It takes an army.

We are a week away from the move-in… we started this project about 3 years ago with an idea and now it’s almost ‘done’ (it’ll never be really done…). Looking back now at all the work that we have put into it and thinking about all the people that have contributed their time, energy and talents – I wanted to highlight a few (of the many!).
We, my mother and husband and I, have all worked very hard to make this house happen, from layout planning, assembling looks and finishes for the spaces, physical labour of digging out gravel (I think Sandy has moved all the gravel around the house a couple times over…!) but we couldn’t have made this house happen without the army of people that have worked so hard to turn this project from dream to reality. I’ve worked with some of these people for years and others I’ve worked with for the first time but would work with again – either way, I hold all these people and their talents close to my little design heart!

This house would never have gotten up off of its feet without the great crew from NovaMax Contracting – they are a great group of humble, patient and hardworking guys – so hardworking that they don’t even have the time to be on social media!

Garrit & Graham
Garrit and Graham from Steadfast Contracting – also an amazing part of the team that built this house – with us from day one, digging away… just digging away… !

They’ve stuck through this project since day one, through rain, snow and freezing temperatures and putting up with the three of us asking them so many questions like ‘why are you doing it that way?’… ugh! Garrit and Nick and all of them have been patient and dedicated and have gone the extra mile for the last year (even helping my mother put air in her tire when it died in front of the job site!) – you guys are great !


Garrit_with doors
Garrit from NovaMax Contracting – a little overseeing of a final concrete pour and guarding of our door delivery at the same time !

Kits Construction and Kenny Gemmill have been helping us with this project from the start and have recently joined us on site to complete the interior finishing and power through the HOME stretch (get it?!) and meet the move-in deadline. No strangers to deadlines, I’ve been working with these guys for years on the show and their capacity for detailed work (20 minute conversation about an outside corner detail anyone…??) under pressure is what always gets the job done on time and done well – thank you guys !

Aidan and Matt from Kits Construction – I may not always agree with their choice of music on the job site, but I’m always impressed by their skills and ability to solve whatever comes their way !

The most hard working tile setter I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with , and, quite possibly, the most skilled: Jacky has been working some late nights…  I love seeing gorgeous product installed with great skill, it just brings the best out of everything ! He eye-balls his 1/16” grout lines and it looks like it was put down with a laser… Jacky, you’re amazing and I hope this job doesn’t kill you!

Jacky – the tile ninja – he’s not checking Facebook on his phone, he’s doing some fast math – I think !
Jacky lays out the Cement Tile Shop ‘zebra terrazzo’ tile for the front entry – making sure the pattern lines up with the front door.

Lance the flooring master – works like the devil (he installed 2000sf of floor in 2.5 days!) and does an amazing job. I never thought I’d have such gorgeous stair nosings in my life !


Chroma Decorating – these must be the happiest painters around – not only are they great at what they do and hard working, but there’s a little Latin flavour that enters the job site with some salsa music…. a few cha cha steps on the scaffolding… can’t get any better than dancing while you’re working !



And last but not least.. ha ha… At Last Landscaping – you guys poured sweat (lots of sweat), some blood and, well, the tears were mine – into the front and back hardscape for this house. It looks amazing – we never thought we’d have such professionally installed hardscape (as we’ve always cobbled it together ourselves over the years…) and I just can’t stop staring at it all! Looking forward to lunch served on the patio !


A designer can dream and draw and source but a designer is only as good as the people he or she works with and I have to say, this designer couldn’t have dreamed of a better team to be working with on her home – thank you everyone, you all have a standing invitation to dinnner !





Designer: design thy self

Designing your own home – as a designer – is a nerve-wracking, stressful and pull-your-hair-out overwhelming experience but, as the project nears to a close, I can see it will be one of the most satisfying things I will ever do.

Designers know too much. We have too much at our fingertips, we eat, sleep and talk design all day long and know too much about what is possible that our palette of choices becomes so broad it can be over-whelming. When I work with a client, we strive to make sure that the house is a reflection of who lives in it and I get to know them and their tastes in order to make this happen but it’s at a fairly immediate level. I generally don’t have a 30-year history with our clients and I don’t know every nook and cranny of their psyche and what makes them tick like I know myself. Therefore, making a choice for myself is far more of an undertaking than making a choice for a client.

On the other hand, I have been thinking about some of the elements of this house for over 3 years now – possibly more considering the years when the idea of this renovation was just a dream – and some decisions have been so easy you could hardly call them a ‘decision’ as there was only one right choice (for us). Other choices were more difficult and I’ve let them percolate for as long as possible until someone had to know what I wanted in order to build it. It’s this percolation that keeps me up at night but once I’ve made the decision, I’ve stuck to it as undoing things cost way too much time and money on a project this size !

Also, at least I find I’m this way, I like almost any form of design: traditional, modern, euro-eclectic, Tuscan-country, Santa Fe rustic… all can have pleasing aspects and wanting to do a little bit of everything will only get you into trouble and the result may end up looking like an indecisive jumble of nonsense… however…  pulling from everything you know, selecting pieces and complimenting them in a harmonious, collected and thoughtful design is what we, as designers, do best and what we need to spend time doing for ourselves – which is difficult to do. On the list of things I have for myself every day, the elements I need to decide on for my own project always end up at the bottom of the list and that creates stress, delays and rushed decisions when a painter is standing with brush in hand asking what colour to paint the walls… !

What’s also difficult is to not get swept up in what is ‘hot’ right now. It’s important to find the truth of every design, to have it reflect the client and/or the audience and not simply pick a tile because it’s the ‘it’ tile of the minute but select a tile because it’s the tile you want to live with for the rest of your life… No pressure… !!

The third thing I find difficult as a designer designing my own home is how the finished product (will it ever be finished?!) will showcase my abilities, tastes and talent as a professional. What will people think? Will I be judged on this as a designer – of course I will – and can I stand by every decision I have made?


I’m proud of this house, this project and the evolution it has taken. I’ve learned a heck of a lot and I have also applied what I have learned over the years as a designer to make smart choices and – hopefully – produce interesting results! This is a project of the heart, and I am not alone in making it happen: The house will be for my husband and my mother to live in together (Italian style!) and we have all had a part in making every selection. My mother and I have similar tastes and tend to battle it out until we’ve made the right choice and my husband makes sure I can always ground a style decision in practicality which I can appreciate (and have saved the “because it’s pretty” weapon for pillow shopping…!). All in all, we are a good team but it hasn’t been without tears, small fights and head-banging arguments but it’s all because we want the best product for our home.

I would do this all over again in a minute.  I’ve learned so much from taking on such a personal and large project and I look forward to applying things I’ve learned in future projects. I think it’s important to be able to look back at all your choices and be able to stand by them but I also know that this house will evolve and grow over time and continue to take on various design shapes. Knowing that the foundation of the design is solid is, in my mind, is the only way to build a house that you’ll enjoy and grow with for years to come.

[sorry for the lack of pretty pictures with this post, this was more of a diary entry than a progress update – photos to come in next post – and soon !]


LIOLI Reno: Danielle & Trevor

It was such a pleasure to work on this beautiful old house for such a great couple ! They trusted the LIOLI team and we hope we gave them something to  grow in to for years to come…


To see more photos and read the full blog, visit Jillian Harris‘s site as well as Love it or List it Vancouver for the video and resource guide to product used in the episode.