Spaces 4 Living

An Architect's Idea Book: Sharing ideas and inspiration to help create beautiful living spaces.

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Basement Renovation – The Basics: Water

Good ideas can become great spaces when you take the time to get the fundamentals correct. Waterproofing, insulation, and air quality measures if not installed properly can turn dreams into nightmares. Lets start at the basics.

Water Egress

Assess the basement, Do you have  cracks, water egress or mould and damp patches? If you answer yes to any of the above and also wish to eliminate possible future problems, Let’s firstly look at your current landscaping.

Does the ground slope AWAY from your house?
Does water pool by the house after it rains?
Are your eave troughs in good condition and sufficiently direct water away?



The landscape beside your house should slope away at 5% slope over  1500mm. Your downspouts should also extend 1500mm to a splashpad.

Basement windows should be 200mm (8″) above ground level. If not, think about regrading the ground or creating a window well. Window wells should direct excess water to the weeping tile.

Check wall penetrations. Are the seals in good order around vents, windows and pipes?

If a lot of water is present, and the above has not remedied a solution, check the condition of your weeping tile  . Consult a qualified specialist to scope the existing weeping tile. If it is blocked you may need to excavate a trench down to the weeping tile and replace it.  Old clay pipes can collapse, it can misalign  due to soil movement (freeze and thaw cycle) and tree roots can penetrate the pipes through time. Any of those scenarios result in blocking the water.


Concrete is porous and will allow water to pass through. Water usually finds the easiest way to flow. The weeping tile creates a channel for the water to move away from the house. If it is blocked, water could build and cause hydro static pressure against the wall. The water push its way into your basement at any weak spots it finds. If the inspection concludes that you have to replace the weeping tile, a perimeter trench will be dug around the house down to its footings. This is a great time to inspect the exposed foundation wall and it is best practice to also apply a waterproofing exterior membrane to direct water towards the weeping tile away from the wall.

Image result for delta drain

If you have a high water table or too much water, a sump pump can pump excess water away in addition to the above measures..

Mould and Damp

Black, green, what ever the colour no one wants it in the house. If you hide it- it will come back.

High humidity plus the often cold temperatures in the basement produces a lot of condensation. Condensation collects on cold metal pipes, cold concrete basement floors  and on walls. It feeds and grows of dirt, dust, organics like paper on drywall, cardboard among other things.

Keeping the humidity in the basement below 55% will ensure that humidity isn’t a cause of new mold growth. Dehumidifiers reduce the humidity inside houses. Circulating the air in the basement also helps.


Table 1: Extent of mould – decision chart for cleanup purposes
Total Surface Area Affected by Mould
Small Medium Large
Three or fewer patches and the total area is less than 1 m² If there more than 3 patches or if the patches are greater than 1 m² but less than 3 m² If a single patch is larger than 3 m²

Small mould area: cleanup using proper precautions

Medium mould area: Expert assessment recommended, but may be cleaned up using proper precautions

Large mould area: Expert assessment and cleanup required

Government of Canada: Addressing moisture and mould in your home:


For large mould problems, contact a remediation professional. For small areas, Materials damaged by mould must be physically removed and disposed of under safe conditions, Fix source of moisture (insulate pipes, inspect dryer vents, repair plumbing, exhaust fans working properly etc.) clean with soapy water, allow to dry throughly.

For a more thorough information please consult a reputable source. A good information source example: or your local remediation specialist.



Cracks in the foundation wall can lead to many issues not just water egress. Concrete can crack as it settles but if severe enough the structural integrity needs to be assessed and the crack repaired.


Simple repairs and small re-grading projects can be aptly done by any diy-er. However I would recommend leaving the big jobs (like waterproofing) to the professionals.






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Kitchen Design – The Basics

Before you start picking cabinet styles and colours there are a few basics that need to be addressed.

A kitchen layout

There are two design philosophies: The work triangle and work zones.

When kitchens were smaller, compact and a few dozen less small appliances, the work triangle made the space more ergonomic. With everything with a comfortable reach. The kitchen work triangle is an imaginary line drawn between three most used points in a kitchen which are the refrigerator, cooker/stove and the sink without any obstructions (i.e. table or an island). The ideal distance between points should not exceed 9′-0″.

