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Although it doesn't quite feel like spring outside, it's never too early to start lightening up our homes for the warmer months. It's this time of year that I often pare back on all the wooly throws, and switch out an area rug or two for a summer-appropriate sisal.

I also like to change up my bedding for spring. Heavy duvet covers, blankets, and extra accent pillows just seem in the way on humid summer night, so getting back to simple essentials is a must. Here are a few great spring and summer bedding items that I have my eye on.

I love the vintage look of this duvet cover through Jayson Home. It has enough pattern to add interest, but it's subtle enough to be layered with other colours and textures. This duvet cover would look great folded back at the bottom of a bed.


I love the rich navy blue colour and the subtle stitch detail of Serena & Lily's matelassé coverlet. It would look amazing covering the majority of the bed.

Linen shams and sheets are summer essentials. Their lightweight feel and causal rumpled look pairs well with the laissez-faire attitude of summer bed making.

There's something about an artisanal block print that just screams summer to me, and this Kabora pillow by John Robshaw is pretty much perfect. Navy and orange are a hot and very summer-appropriate colour combo, add a hit to update your neutral linens. 

Get more inspiration in this gallery of summer decorating tips.

Photo sources:
1) John Robshaw

2) Jayson Home
3) Serena & Lily
4) Restoration Hardware
5 & 6) John Robshaw


Joel Bray

Recently one of my best friends married her high school sweetheart. To anyone that knows them, it really is a match made in heaven, and a perfect couple could only mean a perfect wedding so I was so excited when they asked me to help with the decor.

I quickly learned that wedding decor is a lot like home decor. It's always best to start with a few inspiration shots or a feeling you're trying to capture, then develop a palette and fill in the blanks with various details. The bride and groom are two of the most fashionable people I know and had some great ideas about what they wanted — I just had to help them bring those ideas to life.

The wedding took place on an old estate with a gorgeous property. There were multiple barns, gardens and ponds that gave it so much character and charm. With this in mind, they knew they wanted the decor to be lighthearted and at home in the country landscape.

The palette we developed was very natural yet pretty with lots of burlap, barn board and linen, accented by rich navy blue, sparkling glass and tarnished silver.


The bride knew she wanted long tables and cascading centerpieces, which meant extra long table runners. I found burlap for $1.55 yard at Designer Fabric that I then cut down the middle to make runners. The trick was to figure out how much was needed based on the size of the tables; I waited to cut the individual runners on site so each was exactly the right size. I left the edges raw to add to the relaxed aesthetic.


The bride also had an inspiration shot of great zig-zag fabric being used as runners. I was able to find the same fabric in navy that we then used as accents. I lay the burlap runners down the length of the table, and made smaller runners to place across the width of the table, spaced accordingly.

Like the burlap runners with the raw edges, this was also a no-sew project that saved a lot of time. Instead of hemming all four sides, I folded over the outside edges and ironed them in a way that looked finished. Also, because it was actually an outdoor fabric it hardly frayed and spilled liquid just pooled on top.

I have to admit, when it was all pulled together, the final look was really beautiful. And most importantly, the bride and groom loved it. Various shapes and sizes of jars and bottles were filled with white blooms. Some of the bottles were tied with loose pieces of ribbon, string and trinkets for a more personal touch.

A small thank you message was placed at each setting as well as candles (also in jars) and menu cards.

The bride also requested a dessert table. I hung a piece of Dwell Studio fabric in a vintage bird print behind the table, then flanked it by linen drapes. My favourite touch would have to be the "Love is Sweet" sign painted on barn board and hung above.

Photo credits:
1-8. Joel Bray


Joel Bray

While on a recent working trip to NYC I was lucky enough to stay at the Gansevoort Park Avenue. I often find myself leaning toward the pre-war architecture of some of Manhattan’s smaller boutique hotels, but the Gansevoort has opened my eyes to a different NYC experience. Located at 29th and Park Avenue, this newly built 249-room hotel is a short walk to one my favourite food meccas in the city, Eataly.


The lobby of the Gansevoort Park Avenue really sets the tone for the entire experience. Bold, energetic, clever and glamorous really really sum it up. Like most hotel lobbies, this three-story space is a hub of activity, but also an incredibly chic place to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi!

I have to admit, this lobby is ‘a whole lot of look’ but I think the fact that they really went for it makes it work. Hot pink, tufted upholstery, and bold, black and white chevron floors altogether — why not? It’s certainly memorable!

The guest rooms carry the same aesthetic as the lobby but in a more peaceful and relaxing way, using bold hues as accents to a more neutral backdrop.  I really love the intense sapphire blue and fuchsia pink together and how they give this room so much life. Would I hang hot pink drapes in my own bedroom? No. But it’s a total rock-star move to hang them in a hotel room where guests won't tire of them so quickly.

