Recently I've been seeing a lot of street style photos like this pop up on blogs and Pinterest. They got me thinking. I have a sweater like that, I must dig it out.
And here it is. My mother knit my Aran sweater more than 20 years ago. It's now back in regular wardrobe rotation. This sweater is a testament to superiority of natural materials (pure wool) and handmade construction. Aran knits take their name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. The natural wicking, insulating qualities and water-repellency of the wool made these sweaters ideal protection for those spending their days fishing the fierce North Atlantic. The combinations of stitch patterns used were indicators of clan and livelihood. For example, moss stitch depicts the seaweed that was used to fertilize the fields; cable stitch represents fisherman's ropes. In fact, the distinctive patterns were often used to identify the bodies of fishermen whose bodies washed up on the shore following an accident at sea. Ah, bless the Irish and their grim tales! I'm pleased to report my sweater conjures much happier thoughts.
My newly rediscovered love of chunky, creamy cable knits has me wishing I could drape myself in them 24/7. Luckily, the trend has migrated over to home, so I have the option of doing just that.
I trace the rise of this trend to Christien Meindertsma. The Dutch-born artist's 2005 Flocks series and other knit creations are a whimsical overscale take on needle traditions and a commentary on sustainability. Hers is not your grandma's knitting basket!
This piece by Meindertsma is actually a rug knit from the wool of 18 merino sheep! I could never imagine walking on such a pretty thing. I'd use it as a wall-hanging like this. You can actually buy this through Thomas Eyck for about $10,600.
If you are nimble with the needles there are many great online sources for knitting patterns. My favourite is this one for a Christmas stocking. If you are more of a buy it than make it type, this throw from Rockett St. George is the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea and a good book.
My love of Aran knits, however, is not boundless, and doesn't extend to slipcovered chairs and sweatered trophy heads!
Browse a gallery of more cosy winter-inspired winter decorating ideas.
1. Irina Lakicevic via A Portable Package blog
2. Margot Austin
3. Le Souk via The Style Files
4. via Les Carnets du Design
5. VT Wonen Inspiration House lifestyle fair via The Style Files
7. Land of Nod
9. Rockett St. George
10. Biscuit Scout via Etsy
11. Rachel Deny via Afflante
I have a confession to make: last year I didn't decorate much for the holidays at all. Sometimes the weeks just slip away from me, and since my husband and I are more likely to travel than host, it seems silly to go crazy decking the halls. Add to that the fact that our Toronto home is quite tiny — it can be a challenge to add even more decorating on top of what's there. But I've been looking around for inspiration and I think I've come up with some plans for this year. I will keep it simple and focus on the natural. Here are some ideas I'm considering.
There just isn't enough floor space at our place for a tree (plus our wee dog has failing vision, so I fear a tree might be a danger to her). In the past I have done tabletop trees, but this year I am thinking of placing branches in large glass demijohns. I'll put three on the console in our front window and add tiny white lights on a timer since I love to see them twinkling inside when I come home from work.
I used some white feather cone trees for the vintage Christmas decorating story I styled for the December 2013 issue of the magazine (see Merry & Bright). I liked the effect and plan to make up a few of these faux fur versions and mix them in with flocked bottlebrush trees to decorate my mantel.
My neighbour Lindsay Stephenson recently posted holiday wrapping ideas on her site The Penny Paper Co. and it's like she read my mind. Her ideas are a wonderful mix of earthy with a touch of sparkly embellishment (think glitter washi tape and sparkly brooches).
And best of all, she sells everything you need for the look on her site. Order soon to make sure you get all your supplies in time for your wrapping.
Another confession: I'm not a fabulous cook. So when I am cooking I need to concentrate on the recipes and keep the table decor as simple as possible. I love using fruit for a centrepiece or sideboard. After the sweets course, I encourage guests to help themselves to some of the arrangement! I'll tuck bay leaves or rosemary sprigs amongst the fruit for a wonderful colour contrast and scent.
