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5 tips for turning your backyard into an outdoor oasis

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5 tips for turning your backyard into an outdoor oasis

The great outdoors is once again becoming a focus for many homeowners. Many seek to maximize every inch of their home and every minute of patio season. This year, it’s an even bigger consideration, as Canadians find themselves spending more time in the comfort and safety of their home. If a backyard makeover is on your to-do list, follow these tips.

Get in the zone

Start the transformation by planning the space. How would you like to use your backyard? For dining or entertaining? Reading and relaxing? Sports and games? As a designer, I approach al fresco spaces like I do their indoor counterparts – striving for an equal balance of comfort, function and style. With this in mind, delineate zones that accommodate the activities you like to engage in, and consider the amount of space you’ll need for each.

From the ground up

When you step outside, the backyard should feel like an extension of the indoors. However, look inside for cues. Is your home contemporary, classic or something in between? Echo your interior aesthetic outside to create a sense of continuity. Then, furnish your various zones from the ground up, starting with flooring. A floor is a transformational element that instantly takes your backyard from lawn to living area. Excellent options include wood, stone or tile that will act as a foundation for any outdoor room. There’s also a fabulous selection of outdoor rugs that are durable enough to weather storms, sun and wear and tear. Durability is an essential factor to consider when shopping for patio furniture, as well. Choose pieces specifically made for outdoor use that can withstand a downpour and the sun’s bleaching effects. Also, ensure your furniture is comfortable.

Landscaping, lighting and accessories

Much like your indoor living areas, your outdoor spaces need some accent pieces to complete the look. Keep in mind the overall atmosphere of your backyard, and enhance it with lighting, accessories and, of course, plants. Lighting plays a crucial role in highlighting the various functional zones, while adding ambience and safety. Since you’re outdoors, the sun acts as your ambient lighting. Be sure to incorporate task lighting where required, such as areas for cooking/barbecue, dining, sitting and bar seating. Illuminate features such as walkways, steps, the entranceway and any other elements that need to remain visible after the sunsets. Then, add accent lighting to bring depth to your design. Focus on trees and plants and any special features, such as a pond, garden gazebo or trellis.

Putting the principles into practice

I transformed this small but sweet urban backyard into a place to rest, relax and indulge! Full disclosure: I own the property and wanted a place to enjoy fine food and wine, gather with family and friends at the custom outdoor dining table, and warm up around a fire pit on late summer and fall evenings. I started by removing the existing deck and planned and prepped for the fire pit – a gas model that would become a focal point of the space. A gas line from the house fed the fire pit, so we dug a trench leading to our spot of choice, and levelled the ground to prepare it for the floor. We chose 24-in., two-cm porcelain pavers in Gray Flow and Ivory Flow, from Euro Tile & Stone. This classic diamond-checkerboard motif is equally functional and aesthetically pleasing, and perfectly suited to the New Mediterranean style I was going for. I love this durable outdoor flooring, which is resistant to salt, pool chemicals, winter frost and the sun’s UV rays. It’s also slip-resistant.

Furnish your space

The furniture I selected has a New Mediterranean, relaxed style – muted earth tones and organic materials. I incorporated a comfortable armless sofa from the West of Main Shoppe custom upholstery line. It’s quickdrying and durable, able to withstand all elements while bringing inspiration from far-off travels right into our own backyard. I also added seating around the fire pit with West of Main’s signature Tulum outdoor chairs, which feature an ergonomic shape, a wood frame and grey netting that adds visual interest, and different texture and contrast against the white sofa. The custom dining table is the star of the show, inspired by a vineyard visit in San Francisco. The unique centre-trough design is a host’s dream, perfect for presenting and serving up a collection of local fine wines.

As a final touch, I accessorized the space with a couple of side tables, some gorgeous textural pillows and throws, and some large potted plants for a relaxed, interior-inspired outdoor living area. The result is a warm, welcoming space that I can really sink into!

