Take Your Coat Off and Stay A While

Not long ago we had company joining us for a weekend, and with the anticipation of their arrival came the ‘extra’ tidying, tweaking, and putting things in order to welcome them. Our home is compact and its space maximized to the limit, so I decided we needed hooks where our guests could hang their jackets. With a bare wall in the foyer crying out for some attention, I had the perfect spot. Now all I had to do was find the perfect hooks…

This turned out to be easier said than done – yes, there are hooks in all shapes and sizes, but nothing leapt out at me as unique or different; none were really ‘perfect’. Not until I popped into Nancy’s Fashion & Furnishings – a very tiny boutique right here in Ladysmith. Who would have known? Voila! Tucked here and there throughout the store were the perfect decorative hooks, and even better, in a few different shapes and sizes!

Here’s what I chose in the end.

Next… the search for a piece of reclaimed wood to mount them on. And this proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. So, off to see my Dad. He has a little shop with all kinds of odds ‘n ends, and not only is he awesome, he’s also a great project partner. Next question, would he take on this project with me?

The answer. Dad not only took on the project with me, he actually did the project for me! He tore the spruce plank to the thickness needed, set to work lightly distressing it, and then did some stain samples for the colour. I chose red mahogany in the end, because I wanted the hooks to stand out, but I also wanted the look to work with the hall table.

Here is the finished masterpiece!

I would love to do a full-scale make-over in the foyer, but this is a rental home, so I shall save that for another time. In the mean time… welcome to our home. Take your coat off and stay a while!

Thanks for stopping by!

Signature 100x47 b&w

Photographs by Sheila Zeller. Please link and credit if you choose to use!

What’s Special On Your Table?

Our Canadian Thanksgiving has come to an end, and as I put away the ‘special’ dishes, I find myself thinking about what makes each piece special. I gently set away a small bowl that used to be my grandmother’s and drift back to the family dinners we shared, getting lost for a moment back in that time.

My Grandmother’s Bowl

My eye catches another bowl; it was a wedding gift to my Mom and Dad 46 years ago. I had admired it once, and Mom insisted on giving it to me that night. Even though I protested, Mom always got her way, and so… the bowl came home with me! I cherish this piece and its story as Mom is no longer with us, but the memory of that night lives on strong and clear. And every time I pull out this bowl I think of her.

Mom’s Bowl, a genuine Staffordshire china piece handpainted by Shorter & Son Ltd.

It’s the stories we remember with our things that make them special, not the things themselves. And the feelings that connect with the story are what make the difference between a ‘house’ and your ‘home’. What is meaningful to you is what matters. That’s the power of telling your story through your space.

(Left) Gran’s bowl with homemade cranberry sauce ~and~ (Right) Mom’s bowl with mashed potatoes

It’s about coming home… do you have something special for your table?

Staging for the Seasons

Did you know that staging for a new season is upon us?

Staging is not simply tidying up and moving furniture around, or putting out fresh towels, and putting away the dishes. In fact, there is nothing ‘simple’ about staging. Staging is a very deliberate form of marketing; it not only is about suggesting value, but it also plays on emotion. We know that buying a home is a financial investment, clearly. But did you know the final decision about which home to buy really comes down to the feeling a buyer experiences when they view the home? Happiness, excitement, calm,  a sense of security… whatever the emotion, it’s about falling in love. And that’s why the art of staging is in creating a ‘feeling’ that a potential buyer will fall in love with; staging appeals to the senses, and that includes connecting with the seasonal ‘senses’ in the air.

So what does this mean, the season in the air? If you stop to think about it – when spring is just around the corner suddenly you begin to hear people talking about ‘spring cleaning’, lightening things up, waking up from the dark, cold days of winter hibernation. With spring is a feeling of rebirth, a burst of fresh energy, and a world of renewed colours emerging. And as summer sets in curb appeal takes on a whole new meaning. Suddenly there is a rainbow of live colour all around. You see gardens in full bloom, lush green trees, and of course people enjoying life outside. With summer comes a carefree sense of ‘fun’ in the sun. Staging for summer is about appealing to the ‘freshness’, the ‘fun’, the ‘light, and bright, and airy’ feeling of outdoor living…

But now with summer fading, and fall upon us, it’s time to shift the staging style to match the approaching season. It’s time to introduce warm, cozy textures, and deeper, richer palettes that make you want to curl up and relax. It’s time to appeal to the ‘comforts’ of home.