As kitchens and appliances become larger, tasks are usually grouped or zoned. Cooking, washing and storage are the most used but it could expand to include  prep, baking, and entertaining to suit your lifestyle. When planning your kitchen, think about how you will use it. For an example, you would want to avoid walking with a boiling pot of water  across the kitchen to drain your pasta at the sink. So you place the sink close to the cooker or you could add an additional prep sink if your kitchen is large enough.

But as with most things, striking a healthy balance between both the work triangle and the work zones that suits your needs is the best solution

Standard Kitchen Layouts

Standard Kitchen Layouts with Kitchen work triangles



There are many layouts for a kitchen: Single line (with or without an island),  Galley, L-shaped, U-shaped are among the popular configurations. Fundamentally, your layout is influenced by the size and shape of your room as well as the functions that you which to incorporate.


Balham kitchen extension
Single Line Kitchen


Decatur Bungalow New Galley Kitchen
Galley Kitchen


Kitchen 2
L- Shaped Kitchen


London Townhouse
U-Shaped Kitchen


Size (or over size) of appliances and Balance

Group larger appliances to allow for a free flowing counter space. Having larger appliances dotted around the kitchen can create smaller and sometimes unusable spaces.


Add-ons and separate areas

The kitchen is also influenced by its support spaces and adjacent spaces. Thinking how they interact and potentially “free-up” some area within your new kitchen. Placing over-flow storage elsewhere in a separate pantry or adding niche spaces for bar seating.

  • island
  • peninsula
  • work/office space
  • wet/dry bar, storage
  • eat-in kitchen
  • utility room
  • pantry
  • butlers pantry
  • outside access to garden/patio
  • access to dining
  • sight lines to living spaces


Sag Harbor, NY Residence


Planning for your small appliances

One may say that “it will be fine…it’ll sort itself out” but keeping note of what you use most and when you use it, could make the morning rush a little less stressful. Grouping the coffee maker and toaster away from where you are prepping lunch boxes could relieve kitchen congestion.

Allow adequate space and height for the things you use most. If you make smoothies every day perhaps allow it to have a permanent spot. Whereas storing that stand mixer in a pantry for the occasional use will free up some counter space for your everyday activities.


Union Square Loft, New York



With the basics covered, you should start to know what layout and shape suits your needs and the existing space. Figuring out your work triangle and zones informs you where you should place your appliances. The sight lines to other rooms and adjoining utilities refine your choices. Where your appliances are should dictate where you store things ( pots, pans, spices, dish towels etc). Knowing what small appliances you use on a regular basis enables you to create activity spots to enhance the flow of the kitchen ( ie cereal dispenser or  coffee bar)

Now you are well on your way to pick colours and cabinets.  Have fun!


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Playroom Storage Ideas

Awesome bedroom or separate playroom either way if you have the space that your little one can call their own is a great step towards their independence.

My son has a nice little room but things are always pulled out into the main space. For the most part, it is life as we know it when all the living areas are on the same floor. His room is a bit small which is half the problem. As he is growing, the want for constant supervision from a baby to toddler is making way to preschool independent play.



Bright room brighten minds! Well I like the sound of it anyway. Quirky layouts, hide-away spaces and peek holes are always a delight.


As great as a space may look, it must have storage, whether it is built-in, stacked baskets monochromatic or colour coordinated, it is a necessity.




Zones for activities

There is a place for mess! Who wants to knock down the “perfect” tower, racetrack or fort every day. The photo above has a loft which is a perfect area for creating and keeping masterpieces for a few more days.  The loft also doubles as a sleepover area for guests.



Open shelving can be daunting, but by adding baskets, or grouping smaller containers can minimize the mess. Still not for you? Add a few doors to keep things out of sight.



Let your kids input help guide your space. Be realistic about how you will treat the space, a new space will not “make” everyone tidy over night.

If you are a “everything has its place” minded family, open shelving would go down a treat.

If you are more ” I clean up after my kids and have very little time at the end of the day” minded family, then think about bigger “dumping” or pull-out bins. Everything is at their finger tips and it is really quick to put things away at the end of the day. It is even easy for the children to help.

