Friday, March 27, 2009

i love what you did with your coddler!

by Ellen Landry

{Note: from time to time I will have special guests contribute to “just a little rouge…”. This week’s blog is written by my friend and hairstylist extraordinaire, Ellen Landry. This style-maven also has many years experience working in the home décor retail business and has been a regular writer / contributor to a variety of style magazines including Lifestyle Nova Scotia.}

An egg coddler is a kitchen tool designed to be used when cooks wish to make coddled eggs. Using an egg coddler greatly simplifies the process, and the egg cup also makes a handy serving dish for the eggs at the table. A number of companies make egg coddlers and cups, with some antique and vintage versions being highly sought after collector's items. Many kitchen supply stores stock them, especially those which focus on British foods.

That's basically the egg coddler and egg cup, by definition. But I have found a few other uses for them over the years, and it is my pleasure to share them.

Let me give you a little background, if you don't mind indulging me. I, like Suzanne, find great joy in "trolling" antique stores, second hand furniture stores, yard sales, what have you. One Saturday morning, at a friend’s yard sale, I happened across 6 perfect little plain white egg cups. They were delightful on their own, lined up on my kitchen counter, but I soon found myself using them in a few very useful, interesting ways. Let me tell you how.

1 or 2 cups make almost perfect bud vases. When I receive, or buy myself a bunch of flowers, I like to steal a few buds and put one in the entry way to my apartment, one in the powder room. Just add a bit of water to the cup, float the bud inside, what could be easier? The one in the entry way gives guests a sneak peak and a nice personal treat when first walking in.

3 cups lined up across your table top, with a single larger flower in each (perhaps a peony for example) at a dinner party or buffet is an interesting alternative to a more traditional center piece. Or round them up for greater impact. One in a guest bedroom makes for a thoughtful, innovative surprise.

I have used these little cuties for individual salt servings, butter servings, spice servings (you get the idea) at dinner parties. Guests will love that you took the time, and it adds unexpected personality to your setting.

My cups are a little small for this, but they do come in a variety of sizes, so why not use them as a tea light holder? Floating the tea light in a bit of water prevents messy cleanup and you are ready for the next use.

How about an incense holder? I put a bit of sand in the bottom of my egg cup, but a few strategically placed river rocks, a bit of oasis, or even brightly colored pebbles used for aquariums will work. Just remember to put the whole thing on a decorative dish or charger, preventing incense burns on furniture.

I bought pastel colored Easter eggs (they are essentially made of styrofoam, but you would never know) a few years ago and I...yup, use the cups to display them at Easter. They are pretty, and I enjoy them so much more this way, verses in a bowl on my coffee table.

Speaking of Easter, it is egg decorating time. Kids love to display their handy work. Use the cups and enjoy the finished product in every room. If you can stand to part with one, wrap the whole thing in a bit of cellophane, embellish with ribbon or raffia, and give it as a gift to a friend or relative.

These are just a few of my experiences with the egg cup. Obviously not just for the original purpose anymore. A bit unconventional, hopefully an enjoyable read, and may you feel inspired to show your egg coddlers and egg cups, sitting lonely at the back of your cupboard, a lil' love.

Friday, March 20, 2009

not so stuck on wall stickers, yet

I am intrigued by wall stickers. Readily available in so many designs, you see them just about everywhere. The price range seems to vary as well…depending on brand, size and style.

In theory, I really like these. What a quick and fun way to add some zing to a room! And if you get tired of it (as is inevitable with all trendy things), it’s so easy to peel ‘em off and choose something else.

I just had to try some out so I headed to my local DeSerres store (the old Loomis & Toles, for all you Haligonians) to see what they had. Low and behold, they were pushing their new line of “stick-on decorations”. Visit or pick up the catalogue in store that showcases more than 150 styles in lots of categories – flora, fauna, decoration, scrollwork, kids, dining room, messages & letters, and glass decals.

I must admit, I was impressed and excited by the selection. I probably spent about 45 minutes looking through what was offered. I got sucked into buying another brand called Nouvelle Images that was slightly less expensive (by about $20-25).

I loved the look of this design because it reminded me of the cherry blossom season in Vancouver. I wanted to spice up my small guest bedroom and this was the perfect place to try it out.

I was also drawn to the different sizes of chalkboard peel and stick products because I have thought about using chalkboard paint in various places from time to time, but am always scared off by both the smell of the paint and the fact that it is much more difficult to remove/ paint over if you don’t like it. These “removable and repositionable” chalkboards are made by wallies (

I walked out of the store with 25” x 38” chalkboard sheet (chalk included) for $22 and my poster-sized package of wall stickers (hibiscus) for $32.95. I could hardly wait to get home!

