"Welcome to the Drake Devonshire. Would you like to try one of our signature cocktails?" If first impressions can be trusted, I was going to like the Drake Devonshire. A lot.
A bright yellow door on the far side of a cobblestone courtyard offers a sunny welcome to visitors who've made the two-plus hour drive to Prince Edward County from Toronto or further. Inside, opposing adjectives like "quaint" and "cool" compete for your affection. Part of the hotel occupies a renovated 19th century iron foundry, onto which ERA Architects added new light-filled spaces. To blend them together, Toronto designer John Tong of +tongtong layered the interiors with quirky vintage finds and colourful modern accents. The effect is like being at a family cottage that the grandkids have updated for a new generation while preserving nostalgic elements of the past.
The staffer greeting me with the tray of cocktails isn't a permanent perk for arriving guests. I'm there for a media preview, which aims to give me the experience of a weekend stay in a few short hours. So while I don't get to sip a cappuccino on the large back deck while watching the morning mist lift off Lake Ontario, I do get a personal tour of the hotel with owner Jeff Stober, John Tong and Mia Nielsen, who curated all of the artwork.
I discover Jeff is an antiques junkie. He gets excited all over again recounting the story of how he snagged the vintage secretary desk that now functions as a hostess stand. It turns out he's a regular at the Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts and has a fine-tuned system for buying, storing and shipping found treasures. I secretly start plotting how I can tag along on his next trip, so I can discover all of his tips and tricks.
We wander into the newly built A-frame pavilion, which is hosting a raw bar piled high with fresh seafood prepared by Chef Matt DeMille, who graced the kitchens at Toronto's Canoe, Parts & Labour and Enoteca Sociale, to name a few, before moving to the country. Later, in the lake-view dining room, he'll treat us to a multi-course dinner that I happily finish every last bite of, despite having said "yes!" to the countless snacks offered throughout the afternoon.
Jeff notes that he loves the pavilion's A-frame structure — "It looks like it has been here forever," — but I've only got eyes for the custom mural by Brooklyn-based Faile, which covers one wall and looks like a collage of street art, album covers and wallpaper scraps. Mia has placed art to surprise and charm guests: New York artist Kirsten Hassenfeld's sculpture made of vintage paper is hung so it can be enjoyed from two different perspectives (looking up at it from the main floor and looking directly into it from the stairwell to the second floor), fragments of poetry by Canadian Al Purdy are written directly on walls, and vintage paintings updated with cheeky details by Toronto collective Team Macho hang in nearly every room. It's soon clear to me that Mia has the coolest job in the world.
John has a pretty good gig, too. He was part of the team that designed the original Drake Hotel in downtown Toronto, so he knew exactly how to tweak its DNA for the country. Graphic patterned floor tiles anchor the main floor common areas. In the guest rooms, Jeff's vintage furniture is paired with custom platform beds sporting beadboard headboards, colour-blocked walls and bold area rugs. These are spaces you can comfortably inhabit whether you're dressed for the beach or dinner — and here, one outfit will probably do for both.
Before I have to head home to the city, we gather around the beach-side fire pit and watch the sun go down. A guy playing guitar on the deck accompanies the fire's familiar crackle and pop, and I find myself dreamily planning my return.
You never know where your next great idea might come from. That's why I always have my phone charged and ready to capture a moment of inspiration. When I travel, my design spidey senses are on even higher alert. Here are a few of the details that got me snapping pictures and thinking during my recent visit to Los Angeles and San Francisco with the #BlogTourCali group. (Read more about my trip in my previous blog post.)
I spotted this circular colour study painting by Don Suggs at the West Edge Design Fair in Santa Monica. I found it utterly mesmerizing. I'm interested in how masters of a particular craft can take something simple and make it sensational. This seems simple — circles painted in many different colours — and yet it has so much energy and movement. And the colour combination is very unusual. It inspires me to try something new — an art technique, a colour combo, something!
L.A. furniture retailer Graye had a minimalist booth at the West Edge Design Fair. But this prop vignette begged me to snap a pic. I love the mix of materials, shapes and patina. A display like this is a great idea for an off-duty dining table or a centre hall table. Time to pull some old things out of the china cabinet and experiment. My favourite takeaway is the idea of placing an object on a stack of books to give it more presence — classic styling trick.
