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5 SIMPLE STEPS TO SELECT YOUR PERFECT SOFA, LOVESEAT OR SECTIONAL

by Shelagh Duncan

Design Wise logoSectional sofaBuilding or purchasing a house can be one the most exciting times in your life, especially if it is located in a beautiful coastal area in Costa Rica! Once you have your design, the building begins and then you need to find furniture. Choosing new furniture can be a surprisingly daunting task, so where do you begin…?

Many of us are often unsure about what to look for when it’s time to buy a new sofa. It may have been over a decade ago that we purchased the last one and typically our new home will look quite different from the ones we lived in back home. After all, this is the tropics!

There are many things to consider before you buy; what style do you want to incorporate into your new home, what colours, and how will you to arrange the furniture. One of the most important considerations is space. What is going to fit in your space while still giving you the maximum amount of seating, and the look and feel you want?

Another more specific consideration is the climate here. Everything seems to wear out and degrade much faster than back home, so durability is a big factor, and with any sofa ‘Comfort is King’.
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What a Crazy World We Sleep In!

Design Wise logoby Shelagh Duncan

If you ever wondered why the king sheets you brought down with you when you moved to Costa Rica never seemed to fit properly, then join the club! Most of us never think about things being too different in other countries. Weather, food, language for sure – but beds?

Most countries may call their beds King, Queen, Full or Twin, and some have a bunch of other in-between sizes like XL-Twin or California King. However – the big reveal is that each of these beds have different dimensions in almost every country in the world!

U.S and Costa Rica bed sizesThe reason is that the Western names have been given to the popular sizes in that country to follow Western culture. The sizes however, are usually specified by the Institute of Standards in each of these countries. The first of these organizations came into being around the time of the Industrial Revolution and set out guidelines to ensure that standards for all kinds of things as well as furniture are understood and followed. A “Standard” is just a protocol which is widely accepted, and these guidelines also incorporate such issues as strength, durability and safety for manufacturers to reference. There are many internationally recognized standards that we take for granted, such as musical notes, chemical and math symbols, and the clock, the calendar and mapping to name just a few. But it is not that simple for beds and mattresses.

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Furnishing Your Vacation Rental Property

Design Wise logoThere are vacation rental properties, and there are great vacation rental properties. Make yours stand out from the crowd.

By Shelagh Duncan

Owning a great rental property can make you stand out from the competition and will ensure that your property is rented as often as you’d like it to be. This will also ensure that you not only get top dollar, but good reviews and repeat customers. There are two types of rental properties—those that are used by the owners, and those that are not. Often those used by the owners are favored as they tend to be kept cleaner, better equipped and more up to date. Regardless of whether you choose to use your rental or not, let’s help you to create a great rental property.

Blue sectionalFURNITURE

Choosing your furniture carefully will give you better returns on your investment in the long run. Do your homework—and set a realistic budget! The rule of thumb when buying furniture is to buy the best quality you can afford, even for a rental property. If you use a local company to supply a ‘package’ of furniture for your rental and you chose one within your budget, you will benefit from their expertise in coordinating all the pieces, and they usually will deliver and set it up for you too. It may not be as personalized as selecting each piece yourself, but you can save yourself a lot of stress, time, and probably money in the end.

If you like decorating and prefer to do it yourself then the most important items to concentrate on are the sofas and the mattresses. If your renters are not comfortable sitting or sleeping they will not be happy, and unhappy renters give bad reviews! At the store, I have had many conversations with renters who have had bad experiences like this because there is nowhere for them to relax in comfort—and it’s their vacation! Cheap sofas can become uncomfortable quickly and start to look shabby. Better quality sofas will have superior construction and use durable fabrics that are easy to clean.

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Luxury Bed Linens: The Big Exposé

Design Wise logoA Higher Thread Count Does Not Mean You Are Getting A Better Quality Sheet!

By Shelagh Duncan

Can this be true? After all the hype and marketing we see about luxury bed linens, are the high-end 1000 thread count sheet sets no better than the 200TC ones we can buy at MaxiPali? Of course not—nothing is that simple, but it helps to know the facts and understand what the differences are, and that allows us to make informed decisions when buying our sheets.

Luxury beddingThe original notion of luxury bed linens began with the designers for the Westin Hotel Group in the early 1990’s. Before that time hotels generally used coloured or patterned bedspreads because they were easier to keep clean. The people at Westin wanted to test the market to see how they could improve their guest experience as ‘sleeping well’ was the stated priority.

What they found is how the all white bed that we are so used to seeing now, came about. They discovered that just by changing the bedding colour to white, guests had the feeling that the rooms had been newly renovated, and also reported that they had enjoyed a good night’s sleep because they felt the white sheets identified with being clean and fresh.