My favourite thing about this room has to be the size of its window. I’ve never stayed in a NYC hotel room with this much natural light, and of course it offers a great view of this incredible city.

Photo credits:
1-4. Joel Bray


Joel Bray

Scandinavian design influence really emerged in the 1950s with the modernist movement, and it was celebrated for its simplicity, minimalism and functionality. The beautiful, thoughtful, and functional objects that define this style are just as popular today. I recently came across a great St. John's, Newfoundland-based online shop called ScandiDesign that specializes in just that look. Here's a few of my fave finds.

These retro inspired, handle-less mugs look just as cool now as they may have in the 50s. I love the colour combo and stylized Nordic flower pattern.

I've always appreciated a good, solid cutting board for serving cheese and appetizers. This cheese board is great because it also comes with matching serving utensils.

The Dala Horse is pretty much a Swedish design icon. You can find this motif just about anywhere, but I've never seen a Dala-shaped dish before! I love this guy — he would make the perfect key drop on a front hall console table.

I love the simplicity of this cream Merino-wool throw. It's light enough to keep on your sofa in the summer months too because of its airy, eyelet design.

Photo credits:
1-4. ScandiDesign


Joel Bray

My partner Andrew and I were lucky enough to spend another sun-filled holiday at our favourite place on earth — a charming little cottage on Stoney Lake, Ontario.

If the day comes when we're able to have a cottage of our own, I don't think I could live without separate sleeping cabins. With the hustle and bustle of summer entertaining, many cottage guest books fill up fast, and providing these guests with a space to call their own for the weekend makes all the difference.

Most bunkies are just large enough to fit a bed, and hopefully offer a bit of storage space for luggage and a surface to leave out sunscreen and after-bite lotion. Some don't even have hydro but I'd recommend it if possible because a ceiling fan always helps on warm summer nights.

"Our" bunkie at the Stoney Lake cottage we rent is just about perfect in my eyes. With windows on all four sides (including the screen door), the space is full of natural light. The walls and ceiling are made of whitewashed pine, and the floor is painted out in a warm white — it doesn't get much more cottagey than that! A painted floor can easily be freshened up every year if it's a small space like this, or let scuffs add a rustic feel to a cottage or bunkie.

At the end of the bed there's a simple wicker chair and a set of hooks for hanging beach towels. Skip large closets for whimsical hooks like these.

Another cottage staple is the simple white matelassé coverlet. Pair one with creamy yellow sheets for a warm touch. There's nothing fussy about this bed, and that's the way a cottage bedroom should be!

Now some might think that sleeping in a small cabin away from the main house is far from desirable, but I can honestly say the sounds of nature and the cool cross breezes made for a better night's sleep than I've had in any luxury hotel!

See our photo gallery of Traditional Cottages for more decorating ideas.

Photo credits:
1-4. Joel Bray


Joel Bray

Only a short time ago, I was working away on the prop styling for the June 2013 cooking story. Unlike the photos in the magazine suggest, it was freezing cold outside with no sign of summer — or spring for that matter! To create the feeling of June, I went with an outdoorsy, easy-breezy palette of minty greens and soft pinks with lots of white. It reminded me of all the early summer flowers we have to look forward to, and worn picnic tables full of homemade cooked food. Hurray for summer!

As you can see, I always have lots of styling options on set. This great mix of tableware is from a number of different retailers, but they're all similar in style. Unfortunately, there are usually a few pieces that don't make the cut, but I keep them in mind for future photo shoots.

The same goes for linens and glassware. It's always good to be prepared with multiples. Sometimes we like to show recipes in a serving bowl, but other times we show the recipes plated and ready to eat. This means glassware, linens and cutlery are key. They also help to add a bit of decor to a photograph that's mostly about food. I fell in love with the rose coloured goblets from Pottery Barn and wine glasses from Crate & Barrel (both pictured above). They may be a little feminine for everyday use, but they're perfect for a special outdoor dinner party on a warm June evening!

Now this is where I'm giving away all my secrets! What looks like a pretty garden scene in the magazine actually looked like this in studio. Once stylist Ashley Denton adds the finishing touches and the talented Donna Griffith puts her lens on it, the result is a convincing outdoor location.

It's this fooling the eye that I sometimes love the most because of the challenge in capturing a location or feeling that might not be accessible when we're shooting. From the raised table and chair (on boxes and books!), to the faux beadboard wallpaper from NLXL, you can see we have a few unexpected tricks up our sleeves.

For more behind-the-scenes photo shoot tricks, see Morgan Michener's blog post.

Photo credits:
1-3. Joel Bray


Joel Bray

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