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Helen – When I look back on things, I feel like well he did provide me with the greatest gifts of my life

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – I thank him for that I don’t regret having my children of course they’re the greatest gifts god can god has given me and he provided me with that too when I think back of not having my daughters had I left him before then I would be missing out right now

[Music]

Nicky – What’s up coronation welcome to another episode of coin for thought today we have Helen Stailos here. She’s the CEO of Soma Bath. She helps people design amazing beautiful bathrooms, that help them get connected with their bathroom space. Right?

Helen – That’s right

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Thank you for having me

Nicky – Yeah so she she’s Helen has also gone through her own divorce as well and she’ll be talking about her experience and how Soma Bath really came to be. So thank you so much for joining me.

Helen – Thank you for having me Nicky

Nicky – Yeah so tell me tell me how you started this company. You went through your own divorce and that was that was really crazy for you.

Helen – It was a crazy time for me because I had two little girls at the time yeah and prior to me going out into the workforce I was a stay-at-home mom for a little while and no one would hire me at the time. So it was a bit of a challenging time that’s for sure and I thought to myself times were tough. Uh yes I did go through a lot emotionally but I had to push forward I had a drafting table, I had a computer and my education and that’s where I got started. So I started my first company which was Helen’s stylus interior design and the project started to roll in everything was going okay it was tough. Yeah with two children in tow running a business trying to be a mom during the day and then trying to work at night time when they slept um showing up to job sites with two children it was

Nicky – They were really young too

Helen – They were small

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Framing inspection with a toddler on my hip

Nicky – Oh my gosh

Helen – So that was that was difficult but if I could afford babysitting at the time or if I can get my sister to help watch the kids. There was a lot of juggling a lot of juggling, a lot of like, when do you clean the house, when do you grocery shop, when do you spend time with your kids, when do you do your banking and your accounting and run the business 

Nicky – Right

Helen – It’s a lot of work yeah it’s a lot of work and and then on top of it when do you sleep?

Nicky – Yes

Helen – When do you get to sleep?

Nicky – Well how how long were you really married? You know tell me about tell me about how you you met your ex-husband and how you decided that you were gonna do this and then you know how long it really lasted.

Helen – So I’ve actually known my ex-husband my entire life

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Um his mom and my dad are from the same region in actually from the same village back in greece

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And he was my first everything he was the first everything everything and I I got married to him um followed all the rules of my parents my old school parents and we were married for 13 years

Nicky – Yeah because you came from a pretty conservative family right. Very traditional greek family.

Helen – Exactly, very conservative and very strict like respect is a very big deal and you don’t embarrass your family and one of those things that would embarrass my family is me going around and dating many different people at the time. So he was like your first for everything, first everything, first guy held hands with, first kiss, first everything, was my ex-husband.

Nicky – Wow so when did you notice things were kind of going south or maybe you shouldn’t be in this kind of marriage? You know when did you notice that?

Helen – I noticed his behaviors getting worse as time progressed he never really snapped out of his grief and he lost his mom and now he’s grieving for two people the years went by we had our first child nine years into the marriage and my happiness came to fruition when my daughter was born 

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – You know I wasn’t really happy in the marriage, he wasn’t happy he had asked me for a divorce before, told me he didn’t love me. I worked so hard to keep that marriage going.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And the harder I worked. So it I think I’ve like explained this before when they’re not happy it’s like a vicious circle he’s not happy so he gets a little mean

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – I try harder to make him happy and I’m back at this point again

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Whereas like he I see he gets it’s like 

Nicky – It’s like it’s just such a vicious circle

Helen – Yeah, so he’s getting mean and I’m sacrificing more 

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – To make him happy and then he realizes oh if I can get more mean she’ll she’ll sacrifice more

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And it goes around and around and around

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So when I got pregnant with my second child I started to see his behaviors were getting worse not better and that’s when I knew the marriage was over I thought about it during my entire pregnancy and then for another two years. What am I gonna do?

Nicky – Did you feel like because you had your first daughter so so long after you got married because usually you know people have kids kind of like they start thinking about kids kind of like right away or they wait a year or two but then your first daughter you had nine years after you got married

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – So did you feel like it would have been easier at that time to kind of you know separate things and leave him at that time you know. Is there anything you regret about when you look back on things?

Helen – When I look back on things I feel like well he did provide me with the greatest gifts of my life

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – I thank him for that I don’t regret having my children of course. They’re the greatest gifts god god has given me and he provided me with that too. When I think back of not having my daughter’s had I left him before then I would be missing out right now

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So it’s almost like a catch-22 like 

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Yes it probably would have been good for him if we had separated before but then I gave him I provided him with the greatest gifts of his life too so it’s kind of hard to say. Bad things happen but I move forward and we just thank each other for our children.

Nicky – I think that it’s hard because like when you he traveled a lot so during that time you had to be you were very much like a single mom right because

Helen – Exactly

Nicky – He was away on business he would come back he would go away and then you had to maintain a clean house you know drop the kids to school you know manage all their activities and the things that they needed and do you find that do you find that um it was very hard for you to do that? Did it come very naturally for you? Um you know for me I know I was very much a career person so I felt like I was when I first became a mom I was really really stumbly and I had to really it took me a minute to kind of find my footing. Did you find that doing all these things on your own, did you find that you needed time to kind of get into it? You know how was what was your take on that?

Helen – My take was and I’m pressed for time I didn’t I didn’t have to like struggle to get into I just had to get the job done. Whether it was like keep the house clean, make sure these kids are healthy, they’re entertained, they’re getting out, we’re socializing where um I’m putting them in activities, swimming lessons and even the outside of the house, mow the lawn, you know take bring the kids outside, get the gardens done, get the shopping done. Um we’re having people for dinner, the logistics set the dining room table, iron the linens, like the table lanes. It was too much at the time but when you’re you know you got to get it done you’re focused

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – You just charge forward and you get it done.

