"Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist"- Pablo Picasso.

I first heard this quote years ago when I was in art school. These days, I think of it when I'm asking a client to think outside of the box, and need to remind myself that 11 years of experience designing kitchens should lend me some confidence to break the rules now and then. So... here are some rules of kitchen design and renovation planning I like to break now and then;

Maintain the 'Work Triangle' at all costs

This first RULE is a touchy one. I get into it with my clients all the time on consults, and agree, 100% that in many kitchens, the work triangle is the ideal layout for almost every cook. When does this change? let me list the ways;

  1. Large kitchens- When the space between the fridge and the stove exceeds a few steps, the triangle requires roller-blades to get from one end of the room to the other.

  2. Really long, or open kitchens- When the space requires that all the appliances and plumbing to be on one wall, you have no choice but to thrown the triangle out the window.

  3. Unique needs- Families of 8 who cook and clean together every night, party-goers who need space for the caterers, mobility challenges etc.

So what do you do when your needs and space don't fit so neatly in the triangle? This is where we switch to design for WORK ZONES. This means we break your large space into task-centric work stations designed to serve one task. The zones may include ; Baking zone, Coffee/breakfast zone, prep zone, cleanup zone and cooking zone.

a pantry is a MUST

I love a good, walk-in pantry. or a good Butlers pantry, and baker pantry, but my home is one of many in old Halifax not blessed with the space for this. One solution is to put in a tall, wide pantry cabinet somewhere at the kitchen at the expense of counter-top space, but what if there was NO pantry at all? Guess what, there are many storage solutions for your pantry items that will not cost you your precious counter space!

  1. Storing pantry items in upper cabinet. bonus is that the cans and boxes are now at eye-level, and only a a few items deep, rather than several items deep.

  2. Drawers for baking items- a well organized baking drawer keeps your items accessible where you use them.

  3. Large appliances can be stored where they are used. An appliance garage can house your mixmaster, blender and food processor where you use them so you are not lugging them all over the kitchen.

Are you ready to give up on your pantry?

More rules I break to come in Part 2!

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Updated: Jul 15, 2020

I love working with clients. We form friendships over the course of a project, and I get to know their taste, style and we form a bond, problem solving together around finishes, styles and site challenges. One thing many of my clients commiserate about is making final decisions, and the conversation I have time and time again is "my friend says...", "My Mother-in-law thinks...", or "My husband thinks we should consider...":

I don't like that floor color

won't it scratch?

isn't that dated?

I wouldn't do that,

It's just my opinion but...

what if you change *everything*

have you considered *a completely different direction*

It's not my taste....

And my client is left with a feeling of defeat and lose confidence that they are making the right decision. So, how do you overcome this in your project? How do you know what advice to take with you on your renovation journey, and what to ignore?

Here are three things to consider before you take that advice;


1. Believe in yourself! Believe that you know what you like. That you are making the right decisions, that you are the expert on your own amazing taste! When Aunt Julie tells you that the dog is going to scratch the hardwood floor you chose, and you should do tile because that is what she did 10 years ago, say thanks for the advice, and then quietly discard it if it doesn't resonate to you (because seriously Aunt Julie, you have a 90lb Rottweiler, and I have a 20lb lap dog)

2. Consider the sources taste and background. Do you love everything about their home and would you love to live in it? do you covet their pinterest boards, and instagram-stalk them for ideas in inspiration? no? then they may not be the best source to tell you what YOU like. Remember, your project is a reflection of who you are. I'm not saying pursue your project in a vacuum, but rather than open the doors for the friend to pick your project apart, frame it as presentation of what you love, by using language that communicates how excited and confident you are in your choices. IF this is a friend you know and love, and trust to know you as well as you know yourself, then confide that your not convinced that you are making the right choice by choosing that white tile for your shower walls and ask if they'll brainstorm with you.

3. Trust your design professional. OR, if you just can't get Aunt Julie's concerns out of your mind, ask for a second opinion from someone else whose work you admire. I work with interior designers all time that my clients bring in to be a second pair of eyes on a project, and love to refer out to a trusted list of my favorite design professionals when my client needs a bit of extra support. I am a strong, strong believer that the best advice you can get is the advice you pay for, and the best professionals will recommend additional support and work with other professionals seamlessly and professionally.

So, are you ready? lets talk about your project and come up with a way to put your worries at ease and make some decisions.

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Imagine you are lost in the woods and need a few basic needs for survival.

1. Food

2. Shelter

3. Clothing

The good news? You're not lost in the woods! You're renovating!

Here are some tips to address your basic needs, as well as a few wants that probably feel like needs.


Living though your renovation is tough. You have two options- move out, or live in it. Here are some tips to make the most of the situation;

Moving out?

Seriously, if you are looking at a major renovation involving hiring contractors, re-configuring floor plans, building additions, etc etc, you should find somewhere to stay. This is going to be messy, dusty, dirty and your quality of life will suffer. Beyond that, the trades, and contractors will work less efficiently if you are doing a load of laundry while they are talking about how to reroute your bathroom water lines. So what are your options?

  1. AirBNB- This is great if you need to be out for a set amount of time. A week or two while the trades tackle demolition, framing and drywall is reasonable, and money well spent.

  2. Sublet an apartment or House- If you are in a student city like Halifax, there are often short term sublets up for grabs. This is a great solution if you need to find somewhere to stay for 3 months or more. Options can come furnished or not, which could save you storage fees if you need to move everything out for a complete re-fit!

  3. Renovate during vacation- If you have a good contractor and design professional involved, you can take off and just let everything happen in your absence. This involves very clear design concepts and planning, as well as a great deal of blind faith and trust, so it is not for those who need to see daily progress, or be in control of the process.

Staying put?

There are some things you can do to minimize the impact on your life and family while you tear into your home. Here are my tips for keeping your sanity through the process.

  1. Dust Control- This is so important! the trick is to mask off the area where the work is being done completely, while also creating negative air pressure. This means that air is being drawn from the rest of the house, toward the exterior, rather than being pushed through the space being renovated, in to the untouched parts of your home... taking dust and contaminants with it. This can be accomplished with a simple box fan in a window!

  2. Establish a temporary kitchen- This is so essential to keeping your sanity. If you are renovating your kitchen, set it up somewhere out of the way from the area being worked on, and be mindful that you won't want to move it around. A spare bedroom, hallway or family room is a good option for this.

  3. Set Boundaries- Clearly establish where the out of bounds areas of your home are for contractors and subtrades. This may mean supplying a porta-potty, masking off areas of the home that are out of bounds, and being present to let the trades in and out of the house... without distracting them from their jobs.

  4. Give trades space- Most subtrades are paid by the hour, which means they would love to stand around and chat about your dogs favorite color on the clock. The key to getting your job done efficiently, and on budget is to stay out of the way. If you think a mistake is being made, or are not confident your subtrades, reach out directly to the contractor to talk it out. IF you are the contractor, ask questions that take the subtrades to the same conclusion you have made, and remember to be polite. Being short or rude with your trades won't get your job done better. You can be firm if you don't like how something is done, but if you hired reputable professionals, who had good references, and you supplied clear drawings of the details, they should be able to execute the job with no issues.

No matter how you swing it, having other people in your house, working on it can be stressful, whether you are in it or not.

Do you have any tips from surviving your renovation?

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