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Our basement makeover is finally complete and has resulted in a home office/den that is neat, clean (somewhat), water resilient, all for under $4,000. Here are some things I learned after my husband and I revamped our basement.

Lesson 1: A basement is a great place to experiment with a new look.

Suzanne Dimma pointed out in a recent blog that it's far more exciting when the individual rooms in a house are approached with their own unique decorating personality: not every room requires the exact same materials and palette. This Belgian-farmhouse look is a bit austere for a heavily used room, but it's practical in a basement. I took a chance with the floor and it's turned out to be my favourite thing. I was worried about the frank fakeness — it's vinyl — but this can stand up to future flooding and looks real (it is cold though, so a rug was a necessity.) 

A giant bookcase lines one side of the room (not surprising for two journalism grads). I loved Morgan Michener's April 2014 DIY which involved backing bookshelves in fabric. So I combined that with something I had seen in an earlier version of House & Home: Colette van den Thillart's dining room from the December 2012 issue.

Colette's laser-printed, photo-realism quartz wallpaper on velvet turned her Toronto dining room into an exotic grotto, and I was completely slayed. I thought why not use a combo of Morgan and Colette's ideas for the back of bookshelf?

I found this geo-stone look wallpaper that was in a neutral colourway and pasted it to a sample board. The results? It makes everything in front of it look epic. Too bad it made the maple bookcases look anemic.

Trying to decided between two paints for the shelves, I posted an impromptu poll on a blog and the winning choice was Farrow & Ball's Mole's Breath, a warm, smoky grey with plenty of drama. 

Lesson 2: Test a trend. 

I am not a grey person. I wasn't sure whether I loved the grey paint I chose for the bookshelves, or just the fact that it's a big trend colour and I had been seeing it in the magazine (Rona Collection's Taupe, an almost exact match, was called out as one of our trend colours in the January 2014 issue). To find out whether I could live with it, a sample board was crucial so I could see the shade against the floors, wainscotting and stone of the fireplace. The warm neutral added the right amount of richness, and the glossy finish looks freshly painted, I love that.

Of course I keep an exhaustive library of back issues of House & Home (doesn't everybody?). It's the original source of inspiration, long before Pinterest popped up.

Lesson 3: Don't let a room become a dumping ground for memorabilia.

Take the time to reevaluate what's on your bookshelves — not everything stands the test of time, while some items are still a joy to behold (I didn't even know we owned a rare 1936 issue of Alice in Wonderland, look how pretty it is).

Lesson 4: No one wants to spend time in a neglected room.

In addition to my home office, there was an antique desk that could be used for some (bad) sewing projects, and even a spot to do yoga, but I didn't want to spend time in an outdated space filled with odds and ends doing those activities. The busy woodwork and clutter just wasn't conducive to concentrating, but here's how the honey-pine corner of my office was transformed with paint.

The linen sheep-print fabric adds some life to the neutral scheme and makes a home office a bit fun, while concealing glass doors to a workshop behind. I just wish my desk always looked like this...

A textured basket for, ahem, fitness equipment that doesn't see the light of day, and an earthy pouf add a warm, handmade touch that's inviting.

 

I've decided that flood was the best thing that could have happened to this room. It made me take a hard look at the things I was saving, and created a soothing space to unwind... or work, or maybe even, work out.

See a gallery of editors' basement renos here.

Photo sources:
All photos (except #3) Wendy Jacob
3. House & Home December 2013, photography by Virginia MacDonald

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

We have almost completed our Belgian-Inspired Budget Basement reno that followed the flood this winter. I just wanted to put up a quick post about something that's made the most dramatic change for our basement. I know painting out wood trim is a popular – and controversial – question from our readers. Lynda and Suzanne get asked about it all the time; painting wood is relatively easy but if you have regrets, stripping and refinishing is a nasty job (Suzanne weighs in on this topic in this video).

 

For those of you who agonize over painting, I humbly offer this evidence. The left half of the room is painted out in Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray, and the other side is the original knotty pine wainscotting I am guessing dates back to when Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears wore matching acid-wash denim.

