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add spice with pumpkin

Posted by Cobi on Monday November 02, 2009 at 06:00 AM
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Halloween’s over for another year but here’s a way to keep the lively warmth of pumpkin in your home all winter long…sumptuous velvet drapes.


The moment I saw this photograph of Ina Gartner’s Manhattan apartment (you know and love her as The Barefoot Contessa cookbook author, magazine personality and television host) in House Beautiful a few years back, I knew I loved it.

Just the words alone ~ “pumpkin coloured velvet curtains” ~ mmm..if that doesn’t warm up your living room on a bleak November day, what will?
But if that doesn’t suit, how about eggplant? Or olive green or red current? Ina would love that we’re using food for inspiration! wink

This room is a wonderful example of what I believe to be a simple recipe for successful decorating: livable neutrals on the walls, floors and some furnishings, livened up with a punch of intense, forthright colour that creates instant look-at-me interest and personality.


Without the shot of orange in this room it would look like any other. And yet the orange doesn’t have to be orange - it could be any other intense hue.
It also doesn’t have to be on the drapes (although I think it’s a great place to add softness and luxury to a Canadian room), it could be on the sofas instead and the curtains done in natural linen. Remember my own red sofa? It steals the show with white walls and beige/brown floors.

You’ve likely got the neutral room, now just pick a place for a pow! of colour.

Easy to change. Easy to live with. Definitely a statement.

Ok, if I haven’t convinced you, I’ve convinced myself….I don’t know where I’m going to put it but I’m off to find “pumpkin coloured velvet!” … “yards and yards of it!” … she joyously exclaims!

Velvet to match the flames in the crackling fireplace on a cold winter night…heaven.

Thank you for another great recipe Ina!

Oh, I meant to mention that Pottery Barn carries some nice colours of velvet drapes…here’s an image…. cobi

decorating trick that’s a treat

Posted by Cobi on Monday October 26, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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This Halloween decorating trick is a so easy, it’s scaaarry.

Have a boo….


My friend, Maureen found a great little gadget at Homesense called a Candle Carver. Since it isn’t always easy to find seasonal things there, we also sourced it on-line at The Great Canadian Gift Company. At $14.99, it isn’t cheap but it’s Made in Canada of stainless steel so it isn’t going to break after one use which makes it worth it to me.


I think there are lots of holidays I would use this little sucker ~ not just halloween ~ imagine a row of Asian pears at Christmas…lemons and limes in the summer….

Another idea it’s got me dreaming of is individual desserts. I haven’t tried this but I think it would be yummy: Make holes in enough apples for each guest to have one and fill with warm butterscotch sauce. Serve on a pretty dessert plate or saucer with more apple wedges for dipping. Does anyone have time to try this and let us know how it goes? mmmm…..

The other good thing about this little carver is that it’s a small item to keep in a drawer with your votives between parties. The rest of the centrepiece can be eaten or composted after use.


Have a Wicked Halloween!

ps/ If you want to do this without the carver, try stamping the pumpkin with an empty aluminum holder from a votive candle (like using a cookie cutter) then use a paring knife to cut out the hole. Might not be as neat but it will work too. Be sure to use a vegetable with a flat bottom! We don’t want any rolling pumpkins….

applause for the simple vase!

Posted by Cobi on Monday October 19, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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Here’s a quick organizing trick. I loooove jewellery but really struggle with storing it. Bangles are especially bulky, and take up a lot of room in my little chest of drawers.

Here’s my latest solution: we all have glass vases floating around that we don’t need….


I feel like I just killed two birds with one stone because by doing this I managed to get rid of two vases off of my stuffed vase shelf at the same time ~ oh bliss!

Yes, I do have to empty out the vase if I want a bracelet at the bottom, but it isn’t a big deal. The best thing is that by being able to see them, I find I’m wearing them more. It’s the worst when you have great stuff and forget to wear it.

I bet there are more uses for glass vases if we put our minds to it….let me know if you use them for other things!

all set for thanksgiving

Posted by Cobi on Monday October 12, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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I wanted to show you my dishes this week because they work so well for the Thanksgiving table, they always make me happy.


