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About me

Sometimes being Happy is too Obvious

By 07/01/2010February 10th, 201730 Comments


My mom came to Canada from Finland when she was 19. She immediately met my Dad (who had also immigrated from Finland a few years prior) and within 4 short months they were married. My mom said she learned to speak English watching soaps on TV.

When I was 5 years old, arriving in Kindergarten I didn’t speak English either so what did I do? I smiled a lot! I remember people would often say “Maria is always smiling”.

My Mom & Dad

Fast forward 25 years–before my design career, I was in corporate sales in the Hotel Industry. I started working in retail (Benjamin Moore) when I decided I wanted to be an internationally known colour designer because I knew I needed a crash course in colour and that was the best way to get it.

My 5th Birthday (I see I’m wearing my favourite colour 🙂

In the almost four years that I worked at store level for two different owners (5 years ago), I received some complaints, even letters sent by customers. When I had received my 5th or 6th complaint I was really distraught–owners take this kind of thing seriously.

I could not understand why people reacted to me so differently in the store than they did when I was in their home because my clients loved me (well you know what I mean) when I was helping them with colour and design decisions in their home.

Interior by Jamie Drake

At the time, I was having this conversation with my best friend and what she said transformed the way I relate to people in my business from that point on; “Maria, why don’t you try smiling at every single customer when they walk in the store”.

I looked at her (a bit shocked) and said “Uh, I’m sure I do that already, but okay”. The following day, a customer walked into the store and I said “Hi” with a smile–and then I thought “uh oh, that feels different”.

And the funniest thing happened. When you smile at people, they smile back (what a concept!). I never had another complaint after that! And now when I’m in a store or restaurant I smile and ask for what I need, it makes it so much easier. Duh.

Happy Canada Day Weekend!

(image source)

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact us! We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous e-design consultation packages here.

Related posts:

How I became a True Expert

Three things you Don’t know about me (But I wish you did)

Where you’ll find me on Friday Mornings

6 Uninteresting Things about Me

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  • Rebecca says:

    🙂 Color me Happy!

    A great reminder!

    Love fresh flowers, but great quality fake is the only way I can afford to have "all the time flowers". I have a couple of fake arrangements that are fun but whenever I bring in or buy fresh flowers it is always a wonderful treat.

  • Sally@DivneDistractions says:

    Such truth. My mother always told me you catch more flies with honey than vinegar! It is remarkable how a simple smile and acknowledgement can turn a situation around for the good. Another good trick is to ask questions. People seem to respond better when we've asked them something than when we tell them something. That's an art unto itself!!

  • Laura Scholes says:

    What a lovely, lovely post! I am going to start my own smile campaign right away!

  • Nichole@40daysof says:

    Pretty much all of my work experience is in customer service, and the smile thing is so true.

    As for the fakes:
    I pretty much hate them. I've been around too many bad ones to feel differently. I have gotten to the point where I can handle dried or preserved flowers in some instances. But here's the thing about the affordability factor: In my experience, most people who cannot afford to buy real flowers all the time, will also not spend the money for a really good fake (like your first commenter). They just head to the craft store and buy some old ugly, offensive thing. So when my opinion is asked about what fake flowers to buy, I just excuse myself from the conversation by saying that I don't buy them so I'm the wrong person to ask. Maybe I need to learn where to buy really good fakes, so I can at least steer them in that direction. 🙂

  • pve design says:

    I have a "smile" box for smiles. It serves as a good reminder!!!

  • Marcus Design says:

    I love this Maria!! Wise words. And I love your sweet little picture in your yellow dress, so cute! Have a wonderful Canada Day!

  • Poindexter says:

    excellent reminder

  • Space by Eliana Tomas says:

    a smile a day keeps the doctor away 🙂

  • Laura Casey Interiors says:

    I am sending you an e-smile 🙂

  • Elizabeth Brown says:

    "When you're moving in the positive
    your destination is the brightest star" Stevie Wonder


    The family photos are so fun.

    Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to comment on my blog today.

  • chanteusevca says:

    Your friend gave you wonderful advice. Your smile is beautiful and contagious! I am shocked that you would ever receive any complaints. Love the pictures of your parents and you in your little yellow dress and pink socks and a huge smile!

