Sunday, January 30, 2011


My grandmother had a vanity with an attached mirror and a little stool. It was well made of indeterminate solid wood, finished in dark to medium brown, with tongue and groove drawers and a bit of spooling detail down the front.  I inherited the vanity 23 years ago.  It was well over 60 years old, and not in perfect condition. I thought of turning it into a very traditional vanity with a cloth skirt, glass top etc. which would have worked well in our previous home as we had the perfect spot and decor to suit, but I never got around to it.
Then we downsized, and the vanity ended up like so many of our "can't bear to get rid of this" pieces in the basement of our cottage. This past fall I brought 'her' (funny how we sexify inanimate grandmother once had a car she called 'Betsy') home to our small upstairs hall, hoping to use her as a desk.  She was minus the mirror as I had detached it many years earlier and it now resides in our small master bath at the cottage. But the original finish of Gramma's vanity was not doing it for me or the space.
A few of my decorator friends were painting furniture and had talked of spraying instead of painting with a brush to get a smoother finish.  Soooo back she went to the cottage, this time to the garage with a new sprayer in tow, to await her eventual transformation.  I proceeded to cover surrounding surfaces in drop cloths then went to work prepping the original finish....sanding, cleaning and priming.
When I'm working on a project, I'm sometimes all about the reveal as opposed to the process.  In this case though, I knew I had to get the spray to the perfect consistency. I'm NOT mechanically inclined...I really like doing things by I practiced...and then practiced some more.
Then I started to was awesome how the transformation was almost immediate as much of the surface was covered, albeit lightly in the new colour. I was getting grandmother, if alive, would have felt 'discombobulated' (her favourite word)...she would NEVER have thought, let alone attempted to tamper with a perfectly good piece of furniture.
As I was spraying layer after layer I was starting to fall in love with the colour. She was morphing from a vanity to a desk before my eyes. I was imagining this new and improved 'desk' in her eventual new home, with the new lamp that I had bought ...accompanied by a funky chair that I hope to purchase to complete the ensemble. I kept spraying.

Now, does it really matter that the garage floor, the trailer hitch, a few hand tools and a snowmobile licence plate are all speckled in blue paint? I think not.
When I brought her home, I just knew that I couldn't attach the original knobs. I wanted to dress her up with I bought Murano Glass knobs with a cobalt blue centre....they are perfect.
Here she is.....
......isn't she pretty and much more useful now as a desk than she was hibernating in the cottage basement.

Moral to this not be intimidated to transform a piece of furniture by painting or altering it's original function.  The value of the piece is what YOU make it.

Friday, January 21, 2011


My blog is only two weeks old, so imagine my surprise when my decorator friend Lisa from Lisa Goulet Design awarded me 'Stylish Blogger Award'. What a thrill Lisa...THANK YOU!

Upon receiving this award, the rules are to:

1. thank, and link back to the person who awarded you
2. share 7 things about yourself 
3. pay the award forward to 10 great bloggers
4. contact those 10 bloggers and inform them  that they have received the award

1. I am a wife, a mother of 3 daughters in their 20s, a daughter, a sister,
 a friend
my babies...eldest daughter in middle became engaged on this day, Dec 26 2010 

2. I used to make most of my own clothes when I was in school and then some of my daughters' clothes when they were little. Now, I make decorative pillows with eclectic fabrics and buttons...just because. 
jackets I made for my girls with hand blanket stitching 
my lastest pillow collection....always feather filled

3. Being a stay at home mommy was my JOB for 19yrs... the most gratifying years of my life to date. There is only one thing I know for sure about myself ....I was the best mother my daughters could have had.

4. 26 years ago, before I had children, I was a graphic artist. I migrated to and then studied Residential Decor partime for 5 1/2 years when my youngest daughter was 13.  I was also working part time at a home decor store. Shortly after I graduated I started my own homebased decor business. 

5. We had a winterized log cottage built 6 years ago, I helped design the floor plan, and designed every aspect of the interior and was on site several times a week until completion.....I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF THE PROCESS...the cottage is now our family gathering place where we host a family reunion every summer.....among other events.
construction 2005
great room
some family on the cottage dock at reunion 

6. One of my greatest pleasures is travelling, whether in a trailer across Canada and US which was how we did it as a family when I was growing up.....
one of several trailers in which my family toured most of North America

or by plane (I dislike flying immensely, but I do it) to Hong Kong, Spain, Italy, Aruba, Britain.....
our family trip to Britain in August 2010....the oldest
 golf course in the world....St. Andrews, Scotland

7. If I can't be enjoying #6 then #7 is a close second.  I like nothing better than a delicious meal accompanied by complementary wine, with good friends and or family. 
my meal at Gordon Ramsay's Restaurant 'Maze' in die for!.

