I now live less than 10 minutes from an Ikea. This is highly convenient for work scouting after enjoying the famous $1 breakfast accompanied by at least two cups of Ikea coffee, which I adore. I hit up the store today and was wowed by so many new things. Here are some of my faves:
Who doesn't love a demilune table? The Arkelstorp ($129) comes with a green, white or black-painted base. I prefer the black. I'd probably paint the top black, too — doing so would make it slightly less country and more versatile. I'd get two to flank a fireplace or use one as an entry table.
This famous Frosta stool ($20) is back. Those bent ply legs are iconic. Perf as a bedside table in a kid's room or cottage, a drinks table, or even just, you know, as a stool! I have mixed feelings about the almost-neon coloured top. I sort of wish it was also natural birch. I might be inclined to paint the top white.
This sexy injection-moulded polypropylene number, called Janinge, could easily be mistaken for a Italian version that would cost 10 times more than its $69 price tag. It's stackable, comfy and (praise be!) requires NO assembly! I want three for my office at work. (It doesn't seem to be on the website, so run to your local Ikea to check stock in case it's been discontinued!)
Most of the hoopla at Ikea these days is about the new Sektion kitchen system. All the kitchens at the stores are newly installed and feature the new system plus a huge array of new countertops. I picked up all the planning booklets and will be studying them over the weekend. Partly because I'm a nerd like that, but partly because I'm in the midst of planning storage solutions for my new laundry room and mudroom at our country house in Tweed, Ont., and for our bedroom at our city condo. Above are my three favourite door styles. I can't say that I've ever felt drawn to dark wood cabinets before, but the warm chocolatey tone and thin raised edge detail of Ekestad won me over. The one in the centre is called Björket and is a perfect crisp Shaker profile. You could paint them out, but I do like this blond wood tone — very Vincent Van Duysen! And lastly, the perfection of this last white door, called the Råsdal, is hard to capture via an iPhone shot. The finish is like a whitewash over white ash so you see the wood grain through the paint. It's so lovely. There are so many more door styles — seems like more than ever before.
The new kitchen system includes tons of organizers and bells and whistles to customize your storage. These two handy items are standouts. On the left is the LED under-cabinet lighting system called the Utrusta. It's so sleek and narrow that you don't even really need a valance piece to conceal it. I'm actually thinking of switching to this system. On the right is the Ansluta remote ($15), which allows you to dim your kitchen lighting. I definitely want this because under-cabinet lighting needs to be bright when you're working away, but it's nice to dim it in the evenings when you're entertaining or just popping in and out for a snack.
This oversized cabinet hardware made me smile and I'd love to use them somewhere! The knobs on the left are called Norrbyn ($3.49) and are almost 3" in diameter. Fun colours! The 7-1/2"-long demilune pulls on the right are called Tosterup, and also come in white and red. They would look great on two-door cabinets because they'd look like a giant polkadot when then doors are closed.
Okay, this is unglamorous but very useful for those of you with wall-mounted TVs who either can't or haven't hidden your cords behind the wall. Nestle them in the $5 Uppleva channel and then paint the thing the same colour as your wall. Not as good as behind the wall but a gajillion times better than unsightly cords.
The Backvial bedspread is coming home with me for sure. And I need two more for a cottage I'm decorating. It's pure cotton and comes in two sizes. The largest is only $40. I just know this will get better after softening up in the laundry, too.
These pieces are both called Bittergurka. They are from the garden section, but I'd use the planter ($15) in my kitchen to stash oil and vinegar cruets, salt and pepper grinders and a head of garlic right by the cooktop. The jug ($16) is a watering can. It's so great-looking that I would leave it out and then maybe my fiddle leaf fig might get water and have a fighting chance.
The Enigt side plate ($3.50) would add a little dose of spring to my plain white dinnerware and is just waiting for a pretty salad to top it off.
See more great ideas from Ikea in the H&H-designed kitchen at this year's Interior Design Show.
1-10. Margot Austin
Just as this outfit made its way down the Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2015 runway, we were all in the process of transitioning into cold weather clothes and decorating ideas for Winter 2014/2015. The cycles of fashion and trends can be bewildering! But it occurred to me that buffalo check — and in particular this black-and-white version — is an all-weather favourite that can take on so many different moods. A crop top is definitely not in the cards for me, but a pencil skirt with the print on the bias and spectator loafers — that I could do!
