Don’t get robbed by bad design

Colin and Justin talk about their new book and why they've taken on Canadian design

By Matthew Pioro


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Colin and Justin, the Scotland-born hosts of HGTV's Home Heist, have become quite attached to Canada. They've bought a condo here, looked into citizenship and now want to share some of their secrets, in book form. The Colin and Justin's Home Heist Style Guide gives readers insight into the designers' decorating ideas and tips on how homeowners can transform their spaces. At a recent chat, the witty pair shared their thoughts on a variety of topics, including what living and working in Canada has taught them about design.

On the book

Colin: The book tells how to take an ordinary home and make it extraordinary. The Style Guide reader can learn more about the thinking behind a design and its inspiration.

On doing things yourself

Colin: Way back when, before we were in the fortunate position we are in now, Justin and I bought a property that we flipped, where we did all the work ourselves. The second property we bought, we installed a kitchen. The third property, we built the partition walls. This puts us in a really strong position when we employ people, because I can determine whether they are doing it properly.

Justin:We're big advocates of DFY, rather than DIY. DFY is “done for you.” We are happy to let a professional do what he or she does best.

On Mike Holmes

Justin: What full-grown man wears dungarees? But, really, he's adorable. We get along really well with him because we are designers and he is a builder who creates incredibly proud homes. We do different things in the same industry.

On what they've taken from Canadian design

Justin: In Britain, people tend to set an area rug to cover the floor just short of 12" from the walls. But in Canada, you guys love stuff where the dining room chairs will be half on the rug and half off, so you might have an area rug that is like a little island in the middle of the room. That's quite nice because then you have a nice expanse of timber exposed on the floor.

On the Canadian basement

Colin: The humble Canadian basement is a mystery to us. We have no idea why your old sofas are down there and that old television, and why there's a bar in the corner. Meanwhile, upstairs, you still have stuff cluttered about. If you thought about it practically, there is a third of our home or a half of our home that is underutilized. We're not into spare rooms. We hate that idea. You should use all your space. Use it effectively and get your money's worth. So, we want to get our hands on your downstairs.

On decorating with wood

Justin: We love good-quality timber products. We just bought handmade Windsor chairs.

Colin: And had them spray-painted black!

Justin: And you can still see the grain. If you are slavish about wood, about not painting it, then you lose a great opportunity. Timber isn't just a surface to be left natural. You can buy inferior-quality timber and strengthen it with a stain or a varnish.

Colin: You need contrast as well. What's the point in making a nice project and then popping it in a room that's lined with the same colour of timber? Where's the pop?

Justin: Take N-A-U-G-H-T-Y pine. A little bit can be nice, but too much and it's like walking into a Swedish massage parlor.

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