Red ilex berries say holiday loud and clear. Find them at flower markets and farmers' markets in December. The key to making an arrangement look great? Strip the stems of any berries or side branches from the top of the vase to the base. Then prune the branches so they form an even fan shape, just like this display by celeb NYC floral designer Michael George.
A length of garland, a lush wreath and a new plain coir welcome mat are all you need to spruce up an entryway for the season. Too bad it's already a bit too cold for me to repaint my front door this colour. Adding that to my spring to-do list.
I spotted this idea at the Club Monaco store on Bloor St. in Toronto and I think I'll do a scaled-down version in front of my house. The mix of evergreen varieties in different heights and planters is so casual and so pretty. Proof that nature truly needs no embellishment! Ok, fine, maybe some tiny white lights...
1. via Enjoy Your Home blog.
2-3. Project by My Sister's Suitcase via Tatertots & Jello blog.
4-5. Lindsay Stephenson, The Penny Paper Co.
6. Lissa at Keep It Simple Keep it Fresh blog.
7. via Michael George Flowers.
8. A Country Farmhouse blog.
9. Margot Austin
A little while back I did a segment on an episode of The Marilyn Denis Show on one of my favourite DIY projects, inkjet transfers.
I like a DIY project that's fast, inexpensive, doesn't require tons of special skills or equipment and that delivers high-impact finished results. Pretty stringent criteria, but this project meets every one. I experimented with the technique again recently and thought I might share the step-by-step instructions. The coming holiday season might be just the time for you to try this method to create some pretty and affordable gifts.
The main supplies you'll need are Avery 03276 Clear Decals for Ink Jet printers (a pack of 6 sheets is about $11). I found them at a Staples store, but you can also find them online here. You will also need an inkjet printer. I didn't have one on hand, so I borrowed one from Brother Canada. They sent me the Brother Business Smart Series MFC-J4510DW. I like to consider myself fairly tech savvy, but I was a bit intimidated at first. I had never set up a printer before without the aid of an IT pro. But I'm quite proud to say I got this one up and running in minutes, all on my own. It packs a lot of functionality in a compact and handsome package. The materials you'll need are: transfer sheets, a printer, and something to transfer onto. I chose ceramic and glass vessels, since the decal sheets work best on these smooth surfaces.
Step 1: Find Images
You can use any digital file for this project, such as your own photos, text, monograms, a scanned fabric or book image. I went to Vintage Printable to search for images. The site has hundreds of images to choose from and you can search by browsing galleries or entering a keyword.
Step 2: Print
Test print your selected image on plain paper and experiment with the print size. When you are ready to print the final transfer, load the decal sheet into the manual feed tray one piece at a time to print. Follow the instructions enclosed with the decal sheets to ensure you print the image on the correct side.
Step 3: Cut out the transfer
Use scissors to cut as close to the edge of the printed design as possible.
Step 4: Apply, protect
Peel the backing off the cut out design and apply to the surface of the vessel. Try not to rub the surface of the transfer as the ink may smudge if not yet dry. Protect the finished project by spraying with Krylon Crystal Clear spray sealant, which will help prevent the ink from smudging.
I like the effect of these black-and-white transfers. The grey tones look as if the designs on the pitchers have faded over time.
On glass the colours become translucent for an ethereal effect. I'm thinking of covering several clear glass bottles with holly leaf transfers and using the bottles as candleholders for the Holidays. Also, one last note about this project — the transfers peel off easily and leave no residue so you needn't worry about damaging your vessels.
I’ve been out on the market scouting lately and the travels have left me with three words top of mind: green. velvet. sofa. And they are all just so pretty, each one lovelier than the one before. I can’t quite decide on a favourite. You?
In a room that’s a monochromatic celebration of greens, this chesterfield-style model is right up my style alley.
This is a fresher more apple-green take on the classic, but I think it has a few dozen too many tufts for my liking.
This one is exquisite and formal with its gilt frame, camel back and deep emerald colour. This one is made for perching (preferably in a fabulous gown and with a glass of champagne in hand).
