A Hidden Gem, Inside and Out

When I realized that my son was facing reading challenges I embarked into this whole world of literacy …. reading wars, structured and balanced literacy approaches, the Orton Gillingham method, the science of reading. The situation was made more difficult in that to this point my son had only been reading in French, so I was finding that ressources were not as readily available. Thankfully I met a wonderful structured literacy specialist who trained me in the foundations of Orton Gillingham.

With this knowledge I was then able to apply it to the French language. So I started amassing materials - both to help myself learn and then in turn be able to support my sons learning. After months of being consumed by this world my living room and all around was filled by binders, papers, games, blocks. In a spring clean mood I gathered up everything into a couple of clear plastic bins which went into the closet. Over time these bins were piled on by other items making their retrieval more and more difficult. It wasn’t long before these bins were forgotten.

Fast forward in yet another cleaning/decluttering/re-arranging moment these ressources have been freed from the confines of the bottomless closet. They are now easily accessible - which translates to actually being used! This cabinet is perfect for displaying the collection of letter blocks and sounds I had created specific to the French language.

I am forever looking at ways my home can support me. By analyzing storage needs such as short term versus long term I was able to take advantage of both the storage and display capacity of what I originally believe is a liquor cabinet. It’s location next to the kitchen table is ideal making this area double as a workspace. Homework is now less of a struggle and more of a habit.

Wondering about the shoes? …. besides being a spur of the moment purchase - lol! The cabinet is located in the Feng Shui Fame zone which means red is favoured in this area. As these shoes no longer fit I still admire their beauty, so have chosen to give them a second life as bookends.

March 2023

Bloom (noun): A beautiful process of becoming

(quote from www.buddhagroove.com)

This is the fourth summer developing my outdoor space. With the basics now in place I focused my attention to apply Feng Shui philosophy, while also being considerate of including implements to conserve water and support sustainability.

The enlarged front flower bed has a great visual impact while creating a home to a variety of pollinators. In addition garden decor intermixes beautifully in the array of perennials. As Feng Shui favors symbolism to represent natural elements and emotional attributes, these turtles, peacock and pagodas represent long life, protection and spirituality.

The front dry creek bed is symbolic of a flowing river; this brings the water element into the career zone of the home. The trench of rocks simultaneously creates a temporary basin of water that reduces runoff and holds the water for absorption into the garden bed. This system of watering from the roots up ensures that moisture absorbs well below the surface level. With water collection from the rain barrel, water can either be released into a watering can or directed to fill the dry creek bed.

Last year a large dry creek was installed in the backyard for both aesthetics and to ensure proper drainage. The corner of the house where the creek starts represents the zone of prosperity. While the Feng Shui philosophy encourages water in this zone - water flowing away would symbolize losing prosperity. Therefore I have added this metal barrel, much like a mini rain barrel, to collect water in storms. Alternatively during dry periods the barrel is filled with fresh water and recirculated with the solar powered fountain.

The electrical outdoor lights were stripped of their wires and solar lights inserted. Light is energy all to itself and even when not illuminated the symbolic nature is ever present.

To support sustainability I search out used items. This not only benefits the environment, but is more affordable. The garden statues and decor are all previously loved; garden mulch and many of the perennials were graciously passed on from friends.

And so the season changes. This ever-evolving process of gardening will take on different forms the next few seasons to reveal it’s new self next year.

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August/September 2022

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest

While my home may not have all the amenities of a 4 star hotel I strive to make my guests feel ‘welcome’.

“A welcome is a kind of greeting designed to introduce a person to a new place or situation, and to make them feel at ease. The term can similarly be used to describe the feeling of being accepted on the part of the new person.”


In my guest/bonus room neutrals of black, gray and white create a basic canvas. Design accents were then layered-in to add visual interest and create a style. Then, the most important piece of all - personalizing ... considering the uniqueness of your guest and what their needs may be for a safe place to revive and rejuvenate during their travels.

Much like the lost art form of mailing a personalized message or gift this process involves time. As time is a valuable commodity the effort taken to set up a comfortable inviting room speaks volumes to your guest. This translates to we want you here - you are truly welcome in our home.

June/July 2022

A Canvas of Many Things

I never understood until now this ‘gardening’ thing. In my twenties I would ‘plant’ (no pun intended) myself on my friend’s deck to rant about the woes of my life while she slaved endlessly in her garden. I would think to myself - how boring!

Fast forward I am well into my forties and I now get it! It is creativity with a different canvas! The medium is just varied - furniture to plants, but the elements are still very much the same … balance, scale, continuity, focal points.