The end result was that the guest felt the rooms with the all white bed, the” Heavenly Bed” as it was marketed, offered a more luxurious experience. And that was where it all began. However, startling enough, the Westin were doing their testing using sheets with a thread count of between 180 and 250, the same TC as you can get today at MaxiPali!

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10 Simple Things to Make you Happier at Home

Happiness is always an inside jobBy Shelagh Duncan

I know, we tell ourselves “We live in paradise—what’s there not to be happy about? The resulting guilt because we don’t feel happy can just make things worse.

If you believe that our homes are an extension of who we are, we have somewhere to start. But if we are not happy in ourselves, how can we be happy at home? Perhaps we can change this up, and make our home a happier place to be so we, in turn will feel happier. Can this be possible?

What we do within the space we call home—both inside and out—shapes our mood, affects our productivity, and influences our outlook on life. The colours we paint our walls, the textures of the fabric we use and even the artwork on our walls can all influence how we feel. But without redoing our interior design and buying all new furniture what other options are there?

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Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Decorating Tips to Maximize Small-Space Living

Design WiseBy Shelagh Duncan

Bigger is not always better. Lovely as they are, we know that large homes are more expensive to furnish and maintain, and as we spend so much of our time outdoors do we really need all that interior space?

Whatever size home you have the key is always to make the most appropriate choices for the space you are living in. This month we will be looking at maximizing small-space living. There are decorating challenges of course, but here are a few tips you can try to help your condo, house or room appear larger and more spacious.

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6 Important Things to Consider When You Are Choosing Your NEW Sofa

Design WiseBy Shelagh Duncan

Your sofa and your bed are probably the two largest furniture investments you’ll make, so you will need to make some wise choices. In my opinion, comfort is king when it comes to seating and sleeping, so investing in a good sofa and a good mattress are paramount.

Sectional sofa

Sectional Sofa

A quality sofa should feel and look solid. Try before you buy—sit back and relax in it, check the arm and back height and sit as you would at home. I could wax on about eight-way, hand-tied springs, double doweled joint, and glued and screwed corner blocks—but it is the comfort level that usually seals the deal.

A wood frame bench with arms and a back passes for a sofa here, but the days of putting a couple of seat pads on it and calling it a sofa have long gone. Let your builder do the cabinets and doors, but not your seating. Even with thicker seat cushions the foam will compress badly if it only has a wood platform to sit on. Upholstered furniture uses a specific layering of springs and different cushioning materials to achieve exactly the right support and feel.

From my experience finding a comfortable sofa in Costa Rica is one of the biggest challenges facing not just newcomers, but even those who are looking to replace their moldy, worn or just plain uncomfortable ones.

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Transitional Design

A Harmony of the Classic and the Clean

Design WiseBy Shelagh Duncan

If you appreciate the classic shapes and silhouettes of traditional interiors, but also enjoy the minimalism and open concepts of contemporary and modern interiors—then the transitional style is probably right for you!

Transitional interior design is a perfect fusion of traditional and contemporary styles. It borrows from the best of both worlds to create a balanced and sophisticated space. As the name probably suggests, transitional design came about by combining two opposite styles. It’s sometimes referred to as “an updated take on the classics”.

Transitional DesignOn the one hand, you have the warmth, comfort and balance that comes from a traditional aesthetic. But refusing to be bogged down by the ornate details that can sometimes make traditional spaces feel outdated, the transitional look pares it down and incorporates the clean lines and simplistic nature that defines contemporary design. At its best, this style feels timeless with a modern twist.

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Organizing Your Kitchen

Design WiseBy Shelagh Duncan

We were back in Canada for our Thanksgiving this year and I was making the traditional turkey dinner for the family. I realized once I got started on the meal prep that I was very appreciative of the efficient way the kitchen was set up. It was a total no-brainer to find everything I needed, when I needed it.

Clean and modern designAn efficient kitchen does not happen by accident, but by design. It is more than just the traditional “Work Triangle”. It is a thoughtful process of what goes where and why, especially in a small kitchen. Every kitchen will be a little different and will depend on the personal cooking/cleaning-up style of the person(s) using it.

If you get frustrated searching for things or waste time having to rummage through messy drawers or cupboards to find what you need, here are some ideas to help you get your kitchen into shape.

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Choosing the Right Countertop

Counter Intelligence header

Design WiseBy Shelagh Duncan

It is an undeniable fact that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Many of our homes have an open-plan layout so the kitchen is a visible part of the living area. We can make the kitchen less noticeable so it blends in with the appearance of the rest of the living area, or it can become a feature.

Mixed material countertop

Mixed material countertop

A seamless, linear kitchen design is modern, clean and very appealing in a minimalist space. The cabinets and appliances form a wall to visually blend into your larger living area. Your cabinets and countertop will be sleek, spare, and perfectly co-ordinated.
If however you want your kitchen to be a separate entity with its own personality, then there are many creative opportunities available to you including cabinetry, appliances, lighting, bar stools, and especially the counter tops.

