Tuesday, August 28, 2007


At times it can be overwhelming when deciding where to start during a home design project. We may see the big picture in our mind of the ‘overall’ look of our future home. Some people might save clippings from magazines of images that appeal to their particular taste and decorating style. Pinpointing the beginning stages is as simple as finding an inspiration example that grabs the heart.

A sample of fabric in a combination of colours or patterns can be applied like a paint-by-numbers kit. In India, I am creatively motivated by the abundance of great ideas inspired by this culture. Forget boring beige, black or white, these folks really adore splashes of colour everywhere. Textiles like scarves and sari fabrics are vibrant in dazzling contrasts and pleasing combinations.

If the thought of decorating your home in a carnival of colours and patterns alarms you, try small accents that can be played in and out on a whim. Silk toss cushions and throws in bright colours, patterns and jewels can bring an element of personality to any room. Turquoise, chartreuse, amethyst and carroty orange; the colours are stunning! For the bedroom, my tailor fashioned six meters of silk sari fabric into a king sized duvet cover with two matching pillow cases. To tie the look together, painting walls an ambient colour drawn from the fabric pattern, will easily transform the space.

There are more colour and pattern ideas from various cultures that can be prescribed for an interesting home update. I had my feet decorated with the traditional Indian wedding “Mahendi”, or henna design, in its rich paprika opulence. This pattern would be charming painted on a feature wall as a mural, wall tattoo or on a stretch canvas as a piece of art.

Colour is very symbolic in the Indian lifestyle. New Year’s day, everyone awakens to find all of the sacred cows wandering the streets painted yellow. The people collectively use turmeric spice and its strong yellow dying intensity, to decorate the cows to look attractive for their mates! Holy Day, is another celebration where the Natives throw colourful powder into the air and on each other. Street vendors can be found with mountains of the vibrant powder in giant bowls. Dazzling and energetic colours, perfect for decorating kids rooms.

One of the most significant colour insights can come from the Indian spice box on every kitchen counter. The “Masala Daba”, is filled with turmeric, cayenne, fenugreek, cumin, mustard seed and cilantro seed. It is so vital, that people turn to their spice box before going to the Doctor, to heal their ailments naturally. Using these spice colours as a bright idea, especially with our upcoming fall season, will warm up a space and bring colourful spice to a bland room. Paint colours in these zesty tones, will enrich your home appreciably.

Other Indian food inspiring colours to use in decorating your home are natural lime, ginger and aubergine. Just a trip down the multihued streets of India with the vivid fruit and vegetable stands, can spur more colour ideas.

Along the way, one will also find the beautifully fragrant “Pushpamala” flower garlands sold along the streets and offered to the religious deities. Vibrant fuchsias, jasmine, tangerine and lemon yellow, all bring life to any room. Used in a fuller scope or in small doses, cultural inspiration dishes up energy, flavour and personality.


When shopping for ourselves or our homes, we always see the attractive end product that has reached the store, packaged and displayed so marvelously. Have you ever wondered where these items originated? Part of my environmental design passion involves educating my clients to be aware of the history of a product. This means knowing the materials, plus the energy required to bring it to us, the end consumer.

While in Southern India, everywhere one turns is a sea of dazzling jewel tone saris, worn by the local women. It inspired me to have two gorgeous saris custom-made for myself, in one of the many shops that line the animated streets. Not only do I love to explore various cultural styles, but I also find it fascinating to learn about how things are made. There are plentiful shelves of vibrant fabrics, artfully folded and displayed in a rainbow of silks and other blends of textiles. Ladies select a colour, fabric and style, and the sari is measured for a custom fit. The event was quite the thrill! It is like being a princess, as many of the fabrics are bejeweled with sequins, metallics and embroidery.

After the experience, I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek into one of the silk producing factories. Very much like one of those children’s programs that take a tour through an industrial plant. I had the opportunity to visit the world famous Mysore Silk Factory, to satisfy my curiosity. Wow, was it ever interesting!

My first impressions were of the loud noise that came from the expanse of clanging, antiquated machines, efficiently weaving and bobbing 15,000 threads per row, into intricate patterns. The cogs and wheels busily hummed in see-saw motion to create the smooth, striking textile we all adore. Unlucky for me, no pictures were allowed in order to protect the exclusive designs. It really was intriguing to see how the bundles of raw material dying, hanging and drying, end up being spun unto spools and then woven into the final fabric. It reminded me of cotton candy, in pastel blue, yellow, pink and orange. There was even a gold thread section of the plant, where the proud workers explained how the threads were fifty-percent genuine gold.

Seeing the silkworms and the cocoons would have been my favourite part, sadly, that was at another location. But it was even sadder when I learn that the worms die in the fabrication process. As consumers, it is important to be aware of the source, so when it comes time to decide on what to purchase, one can make their own ethical choices. “To produce just one hundred grams of silk, approximately 1,500 worms are killed…Alternatively, there are many soft, smooth and shimmering synthetic materials that are similar to silk, known as Artificial or Art Silk and China (not Chinese) Silk. Of these, rayon is of vegetable origin and nylon and polyester are petroleum products.” (PETA India).

