Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I'm so happy to share this family home with you today!

Kelly and Colin live in a beautiful home in an older part of Oakville, Ontario with their three kids and dog Marlowe. 

Yay Smyth family!

The Smyth family in their re-freshed kitchen. 
The chalkboard wall helps keep this busy family organized 
as well as showcasing the kids art! 

Kelly approached me last winter to help them out with a kitchen and family room refresh in their new house. They are planning on an extensive renovation of their kitchen down the road, but wanted to give the space an update that better fits their style.

The Smyths' are talented home renovator's and creative DIY'ers with great style. They love scouring antique markets for vintage treasures but appreciate clean modern lines.

The goal of this project was to freshen up their space. They wanted to utilize as much furniture as possible in these two rooms recognizing that their usage could change when the time is right and they take the plunge to renovate.

I hope you enjoy touring Kelly and Colin's home.

   K I T C H E N   B E F O R E ...

K I T C H E N   A F T E R !

kitchen renovation kendall charcoal

The kitchen had the most dramatic changes, so I shared some before shots with you.

What we did:

1. The cabinets on the chalkboard wall were removed to open up the space and utilize the entire wall for the kids art and organization items.

2. All the kitchen cabinetry was painted out. I think it turned out great! It's amazing what a can of paint will do for a dated space. The lower cabinets, pantry wall and desk were painted Benjamin Moore's Kendall Charcoal. The uppers were painted Cloud White.

3. New light fixtures (source: Living Lighting)

4. Hardware remained the same! Usually changing hardware is a surefire way to freshen a kitchen. In this case, the aged brass is on trend and looks amazing with the colour of the cabinets. Besides, hardware can add up quickly. When you are trying to save money little items like this can save your budget.

5. The countertops didn't change since this is a re-fresh, however, the desk countertop was painted out in the same paint as the cabinets. Now it looks like one solid piece of furniture!

6. New counter stools provide a nice spot for the kids to eat breakfast or do homework while meals are prepared.

7. The desk area got organized. Boxes and baskets assigned to each child help sort paper and special keepsakes. Sorting through cookbooks so that the ones you use most often are displayed helps to reduce clutter. Finally styling the desktop with containers to organize pencils, scissors etc keeps it functional and pretty! I love the (working) vintage rotary phone.

8. Kelly and Colin wanted a coffee/tea station. So we took the doors off the upper cabinets and stacked their collection of handmade mugs and some dishes that are easy to access. 

Not too many changes happened in the dining room...
A new light fixture and dining room chairs (both from Crate and Barrel) freshened up the space. Now they have a comfortable and stylish spot to entertain. 

Some styling on the console in the foyer provided an organized and welcoming spot to drop keys and items coming in the front door.

The beginnings of a family gallery wall are taking shape in the foyer. I love how the mix of black and white frames turned out. 

The family room was freshened up with new curtains and hardware. 
Somehow I am missing a photo of that side of the room. I'll have to share it later. Two new floor lamps (again not shown, darn!)

The sofas stayed the same. They are actually older and well loved Montauks slipcovered. Although oversized for the room, once we re-positioned them it helped open up the space.

The mantel was styled with a collection of vintage globes found at thrift shops and antique markets. A new sisal rug, a pouffe from Target provides extra seating around the antique box they use as a coffee table and storage for games. We also added in some new throw pillows from West Elm and a few accessories from Homesense.

The kids rooms...

A vintage locker was stripped by hand (by Colin) to use as an armoire. 

Old skateboards are given a new life as shelving and old but beloved t-shirts are framed as art.

An old brass chandelier is given a new lease on life with a simple and inexpensive can of spray paint. 

I think this bedroom is one of my favorites. The combination of the orange feature wall and steel furniture give it a nice vintage industrial feel. The fabulous cabinet is a Homesense find.

This desk and shelving unit from Crate and Barrel is an ideal spot for homework and to display books and Lego creations! The locker is from the set in the other bedroom. It fits perfectly in this space.

Kelly and Colin did all the labour in this renovation. Their energy to tackle this project amazed me. They are one talented couple! I keep telling Kelly they should have a blog of their own!

It was a pleasure to work with them on their home and I can't wait to see what future home projects they embark on.

You can find beautiful images of their home in the summer issue of Canadian Family magazine which we shot this past spring. I had the opportunity to work with my brother and talented photographer Jim Norton on this shoot. 

