Cori Halpern

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Design that brings your personal style to life.

Monthly Archives: November 2015

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Just the Tip of the Iceberg November 24, 2015


Often, the problem issues that you see in your bathroom are just the tip of the iceberg…

Sometimes I get calls from people asking me to come and take a look at their bathrooms because they have an “issue”. Sometimes it’s a water stain, or a water stain on a ceiling below the bathroom, or grimy grout on the shower floor, or a leaky shower, or poor drainage in the tub or shower, or even (gasp!) mold.

The very first thing they want to know is “Can I just fix this problem?” Meaning – can they “just” remove the shower floor/tile/drywall in that area, and repair, patch and paint to make it go away, and not have to spend any money.  As a consumer, I completely understand this question.  Nobody wants to spend money unexpectedly on home renovations and repairs that they did not plan on.  I get this because I just had to put a new roof on my house, and it was NOT fun. And I had no choice.

Unfortunately, the answer to their question is almost always, “NO”. The problem is that what you see on the surface, is actually not the real problem – it is just the tip of the iceberg.  It is just a symptom of something bigger below the surface – and that is what needs to be addressed and fixed.  I do not do “patch jobs”, or advise my clients to do them.  The problem with doing a patch job, is that it is almost always temporary, and almost always does not fix what is actually wrong – it just makes it so that you can believe that everything is okay, and you do not have a very big and expensive issue lurking below…

It is simply not possible to remove a portion of a shower, or a floor, or tile, or plumbing, and properly assess or repair damage, not to mention what your space will look like when you try to match anything when you are putting it back together.

Dunblaine "before"

Our Dunblaine Master Ensuite “before” – the tub panel has been removed to check for water damage.

In our Dunblaine Master Ensuite project, the client had patched, repaired, and put a band-aid on her leaking shower and tub three times before calling me.  She did ask if I knew how to patch it and thought that the issue was possibly poor silicone work or grout work, which had caused leaking and actual damage to the ceiling in her family room below.  My immediate reaction was that if “fixing” this three times has not worked, then there is really something going on here.  Although I am always excited by a renovation – she was not as excited at the prospect of an impromptu total bathroom remodel.  But, after thinking about it, the clients realized that they had been living in a bathroom that was clearly giving them issues, and also they never really loved it to begin with….and it’s a really good thing because –

Dunblaine black mold

We discovered poor quality plumbing and toxic black mold lurking behind the shower and tub.

Yes, very disgusting and unwelcome discovery!! This black mold had been behind the tub and shower, and had actually made it’s way into the drywall of their walk-in closet.  YUCK.

The clients were now extremely happy that they decided to renovate and not just band-aid the problem again.  They would still be living with this in their home.  Of course, we called in the experts, had all of the mold removed EVERYWHERE, and now the new plumbing is perfection. We have new framing throughout, and the clients are very relieved.

We are redesigning this great space, enlarging the shower and adding a free-standing tub and two custom vanities.  It will be an elegant and contemporary space that the clients will love!

carrara marble mosaic tile

This stunning Carrara marble “leaf” mosaic tile will now be the feature in the new shower!

So really the lesson here is – fix the problem, not the symptom! Take the opportunity to turn what could be a real problem issue, and turn it into a beautiful interior that you will enjoy and love.  Use only quality materials, licensed and experienced contractors and trades, hire a Designer, and then you can be certain that your spaces are not only gorgeous on the outside, but also (and just as important!) built properly on the inside.

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Anthology of a Chair… November 5, 2015

sneak peak of Chair Affair 2015 chair

A sneak peek of my finished entry for the Furniture Bank Chair Affair 2015.

It was a wonderful evening! The annual fundraising gala for the Furniture Bank, in Toronto, known as The Chair Affair, was a huge success! It was also so much fun.  A beautiful evening with good friends, delicious food, great design, fabulous furniture, and an amazing sense of community and cooperation.

It was a long journey from that sweltering hot day this past summer, when I went to the Furniture Bank to select my chair. It was love at first sight when I spied my mid-century Modern armchair, in its sad and tired olive green, 40-year-old, original tweed fabric. But I could see the potential….

Me and my Furniture Bank Chair - Chair Affair 2015

I knew this one was “The One”! I loved the classic lines.

 Once I selected my chair, the real work had to begin. In my last post, I talked about my inspiration and how I was going to put all of the things that I loved into one chair.

Of course, I knew it may be risky – after all, my finished chair was going to be a vibrant green velvet – not exactly a neutral, if I was trying to have it auctioned off to raise a lot of $$ for The Furniture Bank. But, I stayed true to my inspiration and my concept. If I was the only green chair, then at least I would stand out and be special and unique!!

Turns out, I was special and unique! With 40 furniture pieces that were submitted, The Chair Affair had to find a way to pare down and qualify the entries for the live auction. Of course I wanted to be in the live auction, as it would probably raise more $$ than the silent auction…Well, my chair received the MOST online votes!! Everyone loved it! I did not win a prize or anything like that – it was not about that at all.  But, there was a deep satisfaction in knowing that my friends, peers, and even total strangers thought that this chair was a showstopper.  That’s what I was going for – showstopper!  Go Big or Go Home, right?? This guaranteed that I would be in the live auction – awesome.

close-up detail of Regency Upholstery putting the finishing touches on my chair

 Regency Upholstery putting the finishing touches on my chair.

 I cannot say enough what an outstanding job my brilliant upholsterer did.  Steve from Regency Upholstery really brought my concept to life with the quality of his craftsmanship and his attention to detail.  I’m so glad that he could be there with me at The Chair Affair 2015, to see how everyone really appreciated his fine workmanship.

One of the true highlights of the event was Olivia Chow as one of the celebrity auctioneers.  She was fantastic!!

Olivia Chow as auctioneer Chair Affair 2015

Olivia Chow was incredible as one of the celebrity auctioneers!

Before pic

The “BEFORE” – It’s hard to believe now that this is where we started from….

And then before I knew it – I was #8, they called my name, auctioned my chair and it was SOLD!! $800 will furnish the homes and change the lives for 3 families.  To be honest, I would have liked to have raised more $$$ for The Furniture Bank, not to be greedy, but just because I wish I could have contributed more…..

So happy that my chair is sold!


What a fabulous experience! From selecting my chair, to finding my inspiration, to working with a great team to complete and execute my concept, to meeting and celebrating with my fellow Designers, to finally finding my chair a forever home – truly rewarding.  So incredibly happy that I could contribute to such an amazing organization as The Furniture Bank.

My Chair Affair Chair 2015

The completed chair for the Furniture Bank Chair Affair 2015.

Truly a labour of love! So pleased with how this chair turned out – and I hope the wonderful gentleman who purchased my chair enjoys it for many years to come….