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How would YOU spend $25,000 on your home? We want to know! Share your dream renovation ideas with us on Twitter on May 28 at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT. 

Tweet during the hour using #Ultimate25K and you could win 1 of 5 $100 Visa gift cards from RBC Insurance.

Here's how to join the conversation:

1. Follow @HouseandHome to participate.

2. Tweet @HouseandHome using the hashtag #Ultimate25K from noon to 1 p.m. EST / 9 to 10 a.m. PST on Thursday, May 28.

3. Follow along during that time at #Ultimate25K.

Until then, don't forget to enter The Ultimate $25,000 Home Makeover Contest! Plus, find out what H&H editors Margot Austin, Sarah Hartill, Morgan Michener and Joel Bray would do with $25,000 for their home.

Contest prize available to residents of Canada only, excluding Quebec. See full rules and regulations.


Seema Persaud

Another stop on my recent London trip was Maison Assouline on Piccadilly. Opened in October 2014, it is the brainchild of Martine and Prosper Assouline of the eponymous publishing house and is situated on one of London's busiest streets.

Inside, however, is an oasis of calm. Originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1922, designer Guy Oliver re-imagined the building into a 360-degree bibliophile experience. The first floor features a bar on one side, towering bookshelves on the other, and a lounge in between. The aerial view from the catwalk is amazing.

Here is a view to the bar where you can see the sheer height of the building's first floor. What you can't see is the intoxicating scent of Assouline's signature library candles. I picked up one called Culture Lounge and its rich, woody scent always takes me back there.

The space feels like an invitation to linger, enjoy a glass of wine or a meal, and flip through the pages of some of the most beautiful books in the world. It is light years beyond the usual harried shopping experience!

This wall of books is so perfectly considered with more covers on display than spines — a brilliant idea for anyone who collects books as beautiful as these. Within the books are a few offset sections back-painted in a rich orange-red (another Assouline signature) and illuminated to create dramatic display areas.

The upper level is set up like an apartment and loaded with an array of curiosities from Prosper's travels. Everything is for sale as part of Assouline's fully bespoke library service. They can outfit a client's home with everything from bookshelves, artwork and game boards to desks, carpets and reading chairs. And they will also custom-curate book collections, of course.

Here is Calgary's Paul Lavoie and Toronto's Elizabeth Metcalfe (who were with me on the Kravet Canada London educational trip) checking out a striking red and black shelving unit with a rolling ladder. I was a bit obsessed with the raw wood panelling and the unbelievable brass-wrapped furniture.

Not to mention the alphabet carpet and the brass rhino.

This shelving unit has an almost Mondrian effect with its black face trim and intersecting box pattern. It looks like it belongs in a Parisian apartment.

The coordinating desk is a work of art in itself, combining open and closed storage in a totally unique way.

And the X-shaped book stand in the same black and white finishes puts a standout book on display.

I was totally coveting the backgammon set with brass pieces and handles that paired so beautifully with the astrology print tabletop.

After visiting the Assouline store, we popped down the street to The Wolseley for dinner — one of the interiors that designer David Collins is best known for. It's a grand brasserie-style restaurant with black and gold accents, soaring ceilings, serpentine banquettes and a massive brass clock. They have a no-photo policy, but I managed to sneak one from our seat in the balcony.

London is full of beautiful spots like this — Jessica McCormack's townhouse and Assouline were just a snippet of all the enviable interiors I came across. I hope you've enjoyed them as much as I did!

For more from my travels, check out my blog post about France.

Photo credits:
1-13. Suzanne Dimma


Suzanne Dimma

“Does it spark joy?” — This is what Japanese cleaning professional Marie Kondo says you have to ask yourself about everything you own. Everything. Right down to your socks. And if the answer is “yes,” you keep it. (Answer “no” and out-the-door it goes.) Forget room-by-room decluttering methods or asking yourself “Have I used this item in a year?” Kondo’s method to home organization first seems a little unusual, but dive deep into her cleaning handbook The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and you’ll realize this simple rule can truly help pare back your belongings. (This blog post is sponsored by Just Junk.)

Why should you discard objects in your home? In Kondo’s experience, she finds we surround ourselves with lots of things that go unused or don’t suit the life we actually live. We’re stuck with gifts we don’t want, more clothes than we remember we own and kitchen utensils we never use. Paring back means an organized home, and in Kondo’s experience, affects your life as a whole, too. Plus, it's perfect for small spaces and those who love the minimalist look.