Creating a feeling through style the possibilities are endless. This wonderful cycle of life to nurture and see new growth reveal itself is a beauty that is awe-inspiring. A blissful morning is a cup of tea and a walk around the garden ‘deadheading’ plants - who would have thought!!!

May, 2022

Books, Balls, Boxes and the Great Outdoors

Flashback to a parenting class I took with my first child where it was said that ‘books, balls, boxes’ are all kids really need for toys. The idea being to keep it simple and the rest will take care of itself. Well ain’t that the truth … natural play where these items have non stop uses in the minds of kids.

As I develop my backyard I yearn to create a ‘loose parts’ section to encourage this natural play. Only now I realize a special area does not have to be ‘created’ as everything is the playground!

Yes rocks from my dry creek bed get moved and holes are dug randomly in the flower beds. The backyard is not only my playground, but my kids - so I learn to play their games too!

April, 2022

Room to Grow

I discovered the idea of a full wall length peg shelf while surfing on Pinterest. I instantly loved the idea for the endless possibilities. So when it came time to embark on the kids bedroom this was the perfect place to implement this style shelf.

Initially wanting the whole shelf unit to be made of wood the idea morphed into using materials of both mdf and wood, due in part to the discovery of these prefabricated peg shelves at H&M Home. The once white wall blank canvas has now transformed into a dynamic industrial style ‘black’ canvas. The stage is set for now and hopefully years to come.

March, 2022

Finding Love in the Most Unusual Places

Working through updates to the main floor it is now time for the powder room. Like all other spaces I incorporate not only decoring principles, but that of Feng Shui too.

First step is to establish what area the powder room falls into on the Bagua map…… in this case it is the Love & Relationships zone. Really romantic right?

Each Feng Shui zone is represented by both a colour and one of the natural elements. For the Love & Relationships zone the element is earth and the colour is pink. Additional Feng Shui thinking encourages symbols of love and items in pairs. Organization is always key as the clearer our environments, the clearer our intentions can shine through.

With all this in mind the decorating can now begin!

To support a continuum of the existing decor I chose to add the black. The black shown in the wall paint, towels, dispensers and garbage bin definitely add depth as well as grounding to this small area.

To respect Feng Shui thinking I chose to display this well-known artwork which personally symbolizes ‘connecting’ - key in a relationship. The two intertwining bamboo plants tied together with a fuscia coloured ribbon continue the idea of ‘connection’ between two people, while simulaneously presenting both the earth element and colour of the zone. Additional earth element portrayed in the glass vase filled with rocks is a Feng Shui cure specific to bathrooms where there is already an abundance of water element. The idea of earth ‘damming’ the water keeps this over abundance in balance. Finally the storage of toilet paper in the basket supports an organized environment.

Thanks to Feng Shui this powder room goes far beyond function. Check out my instagram reel for the reveal.

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February, 2022

Stop shrinking yourself to fit places that you have outgrown - unknown

Over the years I have become renown amongst friends for forever moving furniture. I look at this as a normal evolutionary process; I am always changing and as such so too is my environment.

While incorporating principles of Feng Shui into my home my manifesting is taking on a physical element. With zone representations that are reflective of all aspects of life I am astutely aware and use this to my advantage in my design layout and complementing decor.

Effectively my home is the best tool in authoring my life.

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January, 2022

A look back...

Only in recent years have I made a point of consciously ‘visioning’ my future. A practise with which I quickly fell in love. I realized it is not only about looking forward to the future, but honouring our past including all of the hurdles.

look for the small improvements, recognize those successes and let them be a big deal
-Elise Cripe

So during this quiet time between Christmas and the New Year I take the time to reflect and celebrate all those milestones - be them big and small.

Check out my Instagram reel for 'A look back...'

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December, 2021

Christmas in a box!

My living space is so valuable - let me repeat this ‘my living space is so valuable.’

Living in a smaller footprint suddenly makes you acutely aware the value an item must have to keep its presence. So then, my storage space is equally as valuable - hence why I am learning to choose wisely when making any purchases for the home.

So with that I have Christmas in a box, okay maybe two including the Christmas tree. My tree is by no means the largest, but in getting creative it grows 1 1/2 feet taller by homing it on a table behind the sofa. Voila my now 6 1/2 foot tree and family photos on the sofa in front to boot!

The ideal vantage point - the tree is more at eye level drawing more attention to the ornaments. I have less of course, but each generally has a story and has been amassed over the years depicting my growing boys in a memorable way.

