Design and Style: Gain perspective with a design audit

This vintage blueprint, now decorating the author’s ‘new’ home office, was a deal at $20 from the Leslieville Flea. Photo: Clear Life Magazine / Luis Albuquerque Photography

For me, January has always been a bit of a write-off month. I’m usually so exhausted from all of the holiday craziness (this year we at the Leslieville Flea held three holiday markets!), that it sometimes takes me almost the whole month to get into gear. It’s hard enough to remember the year, it’s even more difficult to get inspired and to get going.

But I do love the idea of a fresh start and a clean slate, so now with February in full swing, it’s time to clear your head and take charge.

I like to make a list of things I want to accomplish for the year: goals to meet, things that need doing, things I want to do. One of the goals I’ve set is to be even more conscious of the environment – maybe it’s the crazy weather patterns we are seeing and the scary reality of global warming.

In keeping with this, we recently signed up for an energy audit – they come and assess how efficient your home is and make recommendations on where you can improve. There are rebates for upgrading things like furnaces and windows or making changes to decrease your home’s energy consumption.

That started me thinking about making a design audit of my home. We often focus on how our home looks, but we sometimes forget about how it functions. A design audit is a great way to help you make better use of your home – and give you a fresh perspective.

Start by going room to room. Take notes and/or pictures so you will have a complete idea of what needs to be dealt with.

Look at how your home is functioning. Our lives change and so does the way we use our homes. This audit can help improve how your home is used and make it work better for you. It also gives you the opportunity to clear out some items that you just aren’t using anymore and make a list of items you may now need.

The majority of the time I work from home and have always just set up my laptop in my kitchen area. While this seemed like a great idea a few years ago, now I’m feeling like I need my own space to work in. While doing my “audit” of our home, I realized that our rarely used spare room was the perfect spot to set up shop. It already had a very cool vintage metal file cabinet in it – perfect for office supplies and storage. There is a convertible sofa in the room – not only a great spot to sit and work at, but it can double as extra sleeping space when needed. When we have a guest my work materials can all be tucked away neatly in my desk/console.

Looking at areas of the home we don’t need or use constantly can help us reclaim some space and use it in a better way. Look at how you can get organized in each space. If you need more storage, look at items that are multi-functional. An old vintage trunk is a perfect coffee table and can provide much-needed storage.

Ask yourself how you feel about the look of your home. Are there areas that could be refreshed without extensive renos?

Moving through my house, I decided to stain the white grout in our bathroom a dark grey. A relatively easy solution that will solve the problem of the white grout looking dirty and also give a fresh look to the bathroom.

Paint, of course, is the easiest way to change the look of any room. Most of our house is white or light grey. I love that look and feel for the common areas, but in a private space like an office or a powder room it is OK to have some fun and use a bolder colour.

In my office I’ve gone with a much darker warm colour. The ceiling in that space is in such bad shape, patching and painting isn’t enough so I’ve decided to cover it in vintage tin ceiling tiles. This turns a problem into a design feature.

Have a walk through your own home and identify areas that need some help or problems you need to deal with. Then, send me an email at with your design issues/problems or questions and pictures of the space you’re having trouble with. I’d love to help you out, and you might even be featured in the next column.

Christine Roberts, BAAID, is an interior designer, stylist, avid vintage collector, and co-founder of the Leslieville Flea. She makes furniture and home accessories of reclaimed materials. Connect with her at ~

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