Decorating Tips for Millennials: Style and Utility on a Budget

Every generation has its own sense of style and that’s perfectly understandable. Therefore, outside of the most basic aspects of design, what seems like a home for one person may seem too staid or odd for another.

Millennials are not as likely to buy houses as their predecessors, but that doesn’t mean they can’t exercise their taste and creativity wherever it is that they call home. Money can be especially tight for young people these days, but 70% of all millennials identified home decor as being of importance to them. Here are some tips that can add style without great expenditure.

Avoid Clutter

Millenials generally like living minimally and not just because of cost. It’s sometimes a reaction to having grown up in homes filled with unnecessary materialism. A clutter-free environment is much easier to keep tidy (showing off that you make the time and effort to maintain a clean living space) and also healthier.

Make Optimum Use of Space

Most millennials start off in a fairly small living space. A great way to maximize the square footage available is to purchase products that also offer a place to store things. Storage benches and ottomans are both excellent for this purpose and usually quite inexpensive. You can also find fairly low-cost beds with built-in storage options.

Inexpensive Art

Art can be a great investment, but most millennials don’t have that kind of money available. However, if you’re willing to put in the time, stylish art pieces can be found for relatively little money online or via secondhand stores and flea markets.

Bold Colors for Walls

Another advantage with minimalism is that there is usually a good amount of wall space visible. Being bold and creative when choosing either paint or wallpaper can add a definite sense of personal style and doesn’t need to break the bank.

How to Hang Christmas Decorations Without Damaging Your Walls

Everyone loves decorating their home for the holidays, but some people worry about damaging their walls in the process. There is justification for this fear; rushed and haphazard hanging of Christmas trimmings can  wreak havoc on these surfaces. But how can you have a truly festive look without garlands and Christmas stockings?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that this does not happen and your walls still look just as fresh and appealing once the decorations come down.

Avoid Shortcuts

Christmas can be an incredibly busy time of year and people are often running late with their decorating. However, tempting as it may be to use tape and nails, you will regret that decision once you see the effect they can have on walls. Tape can leave damage and residue when you peel it off and nails, of course, make holes. If you must use nails, put up the decorations in spots where there are already holes, such as areas where pictures are on display.

A better alternative to tape and nails is ribbon. Pick a Christmas colour, like red or green, and use the ribbon to secure the decorations. Twine and clear fishing line are also good choices.

Instead of regular tape, try painter’s tape. It’s quite secure and will not damage walls or leave behind a sticky residue when removed.

Binder Clips

You know those binder clips in your desk drawers at work? These are excellent for securing things like Christmas lights. Best of all, they do it securely and do not leave a mark.

Curtain Rods

As with our tip above about using pre-existing nail holes, why not take advantage of supports you already have up, like curtain rods? You can hang light decorations from these with ease.

Command Hooks

You may already use these for general purposes, but they are also great for Christmas and will leave the walls looking great.

Surviving the First Holiday Gathering At Your New House

You’ve survived the big move and settled into this new place you call home. You held an intimate housewarming party, and have happily hosted a few guests in the weeks since you moved in.

But the holidays are a different animal.

Between the cooking, the cleaning, and the careful juggling of your wonderful family’s whims, hosting a holiday party can be a challenge – especially when it’s your first time hosting at a brand new house.

But while it may be unfamiliar territory to you, you’re not alone. Here are some tips from hardened holiday hosts to help you survive the first big gathering at your new house.

Plan Meals in Advance

Food preparation is one of the biggest sources of holiday hosting stress. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to  avoid. Just do some good, old-fashioned meal prep!

Decide what you’re cooking at least a week before the main event (now is a good time to find out if any of your guests have allergies). If you want to try a new recipe, it’s best to give it a test-run beforehand – you never know if a dish needs to cook for just a few minutes more or a few minutes less.

Since it’s your first time hosting, you should keep the meal relatively streamlined, with a simple starter, a few sides, and a classic entree you already know how to make. Your guests will likely be thrilled to contribute their favourite home-made desserts.