Most of us land somewhere in between. Assorting collectibles in appropriated sized bins, some open and some closed shelving and also larger baskets for your children’s most used toys. Mix and match and see what works best for you.


You just can’t stop the toy migration…but good storage solutions at least reduces the clean-up frustration.

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Pillowscaping 101

Adding layers of texture and colour is a a great way to add interest in a space. Accent or throw pillows is the easiest and most affordable way to give your room and instant makeover. The choice and selection can be overwhelming that so many times we end up going to the shops and walk out with nothing (or the wrong one!).



How to choose throw pillows?

Size, shape, colors, patterns, the number of pillows and the overall style you are aiming for are the basic considerations you need to decide on before you go.


The size of throw pillows should primarily be determined by the size of your sofa or chair. The average size, which is between 16-18″ square. Oversize pillows (24”) create a comfy, loungey feel, but they should be reserved for really large furniture. If your sofa is compact or you need a pillow for a delicate side chair, go for smaller ones.

Choose the correct size for your seating or you will have to move them or take them off every time you want to sit comfortably.


The typical fillings for pillows are feather, foam, or a synthetic mix. Think how you’re going to use the pillows. Are they going to be used often or use them as bed decoration only? If you use them often, selecting a higher grade of pillow will withstand more frequent use. If you choose a cheaper polyester fill it will quickly look lumpy, flat and shapeless. Leave the polyester for the decorative ones.

In the shops, fluff them several times to make sure they don’t lose feathers and resume their original shapes easily.



Number of pillows

Odd or Even?  Most often an odd numbers usually work the best. But there is nothing wrong with even numbers if that is what is needed for your decor aspirations. Just vary the pattern and size for interest.


There are 4 basic types of pillow shapes to consider – bolsters, squares, rectangles and rounds. Squares support your whole body and are the most versatile.   Rectangles will support the lower back to provide better lumbar support.

Also, consider the aesthetics of you furniture. Sofas with sharp lines can be softened up a bit with round pillows, and the other way round, large squares will give a balanced look to a squishy, puffy couch.  A combination of squares, rectangles and a bolster can be a great solution.


Patterns and colors
  • If you have two pillows sitting next to each other on an item of furniture, make them different, preferably one solid and the other patterned.
  • For a large sofa, choose two solid pillows for the ends that contrast with the color of the sofa and pair each of them with a patterned pillow that pulls in the color of the furniture (or use one patterned pillows in the middle).
  • Do not be afraid to mix patterns. Just make sure most of them have at least one color in common (beside neutrals).
  • When you’re mixing different pillows, vary the scale of the patterns so that each can stand out on its own. If one pillow has a small intricate floral print, make sure the other has a large pattern or none at all.
  • If you’re buying pillows for both sofa and armchairs, consider them as a group. The pillow on a chair doesn’t have to match the pillows on the sofa, but if you care for a harmonious, polished look, try to look for features (palette, patterns, style) that could tie the pillows together.



In Summary:

  • Consider size. Standard squares (about 18 inches) nest neatly on sofas with typical dimensions. Oversize pillows (24 inches) create a more casual, loungey feel. If you have a modern sofa with a very low back, consider 16 inches.
  • Know about fill. A feather-and-down fill has more squish, and it’s also the priciest. Foam and other synthetic fills are stiffer. They hold their shape but look less lush.
  • Use an odd number of pillows. In design, odd numbers tend to be more pleasing to the eye. Try one, three, or five, depending on the size of your furniture and the look you want (one for a chair, three or five for a standard 88-inch sofa).
  • Create a mixed “pillowscape.” An easy combo: a matched pair of square solids that contrast with the color of your sofa, one oblong pillow for the center of the couch, and two interesting outliers—patterned, embellished, or oddly shaped—that reference either the color of your upholstery or the color of your solid pillows.
  • Don’t forget about texture. Tactile contrast—nubby linen against smooth leather or silk upholstery, or shiny pillows on a fuzzy couch—add warmth and offer traction, so pillows don’t slide off seats.
  • Address the whole room. Think of a living room’s pillows as a family. The pillow on a chair doesn’t have to match the group on the sofa, but if it relates in some way—palette, style—the space feels unified and polished.

