Archive for the ‘Home Decor’ category

Eco Friendly Home Decor

July 23rd, 2015

By Jane Blanchard

When choosing the decor for your home, you’re probably thinking of many factors. Cost, durability and style are likely weighing heavily on your decisions, but it’s important not to forget to make eco friendly choices whenever possible. Choosing eco friendly decor will save you money in energy costs and reduce your footprint on our precious environment.


Finding ways to reuse what is already in your home eliminates waste and makes a more eco friendly place. A detailed list of repurposing tutorials can be found on Remodeling Therapy, but a few suggestions are especially eye catching. Use an old sweater to cover an ugly lampshade to create a cozy cottage-like decor.





Plugging your TV or stereo into a power strip instead of directly into the wall can save energy as well. Even when you’ve turned your electronics off, they continue to leak energy when they are plugged into an outlet. The amount leaked when they are plugged into a power strip is significantly lower plus you can turn the power off to save energy when you’re not using it. Reusing old bread ties to label your cords saves plastic and eliminates waste.



Most people are aware that some light bulbs are more eco-friendly than others. You may note that the bulbs labeled as eco-friendly or energy saving cost more initially, but these bulbs last significantly longer than traditional bulbs. If you are not able to get energy saving bulbs, you could add a dimmer to your lighting. This will make your bulbs last longer. Traditional incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient. Through the lighting process, the bulb produces 70% more heat than light and use up to ten times more energy than either CFL or LED counterparts. LED lights are relatively new to the scene but are an excellent energy efficient alternative that use hardly any energy, have a long life expectancy and don’t give off heat and have dropped in price in the last few years.



It may not seem important but deciding between a bath or a shower can impact the amount of water your home uses. A bath uses about as much water as a 10 minute shower. If you can keep your shower under 7 minutes, you could save about 3 gallons of water each time. Add a low-flow showerhead and you can save even more water and energy (the energy saved because less hot water is used, therefore less needs to be replaced). Look for the WaterSense symbol on showerheads.



When you’re choosing decor, there are lots of opportunities to make an eco friendly choice. From the type of tile you choose to the landscaping options, considering your choices will make a big impact. When you’re choosing a countertop, explore these environmentally friendly options from Apartment Therapy. With names like BottleStone and Squak Mountain Stone, they will make your home truly unique and beautiful.



You can also save water by choosing native plants for your landscape. A new trend called Xeriscaping uses 50% less water by including grass that is naturally resistant to drought as well as indigenous plants which grow naturally without extra watering. Xeriscapers plant their lawn for efficiency by grouping like plants together and advocating using mulch which retains moisture and keeps plants from drying out too quickly as well as preventing run-off.


By integrating these few ideas, you can make your home more eco-friendly and attractive. You don’t have to make any sacrifices to have an efficient home. Once you’ve begun the process of making your home more environmentally friendly, it will be exciting to see all of the ways you can cut back and watch your energy bills shrink more and more each month.


For more design ideas and inspiration, head to

Essentia Natural Memory Foam Mattresses

July 24th, 2013
Essentia Mattress -- The Grateful Bed

Essentia Mattress — The Grateful Bed

I was contacted by Essentia a few weeks ago regarding their mattresses. I had never heard of them before — probably because they don’t do a lot of traditional advertising. It turns out they are based in Laval, just outside Montreal. It manufactures and distributes its mattresses straight from its Laval location, importing the raw ingredients.

Essentia Mattresses are an alternative to synthetic memory foam mattresses. Apparently, one of the complaints about memory foam mattresses is that they “sleep hot.” In other words, because they are synthetic, they don’t breathe and therefore, a lot of people heat up during the night (and not in a good way!). Because Essentia mattresses are made from plant-based ingredients, they breathe, allowing for a cooler, more comfortable sleep.

Another complaint with memory foam mattresses is that the “cast” is difficult to get in and out of. The cast is the shape that’s formed once you sink into the bed and it moulds to your body. Once that shape is there, it can be difficult to move out of it.

Essentia mattresses are made from hevea milk, the sap from the rubber tree. On their website, being the Canadian company they are, they liken collecting rubber tree sap to tapping a maple tree for sap. The sap is boiled down to produce the hevea milk, which is then shipped to Canada. Essentia adds a few other ingredients such as jasmine essence, cone flower oil and grapefruit seed extract, pours it on a mould, steams and bakes it in an oven to produce the mattress. The mattress is covered with a 100% organic cotton cover.

There are two kinds of latex manufacturing: Dunlop, which was developed in 1929, and produces a firmer latex, and Talalay, a newer method that produces a “light and fluffy” latex. Essentia uses the Dunlop latex method for production of their memory foam.

Products: Essentia makes latex mattresses in various sizes, as well as pillows which will mould to your neck and head. Mattress products vary from thinner to thicker. While all offer the same support, the difference will be in how long the mattresses last. Thicker mattresses last longer than thinner ones. For their complete product line, see their online catalogue.

