The Baskervillian

Cheese platters are easy to create and yummy to eat.

A cheese plate at Surroundings Christmas Open House

I recently looked through a magazine and there was Martha Stewart's beautiful stable set up for Thanksgiving. It looked stunning, however, let's be honest few of us own a 10 million dollar stable, a custom made table that sits 24 (thousands of dollars), sets of Tolix chairs  ($250 each). Of course, there is the issue, do you really want to eat in the barn/stable? But it makes for one great photo shoot!

Entertaining is an art form, there is no doubt about it. But the secret to great entertaining is not the photo shoot worthy table settings, it's being a great host.

A great hostess puts everyone at ease, is relaxed, and is thoroughly enjoying having people in their home. Sure it's nice to have the incredible table settings, but if the conversation is lagging and there is no laughter in the room, it's pointless.

I entertain a lot, my little farmhand cottage is small, about 1200 square feet, I don't let that stop me. I set up folding tables in the living room and rent chairs from Pedersens. I cover the tables with left over upholstery fabric, and the center piece is often created with whatever I have in the house. I love this orange vase, a gift from Interior Designer Barb Gergel. This past Thanksgiving I cut some branches from the Smoke Tree in the yard and some Virginia Creeper, which had turned bright red. Simple, fast, no fuss, no muss, and it still looked great the next day. So Martha Stewart would not put this display in her magazine, it's fine by me, my guests loved it, and they also loved watching me throw it together. 



 Which brings me to my next point, part of being a good host is letting them in on the action. Leave something undone, so your guests can see you put it together, this develops that relaxed atmosphere. If everything is not done when the guests arrive, just chill, let them watch with a glass of wine in their hand.

The great host does not care if red wine gets on the carpet. If you go mental over the thought of red wine on your new berber, or shoes worn on the hardwood floor, please don't invite people over. Accidents will happen, and when they do, the great host will simply laugh and move on. Years ago my girlfriend knocked over a full glass of red wine, it hit everything! The carpet (brand new) the sofa (new slipcover) and the arm chair (just custom upholstered). She was mortified, I got out out my magic formula (see below), and then gave her another glass of wine. 

1/3 cup of hydogen peroxide

1 and 1/2 cups of water

and a squirt of Sunlight dish soap, (the original yellow container)

Mix this up is a spray bottle and have on hand. It truly will take care of any stains.

When I was choosing the flooring for the cottage, I considered the entertaining aspect. I choose solid rustic cherry, tough, durable, and red wine wipes up easily. All the guests love the floors (they can wear slippers or heels) including the 4 legged ones (they prefer to go barefoot).


I hear excuses why people don't entertain all the time, "my place is not big enough," "the dog is a pain," "I dont have a table big enough," "I don't like cooking," "it's too much work," "Im too tired." Really it's O.K. I think we put far too much pressure on ourselves to make everything perfect. Afterall, every magazine shows us the beautiful photo shoots of the perfect dinner party, the perfect Christmas dinner, the perfect cocktail party. My house has never looked like that, and never will. I entertain because I love having people in my home.

Love Where You Live




The timless style of a modest Georgian home, and below, well........not so timeless.

An afternoon walk with the dog through a so-called "luxury" housing development, left me perplexed. Does luxury now mean at least 10 roof lines on a house? 



Sadly the roof line phenomenon is everywhere. Take a look at new home construction and you will notice, bump outs and gables over every window. Is this an attempt to make the big box suburan house more interesting? If so, it fails. 

How will these houses look to the consumers eye 20 years from now? Trend houses, like anything trend, does not age well. Remember the 1970's houses with the split entry, up 4 steps and down 4 steps, they are every renovators nightmare. 

Perhaps it is my Danish heritage that I crave simplicity in architecture. Give me a Georgain mansion or a humble cottage to admire anyday. On a trip back to the Maritimes I snapped a lot of photos of homes. Please notice the simple roof lines.


One gable in the roof, perfectly balanced and proportionate to the front door, this small home has a very grand curb appeal.


A simple Colonial roof line, it is all about the front door. Stunning craftsmanship of the original woodwork has prevailed on this house for over 150 years.


Think back to when you were little and you drew a picture of a house, I bet it looked alot like this one. A simple gabel roof gets the upscale treatment of beautiful dentil work. The front door is modest, but given a sense of importance with over sized gorbels supporting the overhang.