They’re called “Woodland” by Spode.

Each plate has a different duck or bird in the centre which makes them fun to collect and keeps my daughter Charlotte amused when setting the table wink . I think she’ll have memories of family dinners with them and since I plan to give them to her one day I think of them as ‘future heirlooms’.

There’s something about the brown transfer pattern and scene in the middle that’s elegant and earthy at the same time. They’ve been a joy to add to my other patterns and work so well with hearty fall and winter fare. It’s also great that they’re dishwasher and microwave proof.


Charlotte and I always collect leaves for place cards (just use permanent marker), impromptu coasters and general scattering about on tables and mantles. So pretty and easy to do while the turkey’s cooking.

Here’s a nice picture of some pieces in the Horchow mailorder catalogue in the states…


Spode is available at lots of independant china and dinnerware stores across Canada including Ashley’s in Toronto.

Anyway, must run and join the fun ~ Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

the heat is on!

Posted by Cobi on Monday October 05, 2009 at 10:24 AM
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Sometimes we all feel like we have to advocate for something that we think is being overlooked or snubbed because of an old idea or incorrect perception. Today I am advocating for Electric Fireplaces.

Yup, it’s true, the old lightbulb and orange paper trick is something I think deserves more credit! No special wiring, no special venting, no different than buying a lamp, it’s quite a decorating find!

We put one into our screened in porch a couple of years ago. I am not going to suggest you do the same because they really aren’t meant for outdoors and can’t be guaranteed against the elements, but that’s not my point - I already have 2 working fireplaces inside our house but if I didn’t I would definitely consider one of these.


The point is, that I still marvel at how smart it is and how few people have them.

Here are the top 4 reasons why I love them:

Installation - like I said, it’s no different than buying a lamp. Seriously. All you need is a wall plug on the wall where you are placing it. If you have that, you simply go pick a style, it gets delivered, the guy plugs it in, pushes it against the wall and that’s it. Did you hear that ladies - no husband, brother or handyman needed!!

Profile - it’s very narrow. If you’ve tried to retrofit your home for a gas fireplace, you’ll know that there is a significant depth required for safety reasons and it can get complicated to set the box into the wall, etc. (read: construction, mess, expense). These suckers are only about 16” deep and don’t take up too much space in your room, yet have enough of a mantel to decorate (love that).

Look - There’s a large assortment of surround styles available, but what I was more concerned with was the look of the flame. No it’s not real but the new technology of using lights and mirrors is quite convincing! You would definitely think it’s real on first glance. Also, even though gas flames are real, I often find the logs to be fake looking and so really, what’s the difference - a fake fire is a fake fire.

Heat - it throws a nice amount of heat for a regular size room. Sometimes our gas fireplace will sweat us right out of our basement. This little guy doesn’t throw too much but just enough to be comfortable sitting near by. Of course, you can set the remote to ‘no heat’ and just have the look if you like.


Anyway, for the ease and cost (ours was about $2,000 for the unit, no labour cost) I think they are definitely worth considering if you are looking to cozy up a room and create a focal point.

If you want to check out the looks available, a few of the big brand names are Dimplex, Burley and Classic Flame. If you are in Ontario, I would also recommend going to the store we bought from, The Electric Fireplace Shop. Two women own the business and completely focus on electric (obvious by the name!) and really know their stuff.

Let me know if I’ve convinced you ~ or if you already agree!cobi

first class collectible

Posted by Cobi on Monday September 28, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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Can you guess what these dishes were originally used for? If you can, you might be dating yourself wink


One of my favourite things to collect these days is old airline dishes. Yes kids, airplane meals used to be served on china! And even to regular humans sitting in coach!

There’s something romantic about the thought of flying through the air and eating (even airplane food) on Royal Doulton dishes. It’s just so much more special than plastic.