I love my decor and as such choose rather to embellish it with Christmas accents, rather than overrun or camouflage. Check out the December Instagram posts for the Christmas edition of my home.

November, 2021

Longtime ‘Wingman’

My ‘wingman’ in terms of furniture has been this IKEA Expedit (now Kallax) shelf unit. We have been together fifteen plus years - travelling from bachelor suite to condo onto a townhouse to our forever home! It has housed ... clothes, craft supplies, kitchen appliances, books ... you name it.

In this location by the front door the primary function is as a wall divider to separate the entryway from the living room. This added privacy distinguishes these two very separate spaces.

Throughout the years my ‘wingman’ has been adorned with custom sliding doors along with drawer and cabinet inserts. Having both sides accessible these elements enhance storage needs in both areas.

To say it is multifunctional is an understatement to its true worth!

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October, 2021

The Hub ...
Hub is where the heart is

As defined by Wikipedia.org in the context of a computing hub: ‘referring to a node with a huge number of links’.

What a wonderful analogy for the family computer area in the upstairs landing that accesses: two kids and the parent’s bedrooms, bathroom, laundry area, bookcase/learning centre (transformed linen closet) and the stairwell. This is a crossing of paths becoming a major intersection of family life in the home.

Bordering on the Family zone in terms of Feng Shui this is an ideal placement! With a wood desk and artwork representative of the family, complete with a lively upward growing plant, all the Feng Shui implements are present.

Due to the high volume of foot traffic the vertical space was used to the advantage with this slim style ladder desk. The black accent colour provides a much needed contrast to the uniformity white of the doors and walls. This decorative while purposeful long oblong ‘catch all’ bowl camouflages any temporary items.

Home sweet home; hub sweet hub!

September, 2021

‘Create a life you don’t need a vacation from’

Two summers ago my family made the move from urban life to one that’s more suburban. This was a big move - not so much in distance, but in life change. Previously having only a concrete pad a green space was a dream come true …. a place to play, a place to create, a place to socialize, a place to relax.

This dry creek bed is a pivotal element representing that of flowing water. Water in addition to elements of earth, wood, fire and metal are at the essence of the Feng Shui philosophy. By bringing all the elements into balance this symbolically also creates balance within.

Starting with a mini field of overgrown weeds; then project by project this yard has grown into a wonderful oasis that I get to live everyday!

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August, 2021

‘Creating something is all about problem-solving’

(Quote by Philip Seymour Hoffman)

An end of season deal this sling top pergola kit sat for the winter in the basement. This was ideal as my brain needed time to percolate on ideas of how this was going to be adapted for my yard.

Since there is no level patio area the base needed to incorporate a levelling mechanism. So was born both an elegant and practical solution.

By attaching the four metal posts to varying numbers of plywood squares a level base was created. To disguise these bases the posts were embedded into four tall custom planters filled with rocks to solidify the foundation. Landscape cloth then layered over the rocks and was covered with soil to provide mini flowerbeds to the plants.

To offer additional shade a pair of fabric shower curtains are hung on a basic drapery rod attached by zip-tie loops. When not in-use the curtains simply flip up and around through the corner arches of the overhead structure.

By thinking outside the box a marvellous custom pergola was crafted!

July, 2021

Don’t get hung up on the labels

Moving to a new house I was most excited about closets. Yes that’s right! ... front entry closet, cleaning closet, large pantry and the linen closet. In my previous home there were many shortfalls in storage space including the absence of a linen closet!

I had adapted by buying an independent wardrobe unit that I allocated to linens and other storage. While it was yet another piece of furniture it served well making items easily accessible; having a mirror as one of the three doors just increased it’s usefulness.

Now spoiled with a real linen closet I was ready to switch things up - so I thought. After filling the closet with all the towels, sheets, blankets I found it was not as convenient as the wardrobe set-up that I had created and become accustomed to. With a large master bedroom there was space for the wardrobe, so the reverse switch was done leaving an empty closet in the upstairs hallway/landing area.

Sooo here it is - linen closet turned kids bookcase and learning centre!

June, 2021

Size Doesn’t Matter with Good Space Planning

My spouse has commented on more than one occasion how every square foot of our home (almost 1,500 sq. ft in size) is used daily. I translate this into a huge compliment towards my ability to space plan.

Upon first viewing our now home I marvelled at the large foyer space with glowing natural light shining through the door sidelights, complete with a double door over-sized closet. One could say the front entryway had me at ‘Hello’…

This area is priceless! It has become the office, the craft room, the school room, the ‘dumping’ zone. This is all in addition to the normal tasks of an entryway.