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Selecting an Architect


One of the most exciting and rewarding things in life is building a new home or renovating your current home around your lifestyle. The person who will have a large influence in the outcome of your project is usually the Architect.

The selection of an Architect is not something that you do on a whim. An Architect is a trained professional that is schooled in design and construction. The person you choose to design your project will be the innovated thinker , an invaluable problem solver, a good listener, and the one keeping your budget on track.



To select an Architect you may want to ask if the person has a signature style. Most Architects do strive to be adaptable to many design styles. But others do favour a particular design philosophy such as sleek modern, conservation of historical buildings, traditional etc.

Search for an Architect who’s existing examples of work you like.


Business Background and symbol


Calculating fees

Architects may charge different cost depending on experience, reputation and demand. Architects may also charge significantly different amounts for their services depending on how engaged you want them to be with your building project. Architects may offer different levels of involvement, such as  design, landscape design, and/or project management, obviously the more the architect does, the more you’ll pay.

Generally speaking, there are three ways that architects will charge:

  • Hourly
  • Percentage
  • Fixed

As with all contracted building professionals, fees for architectural work can easily increase if you’re changing things at later stages of the design process and/or want additional work  outside of your Client and Architect Agreement (the contract you’ll sign with the architect). It’s very important that you’re both are very clear about what’s required before you sign.


Client-Architect Relationship

It is important that you are able to communicate openly with the Architect. Having a custom built home requires a very personal relationship with your designer, involving discussions of your habits, your hobbies, your tastes, and even your relationships. Building a house is a big (and sometimes emotional) endeavour, and a good working relationship and having compatible personalities with the architect you engage is absolutely essential to ensuring that the process goes smoothly as possible.

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Small space/ No space for Dining

Many new homes are moving away from the traditional dining room or the room has been reclaimed for other spaces like a home office or a play room that are more attuned to how a family functions from day to day. The latter is by far a better space solution if you don’t use the dining room and it remains empty for a large part of the time.

But what can we do when we have a family gathering or dinner party?

When the weather is good, sitting outside is great for entertaining.



But when the weather is poor or getting a bit too chilly to sit outdoors, we have to get a bit more creative.

Using the bay window that has a window seat adds a few more seats much like buffet bench seating.



Shifting a table (kitchen table or a few end tables together) in front of the couch and bringing in the arm chairs adds a sense of luxury to your dinner party.



If you have a kitchen island with stools, why not have a kitchen party?


Contemporary Kitchen by London Interior Designers & Decorators Morph Interior Ltd


This remarkable table hides in plain sight…..well sort of.  Fold it up and it is out of the way until you need it again next time without infringing any floor space or bulky storage.


When it comes to entertaining friends and family ….Where there is a will there is a way.  Sometimes we just need to  take a second look and be a bit more creative with our spaces.

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A Nursery for the New Baby


kierans projects


I have enjoyed adding a few memorable decorations bit by bit to my son’s nursery. Over his dresser/ change table, I hung the white and blue pom-poms that I made for the party after his baptism. In his room, I also hung bunting that I made for his first birthday.  All the little things that I have enjoyed making for him through-out the year, rather than finishing everything before he even arrived. For me, it has given a reminder of family and friends…special mementos, as it were.

When we first received the news that we were expecting our little one, I was so relieved that we had already put the sweat equity into renovating a room that was to be our home office. It just so happened that this room was adjacent to our own room and the colours we chose were soft yellow-greens (a calming yet creative atmosphere). We originally chose the colours by analysing the Feng-Shui of the house but it also was the perfect gender-neutral colour scheme.

Please note that I did NOT hang any decorations over his crib, even though I wanted it there originally, I just couldn’t give into chance that if one of them fell and the strings accidentally choked him….I would just never forgive myself. I would implore that you also do not hang things over a baby’s crib for that same reason.


♥♥♥  The Nursery ♥♥♥

The art of a nursery is designing for the momentum of growth rather than perpetuating infancy. At five years old your child shall know what he or she likes but until then its a guessing game.  The task as a parent is to create  an environment that will encourage the mental and emotional growth of our children.


No matter what you chose…material, layout, whatever,  as long as your baby has a loving environment you are in the right direction for a  happy child.  No matter what, have fun with it.