The first time I found these dishes I was at an antique show (the kind that goes to malls, etc.) a few years ago and I just loved using them and giving them as gifts. Since then, I’ve found them at flea markets, junk stores and even Value Village. Of course they’re on ebay too, just plug in ‘airline dishes’ and you’ll get a few pages of results although I have to say the prices are higher on ebay than I’ve had to pay in person (I think my cheapest was $2.00 and highest I’ve paid is $12.00).


I use them for all kinds of things…

• a place to put jewellery or a watch by the kitchen/bathroom sink or bedside table

• keys and change on the hall console

• soap in the powder room

• olives or pistachios when entertaining

• same goes for chocolates with coffee

• hair pins and elastics

• business cards, postit notes, paper clips on my desk

They would be great stacked with little Christmas cookies, candies or fudge and wrapped in cello for teachers gifts at Xmas …hmmm….maybe I should start hitting Value Village more often…

There’s something about the square/rectangular shape that looks neater than a round dish and they’re so strong, they can take the bangin’ around that happens in a busy household. And of course, who can go wrong with white.


So keep an eye out on your travels…it’s even fun to see who’s stamped on the back, so far I have dishes from Air Canada (by Royal Doulton), Canadian Airlines (by Noritake). USAir, American Airlines and United Airlines (by Pfaltzgraff). I’d love to hear if you collect them too!

light and bright!

Posted by Cobi on Monday September 21, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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Last weekend we threw a little engagement party in our backyard for my nephew Michael and his lovely fiance Wing. I wanted to give the party a fun and happy feeling since they are such a fun and happy young couple.

The solution was so easy and affordable, I had to share it with you…


Paper lanterns from Chinatown are one of my favourite things ~ you can probably tell from my website! Just brilliant balls of colour.


I put little ones down the table and scattered others with groups of votive candles….


We placed the large ones randomly around the yard and if they looked like they might blow into the pool and we just weighted them inside with a rock. They would also look great hanging from the trees with fishing line.


Besides the instant colour impact, the best thing about them is they fold flat for storage and so we can keep them on a shelf in the basement for the next birthday party, shower, New Years eve or any other celebration that calls for colourful balls of fun. The other good thing is that the dogs can’t burst them.


This is my mom’s dog Lucy.

If you don’t live close to a Chinatown, I found them easily online. Try or

No matter how much life weighs you down, don’t let it stop you from celebrating the good things when they come around…and they always do come around. You’ll feel lighter and brighter for it.

basket of tricks

Posted by Cobi on Monday September 14, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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If you read decorating magazines, you’ve probably seen this idea before. With September organizing in mind, I just can’t help showing it again…

It’s a great way for anyone who has left a job (like moi) and finds themselves working from home and having to manage all of the paper and supplies that go with it.


You can pick up these old picnic baskets for next to nothing almost anywhere - garage sales are the best, I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than $`10.00 for one. I guess they just don’t get used now that coolers have taken over the world?

Anyway, what I love about them is their squareness (or rectangleness?) and the flat lid. That means you can put lots of paper work inside and stack. They can even make a great side table solution with storage.

As I said, I use them for work info. but also for travel info. that collects. Am I the only one that ends up with a plastic bag full of maps, brochures, notes, etc. after each trip? What do other people do with that stuff? Let me know if you have any ideas! I know magazine holders work well. I usually edit the info. down, keep it in a nice shopping bag or file folder and then keep it in these baskets or like ones. And I have to admit, unlike other papers I keep, I do tend to go back to travel information later - either for us or for others - and so it’s worth keeping. My ‘Paris bag o’ info.’ has made it’s way to at least 4 friend’s homes in that last year. Sadly, I haven’t had a need to look at it again :(

Anyway, if I haven’t made it clear, I love old picnic baskets. Cheap, useful and cute. It doesn’t get better than that.

taking back the house

Posted by Cobi on Monday September 07, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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And just like that, it’s over. Would we all agree? The shortest summer on record.

The only upside to the end of summer is the calming feeling of ‘taking back the house’.