Sascha Lafleur is the Co-Founder and Principal Designer at West of Main Design. This international award-winning Ottawa based firm provides complete residential and commercial design services throughout North America. Respected for creating thoughtfully layered, travelled designs that complement their client’s lifestyles. westofmaindesign.com, @westofmain @westofmainshoppe

Photos by West of Main


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Why a builder's online decor centre is key to your success

Why a builder’s online decor centre is key to your success

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Why a builder’s online decor centre is key to your success

The unique challenges we all have faced over the last year due to COVID-19 have made us seriously reconsider our own in-person shopping habits. More than 30 per cent of all retail sales in the last year were online. This is a tremendous increase that shows no signs of slowing down. There is no doubt that online shopping is here to stay. We have grown accustom to researching, investigating and making decisions in the privacy and comfort of our own homes.

While many homebuilders have successfully started to use resources and tools like renderings, visualizers and interactive tours to engage home shoppers before closing on a new home, they continue to be reliant on old school, in-person practices to help homebuyers choose finishes post-purchase.

Easing the process

Historically, the decor process has been known to be the most painful part of the homebuying process and creates fear in even the strongest of builder’s hearts. Specifying the various upgrade options, pricing, product library, samples and documentation needed for a successful decor appointment can be a tremendous job. The buyer primarily reviews their options at their multiple four- to six-hour in person decor appointments. It’s easy to see that the current method for decor selections can be very overwhelming.

New technology in the design space makes the process of selecting finishes simple, interactive, informative, easy to understand and use. Virtual kitchen and bathroom renders allow buyers to see what their new space will look like when they customize their selections in the comfort of their own home. By be able to view the information online, at any time from any location, not only gives the buyer confidence in their decisions, but also drastically cuts down on design centre appointments. Fewer appointments at the decor centre translates to saving the builder both time and money resulting in increases to the bottom line. With the additional benefit of the buyer engaging with your product for a longer period of time, it generally translates to them spending more on upgrades. A win-win solution.

Tangible process

While digital technology is helping to cut back on the use of the traditional design centre, it will still be important to have a physical and inspiring space for buyers to have the option to touch and feel their finishes and interact with a professional consultant. There is something tangible about this process that is incredibly difficult to replicate digitally. The online centre’s role helps to augment the overall experience to the buyer and create efficiencies for the builder.

Online decor centres are now easily accessible. There are various versions that are available with a solution that will fit your requirements and goals. You could be up and running in 30 days or less. If you would like to learn more about how My Design Studio can help you, please contact us at info@my-designstudio.com

About My Design Studio

Yasmine Goodwin is Principal at My Design Studio provides decor management services to builders requiring one stop solution for their decor program.

Whether online virtually or in-person at our 8,000-sq.-ft. centre, it develops solutions that work for home builders and owners.


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Fresh start with seven spring looks to love

7 spring looks to love

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7 spring looks to love

Soft earthy paint palette

COOL CURRENT 6199-42 by Sico. sico.ca



MINTY AQUA (DLX1147-3) by Dulux. dulux.ca

Light wood accents

Monarch BED. $1,149. eq3.com

Redonda wood upholstered DINING CHAIR. $579. crateandbarrel.ca

Voxlov dining TABLE in light bamboo. $300. ikea.ca

Coloured sofas

DALU SOFA in hibiscus pink and oak. $1,149. article.com

Fany tufted 3SEATER SOFA in yellow. $499. structube.com

Morabo LOVESEAT in light green and wood. $600. ikea.ca

Natural elements

Rudy VASE. $30. eltemkt.com

Rattan PLANTER with wood stand. $35. homesense.ca

Turquoise druzy KNOB. $20. cb2.ca

The hand-crafted look

Linen throw PILLOW. $59. zarahome.ca

Pink seagrass BASKET. $35. homesense.ca

Stoneware SERVING BOWL. $15. hm.com

Delicate floral print

Mini floral DUVET COVER. $99-$139. zarahome.ca

Statement rugs

Patterned COTTON RUG. $35. hm.com

Colca WOOL RUG. $300-$1,800. westelm.ca

OMA RUG. $500. article.com


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NKBA reveals top kitchen and bathroom trends

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NKBA reveals top kitchen and bathroom trends

A few recent surveys polled various groups working in the kitchen and bathroom trades for their thoughts and trends and the state of the industry.

