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  • OUR BEST ADVICE FOR CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR

    This is a conversation we have all the time with our clients. When dealing with a new construction project, our clients often rely on us to provide references for trades or to provide them with guidance on how to choose the right man for the job. When it comes to hiring trades, we've learned that most of the time, just like with most things in life, you get what you've paid for. We like to break down contractors into three main categories and the first step is to choose the category that's right for you. 

      

    THE JOBBER


    A jobber is a contractor who gets his hands dirty by actually working on the project himself. It may be a one-man show or a small team. This contractor may or may not be RBQ certified. We always suggest that you opt for certified trades since everything is on paper and gives you some kind of insurance should anything go wrong. 

    The main advantage of hiring a jobber is always the price. He has very little overhead, may either be starting up or interested in keeping his business small. The disadvantage is that you're at the mercy of his schedule. When you hire someone who is responsible for doing all or most of the work himself, it's only normal that if his last project runs late, you'll feel it. Or if he gets sick, it will delay your project by a few days. If he injures himself on the job, he may have to put a hold on your project altogether. These projects rarely start and finish on time. Sometimes we get lucky, but it's obviously hard for a jobber to keep a tight schedule and at no fault of their own. 

     

     

    THE SMALL COMPANY

    The next step up from a jobber are the ones we use for most of our projects. This contractor has a small team or several teams of trades he either employees or subcontracts to. The person you meet with during your first consultation is most likely an owner who doesn't get his hands dirty. Their pricing is in the mid-range and there's an added service that comes with that. If one of their employees calls in sick, they replace them for you. If there's an issue with an installation, they make sure it's resolved. They oversee the project from start to finish by managing and scheduling their trades so you don't have to worry about a thing. They usually have excellent references and are able to respect the schedule.

     

     

    THE LARGE COMPANY

     

    A large-scale contractor would employ all of their trades and have several teams working for them on multiple projects at a time. They have an office, a secretary, maybe an in-house designer or even an in-house architect. The person you meet with during your first consultation may be a sales rep or the owner and their job would be to provide you with a quote and to then hand your project off to a project manager who will oversee the work to the end. They have a larger overhead and their prices reflect it, however, of course, you have a different level of service that goes along with that price point. Project start dates are set and respected, deadlines are met and they rarely run into any issues as these tend to be the most experienced of the categories. 

      

     

    The needs of every project can vary and each client may have different expectations to meet. We help guide our clients but based on these descriptions, you can probably figure out which is the right category for you. Renovating can be a stressful time and if you set realistic expectations of the person or team you hire, you are less likely to be disappointed throughout the project. 

     

    Once you've determined which category of contractors you're aiming for, you can start getting quotes. In order for you to feel confident with the person you choose, it can help to get up to three quotes from contractors within the same category. You always want to eliminate the quote that's either much higher or much lower than the other two and you will most likely end up with a couple quotes in the same ballpark. This is not the best field to "price shop" in. Chances are, if one quote is much lower than the others, it's for a reason. The final step is to pick the contractor who you clicked with the most and who's pricing was similar to others. 

  • EASY WAYS TO FRESHEN UP YOUR HOME

    As designers, we realize how time after time trends change as seasons go. We see it in our projects and in our own homes, we eventually always get that urge to make some kind of a change! The thought of redecorating can be overwhelming which is why we thought we’d share how to freshen up your home with simple tips that can make the biggest impact.

     

    SWAP OUT YOUR PILLOWS

    We like to keep our overall room palette neutral because we bring in patterns and colours with pillows. Switching pillow covers from season to season is a small change, but will definitely freshen up the room. Some of our clients will even purchase two sets of pillows during our transformation day, one for the colder months and one for the summer. 

     

     

    PAINT YOUR WALLS

    Investing in a fresh coat of paint will definitely liven up any dated space. Your home is usually due for a new paint job every 5-7 years. Sometimes sooner if the existing colours were too trendy. A colour consultation with one of our colour experts is all you need to make sure the right paint colour is chosen to complement your existing furniture and finishes.

