Tiny Office Update: Fresh White

When we first moved into our home just over two years ago, we had originally thought this would be some sort of office, but because it was the empty third bedroom at the time of move-in, it quickly turned into the easiest place to store all of the things that didn't have a home yet. I let it sit for a year and a half, and in the meantime tried out a new office space downtown. 

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As I've said before in previous blogs, there were a few main reasons that having a downtown office didn't work for me:

a) It was in a temporary space. We built a moving wall in my sister-in-law's shop, Rock Steady, that acted as walls for my office and then rolled out to create a large room for my boyfriend's gig at the time - hosting musicians and artists for shows. Super cool concept. Super impressive wall that he built. Not good for someone that needs consistency and a clean, organized space all the time. 

b) I'm an introvert, and I spend my people time wisely. Being able to hear everyone coming into the shop, and never knowing when a friend or client was going to pop in unannounced trashed my work flow. I love seeing my people, but I can't have a solid day of editing with interruptions. It just doesn't work me. 

c) I had big plans to do many more indoor shoots there, and I'm so happy I took advantage of that while I could, but the reality is that I want to do more intimate lifestyle shoots, and I was constantly fighting with the big south facing windows. There is a thing as too much natural light! Crazy right? 

So here I am now, working out of my home office/guest bedroom, and it suits me just fine. A future goal is to get/build a sofa bed so that I can have more space for shooting in here, and I can meet with clients by my computer, but as it stands now this is perfect. 

This is what it looked like when we moved in, before the crazy piles of junk took over:

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White is pretty standard for my offices. I've had three official offices now, and I can't see myself painting them anything but white again. White is great for displaying art, viewing photos, and it doesn't cast any pigment onto my clients should I choose to shoot in my office. 
It was an extremely easy update: fill the holes in the walls, prime the walls, paint them white, and then move in. Every single item in my office is something that I owned previously, and I just repurposed to fill this room.  I went through a long phase of trying to convince myself to be a minimalist, but I've definitely discovered that "hygge" sits with me much better. 

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is the Danish art of creating joy & coziness in life’s everyday moments, whatever the season or time of day.

In my own home setting it means minimizing clutter and getting rid of things that don't serve a purpose, and only keeping things around me that create joy and happiness when I walk into a room - making more room for cozy moments. A topic for later discussion perhaps, but suffice it to say when I was choosing items for my shelves in here, I stopped forcing myself to make it look like a blank canvas and let myself fill the shelves with the books I love, the small knickknacks that make me happy, and as many plants as I wanted.
*click or swipe on the plant photo below to start moving the gallery

One of the biggest changes I wanted to make was putting a door on the office/bedroom. Originally, I think this room was meant to be a suite or master bedroom of sorts with the door at the beginning of the hallway, and then an open bathroom that leads off to the left and the master bedroom (my now office) at the end of the hallway. I wanted to separate the two since we have a master bedroom upstairs as well, so we opened up the hallway and moved the door to the end where the bedroom is. So much better! I knew the hallway would be white as well, but I held off on painting around the door because I wasn't sure if I would continue the colour there - huge regret! Now I just have this trip of old green around my door that I'll have to prime and paint white at some point - oh well! Below is the before and after of the hallway, in case you can't understand my random babbling:

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Just so you know, putting a door on isn't really that hard (disclaimer: my boyfriend did most of the work), and again painting is so so easy. Anyone can do it, it just takes practice. I'm always in shock that people don't ever paint their homes. My mom, sister, and I were laughing the other night reminiscing on how many cans of paint we've put into our homes (especially my mom's!), and I couldn't imagine it any other way. Paint is amazing and the cheapest way to update a room. 

Total Costs:
+door - $0 (we re-used the door that was at the end of the hallway)
+paint & primer - $150 (it took a lot of primer to cover up that green enough to get a bright white)
+my only new purchase for my office - my 'Odds & Ends' container that I found for $10

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I'm generally a pretty decisive person, and I often find it easy to see my next steps and which path I will take, but making the decision to move out of my downtown office and back into my home was a difficult one. The number one thing that was holding me back is what I thought people would think of me - that I was flighty, and uncommitted, and crazy for moving my office around so much. And the number one thing that helped me get over that was this saying: 

Don’t Cling to a Mistake Just Because You Spent a lot of Time Making it. — Aubrey De Graf

But you know what? I don't even know if I would classify it as a mistake anymore. I can clearly see that I had to take that step in order to end up where I am over here, and isn't that the way most things in life are?