Nicky – So after you guys divorced you know you guys had a prenup so after you guys divorce you didn’t end up with very much right so your financial situation you were in a really good financial situation living in a beautiful home and then all of a sudden now you you bought this home that was like completely broken. Tell me about that.

Helen – So yeah it’s exactly what you just described I downsized I downgraded, broke

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Right? Two little girls full time.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And even my children said when we first moved into this home, they said mom what are we doing here? This house is terrible. It’s true and it was it was terrible.

Nicky – How’d that make you feel you know like how about did you feel really guilty? Did you feel awful?

Helen – I felt guilty. I felt guilty for my daughters that I wasn’t providing them with a home that they were used to. That that’s where the guilt was for myself I didn’t care you could live anywhere and just make the space more beautiful, maintain it. I wasn’t I wasn’t embarrassed I actually did feel some embarrassment if someone came by to see me.

Nicky – Yeah well that’s natural right 

Helen – Helen Helen how did you go from this house to this?

Nicky – Like especially if they especially if they know you before right. So they see you with this beautiful house, you know you know beautiful lawn, beautiful you know the size also

Helen – Yes

Nicky – And then you move into safe from a detached house to a townhouse.

Helen – That’s right

Nicky – And a townhouse that is like broken and messed up

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – So how did you find this townhouse

Helen – Uh well we found it it was the price was great and my ex-husband is a realtor.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – So he took me to go see five homes that one day and we had to make a decision or I had to make a decision. So it’s actually a corner lot it was a tiny tiny little rundown townhouse on a bigger lot and unfortunately this townhouse that was 10 years old it was owned by an investment company for the 10 years and it was leased over and over and over again and never cared for but the price was right and I’m very very handy and I 

Nicky – Yes you are very handy

Helen – I come with my own tools. So I thought I can tackle this right. I got this. So I got the house um and 

Nicky – Where did you learn how to be so handy?

Helen – As a young child I don’t know I just I guess 

Nicky – Were you always this way?

Helen – Always 

Nicky – Always

Helen –  Uh machine tools everything like power tools no problem.

Nicky – Did someone teach you? Was your was your dad really handy? Was he like, oh Helen come here let me show you this? Uh you know?

Helen – My dad doesn’t even know how to hold a screwdriver unfortunately not handy at all. My brother and I ended up being very handy people we could fix just about anything

Nicky – Wow

Helen – Yeah and good with electronics wiring whatever. I don’t know it just came naturally to me so

Nicky – So what was wrong with this house tell me tell me about it tell me like like you know describe it you walk in and

Helen – Oh my gosh broken cracked tiles on the floor, holes in the drywall, um where you stand… So unfortunately the neighbors tell me that the family who live or be lived there before were quite large.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – So where you stand the most in the bathtub the bathtubs had dented the water just puddled there and there was like a stain like a water stain there they didn’t I guess keep it clean either.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – Um we also had they for privacy instead of putting draperies up or blinds, they decided to paint like some sort of clear glue coating on the windows

Nicky – Oh my gosh

Helen – It was the weirdest thing. I couldn’t scrape them off. I couldn’t do anything. I had to buy a lacquer remover, a strong chemical and put it on it stunk up the house with the fumes but we put it on and the girls just sat there and watched me they’re like what is this stuff on the windows. It was just very strange.

Nicky – Okay, yeah wow that and you painted, you put in new wallpaper.

Helen – Wallpaper yeah actually my furnace using unit wasn’t working, the ac was broken.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Uh we had so many issues in that house they also had a large dog in there before and I found weird strange hardware on the wall with a skid as a gate. They use the skid as a gate to I guess to keep like a large dog out of the way or

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So it was just like pulling hardware out of the walls and

Nicky – Wow

Helen – Patching up holes, sanding.

Nicky – I love how like you know you really started designing your own space. You know before you started doing this. You know before you started Soma, it all started you know when you walked into the space. You started this new life and then it just sort of progressed from there.

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Right because you have to do everything and then you would get the girls to help you.

Helen – Yes I would get the girls to help me

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And you know you put on their princess I have two daughters so we put on the disney princess music, let’s go pull the dandelions out of the lawn and let’s go to this together and it was just a it was just an emotional time to have them involved with me, spend time with them and create a better space with my my children.

Nicky – How did they feel as as the space was really coming together.

Helen – Oh they still say to this day now that they’re teenagers mom this house is smaller than our last but we actually like this house better. It’s very cozy they say.

Nicky – Yeah because I think that you’ve made the space a home versus maybe the house that you lived in was just a house. Right?

Helen – Exactly

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Yeah it’s a loving home it’s a very loving home now. It’s bright we’re happy you know um 

Nicky – And there’s always like you know if you’re going through something you’re going through a marriage where it isn’t really really working out. There’s that that air that energy, so then you know when that person leaves you you feel better, you can be freer, you can do things in the way that is more connected to you.

Helen – That’s right

Nicky – You know and the and the kids kind of see that right so I think that that’s absolutely amazing.

Helen – Yeah and you want to be strong for your kids. You don’t want to you don’t want them to see you upset.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – I think in their eyes I made it look easy for them it was not easy by any means

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – They think it was easy. Mom just fixed it, mom repaired the holes in the wall. Mom bought groceries. Mom paid the bills. Mom you know like we just do everything and they don’t realize what it takes to get to that point. We just make it look easy and we keep it to ourselves but involving them in the work when they start to have a little bit of sweat that comes down or like oh I need a popsicle right now like I’m so hot and sweaty you know like.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – They they start to realize.

Nicky – That this is really hard

Helen – It’s tough

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And they don’t forget as they get older now I’m starting to hear comments like mom I know you did this for me thanks so much 

Nicky – Oh wow

Helen – It’s great it’s great to hear like okay they remember

Nicky – So tell me about Soma. How did you how did you started? What was your vision? You know what did you want to do because I know you really wanted to really create these beautiful bathrooms for people. Bathrooms especially for me when I go into my bathroom my best ideas have come in the shower.

