trendsNOW – Legendary office parties, beautiful bathrooms, solar power, and giving old furniture new life

This month we’re featuring incredible office holiday parties by Swanky Events and gorgeous bathrooms created by Peterborough Bath Renovators. Flanagan and Sun helps us to be green and make green with solar power, and Style Your Nest gives us an easy way to make old furniture look fantastic.

Holiday Ford's Christmas party included a big screen Atari game, a candy bar, and vintage toys at every table. (Photo: Swanky Events)

Century 21's Christmas party had an Oscars theme, complete with a red carpet and selfies with this Oscar statue. (Photo: Swanky Events)

The Oscars Christmas party also has a popcorn bar, awards, and a James Bond themed dance performance. (Photo: Swanky Events)

The Peterborough Construction Association held a Christmas Casino party, complete with black jack and roulette. (Photo: Swanky Events)

If you’ve ever been tasked with planning the office Christmas party, you know that it can be a huge responsibility. Rather than diverting staff from the jobs they do best, these Kawartha companies hired a professional to create holiday parties with a serious wow factor.

Sue Swankie of Swanky Events says that a great party should be more than a dinner and a dance. “If you throw in something unexpected it makes people talk about it and say ‘that was a great party’. They remember it.”

A night at the Oscars

For Century 21, Sue created an Oscars-themed party to echo the statue in their logo. There was a red carpet with walk of fame stars down the hallway. The centrepieces were black, red and gold. There was a popcorn bar with toppings, and an Oscar statue to take a selfie with.

Then the attendees sat down to a show beginning with a James Bond themed dance by members of Lindsay Storms’ dance studio and ending with an awards ceremony to honour the staff with their very own Oscars.

Big screen video games and a candy bar

For Holiday Ford, Sue created a party with the theme of reliving your childhood. Each table had bags of vintage toys like tops and spinners. You could also choose to play with a Lite Brite or take a turn on the Atari, which was projected onto a huge screen.

The decor theme was wintery snow and ice, picking up the Holiday Ford blue, and that included a blue-themed candy bar. The Citiots Improv group performed, which Sue says was a big success. “The crowd was doubled over with laughter.”

Both the Holiday Ford and the Century 21 parties were held at the Peterborough Golf and Country Club, with Bill Porter as the DJ for the dance.

A Christmas casino

The Peterborough Construction Association obtained Swanky Events’ services for a Christmas casino party. There were a variety of different casino tables including black jack and roulette.

The staff were given tokens at the beginning of the night which could later be cashed in for tickets to win door prizes.

The event included dinner and a dance to what Sue calls “a very lively DJ.”

Celebrating together as a company

Especially if you work in a large company, a party can be an opportunity to get the whole company working together more effectively.

“Especially for a corporate party, there are so many different people and different age groups,” Sue says. “People are at different levels in the business. It’s important to get people to mingle and talk to people they might not know.”

Hiring an event planner can help to ensure that your Christmas party is a memorable evening that brings your staff closer together.

You can call Swanky Events at 705-657-1916, email, or find them online at

A freestanding tub and a beautiful view make this Peterborough Bath Renovators washroom the perfect place to take a nice long bath. (Photo: Peterborough Bath Renovators)

Tight on space? A glass walled shower makes the room feel more spacious and a washer and dryer nook makes the most of every square foot. (Photo: Peterborough Bath Renovators)

The team works hard to make accessibility features like grab bars in this elegant glass walled shower look good with the room's design. (Photo: Peterborough Bath Renovators)

Need more storage in the bathroom? Peterborough Bath Renovators can create a washroom with plenty of cupboard space, like this one. (Photo: Peterborough Bath Renovators)

If your bathroom needs a renovation, it’s hard to ignore. Maybe you’re living in a cramped space that, with a few updates, could feel much more spacious. Maybe it’s time to install some safety features, like a walk-in tub or grab bars. Or maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a bit of luxury, like a freestanding tub or a larger shower.

Peterborough Bath Renovators can do any of these projects. As a whole bathroom renovator, they can offer everything from bathtub chip repairs to large scale renovations. Co-owner Patti Clark says that because they focus exclusively on bathrooms, they have become a one stop shop for almost any upgrade. “Anything our customers need for their bathroom, we can pretty much can do it.”

Full bathroom renovation in one week

The company prides itself on completing most of their projects within a week. After 10 years in the business, they pretty much have this down to a science. “It’s a whole day, every day, until it’s completed,” says Patti.

Delivering that speed of service requires tight scheduling. Owner John Clark, who has been in the business for 30 years, explains that his team does everything except for electrical and plumbing, and they work with plumbers and electricians local to the job who are used to their workflow, which means fewer interruptions to the job. “You’re not waiting for the guy to show up.”

Yes, cleanup is included

That one-week time frame includes cleanup. Operations Manager John Skar, affectionately known as Big John, says that cleaning up is a sign of respect to the customer.

“We always try to leave every property as clean as we would want our own. We remove all the garbage and debris.”

That respect goes beyond the cleanup.

trendsNOW – Legendary office parties, beautiful bathrooms, solar power, and giving old furniture new life

“They communicate with the customer. They’re in there explaining what they’re doing” says Patti. “Our installers are very friendly. We’ve been told that a lot. Many customers have fed them well, they just love our guys.”