     

     

     

    REPLACE HARDWARE

    Switching out your dated hardware is probably the most inexpensive way to make a change in your space. It's an easy transformation that goes a long way. 

     

     

    SWITCH YOUR LIGHTING

    Make a statement. Perhaps your dining room light needs a bigger impact or your flushmounts are outdated and don’t produce enough light. Most of our favourites come from Montreal Lighting, Rejuvenation, and this one below is from West Elm! Click here to get this light!

      

    PLAY WITH YOUR ART

    We’re not saying to go out and spend thousands of dollars on new pieces, but sometimes your art is being displayed in a room where its beauty does not shine. Perhaps it is currently in the bathroom, but should be showcased in the dining room. Moving your art around can truly make a difference. Reframing can also go a long way. Sometimes all your need is a more current frame or even something as simple as adding a fresh matting if the piece allows for it.

      

    Blog post by Melinda Recine.

  • BELLAYS STREET PROJECT

    Our Bellays Street Project is so dear to my heart because the client happens to be one of my very best friends. From the day Monica and Shawn mandated us for the renovation, we knew this was going to be a good one. We took their home completely down to the studs and started from scratch on both the main floor and the upper level.

    Our conceptual work started with reconfiguring the layout of the first floor. We flipped the kitchen and the dining room and after playing with so many layout options, we concluded that two islands would best suit the kitchen and how our clients would use their home. This allowed us to accommodate a larger kitchen with tons of work space and created an open flow to the dining room and the living room. The kitchen truly became the heart of the home, so fitting for an Italian who likes to cook.

     

     

    The layout was unique enough for us to be excited about working on this project, and then Monica told us she was open to a navy kitchen! And Shawn agreed!! We couldn’t be more thrilled. During the presentation, we confirmed most of the details that were carried through the main floor. We kept it contemporary and threw in elements that incorporate a touch of country like the shaker cabinets and farmhouse sink. Oversized pendants hang above the island and floating shelves above the bar.

     

     

     

     

     

    We went back and forth quite a bit about the fireplace. Monica and Shawn's first choice was to condemn it since they didn't think they would ever use it and we finally opted to keep the fireplace and make it a focal point of the room. We designed a clean and modern mantle that repeated the same oak wood on the hood detail and the floating shelves over the bar, stained to match the flooring.

     

     

      

    The decor is simple and comfortable since the living room was to be used as the main living space and TV room. It also had to be accommodating for several guests as it would also be used for entertaining. Between the sofa, armchairs, ottomans and three stools at the counter, Monica and Shawn can comfortably entertain a party of 10.

     

    With the blue islands as a starting point, they, of course, had an influence on the decor. We brought in different shades of blue and softened the palette with pink accents and accessories.

      

      

     

    Upstairs, their master suite was decorated in the same hues of the living room and leftover flooring was used as an accent wall. This column in the room was there to stay so we could have either ignored it or accentuated it, and in this case, it made more sense to give it some character and make it pop. The wood accent is followed by a white textured wallpaper on the headboard wall that brings depth to the room.

     

     

    The biggest transformation had to be in the main bathroom where we removed a giant step-up tub, enlarged the shower, and created a crisp, clean white palette.

     

     

      

    We worked with a great team on this project which made the experience quite enjoyable. We had close to no hiccups along the way and the project was completed exactly on schedule. If there was one thing we could change about the project it would be the countertops. For the first time, we specified an ultra white quartz to give the clients an alternative to Caesarstone's Pure White which they already had in their condo. With no speckle or movement in the stone, you see everything, which means the clients are constantly wiping down the surfaces, and with two islands, you can imagine how annoying it could be. Overall, we couldn't be happier with the results and we totally look forward to working with Monica and Shawn again on future projects!

    Cabinetry by: Danemma

    Construction by: Redev Construction

    Photography by: Guillermo Castro

  • ARTOIS AVE PROJECT

    Every one of our projects are so unique in their own way which keeps our work fresh and interesting every time! Like all of our projects, our Artois Ave project, was so original to the clients. When working with someone who knows what they like, it allows us to extend our portfolio and push some boundaries. The challenge with this particular space was to keep as much of the architectural integrity as possible. There are elements kept that were non-negotiable, which meant we had to work around them and ultimately make them either blend in or stand out.

