I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Christmas, and while my sentiments flip back and forth, one thing I always love is the Scandinavian way of decorating for the holidays. True to Nordic design in general, it’s pared back with an emphasis on natural, textural elements like light wood furniture, felted wool, skin rugs and birch branches. And I love how the Swedes hang white Christmas lights and stars early in the season and leave them up for longer than we do because the hours of daylight are so scarce. Today is Christmas Eve, so I’m sure you’ve decorated as much as you’re going to. Since it will be a whole year until — being reasonable adults — we can get excited about plunking a fresh tree in the middle of the room, here are some last-minute inspiration photos to keep the romance of the season going.
Speaking of a tree in the middle of the room, not many kitchens can pull this off with style. The white painted wood floors, beadboard walls and country charm of this Swedish space are a perfect backdrop for fresh greenery and a tree minimally decorated with lit candles. (Look for the battery operated Everlasting candles if you ever plan to do this.)
A wreath hung in the window from fat white ribbon and a pile of black and white wrapped gifts are subtle, sophisticated hints of the season.
These would have been perfect in last week’s post on Christmas tree alternatives. Large hurricane jars filled with pine cones, glass balls and branches make a great holiday display. And I love the pine cones displayed as ornaments — both from Danish designer Tine K. Although for me it’s the chippy blue wood door that makes the ornaments.
This pretty, Gustavian take on Christmas from Martha Stewart is not quite gritty enough to suit my tastes, but it’s in honour of Michael Penney, who along with Joel Bray, I already miss sitting beside.
Happy holidays to everyone and best wishes for the new year!
For more Scandinavian-inspired decor, read my Decorating With Wood Logs blog post.
Normally I don’t put up a Christmas tree for myself, but this year, for some reason, I’ve become sentimental and am craving the smell of fresh pine. Oddly enough, however, all I keep coming across are great tree alternatives! Here are my favourites:
This plywood tree by Australia’s Büro North has a mid-century modern style that would be perfect for someone who prefers a minimal Christmas look (usually me). In the real vs. fake tree debate — in Canada at least — a real tree is more environmentally sound than a faux version, according to Ontario’s Forestry Association. (Check out their Facebook page.) But this plywood version is non-toxic, flat-packed, and can be used year after year. You can get them in North America through Modernica. In Canada, fresh Christmas trees grow on farms that continuously replace what they harvest with new seedlings. The forests sustain wildlife habitats, and discarded trees are mulched and used in municipal parks in the spring.
I love this idea from my work buddy Joel Bray. This is a shot taken of his vignette — the final version appeared in the November 2010 issue and on Online TV. He rolled some canvas fabric (complete with raw edges) on a piece of dowel, painted it with black chalkboard paint and then outlined a Christmas tree with chalk. The chunky sisal rug, sheepskin ottoman and woven chair by Canadian designer Shawn Place (at Hollace Cluny) complete the simple Scandinavian look — totally timeless.
This isn’t a holiday set up, but a single tall branch like this could easily achieve that minimal, wintry, Scandinavian vibe as well.
I’ve had this beautiful image from photographer Sarah Hogan in my files since last year. If I wasn’t set on a real tree, this is what I would do! It’s simple and a little quirky — birch twigs with mismatched ornaments.
One day, when I live in a beachy climate, I’ll string white lights in a tree shape like this.
In an industrial space, a ladder in place of a tree could look really cool.
And not that you should ever have an alternative to mistletoe, but this metal pendant lamp for $128 from Vagabond Vintage is pretty neat!
For more innovative holiday decorating, learn how to make DIY ornaments, sconces and gift tags.
2. House & Home November 2010 issue, photography by Angus Fergusson
3. Remodelista, photography by Kelly Ishikawa of SBX Creative
4. Sarah Hogan
5. Living Etc
6. Architect Lines
7. Vagabond Vintage
One essential trick for styling a photo shoot is to select a couple of good-looking books (some others include fresh flowers and wood logs). They add colour, personality and in general, character — the titles on your coffee table say something about your wit and style. If you flip through a few shelter magazines, you will notice that a lot of the same books keep popping up. So, in case you’re looking to impress some design-savvy friends, here are a few suggestions to add to your library or just casually leave on display.
In my opinion, fashion designer and film director Tom Ford established himself as an interior design authority with his film A Single Man (2009), not to mention his flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York. Tom Ford (2008 Rizzoli) is a fashion book chronicling his years developing the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent brands. The black and white hardcover and graphic type adds a modern touch to any space.
