Beachside Apartment Makeover

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


A former colleague and friend was lucky enough to move from Montreal to San Diego. I'm always super jealous of her Instagram pictures of sand, sun and what looks like killer Mexican food, especially right about now! She wrote me a long time ago (sorry friend!) and asked if I could help her out with the finishing touches on her apartment. Of course I said yes but with the caveat that I could share the process on the blog. So let's follow along with the entire process from her first email to my inspiration and design process. Here is what she had to say initially:

Okay so here are the pictures of my apartment as it stands. The truth is, this whole building and many other buildings in this area have such a motel feel. I am not sure if its because the beach is close by but in any case it is off topic!

As you can see, the apartment is pretty bare bones. Mostly it was for financial reasons but also my husband and I have a hard time agreeing on anything!!! I had bought these chairs and we couldn't agree on a table. After buying two tables and returning them we agreed on this one! Everything else was similarly chosen haphazardly merely because we agreed finally on something. For that reason, I feel like things don't necessarily go together and I need to tie them all in with decor (lamps, cushions, rug, mirror etc). We are having a hard time agreeing even on a color scheme so maybe you can start there!

I know that in the living room, we need a side table next to the couch with additional lighting. I also know that we need something under the tv to put his little box on and hide those wires. What do you think should go there?

Again, a wires problem, next to the dining table, I need maybe a table/console to put the plant on and to hide all those crazy gadgets and wires that just drive me crazy. Maybe we also need shelves..

Besides furniture, I was thinking a round mirror on top of the fireplace (thoughts?) I HATE the carpet in here...what can I do to make it less carpety? I also hate these blinds. Should I put curtains up in the living room and take down those blinds?

We have a West Elm in San Diego, Ikea, Target, World Market etc. but I can also order online. If you send me ideas I can also check out the flea market. 

HELP!!!! I don't feel cozy in our place!!

Firstly, I think she's done an amazing job in terms of getting some great larger pieces. I think they definitely have a style that reads very mid-century modern to me. Her ideas of what she needs are also spot on. Here is what I think we need to work on: 

  • A few more accent furniture pieces like she mentioned-tables, lamps, shelves, mirror
  • Some pieces to add layers, colours, texture and personality-area rug, original artwork, curtains, pillows

I find a lot of people want a cozy room but don't necessarily know what goes into getting that feeling. It's the layers of things in a room, like area rugs, blankets, pillows, curtains, artwork and decorative objects that take a room from motel-like to cozy. 

I usually like to start off a decor plan with a search for inspiration for the final space. With this space, I immediately thought of all the beautiful Instagram beach photos she takes that make me so jealous. The mass produced art above the sofa isn't screaming "we're a cool mid-century modern couple who live by the beach so feel free to hate us." Why not use your own photos to inject some personality and originality into a room? 

Any combination of two or three of these photos blown up and framed inexpensively would look great over the sofa. I also often like to start a specific Pinterest board and search for inspiration from other rooms. 

A little tip for you, don't search coastal or beach house if you don't want a whole lot of rope mirrors and seashells! That was not where I envisioned this room going. I was thinking more along the lines of this:

via Top Left to Right: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

From that I have a pretty good idea of the kind of mood board I'll start working on. To recap:

I'll look for pieces to bring in a cool blue colour palette to reflect the ocean inside, pull in some warm wood tones to offset the cool blue and crisp white, add in lots of layers and original artwork. Time to go get started on sourcing some possible options. I can't wait to use all the amazing online resources not available to us Canadians. Next time I'll show you all my sourcing options, get some feedback from our cool mid-century we live by the beach couple and give you a peak at the moodboard.

Welcome back!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hi everyone, or hi to my Mom really! I'm not sure if anyone has stuck around to read this after my extremely long pause. I was initially planning on taking a break while I went on vacation to Costa Rica at Christmas (which was amazing by the way-maybe I'll write another whole post about it and get my lovely sister to send me some photos) but then with listing the house, moving myself, my clothes and the cats to Ottawa plus starting a new job- this little blog fell to the wayside. So....I'm going to attempt to ease back into this slowly. 

In early December, we had our house featured on Houzz Tours! Houzz contributor, Laura Garner was truly amazing and I love the photos she took and the fact that she put up will my kitten following her around and attacking her. 

For a look at the whole tour and to read my interview take a look here: A DIY 1950s Cottage Reno.

