Rustic retreat redo

Greg and Laura live just around the corner from me and recently transformed their dated dining  room and awkward kitchen into a modern rustic retreat — complete with a wood stove. It’s all the best things about a cabin but smack dab in the middle of town. Here’s what they started with in the diningroom:

Already an addition to the original home, the dining area ‘featured’ a lowish stucco’d ceiling, just one window, faux brick, and dated panelling. And, while there was plenty of room for dinner parties, it wasn’t an inviting space.


The kitchen too had already been renovated but was an add assortment of pieces — with an inexplicable gap under the window! Read on to see the transformation.

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Rustic retreat redo

John Gerrard finds unique inspiration

I’ve been following the career of  Calgary-based artist, John Gerrard, for a couple of years, purchasing the first of his Crowd Series for my new home in 2014. More recently, John decided to go ‘all in’, quitting his day job and committing full-time to his art. And while it’s the ‘self-promotion, e-mails, and social media’ responsibilities that John finds most challenging, he took some time to answer some questions from this fan!


Julie: Why now?

John: Things were going south with my work as a commercial sign maker, and it felt like a good time to take the plunge. I don’t have children or mortgages at this point in my life, and if I did I don’t think it would be as easy to do what I’m doing. I’m also at a point with my work where I think it’s strong enough to push and pursue more seriously.



Julie: How would you describe your work routine?

John: With the most recent landscapes, I’ve been trying to finish one a week. The self-inflicted deadline helps me stay disciplined. Another thing that helps is that I’ve been driving my girlfriend to work in the morning. So I’ll go to my studio and work and then pick her up when she’s done her shift. I’m a horrible morning person, so this gets me going. There are times I don’t feel like painting, though that is rare. I usually have a strong urge to create, so it’s not too hard to stay productive in that way.


Especially with this latest series of New York landscapes, there is a sense of flow, motion, almost athleticism in the work, making me curious about John’s process.
Julie: How long does it usually take you to complete a painting?
John: Average time for the recent landscapes is between 10-15 hours. It depends on the size of the piece, and also the style. The crowd paintings happen rather quickly. Some as quick as 3-5 hours as it’s so automatic. It’s important to me that I have multiple sessions though. Coming at things with a fresh set of eyes is really valuable, and helps me know what needs to be changed when I have breaks from looking at the work.
Julie: Who or what are your influences?
John: I don’t really have a favourite artist. There are a few blogs I follow that have a lot of interesting work, but nothing that I think influences me in a major way. I’ve been big into NBA basketball lately, and I find their level of discipline / commitment to their craft inspiring. I find a lot of the art world to be pretentious and draining, and I also think a certain level of ignorance to it helps keep my work unique. I’m sure people would argue this point, as there is something to be said with being involved with the contemporary dialogue.

Julie: What misconception about ‘artists’ would you like to correct if you could?

John: The creative act is often like the tip of an iceberg. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes which often counters our romantic notions of creating. There is no creative miracle where things just appear, rather just a lot of trial and error.


I, for one, am thankful that John keeps trying and erring on the side of following his creative passions! (To see his collection of paintings and prints currently for sale, please click here.)
Thanks again, John, for taking some time to chat!
(Photos from John’s website)
John Gerrard finds unique inspiration

A Woman of a Celebrated Age


If you’re a woman of a ‘certain age’ like me, you may find yourself occasionally teetering on that precarious edge between fabulous and frumpy. But, take heart grand dames and watch this inspiring documentary (available on itunes) about legendary fashion icon, 93 year-old Iris Apfel. Says Ann Hornaday (Washington Post, 2015): “Iris serves as a spirited, often dazzling primer in how to fight the dying of the light and feel fabulous while doing it.”

Magnolia Pictures

Even better are Iris’s own words:

“If you can’t be pretty, you have to learn to make yourself attractive. I found that all the pretty girls I went to high school with came to middle age as frumps, because they just got by with their pretty faces, so they never developed anything. They never learned how to be interesting.”

“It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.”

from 40+ Style

“Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self-expression and, above all, attitude.”

“When you’re somebody like myself, in order to get around and be attractive, you have to develop something, you have to learn something, you have to do something. So you become a bit more interesting.”

And interesting Iris has become! Particularly inspiring are her diverse interests including interior design, weaving, religious vestments, and of course — couture costume jewelry, of which she is said to own the largest collection in the United States.

In 2011, Architectural Digest featured the Apfels’ uniquely styled apartment.

Of course, while Iris obviously teeters nowhere near ‘frumpy’ — she is certainly eccentric. At one point in the film, when they visit the storage warehouse —  if you didn’t know you were looking at an iconic ‘collection’ — you might think this was an episode of ‘Hoarders’!  You might also question Iris’s capacity for warmth and compassion if it weren’t for the sweet displays of tenderness toward Carl, her husband whose 100th birthday celebration is included in the film and who passed away in August 2015.


I think my two favourite take-aways from this documentary are the value of original thinking and the challenge to always grow. But Iris says it best:

“When you don’t dress like everybody else, you don’t have to think like everybody else.”

“If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine. Sure, it gets a little harder as you get older, but new experiences and new challenges keep it fresh.”


Words to live by as we begin a new year. If you’re taking on a new challenge in 2016, please leave me a comment!




A Woman of a Celebrated Age

My ‘Famously’ Small Apartment

From 2010-2012, I owned a tiny (492 sq.ft) apartment in the historic Anderson Estates building just 1 block off Calgary’s ‘red mile’ (17th Ave SW). The exterior of this building had me at hello:


And the common areas were more like a grand hotel than an apartment building, featuring Calgary’s oldest working birdcage elevator (not so fun when your arms are full of groceries, but still…) and an elegant marble staircase worn by more than a 100 years of footfalls.

