There are so many parallels between my real life story and the world of renovation and design. Just as we’ve all watched extensive renovations planned and completed in one 30 minute time slot on HGTV, it’s easy to present yourself to the outside world in a complimentary neat and tidy, colour coordinated bow. Most times, neither unfolds quite that easily. Real life is messy. It doesn’t follow straight lines and it’s a journey of discovery. I’m starting to learn that, and lots more about myself as I reflect on how I got to where I am now...
2001 was a life changing, heart wrenching, tumultuous year for our family. A former social worker, I considered myself fortunate to be a stay at home mom/wife raising our two preschool kids in Regina. That was, until my husband’s job evaporated in the Nortel Networks collapse. My husband took a new job and we moved to a small city in Alberta. We took the severance package and promptly put a deposit down on a lot. We would build our dream home! We were going to make lemonade out of those lemons!
With no friends or extended family nearby, I threw myself into the new house building project. It was through this process that I discovered my passion and talent for interior design. A local builder asked me to help his clients who were also building new houses. Friends of friends started calling, asking for advice on how to renovate their homes, and so my new career began.
But, all that lemonade we were busy making was missing the sugar. My husband realized that his new job was not exactly as advertised. About 6 months in, we knew we would be building our dream house for resale. How had we been so naive? We should have researched the job opportunity more, rented out our house in Regina until we knew the job would work out. There were so many “why didn’t we...” moments, stress and lots of worry. I just wanted to go home and resume our old life in Regina. Funny how life never takes you backwards though.
We did live in our newly built “dream house” (the irony of that phrase never escapes me) for six months. In that time, I learned two really important lessons that you’ll rarely hear from an Interior Decorator: (1) a new home can not make you happy, and (2) what’s most important in life has nothing to do with the things you own. After 18 months of stress, worry and regret, my wish came true. We returned home to Regina when my husband found a new and much better job.
With only two homes for sale in our old neighborhood we had to make a choice: one house was big and at the top end of our price range, the other was small and well below budget. We opted for the smaller, less costly house and decided to renovate it. This presented another great learning opportunity for me as we gutted the house, ripped out walls, reconfigured the kitchen, and made more lemonade out of lemons. This time that lemonade tasted so sweet! When the renovation was complete, I hosted an open house to showcase the transformation and re-launched my Interior Design company in Regina. Since then, we moved and extensively renovated another larger home (still in the same neighborhood!), along with a few rental properties as well. Now, I live vicariously through my amazing clients and their projects - completing hundreds of dream homes and renovation projects (big and small) and more recently, entering the world of commercial design.
Our stressful and life changing experience in 2001 taught me that it doesn’t matter what happens in life, it’s how you handle it that really matters. At the time, I couldn’t see my husbands lay-off and the stress that followed as an opportunity for growth. Without that experience, who knows what my life would have been? Life doesn’t always lead you in the direction you thought you wanted to go, but I’ve learned to trust in the journey and not give up when times get tough. I often give this same advice to my clients who are renovating their homes: trust in the design process but be open to new ideas as the project unfolds and always stay positive. Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep your eye on the prize.
Funny how good life advice is also great renovation advice, right?