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Aimee and her 5 children

This weekend Irene’s sister, Aimee experienced a makeover so big that by the end of the day Saturday, she said to Irene, “I never understood the term ‘eye candy’ until this happened to my house. Now, everywhere I look, there’s something pretty to look at.”

This project started March 4 when I launched a campaign for donations for Irene’s sister and her kids (above). None of this would have happened without your generous support, thank you so much to all of you!

We raised over $12,000 on this site, other donations brought it up to $17,000 and with all the donated labour and materials, the final total was close to $30,000!

Benjamin Moore generously donated all the paint and Irene’s painter, Kevin Spafford arrived several weeks ago and painted the main areas of the house for a ridiculously low price. We had other donations which I’ll tell you more about in this post.


Irene put me in charge of choosing the furniture and accessories for the main areas including Aimee’s master bedroom, after she gave me her colour preferences.

Irene and Aimee’s mom was here with us this weekend too and she said she remembered when Aimee and her ex-husband had bunk beds in the living room and no sofa. The house Aimee is now renting is 3,000 square feet and it has enough rooms so that each kid got a room of their own.

I’ll show you the children’s rooms later this week — the only part I can take credit for is wall colours. Irene interviewed each of her nieces and nephews to really get a feel for their interests and she came up with ideas so creative, well they deserve to be featured all on their own.

LR 1


Most of the main areas of the house were painted a darkish pink-beige. The brick fireplace was brown and the window wall was painted dark blue.

I chose BM HC-171 Wickham Gray for the living and dining room. It’s a light, fresh, blue-gray slightly on the green side.


IKEA provided $750 of free furniture, gave us a discounted price on many items and provided free shipping from their Vancouver location all the way to Port Alberni.


I donated the fish. Bought them downtown months ago and never found a spot for them.

Because Aimee has five children, we decided on a colour scheme that included navy so we ordered the denim slipcovered, Ektorp sofa and loveseat from IKEA. We wanted another good size upholstered chair but white was not an option and the other available colours didn’t work, so Irene approached The Brick to ask if they would donate a $1,200 leather chair which would obviously be more practical with kids.

They gave it to us for $400 so that was great, but it was cream not white.

So now everything else was already painted off-white. I chose Cloud White because there was no way for me to find out in advance what colour her existing white cabinets were so I could decide on the perfect trim colour, so I chose Cloud White because it’s right in the middle of bright white and cream.

Irene sent me this photo (below) as I sat in my car on the ferry on the way to Port Alberni on Friday afternoon so I decided the only way to make the creamy chair work was to distract the eye from the cream by repeating the denim blue on the sofa and loveseat on a cushion and adding an orange throw.

Then I repeated the cream two more times, I’ll show you what I did next.

Irene, her husband Kevin and a team of volunteers were in town three weeks ago on a weekend after all the IKEA furniture had arrived to assemble it and position everything in place.

We received five art prints and framing donations from Canadian Art Prints which Irene chose with her sister’s input. Irene had one of them sitting on the mantle while they waited for me to arrive to hang all the artwork as well as arrange all the lamps and accessories I had been sourcing.

Friday morning, I walked around my house, poked through my storage room and filled my car with vases, random faux flowers I was not currently using, frames, and all kinds of miscellaneous accessories I could easily spare. My SUV ended up so full I was barely able to add the extra pillows and lighting I picked up from a big box store in Nanaimo which is where the ferry landed and on my way to Port Alberni.

When I arrived, I replaced the art Irene had plunked on the mantle with this wavy, beachy one that seemed fresher and more like real art to me than the other one. Also, I liked that it had a dark frame to repeat the shelving on either side of the fireplace.

Irene added the single shelf on the left to balance the TV on the right side.

I overnighted at a beautifully decorated B&B called The Sequoia House and the couple that owned it told me about an 18,000 sq ft. thrift store called SOS in Parksville that they go every week. They showed me some fabulous lamps they had picked up for a song among many other furniture pieces, etc.

They said during dinner parties they play a game where they go around the table and everyone lists their finds from this thrift store.