On an average morning I sit at the desk with my cup of tea checking my e-mail while basking in the morning sun. Then it’s ‘go-time’ … rain pants, jackets, hats, gloves and boots all pulled from their respective storage locations to get two young children off and out-the-door. Now onto mid-morning the space is transformed into a preschool video class involving a craft; video and work stations - check, check; class supplies retrieved from storage - check.

With a momentary reprieve, then comes the after-school dump … backpack, projects, outdoor wear strewn everywhere, but at least limited to the foyer area. Then sets forth the imagination station - closet doors open to expose an organized array of paint, play dough, construction paper, glue. And finally a quick clean-up - all to repeat again the next day!

May, 2021

If nothing changes, nothing changes

(Quote by Courtney C. Stevens)

As kids our living environments changed regularly ... cribs to big beds, introduction of a desk then adding on a lounge area, art and wall decor were a rotating gallery allowing for personal expression. This evolution responded to both our physical and inner needs.

While we may stop growing in height, inside we never stop evolving ... so why do our living spaces?

If I feel stuck or inspired for growth I will often start changing things up in my home ... re-orientating furniture, moving around decor, decluttering. The risk is low as there is no cost or commitment, but the impact can be profound.

A little change - can create a big change. The possibilities are endless!

“El had suggested with the darker colour of my walls and wanting to bridge in the two colours of my duvet, that we remove a large original painting above my bed so we could have a blank canvas to work from to focus on just the colour of my duvet and my walls. After the initial trepidation with this suggestion (as I adored this painting and it had hung in that spot for 13 years), to my surprise this painting took on a new life in the Zen den. This precipitated the move of the bookshelf from my Zen den to a cove off my dining room and moving a sofa table to Zen den (to anchor the painting) to create a new home office in my cove.

Over a few hours, by moving around furniture and artwork we transformed the use of some spaces and opened up new perspectives and possibilities! My spring cleaning has taken on a new level! I feel passionate and rejuvenated to enhance the home I love into one I love even more with small and thoughtful changes that are having a positive domino effect. I am so thrilled ... thank you El for your creative brilliance!” - Dawn

April, 2021

Layering in Happiness

It all started with a problem: 'Where the heck do I put this very well-loved recliner ???'' - that is apparently here to stay and takes up a surprising amount of space!

Answer: The empty area in the corner edged one side to the fridge and the other the dining table.

Next: Layer in happiness...

-Build character... The side table is a refurbished stool that my Mother’s father had handcrafted.

-Create purpose... With the addition of task lighting the space is now defined as a reading nook.

-Soften the look... The addition of varying textiles creates a sense of opulence and comfort. The faux cow hide breaks up the hard floor and continual darkness; while the faux cream sheepskin serves double duty to warm the brown leather and camouflage the well-worn chair arm.

-Embellish with colour... The existing colour palette of browns, creams and blues is reflected in the circular tray. The throw pillow in a pop of blue draws the eye in.

-Feng Shui the area... As this area relates to the prosperity zone displaying items that symbolically enhance the idea of wealth and reflect life dreams are ideal. Additions of a jade plant, also know as the money plant, and the inspirational wall canvas are reminders to this thinking.

-Personalize... The stool legs provide the perfect support to display a collection of soul-filled books unique to my interests.

This space has evolved over time with many hours rocking back and forth. That once ‘dreaded’ chair has found new love within me. I can honestly say this is now my ‘quiet, calm, reflective happy place’.

March, 2021

Celebrating life!

A few summers ago I got chatting with a gentleman sitting at the same wedding reception table. Weddings unto themselves involve numerous celebrations of love ... engagement parties, bridal showers, then the big day! Anyhow this gentleman was commenting on how we don’t celebrate enough in life ...

My initial response as I am striving for a more minimalistic lifestyle was one of shock. Thinking of all the excessiveness these festivities bring. Where do you store those endless decorations, is matching everything dining really necessary? But as I reflected more he was right; life is worth celebrating - how we do that is one of personal desire.

I have strategically allowed for some blank canvasses in my home to ‘celebrate’. I celebrate inviting the fun of decorating into my life.

Mountain shelf, art wall, porch post are my transient pieces that are forever getting costume changes as I celebrate my life!

February, 2021
Evolving an idea into reality, Transforming normal to remarkable, Discovering a fresh perspective, Injecting soul and vitality, Rejuvenating ways to live