Monday, September 30, 2013

The Decorating Centre Annual Trade Show

It came, it was great and it offered many new product lines from suppliers at the 
Every year the owners and staff provide Designers and Decorators with a Trade Show featuring their suppliers who in turn promote their newest and beautiful Interior Decor and Design products.  I look forward to this event every year because it is a chance to meet up with colleagues we may not have seen throughout the summer months and of course to see what is available for my clients.  In addition to the suppliers, there are also guest speakers from the industry and they are always informative and entertaining.

This year Bryan Baeumler, known from his presence on "HGTV's House of Bryan and Leave it to Bryan", as well as being a great Contractor, was one of the speakers.  He spoke about his business and his program "Baeumler Approved" which includes the trades he has worked with and formed relationships which allows him to feel comfortable recommending them to those who are visiting his website and looking for a trades person. This fall he opened his program to include Interior Decorators and Designers which is great and I am proud to say I am one of the first few Decorators to join this group.

Our other speaker was Sharon Grech from Benjamin Moore and known as a regular design expert on "CityLine".  She spoke about Colour and Design and some of the Key Influences and Emerging Colour effects.  I will elaborate in a future post.

 If that was not enough we also had a wonderful lunch and during it, we were shown the newest fabrics from JF Fabrics (also known as Joanne Fabrics) which introduced the new Studio J Fabrics Line and really offered inspiration for future projects. I love fabric!

What a great day, checking out the suppliers, listening to great speakers, enjoying a lovely lunch and then to top it all off there were tons of great door prizes given out.

Below are just a very few of the suppliers that attended the Trade Show


SOFA and another great Presentation - Fisher & Paykel

I recently attended a presentation at SOFA by Glen Peloso.  For anybody who hasn't been to one of Glen's presentations you are missing out on some fun and facts.  This recent event was Hosted by Fisher & Paykel (pronounced like Michael) in their gorgeous showroom at SOFA.  The premise was 'Kitchens for the Way we Live" and Glen took us on a walk down memory lane to see where we have evolved from and where we are today.  Glen always has some humorous bits to inject when he is speaking and it keeps the topics interesting throughout. I took a few photos of the showroom before dashing to another event.  It really is a busy time of year for those of us in this business.

It would be remiss of me to not mention a little about Fisher and Paykel.  This organization has long been committed to environmentally conscious operations as a business, and to creating new products that increasingly limit the impact on the environment's natural resources.  Today they strive to emphasize sustainability in everything they do, from comprehensive recycling programs to continual energy and water consumption reduction efforts both in manufacturing and new product design.  Visit their website for more information and a look at the amazing options they offer.  They have a great recipe section as well.   Then go to SOFA for an up close look and you will fall in love....


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Facts of Leather Furnishings.....

There has always been an interest in selecting leather for our home furnishings so I thought that with all the different options out there I would concentrate on the facts so that anyone contemplating such a purchase would be well informed prior to making the final transaction - the Payment!!  

We have all heard the phrase "You truly get what you pay for" and this definitely applies when buying leather furniture. High-quality pieces cost more, but their comfort and longevity make them a worthwhile investment. There are ways to save money without sacrificing style. If you’re simply looking for a display piece that won't get much use, consider bonded leather or leather-look as a lower-cost option. Or consider “leather match", in which some of the piece (like the back and sides, where physical contact is minimal) is made of dyed vinyl, and front-facing cushions and seats are made of high-quality leather. Research your options to find the best fit for your taste and budget

Genuine leather is highly desired for its fashionable look and durable nature. Cowhide leather is a term specifically applied to leather made from the hides (the skins) of cows, although it is generally used to designate any leather tanned from the hides of animals of the bovine species.