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DIY Double Harness for Photographers

When I first started shooting weddings, or shooting anything for that matter, I wore my camera the traditional way - hanging around my neck like a keeled over hunchback with the thick strap rubbing back and forth, plucking out my baby curly hairs as the hours dragged on. Get the picture? My neck and my back suffered so much, and I used to have a migraine and sore shoulders for two days after each wedding. 

I started looking into getting a harness for my third season of weddings, and I just so happened to stumble across this amazing vendor at a Calgary market - www.envystraps.com. I've literally been singing the praises of this harness for years now, and I feel like people just aren't taking me seriously enough - so I had to write a post on it! 

This strap is 1) handmade in Canada, 2) so stretchy and comfortable that it doesn't limit any shots, or push on any pressure points in the neck/shoulder region, and 3) so stupidly affordable that you're absolutely crazy not to buy it. I guess I should add here that this is not a sponsored post, I just love this harness that much. 

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As you can see above, I wear mine with two cameras on it for weddings. It's originally made for one camera, but two seasons ago I figured out how to mod it up so I could carry both of my babies on my person. I took the original harness from www.envystraps.com (https://www.envystraps.com/camera-harness), and I combined it with pieces from "probably" the most popular camera harness out there, the Money Maker from Hold Fast.

Why didn't I just save up and get a harness from Hold Fast? For one, gear gets expensive and you have to pick and choose what you're going to spend your money on, so earlier on I went with this Envy harness because of that. I also have so many problems with knots in my lower neck and shoulder, that I was worried that a non-stretchy material like leather would dig into my shoulders. I've never tried one on, so if anyone out there owns one and can let me know how it feels on the shoulders that'd be great! 

Moving on, here are the pieces I bought from www.holdfastgear.com to turn my strap into a dual-carrier:

(TWO) of the Camera Holdfast Accessory Clips - one for each camera https://holdfastgear.com/products/the-camera-holdfast-accessory-clip

(TWO) of the Safety Catches - one for each camera to double-hook them to the Envy strap
https://holdfastgear.com/products/safety-catch

All of these pieces, plus the Envy strap, come to around $130CAD before shipping, compared to one of the cheaper Hold Fast harnesses that comes to around $300CAD before shipping. 

One day I will own all of the beautiful leather accessories and bags from Hold Fast, but until then I'm pretty content with this mod of an awesome harness. I especially love it for traveling/hiking, since it sits really close to your body when there is just one camera on it. The other amazing thing? As a photographer we're often showing clients poses, or bending over to adjust props and clothing, and with a traditional camera strap your camera often swings out and hits things. Not with this strap. I can do so much with my hands completely free now, I don't think I can ever switch back to a normal strap on my camera.

BUT

There always has to be a but.

If you can't afford to buy ANY new gear now, not even the super affordable $50 Envy Harness, then I would highly recommend changing the way you wear your camera to something more like this (modeled by my dashing boyfriend):

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Wearing your camera across your body still allows you to shoot both portrait and landscape style without too much restriction, and takes a lot of the strain off of your neck. Even your tiny point-and-shoot camera should be worn like this - no more hunching like a tourist. 

As always, all questions are welcome! 

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Updating a Bathroom on a Budget

We bought our house in June of 2016, and I had been dreaming for years already of getting to renovate my own house. I grew up in a household that was always renovating, landscaping, and dreaming up DIY projects, so it's actually become a source of creativity and a stress reliever for me. 

There's just something about buying a $50 can of paint and seeing the impact it can have on your house that really gets to me - I know I'm weird.

Anyways, the first easy little project I got my hands on only a month or two after moving in was the upstairs bathroom. We use it as our main bathroom and I wanted to put a fresh coat of paint on it, since the previous users had rented the house for a couple of years and it needed to be freshened up. 

When I first started deciding on paint for our house, I had somewhat of a plan in mind, but really I was just winging it. It's funny to look at where I am two years later, and how my paint palette for the house actually flows so well now - lucky  mistake! 