Here it is on a bedside display in Stephanie Vogler’s condo — a Vancouver designer and owner of The Cross boutique.
If there were a Hollywood of interior designers, Kelly Wearstler would be at the top of the A list. Her most recent book Hue (2009 Ammo Books) is full of design inspiration, even if you aren’t going to follow her often over-the-top examples. (Check out some of her interiors from the book in this photo gallery.)
Here is her book in its boxed version on the coffee table of interior designer Elizabeth Bauer.
My personal favourite is Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People (2007 Knopf). It’s a collection of the magazine’s gorgeous interiors, plus some that were never published. It’s the “it bag” of design books.
House & Home editor Stacy Begg has it displayed in a vignette on her sideboard.
Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings (2003 Taschen) is another title that pops up in many interiors, including House & Home. I wouldn’t say it’s affordable ($450!) but I would say it’s a statement accessory.
Here it is in the stack of books behind the chair in the New York apartment of art dealers and gallery owners Paul and Alexandra Kasmin.
This is just a small selection, but a few others to add to the list would be Design Art: Functional Objects from Donald Judd to Rachel Whiteread (2004 Merrell), Chanel: Collections and Creations (2007 Thames & Hudson) and Louis Vuitton: Art, Fashion and Architecture (2009 Rizzoli).
Of course, these aren’t must-haves unless you love them. Displaying your collection of hardcovers, no matter what the titles are, will add character and life to your space. But if you’re looking for some Christmas gift ideas, these would all be a pleasure to give or receive!
For more tips, read Michael Penney’s blog post on Styling A Room.
1. Tom Ford (2008 Rizzoli), Amazon
2. House & Home Condos, Lofts & Apartments 2009 special issue, photography by Kim Christie
3. Elle Decor March 2008 issue, photography by Simon Upton
4. Hue (2009 Ammo Books), Amazon
5. Lonny June/July 2010 issue, photography by Patrick Cline
6. Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People (2007 Knopf), Amazon
7. House & Home August 2008 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
8. Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings (2009 Taschen)
9. New New York Interiors (2008 Taschen), photography by Francois Halard
Contemplating wallpaper solutions for my rental apartment last week got me thinking about my biggest decorating problem: the windows. They are massive and awkward, run right to the ceiling and are framed in metal. Drapery or blinds have to be mounted from the ceiling, but there is a 5” piece of framing that juts out, further confusing the issue of where to hang them. (That far away from the window or from one long rod that runs wall to wall instead?) I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to figure something out, but in my defense, even Michael Penney was at a loss.
If you’re lucky enough not to be on a super tight budget, then custom blinds are the obvious answer (I prefer blinds over drapes in my own space). Sun Glow is a Toronto-based Canadian company that specializes in window treatment challenges. You can never go wrong with one of their white Roman blinds or roller shades, but they also offer customization options. The Artisan collection (pictured above) allows you to choose from 80 different eco-friendly fabrics. You can also choose between a manual pull, chain or automatic control with a transmitter — great for high, out-of-reach windows.
I used to swap the plastic pulls from store-bought blinds with a bead. Now Sun Glow has a selection of decorative trims and pulls, so it’s a one-stop shop for designing your own window treatment. And it saves you the legwork of finding the right beads and sweet-talking someone into drilling a hole through it for you!
Another affordable option for covering awkward-sized windows is removable adhesive film. But not your Granny’s ‘frosted glass’ versions. This Moroccan tile inspired version by British designer Emma Jeffs is available through Modern Karibou. It’s great for privacy and allowing soft light through, without the installation issues of where to drill.
If you prefer pattern and a bit of colour, any of Trove’s gorgeous, nature-inspired wallpapers are now available as a window films. My favourite is Auva (above), which had Kimberley Brown's pulse racing back in 2009. These aren’t the cheapest solution, but they add artful impact for renters who plan to stay put for a while.
Here’s an idea of what they look like in window frames. So pretty! I think I would get tired of birds after a while, though, so that’s something to consider.
I have a lovely view of treetops, and would have preferred to leave my windows uncovered, but because of peeping Tom and budget issues, I needed something cheap and fast. Cameron MacNeil came to my rescue by suggesting the temporary black-out paper blinds from The Home Depot. They’re only about $12 each and you just peel and stick to hang them. And unlike window film, you can fold them up or down to adjust the light and view as much as you want. They are intended as a quick fix after a move, but I plan on leaving mine up!
For more affordable decorating tips for renters, view our Budget Decorating Ideas photo gallery.
