How to tackle choosing colors for your home

“The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.” Coco Chanel

Yes, indeed. We all know that picking a color and choosing a hue for your home can be daunting. Overwhelming. Downright scary for some of us. The responsibility of deciding the shade of blue/grey/yellow/red/white that will set the tone and the mood of your space makes many to resort going with the tried-and-true neutral, or opting for “what’s currently trendy” option. Nothing wrong with either of these choices, per se, although it does not really capture the “you” in the choice. After all, who will truthfully claim that their personality matches the neutral beige walls?

Helping to choose and pick colors is something I really enjoy. Working with my clients, getting to know their lifestyle, their likes and dislikes, chatting with them about their favorite objects in their homes (that hand-blown glass vase she picked up during her travels in Venice, this sunshine yellow set of ceramic bowls brought back from mid-winter escape to Mexico…) – it lets me, without them even telling me what colors they prefer, to offer up hues that not just work with their space, but transform their home.

And yet, color trends around us often tell us in no uncertain terms that “for this coming year, the tone to go with is….” – here insert the tone trendy that year. Of course, as a designer, I breathlessly anticipate these predictions, some of which I agree with, others I hesitate about. Keeping in mind that the loudly touted tones can often be not the main color for your walls, but an accent that brings it all together and offers that “ta-da!” is also important. Not sure how many of you painted your interior the color of the year chosen for 2015 – Marsala – a rich hue that is not for the faint hearted. Pantone is the go-to for forecasting color trends and I cannot wait to hear what their 2016 color will be. According to design experts at Elle Décor, it will be Deep Peacock Blue, 17-5029 TCX. 


Contrasting that, Benjamin Moore experts have already announced their 2016 color of choice – Simply White OC-117. You see, trends can pull you in different directions. What works for one will not for the others. Yes, white is a fantastic neutral that can brighten and expand, yet also highlight and deliver a crisp finish. I love white – and yet it needs to come with a warning label as it truly can be one of the toughest colors to pick. Last year I worked with a lovely client who yearned an all-white kitchen. Great idea and currently very popular choice (just run a search on “all-white kitchens” on Houzz and see how many options there are!). Yet as she wanted to match the white of her existing cupboards to the newly painted trim plus the new kitchen island, the task became truly herculean. We finally succeeded, but it definitely was a challenge.

So, my recommendation to you is such – choose a color that makes you happy, that works for your space…and talk to an expert before committing. Midnight blue on a small swatch may look magnificent yet on a big expanse of living room wall it may be quite staggering. Working with someone who can guide you through this process will take away the stress and the weight of needing to make that big choice by yourself. So – call or email me! Let’s talk!


7 clever storage ideas for your kitchen

7 clever storage ideas for your kitchen

I often meet with homeowners who are planning to tackle their kitchen reno – and one of the most asked features of their new kitchen is proper storage. As we all accumulate all sorts of cooking gadgets, appliances, plus of course baking and cooking staples, it becomes a trial to fit proper places for all these items without completely over cluttering the cooking space.

My advice to my clients has been to first of all review their existing stash of items. Do you really need that 15 year old blender or the extra set of plastic picnic ware? Doing a proper spring clean and taking stock of what you truly need will help also determine how much space is needed for storage of equipment, and how much space is available for all the pots, pans, baking sheets, etc. Plus of course food!

After the initial review, I then send my clients home with a task of gathering ideas. We are now so lucky to have free online resources such as Houzz and Pinterest to offer us great ideas and solutions – plus it helps to see how other homeowners have tackled creating storage space in sometimes quite cramped and tiny cooking and living spaces.

When listing which kitchen organization techniques to include (space permitting) in an average kitchen, I’d recommend the following solutions:

  • Pantry

Whether walk-in or just a spacious built-in wall cupboard, pantry lets homeowners stash away a lot of items that would otherwise take up space on the counters and cupboards. Placing all needed items in one place is efficient, and lets you instantly see whether you need to replenish your wares when writing the next shopping list. 

