Five Takes on One Room

In preparation for their panel discussion on September 24 at the Calgary Home and Design Show, five of Calgary’s favourite interior design and decor experts weigh in on a bland room.

On Saturday, September 24, Avenue‘s senior editor Ricky Zayshley will be joined by five of Calgary’s favourite interior decor and design experts for a panel discussion on the Trail Appliances Main Stage at the Calgary Home + Design Show. Topics will range from best current trends to common decor dilemmas to budget friendly interior fixes with maximum impact.

We showed this pictures of a nice, but rather boring living room, to the panellists – Elena Del Bucchia, David Crosson, Cat Hackman, Krista Hermanson and Tanya Stembridge – and asked what they’d change using a budget of $500.

Here’s what they’d do:

David Crosson, David Crosson Design Collective

My first impression of the room: Modern rooms tend to be spare, but this one seems a bit lifeless and lacking an indication of its owner’s personality.

My main concern about the space: The rug is far too small – not to mention bland – and the furniture layout is not really conducive to anything humans do. At very least, the seating arrangement needs to be cozied up, with the chair fully occupying the rug and, at minimum, the front feet of the sofa joining it. The sofa slipcover could use a good steaming, too.

My fix: This seems like a space for a young person and, as such, could use a little “jazzing.” First off, I would relocate the marble-topped Saarinen table and black floor lamp to service the yellow chair as a reading destination. I would also move the mirror and sideboard down a bit so the sofa could be centered on the wall in its current spot and would “dress” the top of the sideboard with the white accessories on the window ledge.

Given that wallpaper and labour would be too expensive to fit the budget, I would buy paint (the three primaries plus black and white) and flat-stock molding to create a Mondrian-inspired backdrop that covers the whole wall. I would flank the sofa with those white Parsons-style Lack tables from IKEA and top each with a simple black wire lamp from Bouclair Home. This will not distract from the full-wall mural but help counter its inherent asymmetry by bringing a bit of order to the area.

I would also top the glass coffee table with a bunch of sunflowers in a spherical vase, sans greenery. Finally, I’d move the yellow pillows onto the sofa and punch up the existing black ones with some very graphic beaded covers from West Elm. The remaining money can go towards a nice bottle of wine as a reward for mucking in and getting it all done.

Splurge: A large and utterly smashing abstract area rug to help “lift” and define the solid-coloured pieces that sit upon it.

Total cost:

2 white Lack side tables from IKEA: $20

2 black wire lamps from Bouclair: $160

Molding and paint from a big box home reno store: $125

2 beaded pillows from West Elm: $100

Sunflowers and vase from Safeway: $35

Wine: $60


Elena Del Bucchia, Elena Del Bucchia Design

My first impression of the room: Minimal style, but feels unfinished.

My main concern about the space: When you walk into this room it lacks character and seems more staged than lived in. The wall behind the sofa feels hollow and empty. Hints of yellow add warmth, but also point out how empty the room feels.

My fix: In general, the space is minimal, so I would embrace it and add some depth and texture. I would suggest adding four quick things and they can be selected based on the mood you prefer.

1. Paint the main wall in black to add some drama, character and richness. It will also tie in the black lamp. Texturized wall are currently very popular, but will add up in price.

2. The trick with minimal style is carefully selecting pieces that if left alone in the space are masterpieces on their own. The coffee table with the white base seems to be a bit lonely and coming out of nowhere it also looks like a replica, so I would suggest painting the base in black.

3. Bold, impactful art piece. It can be stretched out fabric on canvas (Marimekko is fantastic for that), black and white image framed in antique frame sourced from a thrift market or something that has been inherited.

4. Add some interest with a pillow or two.

Splurge: Original artwork. Pieces by the Canadian abstract artist Jack Bush would look stunning in this space.

Total cost:

Benjamin Moore paint in “Jet Black:” $50

Merimekko “Kuuskajaskari” linen stretched on canvas: $350

Crosby pillow from CB2: $63


Cat Hackman, Room4Refinement

My first impression of the room: It spoke to me and cried, “Help me, I feel forgotten and boring; help me come to life.”

My main concern about the space: The room has some some nice pieces and accessories, but needs some life and personality blown in to it.

