Transform the Outside & Extend Your Living Space
As the warmer days approach, so does outdoor living!
Whether it’s an afternoon of relaxation or a weekend with family and friends, enjoying your outdoor space can re-energize the way you experience your home. You can be the designer of your outdoor area and convert it into any space you want! Here are some guidelines for assessing the various options, planning and being creative with your outdoor area; no matter the size. Remember, these choices should enhance your lifestyle, so keep any family and pet friendly considerations top of mind.
Outdoor Living Ideas
The first step to building your dream outdoor living area is to determine what it will be used for. There are countless options and here are a few to help you zero-in on your needs:
- Patio living room – create an informal and inviting outdoor space to entertain guests and spend quality time with your family.
- Cooking area – consider a barbecue pit with a surrounding dining set-up, a stone or brick oven, or a full-blown kitchen with cooking appliances and amenities.
- Alfresco dining – this could be a cozy set-up on your balcony or a full-length dining table to accommodate the whole family or large parties.
- Bar and entertaining zone – transform the area around your pool or that otherwise unused grassy section into a defined entertaining area.
- Conversation nook – you might want a spot for intimate conversations with an outdoor fireplace or comfy furniture with lots of cushions.
- Gaming area – for kids or adults! Sand pits, water tables, a volleyball net, even outdoor bowling. Further enhance these spaces with proper shading and outdoor furniture.
- Private retreat –perhaps a quiet reading corner, meditation area or a place to simply unwind.
The Art and Science of Extending Your Living Space
The possibilities for outdoor living are countless, however there are design and structural considerations that may limit your options or even require you to rethink what you had in mind. Reaching out to design and landscaping experts at this early stage will come in handy. Take note of the following:
- Assess the area. Be realistic about the purpose and how much space you have. Your available space and layout, for example, may require you to reconsider your plans. But it’s best to know this before spending time and money on it.
- Direct sun or shade? Look into the intensity of sunlight at different times of the day. Heat and glare are important considerations often overlooked in home improvement projects. You can strategically place umbrellas to provide enough shade but not take away from the view.
- Element-proof your outdoor living space. Aside from the heat, remember to plan for rain, snow and high wind areas. This is important especially for pergolas, canopy covers, lighting and furniture to name a few. Think of the cost, the pros and cons, durability and the practicality of your decision.
- Create a seamless flow between your indoors and outdoors. It’s not just about the cohesiveness of the design but also the layout. Your outdoor living space should not obstruct the foot traffic to and from your indoor spaces. Visually, there should be an appealing and uninterrupted flow.
Decorating Outdoor Living Spaces
Have FUN with it! Outdoor décor is highly customizable and can make the area very inviting and enjoyable! The concepts are similar with decorating interiors, but you need to consider the compatibility of furniture and décor with the climate and how you interact within the space. Here’s a checklist;
- Lighting – pathway solar lighting, tree lights, atmospheric lighting, candle lanterns, tiki torches, string lights, chandeliers – the possibilities to make your outdoor area sparkle are endless! The type and placement of lighting depends on how you will supply power to these fixtures.
- A pop of color – color adds character and sets the mood. You might not be able to incorporate paint outdoors as you would indoors, but plants, flowers, furniture and rugs can make up for that! You can source rugs that are waterproof, stain resistant and reversible.
- Plants and trees – use plants as accents, borders or even as structural elements. Take advantage of the natural canopy provided by trees or train plants to climb an arbor. Choose foliage to complement your existing landscape design and the furniture you plan to use.
- Furniture and shade options –Stackable and foldable chairs are excellent for multipurpose and smaller spaces. Other ideas include hammocks, pouf seats and beanbag chairs. Daybeds are a unique lounging option… and if you have the room for it, why not incorporate a full-length dining table! To complement your furniture, try designing shaded areas with patio umbrellas, parasols, canopy, drapes or shade sails.
- Flooring options – the right flooring can change everything, starting with visual and aesthetic appeal. Flooring should be low maintenance, durable and slip resistant.
- Partitions and divisions – hedges, lattice screens, vertical gardens and fences can act as walls or partitions and provide privacy.
- Outdoor storage – it may not come as a priority at first, but storage is important – especially in spaces that serve multiple uses. You can use trolleys, crates and nifty built-in storage in addition to typical sheds.
Enhance your outdoor ambiance further with a water feature, garden décor, bird bath or outdoor speakers. Again, it comes back to the first step – what do you want to create in this space?