I moaned that there’s really nothing that great in Vancouver — we have very few antique/vintage stores in this town. I speculated that it’s because housing is so expensive here that once people buy a home, they end up mortgage broke and don’t have a lot of discretionary income left for furnishings and home decor.

The stores that seem to do well in this town are the get-a-TV-with-your-sofa, big box places.

Green & Blue

I coordinated the books to relate to the vase.

It’s the reason why HomeSense is so big here. I have been in many high-end homes where the homeowner has walked me through their entire house pointing to all their HomeSense finds.

Anyway, Ron mentioned that the reason garage sales and thrifting is so big on Vancouver island is because so many people move there to retire which means they have houses full of furniture when they pass on.

Whimsical Teapot

Found this whimsical teapot without a lid for $2.99 so I substituted a fake succulent.

I texted Irene at 6:45 am Saturday morning and told her I would be there at 8:15 am to pick her up for a trip to the SOS Thrift Store!


Irene & Emily on our way to SOS

We hopped into her sister’s van so that we’d have lots of room in case we found something great and Emily came with us.


Irene said she had fantasized about finding someone to build a window seat in the bay window, but that didn’t happen.

Living Room window

Instead, we found a creamy yellow upholstered, skirted, half moon ottoman that was perfect (above), for $44.99 at the thrift store. The fake peace lily was $4.99 to add a hit of green and fill in the spot beside the ottoman.

Target End Table

This little end table I picked up at Target on sale for $23 a few weeks ago. The little cream whimsical vase reminds me of Aladdin’s lamp. Like a genie will come out at any moment!

And for this family, through all of you, magic happened here this weekend!

Oh, and you can’t see it here but there’s a creamy inlay on the top of the end table that relates to the cream in the chair. Along with the creamy ottoman, we made it work in the end!

This piece of art (above) was Aimee’s. I loved it and thought it would be perfect in such a visual spot in the living room.  The baskets and chevron throw are from HomeSense.

Ottoman Vignette

Loved the permanent white, faux roses on the tray. As you’ve figured out by now, I am not a snob when it comes to faux flowers. If they look real and you know you’re not someone who buys fresh flowers every week, why not?

LR 3


Here’s the other side of the living room where you can see the split level entry.

I chose all the colours via photos online.

The candlesticks, plant pot and basket were from IKEA. The wood carving and lamp came from HomeSense. The two tiny teardrop vases from the SOS Thrift store.

We found this cute little chair at SOS for $14.99 (and the basket on the stairs). The art was donated from Canadian Art Prints.

As you can see, I chose to totally ignore the bad, mostly solid looking, pink-beige entry tile. This worked because the tile didn’t have three or more colours in it. If this tile had been multi-coloured like the kitchen linoleum, we would have had no choice but to choose a colour to work with it.


Before (Dining room)

After (Dining room table and chairs, curtains, light fixture from IKEA).

Here’s the dining room photo not taken at the same angle as the “Before” shot.

Does the sunburst mirror look familiar? I had it in the guest room in my last house but as soon as my new headboard arrived (pic here on Instagram) it had to go.

I love how it visually fills up this whole wall and brings it to life!

The sideboard we found from SOS Thrift store for $174.99. Also the lamp for $14.99 and the candlestick, $8.99.

The art above the sideboard was donated from Canadian Art Prints.

Yellow & Green


Upstairs Main Bathroom Before

The painters who donated their time did not have time to paint the main bathroom and we really disliked the bleak muted purple in this space. Then, while walking around the house, placing art in the best possible spot, we tried these two pieces donated by my sister, Elizabeth.

Upstairs Bathroom

They were perfect! Covered up lots of wall space because they were so big and picked up the wall colour! Then the $5.00 sea shell on a hand towel and a starfish brought from my home. You can see the second piece reflected in the mirror.

So many homeowners do bathroom renovations without even thinking about the style of the home and what the rest of the house looks like. See the square, modern faucet (repeated in the shower)? So wrong for this house and doesn’t relate to anything in the house.