Helen – Yes of course

Nicky – And I know this sounds so crazy but I’d be sitting on the toilet even

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – I’m like oh wow like I have this this thing right

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – It’s the only space at least for me and maybe for many people too or their mind just shuts down and all that talk in in your head just goes away and you’re able to really just be. You know and I think that’s really beautiful.

Helen – I think the room the bathroom affects everyone in so many different ways. We have people in different situations where in your case you have these light bulb moments like your greatest ideas come to you when you’re in the bathroom right. You’re trying to decompress you’re trying to relax yeah some some a lot of moms okay we all know this we go to the bathroom to cry.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Just be alone and cry like I’m so stressed out like I just want to be in a really nice room by myself. I don’t want kids banging on the door. I don’t want anyone bothering me asking me for something. So the bathroom has many uses, you go in there to cry, conduct your business, think of new ideas.

Nicky – Yes

Helen – Just feel better about yourself. So some of that came to me when it was actually pre-pandemic I had been doing interior design for a really long time

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So what I do is not just design I actually produce the working drawings for the trades.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – So I’ll produce an electrical plan, an HVAC plan, framing, millwork, whatever.

Nicky – And that’s really helpful because when you when a client is hiring people they have these drawings to be able to show these people. So it’s kind of like the these people really understand, the contractors really understand where their head is at, because I don’t think like you know from a client perspective that they really describe things all that well. You know?

Helen – Yeah and the bathroom entail, so it’s unlike a living room where a living room you’ve got four walls you might have some outlets but all you have to do is really furnish it, area rug, artwork and drapery. The bathroom has so much more. Any room with power and water is going to be a little bit more complex and I love the complexities. I love to come up with the new technologies that we have in plumbing. In um even communication some people like to have like the news the news up in their bathroom or you know their iPods going in the bathroom.

Nicky – Everybody’s space is so different because they connect with their space that’s right in a different way.

Helen – Yeah and we also have the technologies where people the bathrooms are so big sometimes that we will put a gym in there. Like a treadmill or a staircase yeah and then you’ve got the steamer in the shower right.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So there’s new technology technologies where people just want to go on their treadmill in the bathroom with watching the tv that’s in the bathroom and then just jump in the shower because they’re so busy they want to work out in the morning and then get to work.

Nicky – Wow

Helen – They don’t have time to drive to a gym or time to just to kind of go somewhere else to work out and then go back to their bathroom and wash up and shower they just want the whole experience in one room. So Soma bath came to me pre-pandemic and then the pandemic hit and I thought this is a great idea, I’m just going to set my niche into bathrooms. I became the bathroom guru of Oakville a few years ago and I decided to run with it and it’s across Canada now. So it’s an e-project-based company where you can be living anywhere, you’ll contact me, you can send me your measurements and photos and then I’ll be sending you the complete design package.

Nicky – That’s amazing

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – That’s amazing, I feel like because that bathroom is so connected different people are going to want different things. So if someone’s going through a really hard time and bathrooms are one of the most expensive, bathrooms, kitchens

Helen – Yes

Nicky – They’re one of the most expensive to renovate you know. Um what do you what would you say what are a couple of design tips you would give people if they’re going through a transition, if they’re saying a rental or if they’re say living in their home and it’s chaotic because they’re not connected with their partners? You know and they’re trying to find some calm and peace in all of that chaos, what would you say they do to their design space to make it more connected to them?

Helen – My first step is get that bathroom spotless. There’s nothing worse than having an outdated bathroom that’s got soap scum everywhere because you can’t really see you have no inspiration after that get it spotless, get it clean, take a look at it after it’s clean. Look at your vanity, can you paint the doors, like paint the cabinet, can you just hang a new mirror, can you perhaps maybe like get a new vanity light or just little ways that you can just upgrade your bathroom? Make it much more comfortable and functional by just changing out one thing

Nicky – Adding a mirror makes such a huge difference because the builder has that big mirror that they stick on the wall

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – And if you just get like a mirror like even a beautiful mirror from IKEA or something like that it makes such a huge difference to the space.

Helen – It does yeah. If you look on places like marketplace a lot of people get rid of some really great

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Items that they don’t want anymore they may have just bought it and they made a mistake or they’re they’re trying to get rid of this stuff so websites such as marketplace, Kijiji, they’re great places to start to spend a fraction of what you would normally spend

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – But I would say like look at your painkillers is it dark and dingy in there. Paint’s not that expensive to buy

Helen – Right and you can do it yourself it’s a small space.

Helen – That’s right you can do it yourself and if you’re handy even better. There are so many different things you can do. Changing the knobs on your vanity will make a big difference and uh just making the space brighter and cleaner looking makes a huge difference and that’s been been done on a budget.

Nicky – So tell me a little bit about lighting because lighting has always been my thing I always want to walk into a space that has bright beautiful light.

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Right but bathrooms are a little bit different right because you’re doing a lot of things that you don’t normally do in other spaces. Like you might be putting on your makeup there right.

Helen – That’s right

Nicky – You’re getting ready there you know. So so tell me about the lighting and how you incorporate lighting into the bathroom.

Helen – So lighting’s a very big deal in the bathroom huge deal in every nook and cranny I like to have lighting, close to bottom to the floor, mid-range, and then up above so let’s talk about where you’re at your vanity right now we’ll talk about that.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – You’re looking in the mirror, you’re tweezing your eyebrows, you’re doing your makeup, you’re picking the food out of your teeth, men are shaving. We do so much in front of the mirror 

Nicky – Yes

Helen – And people some men will flex their muscles like we want good lighting, right. So what I like to do is always have if if you’re doing the ceiling over let’s say you’ve got the money and you’re doing you’re redoing your your lighting you’re ripping everything out you want to put a pot light right in front of your face okay on the ceiling coming down in front of your face it lights up the space between your face and the mirror and the mirror will bounce the lighting back and forth.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – The other thing you’ll want to do is either have pendants or sconces on either side usually at about five and a half feet so you have lighting at mid-range.