So how do you do this?

With the fall and winter months you want to maximize the feeling that first hits you when you step inside, out of the cold. You want potential buyers to be drawn further into the home by the warmth that greets them. The key is to focus on the ‘heart’ of the home.

How a room ‘feels’ when you step inside has more to do with its energy than its objects, but how objects are placed feeds that energy.  Staging uses furniture placement, artwork and accessories with intention: to draw a buyer’s eye to a great feature, and move them through to the next room. Play up features like fireplaces, window seats, cozy nooks and crannies, and of course, be strategic with colour. Colour can make or break the feeling in a room, and like it or not, colour sells. It is the canvas for the room, and as Matthew Finlason writes in his blog, must connect with the target market.

If you are selling your home in the fall and winter months, try a few of these tips:

  • Swap out area rugs for something with a deeper pile, or layer a smaller feature rug like a shag, or sheepskin on top of the existing rug.
  • Change out your lighter toss cushions to include some deeper colours, or add one or two with densely textured fabrics.
  • Drape a snugly throw over a chair, or at the foot of a bed.
  • Place lamps so they cast a warm glow over the surfaces and objects nearby.
  • Install drapery panels that blend with your wall colour, adding warmth without stealing attention.
  • Replace metallic coloured frames on artwork with assorted black frames.
  • Place a painting that captures the emotional colours of the season.
  • Add a few wooden or clay accessories in your focal areas, such as sculptures, bowls, or vases.

Questions to ask yourself when your home is ready to be listed:

  • Do you feel soothed, safe, protected from the elements outside?
  • Are you comfortable in this space?
  • Do you want to linger and move at your leisure, or do you feel like you can’t leave each room fast enough?
  • Do you feel welcome in this space? How would your friends, family…your associates connect with the space?

Staging suggests a lifestyle, and that includes tapping into the senses that go hand-in-hand with the season outside.

Contact Us to schedule a staging service that sells… creating a ‘welcome home’ feeling for buyers is our goal; showcasing your investment is what we do!

Designers ‘Rate’

Like anyone working in a profession, the longer you are ‘in it’, the more you learn. Whether it be learning with intention or vicarious learning, the point is a foundation of knowledge is built over time and is brought to each new project along the way.

In the world of interior styling, as in many creative industries, there is an inherent gray area when it comes to fees-for-service. Because design is conceptualizing, envisioning, and ultimately creating, it is hard to break down each of the interwoven steps that lead to the end result. What most clients see is when a project begins, and when it ends, but it’s the journey in between where the real work takes place and yet is hardest to see.

Once a design professional has committed to a project, that project becomes an extension of their thoughts and focus. The creative switch has been turned ‘ON’, and the vision begins to take shape. The designer (interior stylist, redesigner, stager…) is now absorbed in the details, the vision seldom far from thought. No matter where they go, or what they are doing, they are constantly keeping an eye out for that perfect piece to bring in, researching options to execute the plan, sourcing materials, and finally overseeing the implementation of the plan. This is what you are paying for: the knowledge and expertise of an interior specialist to transform your space. See what Design Great, Vicente Wolf says!

It’s this part of the journey, the work that happens between the ‘before’ and the ‘reveal’ that is gray, the abstract and intangible of the creative process.

So, back to the title of this article, Designers ‘Rate’.  How should a design professional respond to a seemingly innocent question, when the answer draws directly on their area of expertise? In other words, when the answer is in fact ‘what they do for a living’. Maria Killam has written two excellent articles that address this. The first, ‘Do You Dream About Decorating Your House?‘ was written in May, and the second, ‘Negotiating Lessons from Mad Men‘, was just posted two days ago. I think Maria has painted a very clear picture of how ‘gray’ the fees-for-service are in the world of interior styling, and really, in so many creative industries.