The natural or embossed pattern and texture of a hide's surface is called the grain. There are multiple types of leather grains to choose from, each with their own features and benefits.
In general, leather is sold in a variety of different forms -

Full Grain;  Top Grain ;   Split Grain;   Bonded;   Nubuk;   Suede;   Bi-cast;   
 Faux Leather - Leather Look;  Leather Match


Full Grain 
Full-grain leather is used in only the highest quality furniture. Only premium leathers are full grain. As such, it is usually the most expensive kind of leather furniture available This leather undergoes no processing or sanding to remove discoloration. Full-grain leather makes for tough, long-lasting furniture. If you have children and pets and anticipate using the furniture in high-traffic rooms, the durability of full-grain leather may appeal to you.

Full-grain leather refers to hides that have not been sanded, buffed, or snuffed no polishing and finishing is done to the grain   (as opposed to top-grain or corrected leather) to remove imperfections (or natural marks) on the surface of the hide. The whole hide is used, not just some layers of it.

Except for hair removal and soaking in some form of natural dye like aniline vegetable dye, it is basically untreated leather. Although there may be imperfections on the leather, as it retains all of the original texture and markings of the original hide, this kind of grain tends to look and feel better with time as well as creating an individual and unique appearance. The grain remains allowing the fiber strength and durability. The grain also has breathability, resulting in less moisture from prolonged contact, thus more comfort.

Rather than wearing out, it will develop a patina over time. High quality leather furniture and footwear are often made from full-grain leather. 

Full-grain leathers are typically available in two finish types: aniline and semi-aniline.

Top Grain
Top grain leather furniture will typically be more expensive, but will have an incredibly soft feel and will be long lasting.  Top-grain leather (the most common type used in high-end leather products) is the second-highest quality. The leather, otherwise known as corrected grain or full grain pigmented, is taken from the outermost upper layer of the hide, and is the toughest leather type; it is the only leather recommended to use for high quality sofas. Unlike full grain, top grain is usually buffed to remove any imperfections. The best top grain leather reflects that an animal has lived in an environment that resulted in limited scratches, insect bites or other damage.

It has had the "split" layer separated away, making it thinner and more pliable than full-grain. Its surface has been sanded and a finish coat added to the surface which results in a colder, plastic feel with less breathability, and it will not develop a natural patina. It is typically less expensive and has greater resistance to stains than full-grain leather, so long as the finish remains unbroken.

Split Grain 
Split leather is leather created from the fibrous part of the hide left after the top-grain of the rawhide has been separated from the hide. Split grain comes from the bottom part of the hide.   During the splitting operation, the top-grain and drop split are separated. The drop split can be further split (thickness allowing) into a middle split and a flesh split. In very thick hides, the middle split can be separated into multiple layers until the thickness prevents further splitting this leather is harder and cheaper than full grain leather. Split leather is comparatively more fragile and gets easily damaged if not handled properly. The process of tanning leather involves reducing the hide to the thickness required for upholstered products. The back of an animal has a thicker skin, so it is split to create a piece of leather out of this extra thickness. Split grain has a stamped and painted surface in order to have the appearance of top grain leather. This is often use on the sides and back of the furniture to allow a more affordable price point.


Bonded leather creates a look and feel similar to genuine leather, but consists of a synthetic material made of polyurethane (PU) with leather scraps and fibres are mixed together, and then formed into a roll using adhesives or other bonding materials, then stamped with a grain-like pattern.   In fact, the manufacturing process is very similar to making paper. After the roll is formed, it goes under drying equipment to reduce the moisture content. Since it usually contains only 10 to 17 percent leather fibres, some industry experts do not consider it real leather and express concerns with it being marketed as such.

However, bonded leather does has its advantage as a furniture material. Firstly, it is highly durable. Secondly, it contains low levels of environmentally unsafe formaldehyde as it doesn't undergo chemical tanning and is therefore suitable for people with leather allergies. Lastly, bonded leather furniture is significantly cheaper than real leather.

Corrected-grain leather is any leather that has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. The hides used to create corrected leather do not meet the standards for use in creating vegetable-tanned or aniline leather. The imperfections are corrected or sanded off, and an artificial grain impressed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes. Most corrected-grain leather is used to make pigmented leather as the solid pigment helps hide the corrections or imperfections. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.