Nicky – I see

Helen – Yes and then if you have other features in the room, like a floating vanity you’ll want to put under mount lighting.

Nicky – That I find that’s so beautiful.

Helen – It’s gorgeous

Nicky – It’s gorgeous

Helen – Especially if you’re going to spend money on beautiful tile, highlight it.

Nicky – Yes and even if the vanity I’ve seen uh where they have the lighting and then they fold the towels underneath there so 

Helen – Oh yes yes it looks great.

Nicky – It looks fantastic

Helen – So even in showers if you’ve got a niche in the shower or like the the little space the little alcove in the vanity that you just mentioned

Nicky – Right

Helen – You can light those up too light up the little alcoves those are the design features that you can add and of course it adds to the budget

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – If you’re on a tight budget we’ll talk about the things that we’ve mentioned before but now if you got the the budget to really go and do things properly. Do it properly because you’re not going to get this opportunity again. Once it’s all ripped out and you’re installing everything you’ll want to do everything at that point in time because it’s more expensive to redo it after.

Nicky – Right, so let’s talk about bathroom storage because bathrooms are I feel like at least from my space I try to be very organized and you know like uh compartmentalize all of my things but I find my bathroom to always be cluttered. Do you have your medication, you have your makeup sometimes, you have miscellaneous and cleaning products. You have all these things in your bathroom and often times you have one big cupboard or a couple of cupboards with that are so high and not really you know it’s just one big open space that you have to then organize all of your things. So how would you recommend really organizing you know stuff in your bathroom or or arranging for organization.

Helen – So smart vanities are one way you have to really look at what you have and what you can edit if anything if you don’t want to edit anything that’s totally fine. So a vanity with more drawers let’s stay

Nicky – Yes

Helen – One drawer for toothbrushes and toothpaste the other one for your makeup or hair brushes or what what you have and then if you’ve got the cabinets like the doors.

Nicky – Yes

Helen – You’ll want to put like shelves inside what I like to do and I’m doing this in a couple of bathrooms right now is I’m using wall-hung toilets so you’ll have a wall carrier inside the wall but then there’s a ledge so what do you do with that space above the ledge we’re building cabinets there so you can stock all your toilet paper rolls, any extra little miscellaneous things, like cans of hairspray you bought on sale, you just want to put them away you don’t want them in your vanity right and um the niche is in the showers well shampoo bottles are getting bigger and bulkier like you want to have a larger niche in the shower where you can just line up those extra bottles you buy from costco. I don’t know like

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – But storage is a big deal and I like to use um even the spaces between studs in the walls you can just insert a whole cabinet right in there for six inch depth.

Nicky – You can even hide you know safes in your in your bathroom.

Helen – You can

Nicky – Yeah you can

Helen – You can totally do that. There’s a lot of things you can hide in the bathroom.

Nicky – Yeah, I wanted to kind of point that out because I find that when a space is not just clean but it’s organized, you come to your bathroom, there isn’t clutter all over the place.

Helen – That’s right

Nicky – Everything is in its spot, it’s calming, it’s a calming space to be able to come to.

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And the other thing that I like to do and I do it in most bathrooms actually this is one thing that everyone should like listen to. Medicine cabinets recessed into the wall.

Nicky – Yes oh my gosh yes

Helen – Yes we need those with a mirror magnifying mirror on the inside those are the best

Nicky – Yeah okay so let’s talk about the controversy of having a bathtub.

Helen – Okay there’s a lot of controversy on that.

Nicky – Yeah are you are you pro or are you are you against bathtubs because they take up such a huge space.

Helen – Yes they do

Nicky – And uh I always I always find that people want it but at the same time you know no one really uses it. So then it takes up a giant space of you know something that you’re maybe not using or you’re using say not very frequently. For me I I try to have a bath once a month you know I try but it’s a huge space in my bathroom that’s allotted like 365 days of the year.

Helen – Oh yeah right

Nicky – Yeah so how do you what do you think about bathtubs? If someone is renovating their their bathroom and if they um they’re not really bath people. They don’t really care to light candles. They don’t really care for the bubbles, okay? So would you say that they should take it out?

Helen – So there is a lot of controversy you mentioned earlier. This all depends I remain neutral on the bathtub situation for many reasons I do so from a real estate perspective we have to have one bathroom in the house for a resale value. Let’s just say no one’s in their house forever you could be there for 10 years 20 years 30 years you should have one bathtub on the upper floor of the house if it’s a two-story okay home. If it’s a bungalow you’re gonna have to have that bathtub. You have to think that one day there will be a family living there. One day you’re gonna put the house up for sale and it could make or break the deal. Let’s say a young family wants to buy the house and there’s no bathtub where do you bathe your kids.

Nicky – Yes

Helen – You have to have a bathtub for that reason you may want to have the bathtub, let’s say for an elderly person.

Nicky – Right

Helen – You may have to have the bathtub just because it needs to fill up a large space. Some bathrooms are so big that you have to put it in there and even though you never you know it’ll never get used it’s just going to collect dust.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – So with a two-story home let’s say there will be only one bathtub and it’s mainly in the main bathroom not in the master ensuite if the master ensuite’s too big we’ll put one in.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – If not we just leave it in the main bathroom for the kids.

Nicky – Yeah because sometimes it’s such a clutter to clean it’s a huge thing to keep clean and then I often find that if people don’t use your bathtubs it’s it’s a dumping ground.

Helen – Oh yeah

Nicky – Yeah so they they just like dump like say laundry in there

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Or different things in there and it’s just like a a giant space where it’s a hole.

Helen – It’s a hole for it’s actually it becomes a hamper. It becomes the hamper for all the dirty towels. That’s what happens with the bathtub.