If you really are asking a design professional for their suggestions, ideas, input… for your space, remember they rate their ‘rate‘ to reply.

It’s about coming home… If you want a remarkable space that tells your story, contact me to see how we can help!

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Just Say ‘Yes’

Just Say 'Yes'

When you hire an interior specialist (designer, stylist, decorator, redesigner, stager, organizer, etc.) chances are that you will hear ideas and suggestions you have not considered or even thought of. And that is why you hired the professional! Let your mantra for this journey be to say ‘yes’ first, and stay open for amazing results.

If you have done your homework prior to hiring Sheila Zeller Interiors, then you will know that we listen, create, and connect. In order for us to do this successfully, your part is to be as open, candid and clear as possible in the consultation. The more you are able to tell us about your hopes and desires for your space; your uses and needs for it; and the feeling you want created, the better informed we will be to help achieve your vision. A few things to keep in mind so that we can do our best work for you are:

1. Know your likes and dislikes

Before we can create a space that works for you, we need to have a sense of who you are, and what makes you, YOU. What colours and textures do you prefer? What kind of artwork do you tend toward? Do you like antiques or steer clear of them? What is your personal style and flair – jeans or suits or somewhere in between? Do you like nature, the city, landscapes, seascapes, or sky scrapers? What are your hobbies and interests? This is all about you, and the more we learn, the more your space will reflect YOU!

2. Understand how you plan to use the space

Is this a new space for you or an existing one? What kind of space is this? For example, are we styling a bedroom, an office or den, a living room, or are we doing a few rooms? Does the space need to be multi-functional or is it single purpose only? Does it need to be pet-friendly, child and/or teen-friendly? Will you be using it to entertain in, or is this your oasis?

3. Prioritize your existing furniture, artwork, and accessories

We will need to know which existing pieces must be, can be, and definitely won’t be incorporated in the fresh look (do you love it, like it, or really want to let it go?). We want to learn what things are meaningful to you, and which pieces hold a special sentimental value. We would love to know their stories so that we can better tell your story. We will ask if we can ‘shop your house’:  can we remove items from other rooms and incorporate them into the space we’re working on?  We need to be clear where the boundaries are: what is off-limits, what is negotiable, and what is fair game. And of course, we’ll want to know if adding any new pieces is an option, so shopping for and purchasing new items, and/or refurbishing existing ones… which leads next to the budget.

4. Be budget-conscious and budget-clear

All too often a project will begin with mutual enthusiasm and excitement, only to wane when the beast of the budget enters in. And this is why being budget-clear before we begin is critical: what is most important to accomplish (key areas of focus), what is the time line for completion (haste makes waste), and what is the $$$ allocation (a range between $ and $)? It’s our job to create a space that you connect with within these parameters; it’s up to all of us to be mutually clear on what these parameters are.

5. Enjoy the Journey: Just say ‘Yes’

Relax and trust the professional that you have hired. Expect the unexpected, and allow yourself to think outside of the box. By saying yes to new ideas and being clear about the process, you make it possible for us to create something remarkable for you!


It’s about coming home… If you want a remarkable space that tells your story, contact me to see how we can help!


Did you enjoy this post? By subscribing to my RSS Feed you’ll receive each new post without missing a beat! And you can find more posts here… If a thought comes to mind, comments are always appreciated and I read them all. I’d love to hear from you…



What Does ‘Coming Home’ Really Mean?

Coming home is an expression used so often, but what does it really mean?

As I began to re-brand my company, this question ran through my mind. And I began to reflect on my own journey – back to when I first left home for college to where I am now, and what it is that resonates so deeply with the feeling I relate to as  ‘coming home’.

College was my first big stepping out. I lived in a dorm, but had to share my room with another student. Decorating my space was controlled by the general rules of the college, and then by what space was actually mine – I had my side of the room, she had hers. As dorm residents, we ate in the cafeteria, shared a common TV area, and had a locker-room style bathroom and showers. So though this was a step in leaving home, it wasn’t the full stride. It was however, the first stretch where ‘coming home’ took on a deeper meaning for me.

