GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville’s Barista Express

GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express

I’m a picky Polly when it comes to coffee.

Ever since I’ve put the brakes on dairy, there’s something no-so-satisfying about a dash of thin almond milk in a big mug of java—and I’m really not a big fan of the flavored, syrupy non-dairy creamers out there. Lately, I’ve only enjoyed coffee in the form of an almond milk latte, which I’d have to buy from a cafe. But after a while, that really added up—especially when cafes tend to charge an extra buck or so for substituting almond milk. Not to mention, I’d have to leave home for my caffeine fix. A huge issue, no, but a minor pain in the butt that was totally fixable, yes… (Scroll to bottom of post for contest entry details and sources on decor, clothes etc.)

GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express

Long story short, I realized it was high time I get a proper espresso machine so I could enjoy lattes at home—and avoid having to leave the house in sunglasses and a hat upon waking just to spend $6. After a few hours of research, Breville kept coming up as one of the best machines you could get. Even my coffee-obsessed dad (and espresso machine fiend) mentioned them as the benchmark brand.

So usher in Breville’s Barista Express. Buy one for yourself here, or take your chances and enter below for a(n espresso) shot at winning one!

GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express

Personally, I didn’t want a fully automated machine—I actually enjoy the little morning ritual of making a cup of something—but the thought of going fully manual (having both a machine and a separate grinder) was a bit much for me, and for my humble counter-space. This machine is the perfect amount of automated. It took a few tries to get my preference for bean grind coarseness and amount down, but once you set it how you like it, you simply tap the portafilter in, and it’ll grind the perfect amount of fresh beans every time. But then you get control back for the fun parts—the tamping and locking. After that, it’s a push of a button and voila! I take it a step further and foam almond milk every morning to make a latte, and Shawn adds hot water (also one button) for an Americano, but you get the idea. Once you know your preferences, it’s really easy to set it, forget it and enjoy.

GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express GIVEAWAY: Morning Rituals with Breville's Barista Express

There’s also some cute features I didn’t notice at first. When the catch-tray is full of water, a little buoy floats up between the steel grates with a yellow sign that says “empty me!” And tucked behind the catch-tray there’s a little storage bin for all the accessories (the extra portafilter trays, the razor, cleaning kit etc.) Compact and cute. Nice job, Breville!

Soooooo, without further ado, if you want to win a Breville Barista Express machine for yourself, here’s how to enter:

  1. Follow @SabrinaSmelko and @BrevilleCanada on Instagram
  2. Like and tag a pal in this photo

And for bonus entries:

  1. Like Sabrina Smelko on Facebook
  2. Like Breville Canada on Facebook
  3. Follow Breville Canada on Twitter
  4. Follow Sabrina Smelko on Twitter

I’ll tally up all entries in a bag and pull the name from a hat next Sunday, April 23rd, 2017. Winner will be announced then!

PS: My top is from Ted Baker, black jeans from Topshop, mugs from HomeSense, and the wall storage rails are from IKEA. Books are: Jamie Oliver’s ‘Everyday Superfood’, Douglas Coupland’s ‘everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything’, and James Jean’s ‘Rebus’.

Save My Reno: David and Wemi’s Transitional Townhouse Kitchen

Save My Reno: Dave and Wemi's Transitional Townhouse Kitchen

From basil gone rogue and last-minute changes, to glass cabinets and graphic roman blinds, this renovation was one of the first (and arguably, easiest) projects of the season.

David and Wemi’s kitchen was a classic case of boring and uninspiring builder-grade, but anything but boring was how I felt when we found out David bought the house without Wemi seeing it! While his intentions were sweet, he attempted to redeem himself by making some DIY upgrades to the space, but after a failed spice-rack project that came chasing at our feet, they needed all the help they could get. The good news was that they had some creative ideas, the bad news was they didn’t know how to see it through properly. Lucky for them, Seb and I came to the rescue. (Watch the full episode here! For a shopping guide and fun links to extras, head to the bottom of this post!)

The space was not only tiny, but the awkward half-wall closed it off completely from the living area. In a case like this where you’re dealing with an entire floor that has a small footprint, the best thing you can do is take down all the walls between spaces, use the same flooring throughout, and allow the furniture and permanent fixtures to define areas.

But one issue we ran into was: how much money is worth investing in a townhouse? It’s important to be economical and realistic in such a case, so 30k was the absolute max budget to transform the entire main floor.

But before we could start designing and furnishing, we had to deconstruct. Luckily, the demo was quick and painless and we were able to get home before the sun set, but not before David announced that he wanted to team up with Seb to redeem himself from his DIY spice rack!

