Big trade shows like the upcoming Design Northwest show at B.C. Place are a gold mine for reno advice.


For some reason, the people I work for think I must know every detail about every kind of minor renovation. How much would it cost to have all their mini-blinds replaced with wood venetians? What’s better, carpet tiles or wall-to-wall?

I have enough trouble remembering my own home phone number never mind committing to my feeble memory the array of home-decor facts and figures. They ask me a question, I go to the source and ask the experts the same question. If I want to know what’s involved in changing a bi-fold closet door to a slider, I go to the door store. I don’t think it’s my journalism training at work here; it’s simply a matter of going to the source.

Our DIY culture has led many businesses to employ onsite consultants, so the advice comes free. If I want to paint my bedroom, I pick the brain of the colour consultant at Benjamin Moore for recommendations. I’ve dogged the certified plumbers at Home Depot to help me create an outdoor sink connecting to the garden hose. A young woman at Ikea Richmond reconfigured a kitchen for me. It’s all free for the asking; the only investment is in some interest in the subject and a clear list of questions.

This next tip is clearly due to my journalism background: bring along a notebook, with a list of questions. I take the time to jot down answers like I would in a newspaper interview and I try to get the experts’ names and numbers, in case I have questions later I need to phone in. There’s something about recording advice on the spot that makes them measure their words carefully.

This is how I’ll be approaching the upcoming Design Northwest Show at B.C. Place on Feb. 14-15. I can already feel the poor staff at every trades booth cringe as I whip open my notebook and pummel them with questions. But my experience is most are happy to share their knowledge.

Newsgathering comes naturally, although I can’t promise I’ll remember the details when my clients ask. One thing I do remember is to recommend they save their money by making use of the free wealth of knowledge of store design consultants. Drop by during quieter times, to get their full attention. And after the job’s done, make a point of thanking them — or their boss — for their patient advice.

Carlyn Yandle is a Vancouver journalist with her own room-planning business, Home Reworks ( She dwells on urban-home issues every Thursday in Metro.