These last three photos show homes that are grand in appearance, yet in fact, much smaller in square footage then their so-called "luxury" 21st century counterparts. These homes use symmetry, balance, and craftsmanship in detail (the front door) to transcend time.

Do you notice that in the case of the newer homes you have no sense of where the front door would be? In each of the historical homes the front door is center stage, beautifully crafted, a sense of arrival and welcoming. Here on the west coast few of us live in heritage homes, but that does not mean we can not learn from them.

While I have used historic homes to make my point, take a look at Frank Lloyd Wright's modern classic " Falling Water " or Phillip Johnson's Glass House. Both homes are mid century modern icons. Why? They follow the principles of symmetry, balance, and craftsmanship.

Timeless design, we see it rarely today. My first thought when I consider a piece of furniture for the store, it is timeless. No matter how old or how rare it is, it must be  able to adapt to the 21st century. 

Great design is one thing and one thing only .............timeless.


Love Where You Live







warehouse doors

Here is a sneek peek at what we are bringing to The Interior Design Show in Vancouver. The lovely set of South African doors which will  be installed warehouse style in the booth.


The Acountants desk, is probably in the top 5 of desk that I have ever found. Complete with a hidden compartment.


A pair of Chinese porcelain baluster vases, between them sits a marble finial. These will grace the top of the desk.



There is a pair of these lounge chairs, sit in them, you will never want to leave.

The booth this year is inspired by my garden house. I call it the inside/out booth. Imagine you have a little out building in the back yard that you have your favorite belongings displayed. 

Im running around like a mad woman today, getting all the little details taken care of. Most importantly I have to remember to drop Ida off at dog camp. IDS West...... here we come!



Where do you find your stuff?


With a blog title like that, Ida, the shop dog looks worried!

I'm asked all the time "where do you find your stuff?" The cold  hard reality is, death, divorce, and downsizing, these are the reasons people let go of their treasured belongings. I often enter peoples homes at their most vulnerable moments, and I always try to be compassionate and as understanding as possible, it is not always easy. I have witnessed some truly crazy moments over the last 20 odd years, I often think I should write a book. I think I will just stick to the blog.

Let's talk about death. Do not freak out, this is the cycle of life, and we all are going there sooner or latter. Please get your will done. PLEASE, get your will done. I might say it one more time if your not listening, a will is not for you, it is for your loved ones you leave behind. Please make their lives easier in their time of grief, get your will done.

Pick an Executor for your will who is competent, and NOT super close to you (ie. spouse). I am dealing with Executors of wills all the time, it is a big job and a very important one. Try to pick someone who will not be in a grief stricken state over your death, the job of Executor will  be easier for them then a spouse, sibling, or parent. 

Last year I arrived at a Condo where the elderly mom has passed away just 6 months after the dad. The "kids", now in their 60's had a slide projector going and the screen up.  Laughter was echoing through out as they watched their parents through the years. It was my all time favorite house call. The estate was in good hands, the "kids" very organized , and getting along very well. I left smiling ear to ear.

Divorce, I don't like divorce calls, I mean really, going into a house where two people can't stand each other is never a good idea. The hardest ones are when I have known the couple for a long time, just breaks your heart...... there I am buying back the furniture I sold them over the years.

Downsizing represents about 70% of my house calls. These are the most complex, I often find myself in the role of consultant, " you send this to Faith Grant, that goes to goodwill, send that to Auction, and talk to Mr. Clark about that." In short, I really try to help them find homes for all their stuff. Sometimes I walk away without buying a single item, but I have at least given them some valuable information on how to dispose of everything. 

Downsizing for most people is a cathartic experience, especially for seniors. Im always amazed how seniors embrace downsizing, and I think it's because they are looking forward to a simpler life. I think all of us could do with a bit of downsizing, getting rid of excess is a good thing.

Purchasing stock is the most important part of my job. When people come into the store, the currated collection they see is the result of the many homes I have gone through. I select carefully each piece that enters the store, it's a lot of leg work, and I meet some truly amazing people along the way, it is an adventure, it is death, divorce, and downsizing.



I took this photo recently at Wild Fire Bakery. What they really wanted this sign to say was,'Hey you, rude idiot, get off your cell phone!'

I have to say, I've been there, Surroundings is a small store, and just last week a woman came in talking on her cell phone to her divorce lawyer. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE in the store heard that phone conversation. Honestly, I do not want to hear about such personal matters, neither did my clients. WHY, would someone please tell me WHY people HAVE to talk so loud on their cell phone??