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For many years, Mrs. Nicholson Inc. was a member of the Interior Redecorators Network (IRN), the oldest and best-known organization of one-day redecorators. It was based on the “Use What You Have®” concept of interior decoration, conceptualized by now-retired designer Lauri Ward almost 40 years ago. Lauri’s original thought – that people can make their home beautiful using the things they already own — revolutionized the decorating business.

What appealed to me about the “Use What You Have” model was the notion of transformation. I took the training in New York City with Lauri and I have used the lessons learned to good advantage in my both my own homes and buildings and in my not-for-profit work. You really can change the look and feel of a room in a day!

The Ottawa House

Our Ottawa home was featured in the February 2009 Interiors issue of Ottawa Magazine. Written by Hattie Klotz with photographs by Gordon King, the article describes the transformation of a modern white box (once an old bakery) into a “warm and elegant home with a distinctive Parisian sensibility”. We had just come back from a year’s posting in Paris and I wanted a “French apartment” in Ottawa. Since there was none to be had, we decided to make one of our own. “Light Box” is the published story of that project:

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The Montreal Condominium

Our former Montreal pied-à-terre is located in a marvelous building in the Vieux Port, originally the refrigerated warehouse of the Port of Montreal. Constructed in 1920 in the Beaux Arts style, this nine-storey structure is located right on the river, so the view from the 6th floor location is of sky, trees, the clock tower and the mighty St. Lawrence river — hence the colour palette of turquoises, blues and greens.

Clock Tower Living Room

Since the space was meant for relaxing, there was no desk or worktable, just two lovely custom sofas to lie on and look at the view, lots of books, a small dining room and a collection of vintage pottery.

Dining Room Pottery

I took out the standard “condo kitchen” and its view-blocking peninsula and replaced it with a Verstile European kitchen that practically disappears from sight. It features a custom-made table and stools… perfect for morning coffee and reading the newspaper!

View through to kitchen Under Tom Hopkins artwork

A pretty bedroom, fitted dressing room and spacious bath completed the space, which we sold to a delightful couple who are keeping the furniture and decoration in situ.

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The Annapolis District Community Centre

In the spring of 2009, Mrs. Nicholson began work on the revitalization of the Annapolis District Community Centre in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. The Centre, which shares space with the Port Royal Branch 21 of the Royal Canadian Legion, has been used for more than 60 years for a variety of events — everything from weddings to flower shows to auctions to sporting events. But it was looking tired and dreary — not nearly good enough for the big high school reunion scheduled for that summer, so the Ways and Means Committee of the Legion asked for some help.

Mrs. N. and the team got to work. Inspired by Dorothy Draper, an American decorator of the 30s and 40s whose specialty was revamping hotels, we came up with a colour scheme and design plan to put the “wow” factor back into the Community Centre. So instead of battleship grey linoleum, white walls and fluorescent lighting, the foyer now sports a black and white chequered floor, walls the colour of sunshine and new chandeliers!

ADCC Lobby Before ADCC Lobby After

The dance hall has gone from dreary to delightful with nothing more than paint and elbow grease… and its own new chandeliers!

ADCC Legion Stage Before ADCC Dance Hall Before ADCC Legion StageDuring

Working with a dedicated team of volunteers, we transformed the foyer, bar, washrooms and dance hall into a Community Centre that felt happy, welcoming and fresh. We completed the project with a host of decorative black and white pictures of past Community Centre events and wireless internet access in the dance hall. The cost of it all? Only $8,000 in materials, combined with about 1200 hours of donated labour. Which only goes to prove that you can do anything if you put your mind to it!

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