Sadly, the magazine has ceased publication of it's print magazine. This was their final issue. So, a warm shout out to the amazing editorial and design team at Canadian Family Magazine. So happy I had the chance to work with you on this and previous issues.

All photos and styling done by me, Debra Norton :)

Monday, July 28, 2014


One of the things I'm crazy about is creating flavoured syrups. They are SO easy to make, you have to try it! You can use them to create your own sodas which kids (big and small) will love. They also get a lot of use here at our cocktail bar ;)

So start with making a simple syrup.  This is great to use in your iced coffee or tea, mixed with citrus juices and some soda or as a sweetener in a cocktail.

The recipe is so simple it's not really a recipe.

Just measure out equal parts sugar and water. Bring to a boil and let boil for about 2 minutes. Let cool. Your done.

Once you've mastered the simple syrup you can wander into the world of flavoured syrups. Summer is the perfect time to do this, with the abundance of fresh fruit and herbs.

A popular syrup in our house is the lemon-lime syrup. The kids add it to carbonated water from our Soda Stream. (recipe at end of post)

Grapefruit-orange syrup is delicious too!

Saving old jam jars for syrups like this makes for cute packaging too. I also like to use these Bonne Maman jam jars as glasses.

Tip: Save soda bottles from store-bought sodas to re-use. Just make sure you wash them, but of course you know that...

Lemon Lime Syrup:

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water

Orange-Grapefruit Syrup:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 cup water
2 cups of sugar

Bring the juices, water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Stir only until the sugar dissolves. Allow the syrup to boil for 2 minutes and then remove from heat. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Use the back of a wooden spoon to press out the liquid. Cool completely. 

This will make approximately 2 cups of syrup.

Enjoy! There are so many flavours you can try. Up next in my house is Cherry Syrup!


**P.S. I set up my Soda Bar on my new DIY Bar Cart (which I love!) that I shared with you earlier today here.

DIY // Patio Bar Cart {sponsored post}

We love to entertain in our backyard and I've been looking for a bar cart that we could use not only as a bar, but also for parties like our outdoor movie nights with friends.

I wanted something substantial and sturdy that could be left outdoors during the summer and easily stored in the winter.

I found this cart at Staples after they contacted me to collaborate on a decor project using some pieces from their new home decor line-up. I was tempted by some of the side tables (like this great coffee table) and chairs they offer online. Who knew you could buy furniture at Staples that wasn't just for the office?! 

I loved the idea of turning a utilitarian cart into a bar cart. Here it is!

I transformed an industrial steel utility cart from Staples into a bar cart with a can of spray paint and some styling tricks.

A really easy DIY project that you can complete in under an hour. 

1. Lightly sand the cart so that the paint can adhere.
2. Wipe the cart clean.
3. Spray the cart with your choice of rust proofing spray paint. Follow the drying time directions on the can. You may have to do two coats to depending on the colour. 
I used Rustoleum brand spray paint, the Tremclad line in Glossy White.

I really like how it turned out. I think the white paint compliments my shady garden nicely. We have lots of verdant greens so the white is actually a pop of "colour" that works well with our more modern decor. Although I think this would look really cool in a bright colour like yellow or green.

I used a mixture of vintage and new trays, baskets and a vintage soda crate to corral bar essentials such as glasses, sodas, towels etc. The shelves provide tons of storage space. 

Psst... in the winter I can roll my cart into our shed and use it as shelving. 

Tip: I've been making simple syrups for our summer drinks. They are so easy and versatile. We use them for our Soda Stream too.

Create some simple DIY art to lean on or hang behind your cart. A dollar store canvas is painted with some favorite colours with an ombre effect.

I also picked up these great solid colour outdoor cushions for my vintage basket chairs.  I love how they look. I'm thinking of adding some green cushions too.

The colours of our garden...

I like a more monochromatic look in the garden these days. I find it relaxing. The focus is on the garden rather than the patterns on outdoor textiles. I like using natural linens and the colour scheme to reflect what's going on in the yard.

When I was browsing the patio furniture at Staples (yes they have patio furniture!) I was crushing on this set. I really like outdoor sofa sets and love the resin options that are available. Maybe next summer ...