On the design side of things, Wemi tagged along with me as we went through the design process. Everything was running smooth and we were all on the same page—heck, Wemi and I even had our countertop selection synced up intrinsically—and that’s when David threw us a curve-ball: Our design had our countertop run drop down into a live-edge wood dining table for more intimate family dining. But David changed his mind last-minute and asked that we nix the drop-down table and keep the counter running straight across, flush to the end. They simply wanted to be able to clean the surface easily and have more prep-space, so c’est la vie! As a designer, I’m not shy of changes, so if it makes them happy, we we’re going to make it happen. The only issue? The live-edge slab was already paid for and made.

Luckily, with some creative thinking, were able to transform the slab into floating walnut shelves and keep it in the kitchen design in its reincarnated form! To do this, I had Wemi come into the studio to lend me a hand.

Fun little fact: I drew portraits of each of the homeowners. Sadly, they didn’t make it to the final episode cut, but here’s David and Wemi in all their pencil lead sketchbook glory!

The vibe for the kitchen was clean, bright and transitional. But more than colour and final finishes, all this couple really wanted was better function and flow. That meant taking advantage of the space and turning the kitchen on its side to span the entire width of their townhouse. To save money, rather than taking down the support beam, we absorbed it into the design and it became quite a nice feature—and a home for the walnut shelves! They’re actually four individual shelves, but I love that they look like two large pieces of wood that we fed through the wall and pulled out the other side.

We laid new engineered hardwood through their entire main floor, painted everything in neutral putty greys and added colour pops with art, flowers and accessories. In the end, it came together to create a contemporary look that David and Wemi (and me, clearly) just LOVED. For a townhouse, we sure did maximize the square footage and up the value in a major way.

Get The Look:

  1. Schoolhouse Pendants
  2. Turquoise and powder blue bowls
  3. Le Creuset French Oven
  4. Roman Shades in Intersections
  5. Bread Box
  6. Grey Barstools
  7. Assorted Cutting Boards + Charcuterie Boards
  8. Arabesque Backsplash
  9. Blue Wool Runner
  10. Large-scale Abstract Art

Check out all the before and after photos, watch the full episode, peep Seb’s blog for his take, and check out the 360 degree tour!

PS: My necklace from the intro is from Anne-Marie Chagnon and the jumpsuit is from TopShop. In the reveal, my butterfly skirt is from Ted Baker. 


Save My Reno: Joel and Kera’s Multifunctional Family Basement

Save My Reno: Joel and Kera's Multifunctional Family Basement

I resonated a ton with this renovation—and with the homeowners, Joel and Kera.

Their home actually used to belong to Kera’s grandmother, so she had fond memories of playing in the basement as a kid. Similarly, I bought a home that used to belong to dear friends of my grandparent’s whom my parents were close with as well. And while renovating it was bitter-sweet, I believe that a home can evolve but memories live on forever!

As a kid, Kera loved this home, but as an adult, she had to agree with Joel that it totally didn’t work for their family of four. With two young (adorable, curly-haired) boys, and only one bathroom upstairs, they needed to take advantage of every square inch of their basement. Not to mention, the orange carpet and wood paneling wasn’t doing anyone any favors—and neither was the lack of insulation or a functioning laundry room. It was certified funky!

The plan? Well, other than totally gutting everything—grandma’s cinderblock planter, the orange shag carpet, ugly ceiling tiles, and the ramen-noodle-esque globe light to boot—the space needed to house a three-piece bathroom, living area with fireplace, dry bar, and laundry facilities. Lots of function in just shy of about 800 square feet. But I totally believe in the power of small spaces and maximizing square footage (after all, I live in a small bungalow myself), so off we went! Tall, mighty, smiley and strong, Joel and Sebastian did a doozy on this basement in no time flat. With help from Kera and I, of course 😉

Funny fact: the planter housed a few fake plants, but real, actual dirt! Authentic, sure, but totally ironic and hilarious…

For Kera, demo was a cathartic experience and one which brought out mixed emotions. Saying goodbye to the space she once grew to love as a child was tough, but I quickly distracted her with design choices—and lots of them. She admittedly had no design sense—these homeowners didn’t even have a single stitch of artwork up in their entire home—so I was happy to show her a few tips, and she was kind and gracious throughout.

The vision for the design was: family-friendly, laid-back, and livable with pops of fun. Colour-wise, we opted for durable neutrals when it came to larger investment items like the sofa, and aimed to add colour with art, decor, and paint. Everything had to be easy. Even the bathroom fixtures were chosen based on how many levers and knobs had to be pulled. We opted for a system that allowed you to present the water temperature you like and then one knob turned everything on so you didn’t have to fuss!


In all, we wanted the space to feel playful and casual. When we first met Joel and Kera, they mentioned that the only thing they liked in the space was their children’s artwork, so ding ding ding! It was so obvious that we had to implement them into the final design and celebrate them by putting them on display in a gallery wall! Kera and I sourced thrift shops for antique frames, picked up some matting and materials, and put the project together in just a few hours. In the show, she’s shaking when painting and that was totally real! She was so nervous, but she did amazing!

