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Can a chicken coop be a home?…a favourite for Remembrance Day

Fred van Zuiden was a nine year old boy when his homeland of Holland was invaded by the Germans. The year was 1940, and during the two years that followed, he endured worsening conditions. Eventually Fred left his family and went into hiding. In his book, Call Me Mom, Fred recounts his experiences of finding safety in twenty-six different places.

Fred van Zuiden

During the winter months, our family reads novels aloud. Fred’s book was on our reading list last winter. It affected us deeply, and like any good book, we were saddened when the last page was turned. After some lively discussions about Fred, we decided we had to meet our new hero. On a cold day in March, we headed out to our local Chapters and met with Fred and his wife.

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Fred’s unsentimental writing style allows for the horrors he experienced to speak for themselves. Although he writes about the worst of human nature, he also tells about  average people that stood up for what is just. This is why my seven year old was able to enjoy the book along with the rest of us.

When the same novel is shared amongst a family, it’s always interesting to see what resonates with each. What spoke to my children was the bullying that Fred went through. My husband enjoyed the chapters on the planes bound for Arnhem. For me, it was about the places Fred lived, and the idea of what makes a home.

Moving twenty-six times in the years between 1942 and 1945, Fred stayed in many places. Sometimes he was living with families and sometimes his dwelling places were a little more creative. From the end of summer 1943 to mid-January 1944, Fred stayed at the Poultry Palace. Upon seeing his new home, Fred commented,

“The old ramshackle building had probably been built as a shed. There was not a grain of paint left on it and the wood had weathered badly. The structure looked as though it was about to fall apart. I rationalized it would make a good hiding spot. After all, who would think humans could live in there?”

When Fred knocked on the door, he was greeted by a father who was about forty and his thirteen year old son. They spoke in whispers and their constant quest was to make sure their new home always looked like a chicken coop. They had a few crates to sit on and a rough wooden bed frame covered in straw, which they shared with the chickens. Fred’s world now consisted of this six by fourteen shack, two strangers and chickens.

similar to Fred’s home

Although danger and lack of food were constants, Fred says there were many sweet times. They followed daily routines, kept themselves as clean as could be, and concentrated on treating each other with goodwill and civility. Joking, reading, writing and celebrating holidays and occasions filled their day. In such despicable conditions, these human beings lived life.

Upon meeting Fred, I was intrigued with how normal he was. As if he would be anything but normal…yet I kept looking at him thinking about his young self, living in a chicken coop, or sleeping in an underground dugout. For somebody that lived through such horrors, he wanted to talk about sailing, skiing and share a good laugh. I asked him about living in the chicken coop and he said that he concentrated on making the best of things.

Fred van Zuiden

On this day of remembrance, I pause to think of the sacrifices so many made. We of the 3,000 square foot homes, iPads, electric heat and grocery superstores can hardly relate. Yet I think of Fred’s words, ‘concentrate on making the best of things’. Let us today find joy in simple pleasures and give gratitude for what we have.

If you want to meet Fred, check out his website www.callmemom.ca where he lists his book signing schedule for the Calgary area. And yes, I believe a chicken coop can be a home if those living in it have hope and faith and gratitude.

 


If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Remembrance of things past

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Our family takes Remembrance Day pretty seriously. We wear poppies, take part in school celebrations, enter the Legion writing contests and observe the two minute silence on November 11.
 

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My boys have always been interested in learning about WWI and WWII. We’ve taken almost every war book out of the children’s section in the library. They have this need to understand the past and connect it to their own lives.  A discussion about Hitler eventually turns into talking about bullying at school. It’s interesting to see them relate past events to their own lives.
 
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I believe that the past gives the present its value. It’s important to pause, think about what we really value and learn who we are. We all inherit a part of ourselves from our family and it’s important to always have pieces of our history around us.

 

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 Family treasures link generations in a very personal way. It’s important to select meaningful pieces and display them in creative ways. I have never been one for the cluttered look and I really can’t stand having knick knacks everywhere. However, I do believe that objects give off an energy and we should surround ourselves with positive energy and objects that bring a tickle-to-your-tummy.
 
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There are many ways to display items, and as precious as an item may be, I don’t think that anything is too special to use or set out in plain sight. If something is extra special or very small, consider framing it in a shadow box. The keys below really make an impact when framed together.
 
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One of my favourite items that I received from my grandmother’s home was her large cooking spoon. I use it every time I cook. It has a black ebony handle and fits perfectly in my hand. As I skim the fat off my soup broth, or scoop meatballs out of my tomato sauce, I think of all the meals that spoon has created. It was there when my mother and uncle were young, and now it serves my family. There’s a comfort knowing that my grandmother has a hand in nourishing my boys.
 
