10 Pool Design Ideas to Transform Your Backyard

A swimming pool can be a superb addition to your backyard. Not only does it provide a fantastic way to cool off and enjoy some exercise, but it’s also a great place for socializing. And the best news? Gone are the days of standard rectangular pools that look somewhat out of place.

New materials and building techniques have enabled imaginative designers to create endless pool designs. So, no matter your space, you can almost certainly find a pool to fit. Whether it blends in or stands out, the choice is yours.

Let’s take a look at ten fabulous pool design ideas:

1. The Natural Look

This design focuses on allowing your pool to fit in with the nature around it rather than standing out like a sore thumb. Remember, there are no straight lines in nature, so a curved pool design is best. Surround the water with natural elements such as rocks, pebbles and shrubs, and maybe even add a waterfall. Use local plants and trees to complete the look, or simply work with what is already there.

2. Shipping Container Pool

This innovative design allows you to quickly and easily add a pool to any space. Work with a professional company to create a heated pool that’s safe and attractive. It can either stand atop the ground, complete with viewing glass and steps up to it, or be dug into the soil.

3. Flower Pool

This colorful design sees your swimming pool bordered by a dazzling array of flowers. Sure to cause a splash, it not only looks fantastic but will smell great too. Care should be taken to prevent the pool water from reaching the plants; otherwise, you’re free to experiment. With proper planning, your pool can be surrounded by color throughout the season.

4. Desert Oasis

Create an oasis in the desert with this fabulous design that works great in hotter climates. Your pool sits amid a landscape of drought-tolerant plants and shrubs, with boulders and sand to complete the look. Add a palm tree for that classic vibe, and be sure to provide some shade, perhaps a canvas canopy.

5. Tropical Paradise

This is a top choice for subtropical climates and makes the most of the weather and plants that you’re likely to already have in your yard. Coral stone flagstones surround a brilliant, blue mood-lit pool, recreating the tropics’ bright white sands and sea. Further back, lush green tropical shrubs, grasses and trees complete the look.

6. Historical Restoration

If you own a historic house, why not create a pool that matches it? Use materials that would have been common when it was built, such as period clay tiles to match a Colonial home, for instance. And don’t forget to add the relevant features from the time, including fountains and spa areas.

7. To Infinity and Beyond

If you own the house on the hill and your yard commands a stunning view, it’s well worth creating a pool that takes it all in. Infinity pools are a great choice in these situations, allowing you to swim to the horizon and enjoy the view.

8. Rustic Retreat

Looking to capture the rustic feel of a Tuscan farmhouse? This design uses a curvilinear pool shape that fits naturally into the landscape. Surrounded by large natural stone paving slabs, pebbles and grasses with the occasional shrub, it oozes charm.

9. Enclosed Lap Pool

Designed for those looking to enjoy a little exercise all year-round, this heated pool is ideal for cooler climates. Rather than being outside, it’s enclosed in its own room, with large windows looking outside and providing natural light. As a narrow lap pool, it won’t take up much space either.

10. Rock Pool

With a cascading waterfall and natural rock flagstones surrounding the pool, you’ll feel as if you’re swimming in a secret cave! Large, free-standing boulders add to the effect, with the occasional shrub or fern to provide a little color. A rounded pool design works best in this case, adding to the rugged, natural look. For something a little special, why not add a rustic stone bridge?


The Pros and Cons of Open Kitchens

Open kitchens have had their heyday, but some think the trend could be waning as people spend more time at home and with each other. The design offers fantastic opportunities for families to connect but can also be seen as lacking privacy and making it difficult to establish “zones” in the home.

So, how can you decide whether an open kitchen design is something that will work for you and your lifestyle? Check out this list of pros and cons to see what benefits and drawbacks open kitchens can have.

Pro: Increased Interaction

One of the biggest advantages of having an open kitchen is the ability to interact with family and guests during meal preparation. While traditionally, you would have been tucked away in a closed kitchen to prep and cook, an open kitchen means no breaks in the conversation and an opportunity to socialize with everyone. By bringing the action into one space, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on the fun.