So, how do you start? Here are some of Kondo’s top tips:

  1. Start immediately — there’s no need to wait for a new month, year or season.
  2. Before thinking about how to organize everything you own, focus on discarding.
  3. Commit to a tidying marathon. Instead of discarding a little bit every day, turn it into a special event. (Yes, if you’re busy you can try her method to tidying on weekends only.)
  4. Discard items one category at a time in this order: clothes, books and papers, miscellaneous items and then sentimental items.
  5. Don’t store your stuff at your parents’ home (or anywhere else), and don’t force your discarded items onto friends and family.

When discarding clothes, Kondo says it's not as easy as flipping through items hanging in your closet and choosing what to lose. Take all clothes — from your front hall closet to your bedroom — and dump it into one spot. Then hold each item and ask the question, "Does it spark joy?" to determine whether you keep the item. When it comes to storing clothes, Kondo says you can fold most clothes so each item can be seen upright in a drawer (instead of in a pile). For clothes that have to be hung, hang items from longest to shortest, darkest to lightest, left to right. 

For books, Kondo says to store them upright instead of in piles (sorry, I still love to style shelves!), keep them all in the same part of your home, and not to feel bad about letting go of unread books. Just be thankful for its purpose in your life and move on.

In the kitchen, the same rules apply whether you're tackling dishes, your pantry or items in your fridge. Want open shelves in the kitchen but worried about storage? Maybe you'll be able to get the look with the KonMari Method!

Think you’re finished discarding? Kondo says you’ll know when you’ve hit the point where you can discard no more. The result of this kind of home detox: Countless bags and boxes of items — from old dishes to dated technology to way-too-many free t-shirts — that need to be recyled, donated or thrown out. Professional junk removal companies like JUSTJUNK® can help you out. Just Junk’s team will come to your home and take away all your clutter, and recycle, donate and dispose everything from appliances to furniture. You simply pay based on how much you want to get rid of. Visit today to see how they can help you get a clean, organized home. Just Junk serves cities across Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Alberta.  

Have you tried the #KonMari Method? Will you? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Photo credits:
1. Penguin Random House
2. House & Home March 2015 issue, photographer Janis Nicolay
3. House & Home March 2010 issue, photographer Donna Griffith
4. House & Home April 2012 issue, photographer Donna Griffith
5. House & Home June 2008 issue, photographer Andrew Grinton
6. House & Home September 2013 issue, photographer Virginia Macdonald


Seema Persaud

I recently lived through the last serious renovation to my house. (Serious to me means using my Sicilians, the contractors I have been calling on and off since buying my little house in 2002.) Kitchen and bathroom — done! Living and dining room — finished! Basement — check! I thought I was finished with renovating forever (although, are you ever really done?) until some saggy beaming and an even saggier roof on my detached garage meant I would need to have one last reno in me. Considering the cost of parking in downtown Toronto, and the inconvenience of street parking, saving my garage was now a priority. (You can see the full before and after in our June 2015 issue, on stands now, plus watch a tour on Online TV.)

I was a little out of practice, but then I realized — like all my renos before — there was a process and I just had to get back at it. The first step is the easy part, a little like love at first sight. You see something you like the looks of and you're a goner. I had a lovely inspiration shot (above) of a kitchen that I kept looking back at (and couldn't replicate in my house), so my garage was the next best place to use it as inspiration. I love that it's painted white, has lots of character, Shaker cabinetry, crisp painted floors and an old banged-up work table. If my garage could end up looking anything like this, I'd be thrilled.

The second step is the hard one, less about inspiration and more about frustration. My dark and dismal garage had a long way to go. Not only would it need lots of construction work and several coats of white paint to become the bright, airy space I wanted, it also needed to be completely emptied of all its contents. My solution was a portable ShelterLogic garage (below) that I could set up in my backyard and fill with everything from the permanent garage. Just imagine a gigantic tent that fills your entire backyard. No backyard entertaining last summer. No grass this summer.

The last steps included planning and putting back together. I needed to keep my parking spot, natch. But also wanted the multi-est of multi-use spaces. Crafting, storage, recycling bins, tools, gardening supplies and ladders all had to look good enough that I could throw the doors open for laneway sales. (I have an online store called Found with fellow H&H editor Morgan Michener.) And if I wanted it to be attractive like my original inspiration shot, I needed to figure out some things not typically seen in garage systems (dare I use the dreaded term Man Cave, because that is what most garage systems look like). Thank goodness for Ikea. Here's a peek at some of the tricks I used.

