Author | Photos Lizzie O'Donnell

#MyHomeSense: Summer Entertaining That Suits Your Style. See How Two Toronto Women Transformed Their Outdoor Space on a Micro Budget

With a summer full of long weekends before us, we challenged two Toronto women to transform their outdoor space with a HomeSense gift card. (ENTER TO WIN ONE FOR $300 HERE!) Our Editor-in-Chief Jen McNeely wanted to add fun pops of colour to suit her fam-jam backyard BBQs, and Insta-crush home decor aficionado Elaine Gaito wanted her balcony to feel like a natural extension of her indoor space. The result is two totally different looks that will have both women using (and loving!) their space the way they want to, while reflecting their personal style.

Elaine’s Creative Process + Inspiration:

How would you describe your home decor style?

Our home is full of my favourite things: original art, weird vintage treasures, colourful textiles and fabulous HomeSense finds! In terms of my decor aesthetic, I’m a sucker for classic mid-century furniture and design, but I love the colour and warmth of boho textiles. I also like to throw in a dash of dirty 1970s decor into my spaces (think vintage fibre art, rattan, brass and lots of crazy plant lady action). I do get a kick out of juxtaposing harder, more minimal pieces with organic, handmade elements, too. Nothing is sexier than mixing materials; it keeps things from looking too matchy-matchy. Ultimately, I want our home to feel fresh, unique, edgy and inviting—with the right amount of quirkiness to keep things interesting. I love spaces that tell a story.

Did you have a particular goal or aesthetic in mind for your outdoor space before going to HomeSense? How did you end up with the look you achieved? (It’s gorgeous, btw.)

I wanted our patio to feel like a natural extension of our indoor space. I was initially looking for neutral HomeSense outdoor accessories in shades of charcoal and cream that were minimal but had a bit of a boho edge. I was thrilled to find such a great assortment of planters and love how the majority of these pieces can do seasonal double-duty. For instance, I think I’ll use the white chinoiserie-inspired ceramic cruiser table as an interior plant stand come winter.

When you were wandering HomeSense, was there one piece that became the central focus? How did you go about choosing what you did?

I fell in love with this gorgeous woven blue and white Acapulco chair: as soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be mine! These chairs are ubiquitous in Mexico, and every time I sit in it, it brings back wonderful memories of our annual trips to Puerto Escondido, a sleepy little surf town on the Oaxacan coast. Plus, it’s super comfortable and adds a nice pop of colour to the space.

How do you think this newly transformed space will be most used? 

We really enjoy entertaining and love the fact that our friends feel comfortable enough to invite themselves over for casual good times. We’re looking forward to hosting many a summer evening cocktail hour on our new and very much improved back porch!

How did your passion for home design begin? (We follow you on IG and know you love playing with all your spaces.)

I’ve spent the majority of my career working at contemporary art galleries, so I have always been inspired by and fascinated with artists’ spaces and studios (à la The Selby and The Coveteur). I’ve always had an eye for home design, but I officially embraced my inner interior design nerd when I moved in with my partner, Mike, and his two pups (Ana, 14; and Rex, 10) last year. I nervously started posting pics of my amateur home styling adventures to my Instagram, @lana_gto, and to my utter shock and delight, here we are a year later and over 11K decor enthusiasts have joined us on our journey to turn our downtown Toronto rental into a real home for our modern family!

For those intimidated or maybe overwhelmed with how to begin transforming areas in their home, what’s your advice?

Don’t be afraid to take your time and build your space around furniture and objects you truly love. All it takes is a wee bit of patience (I think the best spaces evolve organically over time versus a Trading Spaces-style weekend) and a whole lotta chutzpah. It’s YOUR home, so why not decorate it the way you want to?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with re-doing an entire room, why not start with a few interesting new conversation pieces? It’s amazing how some fun throw pillows or a light fixture can refresh a space. It’s such an easy, inexpensive and low-commitment way to experiment.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?

I get a real kick out of creating unique and well-balanced vignettes from seemingly disparate and often unexpected elements. Once I get everything into my space, I love futzing around with different pieces (be it furniture, art, plants or decorative objects) so things look *just* so!

Jen’s Inspiration + Creative Process

How would you describe your home decor style?

Playful and eclectic. Found treasures mixed with personal history. 

Did you have a particular goal or aesthetic in mind for your outdoor space before going to HomeSense? 

When I looked outside, it seemed drab. We don’t have a ton of flowers out back, and I basically wanted to add some life–pops of colour that make the space come alive.  

When you were wandering HomeSense, was there one piece that became the central focus? How did you go about choosing what you did?

There was a lot that I really loved. I was pushing a shopping cart up and down aisles pulling things that “spoke” to me, and I realized I had to rein it in and pick one theme. So I chose a couple complementary table settings that screamed summer and that was what I focused my look around. (HOW CUTE ARE THE POPSICLE & WATERMELON PLATES?)

How do you think this newly transformed space will be most used? 

I have a four-year-0ld son and lots of little nieces, nephews, and friends with kids. We’re out back all the time with sidewalk chalk, water toys, balls and bubbles, and I imagine most of our time will be spent sipping coffee (me), eating watermelon, corn on the cob, and having BBQs that start early and roll late. Let’s call it casual entertaining. 

How did your passion for home design begin? 

Both my parents have distinct style. My time as a child was divided between both homes. My mom painted our family room bright green and had posters from France running from floor to ceiling. My dad parked a motorcycle in his living room, alongside Persian rugs and an antique desk. I guess I learned from a young age that there is no right way to do something–do what you want and what makes you comfortable and happy. Find your own style! 

For those intimidated or maybe overwhelmed with how to begin transforming areas in their home, what’s your advice?

Pick one small area! Sometimes we think we need to redo the kitchen, or redo the bedroom, when all that’s necessary to make you feel organized or refreshed is simply tackling one nook, or one shelf.

Jen accomplished her whole summer redo for under $300!

What space in your home would you transform? Enter to win a $300 HomeSense gift card to do your own #MyHomeSense Mini Makeover. Find a look you love here
   

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