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Pets Are People Too?

How do we share our homes with our four legged friends?

Design Wise
By Shelagh Duncan

We love our homes: we want them to be stylish and comfortable, inviting and cosy. We love our pets too, and as they are very much a part of our lives we incorporate things into our homes to make them more comfortable. They are a part of our family after all!

However, these particular family members can be a little more work than usual. They don’t pick up after themselves and can be messy eaters. They often shed and are not too good at wiping their feet after a walk. They also think they are actually human so like to enjoy the furniture as much as we do!

That’s all fine, but they do add a considerable amount of extra wear and tear to our furniture and homes. So, looking for ways to help minimise this impact can be challenging. Tiles are the perfect solution for all floor areas, and microfiber upholstery fabric for our sofa and chairs. This about the best thing to use on furniture in our climate anyway. A good quality, thick microfiber will stand up to a great deal of use—and misuse, especially from heavier dogs with big claws. It cleans up very easily and can be vacuumed and brushed to look good as new. There are solid-colour microfiber fabrics, but now we also have many great textures and prints available in the same type of fabric. If your pet arrives after the sofa, one easy solution is to add a pet blanket over the chairs or sofas they like to sleep on. These are easily washed and will reduce stains and fur build-up on your sofa—and you! Or…. you can give them their own bed. This can be something to fit style-wise into your own interior, a trendy designer bed, or be practical and creative like incorporating it into a coffee or end table. The latter pure inspiration for those who may be short on space but big on design!

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TOP KITCHEN MUST-HAVES

Design Wise
By Shelagh Duncan

The two most important areas in any home are the kitchens and the bathrooms—especially to potential home buyers. Those two rooms will have a biggest influence on any purchaser. You know that feeling when you walk into a friends’ kitchen that is fabulous—you just stand there, and experience it. Then you lust after it!

We would all love to have huge fully tricked out kitchens, but often we are not that lucky. We don’t have the space, the money or sometimes even the ideas on how to make that happen.

Including some “must haves” into our kitchens can greatly increase its functionality, beauty and of course its value.

These are some of my must-haves:

Appliance GarageAppliance Garage

These are great for storing small appliances and can fit into corners or at the end of your work space. Add an electrical outlet too if possible, to add to the convenience. Think about what you want to go in there and you will have an idea of the size you will need. If you have lots of counter space—or lots of small appliances—you could have two!

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Fish or Visitors?

Design Wise
By Shelagh Duncan

Ben Franklin has been credited with saying something like “fish and visitors start to smell after three days…”

Bienvenidos - welcome signThat may have been true back in the day, but we all love to have friends and family come visit and want them to enjoy their stay. We are fortunate enough to live in an amazing part of the world, and naturally want to share this with them.

However sometimes space in our homes is limited. We live outdoors most of the time and don’t generally need a big house. You may have one or two spare bedrooms but one turned into your home office, or there are just too many people to sleep everyone comfortably! So, what do you do when they all want to come at once for that big family reunion???

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The “Man-Chair” and the top 10 features for chairs with Man Appeal

Design Wise
By Shelagh Duncan

If you used to watch Frasier back in the day you will remember his impeccable sense of style.

“So what do you think of what I’ve done with the place?” Frasier asked his father, Martin, in the pilot episode. “You know, every item here was carefully selected. The lamp by Corbu, this chair by Eames, and this couch is an exact replica of the one Coco Chanel had in her Paris atelier.” 

Eames chairWell, as soon as his father moved in—with his grossly overstuffed and battered “Man Chair” I could feel his pain. For the 11 years that the show ran that hideous chair created an eyesore in the middle of his very elegant and tastefully decorated condo. He suffered greatly at the extreme ugliness of this monstrosity*.
However, the really painful part came in the series finale when Frasier’s father moves out and Frasier finally gets to put his beloved Eames recliner back in the living room. His father comes to visit, sits back in the Eames recliner and says “Hmmm … this is pretty comfortable. I would have been okay with this!”

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Creating Your Sanctuary Bedroom

Design Wise

Ideally, the master bedroom should be the sanctuary where you can retreat at the end of the day. A place to relax, enjoy, and encourage a good night’s sleep.

By Shelagh Duncan

It should be able to make you just feel good—it is not important whether it is a large master suite or a small bedroom—you should be able to feel the comfort and serenity in this space. It should be the place to make you feel special, and for you and your partner to nurture and enrich your relationship.

Clean and uncluttered bedroomHere are some simple ways to create this space, and I promise the end result will be well worth the effort.

First Impressions

When it comes to design, first impressions count so decorate, clean and arrange your master bedroom accordingly. Keep the floors and night tables clutter free. Ask yourself what do you see when you first walk into the bedroom? What is the first thing you see when you open your eyes in the morning? For me, I see the big sky and the trees on the mountains in the distance. I love that feeling.

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