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SimplyWhitebanner
 
In an age of fads, where there are so many trends that half of them are over before you've even looked up the corresponding hashtag, Benjamin Moore has made the bold decision to step away from the white noise (pun intended) in choosing their 2016 Colour of the Year. They revealed Simply White OC-117 as their selection, with different shades of white appearing as five of the twenty-three paints featured in their palette for Colour Trends 2016—a timeless choice in a time when almost nothing seems to hold the spotlight for more than five seconds.
 
The process behind the selection of Benjamin Moore's Colour of the Year is an intense one. Inspiration is taken from a kaleidoscope of style influencers, including fashion, architecture, current events—it would be basically impossible to pinpoint all of the triggers that result in the final selection. Creative Director for the company, Ellen O'Neill, attributes the catalyst for Simply White first coming to her in Paris in as early as January of this year.
 

Color SwatchesBenjamin Moore has over 250 whites in their spectrum, so why Simply White? To begin with, it's a wonderfully versatile white (And no! All whites are NOT created equal). Different lighting alters all paint colours dramatically, particularly white, making it difficult to find a hue that will work in a myriad of settings (an excellent reason for why you should do a test block on your wall whenever you’re painting a new colour so that you can see it in the space interacting with the lighting). Simply White manages to stay fresh, and adapts to both warmer and cooler palettes—no easy feat for white.
 
Though Benjamin Moore has been selecting more neutral shades for their Colour of the Year since 2013, this marks a shift in how they ask the colour to function. Last year's pale green was a focal point, even if it was a subtle one, but white can be completely unobtrusive in your home. It lets other design elements speak, or it allows for quiet, which is a rare luxury nowadays.
 
With smart phones glued to our hands even during “down-time”, we need space that lets us clear our minds and recharge, a space where we are not being inundated with loud colours and showy items vying for our attention. With the world’s distractions getting ever louder and more intrusive, in a way Benjamin Moore’s 2016 Colour is very reflective of an increasing need our society is generating—a need for stillness and peace. What better place to have as your refuge than your home?
 
As they illustrate with their Narrative (Benjamin Moore always provides this to accompany their year’s palette to help you visualize the different ways the colours can work in your home—it’s a sort of storyboard showcasing design inspiration), white is very versatile and works very differently depending on how it is used, the colours you put with it, and the lighting.
 
It can be interwoven with exposed wooden beams and detailed with heavy knitted throws and similarly rich textures to invoke a warm, serene, inspiring space. Or you can choose a cooler white then punctuate it with unexpected pops of colour, using your statement shades sparingly and thoughtfully, allowing white to play off of them, drawing the eye along the lines of a space.
 
Simply White 2
White can be layered with itself, creating soothing, airy rooms. It can flow with other design elements, creating ambiance without hogging the spotlight, or it can be used to contrast and draw attention to itself, highlighting focal points.
 
One of the most unique things about white is that it is very changeable. It alters significantly based on other major colours in the room as well as the type of lighting, be it natural or otherwise—it is constantly interacting with what’s around it, to say as much or as little as you want it to.
 
This choice marks a growing shift towards home interiors that are about using space without overusing it, and having a home that reflects your life and being lived-in without feeling cluttered or oversaturated by artwork, tchotchkes, and colours to the point that you can no longer appreciate any one part. We’re moving away from extremes.
 
Sterile minimalism is out, but so too is a space that distracts the senses with too much. Simply White and the 2016 Colour Palette that accompanies it are about actually focusing on what each element of your design has to contribute, and appreciating more because it’s drowned-out by less.
 
Benjamin Moore’s choice recognizes the complex shifts our society is undergoing. It’s more than just a colour that their team of experts have decided has a growing place on today’s stage—it’s a palette to paint your corner of the world in, reflective of the ever-changing functions we want and need our homes to do.
 
We are once again looking to rooms that we can relax in, rooms that are warm and inspiring, conducive to focusing on what is actually happening within that room, rooms that leave us the air space to create and dream in. Simply White hits on a new mood tiptoeing into a culture of endlessly-filling newsfeeds, one that demands we stop, take a breath, and actually be in the moment and place where we are at.
 
Are there any rooms at your home in which you’ll be embracing Simply White?
 
 

Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

 
Seasoning Firewoodbanner
 

While I’m all for modern improvements, there are some technicalities of heating a home that have remained pretty much the same since people started building houses. It’s comforting in a way, to think that this process or this way of doing things was something we refined long ago, something we got right and despite the latest and greatest technology, have found no cause to significantly change.
 