Pro: A Good View

If you have little ones, an open kitchen allows you to keep an eye on their activities while you make meals or clean up, ensuring that everyone’s on track and you don’t have to worry every time things get suspiciously quiet in the next room. An open kitchen offers opportunities for you to be involved in homework time, craft time or just “tell me about your day” time, all while getting meals ready for the family.

Pro: More Light

Open kitchens allow more light to flood the space, thanks to fewer walls closing things in. It can brighten the space and make it feel even more open, airy and cheerful. In addition, more natural light means the potential for fewer light fixtures being needed, so less energy consumption.

Pro: The Illusion of Space

Even in a smaller home, an open kitchen will make the room seem less closed in and more spacious. Without the constraints of walls, you can push the kitchen out further or bring things in closer, helping you make the most of your space. An even more open design can be achieved with fewer heavy cupboards and more open shelving or the use of cabinets with glass doors to lighten the look.

Con: More Noise

With open kitchens comes the potential for more noise due to the lack of walls keeping sounds contained. Whether it’s kids burning off energy in the loudest ways possible, lively conversation during after-dinner drinks, or the clinging and clanging of pots and pans during cooking, noise can travel easily in open kitchens. Bringing textiles such as rugs, mats and curtains into the mix can help, as can including textured ceilings and paneled screens to help absorb some sound.

Con: Messes on Display

With closed kitchen designs, hiding messes from guests is a lot easier. Unfortunately, open kitchens don’t really give you that option, so you end up having to choose between being extremely diligent about cleaning and organizing or being comfortable enough to say “don’t mind the mess.” Incorporating plenty of storage and organization options, eliminating clutterand using various cleaning tools to make it easier to manage messes are ways to keep your open kitchen looking great.

Con: Traveling Odors

When cooking in an open kitchen, food odors aren’t contained like in a closed kitchen and can travel to other areas of the home. This might be fine for smells like bread baking in the oven or a fresh pot of coffee brewing, but odors like used frying oil or cooked fish are likely not the ones you want moving into other spaces and possibly lingering there. Opening your windows, using your range hood and air fresheners should help.

Con: Limited Storage Space

Without additional walls to house storage options, open kitchens can make it more difficult to put away the things you need and keep everything from looking too messy. Incorporating an island with storage into the kitchen can be a good solution, or you can take advantage of ceiling space with hanging racks for things like pots and pans.

Check out This New Collection of Rooms with Breathtaking Views


We build homes in varied landscapes, but often a common thread among them is strategically placed windows that allow us to enjoy what the outside world has to offer. Even when indoors, we seek comfort in the natural world.

A room with a spectacular view quickly becomes a favorite place, whether it’s a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or living room. We want to have glimpses of trees, water, sky and mountains when we’re gazing out the window deep in thought, and those glimpses are our focus, or when we’re going about our daily lives, and the glimpses simply act as amazing backdrops to everything else.

The outside world can also be an important source of inspiration for designing and decorating our indoor world. We take note of textures and colors, evoked feelings, and even sounds and scents, and attempt to bring those to life inside our homes to capture what we love about the outdoors. This new collection of rooms with breathtaking views has us feeling a deep appreciation for the world outside our doors, and we’re excited to share them with you!

1. A Skyview Spa

2. A Treed-In Sanctuary

3. A Child’s Perspective

4. A Never-Ending Cityscape

5. A Lakeside Escape

6. A Star-Filled Slumber

7. An Exotic Vista

8. A Mountainous Outlook

9. A Glimpse of Paradise

10. A Sophisticated Seascape

Take a Deep Breath. It’s Time to Upgrade Your HVAC and Enjoy Cleaner, Safer Air.


Presented by Enercare

Breathe in, breathe out. The quality of the air we breathe is more important now than ever before. We’re spending so much of our lives indoors, it’s crucial that we make sure it’s clean and safe. Just like the outdoors, the air in our home contains moisture, odors, allergens, and other pollutants but unlike the outdoors, we can do a few things to stop pollutants from building up in our space. At the end of the day, a breath of fresh air can make all the difference in our lives.

