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What fall brings

Yes, it's that time again.

Beautiful Duntara, NL
Bridge, Duntara NL
My Duntara neighbour

My love for Duntara began in my teens when I spent my summer vacations there with my Aunt Mary in the house above. Life has come full circle since 2002  when we built our own house up the road  from Mr. Harty's place. This harbour is particularly  stunning in fall. Everywhere I look I see natural beauty.  As summer winds down it becomes quiet and even more relaxing if that's  possible.

"Around the bay" dining  table
 Finding natural things for decorating  my summer house becomes more difficult in September, and I accept it as a sign that it's time to close up and move back to my  St. John's life. As  I make the  final drive back to the city I can feel myself subtly changing .  No more rocking chair as I watch the sea gulls swoop and meander .  No more ocean waves or full moon over the bay.  No more twinkling lights of Bonavista across the  water. No more total silence.  No more summer friends.

 Fall means something quite different in my life. It  heralds the reality of  my peak production time for design and blogging, and a decrease in art production.   Reminding myself that the ease of the summer months would not be so special if  I could do it all year helps a little.  But that final trip out is always bitter sweet.

City dining room table
Now doesn't the differences between these two tables sum up my two lives.

 So it's planning time.  September is the month when I  feel anything is possible.  It's about deciding where I want to go and coming up with a way to get there.

I've been putting a lot of thought into  the next step for this blog.  My original purpose was to use blogging as a way to consolidate my ideas about various  design topics,  and at the same and provide practical information about design that would answer questions that average  DIY homeowners might have.  I've written about all sorts of topics and my list of  popular posts shows which have been  most read, some  with  hundreds of thousands of page views from around the world.  That always blows my mind.  Now I'm ready to  change it up a bit.

Third Weekend in October, 85 x 110, quilt pattern by Ruth Powers
  This fall I am  planning more local and national posts about interior design, art and gardens- my three loves.  I have friends lined up who are willing to open their doors to me so I can photograph and write about the many ways they make their houses into homes.    If you know me you may be getting a call.  Stay tuned for my first AT HOME installment.


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Are you a design rebel?

What's your first instinct if someone tells says you shouldn't do something?

Do you automatically want to do it?  I do! 

 Most people would agree that there are rules/guidelines in interior design. They impact decisions about all sorts of things,  e.g.,  hanging lights, choosing the right scale furniture, selecting colour schemes, etc.   I guess following them is a little like following a recipe - you get a predictable result. Someone else has done all the thinking for you which makes it easy but, you also get a very generic looking space where everything looks controlled.

 I always think about those generic spaces  as the "Pinterest look" . You know  the rooms, all  beautifully organized, cutely accessorized with whatever is trendy at the time, and perfectly matched.   Does that make them wrong?  Definitely not.  I firmly believe we should all live in spaces that make us happy and comfortable.   What I am saying is that there are options in design that produce interesting, one of a kind spaces that are  usually achieved by playing around with design elements and principles. They are not for everyone.

 Take the room below.....

 breaking design rules, scale,

  Have a close look at this space  and decide what you like or don't like about it.  Check out my thoughts  at the end of this post. There are no right or wrong answers.

 How closely you adhere to rules is dependent on what results you want to achieve, how well you understand the elements/ principles  of design,  and how creative you are at applying them.  You can do anything in decorating, you just need to act bravely, and figure out how to pull it off.  But, before you can break the rules you have to know them.

Can you spot which  rules/guidelines were  thrown to the four winds in these rooms? 

 breaking design rules, mixing styles, modern and traditional,

 breaking design rules, mixing styles, modern, traditional

 mixing metals, breaking design rules

 mixing metals, breaking design rules


breaking design rules, scale, accessories

 breaking design rules, scale


breaking design rules, monochromatic schemes, neutral schemes

 breaking design rules, neutral spaces, monochromatic schemes



breaking design rules, mixing wood tones,

 breaking design rules, mixing wood tones


breaking design rules, dark walls, small spaces

breaking design rules, small spaces, bright colours

Here are the results: 

breaking design rules, mixing styles, modern and traditional,  breaking design rules, mixing styles, modern, traditional

1. Stick to one style 
 These spaces show that when you mix traditional and modern the juxtaposition draws attention to both.  If only one style was used the various elements would be lost in their sameness. I particularly like the richness of wood and lots of curves with modern furnishings.  Of course art of any style works in any space.  

mixing metals, breaking design rules mixing metals, breaking design rules

2. Use consistent finishes (don't mix metals)
This is definitely a good place to start your little rebellion.  You certainly can mix metals. Just make sure you have some of each one in the space.  Think about a piece of jewellery that uses white gold, pink gold and yellow gold. It works. Check out this post on the topic.