Being a style editor here at House & Home means I'm constantly exposed to boatloads of gorgeous papers and fabrics, giving me a frequent itch to cover my apartment in wallpaper. Like Tori Mellott’s living room from her old apartment (above) that was featured in one of the earlier issues of Domino. (Her newer, more sophisticated look was featured later on, but I always loved this one’s eclectic mix.)
Since I rent, wallpaper isn’t really a practical idea. Removable wall decals can add temporary pattern and colour but they can’t replicate the effect, so I’ve never been tempted to try. Then I received a press release from EazyWallz, a Montreal company that creates peel and stick wall murals.
The murals are made from adhesive woven fabric so they can be removed and reused — one huge advantage over wallpaper. And they are water and humidity proof, so they’d be great for bathrooms. The canvases can be applied over any flat surface, making me wonder if you could cover gaudy ’80s pastel patterned wall tiles…
I prefer the forest and brick selections but there are thousands of images and patterns available. A great idea is to customize the size and image of your mural through the website. Just upload a jpeg of the image you want and they will email you a preview and price quote.
H&H.com online director Lisa Murphy just pointed out the Tech Special story in the most recent issue of Lonny, too. Seems you'll soon be able to send a pattern to HP WallArt, and they'll custom print wallpaper and send it to you. Designing your own wallpaper is only going to get trendier and easier.
Another removable wallpaper option I often consider is this brilliant idea that Morgan Michener and Joel Bray came up with for a story in our June 2010 issue. They taped wallpaper onto the wall and then trimmed out the perimeter with moulding. Because you nail down the trim (make sure you paint it first!), it holds the wallpaper in place and the whole thing can be easily taken down later on. They chose a pretty tone on tone neutral, but it would be just as stunning in a bold tone with a dramatic print.
Try a dramatic indigo print like this one, for instance, from a Hamptons home in Lonny.
Toronto’s LG Fashion Week officially kicked off this past Monday (there were several unofficial events the week prior) with Holt Renfrew’s show, "With True Patriot Love". It was a blockbuster that featured nine of Canada’s top designers (Smythe, Pink Tartan, Jeremy Laing, Wayne Clark, Lida Biday, Mikhael Kale, Denis Gagnon, Line and Wings and Horn) showing only five looks each, all available at Holt’s. Each year, fashion week makes me more and more proud to be Canadian — there is a ton of talent here who have established a Canadian style that is sexy, understated, textured and wearable (i.e. smart). My three top picks from the night happen to mirror some of my favourite interior design trends right now, as well.
The slightly painterly floral effect and drapey, flowing dress fabric of an outrageously gorgeous dress from Wayne Clark, for instance, reminds me of Australian blogger Anna Spiro’s living room, layered with accessories, colour and art.
Moroso’s Bouquet chair by Yoshioka Tokujin has layers and layers of fabric petals, offering the same effect.
In both fashion and interiors, I love the tie-dyed-ombre mix. I love Denis Gagnon's runway version. I can't look at it any longer because I want it more every minute, and it's unlikely to ever be mine. Especially after just buying two new Eames chairs!
And here are some easy DIY, tie-dyed Ikea drapes that my work buddy Michael Penney and I did for a mini makeovers story. Thanks to my junior high skater t-shirt experiments, this is the one and only DIY job I will ever be able to hold over Michael Penney!
One of John Robshaw’s more recent collections has a series of “Indigo Dip” cushions with a bleeding ink line.
Jeremy Laing’s beautifully drapey and flowing cream, stone and putty coloured collection reminds me of how designer Kelly Deck has described West Coast interiors: “Simple and elemental with an organic quality. There isn’t the same fancifulness you’d find in the rest of the country.”
This moody bedroom shot has been up on my inspiration board since I first saw the film come in from a Runway To Room story that the talented Stacey Smithers and Joel Bray produced for our August 2009 fashion issue. I think the image speaks for itself (and it’s not even a real room!).
B.C.-based 18Karat is known for beautiful wool throws and clay pottery with an organic, tactile appeal that are great for layering in your space.
LG Fashion Week finishes tonight with the grand finale show Dare To Wear Love. The gala is the second annual — last year it was Hoax Couture’s public dare to a handful of designers to create a gown out of six yards of African fabric to raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Needless to say, it was a huge hit. So if you don’t have tickets for tonight, mark your calendar for next year!
Runway image: Sweetspot.ca
1. House & Home May 2010 issue, photography by Simon Kenny
2. Ego Design
3. House & Home Makeovers 2009 special issue, photography by Angus Fergusson
4. John Robshaw
5. House & Home August 2009 issue, photography by Angus Fergusson
6. 18 Karat