    Happy Canada Day where my favorite designers reside!

  • Jane says:

    "Smile, and the world smiles with you!"

    What wise counsel you have given us today! Think of the harried sales clerk, the tired-at-the-end-of-the-day teacher, the lonely woman or man who misses having a special someone in hers or his life…a smile can do wonders…

    Smiling at you,
    Jane (artfully graced)

  • Donna says:

    Hi Maria, That is a sweet story! It's true, people like to see smiles, especially in customer service areas. I smile a lot…though half the time I think it's a defense mechanism–Don't shoot me–I'm smiling!

    The important thing I have to remember is to smile at my family–regularly. It's too easy to greet a child with "What's that on your chin?", instead of "Hello Sweetie! How are you?"

    My hubby gets a little too functional sometimes and I have to crack a joke or something to get him grinning. I try to be the sunshine at our house.:o)

    And I've taught the kids that smiling is the number one way to impress both customers..and the boss. They have no trouble getting jobs so it must be working.

    Great reminder! And thanks so much for sharing your story. It's very interesting..and I love the great photos!

    Donna @ Comin' Home

  • Donna says:

    On behalf of those of us who can't afford real flowers very often, it is a fact that some of us do save up our pennies to buy the best. :o) I was raised to appreciate beautiful art, music, poetry…and flowers. I save my pennies to buy quality when it comes to fake flowers because cheap ones are ugly.

  • Annie@A View On Design says:

    love it! funny how you call her "mom" and not "mum"… just noticed that!

  • Tammy@InStitches says:

    And you have a beautiful smile ! Happy Canada Day, my parents are visiting Canada this weeek.

  • This Photographers Life (Architecture+Interiors) says:

    Marie, what a great lesson, and what a wise friend to point that put to you! I love the story about your parents … Have a great holiday weekend.

  • Splendid Willow says:

    No wonder I like you, Maria! Viking blood and Canadian roots! (I am Swedish and married a Canadian – and I always say that is the best combo!)

    Happy, happy!

    But I really came in here to say that your post about which sofa to buy is the best I have ever read!
    Elle Decor will be calling soon. I have heard that they are looking for some new, creative staff writers/stylists!

    ox, Mon

  • Karena says:

    Maria this is such a great reminder to all of us. When we smile our face lights up and people can tell when you are smiling on the phone as well!

    Art by Karena

  • DesignTies says:

    A smile makes the biggest difference in how other people relate to you and how you feel about yourself. Smiling is so easy to do — we should all smile more 🙂

    Hope you had a wonderful Canada Day!!


  • Ruthie's Renewed Treasures says:

    There is no way you can smile and not feel better inside. Good thing it's contagious.

  • Ideezine says:


    It's a wonderful act of kindness because a smile says: At this moment in time YOU matter, right here, right now. Resulting in a return gesture they smile back! When you're smiling the whole world smiles at you.


  • Kim says:

    Pretty sure my folks owned the same living room furniture yours did when you were five *smile*

    We have friends who just moved to Canada and they had a great time seeing the Queen at the festivities for Canada Day.

  • SogniSorrisi says:

    A genuine smile can really make all the difference!

    My father said he learned to speak better English when watching Sesame Street with me. And me? I didn't start speaking English until I went to school either–and my mom was born in Canada.

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  • millie@PassionDecor says:

    Lovely story,thanks for sharing 🙂
    I'm not so fond of non-smiling people…especially as I am smiling a lot. Smile doesn't cost a thing,but means so much-to me as much as to others… I can't believe there are a lots of people who find it hard to smile
    if they just knew how much it means

  • Greet says:

    Hi Maria,
    I loved this story!! And it is true :If you smile at first, you will have a smile back!
    And oh what a gorgeous picture of you at 5 years old!
    Have a wonderful weekend Maria!

  • Elara says:

    Ahh, I love this one, Maria! You are wonderful!!!

  • traci zeller designs says:

    I think that adorable photo of you on your 5th birthday looks like a precursor to your new living room color scheme!!

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