It's a bit sad to look back at the house now and see how far it came especially now that I don't get to live in it anymore! We're hoping someone else will get to enjoy all the hard work we put into it. If you know anyone who'd love to own our cute cottage check out the listing here.

So that's me dipping my foot back in. I promise I'll start posting regularly again and I have some fun ideas in store. A friend asked me a long while back to help her add the finishing touches to her beach side apartment and I'm going to take you along for the process-so stay tuned and happy Friday!

Christmas Decoration

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


After all my talk of Christmas decoration and themes, it took me a while to get around to actually photographing our house. I swear it's not just me wanting to sit in our living room with the Christmas lights on drinking bourbon (okay part of it is that) but it's really been a busy few weeks around here. At the beginning of this week I got the news that I've been offered a dream job in Ottawa. So folks, this means we're going to be moving! This also means this will be the first and last Christmas I decorate this little house and it's kind of bittersweet. I'm not sure how long it will be until we sell this house but in the future it means there may be a new renovation on the horizon. So I hope you don't mind if I get nostalgic and overload you with pictures. Let's take a look a my original Christmas theme and how it turned out. 

BannerWreathTreeRibbonBlack OrnamentsOwl OrnamentsPompom GarlandLeaf GarlandDiamond OrnamentsMetallic OrnamentsBottle Brush Trees (other images-doily snowflakes [source unknown]/presents and gift tags/ branch and star)

I reused the branch I spray painted for Halloween and instead of hanging skulls (not very Christmas-y) I added clear snowflake ornaments I picked up a few years ago at the Dollar Store.

The gold glitter garland was from Target, as were the brush bottle trees and some of the Christmas tree ornaments. The lights on the bingo sign were from Ikea (old). We bought our black Christmas tree a few years ago at Canadian Tire.

I changed up a few throw pillows with something more festive from Target and created a centerpiece from a vintage cloche, leftover ornaments and a wreath and wire lights from HomeSense.

Here's Billy the Kitten (who's not so much a kitten anymore) testing out the merchandise.

Again, some Target trees, older Ikea snowflake lights and a new lamp (also from Target).

I reused another Halloween accessory in this black wreath. By taking off all the orange berries and replacing them with a few ornaments, I think it ties in quite nicely to my B&W + Metallic theme.

My old colourful vintage inspired metallic ornaments got a new home on this small tinsel tree and I used up the last of the ribbon and ornaments hanging on the chandelier. 

Since I've always wanted a banister to decorate but was afraid the cats would go crazy for real tree garland. Instead,  I used up some more leftover Halloween decorative burlap to wrap the stairs. I added some Martha Stewart battery powered lights and a few ornaments and the entryway is now ready for Christmas. 

Are you all ready for Christmas? I can't believe it's two weeks away! I don't know about you but I'm ready to relax and get back to bourbon drinking in the twinkling glow.

P.S. Anyone in the Montreal area who is interested in our house, or knows someone who may be, please feel free to contact me here.

Christmas Gift Guides

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Obviously, the majority of my gift giving is to myself. This is why Christmas shopping is so dangerous. So many things I want, so few holidays for people to give presents to me. I know it may be too late to order some things off Etsy but I'm sure these beautiful vintage and handmade gifts will be the better late than never kind. I've rounded up a few of my favourite things to decorate my your home or the home of someone you kinda like love. For all the links see my Etsy treasury here.

Here are some reasons why all these things would be awesome gifts (starting from the top left):

Amethyst crystal candle holder- These are sparkly and would obviously cast an incredible glow with candles in them. Jewelry for your table. 

Vintage Map-This is a great price for a large vintage map. It would be easy to give as a gift because it would blend into any decor and frankly, because it's cool.

Whale Tissue Holder- Anyone who knows me knows I use a lot of kleenex (goddamn allergies). Kleenex boxes are ugly and boring. I think this solves that problem nicely.

Porcelain Herringbone Salt Cellar in Black-You can never have too many little containers. This is suppose to be a salt cellar but don't worry, I won't tell anyone if you use it for something else because you're not sure you need a salt cellar. 
Fringy, Quirky, Blingy Wall Hanging has Emo Attitude-Well, this is what the Etsy seller has titled this piece of art and who am I to argue. Get this for your hipster friend. Or for yourself because it is a beautiful colour palette (and yes, you're probably a hipster too).
3 Droplet Vases- Just like containers, one can never have too many vases. These are delicate yet they also look like they are made of concrete. When you buy three you have an instant vignette. I mean your loved one has an instant vignette. 
Charcoal Pillow Cover-I sense a theme. You can also never have too many pillows. Your friend and your friend's husband will agree.

