My first meaningful decor lesson came like a cold slap in the face. I had just sold my first apartment and moved into a freshly painted Vancouver townhouse. I was excited to show it off and invited a new super-stylish friend over. She sat down on my cream couch and looked around my white space and asked, “where is YOU in all of this?” I expected her to be dazzled by my chic minimal decor sense. Instead, Eileen rolled her eyes in boredom and taught me my first (and best) decorating tip – your home should be a reflection of your personality. She was right. My cute new home, tucked away in an artists’ neighbourhood, was capital B BORING. I had created a bland blank canvas and then done nothing with it. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of Canada’s leading decor editorial talents who helped me develope a style based upon my life in fashion. It’s now a mix of bold colour, eclectic pairings and years of treasured memories. Here are my five favourite high-style, low-cost tips: 

Photos by Tara West.

MIX MASTER – My friend Tommy Smythe, a popular decor expert for HGTV and House and Home magazine (plus so much more), designed my current home. He knew me so well that he effortlessly pulled together all of my treasures into one cohesive space. Tommy taught me to mix colour and pattern – like animal prints with an Oriental carpet and my collection of fashion photography from my time as Editor-in-Chief of FLARE. (A neutral light grey couch from IKEA grounds the eclectic mash-up.) I had these six fashion shots (by Toronto photographer Chris Nicholls and Montrealer Max Abadian) hung separately in different rooms. Tommy insisted that they should all be displayed together as they told a story from an important chapter in my career. He was 100% right. When I moved into my apartment this past summer, I hung them up right away … and immediately felt at home. The most expensive part of my collection is the professional frames – worth every penny to highlight the photographers gifts. 

TIMELESS STYLE – Vintage is not my style but Tommy showed me how old pieces can be beautiful, especially when budget matters. He found these discarded chairs covered in a dowdy gold satin stripe and revived them with my one of my favourite timeless patterns – a black and white animal print. And I was skeptical when he unrolled the old carpet that looked worn (it has holes), but quickly agreed that its age was what made it so stunning to offset my fashion photography. The other option was a fresh new rug in bright bold colours that distracted from the artwork. The whole room became overpowering as everything was fighting for attention. 

INSIDE OUT – My living room wall is all window that looks out on to a large balcony. My old plastic wicker lounge furniture was an eyesore so I blew my budget on these stylish (but sturdy) chairs and table (the top lifts off to reveal an ice bucket). I’ve scrimped on outdoor furniture in the past and it doesn’t wear well in our harsh winters. I needed chairs that would look just as good inside as out. I continued my black and white theme outdoors with a striped carpet. 

Before - my dining room

LIGHTEN UP – My new apartment is a fantastic blank canvas. The living and dining room is a sun-filled space with so much potential. I wasn’t prepared to paint or wallpaper my rental as I wasn’t sure how long I planned to stay. But I know that lighting is everything so the standard fixture had to go. 

After - my dining room

ECLECTIC KEY ELEMENTS – The dining room sits across from my colourful living room so I wanted it to be less busy but no less interesting. I carried my key elements across – black and white with matte gold accents. Anything brighter or patterned would overpower the space. Instead, a cowhide zebra patterned rug anchors the glass dining table and plastic chairs. I can also use the chairs on the balcony. Instead of a chandelier (too fussy), I picked a modern light fixture to offset a favourite mirror. The gold pieces that Tommy found (my coffee tables and dining room mirror) add a rich warmth to my home.

My home is a reflection of my  fashion philosophy – it’s a high / low mix that’s both comfortable and colourful. I suggest investing in professional framing and key accent pieces (like my gold coffee table and mirror). I’m saving up for a new couch to replace this IKEA design. And when you travel, bring home a souvenir like the thick wool blanket from Iceland that I snuggle up with on my couch. I splurged on the Lanvin figure (far right) on a trip to Paris. At the end of a crazy day, my home is everything to me … and having Lady Gaga stare at me daily (her Flare cover shoot by Max Abadian was her first fashion magazine cover globally) is both inspiring and comforting.