Nicky – Yes

Helen – It never really gets used I had one gentleman say to me with a massive bathroom he’s like I’m not putting a tub in here I don’t want it. I go, you live alone in a massive home, you’re not going to be here. You know in two years you’re going to be gone. He said to me I’m renovating I’m preparing to sell the house right you have to assume, it’s a five bedroom house, you have to assume that a family is going to be moving in here

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So you have you can’t design it for you, you have to design for the masses. So from a real estate perspective the bathtub will come into play at least one in the house.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – And I will only do one in the house I don’t believe in doing multiple bathtubs. I don’t like it.

Nicky – Especially like the you know if it’s a nice soaker tub

Helen – Yes

Nicky – It’s awesome but having those like shallow you know the builder style tubs

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – Where it’s super shallow I find that so useless.

Helen – It’s shallow it’s got like it’s in a tub enclosure with three walls

Nicky – Right

Helen – It’s skirted, it’s not the most attractive, and you know like the shower and tub combination shower kit. Like all on the one wall.

Nicky – Yeah but it’s great for old people and kids

Helen – It is great for old people and kids it’s very and easy to clean

Nicky – yeah

Helen – So now we get into the freestanding tubs which I always do

Nicky – Oh yes

Helen – They’re stunning, the tub fillers that come out of the floor are incredible

Nicky – Yes

Helen – You can do them out of the wall too but to have this beautiful like tub filler mounted on the floor

Nicky – Yes

Helen – That’s so tall with the handheld it looks gorgeous. It’s probably the most expensive fixture in the bathroom too

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And you’ll never use it. You might use the handheld just to dust out the bathtub. Sometimes if people are more like you and will make it a point to use the tub once a month. I think that’s the greatest gift you can give yourself.

Nicky – I found that you know after I had kids and you know with things being so busy I wasn’t able to really find that calm and a lot of times when I had the twins I had to take them in the bathroom or I would be I would I would be in the bathroom and then they would just kind of come in or they would be banging on the door and you know sometimes you know even with you I remember you telling me you you were having a meeting and

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – You know when your kids were banging on the door they wanted their mom.

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – And um so I think that you know when I started taking baths I became a new person after my bath. I was happier. I was more collected. I was more patient, and yeah

Helen – You have your me time that’s why 

Nicky – yeah

Helen – That tub was yours for a very short amount of time. It was yours and no one barged in on you like no one

Nicky – Yes

Helen – Bothered you, that’s why

Nicky – And there’s so many things that you share. You know you share a bed with somebody. You know you share rooms with other people. That that bathroom space is just for you.

Helen – That’s right

Nicky – Yeah so now I have this rule where you know my kids are not allowed in my bathroom

Helen – That’s great that’s a good rule

Nicky – It is a very good rule

Helen – I think privacy is a very big thing and I think the bathroom is the one place everyone should go to be alone and have their privacy.

Nicky – Yes I agree. So um another thing you know we we just bought a new house.

Helen – Yes congratulations

Nicky – Thank you one of the big sellers for the house was that it had a separate toilet room in the bathroom.

Helen – Oh my gosh I’m so happy for you

Nicky – And I was like this is going to do wonders for my marriage okay because my husband likes to sit on the toilet for a really long time and he’ll take his iPad in there, he’ll take his laptop, he’ll take his phone and I’m like, “Come on let’s go, like I gotta get ready, I gotta get in there, I gotta brush my teeth.”

Helen – Yes

Nicky – And oftentimes I don’t have access to the bathroom because you know he’s in the bathroom doing his business so I fat I find that you know if you’re gutting your space I’m very pro toilet rooms.

Helen – Oh I love toilet rooms. They save marriages, I swear they save marriages, because it’s exactly what you just describe. Us girls we like to get in do our thing and get out though we do take the longest in the bathroom because we’re doing our hair we’re doing our makeup. Men take long because they’re just relaxing.

Nicky – Yeah they’re slow

Helen – They’re very slow

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And I remember this one time I’m not kidding you I when I was married my ex-husband who was a business owner at the time I found all his daily reports all the paperwor,k, binders calculator, everything in the bathroom I wanted to go clean it and I took all this stuff out go what is this stuff doing here and he said to me what are you doing go put it back because I have lots of paperwork to do. He said he had lots of paperwork to do in the bathroom.

Nicky – Oh my gosh

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – That’s insane

Helen – Yeah it’s just not a separate toilet room is a really great little room to have in the bathroom, so you can do your thing your husband can do his thing. You don’t want to see that, he doesn’t want he doesn’t want you to see what he’s doing.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – It’s just if you’ve got the space for it.

Nicky – I feel awkward I know a lot of couples now like they walk into a bathroom space and someone’s pooping on the toilet while the other person is brushing their teeth

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – And I I do not like that. You know I’m like, you do your thing. I do my thing. I don’t want you like hovering around while I’m taking a poop.

Helen – No

Nicky – No

Helen – Hell no, just put the fan on in the toilet room and like do your business shut the door.

Nicky – Yes I totally agree. So let’s talk about the water okay water is you know there’s so many different kinds of showers and it’s not just even the showers the faucets right so there’s different kinds of flows that give different sort of vibes. There’s jets you know people have bathrooms with all these side jets. I personally hate those jets so I’ve gone to hotels and stuff I’ve never had that in my own bathroom but I’ve gone to hotels where they’ve had jets on the side and with so many knobs. So you can’t really tell what knob is going to turn on what and you just turn the knob on and the jet just comes at you.

Helen – Yeah and it pokes you in the eye.

Nicky – Yeah like a hose

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – and it is you know often times when you just turn it on it’s not the right temperature

Helen – Yes

Nicky – yes and so you know tell me about that tell me about how you would design water in a bathroom space.