What I mean by that is little things like not only emptying the weekend bags but also giving them a shake to get rid of the bits of sand and actually putting them away. Of putting the coolers away too and filling the fridge at home with food that will be eaten and not just left to sour or transported back up to the cottage. Of moving the tennis rackets that sat at the front door all summer and the fan that sat in the upstairs bedroom. Of giving the kids the last freezies and getting the ice box back to just ice. Sad symbols of summer’s end, yes, but also comforting in a way that only ‘order’ can bring.


Speaking of kids, lets all enjoy a moment of silence in respect for the parents out there who are breathing a sigh of relief this week. You know who you are - you made this summer the “best ever” for the little ones you love, regardless of the expense or exhaustion that making those memories may have brought.


Yup, another summer down, but the quiet of September is always lovely in a melancholy kind of way. Low-in-the-sky afternoon sunshine that glows through the trees and the lonely sound of cicada’s while the kids are back to the first days of school. A welcome respite from the chaos - at least for a few days.

pool decor

Posted by Cobi on Monday August 31, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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Just to prove that those of us who love to decorate, can do it just about anywhere…

One of the cutest things I did this summer to satiate the decorating bug that looms inside of me was to put a seldom used (ok, I admit it, never used) silver exercise ball in the pool. Yup. That’s it. Just put it in and let it do the work. My kind of exercise! It floats around and gives my eye great delight each time I look out, creating different views and pictures.


I guess it’s the scale of the ball and the colour - which blends with the stone - that makes it so pleasing.


Anyway, I know it’s a bit of a goofy idea but that’s what I love about blogs - you can be goofy! So it you have a big rubber ball hanging around your basement, try floating it around in your pool instead. At least you can say it’s being used!!

ps. This idea doesn’t work if your pool has a bunch of noodles and water guns hanging around the edge - they ruin the aesthetic. You’ll have to clean them up first for this idea to work(good motivation). Enjoy the last week of summer!! arg.


Red Sofa (again!)

Posted by Cobi on Monday August 24, 2009 at 06:59 AM
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14 years of use and abuse….it was time for a new sofa.

Let me just say, I believe in buying furniture that lasts and 14 years is probably not that long in terms of the life of a ‘good’ sofa. I know, because I have one upstairs that my mother bought in the 70’s and short of being reupholstered, it’s in great condition.

But our sofa was bought from a trendy store in the 90’s and it’s main attribute at the time was the oversized styling and denim fabric that was all the rage rather than it’s springs and coils. Suffice to say, after a few years, I started to wonder if it had any.

Anyway, we lived with (and on) it through babies, 2 houses, new slip covers, sick days home from school, 2 dogs, movie nights, tv dinners, the whole gamut and to be honest, it owed us nothing when we put it by the curb and watched a couple in a truck drive off with it a few minutes later destined for cottage country.

The funny party of the story is what I bought. I definitely wanted a well constructed sofa this time - I guess I’ve grown too old to tolerate style without substance - and so I headed for a tried and true brand, one that’s made right here in Canada, where I can actually stand and watch each coil being tied if I want.

I knew I didn’t have the time or the cash to redecorate my whole living room (plus, I like it!) and so I needed something that would work with the carpet and paisley wing chairs and my beloved kilim covered ottoman. I considered leather for its practicality and I do think a well styled, chocolate brown leather sofa is a classic in any room, but it just doesn’t have the ‘cozy factor’ that I know my kids loved about ‘ol’ red’.

I headed to Barrymore Furniture in Toronto and chose the style within a few minutes. Neater and tidier than 14 years ago, but stuffed with premium fill that sinks when you sit down and has enough body to come back up when you get up (they call it ‘memory’) and most important of all, long enough for a tall person’s afternoon nap.

The other thing I loved about this sofa was the 3 cushions in the back. I had them upholstered in a beautiful woven pattern but they can be done in a solid like the rest of the piece. Because this sofa has a lot of depth, they work perfectly if a non-tall person sits down and needs more back support. They can also be put on the ends if you want to lay down, but look neatly lined up when the sofa isn’t in use. Brilliant.