Image source: transform / The Art of Custom Storage on

  • Utensil drawers

Keep all your spatulas and ladles out of sight by tucking them into a pull-out drawer that fits a few canisters that hide all the mess. You can apply that same idea to pots and pans – place them in a deep drawer that is easy to pull out and unload when needed. 

Source: WoodWorks Inc. on

  • Under-sink storage

Pull-out drawers are also great for that under-sink mess. Admit it, you start with great intentions of keeping that area spotless and organized – and end up with a jumble of mess that consists of cleaning supplies, rolled up plastic bags, and scrubbing pads. The pull-out drawer will let you see all of the contents, and you will no longer have to wonder what is hiding behind that big bottle of dish soap.

Source: Midwest Stone Source & Custom Cabinetry | Rockford on

  • Recycling centre

OK, so my theme of pull-out drawers continues. Instead of wearing a path between the kitchen and the garage where most of us keep the recycling, consider installing pull-out trash and recycling bins. Depending on where you live, you may have to adhere to different requirements when it comes to sorting the recycling. Creating a dedicated recycling space in the kitchen lets you keep everything tidy, and all your garbage sorted and ready for taking it to the curb once a week. 

Source: Melbourne Contemporary Kitchens

  • Appliances – park them out of sight!

If you do not have a walk-in pantry where to store your blenders and toasters, plan to include an appliance garage. Keeping all your tools out of sight yet in an easy to reach spot makes all the food prep so much easier!

Source: Kayron Brewer, CKD, CBD / Studio K B via

  • Pull-out cupboard or pantry organizers

I must admit, I really love the pullout racks! They really maximize the usable space in your cupboards, and let you pack the cupboard very efficiently. The ones that glide and let you turn them around to double-stack items, like Rev-a-Shelf organizers, are really wonderful. 

Source: Rev-A-Shelf via (this one is 5" Pullout Maple Base Cabinet Organizer)

  • Mail and newspaper collection station

We all have that same problem – we grab the mail, pick up the newspaper, walk in the house, and plop the whole stack on the kitchen counter. And there it stays, growing precariously like the Tower of Pisa until the mess is too …well, messy… to ignore. Instead of letting the envelope and paper clutter take over your counter space, create a dedicated zone where to keep the mail, homework and school notes, and even cookbooks plus recipe cards. 

Photo Source: Hamilton-Gray Design, Inc. via

And these ideas are just the beginning! Depending on your kitchen, lifestyle, and needs, I am happy to come up with storage solutions that work for your space and make your time spent in the kitchen a true joy. So, call or email me – let’s talk! 


New Year, new design trends: what will be popular in 2014?

January is just around the corner, and with that the ever-lasting yearning to make plans for the next year, to start fresh, and to tackle those projects at your house that you have been postponing during the busy times of sending kids back to school, getting through Thanksgiving and Halloween and then right away starting the prep for the colorful and hectic whirlwind of activities that is Christmas. And there really isn`t a better time to curl up with a hot cup of coffee or a fragrant mug of chai than now, while browsing through the design magazines and spending (probably) too much time on Pinterest and Houzz, looking for fresh ideas and planning for spring.

Just like you, I do it too. I love to immerse myself in what is new, fresh, and different – it helps me not just to stay up to date with new ideas, but also lets me plan how to incorporate some of those trends in my designs while still keeping true to my clients` wishes and visions. Not everyone wants the newest and edgiest looks for their homes – but so many of you also love to include just a splash of that something extra that will become the conversation topic at the next dinner party.

On that topic, I wanted to share with you an article 10 Interior Design, Home Remodeling Trends to Look for in 2014 by Nigel Manyard that I came across today while reviewing some of the residential design ideas predicted to be the next trend setters in 2014. From U-channels in the kitchen to hide those pesky iPad and iPod charge cables, to stand-alone tubs and universal design that makes it easier for different generations to share the same house and space – it looks like the next year will be an exciting one for us interior designer. As kitchen design is one of my favourites, I was happy to see great ideas around how to incorporate more than just a row of cabinets in a space that really is the true heart of every home. I am actually working on a project right now where I have to incorporate existing design with the new, while bringing in elements that will hopefully make the cooking, cleaning, and spending time in that kitchen so much more pleasurable. Stay tuned for updates – I will fill you in on all the details once the project is finished!

