BC Home + Garden Show Speaker Highlights

Celebs and industry experts share tips for the home

Credit: Julia Dilworth

There were plenty of highlights at the 2015 BC Home + Garden Show

As the BC Home + Garden Show wraps for 2015, BCLiving looks back at the speaker highlights from the designers, gardeners and TV celebs who hit the stage with presentations at BC Place. Catch up on what you missed or relive the excitement of this year’s exhibition – get your DIY started off right with informative inspiration. Click through for the best tips, tricks, and advice from some of the brightest stars of the show.

Credit: Julia Dilworth

Decorating by the numbers with Christine Friend

Vancouver’s Friendly Decorator, Christine Friend, shared plenty of insider tips about decorating, including how high to hang lighting and the best placement for rugs.

Placing Chandeliers

“Often I will go into people’s houses and their chandelier is hung way too high,” said Friend.

“Dining room lights are expensive, and they are typically the showpiece of that space, so you want to make sure they are hung at the appropriate height. A typical table is 30 inches high, so you want to have your chandelier 30 inches from the tabletop. If you don’t have any furniture in there yet, you want to tell the installer or the electrician that it’s 60 inches from the floor to the bottom of your chandelier.”

Friend added that you should measure from the lowest part of the chandelier, which includes any dangling crystals.


“What a sconce is going to do is provide light from the side,” said Friend. “When a bath bar is up top it creates shadows and kind of makes you look a bit more tired than you really are.” Having the lights on the left and right side of a mirror in the bathroom creates an optimal light.

“Whether it’s in your living room or dining room or even in your bathroom, sconces should be seta bout 66 inches from the floor, to the centre of the fixture.”

And according to Friend, the maximum distance between a mirror and a bathroom sconce should be four inches so it’s not floating awkwardly.


“It’s very common to see people with a rug that is framing their coffee table — you walk into the space and your feet kind of catch on the edge of the rug.” This is a no-no explained Friend.

“The front legs of your [furniture] should be eight to 10 inches on that rug, giving it a foundation.” 

Credit: Julia Dilworth

Bryan Baeumler talks budgets, books and avoiding DIY disasters

The Gemini award-winning HGTV host Bryan Baeumler hit the stage Saturday and happily took loads of questions from fans and reno enthusiasts.

Some were a little more personal than others, like how big is his new Ontario home? (He would admit to at least 4,000 square feet.) And how much did his kitchen stove cost? “More or less $50,000.”

But people also wanted to know:

Are you going to bring your DIY show to B.C.?

“It’s a question I get in every city, ‘When are you coming to do a show?’ And the honest answer is I would love to come back to Vancouver, and we might — it’s on the radar — however, it’s very expensive for us to travel with a film crew,” said Baeumler.

“I can throw some of my carpenters in the trailer and drag them out here, no problem, but a film crew? They want to stay in a hotel, they want to eat, they want per diems, they want to get paid. It gets really expensive as soon as we travel outside of the GTA.”

How close to budget are the estimates on Leave it to Bryan?

Leave it to Bryan, typically we have to be careful with the budgets on the show because if I say $40,000, we air in 42 different countries and $40,000 in Toronto is $70,000 in B.C. and $15,000 in Florida and it’s you know, 20,000 rubles in Russia,” said Baeumler. “We’re all over the world so we have to be really careful, we talk about GTA standard prices.

“So if someone says they have $40,000, I’m normally putting in about half of that. Not me personally, but from the network and the production company and the sponsors, we cover about half of the budget. And that $40,000 is our set budget. After that we try not to talk about numbers too much, we just talk about being over a little or under a little. Because it’s so widespread and so different, it doesn’t make sense.”

For new DIYers, do you have a safe first or second project that you could recommend?

“Yes I do,” says Baeumler while jokingly showing the audience his new book on renovating, Measure Twice

“You’re going to make mistakes no matter what you try,” he said.

“Painting is a good thing to start with, and that’s not to discount the value of a professional painter – there’s a lot to it – but that’s something safe that you can do yourself and take your time and it’s easily reparable.

“Doing a backsplash, tiling, something like that. Putting a tile field in front of the door. The whole thing is about starting small.”

Should a homeowner disclose their budget right away when approaching a contractor?

“You have to know what you’re going to spend,” said Baeumler. 

“You need to walk in, number one and have you budget in place. And the best thing you can do if you’re hiring a contractor or if you’re hiring a design and build company… go in and tell them, here is my budget, design something that you can build within my budget.”

He continued, “The number one problem… between a contractor and a customer is that they’re expecting a Lamborghini, but they want to make payments on the Hyundai. Everybody wants everything.”

Credit: Julia Dilworth

Quick Design Fixes

Design duo Janette Ewen and Jef Hancock of Parker Barrow shared their favourite five-minute styling secrets, quick fixes and fresh updates for the home:

Hang the TV on a gallery wall

“Of course we all know you can hang TVs, but think about just hanging it flat and creating a lot of art around it,” suggested Ewen.

“TVs today are really disappearing from the home, so you don’t want to make them the focal point … art is a great way to disguise it.”

Linoleum: the ugly floor fix

“Linoleum has changed a lot,” said Ewen. “It’s a lot easier to work with and what’s great is if you have an ugly bathroom floor and you want to cover it but not rip up all the tiles, consider putting linoleum overtop of it.”