I learned that coming home – and really knowing I was there – was all about the memories of my senses: familiar sights and sounds, scents and tastes, and of course touch, like the feeling of the sheets on ‘my’ bed. It was the daily rhythms, all things familiar that became the essence of my ‘normal’, and ultimately the foundation of ‘home’ now.

So what does coming home really mean?

It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe… a collection of things, tangible and intangible, that feed your soul. It’s that sense of calm and peace, that the world is ‘right’ as you step through the doorway. It’s that feeling of comfort, like a favourite pair of jeans. It’s where nothing needs to be said, no-one needs to be there, but you know you’ve just been greeted by your best friend. It’s that one place in the universe where you can just be ‘you’, surrounded by the things you love, the memories you have, and where the people you care about are allowed ‘in’.  At the heart of it, coming home is where you can be most vulnerable because you feel safe, and all your senses are fed.

Coming home is about you. What would that mean for your home?


The Great Scape: Sofa Tables Talk

Ever wonder what makes the difference between simply placing a sofa table and really presenting it? Here are a few tips to make your table talk!

Choose a table to scale. This means find a piece that fits the sofa and really anchors the two together. Stay away from tables that appear to ‘float’ behind the sofa.

Credit: Maria Killam Photo – ‘Before’ Shot

Think outside of the box. Use another piece of furniture in place of the standard sofa table, such as a desk, a vanity, or a narrow buffet.

Buffet as a sofa table (Credit: Traci Zeller)

Create height and interest. Establish your focal point and work in a triangle from there. And don’t forget, symmetrical placement isn’t the only way to achieve visual balance.

Layer, layer, layer. This is all about mixing up the colours and textures of your objects (fabrics, woods, glass, mirrors, etc.), and how you go about placing them together (overlapped, on top of, in front of, to the side of, etc.).

Don’t stop at the table. Remember to fill in the area below the table. This is the difference between just placing your table, and really presenting it!

Example of ‘Filled In’ (Credit: Maria Killam Colour & Design)

Have fun. This is your statement, and a great scape is to ‘e‘scape from ‘rules, ‘rights and wrongs’, and ‘shoulds’… But if you must, then keep in mind the ‘Rule of Thirds’ to help you stay on track for picture-perfect results.

Oh, and one last tip, don’t be afraid to change out your ensembles and vignettes from time-to-time. Mixing it up with the seasons is a nice way to keep your look fresh.


How Colour Changed My Business Name

I’ve been following Maria Killam’s blog for the last year, eagerly awaiting each new post with anticipation and curiousity – what will Maria say today? Maria has a way of writing that simply resonates, and she shares her expertise as if she were sharing with a friend – well a friend that she has actually met.

So when Maria posted that  her True Colour Expert Training course was being offered in May, I was excited and quick to sign up. My thought, if Maria teaches the course the way she shares in her blog, this is the colour course for me! And… so it was. The course has come and gone, but the impact of it remains. With 14 of us participating, from as far away as New York to as close as Vancouver Island, there was an instant richness and depth to the tapestry of this learning experience that might otherwise have been missing (see in the picture below: that’s me 2nd from left, and Maria is in the centre, 6th from left. Funny thing, right beside me is Traci Zeller of Traci Zeller Designs – no relation, other than by profession… and the colour course of course!).

True Colour Expert Training Class – May 2010

So how did colour change my business name?

Well, Maria’s course provided a palette for focus – three solid days of everything colour with like-minded professionals. And it became transparently clear that what we do best for our clients is really about doing what we love to do, and leaving the rest for the true specialists in those other areas. And that clarity is why I am refocusing to create Sheila Zeller Interiors.

What are my specialties?   Listening – Creating – Connecting

  • Listening: hearing your wishes and needs, and interpreting them in your space
  • Creating: translating your style with a balance between beauty and function
  • Connecting: telling your story by working with your pieces to reflect who you are in your space

Why? Because I believe your space matters as much as you do, and in the end it’s all about you.


Photograph source: sZinteriors