Don’t wait until Christmas Eve to do your grocery shopping for the big day, because the grocery stores will be picked over by then. Buy everything a few days beforehand.

Help Your Guests Stay Mess-Free

No one likes to leave crumbs on the coffee table. Most people do their best to keep tidy and clean when they’re visiting someone else’s home. But at the same time, if your guests are anything like me, they won’t want to bother you with questions like, “Where are the coasters?”, or, “Which one’s the garbage and which is the recycling?”

To minimize clean-up and make life easier for your guests, do what you can to address these things in advance.

If you’re putting out a bowl of munchies, throw a pile of napkins next to it. If your garbage isn’t straightforward or easy to find, make a sign. Put out coasters before people arrive. And make sure to stock the bathroom with extra toilet paper!

Leave Time for Last-Minute Changes

Maybe you forgot to pick up whipped cream. Perhaps you realized you’d neglected to clean that little nook behind the fridge. Or, in a worst case scenario, you suddenly recalled that one of your relatives is deathly allergic to the principal ingredient in your pecan pie.

Point is, when you’re planning a big holiday gathering, there are always little things that come up the night before (or the morning of) the action. It’s important to give yourself some time allowance to take care of those unexpected tasks.

In other words, plan to get everything done at least a few hours before everyone arrives. Those few extra hours could become precious!

Decorating Tips for Those Awkward Spaces in Your Home

Decorating awkward spaces

We all have one.

The space under the stairs, the unexpected enclave, the once-stylish corner fireplace that looms over your living room. We don’t love these spaces, but there’s not much we can do to change them without some serious renovation.

So what are you to do? Leaving these awkward spaces bare only makes them more conspicuous, but decorating them can be tricky.

If the space isn’t cutting it, it’s time to try something different. Give your quirky spaces some love with these home design tips.

1. Start Fresh

When you’ve seen a space through the same lens for a long time, even the most creative designers can have a hard time thinking outside the box. This is true for awkward nooks and crannies as well. After a while, it can be hard to imagine the space as anything but awkward.

To start, take out any existing furniture in the space. Leave it be for a few days; then, return with fresh eyes. You might notice something you didn’t before.

If you’re still stuck, try bringing in a friend! A different perspective can help spark new ideas.

2. Go Green

In addition to being healthy and adorable, houseplants are one of the most versatile tools in the home designer’s kit. Plants can bring new life to just about any space, no matter how small or slanted.  Pick out a few of your favourites and try them in your problem space; you might find they make that dark corner or unwanted enclave a bit more inviting.

3. Add Storage

The good thing about having space in your home you don’t know what to do with? You have space! Take advantage of it by adding storage solutions that reduce clutter in other areas of your home. Odd spaces, like tiny entryways and areas under staircases, are a great candidate for custom cabinetry.

4. Cozy It Up

It’s awfully small…but some would call it ‘cozy.’ This is a go-to solution for many of the weird little areas you just aren’t sure what to do with. Take advantage of the low ceiling and cramped quarters by turning it into a cozy, relaxing place to escape. Find a daybed or a chaise that fits right into the nook, add plants and cushions, and enjoy your brand-new reading/texting nook.


5. Make It Stand Out

If you can’t find a way to make an enclave fit in with the rest of the room, it could be that the space isn’t meant to fit in. Awkward spaces can look spot-on with an accent wall, an antique table, and a collection of unique items you don’t have another place for in the home.


Why Building an Accessible Home is For Everyone

Home should be a warm and welcoming place to everyone you choose to invite in. Design blogs usually focus on the visual aspects of this, and the ways in which colour, patterns, and decor choice can be used to create an inviting space. But for many people, the actual architecture of the home is even more important.

For those who require use of a wheelchair, walker, or scooter to get around, a welcoming home starts with accessible design. This is something that too often gets overlooked in the world of home design, which tends to hyper-focus on aesthetic details. But it doesn’t matter how beautiful a space is if it’s literally inaccessible to somebody.