The leather has all the imperfections removed and an artificial grain applied.

Corrected-grain leather is any leather that has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. The hides used to create corrected leather do not meet the standards for use in creating vegetable-tanned or aniline leather. The imperfections are corrected or sanded off, and an artificial grain impressed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes. Most corrected-grain leather is used to make pigmented leather as the solid pigment helps hide the corrections or imperfections. Corrected grain leathers can mainly be bought as two finish types: semi-aniline and pigmented.

This is top grain cattle rawhide leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side, giving it the appearance similar to velvet and suede. It has a more uniform appearance because the exterior is sprayed with a finishing agent. It is cheaper as compared to full grain leather. However, nubuck furniture is fragile in nature and requires careful maintenance. A waterproofing treatment is mandatory to keep the material looking good.

Suede is soft and fuzzy on both sides. Manufacturers use a variety of techniques to make suede from full-grain leather. Reversed suede is grained leather that has been designed into the leather article with the grain facing away from the visible surface. It is not considered to be a true form of suede.

Bi-cast leather is Split leather that has an artificial layer applied to the surface of the split and is embossed with a leather grain. It is made by gluing a sheet of polyurethane colour to a split grain. This product comes in roll form like fabric. Split leather is used as a backing so a customer can see or feel the leather. A finish is created by applying polyurethane (PU) to provide the colour, texture and strength.   Splits are also used to create suede. The strongest suedes are usually made from grain splits (that have the grain completely removed) or from the flesh split that has been shaved to the correct thickness.   It has the appearance of top grain leather, at a fraction of the cost. Bi-cast does not age well. In fact, it cracks and peels when exposed to too much friction. So, make sure that you purchase bi-cast furniture knowingly and not because you were led to believe it is real leather.

Faux Leather
As the name suggests, this is not real leather. It is man-made leather made from synthetic materials such as plastic and rubber-coated fabric. Faux leather has come a long way as the technology has resulted in great improvements in the material composition, thus increasing the comfort level of such sofas. It is durable, looks like original leather and is the cheapest type of leather for furniture.

Leather Look – Polyurethane & Vinyl 
(PU) is a very effective form of plastic that can be applied to fabric or other products to create beautiful, durable and lower-cost furniture pieces.  Vinyl is a product similar to polyurethane but normally not as durable or versatile. It is normally lower in cost than polyurethane so is used for match applications where strength is not an issue. This is often use on the sides and back of the furniture to allow a more affordable price point.

Leather-match furniture combines top grain leather on visible areas, like seats and cushions, with skillfully matched vinyl on the sides and back of the furniture. Leather-match looks and feels like leather, at a more affordable price.

Leather Finishes 
There are two ways of coloring upholstery grade leather - with dyes only or with dyes and pigments. Leather colored strictly with a dye is referred to as unfinished, whereas pigmented leather is classified as finished.
Aniline/Unfinished Dyed leather is when leather is colored only with dye then there is no protective coating. It is sometimes referred to as “pure-aniline” leather. (Aniline is a type of dye that colors leather.) This is usually a full grain leather that has been through the process of colouring using non-toxic aniline dyes. This leather is soft, supple to the touch. Its color is rich and deep, offering a uniform colour and as dyes are translucent and they penetrate, often completely through the leather. The leather’s natural beauty is accentuated by the dye giving the furniture a luxurious look and feel. Only the finest hides can qualify to be unfinished, so unsurprisingly, it’s the most expensive category. However, there is a dark side. This class of leather stains easily (these hides are highly porous) and the color fades, in some cases very rapidly. (UV’s the culprit.)

Protected Aniline 
Finished leather is colored with the same aniline dye as unfinished leather however these hides go through a secondary coloring process. The leather has been aniline dyed and then slightly pigmented to ensure colour consistency. It also makes the surface more durable than less-processed leather.  It has to flex and allow the leather to breath so it has unique attributes that differentiate it from common wall paint. Pigmented leather finishes are opaque, creating a colored film on top of the hide. The color coating is then augmented with a clear coat forming its primary protection. This clear coat also dictates the sheen, from gloss to matte. Quality finished leather may not feel as soft and supple as unfinished, but will be able to withstand the rigors of an active household. It won’t stain nearly as readily. It’s easier to clean, and fades so slowly, you’ll never notice it.