I found some great examples that I hope you will enjoy.



I love the alphabet mural on the wall. It is colourful and playful. You could let your creativity lose on this.  The warm grey is clean and contemporary especially with the adjacent striped wall.



This is a bit more on the romantic side, but I do like the mis-matched fabric of the furniture, to keep it from being too bland, The whole scheme is within the same colour palette but it is the arrangement of textures that gives this room its appeal. The little canopy is nice to look at, but just keep in mind that once they are able to reach it, it shall be pulled and tugged. Do not make it too long that they can wrap themselves up. It may be best to remove it once they are about 6 months old and reintroduce it for their single bed at pre-school age.




Honestly, this feels like a breath of fresh air. The white room with light playful prints and mural all are within the same theme and opens the space. It is still a bit more on the grown-up side, but as the little one grows it will soon gain his or her personality.


Regal duchess! but oh so achievable. (warning reminder on the drapery!) Even without the sheer embellishment this room is in a class of its own. A neutral background with soft pink accents on the ceiling,  picture frames and rug gives the room depth and a feel of luxury.


A fun and playful nursery. This lovely colour co-ordinated scheme is trend-setting and contemporary. You could get the same look by picking a dominating patterned fabric, in this room it is the grey chevron fabric, along with a supplementary plain solid colour, a warm yellow in this scheme. It feels fresh, light and simple!

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Taking on “Tiny House” ideas for your own home.

The concept of Tiny House Living is becoming more and more popular. The increasing number of foreclosures and unemployment in recent years has really pushed homeowners to rethink the concept of home and its size. Most tiny homes are under 500 square feet and many have stretched this notion to 150-300 square feet house on wheels. The ideals are simple living…focusing on outdoor spaces, de-cluttering and down-sizing. Smaller housing is not just for the retirees, but for those who wish to own their home who normally couldn’t afford a house or those who feel mobility fits their life style.


Tiny houses do not imply to live without comfort, just using your space more wisely. That is a concept that we can all employ.


Vertical Space

Craftsman Basement by Seattle Architects & Building Designers Board and Vellum
Eclectic Bedroom by Somerville General Contractors Morse Constructions Inc.


Built-in floor to ceiling storage or creating a partition wall with cupboard and drawers lets you packs away all your collectibles.

Eclectic Kitchen
Traditional Kitchen by Huntington Kitchen & Bath Designers Susan Serra


Using the vertical storage in the kitchen adds a bit more visual interest as well creating more storage. Whether choosing to incorporate shelves and/or rails to display your kitchenware or you could suspend over an island   if you have the space. The wall solution is not just limited to pots and utensils, there are baskets you could add for spices, plants and even task boards.



Shallow shelving 

Contemporary Kitchen by Jackson Interior Designers & Decorators dwelling
Eclectic Bathroom
Finding extra space to store things in shallow shelves or thin concealed drawers that might be otherwise wasted.


Under the stairs

loft-staircase-storage  office-under-staircase


Using the dead space under the stairs is a great area for added storage, closet, home office or a powder room that can fit a number of storage needs and stair configurations.

Wall niche

Traditional Entry by Los Angeles Interior Designers & Decorators Alexandra Rae Design
Modern Staircase by London Photographers David Churchill – Architectural Photographer
Modern Bathroom by San Francisco Architects & Building Designers Michael Tauber Architecture
Traditional Home Theater by Peoria Design-Build Firms Dan Waibel Designer Builder


Creating a wall niche is not just reserved for the medicine cabinet.  Framing out the space to add niches for art, books, shower shelving,  or even to hide AV equipment.

Hidden storage under bulky furniture


BoConcept  (Chiva functional coffee table & Adria Nesting tables)

We’ve seen the storage in an ottomans and drawers in coffee tables, but the Chiva coffee table combines both ideas with elegance. Nesting tables are not a new concept, but them are coming back into trend. Storing tables beneath tables is a traditional and simple space saving innovation to keep.


Hidden bed


Poppi Theatre by Resource Furniture
Atoll 000 by Resource Furniture


Nothing short of amazing! I love the ideas that Resource Furniture has to offer. A twist on a murphy bed shown here is only a small sample of what they create. These beds are a vast improvement from the traditional hide-a-beds for guests in the living room. So comfy, they could be your own bed.