But given current temps, I'd happily cozy up to a check-clad wing chair with a wooly throw and big mug of tea.
Then again, look how fun this mid-century style Jack Chair from Schoolhouse Electric is. I think I might like it even more than the wing chair.
If I were the kind of person who had a ski lodge in the French Alps, I'd also be the kind of person to install buffalo check carpet with emerald green velvet furniture just as designers Joseph Dirand and India Mahdavi did at L'Apogée Courchevel hotel.
On the walls? Sure, why not? It can be tricky to work with a pattern this bossy. I think it's best as either the only print in the room or paired with just one other equally gutsy pattern of similar scale. This striped chair holds it's own in this Bierly-Drake designed space.
Do you remember our Ikea kitchen winner from the October 2014 issue of House & Home? Senior design editor Sarah Hartill really knocked this design out of the park. Her pairing of the bold Verdure Zoffany wallpaper with a check roman blind is the perfect expression of the homeowners' eclectic taste. Best tip: the blind fabric is a steal at $10/meter from Ikea!
And one last thought: It was just a happy accident that Katie Hayden's post on decorating rooms for boys also featured a room done in black-and-white buffalo check. Like I said, versatile, right?
1. Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2015 runway, Vogue.com
2. Maik Rositzki
3. Jack Chair, Schoolhouse Electric
4. L'Apogée Courchevel via A-Gent of Style blog
5. New England Home, photography by Michael Partenio
6. House & Home October 2014 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
7a. KariFisherDesign, Etsy
7b. Buffalo Plaid Fringed Throw, Schoolhouse Electric
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
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
My first brush with the architectural style known as Brutalism occurred at this building. I spent many many hours at John P. Robarts library at the University of Toronto, poring over original journals for my thesis "British Travellers in France During the Revolutionary Era". The building was commonly referred to as Fort Book, but comparisons were also made to a peacock or Viking ship. The latter seemed apt to me as I often felt like a prisoner trapped in the hull. Good times.
You'd be forgiven if you assumed the term 'Brutalism' was a derivative of the word brutal. After all, take another look at that building. It's a brute. In fact, Brutalism originates from the French béton brut, or "raw concrete", a term that describes the material used to clad these buildings. Brutalism was reviled by many. Haters gonna hate, including Prince Charles.
But you know how sometimes the coolest thing to do is embrace the thing most people think is ugly? Well, that and a good dose of nostalgia, are behind a new appreciation of Brutalism.
In the decorative arts, the style is realized in rough hammered bronze, oxidized brass with jagged edges and bulky wooden case goods decorated in geometric designs. A recent trip to New York to tour the 1st Dibs gallery at the New York Design Center confirmed that Brutalism is definitely happening. Here are some finds.
This 1970s wall sculpture by Silas Seandel called "Sunspots" was tagged at $20,000.
I didn't catch the price on this mirror, but I predict you will be seeing modern reproductions of this type of item more and more in the coming year or so.
Brutalist lighting takes statement lighting to another level. I love this 1966 chandelier by Tom Greene, $5,200. Do you love it or hate it?
Here's another Tom Greene design, $3,800. This one reminds me of a wasp nest.
The 1st Dibs bricks and mortar location doesn't lend itself to displays of larger furniture pieces, so I clicked over to the site and found this interesting piece. It's a cerused oak credenza made by The Lane Furniture Company in the 1960s. This block front design is a reference to the Cityscape line by Paul Evans. I must say it also makes me think, hmmm, I wonder if you could DIY a plain credenza by adding blocks of wood and then staining it all black?
And for reference sake, here is a pair of wall-mounted cabinets by Paul Evans featuring the geometric Cityscape design. I'm pretty much in love with these. Just need $13,500.
What do you think of Brutalism? Love? Hate?
More than a month since my Part 1 post, and you’d think my tiny galley kitchen would be complete with a set of pretty after photos. Not so. The kitchen at our new place, which I have dubbed #Austinsuite on Twitter and Instagram, is at a plateau. Let me bring you up to speed on our progress.