Although my saris are of synthetic fiber, I did end up purchasing a silk sari that inspired me for a great decorating idea- I am having it sewn into a king sized duvet cover. The six meters of sari fabric is just the right amount to create a bed cover and two very fancy pillow shams. For smaller home décor accents, a ‘Dupatta’, which is a large scarf made of silk, cotton or synthetic, can also double as a table decoration. These will be beautiful reminders of my trip to this mystical country. For those who are interested in seeing my silk sari bedding, linens, and East Indian décor, I will be speaking at the Edmonton Home and Interior Design Show. Mark your calendars for September 28-30!


Not only is green a very fashionable colour these days, but it is also the urban trend to be ’green’ in our lifestyle practices. Eco tourism is one of the growing industries that people are opting for in their travel planning as it is the ‘tourism of tomorrow’. Many cities and countries now offer sustainable tourism and alternative hotel and touring options.

As my readers know, I am always on a quest to further my research for new eco-chic interior ideas. While in India, I visited a surprise gem which was actually even called the Green Hotel. I was a curious as to what made this hotel ‘green’. As the Persian poet Rumi once wrote, “There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” One of the ways I recommend for planet-friendliness is to reuse the existing. This lovingly restored retreat in beautiful Southern India was initially built for royal princesses and being a historical property, its conservation is a good example of preserving the earth’s resources. We all know how gorgeous and unique traditional old world charm designs can be, rather than modern day uniformity.

The Green Hotel practices include energy saving devices such as solar heating, low energy lighting and other ecological approaches. The hotel also makes use of local Indian craft, furniture, equipment and restoration products.

A lady draped in a silk sari says, “Madam, please come”, as she led me to the Princess room. Inside there are no TV’s or air conditioners to consume energy. Rooms are drenched in natural sunlight with large windows that swing open to allow for ventilation. The stained glass panels are jewel-toned in crimson and cobalt blue. Wrought iron scrolled bars adorn the windows, also flanked by large louvered plantation style shutters. There is a distinct Colonial English flavour in India full of history, especially seen at the Green Hotel.

Cozy banquettes and curvy rattan benches beneath the windows allow one to curl up with a book from one of the glass encased library shelves. Amid the antique furniture are old fashioned chess and checker tables with vintage playing pieces, adding quite the whimsical touch as one feels as though they have slipped back in time.

In the foyer, a giant golden bowl filled with water and floating red rose petals, pleasantly greets guests. (This is a nice touch to try in your home!) Vine entangled doorways become open air breezeways. There is an authentic wide wooden stepped staircase with ornate banister that leads upstairs, with tile and marble floors throughout. Ceilings have open wood beams and cooling fans. Enormous pillars and oversized mirrors in ornately carved wooden frames grace the hallways in this plantation style getaway. Potted ferns, wicker and bamboo furniture and antique wooden chests, all add to the character of times past. Walking through the gardens and beneath the towering palms, reminds sightseers that they are in an oasis of calm in a tropical paradise.

Other ways the award winning hotel does their part as a model of sustainable tourism, is by giving profits to charitable and environmental projects throughout India. There is also an organic market Sunday mornings in the courtyard where merchants sell produce, foods, handmade paper goods and textiles (visit www.thegreenhotelindia.com).

Eco-tourists may also wish to offset their travel and carbon footprint by planting trees online at www.carbonfootprint.com.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Going green no longer means going out on a limb. Almost everywhere we look today, enviro savviness is the new hip lifestyle trend, as the green design movement jumps mainstream. Not only is environmentally aware design attractive to homeowners, but a growing number of clients are choosing a sustainable renovation, rather than building a new home.

Why the rapid shift to ecological alternatives for our homes and our lives? Some folks want to save money on energy costs. Others may have health concerns with allergies or children in the home, while the health of the planet is also on most people’s list.

Eternally yours.

While I was in India this summer researching new design inspirations, I discovered how the locals live simply, and nothing goes to waste. As Westerners, we have a tendency to draw our attention to all of the new styles and products as we fall into the never-ending cycle of updating.

For eco-chic-ness, smartly reuse the existing space with efficient use of materials, by employing the least invasive means to achieve function and fashion. This equals less waste to the landfill, while less energy and money are used in the process. Shun disposable products like wall-to-wall carpeting and opt for durable flooring like reclaimed hardwoods and other hard surfaces. One can also recycle household fixtures that no longer serve them, while benefiting others, like Habitat for Humanity or vintage shops.

Avoid the trap of the ‘latest and greatest’ and pass up trendy commitment colours and patterns. When renovating your home, stay within indistinct styles that will stand the test of time. Happening colours of the moment don’t always last. Know your own tastes and styles, which will carry you over the years, and be conservative when renovating to sell.

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in their way.” ~William Blake

Seek repurposed products

When finishing and furnishing your home, minimize your environmental impact with salvaged art pieces, anywhere from furniture to coasters made from reclaimed items like old street signs. Even conked out fluorescent light tubes are being re-engineered into decorative lights, using LED bulbs. Look for cast-off materials that have been reformed into beautiful and original art pieces for your home.