After L.A. the BlogTour group hit the road up the coast from L.A. to San Francisco. The views are breathtaking. The ocean gets me every time. Awe in the true sense of the word. And how about those colours?
Have you ever tried the Sherwin-Williams online colour tool called Let's Chip It? It's so much fun. Go to letschipit.com, upload a photo, and you get a palette of five Sherwin-Williams colours pulled from your photo.
Click the Edit Photos button on the bottom right and five more colours pop up for you to play with. You can drag and drop the chips back and forth to customize a palette that matches your photo. It's a no-fail way to devise a decorating palette because nature always gets colour right.
And speaking of great colours, I snapped this shot of tomatoes at the green market where we stopped for lunch in Monterey. Like I said, nature gets colour right.
We hit up a few design shops in San Francisco. I spied this credenza at the extraordinary Thos. Moser showroom. The furniture is all beautifully handmade. This little idea for cabinet pulls caught my attention. You can barely see these leather pulls when the drawers are closed. They are just deep enough for your fingers to grasp. And when you open the drawer you get a little treat — three perfect brass screws hold the pull into a carefully chiselled space so that the pull is flush with the top of the drawer. I'd love to try to replicate this concept on a furniture makeover project.
The Serena & Lily design shop is just a few doors down Sacramento Street. I loved the store's super simple take on plantings out front — grass en masse. The mane-like texture is a fun alternative to the more expected choices of boxwood or other evergreen. The grasses sway in the wind beautifully and have a beachy vibe. Nice.
I took off on my own for a bit one afternoon to ogle the pretty houses. It's one of my favourite things to do when I travel — wander a neighbourhood to check out the architecture and paint colours and gardens. Many of San Francisco's Victorians are tarted up in several paint colours to highlight the intricate trims and adornments. I liked this place for its refusal to follow suit. What a beauty.
These homeowners also opted for a one-colour scheme, but with a very different effect. Walking by the house was such a strange experience for me. I've had it on my Pinterest board on Exterior Style for months. I knew it was in San Fran but I had no idea what street it was on and I certainly wasn't even looking for it. I was walking and I just looked up and there it was! Amazing coincidence. Love the black.
1-10. Margot Austin
Germany is known for functional, leading-edge designs rooted in a manufacturing know-how that we associate with durability and reliability. As early as 1907, artists and industrialists joined forces in the Deutscher Werkbund, a professional association meant to position the "Made in Germany" label as a benchmark for quality, by integrating the nation's rich craftsmanship traditions into the mass-production of consumer goods. This quest for an industrial aesthetics influenced decorative arts, design and architecture in the 1920s, notably within the Bauhaus movement, which continues to be a source of inspiration for today's creators.
Berlin played a key role in this multidisciplinary approach. Although the city that had become rich as Europe's biggest industrial town in the 19th century was hit hard by the Great Depression, her bubbling culture made her a force rivalling Paris in those days. After much of it was destroyed during WWII, Berlin arose from its ashes serving as the Cold War's military/political nerve centre. Many leaders either side of the Iron Curtain debated whether art should serve an ideology — pro-Red for some, pro-West for others — until an unstoppable demand for freedom took Eastern Europe by storm, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
Since then, the city once called "Athens on the Spree" has become a hub for national and international arts. Design is booming; interior design trade shows, festivals, universities, businesses, museums and magazines abound. And in November 2005, Berlin was appointed a UNESCO City of Design for its extraordinary accomplishments. At the heart of downtown, the Kaufhaus des Westens is a symbol of Berlin's resilience both as the country's capital and a cosmopolitan metropolis. The KDW store actually carries Canadian brands such as Want Les Essentiels de la Vie, whose co-founder Byron Peart often visits Germany with partner Stefan Weisgerber, director of retail at Mark Edwards Group.
When I first saw Byron and Stefan's Montreal home, I was amazed by the successful mix between Habitat 67's universal style and German influences in their interior design.
Corinne Cécilia: When in Berlin, where do you like to stay?
Stefan and Byron: We love Das Stue. It's a great hotel with an amazing spa.
CC: Where do you like to dine, or go for a drink?
S&B: There are two places we like to go to for dinner: Borchard is a rather casual restaurant, whereas Vau is more formal and has an amazing interior. We like the Soho House for drinks.
CC: What are some of your favourite places?