There’s more to a backyard than an empty area where you occasionally open a lawn chair or grill a burger. Remember not to overcrowd it. Like the interior of your home, you want to keep it clutter free, so it’s a welcoming space for you, your family and guests.
The secret to successfully extending your living area is to design a visual experience that will engage your other senses. There is nothing like the sights and sounds of the outdoors blending together to create a happy space!
Inspired by Travel: Cuba
Hola from Cuba!
Interior Design and Architecture inspiration is everywhere! Infusing global design into my client’s interiors is a speciality of mine.
Not only inspiration but the preservation of memories can come from traveling. In your journey, pay attention to fabrics, colors, smells and other elements you can incorporate in your own home to relive your trip. Photography is an excellent way to encapsulate a mood and have you constantly “revisiting” your favorite places from the comfort of your own home.
I had an AWESOME week in Cuba – the Caribbean’s largest island. It was wonderful to see and feel the blend of European, African and Amerindian influences in Cuban music, food, lifestyle, decor, art and architecture. Havana is brimming with stories of ‘Hemingway’s Cuba’, where he lived and penned his novels for over 30 years.
Magnificent bold colors line the cities and countryside. There is no shortage of places to enjoy their precious rum, coffee and cigars, while savouring Cuban recipes and spices.
A fascinating journey through time and endless design inspiration…
Planning to buy and then move into your first home can be very exciting… and at times stressful! Taking on a home design project for the first time is filled with many, many questions. Whether you’re doing it on your own or with family or friends; it tends to be riddled with emotions – excitement, anxiety, happiness, fear, surprise and more. To tackle a lot of the uncertainty, it’s crucial to have a plan in place.
Here are five straightforward tips for decorating your first home:
1. Plan Ahead
Planning for the interior design of your first home must begin before you move in and your decisions must complement your lifestyle choices. Don’t just make observations on how the house currently looks. Consider what you want to change and if the change is feasible. For example,
- Is the change structural?
- How much will the modifications cost?
- When will the work start, who will do it and how does that impact your move date?
Tackling interior design without professional help can be daunting. You may only realize this the moment you stare down a flood of paint color options or when choosing the right furniture for your rooms. Thankfully, the internet and home design shows are full of design inspirations that can make things easier for first-time homeowners.
Don’t rush the planning stage. Develop a concrete image of what you need to work on. This will save you a lot of time later. Create a ‘Task List’ that shows completion dates, who will work on what, the cost… AND sequence the work so you don’t run out of time and money.
2. Commit To Your Budget
This can make or break your plan – so, be realistic and prioritize! Don’t let your enthusiasm destroy your budget but don’t let your budget curb your enthusiasm either. Make sure that you set your budget during the planning stage. Adjust accordingly but don’t skimp on important furnishings and fixtures. Beds, couches and major appliances can set you back a bit, but these are investments that can last for years. Also, be smart about where and what you buy. Make sure you shop around and speak to friends and family for suggestions and their experiences. Oftentimes you can get quality second hand items from referrals; which brings me to the next step…
3. Research & Be Resourceful
Do design rules make you feel restricted? Refer to them as a guide and feel free to express yourself to project your unique style. The limitless design inspirations can be overwhelming. Which is why allowing time to research and plan minimizes the stress. Start to journal your Design Ideas, obtain the floor plan to help you with measurements and take pictures of every aspect and angle of your new home. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll rely on them when making purchasing decisions.
Contractors and handymen will prove to be very knowledgeable and useful. If you don’t already have contacts, speak to people you trust for their picks. Always check references and ask for details of completed work. Maintaining strong communications is key. For instance, be specific about your expectations, discuss payment method, ask detailed questions about all costs, determine how you want to stay in touch and be consulted along the way.
Finally, if you’re willing and able to take on DIY projects….why not? Again, contact specialists for advice (such as experts at hardware stores). Doing it yourself also connects you deeper with your new home, as your own work and creativity will be embedded into your space.
4. Making Choices
Take stock of what you currently have and what you are not willing to detach from. Over the years, we’ve all collected furniture, décor and other items. Unfortunately, you may have to make some tough decisions about culling your current inventory to make room for a ‘refreshed’ look and feel!
When looking to decorate, highlight the beautiful features of your new home that you fell in love with. It might be the amount of natural light, open plan design or backyard. Reach out to experts at the stores for advice (for example paint, window treatments, landscaping) and go online to see completed work. Learn how to use these inspirations by paying attention to how colors, materials and designs are mixed and matched, positioned and styled. Blend different textures to bring balance to rooms – this could include a wooden bench, glass table top, plants, tiles, wrought iron spindles or crown molding to name a few.