I now have the honour of passing 'Stylish Blogger Award' onto the following blogs...which I very much enjoy reading, and I hope you will too!

All photos for the "Stylish Blogger Award" post were taken by Maureen Coates

Friday, January 14, 2011


We all have one.  They come in many shapes, sizes, colours and and finishes. Sometimes they are at the front and sometimes they are at the back.  They almost always see a lot of traffic. The traffic is either coming or going through here...sometimes the traffic stops here...Very often the traffic leaves a deplorable mess here.  For is the bane of my existence. It is....

This picture illustrates how my front hall looks on any given day in the spring, summer or fall.

Below is our front hall winter. Our front door is the only convenient entrance to our home and ALL of the family traffic flows through here. The closet to the left is very functional, and sometimes very organized, but not very large. We live in Ottawa...the variable weather conditions in winter require many types of outdoor footwear. Although I have insisted that only one pair of boots per person may remain in the hall,  as you can see, many boots have taken permanent residence in this modest space.

I also insist that all footwear staying in the hall MUST be placed on the small mats to dry and have their  heels against the wall and lined up.  I think it looks less crowded, more organized. Alas, my family does not heed my words....witness the chaos. Now take a look at the throw rugs and surrounding hard wood floors (beyond embarrased to be showing you, but for a good cause).  This is only one day worth of slush, muck and dirt.  It is impossible to keep up with winter constantly visiting our front hall...and then of course, that same mess migrates to other areas of our house on the soles of socks and slippers.

Therefore, THE FRONT HALL CLEANING PROCEDURE is performed...and this is how it goes
1. move all the footwear to the kitchen
2. shake out the mats...toss in kitchen
3. shake out the rugs...toss in kitchen
(I also do 1, 2 and 3 for quick fixes on non-slushy days...when there is only grit...then I sweep)
4. vacuum the floor removing dust, dirt, salt and sand
5. vacuum the rugs.... or take directly to washing machine depending on soil level
6. wash the floor, baseboards and sometimes walls (some people, who shall remain nameless, kick off their boots, hitting many surfaces at once with flying muck....grrrrrr)
7. replace the mats, and rugs when floors are dry
8. return only the necessary boots to the matt making sure the heels are against the wall....put the extra boots in the closet...if they will fit
9. sit down, have a glass of wine... I mean water, because I am parched and exhausted from this labour intensive exercise
10. pray it does't snow for a few days so I DO NOT have to repeat the procedure again tomorrow

 I COULD spend hours each day washing the rugs and floors, but of course that would be counterintuitive. Oh and one other thing...what's with the boots sitting in the middle of the hall?...I am going to KILL myself bringing in the groceries some day.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have carried the herringbone pattered tile from the vestibule, into the hall, but that would not have reduced the ucky, gucky puddles.
At one point I was thinking of having a really durable, shows-no-dirt-runner (or two) made to cover the length of the hall...however, the kitchen and vestibule doorways do not line up, so the runner would be design sensitivity will not allow that.
I have also contemplated  painting a faux rug on the hardwood....I would love the challenge of creating and executing the design.  It would solve a few issues....perhaps the pattern would detract from the sodden slush, there would be no need for throw rugs, therefore, less vacuuming, and rug laundry...actually better for the environment really. I could just have a mop handy whenever winter messes come knocking at our front door. My concern is the durabiltiy of this solution...would the paint fade and crack creating a more expensive dilema in the future?

I am truly flumoxed. I NEED FRONT HALL THERAPY STAT!!!!

Please let me know if you have front hall solutions for winter....I would be eternally grateful.

Addendum:  Yesterday, I undertook THE FRONT HALL CLEANING PROCEDURE. Last night my daughter and 3 friends came through the front door....and yes, my earlier cleaning efforts were for naught. The rugs and floors were a disgusting mess...and there has been no snow for several days...I give up!!!

All othe above photos for "The Bane of My Existence... " taken by Maureen Coates unless otherwise specified

Friday, January 7, 2011

Barbie and I

When I first decided to start a blog, I thought my first post...this one... should be about why I am a decorator/designer. I have read snippets on other blogs about inspiring moments that later defined what people have become. But what was my defining moment. I have always had the innate desire and need to create. At about age seven I would get out our table cloths, the good china, silver and glasses and set the dining room table....just because. If there were flowers in our backyard garden, they would become part of the table scape. (channeling Martha Stewart?) I used to make pillows from spare fabric my mother had and stuff them with lint from the dryer....not a good idea if you have allergies, or the slightest tear in the seam. If I didn't  like the way something looked in MY personal space, I would find a way to change covering up an old cardboard box that held my treasures. It was worn and bent so I covered it completely in tiny random pieces of masking tape, using long pieces of tape on all the edges, then I rubbed brown shoe polish all over and improved treasure box. I would spend hours perfecting Title Pages for all my school projects...the project content suffered as a result, but I got great marks for those Title Pages.