Peterborough Bath Renovators has a showroom at 637 The Queensway, Unit 8, in Peterborough. You can call them at 705-745-7694, visit their website at, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Sean Flanagan's large straw bale home is powered with a small solar array. Even with modern conveniences like a dishwasher, Sean only uses about 5 kWH per day. (Photo: Eva Fisher)

Passive solar heat from well-insulated windows provides extra warmth. Sean lives off grid in order to have a deeper understanding of what his customers need. (Photo: Eva Fisher)

Looking for a green investment? Look up! The microFIT program pays premium rates for solar power, but to take part you will need to act by the end of 2017. (Photo: Flanagan and Sun)

Flanagan and Sun can help you with regulatory applications. If you're interested in making a green investment, call Flanagan and Sun at 705-875-3132. (Photo: Flanagan and Sun)

Sean Flanagan of Flanagan and Sun began his renewable energy company in 2004 to build a business that would also help the environment. “I’ve always liked the idea of renewable energy. I wanted to do something positive for the world. I saw it as the future.”

Sean has been installing, selling, designing and consulting on solar energy solutions for the past 12 years. I spoke with him about how you can benefit from solar energy, whether you’re on or off the grid.

On the grid

If you currently get your power from the utility company, you may have a green investment waiting for you on your roof.

The microFIT program offers people generating solar power a premium rate per kilowatt hour with a 20-year contract. It will stop offering new contracts at the end of 2017, so now is the time to plan your project.

Residential homes, barns, schools, and churches are among the buildings eligible for the microFIT program. Barns, with their large metal roofs, can be an ideal candidate if the roof is stable and there’s southern exposure. Sean has done a number of installations on barns. “I used to be afraid of heights. I’ve gotten over it over the years.”

Sean is the co-owner of a microFIT system at an outdoor education facility near Lindsay. He’s using his part of the income to plan for the future. “I take my half of the income and put it towards my son’s education fund. That might be something other people might want to consider.” This education savings strategy will help his son, and the green energy will help the environment. It’s a win win.

Off the grid

Not all of Sean’s clients have the option of selling energy back to the grid, and not all of them want to. Off-grid homes are appealing for people who crave self sufficiency, or who want freedom from their power bill. The low cost of real estate without a power hookup can also be a strong incentive.

In order to provide the best service possible, Sean wanted to be able to truly understand what it was like to live off grid — so he built his own off-grid home.

“You can read about it all day, but when you experience it firsthand you know what’s annoying.” He started out using a gas generator as a backup. Fiddling around outside with gas during a typical Buckhorn winter wasn’t fun. Now he knows to recommend propane to his customers.

Although his home includes modern conveniences like a fridge and a dishwasher, Sean only uses about 5 kilowatt hours of power per day, which is provided by a small solar array on a shed by his house.

If you’d like to book a consultation with Flanagan and Sun, you can contact them at 705-875-3132. Learn more about renewable energy on their website at Flanagan and Sun is located at 2840 County Road 36, Trent Lakes. You can also connect with them on Facebook andTwitter.

Nesting tables painted in tonal shades of grey creates a decor statement. (Photo: Style Your Nest)

Jamie updated this wooden dining set with black paint, creating a high end look. (Photo: Style Your Nest)

The painted knobs look sculptural on this beautifully distressed dining hutch. (Photo: Style Your Nest)

Jamie recommends Country Chic Paint, available on her online store. (Photo: Style Your Nest)

If you have a piece of furniture that is functional, but you’re tired of the way it looks, it’s possible that all it needs is a fresh coat of paint. Jamie Stephenson, owner of Style your Nest, has turned many dated pieces into fresh home accents using paint and a few simple tools.

Here are her tips to create your own hand-painted furniture and home accents.

Picking a colour

When you paint your furniture you have total control over colour, and you should take advantage of that. Jamie says the best way to pick a colour is to just look around the room.

“Look at your wall colour, other accent pieces, your rug and pillows, and find something that works in the room. You can stick with a neutral or add a pop of colour. The choice is yours.”

Picking a furniture piece

Jamie uses a Canada-made line of paint called Country Chic Paint, which works on all surfaces. Keep in mind that laminate furniture can be difficult to paint; it requires more prep work and may not be as durable as other surfaces.

Jamie also pays attention to the hardware of the furniture. “Some of the hardware you find on old furniture pieces, you can’t find hardware like that anymore.” A freshly painted dresser or cupboard can make vintage hardware really stand out.

Paint isn’t just restricted to furniture either. Glass and metal can also be painted such as vases, mirrors, lamp bases, and even mason jars to match your decor.

Don’t stress the distress

Distressing furniture can make it look rustic and can add visual interest. You can distress the piece to allow the colour of the wood to show through, or you can do an undercoat of one colour and then distress the top coat of paint to allow that colour to show through.

To wet distress the paint, you let the paint dry to the touch but not more than a few hours. Then you dampen a lint-free cloth and wipe away the paint to reveal the wood or paint colour underneath. This gives a smoother distressed look.

Another distressing technique is to wait until the paint is completely dry and use sandpaper to distress it. This can be done at any time. Be sure to use an extra fine to fine grit. This will give a rougher distressed look.

If you overdo it, don’t worry. Jamie assures me that “it’s really easy to just paint over those sections and start fresh. Once you do it, it’s not final.”

Finish it

The paints that Jamie carries has a built-in tough coat, but if you’re doing a piece that will be heavily used, you should use a clear protective tough coat on top to make sure it maintains its condition and to ensure it can be cleaned.

For dressers and cabinets, Jamie will often use a wax to give it an antiqued or even pearlescent finish. There are many waxes to choose from.

Style your Nest also offers products that can transfer photos onto wood, antiquing dust, crackle finish, texture powder, and many more.

Painting furniture and accents is an easy and fun DIY project but, if you’re overwhelmed, Jamie also does custom work and offers paint classes.

Style Your Nest is located in Buckhorn at 6 Main Street. You can visit them online at or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.Be sure to visit their brand new online store at