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Interior Design Blog

Design a Word

December 29, 2011

So, I invented a new word.  If you read my blog called Up-Locate, Downsize and Edit you already know this.

The word is up-locate.  I know I invented it because I Googled it and checked on Wikipedia and no one else thought of it first, so I’m making claim to it.

I’d like to think there is a little Faith Popcorn in me.  For those of you who don’t know who she is, Wikipedia sights her as the creator of the word cocooning. Follow the link to see Faith Popcorn’s listing on Wikipedia

Up-locate is a word like cocooning, I reckon.  It may represent a trend of the future, so it could be very important.  By inventing this new word, I may actually be predicting a very interesting change in our culture.  I might be part of the new trending phenomenon.

I could write a book. Oprah’s top producer might call and want me to star in a new show on her network OWN.  My show could actually save her floundering network.

I know what you’re thinking, “She’s getting carried away with herself.”  O.K, maybe Oprah will just want to start with an interview.

I like words, and so does my mother, it seems that things like that can run in families.

I have a complete set of ceramic alphabet balls in a silver bowl, in my office.  I also have an anagram of my husband’s and my names, and it’s quite cute, “All Edible” in stainless steel letters, mounted and framed (I won’t torture you, it’s Bill and Adele).  My daughter, Jennifer, knows how much I like letters, so she gave me the stainless letters for Christmas one year.

Back to the word I invented, up-locate.  What does it mean?  Since I invented it, I also get to write the definition.  Wow, I feel really powerful.

Up-locateVerb.  Up-locate is the name given to the trend to downsize to a better neighbourhood.  Usually refers to what empty-nesters are doing or want to do, often retired or close to retirement. May be leaving behind a larger home, seeking a smaller or no property to maintain,  less grass to cut, and house trim to paint.  Sometimes the move is to a high-rise condominium, or it can be a bungalow, or townhouse.  Ideally situated in a neighbourhood that is fun to walk in, and close to a great shopping area.   Restaurants, bookstores, galleries, and quality food shops will be abundant.  There may or may not be room for the grandchildren or their pets to run around, therefore a nearby park will be frequented.  Or their parents may be called upon to host family parties.  May be wishful thinking.

I like the word up-locate better than downsize because it suggests a better quality of life, more leisure activites, more green space, more travel.  It’s more positive.

It also means you may have a good budget for design and decorating, because this is an important time of life, when you’ve been around the block a few times, you know who you are and what you want.  You want to do it right, so you don’t have to do it again for a long, long time.

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you also know that my husband and I up-located recently.  We bought a bungalow townhouse in Dundas that is smaller than the West Hamilton Mountain house we moved from.  The townhouse needed a fair amount of upgrading, and since we love the area, we were willing to put in the time and investment.

All kidding aside, we are thrilled with this decision, and if you are or have been contemplating a similar move, I highly recommend that you take the plunge.

Up-locating is a trend that is sure to grow.

