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ONE ROOM CHALLENGE, WEEK 1 | Creating A Backyard Flower Studio

Challenge accepted.

With the changing of the seasons the One Room Challenge arrives with predictability twice a year. I have long been an observer and sideline cheerleader of this virtual meet-up that unites interior design enthusiasts around a unified goal. 

Pick a space in your home. And over the course of a number of weeks, make it better.

Chronicle your progress on social and we will encourage you to cross the finish line to the triumphant big reveal. Oh, how I love the reveal. 

Understandably, this year is a bit different. This year is different for all of us. That’s why for the first time, I’m getting off the sidelines and swan diving into the #OneRoomChallenge pool as a guest participant.


In its seventeenth season, the One Room Challenge™, takes place in April and October. Each round, twenty design influencers take the challenge as Featured Designers. Every Wednesday, the designers document their process over six weekly posts (bumped to eight weeks this season due to the pandemic). Better Homes and Gardens is the official media sponsor.

In addition to following along, everyone with a blog or Instagram account, is welcome to join the fun as a Guest Participant by linking their own room transformations up each Thursday, flooding the internet and social media with interior design inspiration, ideas, and encouragement.

This is our first One Room Challenge and the first project in our new house. Follow along as we transform our forgotten garden into a blooming flower studio and botanical backyard. We are #LovingLeuty.


Reasons To ORC Right Now

First. There’s no excuse regarding time. That’s one thing we’ve got lots of. Sure, access to supplies is more of a challenge, but hey, we got this. Necessity is the mother of invention and this momma is ready to create, improvise, make lemonade.

You must be feeling it too. A need to connect, to collaborate with community. To support and to be supported. So that’s the second reason I’m all in. Being part of something bigger than my four walls. Being invited into the homes of others. And inviting you into ours.

And that leads to the third reason. We have a new home. Yes, leaving behind Millar House almost as soon as we arrived has made the past two years a bit of a whirlwind. But we are so happy for the experience we had. So happy we realized a long-held dream of restoring a heritage property in a small town. In the end though, our life path has taken a twist and we are back full-time in the city.

Introducing Our New Home

If there is a theme to our new place, I’d call it downsizing with style. Even before sustainability became the buzzword of 2020, only further cemented by Covid, Graham and I have been wanting to shrink our envelope. While each of the homes we've lived in and loved has been right for us at that moment, our needs continue to evolve. As has our perspective on what’s important.

So it was with much great fortune that the semi-detached home we were renting in the Beaches neighbourhood in Toronto (we stayed here so the kids could finish school while we were renovating Millar House) became available for us to purchase. We have been in this community for close to twenty years and it was pulling us back.

Our newly purchased, totally serviceable 1909 home gets a boost from its incredible location - a short block to the lake one way and a short block to main street the other. While it is cozy with our family of five plus dog, we found that with some smart space planning we could make it work. Despite, or maybe because of its limited frame, we felt at home and we are #LovingLeuty.

Making a Blooming Backyard

You know my love of growing and arranging sustainable, wildish flowers so an outdoor makeover is the perfect project to initiate our inaugural One Room Challenge. The time is ripe for planting and if you get all the infrastructure done early in the season, you’ve got the summer to let the growing and enjoying happen.

The icing on the cake of our new property is the deep garden. It's a fair size as city holdings go - about 20 feet wide by 80 feet long. And, bonus! There's already a solid storage shed built on a concrete foundation. While the space is not what we had at our other home, we will use Millar House (see pictures below) as our inspirational north star.

Our cutting garden at Millar House in full bloom.

I love our old shed. But she shall rise again.

PHOTO | Robin Stubbert

Just in here, doing my thing.


This will be a botanical backyard first. A hard-working sensory wellspring where plants are grown to be cut and admired.


  1. Make the prettiest floral studio by reimagining the existing garden shed using paint as our secret weapon

  2. Create raised beds to house an intensively-grown cutting garden overflowing with flowers, herbs and vegetables


  1. Repurpose/reuse existing building materials and décor items as much as possible

  2. Do all the work ourselves without the help of trades

  3. Limit outside supplies and shop smart for only what we need

Our Starting Point

A garden revival is a good pandemic project as I have my own in-house work crew (my poor husband and children) who can’t run away from me. There's already been great progress on the backyard. To date, we've:

  • Dismantled an under-utilized lower deck that ate into the yard

  • Stored all the deck boards and screws for later

  • Removed grass and rubble

  • Taken down broken shutters and window boxes from the shed

  • Unearthed some beautifully weathered pavers to create new paths

Scraggly grass and old deck boards.

A good way to get rid of your frustrations.

Ohh. So much better already.

Up Next

In Week 2 we tackle the raised garden beds. Be sure to check in on our progress and let us know what you think.

In the meantime, go ORC family, we are all off to an incredible start.


Check out some more.

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