the world.

What process did you go through to select each property?

When we landed the publishing deal for Escapology, we were excited to share with our viewers, readers and international fan base as many beautiful escapes as possible. But of course, there’s a limit to the number of inspirational homes that can be seamlessly merged into one book. With much help, we eventually arrived at 24 homes. Then the process of selecting the best rooms from each house started. Each property showcases around six zones, so in total, there are approximately 150 spaces, lavishly spread across 236 beautiful pages. Creating Escapology has been little short of joyous: As lovers of the rural idyll, it’s been our pleasure to curate such a stunning inventory of beautiful abodes to inspire and excite, we hope, in equal measure.

What elements do you love about the Park Corner Barn space?

Ah, this is such a beautiful cottage. Located in Oxfordshire, UK, it’s an 18th-century brick and flint barn conversion; to us, the very essence of a modern rustic escape. The wooden beam work can only be described as breathtaking as it intersects and sails majestically above a sea of white painted walls and wide-planked floorboards. And the natural light that floods the space is astounding; the barn’s owner, and his team of architects and contractors, imbued the project with an exciting feel, one that allows it to seamlessly transition from its agricultural past, into its current residential iteration.

You write about the different types of cabins and cottages, what does your ideal cottage include?

Our ideal cottage style combines natural wood finishes, layered with white painted walls, jet-toned fenestration, and loads of texture. We love the contrast that happens when these layers are front and forward in any of our schematics. And of course, comfort is paramount – we never take that for granted. Our typical scheme may employ toffee toned hide upholstery, thick woven textiles, rough-hewn wood furniture and a compendium of ceramic accessories. But don’t forget, the topography is everything. Find us a property with towering trees and commanding elevations of craggy Canadian shield granite and we’ll be happy.

“You might be in a townhome, a suburban backsplit or a highrise condo, but with a little planning, you could be anywhere.”

How can homeowners bring that cabin/cottage feel into their homes?

There’s no doubt about it: The Canadian retail sector is awash with inventory that amply references the great outdoors. That whole rustic look has become wildly popular. Take, for example, our product line (available in stores such as HomeSense, Marshalls and Winners) you’ll find heavy weave textiles that would look every bit as relevant on a condo sofa as they would a cottage sofa. As always – it’s all about balance. And texture. And wood detailing. You might be in a townhome, a suburban backsplit or a highrise condo, but with a little planning, you could be anywhere.

If you could escape to any destination over the winter and hygge, where would you go?

We’re all about Drag Lake in Haliburton. It’s a vast undertaking – perhaps our most ambitious to date – but we’re utterly in love with the place and, indeed, its potential. It’s super cosy with acres of glass, a roaring log fire, squashy sofas and mountains of books. Perched, as it is, 20 stone steps from the water, the cottage is shaded by a copse of pine, hemlock and spruce trees. It’s a work in progress, sure, but one which we hope to complete within the next 12 to 18 months.

ESCAPOLOGY: MODERN CABINS, COTTAGES AND RETREATS BY COLIN MCALLISTER AND JUSTIN RYAN. $39.99. INDIGO.CA

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Home renovation tax credits, will help kickstart the post-COVID-19 economy

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Home renovation tax credits, will help kickstart the post-COVID-19 economy

Photo Eurodale Design + Build

In June, the Canadian and Ontario Home Builders’ Associations (CHBA and OHBA) and the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) submitted a plan to the Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee to help kickstart the Canadian economy post COVID-19. The groups recommended that the federal and provincial governments look at introducing home renovation tax credits to help stimulate the economy in the Greater Toronto Area.

A home energy retrofit tax credit will encourage homeowners to replace old windows, doors and insulation

The residential renovation industry is essential to the GTA’s economic foundations, job creation, housing quality and long-term prosperity. According to the CHBA, in 2018, the home renovation and repair industry employed 152,993 people in the GTA. The industry in the region pays $9.4 billion in wages and maintains and improves the largest single wealth-builder for many Canadian families, with an investment value of $16.9 billion.

A renovation tax credit is a proven stimulus activity that is nearly cost-neutral. A tax credit will deter cash deals and generate tax revenues by bringing the underground economy above board. RenoMark renovators will be ready to help once home renovation tax credits become available, as they provide receipts, pay tax, work with a contract and eschew cash deals ensuring a level playing field. It’s clearly a win-win situation.