*Disclosure: Staples contacted me to partner with them on a home decor collaboration. They offered me the opportunity to choose some product and use it in my home. When I choose to collaborate with a company like Staples I am careful to ensure that the partnership works for both of us. I love what Staples has to offer and was excited to see and use some of their new home products.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

indigo dreams

visit my Indigo Dreams board (above) on Etsy

Ever since John and I travelled to Japan many years ago I have had an obsession with Indigo.  I picked up several items on my travels that were made using natural indigo including lots of ceramics, paper and linens.

I have been collecting some gorgeous indigo inspired finds over on my Etsy board "Indigo dreams" including beautiful Indian kantha quilts, shibori linens, and even these cool tile decals.

There is something about indigo that is dreamy and soulful yet vibrant and rich at the same time. It has been very much on-trend of late in home design showing up in rich blue-black wall paint, ikat, shibori and ombre dyed linen pillows and fabrics.

In my own home it appears in many rooms including my bedroom which is a mixture of white textiles, vintage walnut furniture, soft grey walls and pops of indigo, brass and white.

I would love to add this little slipper chair from West Elm in the mix.

button slipper chair, West Elm

and maybe this little pillow from Indigo which is on sale for a steal right now...
blue ombre pillow, Indigo

Currently, on my coffee table is this book, Nomad by Sibella Court. I adore her style, photography and of course her books. In Nomad, you see examples of indigo from her travels to Japan, India and more. So inspiring and beautiful.

If you want to know about Indigo, it's history and how it is used, Design Sponge did a post on it here including some links to further reading.

So that's all for now. Just felt like sharing some colour inspiration with you.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

designing a backyard shed

This is what we are up to right now.

Designing and building a shed... or two.

So that we stay within the size restrictions of city by-laws regarding sheds, John came up with this creative solution.

At first I had trouble envisioning two sheds in the backyard. In fact, I think my initial reaction was a face cringe. But then I began to see the potential and picture how the design could actually work well and still be visually appealing.

The space in between the sheds is what I am most excited about. I'm envisioning a little nook, shady with a stone and moss covered pathway. At the back of the nook will be a big, rustic wood bench that can serve as a potting table or a spot to use when we are entertaining outdoors. Behind the table will be the original vintage square lattice that I may paint out dark. Add some hooks and it can be used to store tools or get creative and it can be the backdrop for a little garden vignette.

The design is quite modern to fit in with the new addition at the back of the house. The addition is clad in Hardie board so we will recreate that same look using wood siding painted out in Benjamin Moore's Wrought Iron.

I love the idea of stringing twinkling patio lights in between the sheds if the light fixture idea doesn't work out.

What do you think?

You can check out my backyard inspiration board on Pinterest here. The outdoor light option I showed is from Pottery Barn.

Stay tuned for more updates on this project :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

the lawn debate...

We are lucky to have a shady, green urban backyard. It's not huge, but it's cozy and lush with three large oak trees and a towering pine. Because it is a shade garden we stick to hydrangeas, hosta and ferns. I actually love the lushness of a green shady garden.


One problem we have had is with grass. It is very difficult to maintain a lawn in a yard with thirsty trees, lots of shade and urban critters like squirrels and raccoons digging away. 

There has been an ongoing debate in our house about what to do with our "lawn" which is more dirt than grass. John would love to install maintenance free faux grass {insert GASP here}. I would not. You either love the idea or you don't. I'm sorry, I just can't get past the idea of plastic grass. If grass is not meant to grow there then find something that can. So that's what I vowed to do and I did. 

Enter Clover. Your new best friend. It's green. It's soft to walk on. It's pretty. It can withstand traffic and bouts of dryness. It grows fast! I'm so excited. Who knew I'd be so excited by this?

This is our "lawn" with the new clover growing. 

Because it's a seed, we do need to add more to fill in some spaces but it's coming along quite nicely. The great thing is that when a squirrel digs away at it you can just sprinkle more seed and voila! approximately 7 days later you have green.

Clover is much more environmentally friendly than grass because it needs less water. Once it's established you (apparently) don't need to water it as much. I also learned that clover, especially red clover, is great for bee's. With declining bee populations adding a little clover seed to your lawn could help the bee's a little.

So there you go. That's my green thumb advice for your lawn. Wish me (and the clover) luck. I hope it lives up to it's reputation. I'll let you know later this summer how it's doing and whether I'm still winning the debate(wink).

PS. I bought a bag of seeds for $10 at Plant World, my local garden centre. 

Here are a few links with information on establishing clover and other lawn alternatives.