Design Chick  

6 design must-haves

I'm always on the hunt for what’s hot and in demand; here are six top must-have design staples this very minute…

Textured Walls

This isn't a new trend; textured walls have been the go-to for dramatic flair for several years. But now we're seeing larger, and bolder applications taking center stage.

Wood block, modular panels, metallic finished wall coverings... it's all about scale and inviting an element of the unexpected into your spaces.

Amazing Light Fixtures           

Nothing makes more of a room statement than a sculptural light fixture.

This minute’s must-haves are in the form of dramatic and over-sized works of luminary art. Feature lighting (especially in large or tall foyers, over dining tables, or hung high above an open staircase) begs to be over the top and stunning.

If you're wavering on the edge of classic or high-impact, make the jump and go for the impressive selection.


Fabrics, area rugs, pillows, and throws... a kick back to vintage and classic geometric pattern and design is in full swing. Bold in colour and even bigger in scale, geo designs are taking over.

Mix them into spaces that need additional energy and a quick pattern pick-me-up.

Wall Dividers

Incorporating decorative wall dividers is a great way to section off your space without blocking the views, while adding a vertical element of surprise to your interior atmosphere. 

Again, a great place to add some geometric patterning, wall dividers come in all shapes and sizes, free-standing or stationary, with a bevy of abstract or classic designs.

Global Safari

Organic and natural design elements are truly timeless ways to show a softer side to design and decorating. Perfect for those who love a little bit of leather, exotic wood, hide, stone and shell... modern safari style is simple and luxurious looking all at once.

Focus on textures and gorgeous finishes like mother of pearl, African horn, teak, suede, buffed silvers and soft rose golds, and you'll wind up with simply stunning interiors.

See Through

Being risqué is quite alright when it comes to your coffee and end tables. Going clear and going see through is hot, and has been off and on for years.

Not only does a glass or Lucite table top add a contemporary angle to your spaces, it allows smaller rooms to feel larger by being able to see through to the floor.

Glass tables are also fantastic if you have an eye-catching area rug you don't want to cover up, something to consider if you're in the market for something new.


Great backsplash tile ideas

There are so many fun and gorgeous details you can add to your home in the process of infusing highlights and polish, and to me a kitchen just doesn’t seem complete without a backsplash of some sorts.

In a practical sense, it protects the wall from moisture and food splashes, but it's also prime space to showcase your style personality.

Your main objective when selecting the right backsplash tile or material can either be to tie all the shades and tones in the cabinets, counter, and floor together, or to simply add one exceptional feature to your kitchen and let is shine.


Metallic penny-rounds have always been a favourite of mine — elegant and quirky, they make a solid statement in any space. Kitchens with stainless appliances (and even those without) get an added boost with this finish and smooth texture.

Frequently, the familiar philosophy less is more applies to this gem of a splash idea; you don't need to do the entire backsplash in this material to have great impact. Consider doing a vertical strip behind a cook top, or up in behind a designer exhaust system.

A little bit of pop is all you'll need with these.


Timeless, classic, serene, and sometimes even whimsical, a glass mosaic tile looks gorgeous in kitchens needing a boost in the sparkle and polish departments.

Reflecting under cabinet lighting or daylight as it streams in through your windows, glass tile instantly opens up and expands the kitchen, much like how a mirror would.

Easy to clean and non-absorbent, glass tile comes in individual pieces, or assembled on a mesh backing in a manageable sheet for easier installation.


If you love the look of glass, stone, and metal, but can't commit to just one material, why not consider finding a mosaic that integrates one or two, or even three, of these materials?

There are a vast array of mixed-material mosaics out there now, so blending stainless with marble or travertine is perfect for traditional kitchens needing a bit of a modern edge, or contemporary kitchens requiring just a touch of timeless.


Call it a fad, call it a throwback to the 70s, geometric patterns and textures are back and they're big. Starbursts, zigzags, cubes... some of the more exclusive tile brands are offering clients something more than just pretty looking porcelain.

You can take your kitchen to an entirely new level with the help from a bright and sassy geometric tile.


Earthy and everlasting are two great adjectives that come to mind when I think of a natural-stone tile.

The pattern and flow found in stones like marble, slate, and tumbled travertine is organic and rich, making them perfect choices for kitchens that have more of a rustic and texturized esthetic.

Play with the size and direction of your stone tile; replace 4" x 4" or 6" x 6" standard sizes with something large scale, or with a blend of varying sizes.

Multi-sized subway styles look amazing run horizontally and even vertically under your upper cabinets. And if it's in the budget, consider using slabs instead of tile; a section of wall washed in gorgeous stone is simply mesmerizing.

Interior design secrets

There aren't a lot of hard-set rules when it comes to interior design, but there is a widely accepted tenet that all designers understand:

  • the importance of a solid concept can either make or break your spaces.

Before the paint, wallpaper, or floor plans, every design project absolutely needs its catalyst.

It can start with something as simple as a fixture or interesting tile you've discovered, or be as complex as interpreting the entire design scheme of an interior you've visited, but you must determine a starting point before just diving right in.