A home energy retrofit tax credit will encourage homeowners to replace old windows, doors and insulation. Installing an energy efficient furnace, hot water heater, air conditioner or solar panels will not only reduce monthly utility bills, but will keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And let’s not forget that energy retrofits will increase the value of your home while reducing your carbon footprint. Previous iterations of these types of programs have operated on a nearly revenue neutral basis.

An aging in place tax credit can help seniors make their home safe, more accessible and enjoy independent living in their own home

An aging in place tax credit can help seniors make their home safe, more accessible and enjoy independent living in their own home. Projects such as walk-in bathtubs, installing an elevator or chair lift, lowering existing counters, installing adjustable cupboards, replacing knobs with lever handles on doors, adding non-slip flooring and adding more light fixtures throughout the home should be eligible for a retrofit tax credit.

With all levels of government facing financial challenges and funding requests, the building industry is providing ideas that will unlock consumer and construction investments that will help stimulate the economy. We are making these recommendations to support economic development with more housing choice and employment opportunities that will support consumers and businesses during the recovery program.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA. For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, @bildgta, or visit bildgta.ca.

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13 creative ways to bring your walls to life

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13 creative ways to bring your walls to life

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Empty walls can be really boring, especially if your room doesn’t have a lot of items that take away the attention from the walls. It becomes an issue if you have guests often, and you want to make a good impression. Don’t worry, though – soon, the focus will be on your walls, and with a good reason. These 13 ideas will help you transform your walls in the best way possible.

1. Use curtains

If you want your walls to catch a bit of colour, but you are not willing to do some major renovations, you can bring them up a notch by using colourful curtains. You can emphasize the beauty of a window, or you can just hang them over an empty wall that you believe needs some life. The advantage here is that you can find a variety of colours and patterns at the curtains store, allowing you to choose exactly the ones that match the style of your room.

You can opt for curtains that have a single-colour pattern, or you can go for something that has a flowery or multicoloured pattern. For example, red velvet is a great choice if you are looking to give your room a more elegant, royal vibe. On the other hand, if you want to get a fresh look, then you could choose something with interesting flower patterns. This will make it feel like spring just entered your room.

To make things more interesting, you should also give some extra thought on your curtain rod of choice. For instance, single curtain rods represent a good option if you want to put emphasis on the curtain itself. But you could also go for a double curtain rod if you want to make it look more dramatic. If your curtains are not too heavy, tension curtain rods can also be a great alternative. There are various models to choose from, based on your preferences.

2. Add mirrors

Got too much space left on your wall? Why not try something reflective? A mirror will immediately transform a boring place, making it look more stylish. It will also give the impression of more space.

3. Art shelves

Are you an artist? Then why not showcase the works you are most proud of? Don’t worry, you don’t have to make it look like a museum. Just hang some shelves on the wall and place your creations there. Whoever comes to visit will be drawn towards that corner and complement your art.

4. Use floating shelves

You can use small, floating shelved to add things such as plants or various decorations on your wall. Besides filling the blank walls, this also gives a modern look to your room.

5. Wallpaper designs

Wallpapers have always been a popular option to decorate the walls – and the best thing is that you can find them in a variety of colours and models. Look in stores for amazing wallpapers and find the ones that would fit your style and your house. This trick will change the entire mood of the home.

6. Botanical prints

It can be really fun to do this DIY project and make your own decorations. You can use canvas, on which you lay some plants, and then spray paint over it. This will create a nice print that can go anywhere on your walls and add style.

7. Add some baskets

Do you have some baskets that you don’t use anymore? Then why not use them to decorate your walls? They will add a casual, cottage look, and they will also offer you extra storage space.

8. Books on the wall

For those who have worn, unreadable books, this is a great option. Hang up some covers and pages on the wall after framing them, and you’ll instantly have some unique decorations to brag about.

9. Gallery wall

Paintings and photos are always a great way to decorate your house. Frame multiple paintings/photos/posters – depending on the style you want to achieve – and mix them to create a whole gallery wall. It will look amazing and fill up the blank space.

10. Chalkboard

If you have kids, a chalkboard would be a great way to keep them occupied, and it will also look very fun. Add one on your empty wall, and let your kids unleash their creativity.