Decide on your furniture and larger items first before purchasing décor. Don’t be afraid to mix and match furniture that did not come in a set. Let your individuality show in your design choices but remember not to over-crowd a room, as it’ll make the room appear smaller. Every room should have a focal point (such as the dining table or chandelier in the entryway). A focal point will not only create visual interest but also draw attention away from less attractive aspects of the room.
After assessing what you currently have and before buying too much, take stock of your new storage capacity, especially if you’re moving from a larger space to one that is more compact. You could also consider popular solutions that include under-the-stairs, under-the-bed storage and multipurpose furniture such as a bench or ottoman with storage.
A fresh coat of paint can bring life to a room. Remember to bring samples of your furniture’s upholstery fabric or curtains when buying paint. It’s sometimes difficult to visualize color matches. When choosing lighting, curtains and paint colors – always keep in mind the natural light in the rooms.
5. Get Going!
Remember…it’s all about you & your dream home!
- Planning for your new home is a critical step! Rely on your ‘Task List’ to keep yourself on track
- Be clear about who will help you, how and when – as this saves time and minimizes procrastination. Stay in touch with the experts and your network in case you run into bottlenecks
- Divide and conquer – this should already be on your ‘Task List’. Prioritize the rooms and areas of focus by starting with high traffic areas (for example the kitchen/dining, master bedroom, bathroom, living room). As every home and lifestyle is different, you’re the best person to determine this
- Maintain a daily ‘check & update’ routine by aligning it to your calendar and communications with others (such as contractors)
- Celebrate small wins! AND have a special celebration once it’s all done!
This is an exciting phase of your life and you’re making important decisions about your future. Your home may very well be the nucleus for all your significant relationships and decisions – both in your personal and professional life. Therefore, make sure you take a thoughtful approach to decorating it. Finally, this is a journey that will open the door to other adventures…so own it and enjoy it!
… and if you find yourself stuck, we are here to help you through the process!
It is said that the state of your home reflects the state of your mind. Sometimes I wonder if a poor state of mental health causes the clutter and disarray of the home or if it’s the other way around?
The truth of the matter is that our surroundings affect our state of mind, our moods, and even the way we live. And we can do something about it! We can control the surroundings of our home and in turn the effect on our mental health.
I’ve always maintained that every room has a story to tell. Interior design is not only about aesthetics. It’s about creating spaces that are visually pleasing and highly livable – resulting in a ‘healthier’ environment. With the help of a few interior design principles, one can create a space that fosters harmony.
Promote Calm with the Right Colors
Light colors like pastels bring a sense of calm and comfort. These colors brighten surroundings and lessen the feeling of claustrophobia in smaller rooms. Blue, on the other hand, has positive effects even in darker shades. Light shades of blue can make you feel at peace while darker shades, especially when used on ceilings provide a sense of comfort and safety.
Bright colors, depending on their saturation either make you feel relaxed or make you feel more energized and motivated. Depending on the mood you’re looking for – you can replicate these effects without repainting your walls or ceilings. Simply use these colors in your bedspread, cushions, area rugs, furniture upholstery and accessories.
Declutter Your Space and Mind
As you pick up the clutter, you are also decluttering your mind. This simple task can take your mind off things but better yet, minimize clutter altogether.
Create storage solutions that fit your lifestyle. Use a coffee table with a bookshelf or storage space for your trinkets. DIY floating shelves allow you to keep things organized within your line of sight.
Designate a space as a mudroom with storage space for shoes and other gear; reducing the stress of having to clean up after a long day.
Finally, let go of the things that you no longer need or haven’t used in a while. One way of freeing your mind is to rid yourself of things that needlessly occupy your time and energy.
Let Energy Flow Freely
A stuffy room can prevent the flow of positive energy. Anything that restricts the natural flow of air and light into a room can create a negative effect on your spacial perception, affecting both your exteroceptive processes (your awareness of your relationship with your surroundings) and interoceptive processes (your self-awareness). Where possible, use sheer drapes to promote the flow of natural light.
Improve Your Mood Even at Night
Artificial light, especially bright lights can cause sleep and mood disorders. Its use is unavoidable but you can reduce exposure to artificial bright lights with the use of mood or ambient lighting and candlelight. Aside from improving your mood, low light settings can make your home more inviting. You can also relax with the help of scented candles. Different scents provide different effects. Lavender scented candles, for example, promote better sleep while pine scented candles reduce stress levels.
