October 11, 2011

Reflect Yourself

Design expert Janette Ewen describes the appeal of putting your own stamp on the way you decorate your home.


Design expert Janette Ewen will talk about the latest trends from Paris.

Pulling out your hammer or glue gun to do it yourself isn’t just about saving money any more, says design expert Janette Ewen. DIY helps you to put your own stamp on your home. “It’s about making your space personal,” says Ewen, co-host with Ty Pennington of W Network’s Inside the Box. There’s a big difference between a matt print purchased at the mall versus a framed crayon drawing of your dog, courtesy of your four-year-old niece. Or a bench ordered online compared to one made from a 1950s wood beam reclaimed from your family’s first home.

Items you’ve made – or helped to design or conceptualize – speak volumes about who you are as a person, your values and history. They’re also more visually appealing since their uniqueness adds natural intrigue. It says something about you if you have a baby’s toothbrush framed in your hallway, next to an antique map of Chemainus. “People should walk into your house and go: ‘I want to know this person,’” says Ewen, one of several celebrities giving workshops at the Vancouver Home + Design Show. “It’s the backdrop to your life.” Ewen, a décor and lifestyle talent who divides her time between Toronto and Santa Monica, says a little planning and some homework go a long way for good DIY. She’s a big fan of the book, Decorating Is Fun: How to be Your Own Decorator by Dorothy Draper.“It’s my bible,” she says.

Another piece of advice: Go to workshops offered at places like Home Depot, she says, particularly if your project involves something skilled such as creating a tile mosaic or some form of basic carpentry.  Ewen, who grew up in Ontario, says she did her first DIY project when she was eight years old. With her craft-savvy mother’s help she reworked her bed, she says, turning her plastic headboard into something velvet and tufted. “We would craft and DIY everything,” she says. Years later, when she had her first apartment, she made an old door into her headboard. “Even though I could afford it, I still like DIY because it’s so personal,” she says. Getting started is easy if you have a strategy, she says.  Ewen begins by targeting what she calls the “envelope” of a home or room – everything that wraps around it – including walls and bookshelves. Create a photo wall, she says, using similar picture frames spray-painted the same colour. Fill the frames with photos printed in black and white for even more consistency.  Next, she says, look for interesting wallpaper to add a layer of interest and texture. She is a fan of “renters’ wallpaper” since it peels off easily and allows for quick switches.

Painting a wall or space is another option, but she advises do-it-yourselfers to opt for softer tones that are more forgiving: “Painting with really bright colours can go disastrously wrong.” Another fuss-free way to DIY a space? Turn your bookshelf into something wonderful and expressive just by using a little imagination. Create vignettes around a theme or memory. For instance, cluster a photograph of an ocean scene with books on the subject and even a seashell. Do the same thing around a trip or important event, using a souvenir, books and a framed photo. With DIY you can feel free to change things as often as you like and enjoy the process of letting your home’s story unfold. “It won’t happen overnight,” says Ewen. “Don’t get frustrated. Have patience.” The results are worth it. “It will give you a space that you love. It will make you feel good,” she says. “And really, what more do you want?”

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