Come to the rescue with recycled glass as an example of a reprocessed substance that can be reformed into anything from kitchen backsplash tiles or tabletops. The good news is that it can be reprocessed a never-ending number of times.

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.” ~Helen Keller

Make a splash

Water conservation will save money and our valuable resources. Low flow toilets, shower heads and energy efficient appliances all add up in the big picture. When going for the ‘reno gusto’, practicing grey water course-plotting gives you additional environmental gold stars.

A breath of fresh air

Indoor air quality can be hampered when using toxic substances like paint. My favourite discovery this year is edible, food grade paint by Anna Sova. It’s also boasts aroma-therapeutic qualities, so when you paint your room a fresh lemon, you will actually smell the colour!

Sustain and maintain

As an agent for social change, I offer clients alternative choices when it comes to redecorating. Choose and use solid woods with water based lacquers, whereas compressed woods are known to emit chemical gases that harm indoor air quality, plus breakdown faster.

Products that have a superior account of being rapidly renewable are a better choice than just buying blindly. Bamboo, a weed, is recognized as the fastest growing wood alternative. For other wood decorative options, look for the forest certified label (FSC). Ikea sells many things with this reliable badge.

Cork floors are a big hit with my clients as they provide a luxurious alternative to deforestation. Despite the rumour that cork is endangered, cork oak trees are harvested every decade. The floors are soft, warm and acoustically sound. Look for stunning stains in graphite blue and olive green.

Fantastic fabrics can be organic cotton sheets, or towels made from bamboo fibers, soy and hemp. I fell to my knees and kissed the ground when I saw all of these at Linens n’ Things.

"…sustainability refers to the ability of a society, ecosystem, or any such on-going system to continue functioning …without being forced into decline through the exhaustion or overloading of key resources …” - Robert Gilman

Get plugged in

Energy Star labeled appliances and home products are a safe bet. Think twice about those handy space saving mini-beverage coolers that surprisingly add to global warming. They may sell for less than the amount they consume in energy per year (approx. $125 CDN). The best gadget in your home is your mouse- surf the web for eco-friendly products ordered right to your door.

Although there are many winners and sinners when it comes to home design, deciding what suits you and your family best is always the right answer. Budgets, timelines and other factors may come into play, but considering our earth and your own physical wellbeing, along with energy savings, will always be rewarding in the end. For more eco-chic inspirations, I will be sharing additional design ideas at the Edmonton Home & Interior Design Show September 28-30th.

Elissa Scott is a Home Design Expert, Staging Professional, Columnist and Speaker, specializing in renovation and new construction. For all of your design needs, please visit: www.gruuvyroomz.com or call: (780) 484-6880.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Kaizen is the Japanese word for "change for the better" or “continuous improvement”. 'Kai' means 'change' or 'the action to correct' and 'Zen' means 'good'. For me, I am always reshuffling the furniture and décor in the rooms in my home. Change promotes creativity and energy stagnates if our spaces aren’t freshened up occasionally. I will toss in new paint colours, fabrics or accessories when boredom strikes. Even splashes of fresh blooms in modern vases sprinkled around the room, can add yawn-preventive zing and reenergize a languished space.

Like other Asian decorating approaches, Kaizen is about simplicity and a 'quality' strategy. When decorating with a Kaizen mindset, our aim is to eliminate waste, for example, activities that add to cost but do not add to value. Often, this means we take it apart and put back together in a better way.

With renovating, whenever I approach a new project, I always recommend to use the least invasive measures possible to save money, energy and the landfills. Function over fashion should be the number one thought when redecorating a home. Grand ideas about moving structural walls, plumbing and other expensive changes, may serve you better, however rethink if there are other more useful places to put your money. Is it constructive to my needs or does it have a strong sentimental value? These are practical questions to ask oneself in the decisive process. Reuse what is possible. Being creative in itself is rewarding and you will applaud yourself for being resourceful.

Just because you desire a new granite counter, but your existing laminate one is neutral and in tip top shape, does not mean you can’t work around it. Why not add a complementary glass mosaic tile backsplash for the glitz of glamour, without unnecessarily wasting a perfectly fine countertop? However, I do feel your pain if it is an unsightly rose pink and there is no hope for your heart or the future of your dream design. In that case, if it will inspire you to cook healthier foods at home in your own kitchen, rather than opting for the drive-thru window in avoidance, it is a positive improvement.

To create your Kaizen palette, ensure that everything expensive or permanent is simple and indistinct. Don’t select ‘commitment’ colours or designs that will leave you in frustrated tears two years from now. If planning to sell in the near future, avoid bloodcurdling colours and patterns which may cause buyers to run from your home, leaving a scorching trail behind them.

Simple changes can be a lovely paint that serves as a backdrop without stealing the show. Sexy chocolate or muddy putty, are subtle yet strong for a main wall colour. Add a rectangle of colour blocked paint in a Chinese red behind a black accent floating shelf for rich contrast. Create symmetry, with doubled accessories, mirroring one another. Sleek and shiny ceramic vases bring layers of colour and visual texture to tables or shelves. Ensure the addition of plant life to add to your refreshed room’s energy. Lucky bamboo stalks in square glass vases lined with polished pebbles are simple and earthy.