Christmas Stocking Story

December 21, 2011
Funny story…related to being forgetful; my “mature” friends will understand.
We have 8 mini Christmas stockings for our four children and their spouses.  The grandchildren have “normal” stockings, but the adults receive the rather diminutive sized gifts of cash and a few truffles.  
Bill has carefully labeled each with their names, and reminds the”kids” every year not to take them home, because this has happened several times over the past 15 years and at the last minute he has run around on Christmas Eve, from dollar stores to department stores searching for replacements.  By the way, this is his compulsion, not mine–I would have substituted a little gift bag and left it at that, but those of you who know Bill also know that he couldn’t do that!
As you may have guessed by now, we had this problem again this year, magnified times eight!  WE misplaced all eight stockings.  I say WE, because I had the awful feeling that I was responsible for loosing them, but I held out the possibility that I had released them into Bill’s safe keeping, because he’s the one who fills them, after all…
So, last night we looked in every drawer, every box, every cabinet and under the bed.  All the while I knew that I had not only seen them when I decorated the house and tree, but had actually handled them.  I could remember seeing the replacement stocking with Jennifer’s name on it…So maddening, I just knew that they had to be within easy reach.  I wouldn’t have put them away again in the basement because we would soon need them, but we searched every Christmas storage box in the basement 3 times…
I tried to put this dilemma into perspective.  Eight new little stockings might cost, at most $40, and here I was feeling sick, and more than a little demented.
Bill, kindly, was not angry, I suspect he was just as worried as I that he may have been the one to misplace them.  But, he is a bit “retentive” about this kind of thing, and refused to substitute 8 matching little gift bags that I happen to have.  Nothing will do, he said, but miniature stockings.
We gave up after an hour or so of searching, I to loose myself in front of a story about the life of James Stewart, and Bill to watch some sports.
Went to bed emotionally exhausted, hoping that my smarter (?) subconscious mind would remember where I stashed the blasted things while I slept.  Not leaving anything to chance I said a prayer to Saint Anthony.  (I’m a catholic of convenience, and had to ask my practicing Catholic husband which saint would do the job).
Woke up still feeling sheepish, and of course immediately started to ruminate about the damned things.  I again, remembered holding them, and after a few moments remembered something else about them.
You know how the sense of smell is supposed to be the strongest link to a memory?   Well, I recalled that the little darlings had a rather musty aroma, and…
You guessed it…I had put them in the dryer on air fluff to try and refresh them.
There they sat, all in a heap in the dryer, and, as if to mock me, they still smelled musty.  They are spinning again as we speak. 
Gawd, I hate those things!
Have a great Christmas and Holiday!

What is Your Pattern?

December 14, 2011

On occasion I watch Ellen DeGeneres.  I think she’s funny, and I admire that she is unapologetic for being exactly who she is.  Also, that she won’t wear earrings just because some people think she should.

She may not realize it, but someone who designs her set thinks that she likes round shapes, globes, spheres, orbs.  We have this in common, so I noticed it.

I only realized that I have a thing for circular shapes about one year ago, after watching an interview with Cobi Ladner, former editor of House and Home magazine and current blogger.  Read her blog at

She talked about her own attraction to birds, though she denied that she was a collector of birds, rather she claimed that she was somehow drawn to them, and without even realizing it, she ends up buying them in different forms, such as printed fabrics,  draperies, on wallpapers, decorative pillows, porcelain figurines and as the subjects in pictures.  She buys birthday cards that have birds on them, and even her china pattern has them.

I started to think about what I am drawn to, and yes, I too have my own collection, without ever realizing it.  Like Ellen’s set designer, and perhaps Ellen herself, I like orbs, balls (I know what you’re thinking, Ellen, really?), circles, ovals, and spheres.

 I have porcelain alphabet balls, woven balls in a vase, two different lamps with ball shapes, decorative decoupage balls, and pictures with round shapes; one of them is an oil painting from an artist who recently moved here from Toronto, purchased at the James Street Art Crawl.  Two of my light fixtures are black iron spheres, and I have a wreath that consists of red and orange balls of unknown origin, though they look organic.  Most of my cabinet knobs are round, naturally, but the laundry room’s are extreme…they are outrageous, two and a half inches in diameter, antique brass.   I have a vintage chandelier in my entrance that has sparkling round crystals.  My favourite light fixture, in my powder room, is a beautiful round seeded glass ball.

My favourite earrings are hoops, and I have several pairs in various metals.  In the past few years I have purchased no less than 3 necklaces with circular shapes, though none of them are the ubiquitous diamond “O”, à la Oprah Winfrey.  One of them is comprised of 3 intersecting circles in gold, silver and copper from Israel.  One is enamelled and happens to feature a painted bird, but that is the only bird I have.

Fabrics with ovals and large polka dots are a favourite, and my client and friend Lois and I recently decorated her living room using them; it’s a warm and beautiful space.

 Have a look around your home and see if you notice a pattern, a repetition of shapes, or a favourite subject.