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Dishes and kitchen items are great to take as remembrances from family. I like the useful factor. Maybe a 12 piece place setting of Limoges china is just way more than you’ll ever use. That’s okay – take the bread and butter plates and use them everyday for snacks.
 
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If a silver tea set is a little over the top in your home, then display just the cream and sugar for some heirloom sparkle. The mix of modern and vintage gives a home an elegance.
 
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Enjoy your items. Don’t pack them away. What would be the use of keeping these vintage hats in a box at the back of the closet. Now every time this family walks by, they see these pieces, and if it matches the outfit, they have a hat to wear!
 
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One of our clients had the most lovely collection of teapots. When it came time to style her home we placed her collection throughout her home. The key to making it work is to do several small groupings rather than one overwhelming display.
 
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Vintage boxes are attractive and those that know me, know I love nothing more than putting everything in a nice box or basket. It keeps the clutter to a minimum and everything looks neat and tidy. Why use plastic when you can use a vintage item with some character.
 
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So many times our clients are looking for tables for a foyer or dining room. An antique pieces gives a room character. Don’t be afraid to mix an old piece with a current look. As a matter of fact, we think that every home needs an antique piece.
 
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Look around your home. Have you filled it with some heirloom pieces that mean something to you? Are you displaying your rich heritage? Staying connected to your past is important.
 
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This Remembrance Day, as we pause and remember the sacrifices made by so many, let’s make a promise to appreciate the simple things and celebrate goodness.
 

If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Favourite orange & black paint colours…not just for Halloween

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All the Halloween preparation this week has got me thinking about black and orange. When used together, we immediately think of ghosts, goblins and trick-or-treaters.

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Halloween aside, black and orange can be a very nice combination  for interiors. If using these two together, they have to be combined with a large amount of a neutral colour. As well, you have to pick either orange or black as the main colour, and then do a small amount of the other.

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Orange is considered an energetic colour. It is often used to draw attention, such as traffic signs or advertising. Orange is fun, flamboyant, dynamic and radiates warmth. Closely related to red, orange has a gentler and more restrained energy.

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Orange painted walls are a big commitment. They can look spectacular but may not be for everyone. A pop of orange, such as a chair, desk or front door, is a much smaller commitment and can really bring a room alive. Last week we discussed the general rule of repeating a colour 3x in a space, and how it’s okay to break that rule and have one stand out piece in a fun colour. Painting one thing in a room orange in a room will give you that pop.

Orange is made up of yellow and red, so look closely at the undertone and see whether it falls on the red or yellow side of orange. I find most people like orange when it is close to a pumpkin colour or the colour of the orange fruit. Don’t play it too safe or else you’ll end up with a wishy washy shade of peach. Taking orange too dark will give you shades along the line of persimmon, which may look more red. Hmmm….notice how orange colours all relate to food?

Some of our favourite orange colours are:

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Years ago when I was in design school, one of my teachers would always preach, “every room needs just a touch of black.” How right she was. Black adds some contrast to a room which gives life. Even though black is a strong colour, a touch of it allows the other colours to shine.
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Painting window trims or garden doors black is a great way to highlight the outside. Since huge tv’s on the wall always look like black holes to us, we like to paint out the wall black to help the tv disappear. Painting small rooms black is a way to create elegance and give a tiny space some presence. Front doors always look good in a dark colour, and we like the many hues that black comes in, such as blue-black, green-black and our current favourite, black cherry.
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Some of our go-to black paint colours are:

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Although now we’re in November and Halloween is so last month, don’t give up on orange and black. Whether you use them together or separately, these are two amazing colours and though they’re artsy and high style, they are not trendy.

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Even mother nature puts black and orange together. Notice how she keeps it fresh with bright green. This combination, with the grey-white fence as background, is stunning. And now in Calgary, we have a lot of white outside on the ground and covering all the trees. I was sort of hoping the snow might hold off for a while longer. I guess the only thing to do is to go for a walk and soak up the colours of Autumn and Winter intermingling.

Hope you have a nice warm week. Next Sunday, in honour of Remembrance Day, we’ll talk about the importance of having some pieces in your home that have a history. Photos, collectibles and furniture that are tied to your past and bring sweet remembrances of days gone by.


If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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How to keep Warm Colours looking Fresh

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Autumn is such a pretty time. The landscape comes alive with such vivid hues.  It’s spectacular seeing the rich browns, oranges yellows and reds we associate with the season. The sheer beauty of it all can take your breath away.

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Most people will tell you they like the Autumn colours and want to be outside in nature during this season. Men in particular will say they like to have these warm colours in their home. And they’ll say it out loud, because they don’t care that everyone seems to be adopting the grey trend. Most men don’t know that earth tones have a bad rep and are oh-so-1990. But I’ll say it too, I love warm colours.

