The Baskervillian



My first sunset at the cottage


When people find out where I live, the first words out of their mouth is " you drive the Malahat everyday". I find the statement amusing, first off I dont work 7 days a week! Thank god those days are over. Secondly, yes, I commute, I love the drive. In fact, the Malahat is my favourite part, from Langford in...... sucks. Thirdly, there are many beautiful places on the island, most of that beauty is north of the Malahat. 

My house is called Rennick Cottage, 11 years ago the house was bulldozer bait, it was ugly and neglected. The land was amazing. I offered to purchase the property before I entered the house. In all honesty, I really did not care what the house looked like, I could change it, but the view..... it was worth every penny!


Day 1 at Rennick Cottage

There were many reasons to move to the Cowichan Valley, but probably the most important is that I was closer to my parents in Qualicum Beach. My dad had been diagnosed with early on set dimentia, being one hour closer really made a big difference. I changed my work week to Thursday thru Saturday and Linda came on board to do Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

My neighbors thought I was crazy, a single woman from the city buying a tear down on a country road. My mom and Dad thought I was brilliant, and came to visit me every weekend during the reno's. This time spent with my Dad will be most cherished memories.




I acted as my own General Contractor.... something I would never advise anyone to do! I excelled at it, but really it's not for everybody. It was a domino effect the day the windows went in. If I do new windows, I should do new siding, which leads to new roof ( shingle roof never leaked), and the list went on and on.


When I said bulldozer bait, I meant it! Powder post beetle had eaten through the sill and all the load bearing walls, they had not made it to the floor joists. My carpenter told me it was the worst case he ever saw. I did not win a prize for that. The house is jacked up a small amount, as everything is replaced with new full dimension lumber.


The house gets a face lift with cedar board and batton.

Inside the house, new flooring, new kitchen, new bathroom, all new drywall, lighting, blah, blah, blah! I'm wiped out from making decisions. I take some time off and start working in the garden. I soon become a garden queen, I'm addicted, I now know all the plants names in Latin! 


The cottage is stained Nantucket grey, and the metal roof is charcoal. The garden has matured in the last few years, and will be pruned back in the spring. This summer I worked hard to finish the courtyard near the front door.... that will have to wait for another blog. The projects continue, and I am now asked " are you finished working on your house?" The answer to that question is easy "never!"


Ida and Creamy curl up to catch some Fall sunshine on the front porch. 

Country living is not for everyone. For me, living here, is perfect. I could not be happier, I have never worked so hard in my life! This summer alone I have slung 12 yards of compost, 11 yards of cart path, stacked 2 cords of wood, dry stacked a 100 foot by 5 foot rock wall, and Im quite sure I'm forgetting something.

My neighbors, whom I love dearly, still think I'm crazy...... but in a good way. There is a scarlett oak planted in the back yard in memory of my dad, he passed away 2 years ago. My mom drives down to check out what Im up to on a regular basis. This is home sweet home.

Love Where You Live.







By far the most asked question I get in the store, "how do you know a piece is worth re-upholstering?"

As most of you know, we have sold upholstered goods for years. We sell them in both "As Is" condition, and "Custom Upholstered" , the difference in price ....... lots!

The one common denominator in all the upholstered goods we sell is always, and I mean always, a high quality timeless designed frame. I will NEVER sell a piece "AS IS" unless the frame is excellent. Excellent in quality and design. Why I choose not to re-upholster?  Simply the current fabric is in such good condition. 

The below photo of the "Hampton" Wingback chair is a perfect example of a chair that did not require re-upholstering. The fabric was in great shape, very current, and no soiling. We sold these chairs for $400 each, had I re-upholstered them, $2000 each. At first glance you would say, it is never worth re-upholstering, however, what if the fabric was awful, and believe me we have seen some bad fabric. Take a look at the lines of this chair, this is a great wing back. What you can't see is the frame, and this is when 20 years of selling furniture really helps. I know the springs are coil sprung from touching the underseat, the frame is solid maple, and hand carved front feet. Had the fabric been awful, YES, I would have re-upholstered this chair in a heartbeat. Yes, it is worth $2000, because it is essentially a new chair.