S&B: We always go to the Bauhaus-Archiv; it's a small museum with so many original Bauhaus pieces.
Corinne's travel tips: Immerse yourself in German design at the Bauhaus-Archiv. Until January 2015, the museum honours László Moholy-Nagy, a famous Bauhaus teacher and pioneer of multimedia and conceptual art, with the exhibition Sensing the Future: László Moholy-Nagy, the Media and the Arts.
Closer to home: In addition to offering language courses that lead to the most reputable 'German as a foreign language' diploma, the Goethe-Institute organizes a variety of cultural events every month in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. In November, programs will be largely focusing on the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall.
1. Photography by Svein-Magne Tunli
2. Photography by Sonny Bengtsson
3. Photography by Kaufhaus des Westens
4a. Blouson Mape en cuir, photo courtesy of Acne Studios
4b. Fourre-tout pliable Peretola en Mocha, photo courtesy of WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie
4c. Eau de parfum Gypsy Water, photo courtesy of Byredo
4d. Devanture de Want Apothecary, photo courtesy of WANT Apothecary Inc.
5. Photography by Das Stue Hotel
6. Photography by Soho House
7. Photography by Svein-Magne Tunli
8. Photography by Markus Hawlik, VG-Bild Kunst
9a. Floris Neusüss and Renate Heyne, colour photogram with László Moholy-Nagys "Light Prop for an
Electric Stage", 2013 (László Moholy-Nagy) VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
9b. László Moholy-Nagy, Kinetic-constructive system, structure with movement tracks for play and conveyance, 1928, Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, Universität zu Köln, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
9c. László Moholy-Nagy, Construction Z VII, 1926, photography by National Gallery Washington, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
9d. László Moholy-Nagy, Construction Z I, 1922-1923, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, photography by Hartwig Klappert, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014
This is the view from The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica that I woke to on Day 1 of Blog Tour California (aka #BlogTourCali on social media). Recently I was lucky enough to join a group of designers and design bloggers on the inspiration-packed trip organized by Modenus, a web hub that connects designers and suppliers. The sight of palm trees, mountains and the Pacific was a suitable visual kickstart to five days of great food, wine, stunning scenery and tons of design news.
Here’s the whole group at our first stop, a scrumptious lunch at the Miele showroom in Beverley Hills.
The dishes prepared in Miele’s high tech Combination Steam-Convection Ovens were as pleasing to the eye as to the palate. Steam cooking is fast, allowing foods to retain their colour and nutrients.
Next it was off to the West Edge Design Fair, held at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Without a doubt Tracey Hiner’s Black Crow Studios booth was an eye-popping highlight. These wallflowers sure are anything but shrinking violets!
The folks behind the web site Design Milk pulled together a stunning booth comprised of artisanal goods by makers based along the West Coast, dubbed SuperPAC (Pac for Pacific). There was so much goodness in this booth it could be its own blog post, and in fact it is. Check out the Design Milk post for more info and links.
Here’s a closer look as the luscious fibre creations of Tanya Anguiniga on the back wall of the SuperPAC booth. Definitely not your Momma’s macramé!
West Edge wasn’t my first glimpse of American Standard’s latest brand extension called DXV, but it solidified this sweetie as my favourite in the line. I like the historical design references of the Landfair faucet and it comes in the most stunning platinum nickel finish. I’ll choose a shiny nickel over a warm metal every time.
Here’s a lesson in simple but effective booth design. Doris Leslie Blau. Wow.
A glamorous modern chandelier, the Helios by Zia Priven. Lovely people, beautiful designs.
Love the mix of materials and texture in the Burlap collection from Sun Valley Bronze.
And finally, why not a $70,000 glass pool table? The folks at Calma e Gesso once again prove that the Italians know luxury.
I have so much more to share about Blog Tour California. Hope you’ll come back for the next installment.
1, 3-6, 8-12. Photo by Margot Austin
2, 7. Photo by Chasen West
Holiday party season is nearly here! I love to entertain, but I'm hardly a hostess extraordinaire. (Sending an understanding guest to the corner store to haul back a bag of ice because you forgot to refill the trays is deeply uncool.) So when celebrated New York designer Bunny Williams — by all accounts an entertaining whiz — launched a collection of party essentials for Ballard Designs, I asked her how she makes it look so easy and what she's working on next.
Kimberley Brown: What's the key to hosting a successful party?