Go on! Nourish that green thumb!
Plants and flowers create visual interest and with proper placement, can improve the overall look of the room. Aside from boosting oxygen levels and purifying the air from toxins, plants can have positive effects on your concentration, productivity, and mood.
Orchids and succulents are excellent plants for the bedroom since they do not release carbon dioxide at night, unlike other plants. Succulents and herbs are great windowsill decorations. You can also be creative with pots, containers, and plant hangers.
Surprisingly, fake plants and flowers can provide the same mood-boosting effects as the real ones. Using fake plants can give you more leeway in styling them to your liking and placing them in rooms that do not receive ample sunlight.
Busy hands are happy hands but it’s probably the mind that benefits more from the task. Clear your mind and relax with activities like crafting, pottery, woodworking, and other DIY projects. By sharing these activities with family and friends – you’ve now created a way to spend quality time with them.
A clean and tidy house can give you a sense of comfort and security. Using the tips above will give you a head start towards creating a space for you and your loves ones to enjoy and thrive in.
‘The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.’
Oprah Winfrey – media proprietor, author, philanthropist, actress, producer.
After three decades in the corporate world, I pondered ‘what’s next’ and really wanted to create something new. The many assignments across various industries, my professional and personal networks, lessons and skills learned have all given me the platform to move full steam ahead. But what was this new chapter going to be? During this time of reflection, I came across Oprah’s quote which inspired me to think about reinventing myself and focusing on work that excites me.…
And so, here goes…I am incredibly excited to officially launch my dream and passion for interior design! From my travels around the world, I’ve been inspired by the cultures, lifestyles and colors that can be so unique and oftentimes powerful when blended together. I’ve always been curious about color palettes, shapes and styles; taking an idea from scratch and designing it to be something better…something more appealing. At the end of the day, I believe it’s about how it makes one feel – happy, comfortable, proud, excited or simply relaxed.
So, here’s to a new adventure … Introducing Vas Nair Signature Creations!
Decorating and freshening up a space with glass is one of the easiest ways to bring flair, color and style to a room. From candle holders, vases, coasters, lanterns, sculptures, art – the history of glass making can be traced back over 4000 years for domestic and industrial purposes.
Thanks to technology and the creative eye, the humble glass can set the stage for simple, decorative, chic ideas.
A glass coffee table allows you to also create a statement under it with a floral arrangement or candles, perhaps cushions or a colorful rug. Bring in a lighter mood by arranging a variety of glassware on shelves. Use tinges of your favorite colors if you want to add ‘pop’ to the arrangement. Rub acrylic glitter onto wine glasses for cocktail hour; add multi colored glass marbles in a bowl (or a rich colored candle in a clear vase) and place them on a statement table runner. All simple ideas that require little time to pull off. Hold on to those mason jars that can come in handy for table décor and bottles that double as mini flower holders to enhance your table setting or hang outdoors. Once you’re done, just store them away. The best thing is that these decorations can be easily enhanced and changed to keep up with whatever the occasion – cocktails with friends, a cookout or brightening up a corner table.
Of course – remember to recycle glass once it has served its purpose.
You’ve probably seen a rise in the use of wallpaper of late. There is a stunning array of colors and design; and it’s considered durable for high traffic areas. If you’re doubtful, perhaps bring attention to a feature wall with wallpaper versus doing an entire room. Using it behind a headboard lessens the need for excessive décor.
Place your favorite pieces such as a side table and lamp to create a wholesome picture. Or go BOLD in your living room and add pieces to make the wallpaper LOUD!
I worked with a couple that likes to change up their Manhattan apartment very frequently. Enter wallpaper tiles! Over the years, they’ve gone from a garden motif to distressed planks to currently a Victorian theme. Here’s to a couple that likes to experiment!
I was recently at a Design Conference in New York and was delighted to see so many more selections in tiles, felt and cork wall coverings and silk wallpapers. Yes, they may have been around for a bit – but oh so many more choices!
Finally, if you prefer to stay with your painted walls, the use of fabric to ‘dress up’ your wall is easily done. Again, select a feature wall, use a rustic metal or wooden rod to wrap the fabric over. A black or off-white painted wall will exaggerate your drape. Plus, you get to update your fabric colors throughout the year.
Until next time…give wall art a second look!