The NKBA’s 2021 Kitchen & Bath Market Outlook provides a comprehensive review of current kitchen and bath industry conditions and the macroeconomic factors that are expected to impact the industry in 2021.

Key findings include:

  • Residential kitchen and bath remodeling spend is poised for growth in 2021, based on a mix-shift to bigger, more expensive and PRO-heavy interior remodels.
  • Pent-up demand for more PRO-intensive projects is a tailwind for spending growth in 2021.
  • New construction spending is to benefit from the timing of starts in 2020 anticipated to dollarize in 2021.
  • Strong housing starts in the latter half of 2020 and longer build times to favorably impact new construction spending in 2021.
  • Total residential kitchen and bath spending is to increase 16.6 per cent in 2021, from $136 billion to $158.6 billion. This is driven by a 9.9- per-cent increase in kitchen and bath remodeling spending and a 22.3- per-cent increase in kitchen and bath new construction spending.
  • Of the total $158.6 billion in total residential kitchen and bath spending, $68.6 billion represents residential remodeling spending (43 per cent) and $90 billion residential new construction (57 per cent). This represents a two-percentage point mix-shift away from residential remodeling towards new construction spending, driven by faster growth in new construction.
  • The overall dollar spend allocation between residential kitchen spending (48 per cent) and residential bathroom spending (52 per cent) in 2021 is unchanged compared to the 2020 period.

Homeowners indicate the kitchen and bathroom rank two times more important compared to other parts of the home. The pandemic has reinforced this perception, as the kitchen slightly gained status since the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, budgets for kitchen remodels fell faster than all other areas of home improvement, which is a unique backdrop for faster growth in 2021, when the health-risks associated with a PRO inside the home are diminished.

Acceleration in activity

One key learning from the study is that kitchen remodels lead to future bathroom remodels, supporting an acceleration in bathroom remodeling activity. In addition, growth in cabinets, drives more widespread spending to other parts of the kitchen: Product attachment cascades from cabinets to the remodeling of other parts of the kitchen. As COVID-19 behavior diminishes, reverting wallet share to services consumption is not likely to hurt kitchen and bath; desire to save (given economic uncertainty) and health risks are the most influential motivations; higher household precautionary savings is a potential source of financing for an anticipated rebound in 2021 kitchen and bath spending. These factors support a pronounced rebound in overall industry growth, from -5.9 per cent in 2020 to 16.6 per cent in 2021.

Consistent with mix-shift away from less expensive remodels (pent-up COVID-19 related demand), the high price-point for residential kitchen and bath spending is anticipated to lead growth (19.8 per cent), followed by the mid-price point (18.5 per cent), with the low-price point posting strong, but lower rates of growth (9.7 per cent).



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Introducing the Decorator and Designers Association of Canada

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Introducing the Decorator and Designers Association of Canada

For more than 25 years, designers and decorators across Canada have had an extra boost when it comes to connecting with suppliers and clients, improving and upgrading their skills, and growing their businesses. Formed in 1992 by a group of soon-to-be-graduates from Seneca College’s interior decorating program that wanted to maintain its professional network, DDA Canada (formerly CDECA) has grown to become the most influential association for the decor and design profession in Canada. The association has and continues to foster the growth of the industry by connecting people across the country and elevating the decorating and design industry through member education, events, training and community building. With members from coast to coast, DDA Canada provides a large professional network that supports designers and decorators throughout their career.

In addition to professional development and support, DDA advocates for the profession on policy matters, promotes a positive image of the industry through proactive activities and events and upholds ethical service through government compliance and qualification standards within the industry.