11. Washi tape ideas

Washi tape is a nice craft material that is very colourful and is removable too. You can use the tape to create various designs on your wall and imitate the look of wallpaper.

12. Refinish furniture

You can use an old piece of furniture and refinish it to look like a work of art. Use various things to make it more colourful and fun and place it in front of the empty wall. Add some decorations on it and artworks above to complete the look.

13. Use your plates

If you have too many plates, you can use some to create a wall of art. Make sure you select the more colourful ones and they will add a fun pattern to your room.

Final thoughts

If you’re tired of your empty walls, these 13 ideas can completely transform the entire look of your walls and, consequently, of the entire room. See which of the suggestions suit your style and get started on them so that you can enjoy your time indoors even more. Don’t hesitate to use eco-friendly items for your projects too.

Zana Dodig loves interiors and everything related, from decorating to organizing and remodelling. Her favourite part of interiors for the last 20 years has been window coverings. She works as a window treatment consultant and writer at draperycurtainrods.ca and prestigedecor.ca.

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Is buying pre-construction worth the risk?

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Is buying pre-construction worth the risk?

Who doesn’t love the word new? It’s one with many possibilities: I just got the new iPhone, I just started a new relationship, I’m excited about the new school year. You know you’re lying if you say you don’t love that new car smell.

The thought of owning a new home is extremely enticing and exciting. However, the market for new condominiums in the GTA is extremely competitive, and suites sell very fast. To purchase your dream home or ideal investment unit, you need to move fast, and that means purchasing off plans without physically walking through the unit, and waiting three to five years or more to take possession.

The desire to own something new is offset by the trepidation that comes with buying real estate from a brochure, and not knowing when (or even if) the building will complete. The development industry is a risky business, with the requirement for a significant number of the units to be sold to qualify for construction financing, and the unknowns that come with selling in one market and building in another. Just like many of the items you’re shopping for today, construction costs are going up, too.

Ultimately, it comes down to the question: Is it worth the risk? Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits-all response. A purchaser needs to consider the experience of the developer, the value proposition of the new building to a recently completed condo nearby, the expected occupancy date, the condo fee, parking cost, ceiling heights, interior finishes, common building amenities, balcony size, proximity to transit, future development plans nearby, other infrastructure investments on the way and more.

A pandemic has thrown another monkey wrench into the equation, as many GTA residents are reconsidering their housing needs. Interest in Toronto new home properties has declined, while interest in new developments in areas such as Whitby, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Oakville has increased. Figures from rentals.ca and Bullpen Research & Consulting show that asking rents for downtown condos have declined by 15 per cent year-over-year. How does one forecast prices and rent in 2024 and 2025, when we can’t even forecast what those levels will be in the fall of 2020?

The resale housing market dropped significantly in April and May of this year during the COVID lockdown, but just recently set a record high for average pricing to the surprise of just about everyone. New condominium prices have increased for 25 consecutive years, including the 2008-09 global financial crisis, and the 2017 Toronto housing bubble and correction, and so far prices have survived the COVID-19 pandemic. All to the chagrin of many pundits and housing bears who predicted the demise of the industry for more than 15 years.

The truth is house prices can and will go down, the new condo project you buy into could get cancelled, and based off reasonable projections, the likelihood of renting a new downtown condominium that is cash flow positive from day one is pretty low. However, Canada is one of the most desirable countries in the world, and the tech sector in Toronto is blowing up. And when our borders open back up, expect a flood of new immigrants, and the return of the short-term rental market, specifically Airbnb. It’s unlikely a 25-year-old wants to live alone in a single-family home in Woodstock; they want to be where the action is in downtown Toronto.

Having followed the Toronto market for nearly 20 years, I do not believe supply can keep up with demand over the long term. However, I expect Toronto prices to continue to grow at a pace above-inflation on average over the next 10 years. There will be short-term fluctuations, and there will be price declines. But if someone purchases with a long-term hold mindset, does the research, and surrounds themselves with an experienced team (realtor and mortgage broker), buying a new home can be worth the risk.

Ben Myers is President of Bullpen Consulting, a boutique residential real estate advisory firm specializing in condominium and rental apartment market studies, forecasts and valuations for developers, lenders and land owners. bullpenconsulting.ca Twitter@benmyers29

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