Comfort: because the mattress is produced entirely from plant-based ingredients it breathes and allows for air circulation. Petroleum-based memory foam mattresses don’t allow for air flow, so heat generated while sleeping builds up around you. In addition, because the latex foam isn’t temperature sensitive, there isn’t the same cast problem that there is with synthetic memory foam.

Fire retardants: there has been a lot of attention given to the highly toxic chemicals used for fire retardants, particularly when it comes to mattresses. In Canada, fire retardants in mattresses are not mandatory, however, they are in the US. Essentia does not use fire retardants for its mattresses shipped within Canada, and for those shipped to the US, they use Kevlar as a fire retardant.

VOCs: Again, thanks to fire retardants, synthetic materials and petroleum used in other memory foam mattresses, mattresses generally contain a lot of volatile organic compounds. These are chemicals which leach into the air and you can breathe in. They have been linked to cancer, asthma, headaches, etc.. Essentia mattresses are made without the use of VOCs. The local health and safety board officials tested the workers’ environment and determined that their workers don’t need to wear protective gear or masks to work with the materials. The mattresses have also received the GreenGuard certification, a certification developed in California to limit the emission of harmful chemicals into the air.

Durability and End of Life: The mattresses have a 20 year warranty, longer than most coil mattresses, and on top of that, because the mattresses are derived from plant-based ingredients, they are biodegradable at end of life, so no landfill!

Production Process: The rubber tree sap is sourced from a plantations in Indonesia that have acceptable working conditions and no practice of using child labour. The company uses LEAN production methods to keep waste low. My contact at Essentia, Jason Wright, told me that waste is almost negligible except for cotton scraps from making the mattress covers. They are looking for ways to repurpose those as well.

Employee engagement: Essentia has recently formalized a program they developed a few years ago that encourages employees, particularly within their retail stores, to get involved with non-profit organizations within their communities. They are participated in a variety of events such as providing venues for artists, and hosting vegan cooking competitions. The point is to develop community connections.

For a store near you, see their dealer page. They have retail outlets throughout North America.





Becoming Green is a Process of Evolution

April 25th, 2012

For years, I gave myself “green marks” for buying tableware, décor and furniture at garage sales. But by shifting to online classified sites, I think I’ve taken a step to becoming even greener. Don’t get me wrong – buying second-hand stuff at yard sales is one the easiest, most economical ways to reduce your carbon footprint. I’m just not crazy about rising at 6 a.m. on a weekend to drive across town, only to return home without that special item I was searching for.

Kijiji Finds

I’ve tried several online selling sites, but have settled on Kijiji as a mainstay. It let me shop locally, and both “watch” an item of interest or be alerted when an item that matches my search term comes online. New categories, such as outdoor items, appliances and reno materials as distinct categories, makes searching faster and easier. Recently, I’ve had great success making home décor gems out of gently-used items easily found on Kijiji Take a look.


Individual plates can make interesting wall clocks.  Clock hands come in cute shapes, such as knives and forks, hammers and screwdrivers or fishing rods, so you can make a clock suited to an individual room or as a gift for a friend with a related hobby. Clocks hands and movements are available for less than $10 from Lee Valley , which also carries adhesive-backed numbers and dots.


Simply slowly and carefully drill a small hole in the centre of the plate. Place a piece of tape over the drill spot to keep it from cracking and add a few drops of water as you go along to keep the drill bit cool and lubricated (mineral oil works for that, too.) Okay, I admit it, I got the Man of the House (MOTH) to do this part!


Even a fabric remnant can create a one-of-a-kind vase

Used fabric can be put to good use. So don’t discount, then, that linen tablecloth just because it has a tear (although do factor that into what you’ll offer for it.) Imagine instead, as did I, making the still-good stuff into pillow shams, napkins, or tea and guest towels.







A bit of paint and some good tape – try ScotchBlue – and you have a one-of-a-kind pillow to match your other decor pieces


My secret weapon for crafting and painting!

Plain pillow shams can be dressed up with fabric paint. I tried two methods. One was to simply tape straight lines with Scotch Blue tape (my fave painter’s tape!) along a pillow and paint it out in cheery colours from Martha Stewart’s line of multi-surface satin acrylic paint (available at For another pillow, I made my own stencil by hanging a length of tape from a doorway and, using hole-punchers with two different sizes of holes, randomly punching a pattern. Fabric remnants can also turn an ho-hum glass vase into a stunning piece.




A little imagination – and a lick of paint – goes a long way. Good tape is critical for getting sharp lines so stick with a good name brand like ScotchBlue.

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found two cute little semi-circular occasional tables for $20. Perfect, I thought for my living room, especially after I painted them in an earthy Jute (Pittsburgh Paints), adding a thin strip of Charlotte’s Locks from Farrow and Ball. Now that they’re done, though, I’ve decided to cover them in exterior-grade varnish and use them on the back porch — a perfect perch for an after-work glass of wine with MOTH. What could be more stylish — and sustainable?