I chose a bright white for the upstairs bathroom, and we also happened to land ourselves a cheap piece of granite and backsplash, so I decided to try painting the cabinets as well while I was at it. This was my first go around painting cabinets, and I wanted to test out the colour and techniques I had planned for our kitchen before taking on a project that big. 

Painting the bathroom cabinets was a breeze, and now over a year and a half later, the only scuff marks are on the upper cabinet next to the window where the wall scrapes the side of the door - this paint job held up really well.

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It's a pretty plain bathroom I guess, but I like that it's easy to clean, and I prefer bathrooms to be clutter-free - you should step out of the shower feeling refreshed, not crowded and overwhelmed by toiletries. 
Another piece of art might help, but so far I'm happy with my tiny little watercolour succulents that I painted on a whim. That's the cool thing about art these days - you don't even have to be that good at painting to make free art for your home!
Also, side note, do NOT EVER get plain white tile for your flooring if you have a human or pet with dark hair in your home. It drives me insane, and to top it off the only long bathmat I could find was white, so I'm always throwing it in the wash with bleach to keep it from looking absolutely disgusting. 

In the end, this was a fast, cheap, easy way to make the bathroom feel new again. Over the past two years of owning our own home I've discovered a few things about renovations and design:
1. It doesn't have to be top-of-the-line all the time
2. It needs to be functional for your family - not the internet critics
3. Paint goes a long, long way (I think I already knew that one)
4. Your house is just fine the way it is. You're not living in a cardboard box, and that's pretty cool, so be thankful that you have this wooden box to call your home. If you want to change something, do it within a budget that works for you, but don't let the thought of updating your home stress you out. 
5. Decluttering feels like a renovation too, and it costs you nothing.

After it was all said and done, this is what I spent:
1 Can of White Zinsser Primer: $50
1 Can of White Eggshell Paint: $40
1 Can of Grey Semi-Gloss Paint: $40
New Mirror: $60 (Home Sense)
Shower Curtain/Rod: $60
Art: Free
Granite/Backsplash/Sink: Hugely reduced cost - I'd recommend just doing one big piece of tile if you want to update your countertop for cheap, or even trying one of those laminate painting kits (I've never tried one, but they can't be that bad).

If you have any questions, comments, or your own renovations to share, feel free! 
 

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The Do’s & Dont’s of Painting the Kitchen Cabinets

*This post was originally written in 2017 on my old blog*
I honestly think I’ve been putting off writing about the Kitchen Reno solely because I have no desire to look back on all of my photos of painting the kitchen cabinets. Before I started the project, I googled a lot of similar blog posts and talked to my mom about the techniques she used when she painted her cabinets years ago. She warned me that it was an awful job, and to only do it when I was fully prepared. It’s really one of those weird jobs where it’s not necessarily hard to do, it’s extremely hard to stay motivated and finish all of the coats/ commit to drying times. It ended up taking me almost two months to completely finish the job (and if we’re being honest here, I’m not actually done yet – I still have touch-ups and some small areas that I missed to paint). So what I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid to do this job! But do know that it’s highly likely you may lose motivation part way through, or if you’re really good at powering through these kinds of things, then know that it will take you a full week and a LOT of painting space to do all of your cabinets.

When we were deciding on the ‘design’ aspect of our reno, I knew there were a few things that were high on the list of what our kitchen was lacking:

  1. It was too dark. You can’t really tell in the photo below, but I really had to bump up my flash settings to get this photo to appear bright. That fan didn’t give off enough light, and the kitchen window faces the North, as well as our covered front porch, so there wasn’t a whole lot of natural light streaming in either.
  2. The grey/beige walls weren’t helping reflect light into the room, and made it feel a bit dingy and dirty.
  3. The whole kitchen felt stunted, for lack of a better word. It felt closed in, and not as welcoming as I like a kitchen to feel.
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So I wanted something bright and clean that made our kitchen feel bigger, but still welcoming and cozy: two-toned cabinets. A little bit risky, since this is probably a bit of a fad and might go out of style quicker than painting your cabinets all the same colour, but it fit the bill for what I was trying to accomplish in our kitchen.