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Yes yes I know…you’re thinking brown leather sofa, red and gold cushions, burgundy feature wall…heavy, dark, choking colour. You’re also thinking massive, ornate furniture. Quick, open a window, we can’t breathe.

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Yet nature get’s it perfect every time. It’s all about the mix of warm and cool. You don’t need to give up your favourite warm colours if you want to look current.

 

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Brown is such a great colour…solid, lovely, warm, strong and much much softer than black. We work with a lot of brown and there are ways to make it look fresh. Mix it with cream. Mix it with a fresh blue grey, pop it with chartreuse. A lot of people still have their brown leather sofas…and yes you can make it look of-the-moment.

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Almost everyone loves red…it’s been described as the colour of life. If images of heavy dark red dining rooms are popping into your head – give your head a shake. Instead, imagine red and cream, maybe a touch of navy or grey, lots of air and lots of light…suddenly red is fresh, current and breathable.

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Warm finishes are showing up everywhere now. Pairing gold with cool tones like greys and blues bring an element of luxe to a room. Mixing finishes is okay too. Silver, gold, pewter and black all go perfectly together.

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This hardwood floor and gold coloured rug look current when paired with the grey fabric on this chair.

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Most people have finally replaced all their burgundy and green furnishings and we never thought we’d see this combination again. Burgundy and green are back…and it looks so modern. The burgundy is a bit more plummy and the green a bit fresher.

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As you can see, it’s a combination that mother nature’s been using forever. Yet it looks so modern when done on the inside of a home.

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To me, the colour of October is orange…beautiful orange pumpkins, leaves and berries. Orange and brown together may scream 70′s or A&W…although I noticed that A&W has a new logo and a new look, but orange is a fantastic colour. Again, just make sure it’s mixed with a cool colour  such as grey, blue or cream, so it’s not too saturated.

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There are no bad colours…it’s just about the combinations. If you’re ever in doubt, take a look outside your window and you’ll see colour combinations that are perfect. Take your inspiration from nature and you can’t go wrong. Have a happy week and next Sunday, since it’s Thanksgiving, our blog is all about things in our home we’re thankful for.

Keep cozy,


If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Outdoor cooking and entertaining – a real life story

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It’s always a pleasure to get invited for an evening to Rod and Alexa’s house. Well, actually you don’t really go into the house, as all the entertaining takes place in their backyard.  Rod has built a wonderful stone oven and they’ve created a gorgeous outdoor living space. It’s absolutely fantastic. Spring through Fall, it’s dining under the vines. The space stays nice and cozy from the roaring fireplace. During the winter months, Rod still cooks in his brick oven and likes to tell the story of the New Year’s Eve it was -45 outside and he cooked pizzas for everyone.

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When you walk into the backyard, there in front of you is a long rectangle space that has a brick oven at one end and a fireplace at the other. It all sits on a concrete pad and has a vine covered pergola stretching over the entire space. There’s hanging cast-iron pans, cheese graters, rolling pins and other cooking utensils. Bottles of olive oil sit on the large wooden pizza board and there’s always a good supply of wine sitting on the rustic table.

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Rod is a stonemason and he created his own oven. He can tell you all the technical details about heat retention and ideal cooking temperatures. All I know is that when we took the internal temperature to cook the chickens, it was shooting up past 600 degrees. Once the oven gets to the temperature Rod wants, he scoops out all the wood and coals and deposits this into the fireplace at the other end.

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Rod is also a cook. He knows how to blend flavours and create dishes with seasonal ingredients. Rod pairs his wine carefully with the food he prepares. Alexa is the organizer and decorator. She plans out the evenings and sets the table to suit the meal. There’s always pretty linen napkins and tablecloths. She has the most beautiful serving dishes that make the table look so pretty. And as the evening gets going, there might even be singing and some tap dancing.

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What I like best about Alexa and Rod’s entertaining style is that it’s the real deal. They’ve put a lot of thought into the function of their space. It works for them to host from and it’s easy and fun for the guests.

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Now that harvest season is here, Rod is creating rustic, hearty food. They’re stoking the fireplace to take out the chill, and there’s a stack of cozy blankets. You’ve  got to love how they embrace the season and get so much enjoyment from their space. They truly understand the balance between function and pretty.

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I truly hope that your space brings you joy and good memories. It’s those sweet memories that remain with us for years. Enjoy the Autumn season and embrace the goodness of everyday moments.

If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Summer inspiration…how mother nature does it best

Sometimes people ask us where we get our inspiration from. Is it HGTV or magazines or what? The biggest source of inspiration for us is mother nature…nobody does colour and texture better.

Since it’s the  long weekend and the end of summer holidays, we’ve put together some of our inspiring pics. Those truly Canadian colour combinations that will stay in our mind as the warm weather fades.