Rewarding experience

Regardless of what stage its members are at in their decor and design career, a DDA Canada membership provides a rich, rewarding experience. Whether you’re still in school studying decorating or design or currently working in the industry, membership can provide the professional development, support and connections you need to grow your business and succeed. Accredited members have access to a range of member benefits that include: Savings on business software services, a Member Referral Program, discounted magazine offers and perhaps one of the most significant to DDA Members’ – an insurance package offered at very competitive rates.

A number of opportunities exist for members to promote their business and members are encouraged to compete in the annual DDA Canada decorating and design competition which recognizes decor and design excellence in a variety of categories. The contest is open to all Accredited members and students enrolled in recognized decorating programs in Canada. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase their designs and promote their skills and talents as a decorator and designer.

For businesses that provide products or services to the decor and design industry, an Affiliate membership provides an opportunity to connect with the decorators and designers in the organization through a local chapter, specific province or across the country. This connection can be through an educational event, a trade program, hosting a networking event in their show room or direct mailing to members.

Quick to adapt

While the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many associations and organizations, DDA Canada was able to quickly adapt to an online environment and has continued to provide professional support to our members with numerous educational and networking opportunities. The number of virtual educational events hosted by DDA Canada or the Affiliate members have greatly increased, making it easy for members to earn their required CEUs. This has also benefited our Affiliate members as they have direct access to decor and design members outside their immediate geographic area. Networking events have gone virtual and are a great way to expand your professional network as you can now participate in events outside your region and meet other decorators and designers across Canada.

As an association, DDA Canada continually seeks ways to improve the organization, but more importantly bring greater value to its members. DDA is planning the addition of more chapters across Canada to facilitate greater connectivity among Accredited and Affiliate members in those areas as well as increased professional development, networking and educational opportunities for our members. As an organization, it is also analyzing its operational processes and practices to ensure it is facilitating the development of a diverse membership that is representative of the communities in which it lives and works.

DDA Canada continues to be dedicated to helping its members be the best that they can be for their clients and themselves by providing growth, networking and educational opportunities. The association gives its members’ businesses an advantage in our highly competitive design industry because a DDA membership is the easiest way to connect with suppliers and peers and grow your business.



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Custom deck features you may not have thought of

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Custom deck features you may not have thought of

It’s spring and here in Canada we’re starting to think about outdoor projects – and so are our clients, whether designer, contractor or supplier. While we can’t bring down the prices of materials or make them more readily available (oh, how painful it is), we can share one of my successful deck projects with you to show you how you might be able to offer additional value to your clients with some creative thinking.

Basically, here are five deck project features that may help your creative juices:

  1. Garbage can niche: We designed this as a great way to hide the unsightly, but obviously necessary, garbage and recycling bins our client had to store. We tucked them under the deck and gave them some doors to hide them away neat – in a way that blends into the deck design around it.
  2. Custom built-in bench: You know that niche for the garbage? Well, some of you may be thinking (probably our contractor friends out there!) that the deck doesn’t look tall enough to fit those. You are correct. So, we created a happy accident. We designed a custom builtin bench above this area to allow the “head room” for the garbage, while also providing a nice area for relaxing next to the grill.
  3. Under deck storage: We loved the design of the fence and railing and again used it to hide more storage – we wanted the deck to look just as good when our client was entertaining regardless of the storage it had. So, we designed some “hidden” doors on the yard side of the deck to allow the client to store things like bicycles, outdoor equipment, and maybe some of their patio furniture in between seasons.
  4. Fencing integrated into privacy screen: The fence is obviously a beautiful feature of the backyard. This was indeed designed at the same time as the deck itself was, with the mind to use it to hide the fact that our clients desperately wanted privacy from their neighbours – and we were fans of the trellis currently used. We integrated the privacy into the fence and deck on both sides, so it fades into the background.
  5. Power for electronics: We always ask a lot of questions when we design, and one thing came up – they love to take their laptops outside to watch videos and work on the deck in warmer weather. We made sure to note some convenient locations for power to the contractor, so they can charge their electronics while they relax!




Melissa is the owner and registered interior designer at Sanura Design, where she offers turnkey design services homeowners and small businesses with “intelligent, quality design and a sense of humour”.


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