Add sparkle to minimalist kitchens

“We all mostly have our safe minimal kitchens now,” said Ewen. “All white or a touch of grey. I’d love for you to add a little kind of a sparkle to them, and a quick and easy way to do that is with a new backsplash.”

“If you go with a gold and a little bit of bronze, it’s actually going to blend with your brushed nickel or silver faucets,” she said. “You don’t have to change out all your hardware.”

Hide the electrical cords

Ewen suggested tying up cords and then hiding them with palm fronds, which always look “classy and chic.”

“Palm fronds are pretty affordable and if you cut them on an angle they’ll last for a while, or you can do a beautiful potted palm in a nice black gloss pot,” said Ewen.

Paint it black

Think doors, walls, shutters, window frames, floors and even claw-foot bathtub bottoms.

“Painting things black really updates it affordably,” said Ewen. “If you’ve got a lot of rustic wood in your home, which has been a big trend for about 10 years, and now you want to move away from it a bit, think about doing a black wash on it.”

Credit: Julia Dilworth

Container gardening to maximize minimal space

To explain the merits of container gardening for the urban dweller, plant experts Pam Danelmaier and Elke Wehinger (co-owners of Botanus), gave a beginner’s introduction to the world of container gardening.

Why containers?

  • Ideal for working with less space
  • Adds structural interest
  • Winter protection: (Can move them inside in the winter).
  • So many containers available, you can play with colours, shapes and sizes.
  • Mobility: Given their size, they are easily moveable around the garden to add visual interest. 

You can grow pretty much anything in a container

“As long as you provide the right conditions for that particular container, and if you mix up plants, and they all like the same conditions, then you can really grow pretty much anything,” said Danelmaier.

Make sure you use the right ‘soil’

“The soil that you use in your containers is literally a ‘soil-less’ mix,” explained Danelmaier. “It really actually doesn’t contain soil per se, and the reason for that is that if you were to take a shovel full of soil from your garden and put it in a container, it’s quite heavy and compact. And the soil will get more and more compact as you water it through the season. What you want to do for your container plants is allow for good aeration, good drainage and in some cases, water retention. So what we recommend is using a potting mix.”

Types of pots:

Terracotta: “It’s a porous material that lets the air through… it’s almost better than a plastic,” said Wehinger. “It is also heavier and it also dries out very, very fast.” Terra Cotta pots are also easy to personalize with paint.

Plastic: Danelmaier explained run-of-the-mill plastic pots, like the ones that come with it, are great for transplanting or starting plants out, but they’re not very decorative.

Lightweight containers: According to Danelmaier these are a more decorative version of the plastic pot and are made from plastic or fiberglass in ornate designs that can mimic other materials like stone or terracotta. These can be used indoors or out and are deceptively light.

Glazed pots: “Great for the West Coast,” said Danelmaier. “Heavy material and the glaze repels water.” She explained the downside is that they are often more expensive, and they can be heavy to lift.

Metal containers: Wehinger likes metal containers for offering modern, contemporary lines, but explained metal containers heat up and can burn roots. A great trick around this is to put in thin sheets of Styrofoam on the edges before putting in the soil to keep edges away from the metal.

Cast-iron containers: Danelmaier said these Downton Abbey-style containers truly make a statement and garden and add structure. Her tip was to place plastic pots of flowers inside the cast-iron container and then you can easily switch them out with other blooms throughout the season.

Credit: Julia Dilworth

Todd Talbot’s real estate rules

Just like on his show Love It or List It Vancouver, real estate guru Todd Talbot was eager to share his insider tips about buying and selling in the Lower Mainland. (For more tips, check out Todd and co-host Jillian Harris’s BCL cover story.)

It really is location, location, location

“The thing about location is that it is going to be the determining factor of the value of that property in the future. That’s it.” 

“It doesn’t matter what’s on the property. It can be a teardown, it could be a West Coast contemporary. That is rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things, in terms of capital appreciation to the property that you buy.”

Talbot suggested taking time to investigate neighourhoods prospective buyers know little about.

“An interesting statistic: A new Starbucks opens in an area and the property surrounding that Starbucks increases faster than the national average,” said Talbot. “Now it’s not because Starbucks has great coffee – although they do have good coffee. It’s because they have a team of 20 people who do their due diligence, exhaustively, and find out what neighbourhoods are the next up-and-coming neighbourhood.

Invest in what you know

“There are a lot of people who invest in the United States, who invest in Alberta, other parts of British Columbia, other parts of the world — for me, that scares me, because I don’t know anything about those areas. I know that there are great opportunities in other parts no question, but for me if I don’t know it and I have to trust the opinion of somebody else, I’m simply not going to buy there and somebody else can have that win.”

Have multiple outs

“If you’re looking at a piece of property, I always like to see what kind of options you have. Life is fluid, things change very quickly: people have kids, they need a bigger place, kids move out they need a smaller space.”

“For me, the best case scenario is to have multiple options where I could rent the property out, I could put in a basement suite if I needed to. Any advantage that you can have that gives you different options with that property, from the option that you’re using it is, I think, a great safety net.”