The keys to improving the quality of air in your home are managing indoor air circulation, ensuring a flow of fresh air, as well as maintaining air filtration and sterilization. Makes sense and sounds pretty straightforward, right? Here’s how you can make them happen:

HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air. And what you want to get is a HEPA air filtration system which will reduce the amount of particulates in the air. Also known as a HEPA air sanitizer or air purifier, a standard HEPA system is 99.97% efficient at removing particulates that are 0.3 microns in size or larger such as pollen, mould, tobacco and cooking smoke, household dust, and bacteria. You can install a whole home HEPA system that integrates into your heating and cooling system or buy a standalone unit. When shopping for a standalone unit, consider the cost of replacement filters, look for certifications like the Energy Star logo, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers  (AHAM) Verifide seal, and clean air delivery rate (CADR) rating (the higher the CADR, the faster and more efficient the air purifier is), the size of your room, and noise performance. Once you’ve found a system that works for your home, place it in a spot where nothing obstructs airflow. Remember to clean the filters regularly.

Building on that, there’s a category of HEPA air purifiers that use short-wave ultraviolet light to reduce pollutants in the air. This UV germicidal irradiation (UVGI) deactivates airborne pathogens and microorganisms. Historically, this process has been used in hospitals to disinfect water and surfaces and has been shown to be effective in cleaning the air as well. With a UV light air purifier that’s integrated with your home’s heating and cooling system, air passes through UV lamps that directly disinfect the air for the entire home.

For those who need to replace their furnace, you may want to consider installing a model with an electronically commutated motor (ECM) variable speed motor. A variable speed motor precisely controls the flow of heated or cooled air throughout a home. This energy efficient unit can be set to run for longer periods of time to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the home. (By the way, it’s a common misconception that a longer running unit will cost you more in electricity. ECM motors are designed to run 24/7 and actually uses less electricity than a standard PSC motor.) When the fan is in constant operation the motor will continue to slowly circulate air, allowing your furnace filter to capture more contaminants, keeping your unit clean and efficient. Combined with a HEPA air filter, your home’s air will be cleaner.

If you live in a recently built home, here’s something you may not know. As construction techniques have become more energy efficient, homes have better air sealing and insulation which means there is less air leakage, heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. While good for the planet and your energy bill, the downside is a lack of fresh air being brought into the home.

Because the house is sealed the air inside collects moisture and pollutants from everyday activities done in your home. This is why you need an air exchanger with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV). These systems remove stale and polluted air from the house to the outside and replace it with an equal amount of fresh air – exchanging the air multiple times a day. During heating season, HRVs will also help warm the incoming air so your heating system doesn’t need to work as hard. Combine an HRV or ERV system with your indoor plant garden, and you’ll have an abundance of fresh air everywhere.

Finally, as with many areas around the house, allowing dust to build up only leads to more headaches, sometimes literally. A home’s ducting can collect dirt, dust, mould, pollen and pet dander over time. Make sure to sign up for routine duct cleaning service to remove these allergy-aggravating contaminants.

And that’s it. Start with a HEPA air filter and work your way up to get cleaner, safer air in your home. Soon, you’ll wonder how you were ever able to breathe easy before. To learn more about the products and services mentioned in this list, visit enercare.ca/safer-air-solutions.


Create the perfect laundry room


How to maximize one of the most underrated rooms in your home

Modern, organized laundry room with white washer and dryer

A laundry room – if you are fortunate enough to have a designated room – is one of the most underrated and important spaces in any home. Your guests may not see it and it might not be a deal-breaker for potential buyers in the future, but you are likely to spend several hours (at least…) each week in the laundry room. That means, while it doesn’t have to be fancy, it does need to be functional, clean and easy to navigate. 

Here are some tips to help make your laundry room easier and more enjoyable to use:

  • Make sure your appliances are the right size and in the correct location for your space. The layout of your laundry room will revolve around the washer and dryer, so consider carefully where and how you place these machines. Of course, the water and power supplies will be a big factor. If you have room to stack your laundry machines, this can open up a lot of floor space. If not, place them side-by-side so you can use the top as a work space. Tight on space? Many retailers sell condo-sized machines that even fit in a closet. The maximum load size is smaller, but they take up much less space.
  • Storage and organization are key. You will need cabinets and/or shelves to keep your laundry detergent, household cleaning supplies and extra towels and linens. The laundry room likely also doubles as your broom closet. If you don’t have enough space to install a tall cabinet for your broom, mop and ironing board, consider hanging wall hooks behind the door to avoid having these items strewn messily on the floor. Remember to make room for larger items like laundry baskets and buckets, likely on or under a floating shelf. 
  • A work surface where you can sort and fold laundry can be very helpful. Even in a small space, a countertop can be installed on top of your side-by-side washer and dryer. And, if you prefer to hang-dry your laundry, you may want to install a clothing rod for hangers or a drying rack that folds up to the wall. 
  • A deep sink or tub is a super handy addition to any laundry room. And, with a couple of cabinets below, it’s a great place to store cleaning supplies and smaller appliances, like an iron or steamer.
  • Consider swapping out a traditional door for a pocket door. If you have the option to install a pocket door, it can free up wall space inside the laundry room and improve your freedom of movement within it.
  • Choose materials that are durable, as well as easy to clean and maintain. For countertops, choose a non-porous stone like quartz that will not easily damage with heat or chemicals. For cabinet doors, melamine is durable and cost-effective. Select a panel with flat finish that is easy to wipe clean. For flooring, ceramic and porcelain tiles are easiest to clean, however vinyl flooring is less expensive and is also water-resistant. 
  • Brighten up the space. Paint the walls a crisp white or a bright blue or yellow to make your laundry room feel larger. You might not have windows to let natural light into the room, so install bright task lighting overhead.

13 Pet-Friendly House Plants


House plants are a fantastic way to liven up your home decor by adding a natural touch and a splash of color to any room. However, if you’re a pet owner, you’re probably aware that some plants are toxic to your furry friends. The good news is that there are plenty of safe options that look stunning. So, check out our top picks for pet-friendly house plants.


All Calathea or prayer plant varieties are safe for cats and dogs. With their stunning range of leaf colors, sizes and patterns, we’re sure you’ll find one that suits your home decor. They grow best in medium light, high humidity and need filtered or distilled water to keep the leaves glossy and healthy.

African Violets

These flowering houseplants are an excellent choice for a pet-friendly home. To keep them happy, place them in bright indirect light and water them when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. Then, throughout spring and summer, give them a bit of fertilizer twice a month to encourage abundant flowering.


Indoor palms can add a veritable touch of luxurious, tropical vibes to your home, and most of them are pet-friendly. Here are a few species that will get along with your pets: Parlour Palm, Areca Palm, Miniature Date Palm and the Ponytail Palm. Steer clear of the Sago Palm, though, as it is toxic to both cats and dogs.


Like indoor palms, the vast majority of indoor ferns are safe for pets. Our top picks include Boston Fern, Maidenhair Fern and the Staghorn Fern. These plants thrive in indirect sun and high humidity and make an excellent addition to a bathroom with a window.

Moth Orchids

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but all varieties of Moth or Phalaenopsis Orchids are non-toxic to cats and dogs. The trick to keeping these plants happy is using the right potting soil. A mix of two-parts fir bark, one part perlite and one part sphagnum peat would be perfect for them.

Polka Dot Plant

If you’re looking for a plant that’s small, colorful, beginner-friendly and also non-toxic to pets, the Polka Dot Plant is the answer to your prayers. Keep it in a room with bright indirect light, water it regularly, and you’re all set. Bonus tip: cut the ends of the stems once a month to keep your Polka Dot Plant looking bushy.


Another houseplant that’s both low-maintenance and pet-friendly, Fittonia or the Nerve Plant, stands out due to its compact size and stunning range of leaf colors. This plant loves high humidity and bright indirect light and needs a good soak when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch.


When it comes to pet-friendly plants that also work as a dramatic centerpiece in your home, the Banana Plant has almost no competition. This exotic giant can easily grow to a height of 7 feet and will need plenty of sunlight, humidity and well-draining soil to reach its full potential.

Spider Plant

An oldie but a goldie, the Spider Plant ticks the boxes for being both pet-friendly and beginner-friendly. Easy to grow indoors, it’s also a great plant to have around due to its air-purifying abilities. As far as we’re concerned, this one is an all-around winner and must-have plant for any home.