Dual Function and Transforming Furniture

Goliath Glass Table 
Goliath Glass by Resource Furniture

Modern console table transforms into a dining table suitable for 8 people. Incredible!


Loft Floor Space

Tiny House Floor Storage

This storage solution is not for everyone, but for the loft or attic floor especially in a mobile tiny home, this is a great idea to incorporate storage without incrouching floor space with large furniture.

If you can’t go over, go under! (the floor). Using the ceiling space between floor joists is a great spot to keep your books and trinkets.

Knee wall storage

 Traditional Hall by Chappaqua Architects & Building Designers Fivecat Studio | Architecture
Contemporary Family Room by San Francisco Interior Designers & Decorators Ashley Roi Jenkins Design, LLC


Built-in storage into the knee wall maybe a great solution for hard to find furniture pieces and it keeps the floor space open.


There is always a storage solution, no matter the size of the space. Whether choosing built-in, dual function, transforming, wall space, floor space are but a few examples to use space more wisely and many more ideas out are there.

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Festive Dining in Style

We all want to create that holiday style that doesn’t come from a box and is as individual as we are. Styling for a traditional, contemporary, minimal…you name it…There is something for everyone.



Many of us think of Christmas decor at the dining table as a formal and traditional affair. The time to bring out the good china and crystal glasses. Decorate with the deep red, deep greens and gold.  A nostalgic glass up to good times past and present.



I feel that this is a transitional dining experience. It is half way between traditional and modern thanks to the juxtaposition of the rich red and the fresh chartreuse green. The crystal and silver accents give a winter wonderland feel at the centre of the table.



The contemporary existing decor is lightly spiced with a few amber toned ornaments on the sideboard/ credenza. The table is kept simple and uncluttered with a few candles and warm textiles. The main focal point is above the table, the hanging wreath is adorned with strategically placed ornaments.



The Scandinavian influenced decor, sings in with simple and clean design. The blue-greys, silver and white colour scheme work well with the raw wood tones and the texture of the sheepskin. This festive decor embraces the crafter and artisan in all of us.


Happy Christmas!

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Outdoor Holiday Decorations

The Festive Season is upon us.  It’s time to deck those eaves, window boxes and plug in that inflatable snowman. Hahaha maybe not the last one for me….but t’is the season to let your inner child out.



A simple wreath or winter topiary can do the trick to welcome your guests with the Christmas spirit. Dont be afraid to add a bit of bling. Adding a few shiny well placed baubles/ ornaments would not go a miss in the image above.



This image is a bit more grand due to its size, but the door decor and topiary are still present. I like that they have stuck to a theme to tie all the decorative bits together. The red is very traditional, but the dog tooth plaid/ black and white checkers gives it a subtle modern twist.



Creating a festive vignette in the window. Showcase lit trees, candles, faux crystalised fruit, and evergreen garland. Experiment, have fun, add a few quirky childhood novelties.



These overfilled flower boxes are a gorgeous sight. The mix of 4 or 5 different evergreen varieties adds lots visual interest. As with any decorating, mixing high and low quality items creates greater depth and stretches your budget. There is no shame in visiting the dollarstore/ poundland for the background roughage and then adorning it with a few good quality ornaments. Or why not trim some existing trees in your garden to tie in the whole scheme with your landscaping.



Adding the lighting is always my favourite. There are so many types and colours to choose from. Reigning in a holistic theme is sometimes the hardest part. The soft white always looks classic.



Adding pre-lit garland to the well tested front door formula: wreath/swag and topiary lifts it up  a bit. The red poinsettias look beautiful. They have that Christmas charm and are a classic staple for any theme.



This has to be one of my favourites.  It is simple and bridges the modern and traditional styles extremely well. The candle, when lit is inviting. The flickering flame is deep in our mindset for comfort, warmth and friendship. Even if you do chose battery operated!



Most of us have stored away are summer patio furniture, but if the temperature is agreeable, this looks like a fabulous idea. Table top BBQ for marshmallows, or venture a little further and set up the fire pit for ski resort style hot chocolate party, all wrapped up in festive blankets fire side.