I have really had to go back into my memory bank to figure out when the first signs of my eventual chosen career path started to take root. I have to say it began when I was 5 or 6.

That is when I first became acquainted with Barbie.
My Barbie Doll.... circa 1959-1960.  Isn't she beautiful?
In 1963, while celebrating Christmas at my Aunt and Uncles' house, my eldest cousin Ellen, who was seven years older than I, let me play with and then take home her Barbie doll with all of Barbie's clothes, shoes and accessories.  That was huge for me as I was one of the youngest cousins and at six could have taken severe liberties with Barbie's belongings and wigs (yes, Barbie came with wigs back then) as six year olds are wont to do. However, I guarded that gift as if she were the most precious, living and breathing "person" to ever enter my life.  
Barbie and her accoutrements became my entire focus during playtime...she was not a sexy, mis-proportioned bimbo to me....oh no her wigs needed to be combed just so by my young nimble hands holding the itsy witsy Barbie comb and her outfits had to be layed out and coordinated before I carefully extended her non-bendable arms and legs and with a bit of struggle, but ever so concientiously dressed her.
Barbie and her assortment of wigs
Small sample of my Barbie's wardrobe, including knitwear
 and red housecoat that my mother made for her.
I wanted or, needed Barbie to have a homemade KILT.  My mother had made my sister and I  capes with frog closures.  I loved my cape, so with some of the cape's leftover material I fashioned a kilt for Barbie by hand as I was too young to use a sewing machine.  It had "pleats" and snaps. 
The hand sewn kilt I made for Barbie
Check out the precise "pleats"

After a while my Barbie needed a home.  In the mid 60's if there was a Barbie House, I was not aware of one, nor was Santa. I had to resort to making Barbie's abode on my own, but to me that was no big deal...a no brainer.  I would use the books, coasters, doilies, face cloths, ash trays, little boxes... anything, actually, that could be turned into furniture to create and furnish Barbie's home. Books became the walls, her bed and sofa and when I had time and space to be really creative, the stairs to different levels of her ever expanding home.  The face cloths and doilies were used to create rugs and bed spreads. The ash trays and boxes became tables...the possibilities were endless. Later, Barbie recieved a blue bedroom suite from Santa. (see below) I became so enthralled in creating Barbie's house that I would beg my mother to "PLEASSSSEEE let me keep everything as it is until tomorrow" so that Jill (my friend and fellow Barbie playmate) could continue to create and play.

Of course I can't show you the elaborate houses I constucted for Barbie,
but these are the remaining items from her bedroom suite,
...the picture is made from a postcard glued onto a scrap piece of wood
Soon after starting the endless house constructions in our den, I decided Barbie needed to eat at home and entertain. Up until this realization, my Barbie dined out at only the most exclusive restaurants....and why not, she had the most exquisite wardrobe...she was simply beautiful. I'm remembering now, that  for some reason Ken was not on the scene at that time ...even at 6 or 7 I realized that my Barbie did not "need" a man. However, my need for Barbie to have a kitchen or at least dishes and cutlery became paramount. Thus the creative juices began to flow to make tiny dishes for Barbie? This is how....out of cardboard, markers and tin foil.
I spent hours creating this 4 piece set of "china" and "sterling"
I continued to play "Barbies" until I was 13 heard right 13 years old.  By the time I packed Barbie away for safe keeping, I had acquired Ken, Skipper and Tootie, countless accessories, clothes and a couple of new Barbie cases all of which I fairly pristine order.  My three daughters used to beg to play with my Barbie Dolls, but I would only let them play with the newer dolls and clothes unsupervised....alas these dolls and clothes did not survive those playtimes.  However, my girls were never allowed to touch my original Barbie, her clothes, accessories....or dishes, therefore, they have remained in much the same condition as they were when I carefully stored them away 40 years ago. 

I can honestly say after resurrecting Barbie a month ago to take pictures of her and her awesome clothes and accessories, that she is the one who deserves the credit for my initiation into design and decor. was just Barbie...and I.
Thank you Barbie

I would love to hear your you became what you are today!
I would also love to hear your personal stories about you and Barbie.

all pictures for "Barbie and I" post taken by Maureen Coates

Maureen at Modecor Muses: January 2011

Maureen at Modecor Muses