First up, the kitchen. It was so easy, I couldn’t believe it. Literally peel off the backing and stick it to the wall. I am really impressed with the quality. It’s heavy, but easy to position, and really sticks. It’s well used -- I write on it and erase all the time -- and it’s great. I saved the backing, just in case I want to move it or remove it at a later date. It gets an enthusiastic two thumbs up from me… and from my guests who like to draw and leave messages!

With such success, I eagerly moved on to the guest room. It’s easy enough to look at the design on the packaging and put the pattern together using the two pages of stickers. What you see, is what you get, so no surprises there.

What was surprising – and almost instantly apparent – was that these stickers didn’t really stick. Overlapping the pieces to match the design became a challenge as some didn’t stick as well as others. By the time I finished, many of the pieces were already lifting off the wall. I am greatly disappointed.

In my opinion, it looks good at a glance, but my constant frustration with having to press down pieces as I walk by every day takes away any positives. The worst part is that you have to destroy the shrink-wrapped packaging to open it, so I can’t even take it back! Two big thumbs down.

Perhaps it’s my own fault for not purchasing the more expensive product. I’m thinking I’ll try one of the DeSerres products because they looked heavier and they offer more modern designs…when I’m ready to let go of the fact that I already good wasted money on this.

There are so many different companies making these products in so many styles & patterns to choose from, I’m not saying you should write off the entire concept. And my experience with the wallies chalkboard was even better than I expected.

My only advice is to make sure you can salvage the packaging to either return the product if it isn’t satisfactory, or if you get tired of it you can store it & reuse it at later date. Consider yourself warned of the possible faults with this trendy option for wall decorating!

For not a lot of money and very minimal work, this is another interesting & easy option to consider when looking to add great impact to your space.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

wallpaper - do not be afraid!

I say “wallpaper” and you cringe. I used to be that way too. I have vivid memories of spending hours and hours at friend’s places with a scoring tool, steamer, stripping solutions and painstakingly peeling hideous old wallpaper off the walls left behind by the previous homeowners.

Well, I am now a convert. Today’s wallpaper options are just not like that anymore. There are a whole host of options readily available – textured, paintable, made from recycled paper – and so much more. Retro, modern, kiddie, traditional, contemporary prints and patterns…there is a lot to choose from. No matter what you decide, wallpaper can add volumes of style to your space at a relatively low cost. All it takes is a little bit of elbow grease and a little bit of patience.

My favorite product (so far) is the Debbie Travis line of paintable, textured wallpaper. It’s heavy so it’s easy to work with and it’s already primed, so it saves you a step when it comes to painting. Available at Canadian Tire for approx $20.00 a roll, it comes in a variety of patterns and textures. It’s great for covering cracks, problem walls, ceilings and paneling.

Tip: to calculate how many rolls you’ll need, measure the size of the walls you want to cover in square meters (multiply the width by the height), subtract the surface area of any doors, windows or other openings, and divide by 4.8. If you forget this formula, it’s also written on the outside of the packaging!

All you do is wet it, wait 5 minutes for the adhesive to activate and put it on the wall. Using your hand or a dry & clean paint roller, smooth it out to make sure there are no wrinkles in the paper and let it dry overnight before painting. Because the paper is so thick and heavy, there are virtually no bubbles to worry about. Any minimal lifting will disappear when the paper dries to the wall and shrinks ever so slightly. You can barely see the seams after it’s painted.

And here’s the best part – if you ever get tired of it, you can repaint it or remove it. To remove, you simply wet it again and the entire strips will peel off with no damage to the wall behind it.

I used the “large dots” wallpaper on one wall of this bedroom in my own home. I painted it the same color as the walls so it would be a bit more subtle and allow the pattern & texture to be what really pops. Viola! -- a fun and interesting focal point. Without exception, every person who gets a tour of my home walks into the room and heads directly to this wall to touch it. I love it. It adds so much to the room, and it makes me smile every time I look at it. (See “vintage gems” blog for info on lamps.)

Tip: the key to installing is to spend all the time you need to make sure the first strip of paper installed is plumb (and level). This product is made so that each strip automatically matches the pattern of the next strip, so there is very little fussing to do and very little waste.

Warning: Because the strong, symmetrical pattern draws your attention, if your beginning point is not plumb, it will be really obvious.