Helen – So I like to keep the controls very simple but I’m a little bit pickier with how I control my shower set. So most people will want a thermostatic control. It’s very simple you turn you just turn the water on and it’s the same temperature all the time at the same pressure. Being a woman and I shave my legs in the shower, I don’t want the pressure on full blast when I’m shaving my legs I like to have control over the pressure and I like to have control over the the the thermostat controls. I like to have thermal change and pressure change. So that’s a little bit more you’ll end up with maybe three controls. If you add a handheld you’ll have a diverter as well, if you want to add a toe tester you’ll have a diverter for that too. So what I like to do with my showers personally it might be a little too much but I like to test with my foot I like to test the the temperature first before I turn the shower to the shower head on yeah before it hits my body, I don’t want to get shockingly frozen, like I don’t want to I don’t want to be shocked by the cold, so I like to test it before with my foot before I turn divert the water to the shower head. So flow will vary depending on your shower head and the brand you buy flow will will vary.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – So good flow amount would be like 2.6 gallons per minute some handhelds will only give you 1.7, 1.75 to 1.8 at best.

Nicky – It’s it’s crazy that we’re using so much water.

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Because if you take like a half an hour shower, oh my gosh

Helen – And there’s a trick for that okay and because I have teenagers I do this but I don’t recommend this for families with small children.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – Your water tank set it to the highest hottest setting you set it to the hottest setting and then that way you mix more cold water with that hot because it’s scalding hot. It’s very dangerously hot, so you save more water by setting it to a very hot setting. The only thing is is that you spend money on heating the tank continuously.

Nicky – Right right.

Helen – So it’s a catch 22, but water is such a luxury. Living in Ontario like we have the we have the most amount of fresh water from our great lakes. More than anywhere else in the world and our water comes from lake Ontario. If you’re living in Ontario it comes from lake Ontario

Nicky – Yes

Helen – It does get filtered the water does go through a processing system goes back to the lake however when we take it for granted how much water we’re using in the bathroom, it’s insane. It’s absolutely insane so I try to conserve as much as I can.

Nicky – You didn’t grow up with such free-flowing water

Helen – I did here in Canada but back in Greece we didn’t have running water. We didn’t have electricity. We didn’t have plumbing. We didn’t have anything. We lived like the pioneers.

Nicky – Yeah so you had the bucket that you had to then go fill 

Helen – Yes

Nicky – You know what was it the like a stream or something.

Helen – We had like a fresh spring in the side of the mountain on the rock but it was the coldest water the clearest water the best tasting water I’ve ever had.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So what we would do back in the day

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – When I would go to Greece. We’d saddle up the donkey my grandfather would put me on top take me for a ride we put the jugs on the side of the saddle and we refill we fill those drugs with the freshwater.

Nicky – Right

Helen – We take it back up to the house and my grandmother would boil it just to enough to a temperature so that we could bathe with it.

Nicky – Okay and then you would take your bucket and then you would

Helen – With a ladle

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – With a ladle or a small little saucepan and we would just pour it over our heads and that’s how we washed back in the day.

Nicky – See I I I’m from India so we grew up in in well now it’s called MumbaI but in Bombay but I’m from this place called Goa and whenever we went to my grandmother’s house it was an outhouse so we had well water. So we had to take the water from the well and you know put it in the bucket and you know bath time was always more nurturing You had to really spend a lot of time and energy washing yourself so even though you know you didn’t have free-flowing water you you could walk away from a bath feeling so refreshed

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Because the water was just different and the way that you bathed it yourself was also very different.

Helen – It was the effort you put into getting that water, to heating it up and the other thing is because we had an outhouse as well you’re out in the fresh air, you’re out in the open the field you’re surrounded by field. It’s a different experience all together than being in a brand new built shower with the most luxurious tile, everything’s polished and clean so convenient, you jump in it’s so fast you jump right back out. You almost don’t appreciate it as much as when you’re bathing out in like it was it was poverty for my family back in the village. Not now obviously but yeah back then it was very different and it was actually kind of fun like you’re surrounded by these beautiful scenery, the mountains, the fields.

Nicky – And you hear the trees

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – You might hear a goat in the background or chickens clucking, like it was just almost an amazing experience to shower that way. You come so you come out feeling so clean and refreshed.

Nicky – Yes and you have to put on your slippers or whatever and you walk back to the main house

Helen – Yeah and the towels were amazing because they were washed in like the most purist soap

Nicky – Yeah okay so tell me about towels because towels can get so incredibly expensive

Helen – Yes

Nicky – And everybody wants their towels for the most part to be fluffy and soft and they want them to stay soft but towels get so crusty over time

Helen – They do

Nicky – Yeah so and especially for people that like white towels you know they always say bleach the towels but once you bleach a towel it’s not really the same.

Helen – No the texture changes yeah so being in Ontario as well we do have a lot of fluoride and calcium in the in the water that we use to wash our towels in. So if you want to buy towels the best place to start is like going to a place like Homesense.

Nicky – Yes

Helen – Check the tag if they’re made in I love Portugal towels I love towels made in Portugal and made in Turkey Egypt um you can get mercerized cotton towels.

Nicky – What’s mercerized cotton?

Helen – It’s almost like they’re chemically washed after they’ve been produced to break down the fiber even more. They do feel softer.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – The problem is is that once you wash them in your own washing machine with your Tide or whatever laundry detergent you’re using they don’t feel the same.

Nicky – Why?

Helen – Well our water’s so hard, so if you’ve got a water softener at the house your towels will feel much better. You can treat your water.

Nicky – Okay

Helen – So water softeners help a lot uh you have to keep adding the salt as you know but it does soften the water your laundry will feel better. Bleach does break down the towels over time chemicals will make them thinner

Nicky – And they stain them like the white is not it sometimes it turns yellow.

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – So there’s probably a synthetic fiber mixed in they’re not all cotton that’s what happens with bleach and synthetic fibers if you’re using an all-natural fiber they will come out whiter but if you’re using anything with a poly mix they will come out a little bit yellowed.

Nicky – Okay so tell me about your favorite towel brand would you like to call out a brand that you that’s just your go-to.