So….besides the trends listed in the article, what else can I tell you about what I expect 2014 to bring to home décor? I definitely believe the trend of openness and indoor/outdoor living will continue to grow. Large doorways and folding door systems have started to come down in price, making them more achievable for an average homeowner. And who does not want to be able to let in more natural light, enjoy the views, and create a barrier-free connection to the backyard? I am also excited about the wide variety of new flooring and countertop materials that continue to emerge that offer so many options – textures, colors, finishes– the selection is really better than never before.

To sum it up – while the trends in 2014 will bring along a list of brand new details, colors, ideas, and items, the overarching theme seems to be to the ability to personalize your space better than ever before, and to pick and choose from the widest selection of options. Whether you want to create a zero emission home, select sustainable finishes, or find the latest home automation gadgets – it is all at our fingertips. So here`s to the next year – may it bring you everything you wish for (including that new bathroom or updated kitchen countertops)! All the best to you and your family from me and my team. See you next year!

How to select the right countertop material

From granite to glass: choose the option that works with your style and budget

Selecting the right countertop material can be a very daunting process and the amount of different materials, colors, and finishes can overwhelm anyone tackling a kitchen renovation project.  I therefore wanted to address some of the key issues one should consider when selecting what to install in your kitchen or bathroom, keeping in mind the functionality, aesthetics, and budget.

The truth is, there has never been a better time to choose a new material for your countertops. Gone are the days when laminate counters ruled the market! Today, we can choose from limitless number of colors, textures, and patterns, in materials such as natural stone such as granite and slate to quartz, wood, and even concrete.

Natural stone countertops

The natural variations in colors and textures of natural stone make each countertop unique. The most popular stones are granite and marble, but limestone and soapstone are also quite popular. This option is durable and long-lasting plus it does not go out of style. At the same time, bear in mind that natural stone is porous and needs to be sealed when installed in order to avoid stains, and it requires regular maintenance and resealing to maintain the look and the quality.

Cultured stone countertops

Also known as engineered stone countertops, cultured stone countertops - such as quartz - look and feel similar to natural stone counters. They are available in a wide variety of colors and textures and unlike natural stone, they are uniform. In other words, as it is a manufactured material, it allows a much wider variety of colors and the selected color will not vary. It is harder than natural stone and will not chip or crack as easily. I love the fact that it is non-porous so it resists staining much better than granite, marble, or even concrete – this is a great choice for families with little kids. One of the drawbacks can be the price – some of the options in this category can get more expensive than some of the other options. It is also not resistant to heat so you`ll have to be more careful with hot pots in the kitchen or hot hair curlers in the bathroom.

Laminate countertops

This option is very affordable and comes in hundreds of colors and patterns. While not has trendy as granite or quartz, it is selected by many homeowners due to its low price point and durability. New laminate options often are made to mimic the colors, texture and look of natural stone. It is easy to clean (another bonus!) yet is not heat resistant, can fade in direct sun, and can also scratch fairly easily.

Tile countertops

This material has also been used for many years for countertops. While great for backsplashes, I must note that tiles can crack and chip, plus the grout has to be resealed on regular basis in order to avoid darkening. It does offer endless possibilities – think of all the colors, styles and shapes that you can choose from! It is also one of the more affordable options so homeowners who cannot spring for quartz counters and who do not want laminate, may find their answer in choosing tile countertops.

