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!
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
TGIF! The acronym has special meaning this week, as the Interior Design Show (January 22 to 25) opens for business at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre today. If you're attending this weekend — and you should — here are a few things you don't want to miss:
Warning: Missoni's wildly patterned sofas and ottomans might make you look at your staid, solid-coloured three-seater with a pang of regret. Giorgio Jelmini, Operations Manager for Missoni Home, revealed that the Italian brand's famous stripes were a happy accident: the first knitting machine the founder bought in 1953 could only produce stripes, so velato! (As they say in Italy.) Check out the timeline that traces Missoni's path from fashion to home to hotels, then pony-up for some pillows at the Missoni pop-up shop, funds from which will support Habitat for Humanity.
This is a new group exhibition at the show that features four artisans producing beautiful, carefully-crafted, small-run pieces. 1925 Workbench specializes in barn-style sliding doors that look great in any space. Husband-and-wife team My Le and Rock made their first door for their own small home in Toronto. When friends and then friends of friends kept asking for one (or two or three) for their own homes, the duo turned their custom-made doors and hardware into a business.
Heidi Earnshaw is also exhibiting in the Makers section. Heidi makes gorgeous wood furniture, which H&H has featured in past issues. At IDS, she's showing a marble-topped dresser with brass legs that immediately went on my wish list.
Heidi also dabbles in smaller pieces; the candlestick holders in her booth are the wood molds of ones that will eventually be cast in metal. I know, you're waiting for me to tell you about the awesome ceramics in her booth. They're by Susie Osler and look even better in person.
In this picture, my thumb is doing its best to model just how thin Sony's new 4.7 mm-thick television is. It will be available in May in 55" and 65" sizes, and is so light it can hang on the wall like a picture frame.
Ikea/House & Home
This year, H&H teamed up with Ikea to design a kitchen and the results are stunning, if we do say so ourselves. The kitchen uses Ikea's new Sektion kitchen system, which will be introduced in stores in February, and is packed with gorgeous ideas and products. I managed to snap this shot early Thursday morning when the space was being photographed. Click here for more info on the kitchen.
The details reveal clever styling tricks, like remembering to include art in the kitchen.
There's even a walk-in pantry that reminds us that storage can and should be stylish.
Each swing seat is made from a different sample of Caesarstone and is the perfect place to take a break and put your feet up — waaaay up — before continuing on to discover all the other great designs at the show.
Check out the H&H talks on Sunday starting at noon. Lynda Reeves, Suzanne Dimma, Mark Challen and my fellow editors will be speaking about everything design and answering questions from the audience and social media. Plus, check out this guide of extras from their talks.
1-10. Kimberley Brown
"Welcome to the Drake Devonshire. Would you like to try one of our signature cocktails?" If first impressions can be trusted, I was going to like the Drake Devonshire. A lot.
A bright yellow door on the far side of a cobblestone courtyard offers a sunny welcome to visitors who've made the two-plus hour drive to Prince Edward County from Toronto or further. Inside, opposing adjectives like "quaint" and "cool" compete for your affection. Part of the hotel occupies a renovated 19th century iron foundry, onto which ERA Architects added new light-filled spaces. To blend them together, Toronto designer John Tong of +tongtong layered the interiors with quirky vintage finds and colourful modern accents. The effect is like being at a family cottage that the grandkids have updated for a new generation while preserving nostalgic elements of the past.
The staffer greeting me with the tray of cocktails isn't a permanent perk for arriving guests. I'm there for a media preview, which aims to give me the experience of a weekend stay in a few short hours. So while I don't get to sip a cappuccino on the large back deck while watching the morning mist lift off Lake Ontario, I do get a personal tour of the hotel with owner Jeff Stober, John Tong and Mia Nielsen, who curated all of the artwork.
I discover Jeff is an antiques junkie. He gets excited all over again recounting the story of how he snagged the vintage secretary desk that now functions as a hostess stand. It turns out he's a regular at the Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts and has a fine-tuned system for buying, storing and shipping found treasures. I secretly start plotting how I can tag along on his next trip, so I can discover all of his tips and tricks.
We wander into the newly built A-frame pavilion, which is hosting a raw bar piled high with fresh seafood prepared by Chef Matt DeMille, who graced the kitchens at Toronto's Canoe, Parts & Labour and Enoteca Sociale, to name a few, before moving to the country. Later, in the lake-view dining room, he'll treat us to a multi-course dinner that I happily finish every last bite of, despite having said "yes!" to the countless snacks offered throughout the afternoon.
Jeff notes that he loves the pavilion's A-frame structure — "It looks like it has been here forever," — but I've only got eyes for the custom mural by Brooklyn-based Faile, which covers one wall and looks like a collage of street art, album covers and wallpaper scraps. Mia has placed art to surprise and charm guests: New York artist Kirsten Hassenfeld's sculpture made of vintage paper is hung so it can be enjoyed from two different perspectives (looking up at it from the main floor and looking directly into it from the stairwell to the second floor), fragments of poetry by Canadian Al Purdy are written directly on walls, and vintage paintings updated with cheeky details by Toronto collective Team Macho hang in nearly every room. It's soon clear to me that Mia has the coolest job in the world.