Crater Lake Print- It's hard to buy art for someone else. So just buy this for me, or for yourself. Just kidding, small art pieces are easy to incorporate into your existing decor and this print would look great mounted in a shadow box.

Ceramic Skull Planter- Ever since Halloween I feel like I need more skulls in my life and who can resist one that doubles as a planter.

Turkish Kilim Rug-I think you would have to really love someone to buy them this, so Chad if you're reading-hint hint.

Small Striped Vase-I don't think this needs an explanation. It's a vase and it's striped.

Alabaster Bust-I've been on the lookout for bust for a long time (insert whatever joke you want here). These are the kind of things that are great on a bookshelf, or to hang your jewelry on or to fill out a vignette. Plus it will make your friends think you finally appreciate how cultured they are if you give it as a gift.

2 Moroccan Poufs-You get two poufs here. This means you can keep one and give one. It can be like BFF necklaces for adults.

Vintage Collection of 6 Turquoise Books-Books are the best decor item. I guess they are also good for reading but that is not their main purpose. Add these to your coffee table or use them to add height to yet another vignette.

Vintage Lady/Tiny Canvas Print- This tiny painting would fit right into a gallery wall or make a statement on wall alone because of it's unexpected size.

Hand Carved Bronze Folding Screen- I've said it before but a folding screen can be a room divider, or a headboard or something to fill an awkward corner. This is not cheap but it sure is beautiful.

Okay, so hurry online and buy all these things up so I'm no longer tempted. I'm off to finally finish up my Christmas decor and take some pictures to share with you next week!

Christmas Gift Guides

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Now that we're all in the Christmas spirit, have our Christmas themes and places decorated (I promise to have some pictures next week) let's dive right into gift guides. I decided to let Chad give you guys a round-up of the best Christmas gifts for the men in your life. This means this is a guide to the things Chad already has because he likes to "treat himself" and is therefore notoriously hard to buy for. On the plus side this means that these already have the 'Chad seal of approval' so you know they are going to be loved. Okay, take it away Chad:

Sarah thinks I have some kind of special insight as to what men want for Christmas. I don’t. So instead I’m pretty much gonna just write about stuff that I already have and like or stuff that I would like for Christmas. Maybe your dude likes some of the same stuff? Maybe.

Chances are your guy has dabbled in guitar in his life. Seriously, any group of 5 or more guys has someone who can stumble his way through a few Nirvana or Red Hot Chili Peppers songs.

  1. I just recently starting getting back into playing guitar after taking a 5 year break. I can’t believe how cheap guitars and guitar accessories have gotten. Check this guitar out. Can you believe it? $159 for a pretty awesome looking electric guitar. Plus if you’re American it’s free shipping! If you’re Canadian you might be thinking, “But Chad, these guitars don’t ship to Canada. This tip is useless!” To which I reply, “Nay, nay. If you’re one of the 90% of Canadians who live within 100 miles of the border (or whatever) you can use the services of a US package receiving company. For a very small fee, a company like Kinek will give you a US address that you can ship stuff to. Then just cross the border and pick it up. Problem solved!” If you are European or otherwise not in North America, I sympathise. These Americans are totally spoiled with all the good prices on stuff.
  2. Then, if you get him a guitar, he’s gonna need an amp. How else is your mid-20s to early-30s dude going to start a garage band with his stupid drunken friends without one? The absolute best deal is on at Monoprice right now. They have actual 5-watt tube amps for $124 (plus shipping). This is a phenomenal price for a tube amp. I was looking into buying parts to build a tube amp and parts alone came to over $300. I don’t know how they do it and I don’t care. I want one. If you don’t know anything about amps, tube amps are the best – although they have software things that model different amps that are apparently getting quite good. I don’t know anything about those though, so you’re on your own. (Note: Monoprice’s website says they are out of stock until January)
  3. Is your guy into Formula One or Nascar or auto racing in general? If so, does he have a PC or Mac that is good enough to run video games? Then iRacing. It is a true driving ‘simulator’ – one crash and your car is toast. You can practice on your own, but races are held only against other humans from across the world at preset times. Apparently professional racers use it as a training aid. The racing wheel and pedal set is $150-ish and 
  4. the yearlysubscription fee for iRacing is $99. Super fun though and ladies love listening to the sound of engines revving for hours on end, I think. I may be mistaken about that one.
  5. How about a DIY beer making kit? These are pretty inexpensive and make actually really good beer. One kit that makes 5 gallons of beer costs $25-40. That way you can save money, stink up the house for an afternoon, do something that’s part science and part cooking AND get drunk on something you made yourself! It’s a win-win-win-win situation!
  6. If he likes reading and doesn’t have a Kindle Paperwhite then you should get him one. This thing has changed my life. It’s exactly like a regular Kindle with one important difference: the screen lights up so you don’t need the room lights or a reading lamp! The battery will still last a week or two or more; but you can read in bed beside your gf who seems to go to sleep at 9pm without disturbing her. It’s almost like it’s a present for yourself, really.
  7. And speaking of presents for yourself, you can get yourself some skimpy underwears and tell us that’s your present to us. That tooooooooootally works too. This cat sweatshirt is amazing and particularly relevant as I talk to anyone who will listen about my cats. 
  8. Just in case you want an apron like Chad's you can get one here