Helen – um Firenze I would say the Italian towels are amazing. I love them. You’ll find them in hotels sometimes

Nicky – Okay

Helen – But some of them are knockoffs so you just have to be careful you know a good towel when you feel it. You just go you go by touch texture and feel.

Nicky – It’s nice too especially if you’re walking through a department store or something like just touching the towels all of them have just such different feels

Helen – Yeah they do

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – And a lot of designers will put their brand names on towels like

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – I’ve got a few from Alfred Sung. they’re okay I use them as my hand towels in the powder room. I’m not 100 happy with them just because they didn’t stand up the test of time like a natural fiber.

Nicky – Right because they’re produced in mass their focus is on really the brand not the actual towel itself maybe.

Helen – Exactly

Nicky – You know it’s just another variation to what their brand is doing so maybe the quality isn’t really there they’re just trying to push out like a new product so being able to kind of go to like a a brand that specializes in towels and linens and all of that would be much better than say going with like say a popular uh designer brand that does sort of different things.

Helen – That’s right and a lot of designers are branding their product they’re trying to just gain popularity and they’re taking anything that’s just made you know so cheaply just to put their name on it. So you really have to go back to the roots like let’s look at who makes great towels the Italians make great cars food and bath towels. They make a few other really good things but I have to say their towels are great.

Nicky – Yeah because a towel is so nice you know after you finish off your shower you come out you you know you have a bath the towel just finishes off that experience.

Helen – That’s right yeah and I find it that goes hand in hand with the whole water situation we just talked about when you were when you were showering back in India there was no hard work you didn’t have hard water you didn’t have chemicals in that water

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – You did feel cleaner

Nicky – Yes you know you had obviously you know it was well water so you had like natural particles in it but it was clean clean clean water

Helen – Now imagine think back to that time when you when you showered with that clean water and then had such a wonderful towel to pat yourself dry with that’s like a the total spa experience for me

Nicky – Yes it is and I found that people go away to places like that to have you know that spring water bath or whatever the case is because you know that natural that natural bath or that natural shower is what we’re trying to imitate in these fancy bathrooms. Do you find?

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Yes

Helen – We’re adding more organics now into the bathrooms as well. Especially bathrooms with steam showers so if we got the space we might put in a living wall like plants that just love the humidity and

Nicky – I love that

Helen – I love it too I’m actually going to be doing one very shortly in a larger bathroom shower bases instead of installing tiles on the floor we’re starting to add cedar planks so it’s a way of bringing the outdoors and you want to get the wood in there a living wall just trying to bring organic materials into the bathroom that water will support as well.

Nicky – Okay so how how are these materials different because they’re different to clean. Right so you know cleaning a cedar plank is not the same as cleaning like regular tile.

Helen – No it’s not it’s a very tedious job I don’t recommend it if we’re if we’re living in an in an area where you know life is very busy. Our demographic is you’re a working mom I’m a working mom I don’t have time to get between all the slots when I’m scrubbing my bathroom. So I’m not going to have that.

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – I won’t and I don’t like using harsh chemicals just to spray on let it sit and then rinse. I’m not for that either, plus it damages the wood.

Nicky – Right

Helen – So I’m not going to use that but someone who’s got time to clean that or someone who’s not even going to use it may have that in the bathroom they’re going to use it once in a blue moon.

Nicky – Something that I love about bathrooms especially because you have to clean them so often and a lot of times they’re shared with people so you have your husband you have your kids going there you have your whoever’s coming to your bathroom right so it depends on the traffic of your bathroom but the finishes that I like to use in my bathroom are ones that are that are able to be cleaned as easily as possible.

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Yes

Helen – You want to keep things simple it’s things that you can wipe clean and not have to use like specialized cleaners for everything you just want it to be very simple and sterile at the same time you want it to be clean

Nicky – So what’s your favorite bathroom cleaner vinegar water?

Helen – Vinegar water baking soda I’ll use quite often and then for a good deep clean I like to use Ajax or Comet with bleach. It gets everything really shiny your sinks, your chrome, your toilets, everything gets really shiny with that.

Nicky – So I know that you know seeing an interior designer people automatically assume they can’t afford it. Right they automatically assume that you know this is a very luxury thing and it to a certain extent it kind of is but I want you to tell me a little bit about the process if somebody’s interested or you know design doesn’t just come so easily to people. People don’t really understand like what’s you know underneath or behind cabinets and how water really flows and they don’t have that understanding because they don’t have that education. So you know what’s the process if someone were to come to you? What is what is your process on seeing a new client?

Helen – So what I would normally do is come for the consultation meeting first when a lot happens in that first meeting. I’d be listening to the homeowners the husband and the wife or if it’s just one person I want to understand their vision what they like what they don’t like. How often they’re going to use the space, what’s their lifestyle like are they going to clean this or do they have help that’s cleaning it.

Nicky – Right

Helen – From there I take on that same visit I’ll take a check measure of the entire space I will check all the electrical I will check the water flow if it’s coming out of the walls or if it’s coming out of the floor I will check which walls are interior which walls are exterior

Nicky – How do you know if it’s coming out of the walls or the floor well

Helen – I just open the cabinet doors and I and I look okay so and I want to see if it’s an exterior wall can I move them to the wall or can I just I have to keep them in the floor. So some people don’t realize that the lines cannot come from an exterior wall so what you’ll see sometimes in smaller bathrooms you’ll see that the wall is strapped out to put the shower kit in people why does my wall come in so much well look is that an exterior wall it’s on so you’ll have an exterior wall and then it’ll be insulated and then the wall will get studded again it’ll bump out just to house the shower kit

Nicky – Wow

Helen – So you really can’t do much about that um if you’ve got plumbing on an exterior wall for let’s say a vanity but we never really put a vanity on an exterior wall but it happens from time to time yeah the lines will come from the floor we can’t put them in the wall because they will freeze. We have harsh winters.

Nicky – So once you have finished off you know you know you’ve you’ve done the assessment what what comes next?

