Artful Pleasures

Art is a very personal experience. Let’s look at what it can do for your home!

The art you live with is a reflection of your personality and lifestyle. You probably have art that you fell in love with the moment you saw it which works well in your home because it is typically reflecting a feeling, an experience or a goal you’re in tune with.

Maximize the pleasure of your artwork for you (and your guests), by considering a few of these things:

Style & Media

A home with a mix of art is visually dynamic! Consider the concept, content, style, colour, media and size when you’re selecting the work. Thought provoking pieces are good for the soul and make for interesting dialogue! You’re probably familiar with the type of work you like – abstract vs. high realism – photography, sculpture or paintings – if you like both, include both!

Size & Display

There are no hard and fast rules for what size your art should be or how you display it. Varying the sizes within a single room creates visual stimulation and movement. A formal presentation of art can be achieved with similar sizes, framing and installation.

My cardinal rules for installing art

DON’T HANG IT TOO HIGH – consider whether people are standing, sitting or lying down;

Unique presentation – a very tiny painting on a large wall area can be very provocative, a large painting in a small space can envelope the viewer, install a piece on the ceiling!;

3-dimensional work – place it where the viewer can see each side of the piece;

Let the art breathe – give enough space around so the eye is not distracted from the art.

Visit & Shop Local

Owning a piece of original art is not out of reach. There are so many local artists that do fantastic work at very reasonable costs – search it on web and you’ll have hundreds come up. Often original pieces can be attained for the same kind of money you’d spend at home decor stores where hundreds, if not thousands, of copies are sold. Pop-up art shows, artist-run exhibitions, and local art festivals give you a great day out. You’ll enjoy an original piece of art in your home, be supporting a local artist and your space will be unique.

My final word of advice? Ask yourself: “Can I live with this?!”

Add a few of these ideas to your interior and you’ll be sure to enjoy your space and art all of the time. Everyone should live with art!

Karen Klucowicz is a professional Canadian fine artist (see her portfolio at Karen’s figurative abstract paintings focus on the strength of individuals and how that affects relationships. Working primarily in two series and by commission, her concepts are intriguing and her style is bold. (The expertise in collecting and installing art comes from her past life as an interior designer.)

There’s No Place Like Home – Especially as You Age

There’s no place like home and for most people, home becomes even more important as the years go by.

According to a study conducted by AARP in the United States, nearly 90 percent of people aged 65 and older want to remain in their own homes (or “age in place”) as long as possible.

What is Aging in Place?

The Centers for Disease Control defines the concept of aging in place as living in one’s own home safely, comfortably and independently irrespective of age, ability level or income.

Aging in place allows seniors to maintain their independence, and this sense of self-control is often the number one reason why most people want to remain exactly where they are for as long as they are able.

While personal freedom makes life happier and more satisfying, familiar social networks provided by the local community are nearly as important. Living at home means enjoying a rich, full life near longtime friends and neighbours and within close proximity to favourite restaurants, businesses, medical providers or places of worship.

Uprooting from familiar surroundings often leads to boredom and a lack of purpose as well as loss of dignity and a diminished quality of life.

For many, the disruption of moving, including packing up a lifetime of possessions or selling a home, results in profound mental, physical and emotional stress. For some seniors, leaving the comfort of home may cause depression that eventually leads to withdrawal and a decreased will to live.

Although the physical, mental and emotional benefits of aging in place are well documented, remaining at home may also be financially prudent for seniors. The difference in cost can be substantial and may save thousands of dollars.

According to Sun Life Financial, the 2016 median cost of a private room in an Ontario retirement home was $4,200/month ($50,000/year) while the equivalent in a government-subsidized nursing home was $2,500/month ($30,000/year) The cost of high quality home care is much less than traditional care in assisted living or long term care facilities, even for seniors who need help with home modifications, housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation and personal care.

In Ontario, seniors 65 years and older may be eligible for the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit. This permanent income tax credit allows you to claim up to $10,000.00 per year worth of eligible home improvements on your tax return, regardless of your income.