Christmas Theme

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Happy Friday Everyone! I don't know about you, but it seems like Christmas has come early this year and I for one am not complaining. Maybe because it seemed to turn so cold so quickly here, or maybe because I haven't decorated for the holidays in two years (thanks moving and renovations), or maybe because I was particularly sad to take down the Halloween decorations this year but I am really excited to start decorating for Christmas right now. So in case, like me, you're thinking of getting started this weekend here is my inspiration and plans for getting our house Christmas-y.

Here is what I'm starting with: A black Christmas tree, a black fur tree skirt and vintage inspired multi-coloured ornaments. After looking for some inspiration online (my Holiday pinterest board is here) I've decided to obviously keep the tree but change up the ornaments to make it a little bit more stylish and tie into a theme I already love- black & white stripes-as evidenced in our living room above.

1 (Source unknown)/ 2/ 3/ 4/ 5/ 6/ 7/ 8/ 9
By adding a black and white striped ribbon as garland and metallic, black and white ornaments I'm hoping to have a tree that is sophisticated and sparkly. I'd never thought of using ribbon as garland or a tree topper but I can't wait to see how it transforms the look. Target, Ikea, Michael's and some of the big hardware stores seem to have some great, inexpensive items this year so it shouldn't cost a fortune to do a small update. I plan on reusing the colourful vintage ornaments I already have on a smaller white tree that I may put up in the office as a bright surprise when you walk in. Here are a few sources to get the "Black & White + Metallic" Christmas look this year- Happy tree trimming!

Banner/ Wreath/ Tree/ Ribbon/ Black Ornaments/ Owl Ornaments/ Pompom Garland/ Leaf Garland/ Diamond Ornaments/ Metallic Ornaments/ Bottle Brush Trees (other images-doily snowflakes [source unknown]/presents and gift tags/ branch and star)


Monday, November 17, 2014

If you know me, you know I love wallpaper. If Chad was willing to install it in more rooms I would plaster it everywhere. It can make such an impact in a room and also hide a multitude of imperfections if you have questionable walls. Not all wallpaper is created equal though,  as I can tell you after taking down two layers of 70s vinyl wallpaper in the living room. This is why I am so glad I found Spoonflower. This way you can have removable wallpaper at a reasonable price in either your own design or one from the Spoonflower Marketplace where independent artists get a commission from every sale.

As I mentioned in this post, I've been working with an amazing client to make her rental apartment a chic, feminine, modern yet cozy space. She knew she wanted wallpaper somewhere in the space but wanted to keep it within budget so a large wall was out. The entryway, or entry wall in this case, is often the perfect space to try a little bit more pattern or colour. It was important in this room because the best place for the sofa was facing the entry wall so I wanted to give it some extra punch. It was hard to narrow down our choices from Spoonflower but we needed something to reference the colour scheme of blue, coral, mint and grey. To get sense of the other side of the living room here was the original moodboard...

...and here are a few of the final contenders:

Birch Grove in Greige and Rich Cream by Sparrowsong

Blushing Peacock by Peacoquette Designs

Coral Jubilee by Evie&Co

William Morris Strawberry Thief in Blue and White by Peacoquette Designs

Mexico Springtime White on Linen (Large Scale) by SammyK
What do you think? Thanks to the mock-ups I think we're down to a choice between the birch trees and the William Morris pattern that references the throw pillows. Just in case you're looking for even more options, I've rounded up another nine that I'd put up in a heartbeat (click on the numbers below the image for the source).

1/ 2/ 3/ 4/ 5/ 6/ 7/ 8/ 9

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