[home]: My Office/Painting Studio


Next to my 'serious' streak, there is a creative genie that gets awaken from time to time. A few years ago I went on oil painting flurry. I've produced a few non-originals and few original pieces that are now hanging around the house. I also have all of my supplies and couple of started projects that I keep meaning to get into if only I can finish my studio.

When we purchased the house that future studio quite frankly looked like a dungeon. Couple of years ago, we purged, then gutted, then treated mold, then sent samples for analysis to ensure there was no asbestos, and finally, framed, insulated and finished the space (drywall, taping, painting, floors).

Our original house is from 1957.I say original as it looks like that in 70s the owners decided to expand their space by creating a room between original house and garage on the first floor (our tiny family room now); building out second floor, and  digging under the garage to create another room. Based on our house tour it seems that they used this final room as their family room. While the space is perfectly cool in the summer, no A/C required, it is rather cold in the winter even with all of the new insulation that we put in. I guess that is to be expected since the space is exposed to the outside from all but one side.

Given its large window and beautiful view, I nominated that room as my office/painting studio where I felt I could be inspired to work on all things creative. Unfortunately, currently this room is a dumping ground or very messy storage room given our work on other side of the basement creating our new large family room. Even with all the purging, donating, garage sale, there is still a lot of items that need to find their home.

So this is where we are at the moment:

First image of the space is from our tour of the house when we bought it. You can see that we have made some dramatic changes to say the least especially with what we found behind that paneling. It appears that we increased the size of the room - which we did by removing that built-in storage. New flooring, painting of the fireplace and it looks like new space. If now I could only get rest of this stuff to magically find is home.. What you can also see at the farthest wall is antique sleigh bed that I got through some good negotiating and bargaining and I can't wait to put in this place to act as a day bed.

Here is photo of the other side of that room with image of what we started with and where we are right now. Even though it does not appear to e that much better at the moment - under the pile of that stuff there is a lot of potential. On the left we'll keep old Ikea bookshelf that we have and peeking through the mess is Ikea's Expedit shelf that acts as our window seat - bench. I've been searching to buy or make window seat cushion to go with it.

Another view of fireplace and entrance:

We have decided not to use the fireplace so we tiled it and closed it off. Reason being is that it was creating too much smoke because there are two fireplaces that are connected and we preferred to use the one upstairs (in our tiny family room). This 'Fresh Lemonade' sign kids used the other summer to collect some $80 for two hours of selling lemonade... 

Here is the plan of what we will do with this space after the clean-up:

Finally, here are some of the paintings I've done that are hanging around the house:

This one is original painting I've made for a friend. It represents Barcelona where I lived 10 months. I've worked almost 3 months on this painting and love it the most:

Hopefully I will be able to produce something just as good soon.

[home]: Dramatic Before & After


I shared our basement reno pictures before - ones I managed to take quickly without any styling. I thought it was worthwhile remembering what that space looked like. Thankfully we did not have to use it. It wasn't just how it looked, but also how it functioned. For example, tub drain was on the opposite side of the shower - go figure... I think that whoever built this bathroom either made a mistake when ordering/buying a tub or got it at really good price and decided to use left side drain where they needed right side one. Either way - tub is gone.

So continuing the before & after series, here is next dramatic one:

As can be seen in the above photos - we gutted everything and changed position of toilet and door. It wasn't expensive change (moving the toilet) in grand scheme of things but allowed us to utilize the space better.

Tub was replaced by shower for a few reasons - we did not need another tub in the house as we already have one in kids' bathroom; ceilings are low enough in this basement bathroom, easier maintenance, etc.

We got rid of that linen closet which was not really needed especially with storage that we got with that Ikea vanity and it was taking away space from other areas of the basement. We also moved door opening, installed pocket doors and uses glass ones to allow light to go to the rest of the basement.

Here are a few more details from the new bathroom. I did not have a chance to style it really given that I shot these photos in couple of minutes I got when babies napped so you are getting a look at how it looks every day - for the most part of course depending on if kids used it or not...wink wink..

That's it... Source list is here , inspirations here, rest of basement reno here.

[style]: Kitchen Inspirations Part IV


I did not even realize just how many great kitchen images I've accumulated over time. Following my Part III - here is another post on black/white with dose of natural kitchens as we are brainstorming ideas for our own kitchen remodel/reno/gut job.

What I really like in this kitchen below is how Katie made the island look like rustic table in the middle of the room. I find that I am really drawn to all of the kitchens where there is an actual table in the middle of them acting as an island. What really works for me in the kitchen below is that you kind of get the good of both. I also love the number of glass upper cabinets - again you are getting the look of shelves without having to worry about too much dust which would be my problem. I also like how hood is incorporated.

There are a few more things that I like about this kitchen - or better to say there is isn't much or anything that I don't like about this kitchen. I love the pendants - they just give it oomph that it needs, backsplash is absolutely great and built-in appliances including the hood - just let all the other elements of this kitchen shine. This one is definitely going to the top of my inspiration list even if I have to worry about how to keep those glass cabinets clean and tidy...

This next kitchen is very simple, clean yet lovely and interesting made by adding diamond shapes to cabinetry and glass doors. There is a slight tug of war of industrial and classical here making it that much more interesting. I also saved this one as it has similar shape to my kitchen and window in the almost exact place.

This next kitchen I can envision in a nice french restaurant I might one day open... Love the hood - so much easier to clean than any other option and the least expensive option that looks really good. Island is just great as well.  I also like the little ledge on the sink side and that sink is another showpiece.

This kitchen is one of those wide ones where nice rustic table just works really well to warm up the space that is largely monochromatic. I also like simple linen roman shades.