Aimee 2

Before (Aimee’s bedroom)

One of the biggest transformations was the master bedroom. Officially, this space was another family room but because all the rest of the bedrooms were for the kids, she turned this room into her bedroom.

The wall on the right she built herself with bead board! On the other side, there are two desks which make up her office with an adjoining small two-piece bathroom.

See the IKEA Kivik sofa? That came from my house, because this $600 sofa we bought when we moved in two years ago, stopped being a good placeholder in my family room a few months ago. In a bedroom though, it works great! So this sofa didn’t cost us anything (technically).

This set of four folding tables (existing) slid into another end table which didn’t look good as one piece but when grouped together as a set, looked so great.

Two lamps on either side of this sofa would have been perfect, but it wasn’t in the budget. And of course I would say that, since I’m obsessed with lighting.

See the navy throw on the chaise? A great way to keep it clean since there’s nothing on the end of a chaise but feet!

Guildford Green

The green is HC-116 Guildford Green. Love it with the blue and white. Are you impressed that the bed is the same shade of purple as the existing carpet ; ) ; )

So the art from the living room ended up here. Lovely with the green walls and the white gourd lamp is perfection.

Bath 2


Another two pieces of art donated by my sister Elizabeth. The candle sconce I picked up from the SOS Thrift Store for $5.99. And we repeated the same green here.


This low, shallow vase (above) I found from a church yard sale in our neighbourhood for 25 cents. I added some sand and cut up a branch of succulents.

Irene, her Mom and I were on the 7:30 PM ferry last night. Tired but so happy with the result!

I’ll show you the transformation of her nieces and nephews next!

Thanks again to all of you for your help. There’s nothing that makes me happier than creating spaces that feel like home. Thanks for making this possible for Aimee and her family!

Love you all! xoxo Maria

Related posts:

Update on Aimee’s (Pink Beige) House

The Enchanting World of Atmosphere

The Rule of More

If you would like some styling tips give your home a happy look and feel, become a client. On-line or In-person.

To get your exterior colours right, download my How to Choose Exterior Colours with Confidence webinar and get my go-to list of colours.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want and to make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert

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  • Momlady says:

    So many beautiful rooms! I love the high and wide window treatments in the master bedroom…actually I love the whole room. I can’t even imagine what satisfaction you must be feeling. I hope it’s a lot…cuz…wow…just wow! In fact every room you have been kind enough to share with us is stunning. Brava!

  • Monique says:

    Omg bless all of you. Fantastic job!

  • How absolutely wonderful! I can only imagine the joy in Aimee’s ‘new’ home. She must be over the moon happy – truly beautiful. What a great thing to do for someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have that. Yay!

  • Ange says:

    What a wonderful story. Can’t wait to see what you did with the kids rooms.

  • Kathy says:

    What great changes! Almost as bright and cheerful as Emily’s smile!! 🙂

  • Nancy says:

    Fantastic! Job well done by everyone! Thanks for sharing and doing this for Aimee and her children.

  • Kimberly says:

    It’s all so lovely! What a transformation!

  • This really does my heart good. I’m so happy for Aimee and her beautiful kids! Everything is wonderful and as an Ikea lover there are so many “familiar” favorite pieces!

  • You’ve done a beautiful job and it really highlights how much of an impact ones surroundings have on ones life. Your generosity will change their life in ways they haven’t even realized yet.
    I love that you don’t discriminate either – beautiful items CAN come from anywhere! I have found some of my favorite things at Salvation Army and yard sales. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      I agree with your statement that “beautiful items can come from anywhere!” When you have kids the last thing you want is for some expensive item to be broken…

  • Karen says:

    Lovely transformations. I’m sorry I missed the original story when you were fundraising. I tried to donate something today but the the site is closed. If there is any other way to donate to Aimee and her family please let us know!