Bunny Williams: I always try to plan for everything ahead of time so that I am able to enjoy the party along with my guests.
KB: What's your favourite way to entertain?
BW: I love to have a seated dinner, but serve the food on a long buffet so that guests can feel free to help themselves. We'll use a large dinner plate and offer our guests three or four choices of dishes. Then the table is cleared and a dessert is served on small plates. Afterwards, we'll move to the living room for coffee and tea.
KB: Your new collection for Ballard Designs includes dishes, linens and holiday decorations. What ties them all together?
BW: I always say, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to entertain. This collection comprises all you need to ready your home for guests, from tabletop items and cachepots for flowers, to a wonderfully smelling scented candle and beautiful bone or rattan holders for guest towels.
KB: Any plans to add to the collection in the future?
BW: We are already hard at work on the next collection which will debut in Spring/Summer 2015 and will include outdoor entertaining and tabletop items along with wall decor.
Pick up our December 2014 issue for more on Bunny's new line.
Bitter, sweet and potent, the Negroni is an acquired taste. Judging by the drink's skyrocketing popularity, a lot more people are acquiring it. It's a simple enough recipe to remember: equal parts gin, Campari and sweet red vermouth, stirred with ice, strained over ice and garnished with an orange twist. But to mix a perfect Negroni, one that's ice cold, perfectly balanced and silky smooth, requires the right tools, the right booze and a bit of skill. Here's how.
When it's Negroni time, leave the top-shelf gin in the liquor cabinet. The Gilbert Gottfried-like screech of Campari drowns out the subtler qualities of premium spirits. Go with a classic London dry gin such as Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire or Beefeater. I prefer the latter: its sharp citrus flavours can handle the aggressive bitterness of Mr. Gottfried.
Sweet, complex and as bitter as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, Campari is an Italian liqueur infused with herbs and fruits made according to Gaspare Campari's recipe from 1860. In Canada, Campari is 26 percent alcohol, and its colour is essential to a Negroni's neon red hue that flashes, "Drink me!" Some people prefer the similar, yet lighter Aperol — it's only 11 percent alcohol — but those people would not be drinking a Negroni.
Vermouth is a fortified wine that's been flavoured with an array of botanicals including roots, barks, flowers, herbs and spices. It can be sipped on its own as an aperitif, but it's more often than not used as a modifier in a huge range of cocktails.
A Negroni calls for sweet red vermouth. Fratelli Branca Carpano Antica Formula is the Dom Pérignon of said vermouth. And while Antica makes a magnificent Manhattan, its root beer-esque richness throws the balance off in a Negroni. I prefer the more affordable Martini Rosso; its slight vegetal character really ties the drink together.
A Negroni is a stirred drink. Stirring, rather than shaking, preserves clarity, and yields a cocktail silkier than a Hermès scarf. While you can do it in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, it's worth investing in a handsome mixing glass if you make a lot of Negronis. A long bar spoon comes in handy though you could MacGyver it with the handle of a large metal spoon. (Avoid wood, as you don't want your drink to taste like last week's curry.) Gently stirring the drink over ice chills the liquid while diluting the alcohol to a more palatable level. It takes around 30 to 45 seconds, but taste it to be sure.
It may seem pretentious to insist on a single two-square-inch ice cube to chill your Negroni, but this is a master class, not nursery school. You want a perfect Negroni? Buy an extra-large ice cube tray. The bigger block keeps the drink cold with minimal dilution.
Fort the garnish, remove a 3/4" by 2" strip of orange zest with a Y-peeler, being careful to minimize the bitter, white pith. Squeeze it over the drink to release the oils then drop it in. Finally, it's Negroni time.
If you want to explore variations on the Negroni — they are seemingly endless — I direct you to The Straight Up, Nick Caruana's excellent blog that focuses on classic cocktails.
1 oz. Beefeater London dry gin
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Martini Rosso sweet vermouth
1 large ice cube
1 orange twist
Step 1: Chill a double rocks or old-fashioned glass.
Step 2: Pour gin, Campari and vermouth into a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Add enough ice to come above the liquid. Stir until the mixing glass or shaker feels ice cold, 30 to 45 seconds.
Step 3: Place large cube in chilled glass. Strain drink into glass. Pinch orange twist to release oils and drop in glass.
1-2. Eric Vellend