Wildlife is a common theme.  Birds, as mentioned before, are popular, as are other animals, and flowers, of course.   I love the shape of trees; I find them stately and comforting. Butterflies are another motif that you will often see on fabrics, wallpapers and pictures.  Even monkeys and elephants make an appearance on many tropical themed and oriental motif fabrics and wallpapers.

 Don’t worry if you don’t have a repeating motif in your home , but if you are decorating, or making decorative purchases, you will no doubt see them in the sample books and you may find yourself strangely attracted to, or possibly repelled by a particular form or subject.

 Some men gather objects for their aesthetic qualities, but my husband is attracted to much more pedestrian things.

My husband likes televisions; he has 4 flat screens and a box, which he plans to replace with another flat screen…I say they’re his because if it were up to me I would have one, but it would be hidden from view.   He also likes to know the time where ever he is in the house so I counted 3 appliances with clocks in the kitchen, one clock in each of the bathrooms, one in the bedroom, one in the workshop, and one in the office.  There isn’t one in the garage though; yet.

He also has a drawer full of Canadian Tire money, which he got while collecting all those tiny packets of screws that he has in triplicate, because he doesn’t keep stuff sorted on his workbench, so he keeps buying them over and over again, like “Groundhog Day”, the movie.

However, I will confess to being the one in this household doing most of the accumulating, have I mentioned shoes in a previous blog?

 I vehemently deny that it is a collection.

Should you trust your designer?  A better question might be– Can you trust your designer?

Yes, you should trust her, but, if you are having doubts, then perhaps there is a problem with the relationship.  Have no doubt that it is a relationship, for you are engaged in a business arrangement that requires mutual respect, cooperation, as well as a meeting of minds.

Your designer does not need to live with your style, but she needs to understand it and know how to achieve the look you want.  You may love modern furnishings, and she English antiques, but you want to trust that she will not impose her preferences on you, but will bring her professional objectivity and resources to your project.

On the other hand, some clients hire a designer for their perceived good taste and personal style, and are willing to give her carte blanche.

So, to have the kind of faith that is required of you when you give a designer this power, you will have to do your homework, check her references carefully, and interview her. After this, you should be feeling really comfortable with how she works, and how she is compensated.

Let’s go back to the top of this article.  I hope that you are not a client who is having doubts about your designer, but if you are, here is a list of questions to ask yourself and him.

  1. Do you know how you are being invoiced, how often and the hourly or flat rate?
  2. Are you satisfied that the designer has years of experience relating to your project, for example, if you need a kitchen design, have you hired a kitchen designer or a designer that works closely with a kitchen contractor?
  3. Do you have a budget for purchases or the project, and does your designer do his best to stay within it?  Does he tell you when your decisions affect the budget?
  4. Does your designer show continued interest in your on-going project or does he send an associate or supplier to answer your questions?
  5. Does your designer return your calls and e-mails promptly, ideally within 12 hours?
  6. Is your designer excited about your project, does he seem engaged when you meet?
  7. Does your designer answer all of your questions clearly, in a way that you understand?
  8. Has your designer been willing to make changes to the design when you are not comfortable with it?  Can he offer alternatives?
  9. If you are worried about something, will your designer address your concerns?
  10. Do you feel that your designer is being creative, and has new ideas for your home?

If you have answered no to two or more of these questions, you may need to have a serious discussion with your designer to ask for clarification and attention to the issues.  Perhaps the designer is too busy, or is over his head.

 There may be nothing really wrong with your business relationship, or the designs; you just may need a little reassurance and better communication.

 Adele Barrett Interiors offers a Second Opinion Consultation service that may be helpful.  We are excellent communicators; we can bring clarification to your project when things are going wrong.  We will provide a second opinion about any part of the project:

  • Colour
  • Design
  • Furnishings
  • Lighting
  • Renovation
  • New home design
  • Selections and finishes
  • Floors, Walls, and Cabinets
  • Details
  • Workmanship, Quality
  • Style, Creativity
  • Budget, keeping it on track

Adele Barrett will be an advocate for you and your project.  She will assist your designer and contractor to make your project a success.