However, on first seeing one of the two individual apartments for sale — I all but ruled it out because of its small size. But realtors know what they’re doing. After showing me an apartment on the ‘dark side’, we walked to the other end of the hall and looked at a corner suite.(Right 4th floor corner above.) And while we walked, the agent just happened to mention that the building was used from time to time as a set for music videos and and indie films. With 10 ft ceilings, huge windows, light streaming in from three sides, and my heart set on bumping into a film crew, perhaps in the elevator — #309 became my tiny T-shaped home.


So, if you’ve already had a look at my latest project (Shotgun Renovation) you know how I love to buy something and then change things up, sometimes drastically. This small space was the exception in that I made only a couple little changes. For starters, I removed a 4 in. picture rail that cut the livingroom walls in half and made actual picture hanging and furniture arranging almost impossible. (For some, this is a controversial move, removing an original character element, but if it makes you feel better — I salvaged a piece, which my brother used as the base for a row of coat hooks in the narrow front hall.)

These two shots were pulled from the Anderson Estates photo gallery and show you how all the apartments were finished with that wood trim. (The adorable little  built-in cabinet has a pass-through underneath to the kitchen!)

So, here’s my finished take on the livingroom:


Using soft greys and teals, I maintained a monochromatic color scheme throughout with filmy linen curtains from Ikea and a Crate & Barrel sectional which just barely fit in the birdcage elevator! The teal shag rug I had cut from a roll of carpet.

IMG_0088My other little change to the living-room was the addition of a floor-to-ceiling wall of cabinets. With a depth of only 14 in., this shelving added tons of needed storage without taking up too much precious floor space. The lower cabinet doors mimicked existing built-ins and  I painted the unit the same as the walls to help it look like it belonged! (Unfortunately, the TV is on in this photo. What can I say? I wish it wasn’t.)

The bathroom remained exactly as is because who would want to mess with that original clawfoot and retro tile? (Blue bath mat from Restoration Hardware.) I liked to refer to the bathroom’s upper level as ‘upstairs’!

This bedroom was one of the coziest I’ve had. Something about being perched up there on the corner of the 4th floor with views from two sides — made is seem quite ‘nesty’. Plus, my old ‘Begbie Bed'(see ‘Shotgun Renovation’ for the back story) was right at home in this 100-year-old bedroom.



But while I was super happy in my cozy little apartment, none of this made the building particularly famous. That happened after I left, which is the biggest major bummer. Perhaps, if you’re a fan of FX, you’ve already figured it out? Here are a couple of clues provided by a Gus Grimly (hint) fan and instagrammer. The top shots show the building in its uncelebrated state (wood trim and all, haha), and the bottom shots as seen in the series!

You got it — it’s the FX hit,  Fargo, something NPR just described in their yearly round-up as a ‘marvel of modern television’. That’s right, I left 2 years too soon and missed my chance to bump into Colin Hanks (meh)…but the Coen brothers? Are you kidding me? Only time I’ve had a touch of seller’s remorse.















My ‘Famously’ Small Apartment

Our High Level bridge

by Julie Deimert

Zander watches a train cross from the vantage of Lethbridge’s Galt Museum

If you live in Lethbridge, you probably see this bridge almost every single day, whether you’re walking in the river bottom, driving downtown, commuting from the west side, or cycling along Scenic Drive. It’s a part of our landscape and hard to imagine the river valley without it. And while I’ve known that the High Level bridge is renowned as the largest of its kind in the world — I’ve rarely stopped to think about how it got here.

But thanks to Carolyn for posting Lethbridge Historical Society’s photos, I have a renewed appreciation for this bridge, the largest railway structure in Canada which was constructed between 1907 & 1909. What a feat of engineering!

First of all, kind of eerie almost to see the river valley without it:


And check out these two machines: the ‘Travelling Erector’ and ‘Travelling Riveter’.



Makes me wonder if the producers of the AMC production, Hell on Wheels, (shot in Alberta’s Bow Valley) — took some lessons from the experiences of this crew (below)? I’m sure they had some equally ‘riveting’ (haha) stories to tell!


Much more recently, like just last week — our bridge was in the news again as CPR’s holiday train made the crossing.


Our High Level bridge

Shotgun Renovation

by Julie Deimert and Carolyn Geddert (photos)

IMG_6301It’s no secret, I’m a bit of a renovation addict and love turning rundown houses into something better. And, believing that each old fixer-upper is my last, I pour my heart into my new ‘forever’ home. Like this one: the cheapest, smallest home on the market in an almost desirable older neighbourhood. Plus, the little prairie ‘shotgun’ (20ft X 43ft) had some things going for it: high ceilings, great light, exposed brick and original siding.

Not going for it: popcorn ceilings, textured walls, cheap laminate, dated floor tiles, and a faux arch!

So, inspired by the challenge of small space design and well-resourced by apartment therapy and houzz , I rolled up my sleeves and called my contractor. And, while he saw uninsulated 2×4 stick framing, funky wiring, and a complete absence of something called “square” — I saw modern cottage.

The demo started neatly enough, just taking out one wall to turn the front bedroom into a small livingroom but one thing led to another as it always does.
Unable to skim coat or scrape the textured walls and discovering there was no insulation behind most of them, we decided to remove all the lath & plaster from the exterior walls.
Flimsy faux arch and ugly 'peninsula' gone!
Once the lath & plaster was removed, it was more than a little unnerving to glimpse daylight through the gaps in the exterior siding!

IMG_0905And while we were in the demolition phase, off came the old deck too! Needless to say, I was excited to begin the next phase: capitalizing on the shotgun’s clean lines and modest dimensions with a simple modern design.
Continue reading “Shotgun Renovation”

Shotgun Renovation