It is very difficult for the untrained eye to know when re-upolstering is appropriate. So first off, consult a professional upholsterer. They will tell you hands down wether the frame warrants the expense. Go look at high end upholstered goods, take a trip into Jordans Furniture. Yes re-upholstering is often the same price as new, but what you get back is new, and it is CUSTOM, one of a kind, it is yours. Take a close look at the exquisite detailing we did on these wingbacks for the IDS West Show in 2013. No one will ever own another one like it!





 The decision to re-upholster starts with, you must love the piece, and secondly, the frame must well made and a timeless design, then go for it! The quality of brand new furniture today is not what it was. They don't make them like they use to. So think it through, before you discard that old chair or sofa.


Love Where You Live,







Im just back from walking the dog on what is the most beautiful New Years Day. What a brilliant start to the New Year.

Like most people I take time to reflect at this time of year. Today I feel gratitude.

I take a yoga class every week  with Karen Cooper, her calming voice reminds us all at the end of class to be grateful, to take time each day to be mindful of all that we have. I sit on my yoga mat and so many things go through my head. I have lots to be grateful for. People. Im grateful for all the people I share my life with, from family to friends, clients, suppliers, business colleagues, my life is filled with truly exceptional people.

So as we bring in the New Year, I want to say thank-you, to Margo for all her listening, to Patricia who loves my business, to Linda who has graciously worked with me in the store for years, to my amazing sales reps, Luly, Terry, Cathy, and Melinda..... you took me under your wings when I was just 27 years old and have been taking care of me ever since ( 22 years!), to my clients who are always excited and appreciative of all work that goes into making Surroundings special... I do it all for you!

Cheers to 2015, it is going to be a brilliant year.

with gratitude,


This painting by Ken Faulks is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I see before I go to sleep at night..... pure happiness.


A couple of weeks ago my Mac Book starting to act up, when I took it in for a look over, the tech stared at me like I was crazy...... " that's an old Mac Book." I personally do not think 7 years is old, especially considering Im an antique dealer, 150 years that's old. I paid around $1500 for this piece of equipment which I'm told is obselete, and should be put out of it's misery. The new Mac Air does look tempting, so here I am about to spend another $1200 or more on a piece of equipment that will have to be chucked in 7 years or less. Now what does this have to do about art? Simple. The painting above I purchased for $1600 20 years ago, guess what it is not obselete! Ha! In fact I would say it has gone up in value. So why do so many people worry about purchasing art? Common comment I get in the store,  "Will it hold it's value?"   We think nothing of replacing our tech at the tune of thousands of dollars, and yet we think buying art is somehow a rip off. Really, I think I know what the rip off is, In the last 20 years I have easily spent $5000 on techi stuff that simply does not last.

I look at the way I spend money a bit differently then most, I am afterall half Danish. Is it beautiful and will it enrich my life. I was 15 years old when my parents took me to see The McMichael Gallery in Kleinurg, Ontario, home to a vast collection of the group of seven. It changed my life. I fell in love with art. I started to collect at the age of 29. Like most people I bought what I could afford. Actually I bought the painting above, which I so could not afford!! But Ken Faulks knew I loved that painting and so he let me pay for it in installments. 


A wall at Rennick Cottage shows artwork hung salon style. To balance the collection,  a powerful painting by Coco Jones hangs solitarily on the next wall.


There is no method to what I buy. I buy what I love. I dont worry how it is going to look, it always, always looks fabulous. When I see a piece of art that makes me stop dead it my tracks, that's it.



A small Dutch Master hangs closely on the wall to contemporary Artist Michelle Miller's acrylic on board. I have known Michelle Miller for many years, my fist purchase from her was a papier mache sculpture, which everyone loves. I love this painting for so many reasons, but mainly it's because Miller seldomly paints figurative. She is more widely known for big bold abstracts.



The center of the Salon wall is a painting by Donna Gordon, I saw it on her easel before it was finished. It was love at first sight. The thing is, Donna said it wasn't finished and in my eyes it was finished. After a couple of days of discussion I traded a piece of furniture for the painting, unfinished according to Donna. It was unititled, I refer to it as the old house staircase. The texture in unbelieveable. It is the one painting you want to touch, it is like you can feel the plaster walls.