Most public places are now constructed with accessibility in mind. Every new parking lot, no matter how small, has an accessibility parking space. New commercial buildings are designed to accommodate ramps and other such features. So why don’t we design our homes in this way as well?

To tell the truth, it’s something most people don’t think about unless it hits home with them.

If your family doesn’t include a person with special needs, you may think there’s no need to have an accessible home. While this is an innocent assumption, it’s also a bit short-sighted.

Your circle could one day include someone with special needs, be it a coworker, a neighbour, a friend, or a new family member. Accessibility needs of an individual can also change over time, especially for older people after retirement.

You would hate to spend so much time and effort designing the perfect home, only to be unable to share it with someone you love be unable.

That’s why building an accessible home is for everyone. There are steps everyone can take, and things they can keep in mind, when building or buying a house that will help ensure it’s a welcoming place for people of all ages and abilities if and when the occasion arises.

What is Accessible House Building?

The CMHA defines four different levels of accessibility in housing: visit-able, adaptable, accessible, and universal homes.

The three basic features of a visit-able home a level, no-step entry, wide doors and hallways, and a wheelchair-accessible half bathroom on the main floor. These features are meant to ensure that anyone can have access to at least the main area of the house. No-step entryways can be ground-level doors or raised doors with a ramp; however, even a two to three foot step requires quite a long ramp to safely reach, so ground floor is considered ideal.

A visit-able home is the minimum for accessibility in a home, and the level that is most realistic for average homeowners to attain. It covers the three most important aspects of having a home that is open to visitors: the ability to enter the home, ease of movement once inside, and a safe washroom anyone can use.

The other levels of accessibility are adaptable, accessible, and universal. An adaptable house is built with features that can be modified to accommodate someone with a disability at little cost, with no extensive renovations required. You can make an adaptable home in cool, subtle ways: having removable cabinetry in the kitchen to create knee space for someone in a wheelchair, a knock-out floor panel in the closet to allow space for an elevator, and stairs built to accommodate a stair lift. You’d never know an adaptable home just by looking at it.

Accessible homes is designed to meet the needs of a person who uses a wheelchair, with special attention to the floor plan and placement of furniture. Each room has sufficient turning space for a wheelchair, the bathroom has a level, wheel-in shower area, and the kitchen counter have knee space. Universal homes are similar, affording everyone who visits the same choices for using the space, with features like enhanced lighting and easy-to-use door handles.

If you’re looking to make your home more accessible, start with the fundamentals of a visit-able home: the entrance, indoor movement space, and washroom. But if you’re building a house from scratch, it’s well worth considering incorporating adaptable features into the house plan. You never know when you’ll be glad to have them!

5 Home Tips for Decorating with Rugs

Hardwood flooring is not without its shortcomings. For one, hardwood floors can get cold, especially when you’re stepping out of bed on a frosty December morning. The uniformity that makes hardwood great for open-concept floor plans can also make it tough to define different parts of a space. And sometimes, you’d just like a softer touch on your toes.

That’s the beauty of decorating with rugs. Easily swap-able and endlessly varied, rugs are a simple way to add interest and comfort to an otherwise flat area.

Here are some quick tips for decorating your home with a new rug:

1. Be Bold

It’s temping to play it safe when it comes to rugs, in no small part because they tend to be a pricey. But where’s the fun in that? Rugs are an opportunity to introduce striking colours and patterns without overwhelming the space. Pick a colour that complements the furniture and wall colour, and be creative with the shape and design.

2. Be Choosy With Materials

Beyond design sensibilities, it’s important to consider how the material of a rug will play in your home. Soft, plushy materials aren’t well-suited to high traffic areas like entryways, but jute would hold up well. Fur rugs are a no-no where they’re liable to be exposed to spills or other messes. On the other hand, a rough sisal rug isn’t preferable in a cozy space like a bedroom.

3. Size Matters

When it comes to rugs, in most cases, bigger is better. To create a comfortable space, the rug should easily cover all the main pieces of the space. Make sure the front legs of chairs and couches are on the rug, or it will make the space feel cramped.