  • Maria and Irene

    what an amazing job… everything looks great! loved the way you used SOS’s buys, intergrated with artwork and IKEA furnishings! This is a true inspirational job that proves that you are the “colour expert”.
    love, love, love everything,

  • Cathy Z says:

    Nicely done Irene and Maria, Aimee’s story has touched so many through you both and I’m so happy she finally has some beauty and safety (and family!) around her.

  • I think it is so cool that you did this, Maria. Loved seeing how it turned out. Wishing their family all the best in their beautiful home!

  • Peggy says:

    Maria, What a transformation!! You’ve done a spectacular job. Everything is beautiful!!

  • Lorrin says:

    Amazing job, Maria and Irene! You both have created a beautiful and functional space for Aimee and her children. Hugs and blessings to you both!

  • k says:

    Wonderful post and wonderful things you did for her family!! I really like how you explained the “whys” on things you did (such a tying in the cream chair, repeating the wicker basket tones, repeating the dark wood in the pic frame over the fireplace). That helps me learn what to do here in my own home.

  • Annie says:

    Really cool Before and After. Great story involving generous people, a strong family and the colour expert who assisted in creating a warm, beautiful home. Very nice.

  • Susan@Susan Silverman Designs says:

    Maria and Irene

    What a spectacular transformation! Irene, Aimee is lucky to have you for a sister. And Maria, not only are a colour expert, but a “stylist extraordinaire”.


  • Great story, great transformation! Absolutely fantastic!!!! I’ve been waiting for the pics and I love what you did to the place! I’m so excited for her!!! I bet they are all excited to wake up this morning in their new wonderfully furnished home!

  • Judy says:

    Absolutely beautiful, you have done such a great job!

  • Maggie S says:

    What a fantastic transformation! You took a place that looked dark and dreary and made it warm and welcoming! I love the color in the entry –I know it wasn’t what you wanted but it looks so happy!!

    I can’t wait to see the rest of the rooms

  • Mary-Illinios says:

    Hi Maria, You guys did a great job on the home. Having a pretty home makes one feel good. And this family needed to feel good.
    The next time an opportunity like this comes up, I would be happy to sew pillows or drapes. I’m quite the little sewer.
    And here’s your tip of the day…when faux flowers get dusty, shake them in a paper bag with salt added to it. The salt knocks off the dust.

    • Kathy says:

      Thanks for the tip! I love faux flowers because they never die, as I have a black thumb and kill real plants…

    • KJ says:

      I just rinse mine under running water and leave them inverted to drip dry on a towel. It hasn’t ruined any yet (knock on wood). And I’m thrilled that someone thinks faux is OK; I love fresh but could/would never buy them weekly.

      • mrsben says:

        It is amazing how the old trick, ‘salt in a paper bag’ does work! Also for another added tip; a quick blast of compressed gas (the kind you use to clean computer systems with) does wonders as well. ☺

  • Sarah Hepburn-Smith says:

    Fantastic transformation to create a truly happy home. Great job Maria & Irene!!

  • susan says:

    What a beautiful home now! wow. You’ve all worked together to create such a happy home for this family and undoubtedly your love will have ripples far beyond color and furniture. You have touched our hearts and demonstrated love for those children and their mom. xox

  • Mary Lou Fritz says:

    Looks like a HOME,
    that is wonderful,
    so happy for that family, best wishes to them.
    fantastic job!
    Mary in Ohio

  • sandyc says:

    What I love about you, Maria, is that you always fulfill your tagline, “If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in”. I’m sure you and Irene have Aimee and the kids smiling from ear to ear. Looking forward to kids’ big reveal.

    And what’s added fun is the way you teach us so much and inspire us with every post and project. Super job!!!

  • KA says:

    Looks like it should be in a magazine. Brava to all the women for doing the planning, donating and work. Nice of the painters to chip in, too.

  • Gwen DeBruyn says:

    Fabulous! You guys did a great job! I can only imagine how happy Aimee and her family must be! Looking forward seeing the kids rooms as well!

    Well done Decorating Angels!

  • Simply fabulous in every way!