 breaking design rules, scale breaking design rules, scale, accessories

3. Pay attention to scale when selecting furniture/objects
I have to admit this is the one I have the most difficult time ignoring because  I am so attuned to scale considerations in drawing and painting.  I think I also have a  thing about objects too large bearing down on me. They make me uncomfortable. Large scale objects make riveting focal points. You can also have objects that are too small in scale, and end up looking insignificant and/or cluttered. Scale is usually the issue when a client tells me there is something wrong with a space, but he/she can't name it.

breaking design rules, monochromatic schemes, neutral schemes   breaking design rules, neutral spaces, monochromatic schemes

4. Every room needs an accent colour
Definitely not! Monochromatic rooms are so relaxing and depend on value changes and texture to wow.  If you want a quiet room, forget the pops of colour.

 breaking design rules, mixing wood tones  breaking design rules, mixing wood tones,

5. Keep wood tones consistent
When you slavishly adhere to this dictate you end up with a very boring space.  Check out this post for ways to mix wood tones effectively.

breaking design rules, dark walls, small spacesbreaking design rules, small spaces, bright colours

6. Choose light colours for small spaces
That would be your first instinct, but the two rooms in #6 shows that breaking this rule produces distinctive and very different spaces.  Sorry, but I couldn't live in either of them.  I am a neutral colour gal in my own home. This post provides various options for painting small spaces.

How did you do?

And now back to the reflection pic....

There's no doubt this space breaks a lot of rules, but it sure is memorable, and no one could call it boring. 

  •  styles are mixed freely, moving from traditional to modern;
  •  the colour scheme is monochromatic, no accent colours here;
  • scale is manipulated big time in the high back chairs, plant, circular light fixture as well as in the smaller lamp shades in adjoining room;
  • wood tones are liberally mixed.

And here's another take on some of the points above and few new ones. Modani modern furniture specializes in modern furniture and accessories.  Check them out online or at their newly opened modern furniture store in Toronto. Remember you can combine modern elements with any decor.

breaking design rules, modani, modern furniture  
How do you feel about breaking design rules? 

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5 things I learned this summer

I should make huge apologies for stalling my blogging over the last couple of months, but I have a letter from ... the artist.  I spent most of June, July and August at my summer house without access to the internet except through my phone. Blogging uses data.

 If you follow me on Designing Home you know my life is very cyclical.  I have to find time for two careers- interior decorating and art.  I often flip my attention for blocks of time, and traditionally summer is  art time. I allow my decor business to match my summer speed. It doesn't hurt to be unavailable!

sunflowers, Bonavista Social Club, Upper Amherst Cove, Margaret Ryall

 I'm finding it difficult to accept summer has dwindled into fall.   That doesn't mean I don't make art the rest of the year; I just have to share my time with business. But those summers are important for the rest of the year when you take time to reflect.  I found out that:

Nature fuels creativity

 iceberg, Duntara, Newfoundland, Margaret Ryall

A long summer, spent on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean with whales breaching and ice bergs slowly drifting, begs you to slow down.

 relaxing Duntara Newfoundland  feet first , Margaret Ryall

  Contemplation leads to renewal as you allow your mind to follow the rhythms of nature.  When you  relax  this wonderful feeling of "anything is possible" descends. You make new connections, have creative thoughts, and appreciate  your lot in life.  Even the small things, usually ignored, are suddenly worthy of comment.

There's new life in old things

 Lawton house, King's Cove, Newfoundland, Margaret Ryall

 I love to see old houses on their last legs getting attention, and those that don't eventually fall down.  It is in this debris,  that I found inspiration for new work.

 Composition in Time Margaret Ryall 2014 wood assemblage

 What began quietly at the end of last summer has blossomed into a whole new series of  work this year and an exhibition in 2016.

Yes, I've taken over that holy of holies- the shed - as my studio.  Move over Don, I've arrived. Good thing I learned  how to use all the necessary tools years ago. I can make that band saw sing.

Nature provides the best colour schemes 


 Duntara, Bonavista Bay, Margaret Ryall

My  colour sensibilities are heightened every summer because I am so immersed in nature.  I see coastal colours in my colour schemes in both art and decorating. It's as if I am storing up the feelings of summer in the the palette of my surroundings. 

Know when to stop

orange yellow rockers porch Duntara Bonavista Bay Margaret Ryall

Usually for a month each summer we trip around Europe with friends.  This summer we decided to stay put as they went off to China!  Yes, we traded China for a summer "around the bay" in a little harbour with a population of 30+.  I'm so glad I listened to my body.

 There are many kinds of artists

Mahoneys' garden, King's Cove, Newfoundland, Margaret Ryall

Past lives intersect in small communities where you know everyone and everyone knows you.  Our friends, The Mahoneys, who live in the next community,  have a lovely garden.  I featured it in my last post as proof that many people do not realize how talented they truly are.

What were your summer revelations?

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