What I love most about the space is that it’s not precious. Everything has some whimsy to it, but it’s all grounded and balanced with modern elements. Rather than sticking to one colour or style motif, we introduced plenty of patterns, styles and colours sparingly so Joel and Kera can change things out without worrying about rules or matching. Even in the bathroom we unleashed some fun with the wall tiles, but contrasted it with a slick, white, low-profile vanity with a single-lever tap, making clean-up of the kid’s painty fingers super easy.

Everything from the sofa to the floor is unfussy. Spill on the carpet? Well, because we used FLOR tile squares, you can pop out each one foot tile individually and take it to the sink to rinse. Get dirt on the sectional? The tweedy grey fabric will hide it well! And everywhere you look, we threw in soft cushy seating options to hold plenty of family, from ottomans and poufs to side chairs and pillows.

Another feature we introduced was a gas fireplace which we flanked with floor-to-ceiling cabinetry. And no one would know it, but behind the right door, we hid some unsightly duct work. A pretty solution for hiding something not so pretty! And the cabinets? Pre-fab and super affordable!

Be sure to check out all the before and after photos and watch the full episode. And for extra behind-the-scenes content, head to our HGTV show page here and get Sebastian’s scoop here!


Get the look:

  1. Chaise Sectional
  2. Oversize pom-pom pillow and Aztec pillow
  3. Overdyed Accent Chair
  4. Wood Carved Lamp
  5. Cream Ottoman
  6. Metal Wall Decor 
  7. Textured Pouf
  8. Floral Artwork
  9. Blue-cream wool rug

Oh, and one more thing! Peep this 360 degree virtual tour:

Until next week!

x, S

Save My Reno: Sarah and Jon’s Mid-Century Modern Victorian Kitchen

As a young couple living in a gorgeous Victorian semi in the city, Sarah and Jon, along with their baby Henry (the most adorable wee one ever) wanted to strike “kitchen reno” off their to-do list before Jon had to return to work after paternity leave.

The only problem? That meant getting it all done in just three weeks. Solution? Seb, myself, and a good attitude. (Missed the episode? Watch it here.)

Their kitchen certainly wasn’t original. It was technically “updated”, but done so with questionable, run-of-the-mill, 80s finishes. And alllll the shortcuts were taken. The layout left more to be desired, the shallow purple counters were practically useless, and the “flooring” was just thin sheets of peel and stick faux wood. Need I say more?! It was one of the most dysfunctional I had ever seen, but the potential was huge.

Sarah and Jon already had a great sense of style in the rest of their home. They collected milk glass, turned antique finds like meat grinders into accessories, and had a great selection of authentic Danish mid-century modern furniture. So their kitchen was a real sore subject for them.

Initially, Jon planned to renovate it himself, but after taking on the entire basement (which he did a bang up job with) funds got tight and time ran short. Ain’t that always the case with home renos!? Luckily, Seb and I swooped in, and with their help, we got to work, but not after some high tea. Pinkies up, pals!

As a designer herself, I resonated with Sara a ton on this project. She knew what she wanted, she had a clear vision and she communicated it well, which made my job more of a fun collaboration. I think I even referenced us as “two peas in a design pod.” And while I didn’t work as closely with Jon, when I did get a chance to run into him, he never without a big smile. It’s clear where Henry, their adorable little babe, got his grin from.

Design-wise, their Victorian came with as much charm (hooray for exposed brick walls) as it did pains in the butt: plaster walls, and plenty of them. At first, our plans meant keeping all walls up and in tact, but after we started, Sarah and Jon quickly decided there was no time like the present to take a sledge through the walls now and I’m so glad they did. Living through a renovation and with a little one isn’t fun. So while it’s dusty already, you may as well do all the things you plan to!


In the end, it all came together to create an eclectic and transitional space that blended their love for mid-century modern with the Victorian style of their home. Bold elements like the handmade cement tiles (LOVE) and Sara’s beautiful graphic drapes were balanced with the larger and neutral permanent features such as the flat-panel cabinet fronts and light quartz counters, and everything was warmed up with wood accents. 

The walnut shelf we integrated into the upper cabinets was one of my favorite aspects of the build, and finding the walnut barstools on clearance was serendipitous! Another favorite of mine was the extra-long cabinet pulls on the lowers. And who doesn’t love decorating with bagels?!


What’d you guys think?! Be sure to check out the before and after photos and 360° room tour for more! And my partner Seb’s post for more.

Shop The Look:

  1. Barstools
  2. Porcelain Plates
  3. Brass Cage Pendant
  4. Foliage Artwork
  5. Brass Faucet
  6. Blue Graphic Drapes
  7. Cement Tiles
  8. Striped Tea Towels
  9. Milk Glass Decor
  10. Walnut Cutting Board
  11. White apron sink