If you have children or pets at home, pigmented leather furniture is your best bet for great looking, long-lasting furniture. It is lower-grade leather dyed to hide all color imperfections. This gives the leather a shiny outer coat. It's stiff to the touch initially, but it softens with use. Pigmented leather is also resistant to stains and liquids.
Other Considerations 
Color selection is something else to think about. The lighter the color, the more maintenance it will require to keep the leather looking new and clean.

So, based on your budget, set your expectations correctly and think about how the piece will be used. Then when you shop ask the following questions.

Is the leather finished or unfinished? Remember to consider placement and usage patterns.
Is it top-grain leather? If it isn’t, it won’t have the durability you think you’re getting.
Is it all leather or is some of it vinyl? Don’t be duped.
How is the frame constructed? If it’s going to last, it has to be well built.
With the answers to these questions at least you’ll know what you’re buying.

Watch for a companion article on ‘What to look for in Sofa Construction’

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Product at Exotic Woods in Burlington - Hakwood

Last week was a very busy one in the Design/Decor world for me.  I attended many great events and got the goods on a lot of great products.  One such place I attended was Exotic Woods on Harvester Road in Burlington.  It is an amazing place for reclaimed and all other types of exotic wood species.  Their live edge and barnboard selections blow me away.  This particular evening was to meet, and learn about their newest product line, that of Hakwood.

Below is a look at some of the amazing and interesting pieces

Lovely Live Edge pieces

Mark Hak, founder of Hakwood,  a Dutch producer of top quality wide width, long length engineered wood flooring was on hand to discuss this newest addition to Exotic Woods.  Hakwood remains at the forefront of innovative flooring solutions.  With bold designs, endless variations in colour treatment, finish and surface texture, Hakwood flooring is the product of choice for top architects and designers in over 40 countries worldwide.  Hakwood comes in widths up to 9" and lengths up to 9'.

Below are some of the Hackwood displays

Friday, September 20, 2013

SOFA - Source of Furniture and Accessories

If you follow my blog you will notice that I am writing about SOFA on a regular basis and that is because I am up there quite a bit and they have fantastic showrooms and seminars. I attended a recent Marketing seminar which was great and then checked out a couple of new showrooms.

Today when I checked out Pab, which is a furniture design and build company owned and run by Philip Brown, I was fascinated.  Philip has a unique eye and his products are one of a kind and original.  He combines form and function as well as incredible design.  Check out his website Pab Furniture.

The other new addition to SOFA is David Pearl Cabinetry.   The doors are made in Britain and Italy and are the very best quality and standards.  They offer High End Custom Cabinetry with British & Italian Doors can produce Chic, Modern, Contemporary, Victorian or Traditional Kitchen Design.  Doors are made of both Painted MDF and also of Real Wood, using timbers such as Walnut, Maple, Pine & White Oak. 

Buying Firewood from a Guest Blogger

I recently had a request from Danielle McAnn, of Australia who wanted to write an article for my blog about firewood from an aesthetic perspective.  Danielle is working with a company in Australia 'The Green Centre' which is supplier of wood harvested from sustainably managed forests which prevents the illegal collection of firewood on a commercial basis and improves the long-term sustainability of the Australian Firewood industry.  

Here in North America we have suppliers who are harvesting from the sustainably managed forests, one in British Columbia being Elkington Forest.  I found it encouraging to see that someone from Australia wanted to spread the word about their organization and commitment to our future so I thought I would share her post.

As written by Danielle McAnn.....