Here are the before & after photos of an entryway in the home of a recent redesign client of mine. He wanted to up the “wow factor” to welcome guests into his space. There is a large, brushed steel framed mirror on the far back wall of the dining room that you can see from the doorway (not shown).

Drawing from this much loved piece, we opted to go with the more industrial looking “metal” pattern. Painted with a similar metallic paint, this entryway wall is now much more interesting and gives you a small taste of what you can expect in the rest of the house.

We decided to install this paper on the horizontal, instead of on the vertical because the wall space was just slightly larger than the width of one strip. So there are more seams, but they are all symmetrical and therefore much less noticeable to the eye. There was a little extra wasted paper in matching the pattern and it took a little extra time, but it was well worth it.

A special shout out to my client for having a keen sense of foresight and vision on this one!

Tip: metallic paints are often thinner than regular paints and you can see the seaming more when you use it on paintable wallpaper. Be prepared for this…or be prepared to put on a few extra coats of paint.

Now imagine painting the large dots a bright pink or purple in a little girl’s room. Or a classy grey or silver in a modern living room or hallway. Think about the metal pattern painted in a copper or bronze in a kitchen or bathroom. How about a fun blue or green in a boy’s room? Think of either in just about any color in just about any space…the possibilities make my head swirl!

Wallpaper. Do not be afraid any longer.

Friday, March 6, 2009

surprise! it’s a …

Check this out. I met a friend last week at a new restaurant. They have quite a stunning interior. Chic and stylish, but also comfortable and inviting. Bright and fun with some of the most amazing light fixtures I’ve ever seen.

Now here is the most amazing part….it’s Moxie’s in the Dartmouth Crossing business park. That’s right, in a business park. Wait a second…what was that sound? Yes, I believe it actually was the sound of hell freezing over (in my world, at least).

I was so looking forward to reconnecting with my friend, that I only silently cursed for a second (or two) when she suggested meeting here. I’ll admit it. I made a judgment. But you have to agree, it was a well educated judgment. I was totally imagining a Boston Pizza, a Swiss Chalet, an East Side Marios…you get the idea. Ugh.

I’ll also admit that I am one of “those” people who will gladly haul out my soapbox and preach about why it’s critical to have a vibrant downtown. And how business parks are very quickly killing our downtown areas. I will also tell you that I’m not a hypocrite either, because I freely acknowledge that I, too, frequent the big box stores. But, it’s not for the experience.

Especially now as a homeowner – with a home staging & design business – there are some really affordable and stylish items to be found. Since I pride myself on advising where to splurge and where to save without skimping on style, the big box is a necessity. Many designer lines are now available and are much, much more accessible through some of these stores. But I’d still prefer to see some of these key big box stores located in a downtown environment. I vehemently support my downtown in many other ways.

But I digress. Needless to say, I was wrong in my pre-judging. Moxie’s Bar & Grill was quite a lovely surprise. In truth, I was blown away. If it was downtown, it would easily become one of my favorite places based on décor alone. Lighting, red leather booths, dark dramatic wood, large & interesting artwork come together to give this place a great vibe. Very un-Halifax.

Then, I went to the bathroom. I believe the bathroom is the most telling about a bar or restaurant….am I right, ladies?
Notice the beautiful lavender, iridescent, pearlized mosaic tiles. Umm...and what is there to say about the two make-up chairs, complete with individual mirrors and your own control over the lighting above? You have to check it out for yourselves to believe it.

In my opinion, this place was clearly designed with people in mind. Not just shoppers trying to get in and out quickly to carry on with their day. Real people. People who may actually eventually live here and call this their neighbourhood.

Granted, you’d have a long way to go to convince me to live here, but the ultimate design of the entire Dartmouth Crossing development is to have a mix of residential, retail and business. The “village” area that’s already been built – complete with cobblestone walkways, nicer lighting and integrated parking – is evidence of this. According to their website, there is much more to come…green space, a fish park, amphitheatre…

But, back to Moxie's. I had the burger and it was disappointing (a la Harvey’s style). However, any menu with sweet potato fries is worth a second chance in my books. And the all black, too revealing tops, too short skirts, bare legs and boots “uniform” of the lovely and kind staff greatly diminish the style and class of the place. I am hoping these are just the final “bugs” yet to be worked out.

At the end of the day, it’s still in a business park. And that comes at odds with what I hope for in my downtown. But it is doing things differently. I applaud the efforts so far. I can give credit where credit is due. Check it out if you find yourself there…I promise not to judge you too harshly.

I love that wonderful design can be found in the most unexpected places. And I have learned to never say never.