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You know I always love a good thrift hunt! People always ask me how I find such good things at thrift shops (because they seem to get stumped themselves). I tell them that you’ve got to keep an open mind and you’ve got to go a lot! I see more junk than treasure, so in order to find those diamonds in the rough, I make a quick pass through my local thrift shops whenever I’m near one. And I don’t go in looking for something specific (that’s the fastest way to get frustrated). Instead, I keep an open mind and that way I’m delighted by the treasures I find.

Here are some I’ve found recently at my local Value Village

A couple of vintage jadeite dinner plates — perfect for some chocolate chip cookies or even just as decorative objects in a plate holder.

Massed as a collection, jadeite can look so so beautiful!

I also found a whole bunch of vintage mason jars with old zinc lids. These are great for lots of uses, not the least of which is as lovely, humble vases for fresh flowers.

Lilacs and wild flowers look especially nice in mason jars.

This wonderfully shaped mirror was a score.

Painted out in a fresh colour like this yellow one, I think it will definitely hold its own with modern or traditional furniture! The gold’s not bad, but a colour could be fun!

And back to flowers. I’ve been wishing for a vintage glass compote like this one for a long time. It’s the perfect vessel for garden flowers and just gives them that extra lift, you know? I can’t wait to fill this one with flowers I grow this summer!

Photo credits:
1,3,5,7. Michael Penney
2. Martha Stewart, as seen on Everyday House Blend
4. Etsy by MidWestFinds
6. Martha Stewart
8. Martha Stewart

Being the type of person that rarely reads a novel twice, yet never throws a book away, I sometimes find it difficult to keep an orderly, stylish bookcase. Magazines always show beautiful libraries filled with perfectly curated knickknacks — but the reality is that most of us have cluttered shelves, overstuffed with mismatched books.

Seeing as bookshelves are open and visible — as opposed to those messy kitchen cupboards you'd never let your in-laws see — it's important to treat them as an artful display, rather than storage. Here are four inspiring vignettes that are easy to mimic.

This ultra-casual look is probably the easiest to achieve. Colour coordinate your spines for a neat rainbow effect and add some colourful vases and flowers to mix it up. Keep your CDs to the bottom shelf, as they are less noticeable there. And don't forget to take a peek under your books' dustcovers, as you might find some beautiful and vibrant spines that are worth displaying.

This type of open bookshelf is often used to create faux-walls between spaces. You'll need a good eye and some creativity to keep these shelves looking attractive on both sides. Here, the bookshelf is placed against a wall, so picture frames are a great option to fill space and add personality. Notice how the books are stacked vertically and horizontally, with plenty of space to breathe. Most of the decorative elements are white or wood, keeping the overall look consistent.

For a fully styled look like this one, I suggest a book purge and a coat of paint or wallpaper to draw attention to the displays. Here, the shelves layer art, frames and curios, all in the same neutral tones — while the books bring in all sorts of colours. Playing with height is what keeps the displays from looking flat.

No bookcase? No problem. Books and magazines can be stacked tight under and on top of tables. I love the lazy-artsy feel of this vignette. To achieve this look, pile books high and top it off with a lamp, sculpture or other decorative piece for an artful aesthetic rather than an accidental look.

How do you keep your bookshelves looking stylish?

For more inspiration, check out our Amazing Libraries gallery.

Also, watch Michael Penney and Joel Bray as they share their favourite stylist tricks for Floral Arrangements and Instant Art.

Photo credits:
1. Design*Sponge
2. sfgirlbybay
3. Flickr, by erigutt, as seen on Pinterest
4. Sköna Hem

I was so excited to see that fashion and textile designer Allegra Hicks teamed up with West Elm to come up with a stunning home collection. I hear it should be in their stores by July. A lot of the pieces really speak to me. I love the cool colour palette and vintage-inspired graphic patterns.

My favourite piece is the Arc Chair with its simple but interesting shape. I think a pair of them would look great in my living room!

If you don't live near a West Elm Store, don't worry! The Toronto store ships products to customers across the country.

To see the entire Allegra Hicks collection at West Elm, click here. And be sure to watch Suzanne Dimma's interview with Allegra earlier this year.

Photo credits:
1-3. West Elm

When my family worked on some outdoor projects recently, we had flat stones delivered to our home on pallets. I've seen pallets all over design and decorating blogs for the past few years, but I haven't really considered using one myself. Before I could think of a reason to keep them, we returned the skids to the company, but now I'm wondering if I should've held onto one.

Over on Stylizimo's blog, she made a DIY headboard with the wooden packing structure. Loving the worn look and colour variations. (Well-sanded, I hope!)

Outfitted with oversized castors and a piece of glass, pallets can also become low, moveable coffee tables.

Lined up on the floor and covered with cushions, they form a neat low-level seating arrangement.