My fix: I would add a wallpaper to the back wall, and insert some whimsical cushions, a fun stool and accessories. A green tree to add height and balance with the big lamp would add that “nature” touch to continue the branch wallpaper. I would spray paint the base of the coffee table black as the white base does not relate to anything in the room.

Splurge: My splurge would be to continue on this plan but change out the lamps (I don’t like those), get something sculptural and fun for over sofa, a few more fun accessories that add personality. Maybe also change out that coffee table.

Total Cost:

DIY installation wallpaper from Bouclair Home: $120 for 3 double rolls

2 print cushions (Renrepe and Klipprt) from IKEA: $14 each

Luxurious throw from Structube: $59

Krylon spray paint: $20

IKEA Fejka plant: $65

IKEA basket for plant: $20

A furry and fun ottoman from Bouclair: $149

2 IKEA Avtal dishes: $8 each


Krista Hermanson, krista hermanson design

My first impression: The room is well structured, but very impersonal; It tells me little about the personality of the owner.

My main concern about the space: The room is lacking warmth and character, and feels cold and not really inviting.

My fix: There’s so much you could do with this room. In my experience, homeowners are often stuck at this stage and struggle with how to finish spaces to give them polish and pop. I would add a huge colourful canvas above the sofa. You can stretch one yourself. Or, if you aren’t that handy with tools, then go to Homesense or one of the big-box stores and buy the largest pre-printed, frameless stretched canvas painting you can find (or two to hang side by side) and then go to town with simple latex paint.  The paint stores are brilliant at giving you the right advice about how to prime it. Then, let your inner artist out and paint a massive, modern graphic on it. Use two to three colours (maybe yellow and orange?) and a mix of white, silver and black and don’t get hung up on the fine details. Dribble like Jackson Pollock, or do something with script.

Then, hit the discount stores and find toss pillows, a cozy wrap, some interesting architecturally inspired objects for the sidebar. Urban Barn often has great accessories at a good price, as does Pier 1.

Keep accessories simple and strong. Larger scale is always more dramatic.

The final touch would be to add a couple of cube-shaped upholstered poufs to face the sofa and complete the conversation area. I’d do them in a bright pattern that incorporates lots of colour and drama.

Splurge: My splurge would  be to hang beautiful custom white sheers across the entire window wall.  This would soften the window and add a layer of textile to the room.

Total costs:  

Canvas: $75

Paint: $50 (buy mis-tints for cheap!)

Snuggle blanket: $50

2 or 3 toss pillows: $20 each

Accessories for the sideboard: $75

2 poufs: $100 each


Tanya Stembridge, Stembridge Interiors

My first impression of the room: Great potential – the colour palette is soft and the furniture selections easy to work with.

My main concern about the space: It’s lacking the personal elements, the items that make it feel like “home.” Though the colours are great, the lack of pattern is making the space feel cold.

My fix: My fix for this space is to add wallpaper behind the sofa. I feel the room is lacking texture and pattern. Wallpaper can give you both of these elements. It is also very popular right now, so you should be able to find some fun papers at great prices. Depending on what paper you choose you might have to install it yourself. A good wallpaper installer could range from $400 to $1,000 for one wall.

So, we have found a great wallpaper and still have a tiny bit of money left in our budget. My next purchase would be to pick up another cushion for the sofa. This could either be a solid colour or a pattern. Let the wallpaper you choose help determine which way you go. If your paper is very active it might be best to use a solid colour. If the paper has more of a textured look, a patterned pillow would be the better option. Pillows are a cost effective way to spruce up a room. A couple vases can dress up the coffee table. Calgary has some great local stores, flea markets and farmers markets with great unique items to choose from. My biggest advice is to have fun creating a space that is uniquely yours.

Splurge: If budget wasn’t a factor, I would purchase a large original piece of artwork for above the sofa. That wall is already a feature wall – add a piece that will bring the wall from “meh” to “wow.”

Total Cost:

Wallpaper: $300 to $500

Vases: $50

Pillow: $25 to $50


Calgary Home + Design Show runs from September 22 to 25 at BMO Centre. For more information visit The Styling Panel With Ricky Zayshley is at noon on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Trail Appliances Main Stage.

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