John has a pretty good gig, too. He was part of the team that designed the original Drake Hotel in downtown Toronto, so he knew exactly how to tweak its DNA for the country. Graphic patterned floor tiles anchor the main floor common areas. In the guest rooms, Jeff's vintage furniture is paired with custom platform beds sporting beadboard headboards, colour-blocked walls and bold area rugs. These are spaces you can comfortably inhabit whether you're dressed for the beach or dinner — and here, one outfit will probably do for both.
Before I have to head home to the city, we gather around the beach-side fire pit and watch the sun go down. A guy playing guitar on the deck accompanies the fire's familiar crackle and pop, and I find myself dreamily planning my return.
Holiday party season is nearly here! I love to entertain, but I'm hardly a hostess extraordinaire. (Sending an understanding guest to the corner store to haul back a bag of ice because you forgot to refill the trays is deeply uncool.) So when celebrated New York designer Bunny Williams — by all accounts an entertaining whiz — launched a collection of party essentials for Ballard Designs, I asked her how she makes it look so easy and what she's working on next.
Kimberley Brown: What's the key to hosting a successful party?
Bunny Williams: I always try to plan for everything ahead of time so that I am able to enjoy the party along with my guests.
KB: What's your favourite way to entertain?
BW: I love to have a seated dinner, but serve the food on a long buffet so that guests can feel free to help themselves. We'll use a large dinner plate and offer our guests three or four choices of dishes. Then the table is cleared and a dessert is served on small plates. Afterwards, we'll move to the living room for coffee and tea.
KB: Your new collection for Ballard Designs includes dishes, linens and holiday decorations. What ties them all together?
BW: I always say, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to entertain. This collection comprises all you need to ready your home for guests, from tabletop items and cachepots for flowers, to a wonderfully smelling scented candle and beautiful bone or rattan holders for guest towels.
KB: Any plans to add to the collection in the future?
BW: We are already hard at work on the next collection which will debut in Spring/Summer 2015 and will include outdoor entertaining and tabletop items along with wall decor.
Pick up our December 2014 issue for more on Bunny's new line.
Looking to add some warmth and personality to your home for the winter? Wallpapering a room — or even one wall — does both and is an easy way to introduce pattern. These 2014 prints from Farrow & Ball are small enough for tiny powder rooms, but would make an impact on a large bedroom wall, too. Here are my picks:
Browse our Wallpapered Rooms gallery for more inspiration.
1-4. Farrow & Ball
Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of going behind-the-scenes at West Elm's HQ in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Only days before, former president Bill Clinton had also visited the office. He was there to learn more about the brand's commitment to pay $35 million directly to artisans around the world who produce products for West Elm using handcrafted techniques — and the buzz of his visit still lingered, leaving everyone in high spirits.
I was soon being led past beautiful rooms where product for Holiday 2014 was perfectly styled and presented, and into the busy design offices where shelves were messily piled with samples, walls were littered with pictures and palettes, and the seeds of new ideas were being planted and grown.
Jonathan Orr, West Elm's VP of design for textiles and decorative accessories, had recently returned with his team from Peru carrying armfuls of pottery, blankets, knits and photographs that were laid out on tables. Why Peru? Orr said something about it being "in the air" — you see a nod to it here, a hint of it there, and suddenly it's of the moment... or it will be next spring and fall, when the designers at West Elm turn their inspirations into the pieces we'll all be coveting in 2015.
Expect to see lots of fabulous fringe, shaggy textures, bright but earthy colours and beautifully woven textiles. I was surprised to discover that there's a mini loom right in the office, which is used to work out patterns and create the samples that are later put into production.
Indeed, a lot of design work, at least in the initial stages, is still done the old fashioned way — by hand. In an area removed from the main offices, down a hallway and tucked behind industrial shelves stuffed with stock, was what amounted to an art studio. Pots of paint, colour-stained brushes and clusters of mini bottles topped with eye droppers crowded a long desk. I also spotted delicate watercolour sketches that may one day be turned into patterns for bedding and textiles.
Images painted for spring and summer 2015 had already made the leap from paper to pillows.
I was particularly excited to see these two mood boards. Alexander Calder is one of my favourite artists, and while Scandinavian mid-century is hardly a new idea in 2014, never mind 2015, I found myself swooning over the tangerine, midnight blue and cream palette. Perhaps it's time for me to get my own hands dirty with a little paint.
While I was in New York, I spent the weekend at the new Ludlow Hotel on the Lower East Side. The hotel, which is owned by the same team behind The Marlton, opened its doors in early June and was still undergoing construction when I was there, but any resulting inconveniences were overshadowed by the serendipitous moments that came out of the dust. After a maintenance man visited my room to monitor the air conditioning, he kindly snuck me up to the unfinished rooftop to take in the incredible view and peer into the windows of the still-unfinished luxury suites. Once the hammers and the drills fall silent, I will be back.
This is the courtyard, where I enjoyed breakfast.
And here some professional pics of the rooms.
1-10. Kimberley Brown
11-12. Ludlow Hotel