For those with a bit of woodworking skills, join painted skids to make a kitchen table or island. I can't make out the tabletop clearly in this photo, but if covered in a solid piece of wood or countertop material, you won't have to worry about things slipping through the openings. And check out this table made of pallets found on the street.

Mounting one on the wall and removing select planks creates a unique plate display. For a cottage, perhaps?

For a less bulky way to incorporate the pallet trend in your home, outfitting one with hooks creates a useful place to hang a bag, coat or keys. Pallets can also be turned into unique wall-mounted photo and book displays.

I think if I ever do get around to recycling a skid, I'd paint it a creamy white and gently sand the edges for a rustic look. For more ideas on decorating on a budget, visit our Budget-Chic Decorating Guide.

Photo credits:
1. Stylizimo
2. Bodie & Fou
3. via CALinteriors
4. Jennyshus via Apartment Therapy
5. Remodelista
6. SeeSaw

Collecting art can be a toughie. There is so much out there and knowing where to start can be daunting if you are just embarking. I always stick by the old adage "use your gut," and if you love it — really love it — then you will want to live with it.

I grew up with art, since both my parents are painters and creative types — my mother, a realist, and my father paints in looser oils and landscapes. Looking back now, I was so lucky to be surrounded by such a creative community — all my parents' friends met at the Ontario College of Art & Design, and made their collective livings in creative fields. We always had paintings and drawings hung up at home, and my parents didn't shy away from clashing styles of works hung next to each other. I've inherited some of their pieces, but I've been choosy about which piece to hang where.

This is one of my dad's pieces. I love this painting.

What I don't have at home, though, is any professional photography. I was recently at Elte here in Toronto, on their fabulous new second floor, and I noticed a gallery. (Can you see me taking the picture?) YellowKorner was created in 2006 by two friends, Alexandre de Metz and Paul-Antoine Briat. The YellowKorner concept is quite simple: to introduce the greatest photographers from all over the world and to increase the number of copies of their work and make them accessible to as many collectors as possible. If you are nearby, check it out, or go to

Here's one corner from the space at Elte.

This piece by Turkish photographer Ebru Sidar entitled "Dance Floor" caught my eye. Gelatin silver print. 23-1/2" x 23-1/2" unframed. $355.

Tell me, how did you build up your own art collection?

For some great art tips, see Suzanne Dimma's blog post on Investing In Affordable Art and Joel Bray's blog post on Collecting Art.

Photo credits:
1-4. Morgan Michener

Recently, my friends Anne-Louise and Jon asked for some help with their new house. It's their very first house and, while very nice, it needed a little personality and some pulling together.

They'd tried to update the space by painting all of the walls grey, but had chosen a grey with a purple cast and they decided it made the place feel dull. I suggested they go with a warm, creamy white and add some wallpaper, which Anne-Louise was craving.

For wallpaper, we settled on Thibaut's Sassafras paper from the Chelsea collection. The paper is available in Canada through Crown Wallpaper & Fabrics and was very nice to work with. I'm no expert wallpaper hanger, but the Sassafras paper went up really easily and didn't cause too many headaches. We kept the project to one wall, so that helped too!

It starts with drawing a line with a level on the wall so that your first and subsequent pieces go on straight. Next you cut your first piece leaving a few extra inches on the top and bottom. Use a large table to work on and spread wallpaper paste on the back of the piece you've cut using a small foam roller and tray. Then you 'book' the paper which means folding the glued sides together to keep the glue wet. Place the folded paper in a plastic garbage bag for three minutes to let the wet paper relax. Then you stick 'er up on the wall and use some smoothening tools to work out the air bubbles.

Each piece goes up in the same way and you just keep matching up the pattern. Remember that larger patterns tend to have more wasted paper so get a little extra. This wall actually took two rolls. After the paper is up, you trim off the edges using a utility knife and straight edge. If any edges are unglued you can always glue them back down with a small foam brush and more glue. Excess glue comes off with a damp rag.

Once the wallpaper was up we moved Anne-Louise and Jon's furniture back in, including this painted retro credenza and vintage country chair.

Here's a close-up so you can see how nice this Thibaut wallpaper pattern is! It has sort of a faintly metallic Moroccan tile motif with these light, airy leafy bits. It's perfect for Anne-Louise and Jon because they are the two biggest tree-hugging people I know! They even use organic toothpaste!

We also decorated the wall over their slipcovered sofa with three Ikea Ribba frames and some DIY art. Using a pear, apple, grapefruit and some leaves from the yard, we created prints by stamping the fruit and leaves into some leftover house paint on bristol board. I think they look great!

The stamped fruit creates some really interesting textures and patterns and the look is light, fresh and simple.

So with some cans of paint, a couple of rolls of wallpaper and some Ikea frames, Anne-Louise and Jon's place was totally refreshed and perked up for summer. And we had so much fun doing it, too!

See more of my DIY projects on Online TV.

Photo credits:
1. Michael Penney
2. Chelsea Collection, Sassafras, T3237, Thibaut
3-8. Michael Penney

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