November 28, 2011

 I just packed up my home of 27 years and moved to the lovely valley town of Dundas.

To accomplish this, I needed to find a house that met a long list of requirements, and thanks to a very clear vision, and a little footwork I achieved success!

No, I did not hire a realtor to find me the perfect home, though I could have and really have no reservations recommending this route.

Instead, I employed a technique that I have used on and off since I was a child,   visualization.    Now, I won’t get into the debate of whether this is science or hocus-pocus, I’ll leave that to scholars.  I just know that it works for me.

It can work for you too, and here’s how.  Before I can dream about what I want, I first need to have a clear idea of it.  You may not always know exactly what you want, this happens to me quite often.  However, it sometimes helps to begin with what you know you DON’T want.  Just put it down in point form on a piece of paper or your computer.  Be prepared for this to take days or weeks and to go back and make changes, especially if it is a big move or acquisition you are considering.

 After you have this list, it will be easier to counter the don’ts with dos.  You can also try what I do, which is to begin with two columns, and write them at the same time.  I’m not a linear thinker, my ideas and thoughts pop up like clouds or bubbles, so this is the way I organize my list, I can go back and forth between the dos and don’ts as the thoughts come.

So, after you have the list of what you want, it’s time to do what some athletes do to help win their races or break the record.  Act as if you already have the perfect house, see what it looks like in your mind, walk through the rooms, sit on a chair and enjoy the view.

Do this as much as possible.  Post magazine clippings of your dream home (or job, or vacation) on a bulletin board and look at it often.

Then, let go of trying to figure out how you are going to find that ideal home.  Just believe that one day it will be yours, and let the “how” of it go.  Worrying about how you will afford it, or when you will find it will be counter productive.

Instead of worrying, take steps to put yourself in the right place to find it, such as looking at model homes, scanning the real estate sections of the newspaper, or walking the neighbourhood you would love to be in.

I did all of this and more, including something that proved to be the final step to finding my new home.

 My husband and I liked to keep our eye on the neighbourhoods that fit our “do” list.  We would drive through the streets, but only if we happened to be going that way.  As I recommended above, we didn’t worry about when and where, so we didn’t become stalkers in these areas.  We just gravitated to destinations that we enjoyed, sometimes walking and biking.

 Another motivator was that I have always considered buying a fixer-upper as an investment, so I might be tempted if a gem-in-the-rough presented itself.

While checking out an old school house that was being converted into condos, we discovered a neighbourhood that fit our list.  We knew that it would be years before the condos would be ready, and I was starting to feel that I would want to make a move before then.

I decided to take a chance, and typed a letter and delivered it to 20 houses in the area that could potentially be the right one for us, as a home or an investment.  I tried to make it friendly, and hoped that no one would think it was from a real estate agent looking for a listing.

Much to my delight, I received 2 phone calls and an e-mail!  They all mentioned that they thought that one of the neighbours, an elderly lady, would soon be selling her house. To make a long story short, we are now living in that house.

Visualization is also a tool that I have used in my work.  It has helped me to overcome nerves while taking on a new challenge, such as public speaking, or creating a designer show room.

Designers employ this technique when they draw a room, or create a sample board.  Presenting a new space they have designed, including custom furniture, rugs and window treatments, in a way that helps the client to see and be more comfortable with the design, is an important part of the designer’s job.

Being able to verbally walk the client through the space is important, because language also paints a picture, and is a way for the client to express concerns, and resolve fears.

So, another way to help yourself to visualize your goal is to talk about it.  You simply describe it to your friends and family, because just the act of describing it creates a clearer picture for you and makes the prize more real.  Your contacts also become your allies; you never know when one of them may have a lead to your destination.

Visualization can be employed in many areas of life, from overcoming fears to achieving success.  From taking a dreaded flight, to finding the home of your dreams, having a clear picture of what you want is the key.

Just don’t put it off, either start your list, or hire someone with vision to help you.