Air Plants

Not only are Air Plants non-toxic to cats and dogs, but they also spare you the headache of having to clean up if your pets knock the pots over. That’s right: Air Plants, or Tillandsia, don’t need any soil to grow. Instead, you can either mount them on a wooden display or keep them in an open glass container. To water them, simply dunk them in water once a week, for about 30 minutes. Plant care doesn’t get easier than this!


Peperomia or Rubber Plants are another fantastic choice for a pet-friendly home. The secret to keeping them healthy is bright but indirect sunlight and only watering them when the top two inches of the soil feel dry to the touch.


Also known as Wax Plants or Porcelain Flowers, these slow-growing, trailing succulents are safe to grow in a home with cats or dogs. They also produce clusters of small, colorful flowers with delicate chocolate, vanilla, or cinnamon scent. Plant them in a mix of two-parts orchid bark, one part perlite and one part peat, keep them in bright indirect light and water them moderately.


Although most pet owners would be wary of having spiky succulents around their cats and dogs, there are many spike-free species you can bring into your home. Blue Echeveria, Buro’s Tail, Opuntia, Christmas Cactus and the Fishbone Cactus are just some of our pet-friendly picks. Or, if you don’t mind something a bit prickly, the Blue Haworthia is another excellent choice.


20+ Ways to Make Your Home Cozy This Winter


The secret to a cozy home

With daylight dwindling and colder weather on the way—along with pandemic restrictions, of course—this winter will likely feel like a long one. But if you’re dreading the thought of spending the next few months staring at the same four walls, it’s time to upgrade your surroundings with a few inspired touches. We turned to the experts of hygge—a.k.a. the Danish art of creating a comforting atmosphere—for their best tips on making the most of your time at home this winter.

Light a candle (or three)

Why hygge? According to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Little Book of Hygge, Danes use hygge as a “survival strategy” for the dark and cold days of winter. “It can help us boost our sense of wellbeing under the current circumstances because it’s a way to make the best of the situation you’re in,” he says.

For instant hygge, it’s as easy as lighting a candle. The soft, flickering glow adds a warmth that immediately transforms a cold, stale room. Upgrade the experience with a seasonal scent and a wood wick that crackles as it burns like a mini-fireplace, as seen in Vancouver-based Mala the Brand’s hand-poured candles.

Create a soothing interior

“It’s now, more than ever, important to embrace our surroundings with soothing interiors that comforts and elevates our spirits,” says Dorothea Gundtoft, author of Real Nordic Living. For example, if your pre-sleeping ritual includes reading in bed, make the activity extra calming by changing up your décor. This elegant wood sconce from Vancouver’s East Van Light saves table space and it’s dimmable so you can adjust for the ideal brightness.

Go for a fresh coat of paint

If you’re searching for a home renovation project to undertake this season, why not reinvigorate your space with a new colour on your walls? Try a cheerful shade of yellow for an instant mood boost. (Before you get started, don’t miss these painting tips from professionals.)

Block out interruptions with a sleep mask

An important aspect of hygge is taking care of yourself, says Wiking, and we all know how important sleep is for managing stress and strengthening the immune system. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, wear a sleep mask to block out any potentially distracting light. This 100 percent pure silk eye mask from Toronto’s The Silk Labs also promises to be a cooling treat for the delicate eye area. (Here are the things you should do all night long for better sleep.)

The key to the coziest bedroom

Sink into your deepest slumber yet with this linen duvet set from Toronto-based, Portugal-made linen company Envello. The super soft and breathable combed cotton fabric will keep the coldest sleeper toasty even when the mercury plummets. (Check 0ut our ultimate guide to the best sleep ever.)

Snuggle up with a luxurious blanket

“On top of daily tasks, the fact that we have a global pandemic—no wonder we’re all stressed out,” says Gundtoft. The silver lining of this, however, is that this pressure-cooker environment has prompted many of us to think more critically about our routines and self-care. It might be incorporating a walk around the block into our schedule, or putting an ultra-soft blanket in every room, at the ready for spontaneous naps or to be worn as a cozy cape. This washable merino wool throw blanket from Montreal brand Volprivé is great for snuggling on cold nights.