Your design concept becomes the framework for all of your design decisions, helping to keep you focused and on track throughout your entire project. 

Here are a three important tips that will not only help to put you on the right path, but keep you there...

Find Your Concept; Define Your Style

Determine what style and esthetic best suites you or your home. 

This is sometimes the hardest part in the beginning; clients might tell me they know what they don't like, but can't articulate certain elements or looks they’re drawn to.

To begin forming a concept verbally, use terms and phrases that evoke a certain feeling or esthetic that best helps to describe the space or project you'll be working on. Sometimes saying ideas or key elements of different styles out loud will help to systematize and sort out your thoughts.

In some cases though, a concept can come to you visually; seeing an image in your mind for part of the project or the colors you want to use can come in an instant. Also, don't feel you have to stick to just one specific style. Blending and morphing a variety of modern, transitional, global, or even traditional styles will only increase the wow factor of your spaces.

The key here is to have a predominant style staple, then layer in a little of the rest if you so choose. 

Leave Themes Out 

I'll use a past house of ours as a quick example here: Beach House. Sophisticated design uses elements of themes all the time, it just doesn't get too literal in the process.

To create a watery bungalow reminiscent of ocean life, I didn't haul out fishing nets, starfish, or paint waves and sand on my walls.

Grown-up design is much more subtle and alluring than that: I focused on a mix of turquoise, soft grey, fawn, soft cream, suede, and silver as a colour palette, and pulled it together with toss pillows, throws, accessories, and artwork.

Warm hardwood, rich leather, intricate woven textures, vintage white fiberglass dining chairs, soft drum shade fixtures, driftwood,  frosted glass. These are all elements that support the concept, while keeping it grounded and interpretive, not theme-y.

Collect Images and Inspiration

This leads me to another important step in strengthening a design concept: create a binder or file and grow it with images, clippings, materials, samples, and finishes of ideas that inspire you.

Having visual references of interiors, furniture, fixtures, paint colours, and anything else available at your fingertips means never having to second guess yourself or the direction you're going in.

Pinterest and Houzz are two fantastic websites you can spend a lot of time leafing through images on, so be sure to browse digital inspiration as well!


Hot fireplace design ideas

With local temps finally starting to warm up, it may seem like a strange time to write a piece on fireplace design, but great ideas and inspiration don't discriminate with the seasons.

My clients are building, no matter the time of year, and a common design feature in almost every new home it seems is a killer fireplace feature wall. Thinking of building, or revamping what you've got?

Read on for a few top-notch eye-catching ideas...

The Linear Looker

Sleek, modern, and simple... a linear fireplace is a feature on its own, regardless of the materials you choose to clad it with.

If you have a large wall, you plan to build this into, you may need to consider framing out a linear structure to help elongate the scale of the unit. Think offset mantel, or a series of floating shelves, otherwise you may end up with a puny looking (but savvy, nonetheless) feature wall.

The Metal Maven

Forget tile. Why not think sheet metal, custom cut into cubist panels or offset bands to finish off a facade in need of something stunning and unique. Talk to a metal fabricator, someone who can measure on site and install afterwards... you likely don't want to tackle a finicky project like this on your own.

The Stone Stunner

Perfect for more rustic retreats, or homes needing a heavy dose of organic texture, cladding your fireplace surround floor to ceiling in rough cut stone or natural slate is always a stunning finish.

Do away with a mantel and decoration above your fireplace, and follow the stone up the wall... an uncluttered approach is best for a bold statement.

The Peek-A-Boo

Kill two birds with one stone by installing a see-through unit, giving both a living and dining room, or kitchen and family area the benefits of ambient warmth and shimmer.

For closed in spaces, the visual from one space through to the next by way of fireplace will help to expand your spaces and make them more interconnected.

And then there are three-sided fireplaces; cap off an end wall or divide a wide open space with one of these beauties and create a super chic atmosphere in the process.

The Fortress

When you think of concrete, you may not immediately envision a fireplace wall. However, using the minimalist material in horizontal bands on a large feature wall may be just what the modern doctor ordered for your contemporary spaces.

The Library Lover

What's cozier than a chair to curl up in, when nestled in beside a roaring fire, flanked by a collection of your favorite books, trinkets, and keepsakes?

For spaces needing a softer, less contemporary feel, a fireplace built into a nook or wall with shelving stacked and styled with literary bits and pieces truly helps to create a warm and inviting area to settle down in during long winter nights or lazy Sunday afternoons.

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About the Author

A graduate of Mount Royal University in Calgary, Crispin Butterfield launched Urban Theory Interior Design in 2003 and has since been featured in Canada’s Style At Home magazine, Covet, Canadian Retailer, and the National Post.

She’s a master in designing residential and commercial soul-hugging spaces clients relish showing up to, socializing in, and especially love coming home to.

She and her team work with clients from conceptualization to completion, providing full scale service with authenticity, innovation, and lots of personality.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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