If you can’t afford a large enough rug to cover the area, consider placing two smaller rugs instead of cramming everything onto too small a piece.

4. Combine Pieces

With an open floor plan, you’ll often need more than one rug to break the space into different ‘zones’. Decorating with multiple rugs in the same room can be tricky, but it’s definitely doable. Choose rugs with complementary styles, and when it doubt, stick with one colour palette.

5. Be Careful When Buying Secondhand

Rugs are expensive, so you can save a lot of money buying secondhand. However, it’s important to look beyond the surface when buying a secondhand rug. Don’t just inspect the top – flip it over and check the back for stains and water spots. Give it a sniff (some smells, like cigarette smoke, will never come out.) You should also consider having the rug treated for bedbugs to avoid bringing these nasty creatures into your home.

There’s a Reason Millennials Are Buying Smaller Houses

…And it’s not just the tiny house craze.

Millennials have become a powerful force in the housing market. Although they’re waiting longer to buy a house in general, younger millennials are now stepping into the ring to buy their first home, and many of their older peers have already purchased and sold a home once.

But millennial home buyers, who make up 34% of the market, are different from their predecessors in some important ways. For one, only 11% of millennials think they’ll stay put in the house they buy. They’re content to live in the suburbs (despite popular misconceptions), but favour walk-able neighbourhoods and modern amenities like smart tech. And real estate is more than ever a family affair, with many first-time home buyers (66% of which are millennials) are recruiting help from their parents as they step into the world of home ownership.

One of the biggest differences between millennials and previous generations is that they think small when it comes to real estate. Gone are the days when square footage was king – millennials are increasingly gravitating towards condos, townhouses, and small homes on modest lots.

Why Small Homes Are Big With Millennials

There’s a reason millennials think less and more – and, no, it’s not all about the tiny house trend. It’s a matter of practicality.

You don’t have to be a demographer to know the average family unit has changed a great deal over the last hundred years. Gone are the days when families boasted five or more children; for the latter half of the 20th century, 2.5 kids was the norm in Canada.

This trend has continued, and today, more and more families are choosing to have a single child – or none at all.

A three-person family doesn’t need a four-bedroom house. Millennials are instead opting to fit their exclusive brood into smaller, two-bedroom houses and condos.

It used to be that more square footage was better – after all, the space would appreciate in value, and a bigger home would net bigger returns on resale. But with the housing market more expensive than ever, and first-time buyers contending with student loans and other debts, going big is hardly an option.

However, the real estate market has been slow to catch up with this trend. In 2016, 90% of newly-built single-family homes still had three or more bedrooms.

Taking that into account, it’s no surprise home ownership is at an all-time low. Only 62% of Americans owned a home in 2017 (coinciding with the lowest recorded fertility rate in that country).

While both numbers have climbed a bit since last year’s drop, they aren’t likely to return to old norms.

Another trend on the heels of this is the aging population of baby boomers, who are already beginning to downsize to smaller abodes in retirement. The demand for smaller homes is only going to go up.

Together, these trends will likely have a long-term impact on the housing market. There’s a shortage of affordable, smaller homes on the market, and a slew of millennials lining up to buy them.

So don’t discount the value of that tiny lot in the suburbs – it could be worth more than its square footage lets on.



Save Energy in the Kitchen Without Buying New Appliances

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Typically, I cook three meals a day, only occasionally eating out at bars and restaurants. This saves tons of money, but it also means cooking is a big part of my electricity bill.

If you want to save energy in the kitchen, the most significant step you can take is investing in high-end appliances certified by Energy Star. Unfortunately, that’s an investment not everyone can afford to make. These are some free and simple ways to cut your electricity consumption in the kitchen without buying brand-new appliances.