Vicky Sanderson

Having tried and tested just about every new home product, décor item and countertop appliance to hit the market in the last 10 years, Vicky Sanderson is an expert on all things home related. She shares this expertise in Hot Home Products, a widely-read weekly column that appears every Saturday in The Toronto Star. Follow her @vickysanderson


Tips for a Green Christmas by Vicky Sanderson

December 6th, 2011

Most of us no longer find any contradiction in hoping that snow will begin to fall — gently but steadily — on Christmas Eve, while simultaneously wishing with all our might for a “green” Christmas. That’s because while we love the holiday, we’re conscious that it can too easily engender over-consumption.  Here are a few ways to keep the season fun, festive, and sustainable.

Repurposed tea cups make nice centrepieces

Recycled décor. Jim Connelly’s holiday décor looks high-end. But as master of disguise (Jim is co-owner, along with Peter de Sousa of  Masterpieces Studio, which offers custom painting and art, as well as  bespoke furniture ) his fancy-pants pieces frequently start with bits and bobs he picks up at Goodwill or Value Village. Take, for example, his holiday table décor, made from old teacups and saucers spray-painted in seasonal colours and filled with greenery, ribbons and accents. If you’re feeling really generous (after all, they cost about $10 each to make) offer them us as party favours when your guests depart.



Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows boxed set (3D, DVD)

iHome portable mp3 players

Scale back on holiday activities away from home. Instead of making your way in the car to an over-crowded, over-heated theatre, plan a long walk on a local trail before heading home for a family movie night. HMV has great options, including the 50th anniversary edition of West Side Story, the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows collectible box and the complete collection of Home Alone. BTW, they also have a variety of tech toys that kids and grown-ups will love, such as a small but mighty iHome speaker — for just $20 — that connects to an iPhone, iPad or MP3 players and lets the user take music wherever — from the family room to the backyard to the cottage dock. For those times when you don’t want to hear your kid’s music, there are noise-cancelling headphones. Toxix headphones have extra-large speaker drivers, deliver smooth, undistorted highs, clear vocals and are comfy and compact. And at about $25, they’re very affordable. If you’ve got a Star Wars fan in the house, pick up a string of Yoda and R2D2 holiday lights ($20) or a Star Wars USB key ($20) just for fun.

Delicious Hazelnut Cream Puffs make life easier. M&M Meatshops

It’s always nice to do holiday baking and cooking, but it’s just not everything you serve has to be made-from-scratch.  So shop ahead and stock the freezer with good-quality prepared foods. Try M& M Meat Shops, , where you’ll find everything from hors d’ouvres and dips to choice cuts of meat and fish to delish desserts. You can also buy fully prepared meals, including pot roast in gravy (perfect for the slow cooker) and a full Atlantic cod, topped with shredded potato, cheddar cheese and chives. To make things even easier, you can order online and pick up at your nearest store.





Dienabou Diao, 8yrs, Yiri Koye Village

This time of year is about loving and giving. So remember that despite the hectic pace, the stress — and even the squabbles — you’re blessed with family and friends and a warm, safe place to live. In lots of places though, that’s just not the case. So think about sharing your good fortune by making a donation to your favourite charity. One that touches my heart is World Vision, which partners with local communities in developing countries to improve lives. Make a donation of $30 and a family receives five fruit trees, enough to start on the road to self-sufficiency. Fifty dollars buys two hens and a rooster to help a family hatch a business.

Vicky Sanderson writes Hot Home Products, a widely-read weekly column on home improvement, décor and housewares that appears every Saturday in the Toronto Star. She also keeps readers up to date on new products through her blog, On the House, which can be found Having tried and tested just about every new home product, décor item and countertop appliance to hit the market in the last 10 years, Vicky is an expert on all things home-related. She frequently shares tips, tricks and trends on such media outlets as Canada AM, Breakfast Television, CHCH Morning Live, and CBC Radio. Follow her on Twitter @vickysanderson


Style Garage: Local, Custom-made Furniture

March 7th, 2011

Liz from Style Garage

Style Garage, located on Queen Street West just east of Ossington, is a store I’ve passed by on many occasions, but have never quite managed to visit, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find a Style Garage exhibit at the Interior Design Show in January. Liz from Style Garage showed me around the exhibit which featured both products from Style Garage and Gus Modern, the latter line born out of Style Garage and available through dealers throughout the US and Canada.

The focus of Style Garage is producing locally made custom furniture. The great part about that is that if you see a piece in the showroom you like, you can have the measurements altered to fit your space. The company works with local furniture makers who build the pieces to order, so furniture takes 8 to 10 weeks for delivery.

Several different wood finishes are available for all products. Wood is kiln dried and pieces are built to last. Style Garage also offers soy-blended foam for cushion inserts, as well as organic cotton or recycled polyester for fabric choices, however, Liz acknowledged that currently, the price point of these fabrics tends to be on the high side, so consumers tend to stick with standard fabric offerings.

Sectional Sofa from Gus Modern

Console in riffed oak finish from Style Garage

Store Location:


TEL 416.534.4343
TEL 1.866.534.4343
FAX 416.534.4340

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