In this case, the inexpensive pine panelling looked cheap, busy and dated. H&H design editors have always firmly fall into the camp of painting wood, unless it is special or exotic (ie. mahogany, rosewood).

As soon as we painted the trim, the wainscotting immediately looked crisper, more substantial and distinctive.

I never liked the flimsy louvered doors, but now they almost seem to disappear, and all it took was an afternoon of spray painting and a new pull from Anthropologie.

Can't wait to show you the final reveal, stay tuned!

See a gallery of our design editors' basement renos, and watch a video of Suzanne Dimma's basement renovation.

Photo sources:
Wendy Jacob

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

A roster of celebrities, from homegrown hockey greats and authors to Hollywood sirens, have donated ties and scarves to help Homes First's second annual fundraiser, Tie One On. Hosted by the CBC's Mary Wiens on May 7, 2014, the auction raises funds to help house 5,000 homeless people living on Toronto streets. 

We know a home is a reflection of personal style, but we thought we'd play a little guessing game to see if you can match the scarf to the stars (and if you really like it, you might want to buy a $50 ticket and make a bid). Scroll down to see the answers at the bottom.

1) No surprise that the Canadian maple leaf is front and centre on this team captain's neckwear. She represented Canada at two Olympic games, and brought home the gold both times.

2) The statuesque blonde who owns this scarf isn't just a pretty face, she won an Oscar for a gripping real life portrayal, and steps into comedic roles just as easily on Arrested Development.

3) The tie pretty much gives away which sport the owner is passionate about, but we love how he rose to the occasion in the "series of the century."

4) This classic, conservative print belongs to a high-powered Ontario politician, but it should probably be red to toe the party line.

5) This appropriately low-key tie neckwear is from a guy who is all about putting the focus on his guests, and making them open up on his nightly Canadian talk show.

6) We love the polished style of this busy actress and producer, who is launching a new lifestyle brand in the footsteps of fellow blonde Gwyneth Paltrow. And who knew she could sing?

7) A tie that's quirky and fun: we wouldn't expect anything less from a master storyteller who delivers the latest dispatches from the Vinyl Café.

8) This blue scarab print scarf must have made the fiery locks of its former owner really pop. It was donated by one of Hollywood's most famous redheads, a multiple-award winning actress who always stuns on the red carpet (and on film, especially when dressed by Tom Ford)

9) This tie is a pretty safe sartorial choice for a Canadian high flyer who spends time orbiting the earth, occasionally while strumming a guitar.

Answers:

1) Cassie Campbell-Pascall
2) Charlize Theron
3) Paul Henderson
4) Kathleen Wynne
5) George Stroumboulopoulos
6) Reese Witherspoon
7) Stuart McLean
8) Julianne Moore
9) Chris Hadfield

Photo sources:
All courtesy of Tie One On, Charlize Theron via Thunderbird 37

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

We are nearing the finish of our Belgian-Inspired Budget Basement but have encountered this thorny issue. Which colour should I paint our maple bookcases?

I have wallpapered the back in an ocelot print to disguise the tired Masonite, but the wood doesn't suit the new grey palette or the wallpaper. Which shade do you think works best?

I painted a sample board and propped it up near the fireplace, which was one of the starting points for the palette. That's Mole's Breath on the left, and Dove Tale on right, both by the venerable Farrow & Ball.

If you had to choose, would it be the darker and more dramatic shade shown on top or the lighter one which changes considerably depending on the light.

Let me know because I can't wait to show you the results!

Photo sources:
Wendy Jacob

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

The flood last summer knocked out our power for four days but we were lucky; while some friends were knee-deep in brackish water, we had minimal leakage in our basement. Until the latest round of thawing snow did us in. It was obvious our basement carpet couldn't survive another soaking, so my husband tore it up only to reveal this:

Horrified? So were we. 

The only thing more disturbing than the satanic red-and-black linoleum tile is the possibility that the builder thought it was a great idea to install the same tile in a number of houses in our post-war neighbourhood (our neighbour has it in his bathroom).

With the carpet gone it was time to take a good look at the honey-brown pine wainscotting, trim and mantel that I felt zero love for.