A tiny (6" by 8") piece of encuastic work by Caite Dheere hangs amongst the art wall. Such small pieces can get lost, but somehow this stands out, mainly because it is encasutic. Encuastic is a centuries old artform of heated wax to which colored pigment is added and applied to wood. It is a very technical and rare art form. I consider this piece precious as it was a Christmas gift from Linda (who has worked for me for years), and also Caite is Surroundings Alumni. I have watched Caite's career over the years, she just keeps getting better and better, and her Shows are a major success. You have to show up Opening Night if you want to buy the best pieces.



The latest edition to the wall,  "Tete de Femme" was purchased at Lunds Auctioneers. Lunds produces some amazing art auctions and truly represents your best value for buying art. There is something fabulous in every price range. My lovely lady was in my opinion a steal at $150. The frame is worth more than that. The secret is to buy only what you love and can afford. Check Lunds schedule as they do only 4  Art Auctions a year.


The last photo..... my favorite chairs, they are a work of art, and they become part of the art installation. Oddly enough, they look away from the wall, they are placed in front of the window. I sit here in the morning with my cup of coffee and stare at the most beautiful scenery. I love walking into the room with cup of coffee in my hand, I look over each piece on the wall, a kind of good morning ritual. 

I live with the art. It feeds my soul. It makes me happy. I really not could imagine my life without it. Apparently I can't live without a new Mac Air either.

Love Where You Live.







Cheese platters are easy to create and yummy to eat.

A cheese plate at Surroundings Christmas Open House

I recently looked through a magazine and there was Martha Stewart's beautiful stable set up for Thanksgiving. It looked stunning, however, let's be honest few of us own a 10 million dollar stable, a custom made table that sits 24 (thousands of dollars), sets of Tolix chairs  ($250 each). Of course, there is the issue, do you really want to eat in the barn/stable? But it makes for one great photo shoot!

Entertaining is an art form, there is no doubt about it. But the secret to great entertaining is not the photo shoot worthy table settings, it's being a great host.

A great hostess puts everyone at ease, is relaxed, and is thoroughly enjoying having people in their home. Sure it's nice to have the incredible table settings, but if the conversation is lagging and there is no laughter in the room, it's pointless.

I entertain a lot, my little farmhand cottage is small, about 1200 square feet, I don't let that stop me. I set up folding tables in the living room and rent chairs from Pedersens. I cover the tables with left over upholstery fabric, and the center piece is often created with whatever I have in the house. I love this orange vase, a gift from Interior Designer Barb Gergel. This past Thanksgiving I cut some branches from the Smoke Tree in the yard and some Virginia Creeper, which had turned bright red. Simple, fast, no fuss, no muss, and it still looked great the next day. So Martha Stewart would not put this display in her magazine, it's fine by me, my guests loved it, and they also loved watching me throw it together. 



 Which brings me to my next point, part of being a good host is letting them in on the action. Leave something undone, so your guests can see you put it together, this develops that relaxed atmosphere. If everything is not done when the guests arrive, just chill, let them watch with a glass of wine in their hand.

The great host does not care if red wine gets on the carpet. If you go mental over the thought of red wine on your new berber, or shoes worn on the hardwood floor, please don't invite people over. Accidents will happen, and when they do, the great host will simply laugh and move on. Years ago my girlfriend knocked over a full glass of red wine, it hit everything! The carpet (brand new) the sofa (new slipcover) and the arm chair (just custom upholstered). She was mortified, I got out out my magic formula (see below), and then gave her another glass of wine. 

1/3 cup of hydogen peroxide

1 and 1/2 cups of water

and a squirt of Sunlight dish soap, (the original yellow container)

Mix this up is a spray bottle and have on hand. It truly will take care of any stains.

When I was choosing the flooring for the cottage, I considered the entertaining aspect. I choose solid rustic cherry, tough, durable, and red wine wipes up easily. All the guests love the floors (they can wear slippers or heels) including the 4 legged ones (they prefer to go barefoot).


I hear excuses why people don't entertain all the time, "my place is not big enough," "the dog is a pain," "I dont have a table big enough," "I don't like cooking," "it's too much work," "Im too tired." Really it's O.K. I think we put far too much pressure on ourselves to make everything perfect. Afterall, every magazine shows us the beautiful photo shoots of the perfect dinner party, the perfect Christmas dinner, the perfect cocktail party. My house has never looked like that, and never will. I entertain because I love having people in my home.

Love Where You Live