Rebekah Higgs, the host of the wildly creative Canadian TV series DIY Mom, came to her career as a professional do-it-yourself-er in a roundabout way. After working as a touring musician for many years, Rebekah moved back to her hometown of Halifax following the birth of her daughter. Working in the film industry as an art director and set decorator gave her the itch to create something of her own, and she started out shooting and sharing short DIY videos while her daughter napped. Six years later, she’s wrapping up edits on the third season of her own show (which can be watched via Bell on Demand Fibe Tv1 in Canada or on YouTube). Here, she shares her House Rules for achieving a bright and bohemian home:
“I’d been researching wall baskets and tinga baskets from Etsy to decorate a wall, but when you start adding them up, they can get really expensive. Then one day I was at a restaurant wholesaler and they had tons of baskets, nacho trays, and woven bread bowls – all for $3 or $4 a piece! I ended up collecting every variation they had. To create the look, I organized them on the floor, took a photo, and then referred to it when I put them on the wall.
“I usually start with a fairly blank slate of white walls, white trim, and a natural floor – and then layer in color for contrast. I love the vintage look of this rug, which adds a splash of color and pattern to the room without overwhelming the space. In my living room, I also have an old acoustic guitar hung as wall art.”
“People always think my house is bright and colorful, but it’s really that Rhapsody runner! Almost everything is white, but people remember that rug. I brought home a bunch of different samples because what you like in a store can be totally different when you see it in your house, and when I laid them out, I said, “This is definitely the one I want.’ I love the versatility and selection of runners Annie Selke carries.”
“You need some big pieces to ground a gallery wall. For mine, I used black IKEA frames as my anchors. I had probably 20 or 30 of those, and then the other frames were more random–things from thrift stores. Some people like to have all of the same frames, but I always find it gives a little bit of a personality when you have variations.
My frames are filled with pieces that I’ve collected over the years: newspaper articles and covers of magazines that I was on as a musician, pictures of my grandparents and my parents, original art from artist friends. I kept everything in a big folder until I was able to afford to put everything into frames to use in my gallery wall. For me, it’s a very special, sentimental collection.
“I really like having nice linens and bedding—that’s something I will splurge on. Natural fibers like linen wash and wear well – plus, they feel amazing against your skin. Even the wrinkles look natural, so it’s also low maintenance. I love my lush linen bedding because of the simplicity of the design and the cool and calming effect of the color. Every product I have from Annie Selke is high quality, tasteful, and thoughtfully designed.
“To give your home a styled and cohesive look – especially in an open concept home – repeat colors from room to room. For example, I had initially painted my fireplace white, but I changed it to black to echo the black paint on the staircase. I also chose black for the lower cabinets in my kitchen and for both of the half baths, where continuing the color onto the ceiling gives you a feeling of height and space. Threading the black from room to room gives my home a consistent look.
“This is actually a trick I learned from the film industry! When someone is going to appear on TV, the producers always tell you not to wear too tight of a pattern because it will pixelate on screen. I’ve found that the same thing is true in real life: The bigger the scale of a pattern, the easier it is on the eye. Our minds can ‘read’ larger patterns more easily, especially when they’re used in a big way, like in a wallpaper or a rug.”
“I get asked about the color of my front door all the time. The color is Egyptian Rose by Sico, a Canadian brand. I like pinks with a little yellow in them: I find it takes the bubble gum out of it. Plus, the warm undertone comes through as a feeling of hominess—exactly what you want someone to feel when they arrive at your door!”
“If you’re trying to create something delicious, you need elements of sweet, salty, crunchy, and soft. Likewise, every room needs soft and hard surfaces, patterns and solids, and lights and dark colors. The same way you don’t want to just have all soft food — which would be unpalatable – a space full of hard, modern straight-lined furniture might feel cold and static, and a room full of really soft furniture won’t have any edge. Finding that balance makes the space feel like it’s been designed.”
“I love natural textures and fibers—these things add a sense of bringing the outdoors in. I find the rattan, natural fiber rugs, and a few real plants make people feel grounded and more comfortable in a room.”
“When people select rugs, they often think primarily about color, but I ask myself, what does the space need: Is it missing a pattern? Texture? Softness? For example, the Capri runner down the stairs from the attic is really thick; it brings in pattern, texture, and interest to the space—without any added color. And it’s a great noise blocker with kids!“
“I find that the more clutter I have, the more anxious I feel. Creating a bit of space by decluttering helps you create negative space, which is soothing. But within that space, I like to make room for heirlooms, family photographs, or a piece of furniture that I’ve had my whole life. Using those personal items reminds you that this is your space, which is relaxing on a subconscious level.”
“Design your outdoor spaces just as you would the inside ones. I treated my deck like an extra living room: I added texture with the rough-hewn lumber on the privacy screen. I added comfort with the sectional and outdoor rug. Then I mixed that wider pattern on the rug with the tighter pattern on the bright cushions.”
To plan my designs, I take tons of iPhone photos of the space, and draw right on top of an image with the Markup function on my iPhone or iPad—it’s a great way to sketch out rough ideas fast. I always pull inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram, but then I create the mood board on my computer as a pdf, so that I can print it out and carry it around with me while I’m shopping and sourcing. Finally, I’ll make detailed digital mockups for things I want to pair together. For example, to make sure patterns mix well when layering rugs, I take screenshots of the rugs on my computer and then drag one rug over the other, so I can see exactly how they look together.
“I think one of the reasons I like renovations so much is because I like to work within the box. When I have restrictions to work within, it actually helps me see possibilities of what could be within those restraints. That was definitely the case for our attic playroom: Working within the set space created something totally unique.”
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