    We added modern lines that contrast the older features of the home. Walnut, black accents, and bright whites carry throughout the kitchen, to the living room, and to the master en-suite. The custom lighting throughout also creates a continuity that eases you from one room to the next. 

     

     

    The two-toned kitchen was a full gut project featuring matte black Dekton countertops, a custom hood vent wrapped in a Calacatta style porcelain tile, and a buffet to store our client’s antique dinnerware and teacup collection. We opted to omit any upper cabinets which allowed for the kitchen to be flooded with natural light and to create a feature wall where the custom hood was placed.

     

       

     

    A screen that was original to the home can be found adjacent to the modern kitchen. It was painted and relocated to divide the open living room and dining room and looks like it could totally be a new design element that was added during the renovations.

     

     

     

     

     

    We added drama to an otherwise untouched powder room by painting the walls in a deep navy. The original vanity, toilet, and light fixture are pulled together simply by using the right paint colour!

     

     

      

    The master en-suite was the next project to tackle. We kept the original pharmacy, lighting, windows, and everything else is new. The same three finishes were key elements in this space as well; walnut, matte black, and white. We used matte black plumbing fixtures, tiles, and black metals to compose the frame of the shower. 

     

     

     

     

     

    Overall we must say this project definitely pushed our design boundaries, but we’re so happy they did. We were able to explore new possibilities and finishes due to our clients certainty of their design aesthetic. It was a wonderful collaboration between us and the client !

     

     

  • OUR GO-TO WHITES

    We can't tell you how many times we've walked into a home where the trim was painted pure white, the kind of white where they didn't even bother adding colour to the can. I cringe just thinking about it.

    Although many may think that white is white, choosing the perfect hue of white is difficult since each shade has a subtle undertone to it, making it harder to see with the naked eye. However, once compared amongst each other, the evident undertones appear and the decision making comes to play.

    White should be chosen with caution, taking into consideration all of the other fixed finishes in the home, however here are a few of our go-to whites to help narrow down your process.

     

    SIMPLY WHITE OC-117

    Simply White was Benjamin’s Moore color of the year in 2016 and we understand why. It is one of our favorites because it is fresh and bright. It’s subtle warm yellow undertone, makes it a warmer, more appealing white. We typically use this color for our kitchen cabinetry and walls. This would probably be the whitest white that we would put on walls before the walls start to look too stark or sterile. 

     

     

    CHANTILLY LACE OC-65

    If you’re looking for a pure, bright white, Chantilly Lace is the one for you! It is best used for trim, frames, doors, mouldings and also kitchen cabinetry. Considering this color is the closest to a stark white, it will never look unclean in comparison to other whites. Chantilly Lace falls under the category of cool whites, due to its slightest blue undertone. 

      

      

    CLOUD WHITE CC-40

    Cloud white is loved by many designers because of its warm undertone that makes it a creamy white. However, if placed in the room as being the only white, it looks like a pure white. Cloud white needs to be used with caution when paired with crisper whites. It can very easily look too creamy. This is a great white when paired with more muted colours or neutrals with warmer tones.

     

     

    INTENSE WHITE OC-51

    Intense white appears slightly grey. It’s green undertone balances the warmth making it a great choice to use throughout an entire space. It gives off the perfect contrast paired with Simply White or Chantilly Lace trim. This is not however a colour we would use on trim. Albeit the name suggests it is a white, we would probably categorize Intense White as a very light grey.

    This feature wall is a combination of Intense White & Simply White, which really shows you how greay it is.

      

    In this example, the Intense White walls actually look white next to the concrete grey ceiling and lack of white trim. If you spot the baseboards, that's where you can see that the walls are in fact light grey. 

     

    THINGS TO CONSIDER;

    • Sample Viewing - Get a larger sample of your colour swatch! It is very important to see a larger scale of your color to help understand their undertones. We use 11" x 14" large painted colour samples that make identifying undertones simple and almost obvious - even to our clients who have no experience with colour.