Inspired by a new gallery of our design editors' own basement renos, I gathered the meaningful finds that I wanted to keep in the basement as a source for the palette. These included my grandmother's skating trophy.

A vintage photo of my hometown.

And a chair I found in an antique mall while visiting a friend in Ohio. (She's a frequent visitor to the Maumee Antique Mall, a great source of quilts and vintage fabrics.)

The elements seemed to have a bit of Belgian farmhouse aesthetic so I looked for a greyed, weathered (water-resistant!) barn-style vinyl plank floor and a greige to paint out the wainscotting and trim.

After lots of close calls that were too green or cold, I found the perfect warm putty from Benjamin Moore: Edgecomb Grey.

This colour works with the tones in the stone fireplace, and has a hit of black for the right amount of gravitas. 

Belgian farmhouses typically have lots of linen, but I wanted something a less dour than a tone-on-tone solid. I had this pastoral linen print made into pinch-pleat, lined drapes by Tonic Living (the price was really good, they turned the sewing around quickly and the drapes were well made).

The terracotta tiles on the hearth didn't work with the colour scheme, or the custom-made English firescreen that served as a headboard for several years.

But these 18" x 18" grey marble slabs for the hearth from Lowe's are appropriately rustic, and wallet-friendly.

For a bit of colour and graphic impact, this rug from HomeSense fit the bill for under $150.

We hope to get this room whipped into shape fairly quickly so stay tuned for the final reveal of what I call our budget Belgian basement blitz.

See budget basement decorating tips in this gallery.

Photo sources:
Wendy Jacob

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

The weather outside was bone chilling but the party was in full swing last night at the 2014 Interior Design Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on January 23. 

The "See the Light" trends space showcased four interiors, including one by designer Shirley Meisels of MHouse Inc., which was presented by Suite 22 Interiors. Meisels put together a trend room for Italian brand Kartell, featuring this closet stocked with fabulous vintage wear (and her own collection of purses). Notice how the light is built into the closet's rod, how cool is that?

“It’s all about glamour,” says Shirley of her trend room. “I love mixing, making a room feel cosy and modern. Eclecticism is a big trend for 2014, mixing metals and vintage and modern looks. The Kartell lights are plastic so I explored the idea of something upscale, using plastic in an unexpected way. People tend to set them in more of a casual space, in this room it feels sophisticated.” Watch this video and see how Shirley put her philosophy into practice when decorating an Edwardian home.

At Korhani Home, models were dressed in carpet fabrics to show off the fashion forward appeal of the brand’s patterns and colours for 2014.

Inside the interactive showcase, models of a very different kind were dressed in Korhani samples in settings from the Mad Hatter's tea party to the court of Versailles. 

Jason Cass of Farrow & Ball posed with Bertie Blue (who has his own #bertieblue hashtag, natch), a skeleton painted in F&B's St. Giles Blue. The theme of the exhibit was science lab, and Bertie lends a touch of Biology 101 authenticity.

Over at Andrew Richard Designs, this model is immune to the -18 temperatures outside and reminds us that better weather lies ahead.

Andrew Bockner (shown at left with brother Richard) pointed out that the marine-grade leather sofa shown behind them will make a big splash in 2014. “The quick-dry foam lets you leave it out all the time because it releases water, and the leather is really durable, it's treated with a new process from Japan.”

 

And we bumped into H&H senior design editor Margot Austin with designer Grace Castaneda (you can catch a glimpse of Grace's work in this sleek lounge-inspired living room or her own country home on H&H TV online). They both had some fun turning this poster into a living tableau.

Don't miss House & Home Sunday on January 26 as Lynda Reeves and Kelvin Browne of the Gardiner Museum take the H&H stage at noon to discuss how to give well-loved furniture and traditional elements fresh energy. At 1:30 Suzanne Dimma and Mark Challen debate the balance between design and decorating, and at 3 p.m. Mark quizzes designer Sarah Richardson on the best way to create beautiful and happy rooms (for a preview, Sarah talks about IDS here).

Photo credits:

1-3., 5-6., 8. Wendy Jacob
4. Korhani Home
7. Michelle Gelman

Author: 

Wendy Jacob

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