Anyway, after going through the racks and racks of gorgeous fabric samples, yes, I decided to upholster the sofa in a durable (it will take 78,000 rubs before it shows!) garnet red almost identical to the last one. I guess I’m just destined to have a red sofa. It reminded me of a woman I knew who decided to buy a new sofa after 20 years or something and shopped and shopped and finally decided on the same chintz that was on her old one. The sales people at Barrymore tell me it isn’t that unusual for people to do - who knew? I guess some of us just really know what we like.

What I love about a red sofa is that it’s solid looking but not too dark. It hides the dirt. It works with lots of other colours. It looks great in the winter (and we don’t use the living room much in the summer). And best of all, I can leave my floor and walls neutral and the room still has personality, which I think is the key to happy decorating.

Anyway, our friends and family likely won’t even notice the sofa had changed - they just won’t sink to the floor when they sit in it the way they used to! The most important thing is that it passed the kid test - they were skeptical I could find anything as comfortable as ol’ red. And as you can see by the picture, the dog gave it two paws up too.

For those interested, here are the deets on my new sofa:

Sofa style:

Barrymore’s own Broadway Collection style #2722 with Feather Delux fill and spike legs in Dark Walnut finish.


Kravet (26761-9) Ribbed Ott: Venetian Red

Robert Allen Kaleko Inn - Cashew

ol’ red cobi

new red cobi

Loster Trap Towel Rack (say it 3 times fast)

Posted by Cobi on Monday August 17, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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I know not everyone has an old lobster trap kicking around waiting to be used for a project, but this worked out so well, I had to share it with you. And who knows, maybe some of my East Coast friends can use the idea?

On this years summer holiday at our cottage in PEI, Bob and I had to make a trip to the dump where there was a large pile of wood refuse, and being the island, a good part of it was made up of lobster traps and parts there of.

Surprisingly Bob and I both spied the same beautiful piece in particular that was just the simple arched frame, with no netting left on it and weathered to a perfect grey. My agreeable husband kindly climbed the pile and grabbed it for me - they’re heavier than you’d think! - and as we threw it in the van, we agreed we’d do something with it, although we weren’t sure what.

By the time we got home, I knew what. Bob screwed it to the side of our outdoor shower - it happened to fit the shower frame perfectly and we had a great towel rack up within 10 minutes (and no arguing!). It would also work vertically but the support wasn’t as good in our situation, it might be in another.

Anyway, it works like a charm and was easy peasy lemon squeezy to install - as easy as squeezin’ lemon on a lobster, by!

Oh, another little tip that even non-islanders can use: 2 years ago we painted the aluminum siding of our cottage gray to match the colour of the weathered decking, spindles and lattice around the place. It’s made the cottage look so much more cohesive (the odds and sods and bits that don’t line up blend in now) and we just use white trim on things that we do want to highlight like the screen doors. It’s a great idea if you have weathered wood on portions of your home or cottage that you don’t want to paint or stain (ie. maintain) - paint the other parts of the building to match!

After going through tons of grays and trying to match one to a broken spindle that I carried around in my purse, the best colour match was SICO “sketch” #6206-31 and the product my painter used for the aluminum siding is latex 811 Velvet. It goes on beautifully and stays on great (touch wood - or rather, aluminum wink).

cobi cobi

Beautiful Robin’s Egg Blue!

Posted by Cobi on Monday August 10, 2009 at 07:00 AM
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I had a lucky find on one of my morning dog walks this spring. A perfect (empty) robin’s egg was lying in a ditch - the colour is truly glorious! I gingerly carried it home admiring the colour and telling Hito how unusual and exciting it was to find one. (If anyone knows why robin’s eggs are coloured this way, please e-mail and tell us - I’m curious).

Anyway, as I lay it in a lovely little bird’s nest I found on a previous walk I had an idea… Many of us have a romantic notion to paint something ‘robins egg blue’ at some point - but who has an egg laying around when you need one? So why not use this egg as a sample to match paint colours so that we can all have a list tucked away for the time when we need it, and so that’s what I’ve done. Keep this list in your ‘decorating’ folder on your computer (you do have one, right?) for when you need it in future.