    • Natural Light - Colours can vary immensely from room to room. Therefore, knowing which direction your room is facing can either pull out a warmer (south side) or cooler light (north side). This can play on how evident the undertone will be once painted.

    • Finishes - Make sure you pick the proper finish for your paint colors. Eggshell walls for a matt look, but somewhat washable. Doors, frames, and mouldings should be painted semi-gloss for dirability and washability. Finally, ceiling should be painted matte since matte hides most imperfections and will give you a seamless surface. 

    • All white everything - If your walls and trim are white, the idea is either to go one shade brighter on the trim to create some contrast or to keep the same colour throughout, however still in different finishes.

      

    Understanding and identifying undertones is important to create a clear flow within your home. Choosing colour can be extremely stressful - I get it - which is why hiring a True Colour Expert will give you the confidence you need when picking out the right colors for any space. If you are lacking confidence, we highly suggest to consult our website's colour page and ask for our expertise to guide you every step of the way !

    By: Melinda Recine

  • WINCHESTER BATHROOM RENO & DECOR PROJECT

    Every once in a while, we are blessed with an exceptionally easy client and this one is one of them. Our Winchester client was such a pleasure to work with and truly trusted our opinions which yielded some of our favourite results. The mandate started with the decor of her living room, master bedroom and her son's room and moved on to the renovation of a full bath.

    Although this old Westmount townhouse had beautiful bones, the challenge with this property was the crooked walls and working around the original plaster crown mouldings. Our trusted trades skillfully installed our designs without any hiccups.

     

     

     

    This bathroom renovation features a custom floating walnut vanity. The Carrara marble countertop is repeated on a sill in the shower and we've carried through the graphic Italian imported tile from the kitchen to this bathroom floor. We had fun playing around with a pattern for the floor tile that slopes right down to the linear drain in the shower. It took a long brainstorming session between the designer, the contractor and the tile installer to make sure our vision was feasible. The bonus in this reno was when we removed the heater cover to expose an original wall mounter water heater with beautiful detail. Our original plan was actually to remove it and replace it with a baseboard heater and a wall mounted heated towel bar. Instead, we ended up keeping the original heater exposed and slapping on a fresh coat of paint, which added to the character of this bathroom as we now see modern, clean finishes adjacent to an original element of the home. 

     

     

     

    By: Eugenia Triandos

  • ROSEMERE HOME RENO & DECOR PROJECT

    We're so happy with the results of our recently photographed project. This was one where we started with a major home renovation and ended with the decor of the main living spaces. When we first walked into this home, the kitchen was placed in the center of the house with absolutely no natural light and low ceilings. 

    The first step was to renovate. We turned a three season solarium into a home extension to accommodate the new dining room, tore down a few walls to extend the kitchen and refaced the fireplace in the living room. The result - an open common living space, flooded with natural light that carries through from the front to the back of the house. The focal point is the kitchen featuring a 14 foot island that runs through the center of the home and divides the living room and dining room. The outdoor space was impeccably designed which creates the perfect backdrop to the understated dining room with wall to wall windows. 

     

     

     



     

     

    All of the colours, fixed finishes and decor added to the overall light feeling of this home. We kept the theme going with lots of white, soft blues, warm woods and leather. The flooring is a natural walnut which was repeated with a waterfall countertop on the island and carried through to the fireplace mantle, the inside of the built in buffet and some of the furniture. 

     

     

     

     

     

    Phase two was to furnish the living room, kitchen and dining room. Our client really wanted to achieve a casual, comfortable feeling which kept the space light and airy. We opted for white slip-covered upholstery, a pale blue rug and a warm camel ottoman that can double as a coffee table with the right tray.

     

     

     

    In the dining room, we specified a stunning Ethan Allen dining table and our favourite upholstered Crate & Barrel dining chairs. The white Hudson Valley pendant over the dining table really stands out since it's surrounded by so much greenery. Our client’s existing outdoor living space became an extension of the decor since it incorporates all of the right colours; beautiful greens and blues. 