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Goodbye summer 2014. It’s been a slice.

We’ve got some really big projects lined up for the next few months and some great ideas for dorm decor, budget decorating and as always the before and afters. Check back every Sunday, or sign up to get the blog emailed direct to your inbox.

Happy first day of school!!

 


If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Canada True North Colours and some holiday pics

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I don’t know about you, but there’s something about summer that brings out the Canadian in me. I’m just so darned proud of our country and think it’s so beautiful. We really are blessed to have so much wilderness around us. This year Debbie, Taegan and myself ended up vacationing nearby each other in Northwestern Ontario. We actually had a business meeting on the dock…really,  we did talk business!

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The rugged beauty of this area has inspired Taegan, and she’s been busy capturing it with her camera. Nature has always been a huge inspiration for us, and we’re constantly amazed at the colour combinations we see. Nobody does colour better than Mother Nature! We’ve put together a few collages of inspiration for you.

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We’ve also included some paint suggestions from General Paints. Started 96 years ago, General Paints is a Vancouver based company proud of their Canadian heritage. A few years ago, they took their  colours that have been consistently popular in Canada since the 1940′s, and called this collection Canadiana Historic. When it came to naming the collection, General Paints asked their staff from across the country to suggest a place or thing that evokes Canada for them. Then the head office staff set about matching the names to the colours.

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These are the colours of Canada. With names such as Trans-Canada Highway (dark grey),  Moose (dark brown), Killer Whale (black), Old Growth (leaf green) and Juno Awards (pale blue), these colours evoke our identity.

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You can pick up a brochure at General Paints that has all 120 Canadiana Historic colours. Reading the names and seeing the colours is like taking a trip to every corner of Canada.  About half way through reading, you’ll come to Canuck Red. Be careful, because your chest will start to puff out and you might find yourself proudly humming the national anthem!

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Debbie and Taegan join me in wishing you a very happy and Canadian long weekend.


If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Our summer so far…

It was a weekend of weddings. Both Taegan and I had a wedding on July 12 – hers in BC and mine in Ontario. Both were small weddings in small towns, held outdoors. Each bride put tons of thought into her special day, making sure that family and friends were received well. Two brides, two different styles. One thing was the same at both weddings though – and that was how much fun the guests had and the sweet moments when young and old spent time together.

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If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Show your Canadian Pride.

Canada Day is my favourite holiday…and not just because it happens in summer. Well, maybe the sunshine, warm weather and celebrating outside do have something to do with it. But mostly Canada Day is my favourite because I’m proud to be Canadian. We are so lucky to live in this country…and mostly I take it for granted.

The girls and I just redid a dental office and the theme was Canadiana. We wanted to celebrate what makes us special and those little touches that say ‘we’re Canadian and proud‘. Now we’re on a mission to put a little Canada in every home.

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I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.
– John Diefenbaker (From the Canadian Bill of Rights, July 1, 1960.)

Happy Birthday Canada! Enjoy the party.

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If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.

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Truly Canadian

To celebrate Canada’s birthday, here’s a short list of favourite Canadian decorating items.

1.  Hudson Bay Blanket

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Hudson Bay blankets are a symbol from the beginning of our country. Originally valued for their warmth, even when wet, the Hudson Bay Blanket now holds iconic status in Canada. There’s nothing better than snuggling down deep in a bed made up with a Hudson Bay blanket.

2. Toboggans

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Before crazy carpets and steerable sleds, there was the toboggan. The thrill of going down the hill, made up for the chore of lugging it back to the top. Toboggans were the original mode of transporting goods for the Inuit and Cree. Today, they are not so commonly seen on the sledding hill, but have made their way into Canadian decor.

3.  Log Furniture

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Whether it’s as simple as using stumps for chairs around the campfire, log furniture has been the Canadian way. It continues to be popular in fashionable interiors and Canadian designers such as Brent Comber are internationally known.

4. Canadiana

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It’s not just moose antlers and Mounties. Canada is known for more than we give ourselves credit for. Throwing in a bit of Canadiana works for all decor styles. Repurposing bits of our heritage keeps us connected to the past and adds interest to interiors. Love this to hold books and newspapers.

5. Maple Leaf Forever

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If the days of hanging a Canadian flag in the window are long gone, then this patriotic cushions offers a grown up way to display your pride. The maple leaf is the quintessential Canadian symbol. Show yours with style.

Happy Birthday Canada. Cheers to living in one of the freest, happiest and welcoming places around!


If you would like to make good design a part of your life, email me.

Karen Fron Interior Design is a Calgary based design firm. We believe that a well functioning and beautiful home makes life better. It’s not about how much you have, it’s about using what you have to create beauty.