  • Kathy says:

    Yes, isn’t she wonderful! I love that I can actually afford to do these things in my home, instead of the pricetags being so out of reach that only “rich” people can have it. Maria, you are being a wonderful steward of the money everyone donating, stretching it to achieve beautiful results…

  • Ginny says:

    Very inspiring how this all came together! So many great stories in each piece here to reflect on with joy. The bedroom transformation is just incredible!! Beautiful warm joy filled home. So happy for Aimee and her family. Bless you and Irene for doing this!

  • Diane says:

    Beautiful and deserving project
    Not sure why preferring fresh flowers to fake is being a “snob” but ok. :

  • franki says:

    Well done, good friend, well done!!! franki

  • Nicole Scott says:

    Looks fantastic Maria!

  • I’m just SO happy to see this!

  • Kay says:

    SO happy! (even to be a small part of this.) You and Irene and everyone did an awesome job – of course. All the lives that touched this project are enriched thanks to your spark that started this. Blessings to this family.
    (Still wondering if the 6th child is ok…)

  • Robin says:

    That is just amazing! I love seeing how you were able to work with colors that would have utterly frustrated me. All the explanations are so helpful. This family will be emotionally impacted by this in a very positive way – that is wonderful. I hope you do this again at some point and I will definitely contribute. It was very generous of you and moving to read.

  • Claire says:

    Amazing job Maria and Irene! Such a touching story and journey. Way to go for making this happen

  • Wow, Great Job Maria and Irene. You have totally transformed this home and for such a deserving family. Kudos to everyone who donated. I love that you pulled together such an amazing space without breaking the bank. It goes to show that almost anyone could use this as a model to
    create a space for any budget. Congratulations

  • Susan S says:

    And now it’s a home! Bravo everyone! I can’t imagine the joy and jubilation that is occurring under that roof! Blessings to all of you.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    “Decorating Angels”—perfect description! This is love in action! What a joy for not only Aimee and her kids, but for the two (4 or 6+) of you! GIVING of your time , talents and care is really the best feeling in the world, isn’t it?
    So proud of you guys!!!
    There is a proverb that says “The sleep of the laborer is sweet.” Sleep tight & sweet tonight….Irene & Maria :).

  • Corinne says:

    Wow, now that I know that Maria shops at the SOS, I will definitely shop there with a designer eye!!
    Great job!!

  • Pam says:

    This is beautiful in every way!!!

  • Lara says:

    Wow! Great job. I love the frugal behind the beauty 🙂 And I’m desperate for trip to the SOS Thrift Shop!

  • Carol J says:

    Quality is taking things from thrift stores, donations, and that everyday store around the corner and making them sing together. This is beautiful. The new master bedroom is wonderful.

    The entryway walls that turn blazing yellow make me smile. Once a day they erupt from a pale and lovely peaceful green to a scintillating brilliance — just to remind you the sun is always shining somewhere. Such a transformation should be written into a fairy tale.


  • Betsy OShea says:

    Really nice job all around! Dont remember seeing the story of Aimee and why she needed this makeover but was generous of you Maria and Irene. One question…what was the starting point or inspiration for the master? The bedspread/duvet? Just wondering cuz light yellowish green is not usually used w Navy Blue. Usually its a brighter cleaner green. Just wondering. Maybe the homeowner just loves navy since it was also the main accent or secondary color in the LR.

  • Susijo says:

    I love that you point out little details that show HOW you tie together pieces that might otherwise not quite work, in terms of colors and style. I also really appreciate your practicality in showing how and when to ignore fixtures that aren’t in budget to replace, and that even you sometimes have to deal with a wall color not working the way you envisioned. You all did a beautiful transformation!

  • I am so happy to see this beautiful design put together! Thank you for allowing us to participate in this miracle! I am sure Aimee and her family will enjoy this blessing for many years. It is their time to thrive, and now they can!!

  • Wonderful! I love it, and am so happy for Aimee and her family. 🙂

    Where did the white sunburst mirror come from? Did I miss that bit of info?

    Thanks, Jill

  • Mary says:

    I’d love to know where the white drapes were purchased. Lovely and informative post!

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