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“Winter is Coming!”

As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news and whether you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or not, I’m afraid the motto holds true…

Warm fall weather, like we’re experiencing now, tends to delay people’s willingness to begin their winter prep, but fall is the perfect time to re-evaluate your home’s function and aesthetic. Doing so now will help you enjoy your home once the snow inevitably falls and we’re all forced to hibernate indoors.

STEP I - Purge Now and Purge Often!

Set aside a day or two, choose an area of your home that needs attention – the one that’s been weighing on you the most, we all have one – and start asking: “Do I really need this?” No matter how daunting it seems to start, I promise clearing the clutter in your home, clears the clutter in your mind and your subconscious will thank you.

I like to go through my closets, drawers, home office, and storage areas at least twice a year come spring and fall. This semi-annual purge is not only cathartic it’s necessary, from both a function and design perspective – especially if you live in a home or condo with minimal square footage. By sacrificing a bit of time now I guarantee you’ll feel as though a weight has been lifted, while your home also benefits from looking and functioning better year round.

Re-evaluating the accessories, books and clutter in your main living area is a great way to begin or if you’d rather not give up the sun just yet, start outside and work your way indoors. I promise the more often you de-clutter and purge, the less daunting and fun it becomes. You’re also helping those in need by taking your barely used and good condition items to local charities in time for Thanksgiving. If you’re a self-proclaimed hoarder or the least bit indecisive, pair up with a couple friends to help each other make important judgment calls.

STEP 2 - Maximize the Space You Have

Whether you’ve just moved in or have been living in your home for a while, it’s never a bad idea to step back and re-evaluate how your home functions. A good designer can help with this or you can once again entrust the help of family and friends. Just be careful not to involve too many people with differing opinions as they inevitably result in option paralysis and yet another winter of living in a less than optimal home.

Ask yourself all the important questions: Are there areas of your space you barely use? Can some of these areas be turned into valuable storage or transformed for an entirely different use? Is there an opportunity to take down walls and achieve the open concept you’ve always wanted? Does your kitchen function for day-to-day cooking as well as entertaining? Can you add another washroom or renovate existing ones to improve their function? Could your basement be finished to provide the additional space you need?

I recently helped a newly married couple transform their small 512 square foot loft by re-evaluating its function and aesthetic. They seriously lacked closet space in their tiny bedroom and were making do on a homemade, 3 ft. tall platform bed that gave them extra storage below. By extending a wall around an awkward unusable alcove, slightly narrowing the rooms extra wide entrance, reusing their existing bedroom doors for the closet and relocating an air vent we were able to create a huge floor to ceiling storage space with minimal impact to their small bedroom. We were also able to forgo the extra high bed for a regular platform with drawers. The size and scale of the new bed suited the space better while providing additional storage for seasonal items below. Small side tables with sconces instead of table lamps gave them additional bedside storage and enough task lighting to read in bed – a favourite pass time of the homeowners.

The second challenge was creating a space to entertain at least four people for dinner that doubled as an office seeing as one of the homeowners frequently worked from home. By designing a custom island with storage on both ends and a counter height table in the middle we met both needs. Carefully selecting stools – two with backs and two without – allowed us to tuck them underneath without sacrificing sightlines and especially the comfort required to sit and work for hours on end.

We also redecorated the space making it more visually appealing while incorporating both of their styles throughout. It was important each room was unique but also flowed to ensure cohesion given its small size. The end result was a better functioning space they can enjoy for several years to come, extending their time in the loft and allowing them to save for their next home. The changes we made were all good investments for the next homeowner as well and are sure to help when it comes time to sell.

STEP 3 – Renovate and Build

I can’t overemphasize the importance of planning well and starting early when renovating! As much as I hate being the bearer of bad news again…Christmas is also officially less than 3 months away. If you’re looking to make small or large changes to your home this year or in 2016, fall is the perfect time to begin, especially if you’re hosting family and friends for the holidays.

Ask yourselves do we need more space and if so how? Consult professionals to determine your options whether digging out your basement, adding an addition to the front or back of your home or growing up with an additional floor. Hiring the right team is critical and a good designer will pride themselves on their network to help minimize the stress and uncertainty of finding architects, general contractors and trades people you trust.

Despite also cringing at the thought of being trapped indoors by subzero temperatures, I’d hate for any of my readers to let this beautiful weather prevent or delay them from enjoying their home all year round! It won’t be long before Thanksgiving and the holidays take priority so be sure to enlist the help you need early and often. That way you and your team can guarantee a project that’s both on time, on budget and stress free before the snow falls.

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