More than a paint store: Newcastle Home Décor

Story by Katie Ryalen | Photos by Wynne Feret

Whether you need that perfect paint colour for your DIY home update project or you need an entire floor to ceiling redesign, Newcastle Home Décor and Design can help. The store has been a fixture of Newcastle Village for the past fifteen years, with ten of those being under its current ownership. It’s not just paint, it’s the paint store with more.

Newcastle Home Décor is a licensed Benjamin Moore premium paint distributor, and offers custom window treatments, blinds, shutters and drapery. The store also sources custom furniture for its clients and carries a variety of unique items that are not sold in national chain stores. But what really differentiates this business from other paint and décor stores is its personalized design services. “Whether you’re looking to do a home renovation, or looking for someone to pull it all together, or you’re just looking for someone to come into a room and give you advice on how you should consider decorating—we are a one-stop shop for all your design needs,” says owner Debbie Miller.

Initially, Debbie eased into the business by following the more cut-and-dry consumer model that it had when she purchased it. But as she learned more about the industry, she found that her customers were eager for personalized interior design services. As a result, she began to grow her business in that direction. She says, “We do have a very good reputation for customer relations and being able to offer unique services, instead of just being a store where someone can walk in and buy paint or drapes.”

It is that personalized service which makes Debbie’s business stand out from its big box counterparts. It is a tried-and-true small-town store in an authentic small town. “I’m finding that, more and more, people are shying away from the big box stores and coming to the little independent stores that are managed by trained professionals,” she says. “You go into the big box stores and you’re dealing with a part-time college student. But we have the experience behind us.”

Debbie herself, who has an eye for colour and how to put it together in a home, is primarily involved in color consulting. When it comes to custom design, she has a team of two designers. “I brought my designers on board three years ago because I wanted to be able to offer my clients that extra step,” she says. “So anyone who is looking for that service will go through them.” To complete the ensemble, Debbie also relies on the expertise of her staff—who just happen to be the original staff who worked at the store when she purchased it.

Being a business owner wasn’t always Debbie’s ambition. Prior to purchasing Newcastle Home Décor and Design she was a stay at home mom for ten years before she began working part time in the optical business. To bring in extra money she would do interior painting for clients in her spare time. As it turned out, the paint store where she bought her supplies happened to be the store she now owns. “I always loved it,” she recalls. “One day, I don’t know why, I asked the girls who were working here to let me know if this place ever goes up for sale.” Of course, at the time, she didn’t know anything about running a business. However, within three months she found herself owning it. “At that point the only thing I knew was that you don’t put latex over oil paint,” she laughs. “But I’ve grown and I’ve learned so much in the past ten years. I’m always learning, because trends change and you have to keep up to date.”

“People want more personalized service nowadays, and they want somebody that they can trust,” she continues. “Also, I think people are starting to understand that if they don’t shop locally and shop small business, then they won’t have those unique little stores to come and visit in their hometowns.” With the rapid expansion of the Newcastle area, Debbie is pleased to find that the families moving from west to east are really taking up the call to support their local small businesses.

It is always gratifying for Debbie and her staff to hear what kind of an impact they’ve made on the residents of their community. One client recently posted a comment on the store’s Facebook page about how wonderful it is to not only see Debbie around town, but to actually be remembered by her. “I think people appreciate that,” Debbie reflects. “I don’t always remember names, but I do remember faces. And I go that extra step to remember who my clients are, because quite often I do meet people outside of the store.”

Newcastle Home Décor and Design
80 King Avenue East, Newcastle
(905) 987-1575

Making a Splash with Tile

Story by Glynis Ratcliffe | Photos by Kirsten McGoey

When you look around your home, desperate for something new, your first thought may be to change up the paint colours, or replace a piece of furniture. There is another way to completely transform your home, and that is by updating your tile. It could be an accent wall in your living room, a new backsplash, or fireplace tile. Whatever your decision, Whitby Tile owner Sandy Somers says, “you should know that tile is no longer made the way it used to be. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing – the quality is far superior, resulting in less damage and fewer incidences of leaks than ever before, and the choices available make personalization easier than ever.”

What makes Somers so sure? The knowledge of someone whose family-run business has been around for more than 30 years. Together with her husband Mark and two of her sons, Troy and Devin, they run a tile company that now has three locations across Durham and is open to the public seven days a week. That kind of longevity in the business has allowed the Somers family to develop relationships with some great designers and build a network of high quality, reliable contractors, all of whom they feel comfortable referring their customers to.

Because the quality of tiling has improved so much, you can expect that the tile you choose to refresh your home’s floors with, whether that’s in the kitchen, bathroom, or elsewhere, can be your “forever tiles.” Employees at Whitby Tile believe, for that reason, it’s better to stay away from trendy patterns. If you’re really itching to try something new out, Somers suggests heading to the laundry room for a funkier floor, because it’s smaller and not in a heavy traffic area. That said, changing up your backsplash or adding an accent wall can be less of an investment, and allow you to play a bit.

Whether you decide to go with a classic subway tile, or modernize your backsplash with an arabesque tile, Somers encourages customers to bring all their home design elements to an appointment, so employees can help you make the best decision for your home. “Think outside the box,” she says. “Try to keep an open mind and don’t rely on Pinterest for all your ideas! You’d be surprised at how wonderful a non-traditional combination can look.”

More than anything, she wants customers to trust that her employees will help you get to your ultimate decor vision, without it looking…well, terrible. What does that mean? Sometimes, homeowners don’t realize some element in the tile they’ve chosen for their backsplash clashes with their countertop. For instance, a busy counter and a busy backsplash will be overwhelming to the eye. Somers encourages clients to take a few tiles home so they can see it in their own space and espouses the motto, “It’s not what you want, it’s what the space needs.”

Whitby Tile is a great alternative to big box stores for so many reasons, one of which is the exclusivity of the tile designs they offer. Because they import directly from tile companies all over the world, they’re able to stay on the leading edge of trends. In addition, that direct-buy relationship eliminates the middleman, which ultimately brings the pricing down for tiles from countries like Italy or Spain, where the quality is traditionally higher.

Somers emphasizes that when homeowners want to install new tiling themselves, a big box store employee simply doesn’t have the knowledge necessary to help them accomplish a successful installation. “DIYers often come in here for help, after getting products from a big store, and they’re shocked that the information we’re giving them is so different,” she says. In contrast, anyone can book an appointment at one of the Whitby Tile locations and learn (and purchase) everything they need to do it themselves.

These days, high-shine porcelain floor tiles are popular for both bathroom and kitchen, because of the clean, fresh look it gives rooms. Rectified tiles, a relatively new development which involves machine finishing tiles to help them line up more closely and give uniformity, are ideal for high-shine tiles. In contrast, accent walls or fireplaces tend to be more about texture, whether the material is dry stack stone or long wood planks.

Whatever you decide to install in your home, it’s clear just how important it is to have knowledgeable people to confer with. Whitby Tile appears to have grown as much as it has because of their reputation for knowing their stuff, and their willingness to share their expertise and connections when asked. The Somers family is, without a doubt, committed to making Durham more beautiful, one home at a time.

Whitby Tile
225 Brock Street North, Whitby
(905) 666-2233