The amount of money you get back is calculated as 15% of the eligible expenses. So if you spend and claim $10,000 worth of eligible expenses, you could get $1,500.00 back.

There are many options when it come to determining the best living situation and the decision is highly personal. However, aging in place is a viable option for many, resulting in improved health and a better outlook on life. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) can help guide you through the process.

CAPS professionals understand the aging-in-place home remodelling market and the technology, tools and resources that are available for seniors to age in place. They can help you make your home aging-ready and gives you the assurance that you are dealing with someone who has had training in crafting solutions that meet the independent housing needs of older adults.

Nick Vatalaro is one of a select group of Canadian interior design professionals to earn the industry leading Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designation from the National Association of Home Builders in Washington, D.C.

He holds design certificates in Universal Design and Home Modification and Universal Design and Interior Environments from the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning.

Nick is Principal of niva creative inc. which provides design solutions throughout the GTA, Georgian Bay, Dufferin, Simcoe and Muskoka. He can be reached at 647.208.1867 or by email at

Refinishing VS Renovating

“Picture it. 1985. We moved into our first new home. The kitchen was a dream with it’s oak cupboards glistening in their honey coloured magnificence!”

Yes, I’m channeling Sophia of the Golden Girls. Remember their kitchen? It was one that was completely in vogue with the times. Today? Not so much.

What works for this kitchen is that the layout is very well thought out for a production studio. It’s an open space that is much desired today but needs just a little updating. Why tear this kitchen down and start over? Why spend potentially 10’s of thousands of dollars to bring it into the new millennium when changing the colour, updating the hardware and maybe replacing the countertop and backsplash will be just as effective? How do you decide on which path to take? Here’s a few tips to consider on if refinishing is a good option for your kitchen.

1.  Does the layout work for you and your family? Consider your family size. If it’s just you bach’n it in style, consider 2 people moving around in your kitchen space. If you have a roomie,  partner or spouse, and/or children then consider 3 people moving around. If you are moving around fairly easily, with one cooking (or 2 if you tag team it) and someone dodging in to grab that glass of whatever while waiting for dinner, then your kitchen is a good candidate for refinishing. If you are finding it to be a crowded space, squeezing by to get to the fridge or Tripping over the dishwasher door to get to the green bin, then maybe a re-design is the way to go.

2.  Are your cupboards in good condition? If it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it is something we’ve all heard. This applies to the bones of your kitchen as well. If your cupboards are sturdy and strongly fastened to the wall, then why invest in replacing them with something that might end up being inferior? As long as there is no water damage causing swelling under the sink or near the dishwasher which could indicate other problems, then this criteria makes your kitchen a good candidate for refinishing as well.

3.  What materials currently exist in your kitchen? In deciding on if you should refinish your kitchen, you also have to consider the materials that make up your cupboards. If they have the factory finish on them and they are made of wood or composite materials like MDF or particleboard/plywood, then it’s relatively easy to apply the refinishing process to them. If they are coated with a melamine or thermofoil (vinyl that has been heat shrunk over them); or they have been painted over by a previous owner with latex/oil paint, then they are not a good candidate for refinishing.

Options abound! You can also consider refacing your kitchen to save a bundle over remodeling. This is where you replace the doors and drawers (and maybe the hardware). If you have doors that can’t be refinished (as mentioned above), or you just don’t like the profile then Refacing makes an excellent case to get you that new look. You can also update the hardware for a more modern feel with soft close hinges and drawer slides.

Check with a professional to see in more detail what your options are before you commit to a big budget renovation. Before long you can channel Sophia as well,

“Picture it. 2018. You updated that kitchen and saved a bundle!”

Michael Lehikoinen, Sandra Dee Refinishing

Michael purchased Sandra’s business in 2013 and is committed to continuing Sandra’s tradition of providing quality craftsmanship and value through furniture repair, restoration and refinishing.  Inspiration for Michael is garnered from the brilliant work of Thommas Chippendale, Michael Fortune, Sam Maloof and Anton Gaudi.