I've been loving this Tommy Smythe’s former kitchen for a long time now.  Those herringbone floors are just dreamy with contrasting grout. I love how such small space was fully utilized with dishwasher, sink and stove all in the straight line. Upper glass cabinets mimic french doors but due their light colour recede into the wall.

Similarly to a few other ones, this kitchen features glass uppers which mimic the look of the windows (i.e. horizontal grills). Black in this kitchen comes from flooring and natural elements are achieved through accessories such as wooden box and bamboo shades.

This next image from Atlanta Homes features kitchen which caught my eye primarily with its window, warm wood island and rustic flooring.

Following the theme here, this next kitchen has a bit of everything - great backsplash, linen romans, dark, light and warm wood with rustic table in the centre of it and great flooring. I would like to see more space around the stove and perhaps not have that corner cabinetry. I love the pendants and white beams.

If I can't achieve rustic looking table or island in my kitchen, I would love to add antique cabinet like the one in this image. It just warms up any space. Maybe I sell our car and get that stove as well.

In this kitchen I really like the simple modern cabinetry - hood, thick frames around the cabinet doors and seamless countertops and backsplash.  Not too many elements, but everything is a statement.

In contrast with previous kitchen, this one is quote dark and achieves to be interesting by mixing the textures and tiles: modern and simple cabinetry on the right and rustic island on the left; traditional tiling on the floor and simple marble subway tiles as backsplash.

This next image is not really mix of black and white, but more indigo and white with butcher block countertops. I've included it as it carries the same/similar idea of mixing dark/light with dose of natural. What I love about this space are not just pops of colour but also having a feature wall like this. I can't stop looking at it.

I still have a lot of images to go through.. Then I can hopefully compile the final inspirations and ideas as we are collecting contractor quotes. 

[style]: More Interesting Paris Spaces


A few more Paris spaces..

In this first up, I like the cabinetry and how whatever is done in the first room is continued in other rooms. Look at the flooring how it seamlessly flows from one room to the next. Then how cabinetry repeats from kitchen area to bathroom and curtains from living space to bedroom. You almost need to look closer to ensure you are not looking at the mirror...

Mirrored backsplash here helps expand the space and area rug border repeats the black door frames.

Love this tub...

In this space I really like this poster:

Even as is is mostly monochromatic, this next space is very dynamic and vivid:

[design]: 2-bedroom Apartment


Another client design - this time two-bedroom apartment:

[life]: Travel Diaries - Golden Slope


Following our trip to Lyon and surrounding we backtracked to Côte-d'Or or "golden slope" in France's Burgundy region. Visiting wineries with three small children in tow is not ideal prospect -so I've set out to find ways to enjoy the region with other activities. Sightseeing and pure enjoyment of scenery (oh if only I had my easel with me) was pretty high on my list, but for kids more was needed.
First up is a detour we took - unplanned, just got off the highway and stumbled upon beautiful little village. We wanted to eat lunch but as we were a bit late - it was not to be - no 24 hr service here - life is slower here and I enjoyed it (even if it meant missing lunch). What is not seen in the image below (top one) are many painters with their easels along the stone fence looking onto the village and meadows below painting away. The very last picture below is from one of the wineries we visited. I braved a visit fully prepared to be turned away when they see me pushing a stroller plus other kiddos - but they were very welcoming and spent much time explaining things and showing around. Great hospitality!

Considering that I am traveling by car with kids - I want to clarify 'finding lunch'... What I liked about France is that there are regular services stops along highways with cafeterias with nice choices of hot meals that I never felt I had to scramble or feel anxious about feeding the lot. Our ventures to villages were mostly for atmosphere and other culinary experiences... If it happened that we missed the hour - we also went to Plan B. Having options and not having any timelines or deadlines to adhere to was most important thing for me ensuring that travel was relaxing for kids and adults - no pressures.

What the region has in golden grapes, it lacks in chateaus.. There are a number of them, but they lack in size, grandeur and upkeep as compared to Loire Valley and other areas in France. Not that we needed more chateaus to visit - but it was nice to see the life of the region through the eyes of these glorious mansions.  One such chateau is Bussy-Rabutin which has a sad history of its former owner living there in total exile (well there are worse ways to live...).

Other attraction is Abbey of Fontenay, UNESCO World Heritage site:

Bernard of Clairvaux, who restricted decorations, believed that only light should enter the church. Bernard had inherited the Byzantine ideas that light is God, and that the only way to experience God is through light. For a long time it was also believed that perfect proportions can be achieved through music. Thus, when designing the glass windows, numerical ratios corresponding to music were applied. For instance, the seven windows in the west of the interior were distributed according to a musical ratio of 3/4.

And here is how kids enjoy this space (following hundreds of questions they had about inside of the space):

Place that was a real treat for both me and kids was Guedelon - a castle in the making. A team of 50 builders is constructing a castle using the same techniques and materials used in the Middle Ages. Absolutely everything used from tools, clothes they wear, animals on-site is done to replicate the life in the Middle Ages.

Many activities are hands-on and my kids spent hours carving stones, making clay tiles, learning how to make colours, weaving baskets, making ropes, etc.

Other great place for kids to visit is MuseoParc Alesia:
Alesia is where, in 52 BC, the famous confrontation took place between Julius Caesar’s Roman army and the Gallic tribes led by Vercingetorix... The Interpretation Center of the MuséoParc Alésia immerses you completely in History : the conquest of Gaul by the Romans, the siege of Alésia in 52 BC, Caesar and Vercingétorix pitted against one another. Artefacts and facsimiles, diorama, films, models, multimedia terminals and reproductions of war machines plunge you into the thick of the battle.

For these and other trips we stayed in small medieval city Semur-en-Auxois -

 in a beautiful two bedroom townhome.

Our mornings would start with short walk to bakery for fresh bread and wonderful pastries.. beautiful memories..