Is your refrigerator running? Then you’d better make sure it’s running efficiently! Since they’re on 24/7, fridges use a lot of electricity. There’s no use switching it off for a few hours a day, since it usually takes more energy to start back up than it does to idle (also, it’s pretty precarious in terms of food safety). Instead, try these tips:

  • Set the fridge temperature to between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius and the freezer to -18. Your food isn’t any safer at cooler temperatures, and this will cut the electricity it takes to keep it cool.
  • Don’t put your fridge right up against the wall. You need to leave space around the back to let air circulate. Pressing it too close to the wall will lead to a clogged vent and fan.
  • Turn off the fridge and clean the vent and fan at least two to three times a year. The less dust and debris, the better your fridge will run.
  • Keep the fridge and freezer well-stocked. Things stay colder when they’re close to other cold items. If you don’t keep much food in there, consider adding bags of ice in between food items to help them stay at the right temperature.
  • Don’t put hot food in the fridge. Let it cool a bit before it goes in so it doesn’t warm up the air inside.
  • Defrost your freezer periodically and leave about 5cm of space around the walls to allow for air circulation.


Electric ovens can be energy hogs. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce their impact on your energy bill:

  • Cook with a smaller appliance when you can. Microwaves, slow cookers, and convection ovens all use less electricity than a standard oven.
  • Clean the oven at least once a month. This will help it heat up faster and run more efficiently.
  • When cooking on the stove top, select a pan that matches the size of a burner. If you use a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner, you’ll waste over 40% of the heat.
  • Do your cooking prep (washing and cutting vegetables, seasoning meat, etc.) before you turn on the oven.
  • Cook larger portions, or even multiple meals, at once. Store the leftovers for later. It takes less energy to cook a lot of food and reheat the leftovers than it does to cook multiple meals at different times.


True or false: washing dishes by hand uses less water than running the dishwasher. Turns out it’s false! Most modern, energy-efficient washers can get the job done with less water than most people can by hand. Of course, they do use electricity, but you can reduce that amount:

  • Only wash when the dishwasher is full. Washing large amounts of dishes and cutlery doesn’t use any more water than a small load, and it uses less electricity than multiple uses.
  • Instead of running the dry cycle, remove the dishes once the wash cycle is over and let them air-dry in a drying rack.


5 Inexpensive Ways to Update an Old Couch – No Sewing Required

The couch is the centerpiece of the living room. Even if you don’t spent much time lounging around, the couch still has a big impact on the overall look and feel of the space.

Unfortunately, couches are expensive. Buying a new couch isn’t always an option, and most people don’t have the skills to re-upholster one themselves. Fortunately, the internet has answers! Give your old couch a fresh look with one of these no-sew DIY projects

1. Fabric Paint

Normally, paint and upholstery aren’t a good mix. But there are kinds of paint specially designed to adhere to fabric, and painting an old couch can completely transform its look.

You have three main choices for paint: fabric paint, chalk paint, or latex paint mixed with a fabric textile medium. Most of the above are available at large craft stores. It’s best to choose a matte paint (unless you want a shiny, faux-leather look).

Simply spray the sofa with a bit of water, let it soak in, and start painting! Paint with the grain of the fabric. You’ll likely need at least two coats of paint.

As long as you use the right kind of paint, the fabric shouldn’t become hard and crunchy. However, it may not be as soft as it was before. People often compare it to outdoor canvas or soft leather.

2. No-Sew Slipcover

Slipcovers have been around for a while, but they’re still a great solution if you just can’t stand the colour of your old couch. You can buy slipcovers at a home design store, but they can run up to a few hundred dollars. Instead, you can turn a large sheet of fabric, like a drop cloth, into a slipcover with little effort.

This tutorial uses an ordinary painter’s drop cloth to create a clean and refreshing appearance.

3. Nail head Trim

Leather and fabric couches often use decorative nail heads to help hold the upholstery in place. You can replicate this elegant look by adding nails to an old couch.

You have the choice of doing this the old-fashioned way, with a hammer and nails, or purchasing strips of decorative trim at a craft store.