      

     

     

    The last step to any decor project is when we come in with tons of small accessories and stage the client's home to make it "photoshoot ready". Then our clients get to pick and choose the pieces they'd like to keep and we return the rest. It's the most fun in-home shopping experience and it allows us to see and photograph our interiors exactly how we envisioned them. A win/win that’s the perfect conclusion to any project. It’s always bittersweet closing a mandate of this scale - specially since we enjoyed working with these clients so much. Which is why we were thrilled when our clients told us they’d like to move on to their office and bedroom decor next and a full basement renovation next year!

     

     

    By: Eugenia Triandos

  • FLOORING FOR BEGINNERS

    Selecting new flooring can be overwhelming and although many adore hardwood floors and its timeless beauty, there are several different types of flooring that are quite comparable. We're no flooring experts but here's a bit of what we've learned from our trusted professionals along the way, that may help with you navigate your options.

     

    HARDWOOD

    Solid hardwood is milled from solid lumber.


    Pros: Easy to maintain and can be sanded down and refinished several times. Adding a sealer easily enhances the durability of the 
    wood and its resistance to water and staining without concealing the woods natural beauty. 

    Cons: Wood shrinks and warps in response to moisture, which usually makes it a bad choice for basements where humidity levels are hard to control. It also cannot be installed directly on a concrete surface so in areas where a subfloor is not possible, solid hardwood wood is an unlikely option.

     

     

    ENGINEERED

    Engineered wood is made up of a thin layer of solid hardwood on top and several wood plies (layers) that are fused together under heat and pressure at the bottom.

    Pros: Designed to reduce moisture problems that are associated with hardwood. It will not swell or warp, making it very strong and stable. Also engineered hardwood can go over concrete (great for condos). Aesthetically they are equal to solid hardwood floors, you usually can't easily tell the difference once they are installed, since the top layer is real wood.

    Cons: Veneers that are too thin will prevent sanding or refinishing. However, most engineered wood floors offer a thick enough veneer that allows you to sand and refinish 1-2 times. Engineered wood is a little more expensive than solid hardwood.

     

     

    These are the two main products that we use throughout a home. When considering solid hardwood or engineered wood flooring, you also have the option to go pre-finished, where the wood comes already coloured and varnished, ready to install. Or you can install raw wood planks and have them stained on site. Most contractors prefer the ease of pre-finished flooring. Sometimes we opt for unifinshed wood either to match an existing wood flooring that's staying in the project, or to attain a stain we were unable to find in stores. 

     

    LAMINATE

    Laminate is composed of several layers of fiberboard materials with an image of real wood printed on top with a clear protective layer.

    Pros: Inexpensive, durable, and very resistant to scratches

    Cons: Aesthetically, you can usually tell right away that a laminate is not real wood. It also doesn’t repair easily. If the flooring you choose comes in individual pieces, you may be able to replace each piece, but depending on sunlight and age it may not match entirely.

     

     

    VINYL

    Pieces of vinyl that are printed with a pattern that imitates stone or wood.

    Pros: Waterproof and very thin. Great for basements since it reduces noise levels.

    Cons: Subfloor must be perfect or imperfections show throughout. 

     

    Although what's currently available on the market has been greatly improved over the years, since laminates and and vinyls are made of a printed image, you may see the pattern repeat if covering a large surface. Another thing to look out for would be models that also have a texture where the texture doesn't line up with the printed image. These are both signs that the product is not a real wood and would determine how good of a replica you get. 

     

    Whether it's out of necessity or just for a change in look, new flooring can truly transform your home. We've really just scratched the (wood) surface in this post. You also have to consider the species, the installation technique, the stain colour and sheen. There's a lot more to learn on the hunt for your flooring product. We hope that this post answered some of your main questions and gave you some insight towards your decision!

    If you need help with the best choices for your individual needs, contact us today to shedule a consultation. 

    Blog by: Melinda Recine

  • PROGRESS POST: ARTOIS RENO

    In December of 2016, we were hired by a family to help them design and renovate their new home. Our clients were so special in the sense that they really knew what they wanted yet allowed us creative freedom to work around their style. This old home located in Saint-Lambert needed work - and a lot of it. We remember first walking in thinking wow - everything has to go, but our clients had something else in mind which resulted in a marriage of old and new. We kept the existing plumbing fixtures in the powder room, the exposed beams in the bedroom, the sliding pharmacy in the master bath and a decorative room divider that was repurposed and moved to a new location. The charm that these original fixed features bring to the overall design proves that new isn't always best. The space now has character and is a new unique version of itself.