Right after cabinet demo, this tile ugliness had to go. This mottled pinkish, greyish, bluish, texture tile covered the kitchen and entry floor. Ew. The result was a meeting of several disharmonious flooring materials as you entered our suite (right). Granted, the bathroom door (visible on the left in the photo on the right) would usually be closed (a pact I made with my husband, since when it’s open, the view is straight to the toilet — horror!). Alas, flooring disharmony is a personal design pet peeve of mine, especially in small spaces. The tile was ripped up and down went old school parquet in the kitchen and entry to match the rest of the suite.
Then I painted it all white. Here’s the view from the bathroom, across the entry to the kitchen after one coat of floor primer. Better already. More on the painted floors in a future blog post.
Way back in mid June, Ikea installed our Applåd cabinets in a single day. They were in place and ready so that when we moved in, I could unpack right into them — no delays. Perfect. There was only one minor hiccup. Here’s what happened.
You may recall that my plans called for a paneled fridge (as in the photo at left) and that I had some bulkheads to contend with (right). I wanted the fridge gable to be notched out around the bulkhead and continue right to the ceiling. When I met on site with the installer to discuss this, he talked me out of it. He was sure the bulkhead surface would be uneven, making the end-panel cut look sloppy. And he though that end of the kitchen would feel too crowded. He had a point so I took his advice.
This was the result. I knew right away it was wrong. Bummer. When stuff like this happens, you have to sit with it for a bit: Am I being too picky to want it changed? I decided to wait until the fridge was on site before my final decision. The fridge did not change my opinion. It still looked off-kilter and I knew it would drive me nuts.
Et voila! Fixed and so much better, don’t you think? Honestly I can feel the difference physically — it’s like I breathe easier. Note also the large fluorescent ceiling fixture from the previous photo had also been banished in favour of a sleek mod Ikea Bave LED ceiling track and LED under-cabinet strip lights. Note also the makeshift cabinet pulls fashioned from painter’s tape. That’s how it looks to this day as I remain undecided on hardware and won’t settle for just anything. (Perhaps you feel my husband’s pain in dealing with my uncompromising nature?)
And speaking of my uncompromising nature, may I present the hole where our range will one day be, God and Bosch willing. You see, being a member of the press, I was privy to a sneak peek of a brand new slide-in induction range made by Bosch (makers of the existing laundry appliances I already loved in the space). When you go to a press event, the people hosting hope you will write about their products. They don’t expect you to say “I love it. I want to buy one. How soon can I get it?” Their answer was “great” and "end of June." The current projected range delivery date is set for this month. I love induction cooking. I already had to compromise on my original plan for a wall oven with induction cooktop above due to the electrical wiring limitations of our suite. An induction slide-in range is the next best plan and they are very rare birds in Canada.
I am convinced this Bosch beauty will be worth the wait. But just so you feel the full effect of my decision, no range means the counter can’t be templated: no kitchen sink and faucet, no dishwasher. Also, since my laundry is in this area and the water is turned off, no laundry. It’s summer. No laundry is killing me. My husband and I have a hot date at a local laundromat tonight. Perhaps you feel his pain even more now?
In other appliance news, here’s my cute fridge. It’s by Blomberg. I got it at Caplan’s in Toronto and it’s a slim 22in wide. It sits here totally naked waiting for a skilled carpenter to make it some custom panels since my cabinet installers reneged on their original agreement to make this part of the cabinet install. I have placed a call to another guy who was recommended by a colleague. No call back. Here’s where I insert my plug for hiring a designer to handle your kitchen reno.
You see, finding skilled pros and managing them is a full-time job. I have a full-time job already; it’s hard to get this stuff sorted when you are busy at work. In other disappointing fridge news, it’s not working particularly well. I have reset the temps. No luck. Blurgh. Call is in to Caplan’s. My fridge is like a lazy supermodel — it’s tall, skinny and naked and doesn’t work much.
My Bosch custom panel dishwasher is sitting in my dining room minding its own business waiting for the range/counter/water to be turned on/elusive custom panel maker. Bless my Bosch dishwasher.
So, like I was saying, it’s a plateau….