4. New Legs

Couch skirts have (thankfully) gone out of style. Now, we like to show some leg. So why do most couches come with boring, rounded wooden legs? Swap them out for something more interesting, like a squared, tapered, or metal leg, to spice things up. Here’s a quick tutorial on replacing legs on a couch.

5. Accessoize

The simplest way to give an old couch new life is to add throw pillows or blankets. A splash of colour can change the whole look of a couch in seconds. Choose a constrasting colour that works well as an accent in the room.

You can mix and match different shapes and patterns so long as the accessories incorporate the accent colour.

Traditional vs Modern Architecture – What’s the Real Difference?

If you’re a fan of home renovation and design shows, you’re probably used to hearing the words ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ almost as often as ‘flip’ and ‘curb appeal.’ They’re perennial terms in the home design lexicon.

However, their widespread use has also lead to a lot of misuse, with many people using ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ as catchy substitutions for ‘new’ and ‘old. When it comes to buying or building a home, this invariably leads to some confusion, since traditional and modern take on entirely different meanings in the world of architecture.

We won’t give you a full architecture 101 – that’d take far more words than would comfortably load on this page! But we will lay out some of the main differences between the two styles in the interest of clearing up some misconceptions.

What is a Traditional Home?

If you were to do a Google search for ‘traditional home’, you’d likely find some wildly different interpretations. After all, ‘traditional’ is a loaded term. To many, it’s just a fancy way of saying old and a traditional home means one built in the 20th century or earlier. It can also be a lifestyle term, saying more about the home’s inhabitants rather than the home itself.

Let’s be clear: when we’re talking about traditional homes, we mean the architecture and design sensibilities.

So what is a traditional home? In short, it means any home influenced by a historical style of architecture. Here in Ontario, you can find tons of different traditional styles sprinkled throughout the province, including buildings inspired by Victorian, Craftsman, and Colonial styles.

Each style has its own story and defining features. But like many aspects of our culture, Canadians like to blend parts of different styles together, resulting in a mish-mash of homes that all count as ‘traditional’.

The most popular features of traditional architecture include a grand entrance complete with a porch and columns, a high, pointed roof with one or more gables, symmetrical windows with shutters, and a textured exterior made from brick, stone, or wood.

Traditional homes are usually large, with many small rooms to accommodate large families (which was the norm back in the day). This was desirable back in the day; open floor plans weren’t really a thing yet. So traditional homes typically require renovation to bring them up to speed with our present-day preferences.

While they don’t have open floor plans, traditional homes boast tons of charm and ambiance. Traditional styles were all about elegance and fine details. Victorian homes are instantly recognizable by their handcrafted wooden gingerbread (or vergeboarding). Gothic homes often have pointed roofs and ornately-detailed windows. Traditional homes feel warm and lived in, like there’s a story to be told about each little nook and cranny.

What is Modern?

Modern doesn’t necessarily mean ‘new’. The modern architecture movement sprang up back in the 1920’s and hit its stride in the 1950’s and 60’s, so some modern homes are almost a hundred years old at this point. However, the style has become synonymous with futurism.

The style emerged as a response to the stuffy design sensibilities of the traditional homes. No longer were some satisfied with hand-carved wood and pointed roofs. Modern architecture is all about doing away with unnecessary details and letting the actual basic structure of the house shine through.

The tell-tale traits of modern architecture are clean lines, flat or low-sloped roofs, and an untextured exterior. Modern homes take advantage of technologically advanced building materials like metal and concrete, and embrace natural lighting with large windows.

What About New Homes That Look Traditional?

Whether these homes count as traditional or modern is up for debate. On the outside, many newly-built homes draw inspiration from traditional styles – big porches, high roofs, and a combination of wood, brick, and stone exteriors (or synthetic materials that resemble them).

However, open up the doors to a present-day home and you’re likely to find features of modern architecture, like an open floor plan and plenty of natural light.

Architecture purists may argue that a traditional home is one built during the era where those homes were in style. If you see it that way, traditional-looking suburban homes of today are neither traditional nor modern. But you could also say they fall under the scope of either traditional or modern.