We went with a darker grey on the bottom cabinets to keep that cozy, welcoming feeling. They also get the most wear and tear in our house, so the darker paint tends to hide more dirt. For example, our friend (he felt awful) accidentally spilled two glasses of red wine all over the kitchen the other weekend, but it only hit the grey cabinets and wiped off super easy. I’m talking tidal wives of red wine. Everywhere. It would probably come off of white cabinets too, but it would definitely take some more elbow grease.

Moving on. I chose a cool white for the top cabinets to create the illusion of height and openness. Putting a lighter colour on top makes the room appear taller and less “stunted”, and reflects more natural light back into the room. I hesitated for a couple minutes before I went to buy the paint, and considered just doing it all grey, but I knew I wanted that big, open feeling – so glad I went with my gut!

I think it’s really important to sit down and think about what  you really want from a space, and what aspects of it aren’t making you happy before you start a renovation. I believe renovations should be about adding functionality and beauty to your space – don’t get focused on big ticket items and wowing “the internet” or your friends. It has to be suitable to you and your family, and make sense in your house. There are two areas that I always feel like need to be clean and bright – the kitchen and the bathroom. It makes the spaces feel welcoming to me, and puts me at ease.

Ok! On to the actual painting of the cabinets. Could you tell I was procrastinating again?

Here is what I did to paint my cabinets in short step-by-step form:
1. Remove all of the existing hardware

2. Fill the hardware holes with Wood Filler, let dry, and sand/wipe to create smooth surface

3. Remove the doors from the hinges and place all screws in a ziploc bag

4. Set up your painting space – a flat surface on sawhorses, garage floor, outside – wherever you’re going to do it, make sure you have enough room to do a significant amount of doors at a time

5. Wipe down doors with hot water mixed with TSP (found at local hardware store)

6. Prime! Yup, I skipped sanding completely. Tsk, tsk. 

If you can, just leave your drawers in place and prime/paint them where they are. This is so much easier than lugging those drawers around and standing them up to paint. I recommend making sure your kitchen floor is relatively clean and vacuumed before painting each coat though – little hairs and fibres can easily pop up from the floor and stick to your paint before it dries.

7. Paint. 

By now, I was completely painting by hand with only a brush. I believe this isn’t recommended, and everyone warned against it since you can usually see the brush strokes after, but I’m stubborn so I painted the entire door with a brush, and didn’t use a roller for these. I did all the creases first, then the sides, and then the middle. Super fast. One thing you should know about me is that I will cut corners wherever possible as long as it doesn’t affect the overall integrity of the project. I know that I’m super fast with a brush, and that I was procrastinating way too hard on this painting project, so I just went for it. I suppose if you want to do it the right way, make sure you sand after wiping down your cabinets, and then spray them or roll them. But who wants to do the right thing all the time?

I made sure I stacked my doors carefully, or left them on the sawhorses drying, for at least 3-4 days before moving them. This really extended the time of the project, but I wanted to be sure that the paint cured before hanging them to avoid any chance of peeling the paint. As for the cabinets, I waited about a week after painting them before I hung any doors on them. Our cabinets are not real wood, and the crown moulding on the tops are actually plastic, so I wanted to be absolutely sure that the paint was on thick and fully dried before re-attaching the wooden cabinet doors.

The last step was adding the new hardware! We bought our handles from IKEA, and it cost us about $150 total to buy all new handles. Hardware is expensive, but it makes such a big difference. A more budget-friendly option would have been spray-painting our existing knobs and handles – don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do what works for your budget and household. 

And here are the end results:

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As always, if you have any questions or you’ve done your own renovations, feel free to share! 

Products Used:
Primer: Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer for All Surfaces (walls and cabinets).
Paint: Standard Latex Paint Semi-Gloss
Cleaner: TSP for prepping surfaces

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Minimalist Maternity Session: Keeping it Simple

I was overjoyed when this lovely lady approached me about photographing her maternity photos - I don't often do maternity sessions, but every once in awhile I'll take on one of these projects, especially when I know someone is on the same page as me.
We both agreed - simple, beautiful portraits that showcased her cute bump at this important stage before baby.

A maternity session can be whatever you want it to be. 

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