Wood / butcher block countertops

Wood counters add instant warmth to any kitchen, and butcher block is the most common type of wood countertops. It can deliver a very modern look, or create an instant country-feel in your otherwise urban interior. I like to remind my clients that when choosing this type of counter, they need to be prepared to maintain it properly in order to keep it looking fresh and beautiful. In order to do that, they need to oil the surface every four to six weeks -it is more of a commitment than some homeowners are willing to make. There are three ways that wood countertops are fabricated: edge grain, end grain and wide plank. Prices vary depending on the wood species used, but on average they're comparable with quality granite counters.

Cork countertops

An increasingly popular material, cork works well for a number of surfaces such as flooring, wall paneling, and certain types of countertop applications. As cork is a quickly regenerating plant, it is a great option for homeowners who value being sustainable and prefer green materials. Cork countertops are durable, and much more affordable than the ones made of wood. It resists water and microbes, plus offers some heat resistance. Keep in mind though that cork does not fare well in humid environment, and may get brittle when used in direct sunlight.

Recycled glass countertops

Just like its name implies, recycled glass countertops are made from post-consumer recycled materials. There are several different manufacturing techniques that all produce beautiful and unique countertop material that is mold and mildew resistant, scratch and stain resistant, low maintenance, and offers a wide selection of color options. As only warm water and mild detergent needed for cleaning, the surface is non-porous and no sealing is required. Made of approximately 90 percent glass mixed with resins, they install similarly to any solid counter, including granite, marble, Corian or quartz. Keep in mind that this material, while gorgeous, can be pricier than some of the lower-end options!

Concrete countertops

Last but not least: concrete countertops! They have quickly started to grow in popularity ever since pre-cast concrete counters became more readily available, eliminating the issues and hassles around hand-poured concrete counters which often did not deliver desired results. It can complement other natural materials such as stone and wood, and deliver a very stunning finish. I love that it can be tinted to match my clients` color choices! Yet again I need to add a word of caution that while heat and stain resistant, concrete counters must be sealed and regularly maintained to resist staining.

Like I said in the beginning, there has never been a better time to choose a countertop that matches your style, your home décor, and your budget. I am happy to provide more info on any of the above listed materials, and to help you choose the option that best compliments your home. Contact me for a free consultation to find out more!

Welcome to the world of Living in Style Design

“A house is much more than a mere shelter, it should lift us emotionally and spiritually.” – John Saladino

Welcome! My name is Marta Biela and I am the principal of Living in Style Design – a boutique interior design firm that specializes in providing interior design and decorating advice both here in Lower Mainland and Greater Vancouver. I am happy to introduce to you my brand new Living in Style Design blog where I will be posting articles about design, my latest project, plus anything and everything that I come across in my daily work that is interesting and share-worthy. It is my goal to provide you with answers, alternatives, and inspiration to fuel your imagination. I hope that my posts will help you dream, design, and create spaces that are truly yours.

Solving interior design challenges has always been my passion. The options, after all, are limitless! Consider the lifestyle, the needs, the taste, and the preferences – it all plays a role when planning to create or change your living spaces. From heritage-style West coast Craftsman-style home to elegant French Provincial style residence, it is my goal to not only understand your needs, but translate your lifestyle and your personal tastes to reflect the space you want to transform.

By combining my background of formal training in interior design with a bachelor`s degree in mathematics and computer science, I can easily switch between the art of pinpointing the perfect shade for your living room walls with that of making your project comply with building codes and meeting the set budgets. Add to that the fact that I had my first oil painting exhibit after turning eleven, plus extensive travels throughout Europe and you see that you can expect not just your average run-of-the mill design service but something that is unique, fresh, and complements your lifestyle and your home. My projects have ranged from large custom homes to single bathrooms in modest homes, from full-service kitchen and bath design to online, distance-based consultations and planning. I bring the same commitment to service and professionalism to each client, regardless of scope or budget.

Seeing happy customers once my project is finished is what gives me energy and inspires me to search for solutions and materials that make each space unique. There is truly nothing better than walking someone through a freshly-transformed space and delivering a result that marries homeowners` vision with my design. Visit my blog, read the upcoming posts, and check out the projects – I welcome you to the world of Living in Style Design.

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