Hooks are perfect for hanging ladders out of the way, but also come in handy for hanging throw blankets at our laneway sales.

The sliding barn door in front of the recycling and garbage not only hides the unsightly bins, but creates a long deep shelf for more storage and a separate seating area, great for displaying our cushions for sale.

Open shelving above the cabinets means items are on display and easy to access. But lower cabinets store everything from a sewing machine and mitre saw to craft and packing supplies, hardware and garden tools. Every drawer is filled.

Lastly, a great old drafting table (a gift from H&H style editor Stacey Smithers) provides another work surface solely dedicated to gardening and potting (and keeps my bigger crafting table clean). Plus, it folds down to save space when not in use.

So now that the pain of the reno is over, not only do I feel more organized than ever, but I'm back to loving the look — pleased that I got as close to the inspiration shot as I did.

Pick up our June 2015 issue for more photos and tips from my garage reno, and tour the finished space on May 15 on Online TV.

Photo credits:
1. Sköna Hem magazine
2. Meg Crossley
3-8. House & Home June 2015 issue, photography by Valerie Wilcox


Meg Crossley

Have a backyard in need of a makeover? We've got Before & After photos from Techo-Bloc to inspire your next patio design!

Techo-Bloc offers stones for everything from patios and driveaways to outdoor walls and the exterior of your home. Love the outdoor kitchen trend we featured in our May 2015 issue? Techo-Bloc also has outdoor pizza ovens, firepits and a grilling/barbecue island. (This blog post is sponsored by Techo-Bloc.)


In its previous state, this yard wasn’t very useful for the homeowners. The young couple wanted a bold, original space that would allow them to host large family gatherings, but would also be comfortable for a smaller group of friends. Do you #SeeThePotential?


The spacious backyard now functions as an incredible extension to their home!


1. Create Zones

By dividing the backyard into sections, they were able to create a clearly defined outdoor living room, dining room and lounge. When large groups visit, they can wander freely through the whole space, and smaller groups can stay in one area. The sunk-in design makes the firepit area feel cosy.

2. Choose Great Materials

Key to this look: The smart stone choices. Travertina slabs were used for the main pathways. The matte ivory-coloured limestone features subtle markings atop which add texture and character. To make the look less formal, they spaced out smaller slabs and filled the gaps with rocks.

Low walls — which double as benches — in the Manchester stone contrast with the lighter stone floors. In this sunk-in lounge and dining area, they went with complementary Blu polished slabs in Chestnut Brown and a band of the smaller Antika stone in Chocolate Brown to highlight the firepit. Speaking of firepits...

3. Consider An Outdoor Firepit

Stay warm by the fire on cooler nights — outdoors! The family chose a gas-burning Valencia firepit and surrounded it by Techo-Bloc stone benches. Here at H&H we've seen the firepit trend grow and featured it in our upcoming June issue.

See more inspiring photos and get ideas on ways to improve your backyard, front yard, driveway and more on, or call 1 877-832-4625 to find a retailer or Techo-Pro installer in your area.

Concept, GreenArt Landscape Design. Installation, Lakeridge Contracting.


Seema Persaud

Lately, whenever I find myself swooning over a room, it turns out to be the gorgeous work of a single firm, Commune Design. Based out of L.A., it was founded in 2004 by four designers — Roman Alonso, Steven Johanknecht, Pamela Shamshiri and Ramin Shamshiri — and has been responsible for millions of Pins since thanks to its imagining of spaces for Ace Hotel Downtown L.A. and Palm Springs, Heath Ceramics showrooms, Opening Ceremony's boutique in Tokyo and the Irene Neuwirth boutique in L.A. The list goes on and includes residential clients that are just as eclectic.

How happy was I, then, when a lush photography book all about Commune (2014 Abrams Books) showed up on my desk last October. Every project I've ever drooled over had been pulled together and organized, with extra photos and commentary from the designers adding the proverbial cherry on top.

Of course, the book itself deserves pride of place on your coffee table. Housed in a graphic black and white box, it slides out like a gift you have the fun of unwrapping again and again.

Now that spring is finally warming up, I find myself turning to Commune's cool California vibe more than ever. Here are a few photos of their work to inspire your own summer style. Bring on the sun!

Photo credits:
1-8. From Commune: Designed In California (2014 Abrams Books)
2-3, 8. Photography by François Halard
4-5. Photography by Amy Neunsinger
6. Photography by Mariko Reed
7. Photography by Spencer Lowell


Kimberley Brown

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