I took the delicate egg with me to Home Depot, Canadian Tire, independent paint stores and did an initial gathering of colour samples - unfortunately it got crushed a little at a stop light (long story). Anyway, I then weeded out the colours in better light at home and came up with a list of matches. Two lists really - light versions of the colour, and intense, deeper versions. When it’s time to do your project, think about how you envision it: light and airy or rich and saturated. This colour looks amazing either way, it just depends on what look you’re trying to achieve.

I suppose different robin’s eggs would be different colours, this egg is an intense, deep colour that’s more green than blue and very complex (trust mother nature to make something too beautiful to duplicate). It’s almost ‘dirty’ in its complexity and no, it isn’t the mud from the ditch wink but at least this will give us a guide in future for the gorgeous blue/green colour that’s so perfect in many applications: baby’s rooms, children’s rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, porch ceilings, cottage floors, country furniture…I even have it on my kitchen ceiling and love it.

Cobi’s True Robin’s Egg Blue - Light and Airy:


Saltspring Grey 6161-31 (pretty, soft, light green)
Movie Star 6148-31 (clear, light, bright, quite green)

Sherwin Williams

Aquatint SW 6936 (nice, light blue with hint of green)
Waterfall SW 6750 (lovely fresh, light colour)
Refresh SW 6751 (medium, green version, nice)
Aquaduct SW 6758 (medium, more blue version, also nice)

Vivid Lake 70GG 74/120 (nice and light, a bit minty)
Island Aqua 70GG 67/184 (medium tone, clear, maybe too bright)

Balmy Seas 490C-3 (pretty, light soft, version)

It’s a Steal P5021-24 (clear, very light, nice tone)
Splurged Again P5021-34 (a very close match to egg but more clear)
Tea Cups P5108-24 (gorgeous, light colour, love this one)
Drop Zone P5108-34 (seriously gorgeous medium colour, bright but not too)

Benjamin Moore
Soft mint 2041-60 (pretty, soft and light, but yes, minty)
Sea mist green 2041-50 (beautiful soft medium tone)

Cobi’s True Robin’s Egg Blue - Rich and Intense:

Baffin Island Grey 6161-52 (beautiful, dark, greyed out shade)
Antibes Blue 6148-42 (clear, dark, nice green)

Duck Egg Blue 70GG 59/225 (very clear, bright colour but nice)

Jamaica Bay 500D-4 (very nice colour, soft medium blue)

Sherwin Williams
Cooled Blue SW 6759 (clear, rich, more green than blue)

Splash Mountain P5108-52 (dark, gorgeous colour)

Ralph Lauren
Island Brights Aged Mint IB77 (beautiful deep bluey grey)
Sunwashed Blue IB82 (intense bright green/blue)

Benjamin Moore
Historical colours Covington blue HC-138 (Stunning greyed blue)

Winner of the ‘Overall Best Match’ to this little Egg of Wonder:

Anticosti Grey 6161-41 (Perfect!!)

first photoshoot

Posted by Cobi on Monday July 27, 2009 at 06:00 AM
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Oh what fun it is to paint a wall purple – especially if it’s just for the day!! I was in my glory the day we took these pictures for the website. I hadn’t been in a studio for months and the creative process of bringing together a bunch of pretty things – many my favourites from home – was totally exhilarating. But even better than that was working alongside other creative (and need I say good hearted?) friends who also brought favourites from their houses – it was just too much for one girl to take!


makeup and more

My dear friends Sam Sacks (shown below) and Trish Johnston (carrying a pillow of course) helped me out on the big day. You can’t be creative alone – or at least it isn’t as much fun! Trish is a professional stylist and immediately understood what I was trying to achieve. Sam is a writer and editor but just so happens to have a great eye and a wonderful sense of personal style and so she was our third set of hands.


Our modus operandi was to create images that would express my message which, as you now know, is about personal expression, happiness and joy in our homes. The girls got it immediately and photographer Virginia MacDonald made it so easy for us to create (yes, paint her walls purple) in her incredible space and captured the essence of the lightness and prettiness that I think is missing in decorating today. What a team! Thank you to all three for being such pros.

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