Or try a weighted one

If you prefer something heavier, lull your body into deeper sleep with a weighted blanket that’s designed to feel like a snug hug. This 15-pound version from Canadian mattress company Endy features a reversible, machine washable cover and a weighted inner layer filled with rounded glass beads and polyester fibres. The blanket evenly distributes the weight across your body to help calm, relax and relieve stress. Tip: When you’re looking for a weighted blanket, it should be no heavier than 8-12 percent of your body weight. (Here’s how to fix the most common sleep problems, according to the experts.)

Elevate your daily routines

“Hygge has oftentimes been referred to as ‘the perfect night in,’” says Wiking. With that in mind, you don’t need a big budget to create a cozy home. Start by thinking about the activities you do throughout the day and how it can be made more comfortable. Invest in that one piece that can make a big impact on your everyday. If you’re used to stepping onto ice-cold floors first thing in the morning, a textured, plush rug at your bedside could be all you need for a happier start to the day.

Step into comfort

One of the upsides to spending more time at home is being able to dress comfortably all the time. For most people that means two things—sweatpants and slippers. The shearling lining of these slippers makes them some of the softest on the market, and the sturdy sole means they’re durable for indoor and outdoor wear. (We won’t judge.)

Refresh the air

Hygge is all about creating a calm environment and recharging your batteries—something we could all use a lot more of in this time. Whether you’re gearing up for a long day in the home office or settling in for a Netflix marathon, keep your home refreshed with a bit of aromatherapy from this uplifting diffuser blend collection. In addition to smelling divine, the different fragrances are designed to help you feel energized or relaxed.

Unwind with a made-to-order bathtub tray

Can you think of anything more peaceful than a long, luxurious soak in the tub? How about adding a glass of wine and a thrilling mystery novel? Keep your bath time essentials dry and float the day’s worries away with this custom, reclaimed wood tray that’s made-to-order to fit any bathtub. Sherbrooke, Quebec-based woodworker Sharon Muravsky hand-makes the trays using recycled Eastern Hemlock wood for a truly unique touch.

Take a breather with a puzzle

Decompress with this quirky limited-edition puzzle by Toronto-based artist Stephanie Cheng, commemorating the greatest baseball moustaches of all time. Once you’re done assembling all 1,000 pieces, all that’s left to do is find a spot on the wall for your new art piece. (Don’t miss these 30+ stress management tips from the experts.)

Reflect in a journal

“Take the time to reflect on all you’re fortunate for: love, connection, shelter,” says Wiking. “The times may be challenging, but there’s always something to feel grateful for—focus on that.” If you’re have trouble putting your feelings into words, try The Human Being Journal from Canadian lifestyle and wellness brand Mahara. The guided format offers prompts and questions to help inspire mindfulness and a deeper dive into your life’s goals.

Fill your home with your favourite tunes

“Hygge can be understood as ‘the art of creating a nice atmosphere,’ so perhaps start with reflecting on what that means to you,” says Wiking. If it’s the sound of music that gets you going, set this charming record player spinning for an impromptu sing-a-long or a living room dance party. No vinyl? No problem. The Bluetooth connection allows you to stream digital music through the built-in speakers.

Get crafty

There’s no better time than a lockdown to master a craft. Get started with this thoughtfully put together embroidery kit from Ketch Harbour, Nova Scotia-based Hook, Line and Tinker studio. It includes all the materials needed to stitch an adorable Scandinavian design-inspired holiday reindeer. All that’s left for you to do is to focus on the task at hand.

Play a board game

Unplug for the evening and star in your own version of The Queen’s Gambit with this travel-friendly roll-up chess and checkers set. The board features one of Pendleton’s signature geometric prints and comes with two-in-one wooden pieces.

Treat yourself to a hot drink

While a snowstorm rages outside, partake in a steaming cup of hot chocolate that’s sure to warm you up from the inside out. Satisfy this seasonal craving with a trio set of gourmet hot cocoa mix. The festive tins and delectable flavours—choose from milk, dark and peppermint chocolate–will make you want to savour the moment for as long as possible. (Don’t miss our round-up of the best hot chocolate recipes to try this winter!)

Add a new mug to your collection

Take your hot chocolate—or whatever cold weather beverage you prefer—to the next level with this fun asymmetrical mug. Handmade by ceramic artist Karla Strickland for Tofino, British Columbia-based lifestyle shop Merge, its perfectly imperfect handmade shape and natural raw clay finish will be a homey addition to any cupboard.