Get Your Home Ready for Winter

The cool fall and winter air is quickly dismissing summer. In order to ensure that you enjoy the cooler weather without stress, you need to prepare your basement for excess water and snow build up. It is highly likely that your basement can get damaged from the inevitable rain and snow that comes during the cooler months. Your foundation can develop hairline cracks due to snow build-up, making it easier for the basement to flood. If you are not sure whether or not to reach out to a professional immediately, there are some measures that you can take to either prevent a wet basement or determine if you require assistance.

An eaves trough is a type of gutter that is usually fixed underneath the roof. Any waste or debris inside the gutter can interfere with the eaves trough running smoothly. It is also important to ensure that the downspouts are extended a minimum of 3 feet away from the foundation. This will direct excess water away from the basement walls, hence limiting the chance of flooding. Another way that water can sneak into your basement is through the window wells, so it is important that they are clear of debris as well.

It is highly recommended that you start the process of preparing your home for the cold months as soon as possible. If you get your home ready now, it will save you time and money when spring and summer come around. If you have thoroughly checked your eaves trough and you still cannot figure out the problem, call GJ MacRae to help. The following is a list of services that we offer.

Groundwater can build up due to excess rain or snow, causing the water table to rise. In this case, basement waterproofing is necessary to prevent hydrostatic pressure from bringing water into your basement. If the water finds its way into the basement, it can contribute to issues such as mold and decay. GJ MacRae will ensure that your basement is fully waterproofed and that there is no chance of water entering your basement.

Repairing cracks in the basement depends on whether you have a poured concrete foundation or a concrete block foundation. If you have a poured concrete foundation, here are the steps we will follow to repair it:

  • We will hand dig approximately 2.5 to 3 feet on either side of the crack, right down to the footing.
  • To remain tidy, we will collect all the dirt that will accumulate from the digging on top of a tarp.
  • We will clean and dry the entire surface area with a wire brush, and then apply Hydro Shield to repair area. Hydro Shield is a rubberized membrane.
  • Finally, we will install drainage board to prevent the water from building up once again.

If you have a concrete block foundation, the above steps will remain the same with one key difference. When we dig on either side of the crack, the opening will be measured about 4 to 5 feet, since cracks occur horizontally in this type of foundation.

When water enters your basement through window wells, the only way to fix the problem is by installing a drain to carry water away from the foundation of the house. We will take out the window well and use weeping tile to prevent water from entering. Once the weeping tile system is installed, we will reinstall the window well and stabilize the new drain. This will prevent future leaks.

Did you know, the only way to achieve a 100% waterproof basement is to install weeping tiles inside the walls of your basement? To install a weeping tile, we will drill a hole into each cavity, releasing the trapped water. Then, we will install the drainage board and hook up the weeping tile to the sump box or floor drain. We follow a similar process for every weeping tile installation, however, some changes may be required depending on the type of concrete that the walls are made of.

The owner of our company, John MacRae, invented a system that helps homeowners in the Greater Toronto Area improve their homes and increase the value of their home equity. We can use this method to add up to 9 feet of additional length in your basement. All it takes is 3 steps towards a better, more profitable home:

Perform an Engineer’s Assessment (We will recommend an engineer)

The engineer will create drawings for the underpin

Quote provided based on the drawings

In order to understand why installing a sump pump is beneficial to your basement, we will first explain how a sump pump works. The sump pump is located in a sump box inside your basement. The main purpose of a sump pump is to relieve hydrostatic pressure from underneath the floor of the basement. It does this by trapping water that has accumulated around the foundation of the basement. It also has an automatic shut-off that keeps water at a manageable level. Here is how we will install the sump pump in your basement:

  • First, we will break the concrete floor and dig a carefully measured hole below the basement floor.
  • We will place the sump box in the center and fill the rest of the space with gravel.
  • An electrical floating micro switch will automatically turn on and off, as required.

Noreen, G.J. MacRae Foundation Repair

Specializing in crack repairs, window wells, int/ext weeping tile systems, sump pumps, sump boxes; structural repair including buckling/bowing walls, footing, crawl space, and walkout repair.

Electrical Contracting
Furniture Refinishing
Renovations & Restorations
Windows & Doors


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