One of my favourites is burning wood for warmth. It’s traditional and cozy and most importantly, effective, and there’s something about the smell of a log on the fire and the heat it gives off that embodies the very essence of home. Yes, wood-burning has been improved upon, through the introduction of Environmental Protection Agency Certification and the Canadian Standards Association Code B415, both of which exist to significantly minimize the health risks of wood burning for you and the environment, while also ensuring the most efficient and safe heating possible. But the gist of it remains the same—tried and true and homey.
 
One of the most important considerations for wood heating in your home is the type(s) of wood you burn. There are so many types of wood and while in many ways they are chemically similar, their properties will determine things like how long and how hot the burn will be, and how long that wood will need to prepare or “season” before it’s ready to be used.
 
Wood heating has a myriad of benefits. For one thing, firewood almost always comes from local suppliers (something you can verify before purchasing your wood), and also, it does not release carbon the way burning fossil fuels like oil and coal do (yes, it does emit some carbon, but this is part of the cycle since the tree pulled carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and released oxygen).
As an added effort for helping the environment, I recommend confirming that your supplier gets the wood in an eco-friendly and sustainable way, meaning the provider employs proper clearing and resting techniques designed to most benefit the trees, ecosystems, and environment. Supporting your local economy while helping the environment? That sounds like a win-win to me!
 
So you’ve found your local, green-practicing wood-supplier—now what? First you need to know what type of wood they offer, because that’s going to influence how long it takes for the wood to season. The harder the wood, the longer it will take before it burns well.
 
For example, you should give oak as long as a full year to dry out, whereas maple or pine should definitely be ready in six months or less. The flipside to this is that harder woods tend to burn more efficiently, meaning they burn hotter for longer. Your supplier will be able to advise the wood type and recommend a period of time for drying-out.
 
You need to pay attention to the size your wood is cut to. It should be a minimum of 3 inches shorter than the stove or furnace you’re going to burn it in, as this is safer, easier to set-up and maintain, and will offer you a better burn. In terms of diameter, it’s best to have some smaller pieces of wood (roughly 3 inches in diameter) to start your fire, then varying sizes going up to 6 inches. This will ensure you have the best results for your money (a better, more energy-efficient burn) and offers optimal drying proportions.
 
How you store your wood to season is important. For starters, your wood should not be directly on the ground. Wooden pallets are the best foundation for your wood pile because it allows air underneath while keeping your fuel wood off the damp ground. You also should not let your wood lay in a jumbled pile for more than a couple of days before properly stacking it or mould can set in. When you burn mouldy wood, the spores are released into your home during the burn—definitely not something you want!
 
Firewood on pallets DryingStack your wood in a line, log beside log but not tightly packed together, with logs stacked similarly on top. There should be no logs directly behind it (your rows should only be 1 log deep) because this prevents air circulation, which allows rot and mould, and prevents your wood from properly seasoning.
 
Your pile needs to be in a place that sunshine and wind can reach it to really dry out your wood for burning. Spring is the ideal time to purchase your wood for the following fall and winter as it gives the wood lots of time to dry in the summer sunshine and air.
 
There is debate about whether it should be covered, but if you do prefer to cover it, only do so on top of the pile—the sides need to remain open. A tarp is great for this as it keeps the rain off and is easy to set-up.

There are different ways to check your wood to ensure that it’s ready for burning. You can purchase a wood moisture meter, but there are also telltale signs that your wood is probably ready.
 
For one thing, dried wood weighs less than wet wood. It also tends to be darker. Take a sample piece from the middle of your pile and split it down the middle—if the newly exposed wood is dry, then your wood is ready to burn! Do a test burn with a couple of pieces even. Once you start burning it, you’ll know right away also, as wet wood is hard to ignite, and it will sizzle and hiss, whereas properly seasoned wood will burn easily.
 
Once your wood is ready for burning, it should be moved to a winter storage place, somewhere that is dry and offers full shelter from the snow and damp. You should only keep a limited supply actually in your home—this is for safety reasons. You don’t want an enormous pile of highly flammable fuel sitting in your basement, and you also don’t want to bring any mold that may be growing in the wood into your house.
 
Having enough for a couple of days or so, depending on the weather and immediate forecast, is your best bet. Your wood’s winter storage should be near enough to your house that you can access it, even when our Nova Scotia snowdrifts arrive. You’ll want to keep a clear pathway shoveled to your wood all winter-long.

As with most tried and true methods, talking to an experienced professional with hands-on expertise about wood burning is the best way to really be knowledgeable about this form of heating, and to ensure you’ll be warm and cozy all winter long!
 
 

Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.