Send snail mail

Spread the cheer near and far by sending the special people in your life some snail mail. In a time where we won’t be able to gather together with those closest to us, a heartfelt message will go a long way. Let them know you’re thinking of them and make your wishes extra joyous with this adorable card made by Vancouver-based letterpress printing and design studio Porchlight Press.

Spend quality time with loved ones (virtually)

“Spend quality time with loved ones,” says Wiking. “Engage, listen, and be present.” Although we might not be able to be in the same room with family and friends for the time being, it’s easy to stay connected with video chats that makes it feel as though you’re together. Make face-to-face time a regular part of your routine by scheduling calls and doing activities together, like baking cookies or playing games. (Don’t miss the Reader’s Digest home tech buying guide.)

A DIY ambiance

As you make your home cozy this winter, keep in mind the key elements of hygge—presence, pleasure, gratitude, comfort and togetherness. “Hygge is about the now,” says Wiking. “How to enjoy the moment and make the best of it.” This can be as simple as lounging in your favourite chair with a mug of eggnog and the fireplace channel roaring on YouTube.

Outdoor Christmas Decor Ideas


It’s that time of year again, and as the big day draws near, even the grouchiest Grinches and Scrooges can’t help but feel the tingle of Christmas cheer! If you haven’t got around to decorating the outside of your home yet, have no fear. We’ve come up with a host of ideas to make your home and yard sparkle with festive spirit.

Deck the Porch with Boughs of Holly

Holly has been used to decorate homes since the days of ancient Romans and Druids, and it’s a Christmas decoration that will never go out of style. The spiky, evergreen leaves and red berries spell Christmas cheer instantly. Garlands of holly, fir tree and pine cones wrapped around your porch are both a simple and timeless DIY decoration that will make your home look ready for the holiday season.

Outdoor Christmas Tree

There are no rules against having two Christmas trees. Yes, we checked. So this year, why not have a separate Christmas tree in your yard? There’s still time to pick up a potted fir tree or even an evergreen shrub, like false cypress, yew, American Arborvitae or juniper. Once decorated, it will add a veritable festive touch to your garden and can even become a year-round fixture if you plant it in the soil. We can’t guarantee that Santa will leave presents under both trees, but it’s worth a try.

A Lawn of Festive Gnomes

There’s something about garden gnomes that makes you think of Christmas even in the height of summer. Maybe it’s the knowing smiles, pointy hats and white beards making them look like miniature versions of Santa Claus. So even if your garden doesn’t have a host of gnome residents throughout the year, letting them take over your lawn at Christmas should be a must. And if you’re feeling creative, you can also use them to build a miniature Christmas village.

A Trio of Vibrant Colors

Nothing says Christmas like the red and green color combo. But we promise that breaking away from the traditional color scheme won’t put you on Santa’s naughty list. So if you’re feeling a bit bold, try adding a touch of gold or orange to your palette. For a retro look, muted colors such as mint green, vintage pink and snow white are a perfect pick. Or, for a porch that really stands out, a mix of blue, gold and white is sure to catch everyone’s eye.

Light It Up

With the darkest month of the year in full swing, you’ll need plenty of light to keep the winter blues at bay. So bring out the garlands of fairy lights, festoon lights, star lights, LED rope lights, and let them take over your garden. The secret to avoiding a tacky look is keeping it simple and cohesive. Strings of lights with different shapes but a similar hue will look far more stylish than an RGB display that’s so bright you can see it from the North Pole.

Cozy Up on the Deck

Just because temperatures drop below freezing doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy hanging out on your patio. With a few sheepskins on the chairs and benches, a couple of fluffy blankets, a stack of decorative logs and a few candles in the garden lanterns, your porch will become a cozy nook, perfect for enjoying a cup of hot cocoa.

Edible Decorations for Birds

Christmas is a time for giving. Even though it may not seem it, your garden is still home to many wild birds that need a bit of care over the cold season. Try decorating your shrubs with strings of dried fruit slices, such as apple, pear and orange, or making Christmas decorations out of suet and birdseed. These ornaments are perfect if you’re looking to spread the festive cheer in an eco-friendly way.

