Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tommy Smythe does Ottawa: Effervescent HGTV designer headlines Home & Design Show

OTTAWA — You may have to eat noodles for a couple of weeks, says Tommy Smythe, but if saving money on food means you can afford a top-end sofa, then tighten your belt and go for it. Your stomach won’t thank you, but your home will for years to come.

Smythe, best known as the effervescent designer and co-host of HGTV’s popular home-improvement shows Sarah 101 and Sarah`s House, is the celebrity designer and one of several experts presenting seminars at this year’s Ottawa Home & Design Show Sept. 27 to 29.

The fifth annual show at the Ernst & Young Centre in Ottawa’s south end features over 150 exhibitors offering home-improvement products, services and design ideas.

The bow tie-loving Smythe points to his own homes — he seems to move almost as often as most of us brush our teeth — as an example of buying high-quality furnishings for the long run.

“Examine old photos, and you’ll see I use the same pieces of furniture again and again. Authenticity and quality are really important.”

In his Ottawa seminars (he presents twice on Saturday and once on Sunday), Toronto-based Smythe will speak about when to splurge and when to be frugal in decorating your home, as well as how to create layered, personalized spaces by mixing decor.

As an example of the latter, he suggests blending classic and contemporary: “Art deco can really dovetail well into a very contemporary environment, a minimalist environment.”

For drama, put a black velvet or emerald green couch against a contrasting white wall hung with dark artwork.

The key is to ensure your home tells your own story, he says. Don’t be shy about using furnishings and accessories that are precious to you, items that “are about your life, your travels, your interests.” Adding a sprinkling of new, contemporary accessories helps freshen up those older, personal items.

Encouragingly, Smythe says everyone has a sense of style: It just needs to be given the freedom to stretch and explore.

While he’s big on the democratization of style, the chatty designer is less enthusiastic about many of the condos being built.

He says that while touted as “minimalist,” the units actually have little architectural pizzazz and may be built with lesser-quality materials.

His solution is to first strip out builder-supplied backsplashes and light fixtures, replacing the latter, for example, with vintage or high-quality contemporary items.

“Then you start to have an envelope that will support really great furniture and really beautiful artwork.”

Speaking of condos, other seminars at this year’s show include tips on buying and decorating them from 
Ottawa’s condo queen, realtor Marnie Bennett.

Candice Batista of television’s The Marilyn Denis Show will offer room-by-room strategies for living green.
Homeowners with basements that aren’t living up to their potential should catch the seminar by Norm Lecuyer, lead designer & owner of Ottawa’s Just Basements. His firm has created intriguing spaces in this often difficult-to-design space.

Other presentations cover everything from hiring a contractor to green roofs and solar energy.
Also on tap: rooms, each with a different design perspective, created by celebrity designers Glen Peloso, Joe Ruggiero and Yanic Simard. The threesome won’t be on-site, but there will be videos by each explaining their design processes.

As always, there’s a wealth of exhibitors. They range from kitchen and bathroom specialists to renovators, solarium and sunroom suppliers (something to consider as winter edges closer), and roofing companies.
New exhibitors this year include Cornwall-based Neo Vintage Furniture. The retailer specializes in the chic industrial look including bright red and yellow dining room chairs and wood-and-metal side tables. Its website (neovintagefurniture.ca) also features hip decorative items such as mounted industrial gears starting at $19.99.

The recently established Urban Shed Company (urbanshedco.ca) is also on hand. The Glebe-based business sells outdoor storage units such as bench lockers to house recycling boxes, garden planters and custom hutches and sheds.

Designed with a particular eye to the space limitations of urban homeowners, the products are made of western red cedar and other woods. Colours like brick red and blue-greys match those found in the Glebe and other heritage areas.

The Ottawa branch of Luxe Interiors is also exhibiting for the first time at this year’s show. The store on Carling Avenue carries stylish home furnishings, rugs and accessories including elegant Stanley furniture. The business also has an in-house design team.

Home & Design Show
When: Sept. 27 to 29
Where: Ernst & Young Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr.
Hours: Friday, noon to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: $12 (children under 12 free); parking $7.
Information: caneastshows.ca

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