Helen – So what I do right away is draft up the floor plan and the spacing once I do that I know what product I need and where I’m going to find it and what colors I’m using. So then I start to do the resourcing I’ll venture out and start collecting all the samples. I’ll look at all the specs on everything and the pricing. So once I compiled everything you’ll get a design plan, you’ll get a working drawings package for all the trades and then you’ll get the specs in the budget.

Nicky – Now as the interior designer grew of Oakville you have seen your fair share of gross bathrooms in Oakville and Toronto everywhere everywhere yeah okay what’s the grossest you’ve ever seen?

Helen – Oh I feel so bad saying this um someone who never kept their bathroom clean and mold took over everything and ate away at everything ate away the silicone ate away and everything where they started to leak beneath the floor and things started to smell and rot. So that’s why I say cleanliness is always so important even if it’s outdated and old just keep it clean and shiny you will feel better. It’ll be it’ll just look nicer.

Nicky – Okay do you recommend putting tiles on the walls.

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Yes

Helen – I do I like tile on the wall

Nicky – Yeah versus like a a painted wall

Helen – Yeah versus drywall it’s cleaner the only thing is everything echoes you make one little sound and everyone will hear.

Nicky – What’s a good budget for somebody to have for say a normal bathroom not a master bathroom say if they’re just doing a normal bathroom what’s a good budget for them to have?

Helen – So get it down to the studs in the subfloor you’re looking at at least twenty thousand 

Nicky – Okay okay that’s a lot of money

Helen – It’s a lot of money but you gotta think there’s a lot going into this so we’re we’re considering the demolition we’re considering the disposal so you have a bin in the driveway once that gets cleaned up we’re paying trades to clean up the site then we start roughing in the new plumbing and then the electrician comes in and he starts roughing in all the new electrical and then that’s when we start again with you know we’ve got the framing going on prior to those two trades coming in. We’ve got the tile setter, we’ve got you know drywall being done, mudding taping, there are many people involved in putting a bathroom together yeah at least 10 10 to 12 people and then you’ve got all the trade all the suppliers as well. You’re constantly on the phone you’re constantly on your computer arranging deliveries something got back ordered you’re it’s it’s a constant go go go motion like you cannot stop.

Nicky – Okay what’s an average for a master bathroom

Helen – Uh 25 to 30 for an average okay and it takes about I would say three weeks to build

Nicky – Yes because the time is huge

Helen – Yes

Nicky – Because you don’t have access to that bathroom

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – And a lot of times especially you know with bungalows, bungalows don’t have that many bathrooms. Right so they may have sometimes I’ve even seen bungalows have one right. So having a bathroom out of commission is tough

Helen – So you have to move out at that point temporarily

Nicky – Yes

Helen – But what you can do is just keep one functioning toilet towards the end of the project you can just change it out. There are different ways of working this out where the couple can still live in the house and have one functioning bathroom. We have to arrange that it’s very tedious it’s very highly orchestrated but we can do it it’s doable.

Nicky – That’s awesome okay so then what comes after. The project has started what do you do at that point.

Helen – So now I start placing all the orders and arranging all deliveries to be on site prior to this trades showing up the trades cannot show up unless all their product is there everything’s ready for them they can see what they’re installing if they show up and nothing’s there I’ve just wasted their time.

Nicky – Okay so after you you guide the clients through the whole experience so they kind of they don’t really need to do anything.

Helen – No so I’ll be project managing every day at the site

Nicky – Okay and then once the project is done you organize this big reveal.

Helen – I do so I go get the towels the soap dispensers fill them up with soap that matches the rest of the bathroom. I’ll put in diffusers things like that, little touches that I know they’ll like if they like to have music in the bathroom I’ll set up something like I’ll have arranged for speakers prior to being installed in the wall

Nicky – And you can have that built in into the bathroom

Helen – you can there’s some great speakers from Canadian Sound that it’s just drywall you wouldn’t even know that they’re there and the sound comes out perfectly from the drywall

Nicky – That’s amazing if you’re taking a shower and then you have a speaker and you can have like your favorite music playing or something like that. I know for me I have like this tiny sticky thing that I stick on my tile

Helen – Yeah

Nicky – And then I project it with my wi-fI but it would be so nice to have you know full experience uh with built-in speakers

Helen – We could listen to coin for thought on in the bathroom right?

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – Listen to the podcast

Nicky – So after everything’s done you have this big reveal and that must be so nice for you

Helen – It’s great all they have to do is move in their personal belongings but everything is ready for use it’s clean polished disinfected it’s ready for them to go and use toilet papers there toilet paper stocked up in the cabinet

Nicky – Yeah

Helen – It’s ready for use um other than your own personal products then you know it’s just you can go in and use the toilet right away I want this to be an easy process for the clients and I want them to I want them to be pleasantly surprised when they walk into their new space and I try to I try to schedule these while they’re on vacation. So they come back to a new space

Nicky – Yeah so it’s not taking up their time they’re not having to struggle with it. It lets you and and all all the people working there work in peace.

Helen – That’s right yeah and we’re very cautious and careful and very respectful of the people’s homes they’re entrusting us and we really want to make sure we do a good job and leave a lasting positive impression on them. Like we want them to love it it’s a lot of money for a lot of people these bathrooms are like their hard-earned dollars that they’ve been saving for such a long time for this

Nicky – And you don’t go a day without going to your bathroom

Helen – No

Nicky – No

Helen – It’s I always say it’s the first place you visit first thing in the morning and it’s the last place you go to when you go to sleep at night

Nicky – Thank you so much Helen for joining me on the show it was such a pleasure having you thank you so much for sharing your story too

Helen – Thank you as well Nicky it was fun 

Nicky – Yeah if you’d like to work with Helen check out the description below you can find out how to reach her and contact her and work with her. She’s absolutely amazing to work with. Don’t forget to like subscribe and hit that notification bell for more videos to come see you all soon. Bye!