    Here are some progress shots that we took today. We simply cannot wait for it all to come together to have it professionally photographed. For now, please don't mind our IPhone shots.

    Let's start at the heart of the home, this kitchen is a mix of warm walnut and painted white cabinetry. The hood and backaplash will eventually be wrapped in a Calacatta style tile and the counter will be dressed in a mat black Dekton surface, with a waterfall edge. 

     

    The entrance and powder room were dressed up with this fun, graphic cement tile. When working with small spaces that would otherwise be hard to decorate, it's interesting to add some drama through the fixed finishes and paint. We used Benjamin Moore Hale Navy on the walls in this tiny powder room and it really left quite the impact.

     


     

     

    Upstairs, we head to the master suite featuring custom wall sconces with a matching custom chandelier.

     

     

    The master en-suite was decked out in white tiles with black plumbing and accents. The walnut floating vanities bring warmth to the room and the playful hexagone tiles add depth. We're still waiting for countertops, a wall-to-wall mirror and the shower glass to be installed.

     

  • POIRIER PROJECT

    In May of 2016 we started working on a very unique project that was referred to us by one of our real estate agents. The clients, Eric & Jean-Francois were both living abroad when they reached out. We've offered virtual design services before but this was very different. This referral had yet to close on the sale of a property that they were interested in when they contacted us but their goal was to complete a major renovation virtually. Our clients knew what they liked and absolutely wanted to create a home fit for them (both over 6' tall), even if that meant coordinating from half way across the world. Originally from Quebec, where they met and were married, they then both moved away for work; one in Switzerland and the other all the way in Saudi Arabia. They were buying a property with plans to finally reunite and move back to Montreal after several years abroad. 

    We started by completing a walk through of their prospective home via FaceTime at which point we threw around some ideas and confirmed that what they wanted to do would be feasible. That gave them the green light to go ahead and finalize their purchase. We discussed tearing down some key walls, redoing the kitchen and all of the bathrooms, redoing the divisions in the basement, and finally the addition of a family room, full bathroom and laundry room over the existing garage. We also ended up having to redo the garage entirely for it to structural support the extension, and we had to change the majority of the exterior brick, at which point the clients decided to redo the front entrance. The flooring, interior doors, staircase, railing and all hardware was changed throughout as well. To say it was a big project would be an understatement, not one square inch of the home was left untouched. The challenge was completing this scale of a renovation without even having met the homeowners. 

    So, we got right to work. We took our measurements, drafted construction plans, electrical plans, cabinetry details. We met with the contractor to get quotes and to set up a timeline, all while keeping the client in the loop via FaceTime and getting approvals on the design through countless emails. Finally the time came where we met our clients, probably a month after we started working on their project! They were in the city for only one week, and they had a lot on their agenda. We spent a day together for the presentation of their finishes. We reviewed plumbing fixtures, tiles, cabinetry, hardware, lighting and even paint colours. Everything was finalized in one - long but productive - consultation. Happy with the design, we moved forward to placing all of the orders and waiting for demo day! 

    The major hiccups in this project were delays with city permits pushing the project's start day by several months. Once we got over that hump, it was smooth sailing for the majority of the reno. We had weekly FaceTime meetings every Tuesday where we would show Eric the progress and review details. We worked closely with the contractor, HMR Construction, and we saw the renovation through right to the end. 

    The project was just recently completed this past March, nearly a year after it was started. It's bittersweet since after having worked with these amazing clients so closely, they will definitely be missed, however we are very happy to see it come to a close. Had we not had such understanding and easy going clients who were completely comfortable trusting us with their space, this project would not have gone nearly as smoothly. Eric & Jean-Francois are now happily living in their new home and we cannot be more thrilled with the results! 

     

     

    By: Eugenia Triandos

    Photos by: Guillermo Castro