Natural Wreaths

No Christmas decor is complete without at least one wreath on the door. You can keep it simple with a classic fir tree, pine cone, red berries and ribbons wreath, or go for a new and unique look. Dried magnolia leaves are a gorgeous substitute for evergreen boughs, especially when you add some poinsettia flowers to the mix. Or you can mix rustic and exotic with a wreath of pine, dried orange slices and peels, cinnamon sticks, and even candy canes.

Repurpose and Upcycle

A few hurricane lamps filled with Christmas globes and fairy lights will instantly give your porch and stairs a warm, inviting vibe. Bring that old sleigh out of your shed, paint it red and green, and you’ve got yourself a rustic outdoor coffee table, perfect for your cozy deck. Got any empty plant baskets left over from summer? Simply fill them with evergreen boughs, globes and tinsel and turn them into hanging garland pots.


Clever ways to boost your home’s curb appeal

Clever ways to boost your home’s curb appeal

clever_ways_to_boost_curb_appealWhen selling your home, nothing looks quite as good as a well-manicured front garden or beautifully decorated balcony. While many homeowners focus on the interiors of their homes, a property’s exterior can make all the difference, adding to its appeal and boosting its resale value.

And, a home’s exterior plays an important role in shaping a prospective purchasers’ decisions. As a first impression, these areas help set the tone and encourage buyers to visualize themselves owning the home.

An attractive exterior doesn’t have to break the bank. There are a number of ways you can create a stunning outside environment without much effort or money. Here are just a few tips to carry you through the selling season:

Clear the clutter. One of the easiest ways to make any outdoor space come to life is to keep it clean and tidy. This lets buyers visualize how they will make the space their own when it trades hands. 

Easy container gardens. Planted containers can add a charming look and feel to entranceways and balconies. When picking pots, look for similar styles that vary in size for a nuanced appeal.

Drought-tolerant plants. Flowerbeds and plants are often a great way to add a splash of colour to any exterior. For maximum effect, choose an assortment of perennials and annuals that require less water and are able to withstand hot summer days.

Don’t forget to fertilize. Though sunlight and water are usually enough, periodically feeding your plants essential nutrients will promote lavish growth and ensure consistent flowering.

Your essential home project toolkit


your-essential-home-project-toolkit_imageEmbarking on a home improvement project is a fun and rewarding way to spend spare time. With a myriad of ideas available in books and on the Internet, ideas abound for quick makeovers that yield dramatic results and useful solutions.

With the right supplies and a few good tools, you can tackle small improvement projects with confidence and ease. Here are recommendations for the tools most commonly used for small projects around the home:

Claw hammer. Ensure you have this old standby for general assembly and demolition.

Nail sets. You’ll need these in a variety of sizes to sink nailheads below the worksurface, providing for a clean finish.

Coping saw. This saw has a very narrow blade stretched across a U-shaped frame. It’s the tool of choice for making curved cuts to wood.

Tape measure. You’ll find it useful to have both a 12-ft. and a 25-ft. tape measure on hand.

Cordless drill/driver. This portable power tool makes light work of drilling holes and driving screws.

Levels. A 4 foot bubble level is best used on large surfaces – the smaller torpedo level works nicely in confined spaces.

Combination square. This square is used to position hardware, such as hinges on doors, and to check right and 45-degree angles.

Carpenter’s pencil. The pencil’s flat design keeps it from rolling off surfaces and it is used for marking and laying out hardware.

Utility knife and putty knife. A utility knife will handle most cutting and trimming jobs. You’ll need a putty knife for filling holes and patching.

Miter box. This tool is used with a handsaw to cut accurate 45-degree and 90-degree angles. The miter box is most often used for cutting trim and molding to length.

Screwdrivers. Your toolkit should include different sizes in both Phillips and Robertson. Or, you can consider at four-in-one screwdriver that holds four bits—two standard and two Phillips, which should meet most jobs.

Safety gear: Eye and ear protection; dust mask or respirator; knee pads; work gloves; work boots; and, a good first aid kit.

For best results, look for quality in the tools you select and invest in a tool bag or carry-all to keep your essentials well organized and easily accessible.