I imaging  buying firewood has never occurred to you as an aesthetic decision. Those lucky enough to have an open fireplace or an outdoor bonfire to furnish with wood probably don't think about firewood as an aesthetic decision. But firewood is more than the sensual qualities it produces, that is, the heat and the scent when burned, although those are certainly very important considerations. Firewood is intended to produce a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere in a room, and a huge part of this effect is the way that it looks. Every single thing in an interior will contribute to the way that the room looks, whether intentional or not, nothing is exempt from aesthetics. You can put all of your effort into hanging a picture in the perfect spot and in perfect light on a wall, but it won't make the room look nice unless the rest of the room is working with it. There is no such thing as a quick fix in an interior. You must have every element of the room in concert together, or nothing at. If you spend hours and hours doing your hair, but then wear a tracksuit out to dinner, you still won't look presentable. That is why you should pay attention to your firewood, and why it should be of good quality. Because if it's going to be stacked in your room, next to your fire place, it's going to contribute to the aesthetic of your room.

As a Decorator I could continue on this topic but I think I will be posting some information in a future blog about Wood Burning Fireplaces.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

GTA West Chapter Fall Event

A group of decorators from the GTA West Chapter met at Q Design in Mississauga for a presentation by Sun Glow Window Coverings, one of our affiliate members.  We were welcomed with a lovely breakfast and Marilyn and her daughter Lindsay of Q Design gave us information on the work they provide to Decorators and Designers, creating lovely bedding, slipcovers, draperies cushions, light upholsteryand so on.  

Following was a presentation by the representative from Sun Glow who provided us with information on all of the newest offerings available to us.  Sun Glow is very eco minded and are constantly sourcing & developing products that have environmentally friendly properties as well as superior quality and functionality.  Although Sun Glow's specialty is Roller Shades, they also offer Panel Track, Roman Shades, Fixed Shades, etc, etc.  The products can be manually operated or automated.

We saw many of the different fabric lines including those that offer not only UV protection but privacy.  Of course being in this field, we all loved the option of adding a little bling and Glamour.  Sun Glow offers trim with the Swarovski Crystal as well as pendants used as pulls.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TIFF has come and gone ....

Once again TIFF has come and gone and we know it to be one of the exciting events in Toronto in the Fall. This year I was invited to one of the parties and it was my first time. The city is so alive with people and stars mulling around.  A fellow decorator and I attended the party at The Windsor Arms Hotel last Thursday and met up with some other colleagues. The evening started with a panel discussion by Tommy Oliver, Stephen Bruno, Nicholas Taborak, and Nicole Quenqua from the movie industry discussing the different aspects of the industry.  It was very interesting to hear the Q and A's surrounding the Film Industry and this great Film Festival.  We can be proud of our city and country in general as we received such positive comments and I was so proud to be a Canadian taking part of an event is such a great city.  Over and over I hear the same phrase "Canadians are so nice".  I was at a seminar earlier that day and the speaker from the US said exactly the same thing.  

Of course the party that followed was a lot of fun.  Must go to more of them next year and see more of the movies as well.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Historical Sackets Harbour over Labour Day Weekend

I recently spent Labour Day weekend down in Sackets Harbour, USA.  It is a quaint and beautiful little town bordering Lake Ontario, specifically sitting in Black River Bay.  Sackets Harbour has quite a history, going back in time and was one of the sites of the war of 1812.  The main street is lined with beautiful architectural buildings and several shops and restaurants.  We stayed in the Marina Inn at Madison Barracks which is one of the country's oldest military bases and stands overlooking the bay.   There are several old abandoned buildings which are now being refreshed into living quarters and several new buildings being erected with the look of the older style.  Our spot was lovely and we could sit outside our room and see the water as well as walk a few feet to a little bistro which had outside dining overlooking the water.

The revitalized  "Marina Inn" at Madison Barracks

 One of the abandoned buildings.  Love the Turret                                                                                                                                                                                  

 and another just waiting to be refurbished into something great

This one has an interesting entrance.  I hope they can do something with it

Some of the lovely buildings on the main street



Hubby and I - he always closes his eyes...