Ikea has joined in the fun with this special edition Stockholm sofa in the most perfect shade of green on earth. I quite love it.
And in case you worry it’s too daring a colour choice for a big ticket item. Don’t. Green is nature’s neutral — name a colour that doesn’t look gorgeous next to a green field or tree in full leaf. You can’t. Green goes with everything!
Learn about more luxurious winter fabrics here.
I've been thinking about taking the plunge on painting a room deep blue for about two years now... OK maybe longer. This is the room above. It's the den in our place in Tweed (used as a location for this story styled by Joel Bray, which appeared in the May 2012 of House & Home). It's actually a third bedroom, but we use it as a TV room because we like the idea of keeping the main living room TV-free. It's furnished with the antique French daybed you see here, plus a pair of comfy armchairs. The walls painted by the previous owners remain the off-white, and the original Edwardian trim retains its original stain. The room is smallish, about 10'-x-11'. With two large windows and 3 doors, that's a lot of dark trim contrasting with white walls. The combination is busy and overwhelms the space.
So here's my first thought: take inspiration from this room designed by Lindsay Coral Harper and coat every surface with a deep moody hue with a touch of sheen — maybe eggshell or even semi-gloss.
But then I just recently came across the smoky goodness of this image. So all of a sudden I'm reconsidering the idea of painting the trim the same colour as the walls. This white trim is just so perfect. Worth noting: having a sofa that closely matches the colour of the walls creates a sense of serenity. Hmmmm. What would you do if you were me? Do you have a deep blue paint colour to recommend?
1. House & Home. Photograph by Angus Fergusson.
2. House Beautiful. Photograph by Ngoc Minh Ngo.
3. Elle Decor. Photograph by William Waldron.
4. AD Epsana via My Favorite and My Best blog.
A designer I know recently tweeted that he loves things that don't look expensive but, in fact, are. I tweeted back that I like things that look expensive but, in fact, are not. Don't get me wrong, I understand his point — understated luxury is like a fabulous secret just for you. There is great pleasure in that. Fine materials and workmanship can set a piece apart and make its quality and value only discernible to those in the know.
But as someone who is surrounded by the best of the best on a daily basis, I admit it can be a little disappointing to have champagne tastes on a tap water budget. That's why I take such delight at finding pieces that have great design lines at very affordable prices. Here are my top 5 current faves.
The Portfolio stainless outdoor wall light, $37 at Lowe's, has a great nautical look but it doesn't have to stay outdoors. I recently suggested it for a friend's cottage bathroom and it looks great. In my research I came across many that look like it with price tags 10 times higher.
These 2" faux wood horizontal blinds have been a favourite of mine for many years. Prices start at about $30 for a small window. I have installed them or specified them for more than 30 windows. That includes the six I installed myself over the weekend at our place in Tweed, Ont. They can be custom cut at the store to the right width for your window. I prefer a snug inside-mount installation. I almost always pair them with fabric side panel drapes or a fabric valance and roman blind to soften the look. Here's an example of how I paired them with café curtains. Bonus: having the same blinds in every window boosts your home's curb appeal too.
I spotted these Carlisle Metal Barstools or Counter stools ($99/set of 2) at Target recently. What a fun pop of colour. I think the yellow is my favourite. You get two of these for half the price of what one reasonably priced stool usually costs. They come in several colours, but I have found stock to be low in many Target stores so you may have to hunt for them if you want them.
I used the Ikea Aina linen curtain panels, $60/set of two panels, as hangings for my four-poster bed, but I've been using them for years on windows too. For this same bedroom I had the panels lined with room-darkening lining and had French pleats added to the top for a semi-custom window treatment.
Every season West Elm tempts me with something sumptuous for the bed. Last week when I popped in the store I fell for this collection. The Linen Cotton Blend Bedding (queen duvet cover, $165) has very simple unfussy styling and some very yummy colours. I like the idea of mixing the darker hues to cozy up the bedroom for autumn. And for the record, I would style them in all their wrinkled splendour — no steaming or ironing.