I recently returned from my seventh (!) trip back to San Miguel de Allende, and I continue to be inspired by this city in central Mexico. I'm always discovering new things to explore. Here are a few of the inspiring spaces I visited this time. There were lots more that you may end up seeing in H&H soon!
This year we had the pleasure of staying in a house that had originally been owned by the film director Peter Glenville, whose body of work was most prolific in the 1950s and 1960s. He directed films like The Prisoner starring Alec Guinness and Silent Night, Lonely Night with Henry Fonda and Barbara Bel Geddes. The rumour was that the house was host to numerous parties back in the day. Interestingly enough the house did possess a distinct old Hollywood vibe. It was more British than Mexican in feel, and incredibly charming, eclectic and a tad eccentric — which I love. You can see what I mean in this picture of the upper living room.
But it was the house's surrounding gardens that really stood out as spectacular. This was the walkway from the front courtyard (featuring my sister's Jack Russell terrier, Moo). We were there in the winter so things were a bit dry, but before we left all sorts of flowers came into bloom along the high walls.
At the top of the pathway was a fountain backed by an enormously high ivy laden wall and a first-tier patio that looked back to Centro. That upper living room looked out on to this area. The small square stepping stones lead to a set of wooden doors that opened into a whole other garden area, kind of like a secret garden.
The highlight was this spectacular pool that Bruce Weber had photographed for Kelly Klein’s book, Pools. This is the view over the pool and alleée of trees. An adjoining patio affords a breathtaking view to San Miguel below.
This is looking back to the Casita, or guesthouse, perched at the top of a series of tiered stone steps. It evokes a bygone era of old Hollywood and we were told that a number of Hollywood greats had stayed there. Peter O'Toole visited after wrapping Lawrence of Arabia and apparently brought a massive sculpture of a camel which was positioned behind a sofa in the casita.
While I was there I visited this gorgeous house was featured in and was owned by a San Miguel-based interior designer, Leslie Tung of Mitu Atelier. It's perfect: not too big, not too small, with an eclectic personality. This is the courtyard that the house is built around. It featured deep red walls inspired by the colours of China's Forbidden City, a stone fountain and what I think was an arching bougainvillea tree. Her ginger tabby was pretty cute too. The settee is by c (an exquisite Mexican furniture line), and the checkerboard stone-and-marble table was designed by Lis Bisgaard.
While I was there I visited this gorgeous house that had been featured in ELLE Decor and was owned by a San Miguel-based interior designer, Leslie Tung of Mitu Atelier. It's perfect: not too big, not too small, with a wonderful sense of style. This is the courtyard that the house is built around. It featured deep red walls apparently inspired by the colours of China's Forbidden City, a stone fountain and what I think was an arching bougainvillea tree. Her ginger tabby was pretty cute too. The settee is by Casamidy (an exquisite Mexican furniture line based out of San Miguel), and the checkerboard stone-and-marble table was designed by Lis Bisgaard.
I love this shot of the cement fountain designed by landscape architect Alfonso Alarcon, with the water jug perched on the ledge.
The concrete staircase is so simple and Zen, and it leads up to a stunning view of a Madonna recessed in a small stone archway at the top.
Leslie's home office was on the third floor — there are lots of layers and curios to stimulate the eye wherever you looked.
This Empire-style daybed draped in an exotic fabric was the focal point of the seating area in the office.
Last year I stumbled on this super chic boutique hotel called L’Otel right in Centro. It was so lovely and charming I had to go in and ask for a tour! I tweeted this front door photo because I loved the mix of stone and tile on the floor against the black front door. San Miguel is ripe with all sorts of interesting furniture pieces like this front hall table and the fun orchid pot that looks like a water barrel.
The breakfast room featured this fun trompe-l’oeil glass-print wallpaper. They cleverly ran shelves across it for a three-dimensional effect.
All of the rooms looked into this pretty pink courtyard complete with vintage bikes you can use during the day… although riding a bike on cobblestones is pretty tricky.
But the thing I love the most about San Miguel de Allende is how every year I discover a little bit more magic. I always find some kind of inspiration to bring back home with me. I stumbled upon this happy reminder while walking down an alley and it stopped me in my tracks.
All photos except for 7, Suzanne Dimma
7. Katherine Dimma, Wandering Rounds blog
See more Mexican style staples here.
In the April 2014 issue of House & Home, we show the Vancouver home of actress Kristin Lehman that she shares with her husband, filmmaker Adam Reid and their son. I met Kristin 10 years ago, before she was married. She was living in L.A. at the time but frequently came home to Toronto and needed a place to crash. In 2004, she asked me to help with decorating the small pied-à-terre she'd recently purchased. It was in the Massey building on King Steet that had been converted into condos by Cecconi Simone.
I was super excited because I had been a huge fan of Felicity and The L Word — both TV shows that Kristin had starred in. Since then she had taken on a more headlining role in the hit series The Killing, and currently plays detective Angie Flynn in the ABC series Motive.
As you can see from this before shot, Kristin's space was a lower level unit and it was a blank slate. But it was blessed with large windows and gorgeous exposed stone foundation walls, which provided loads of character.
Since it was a studio apartment, the main living area had to act as both the living room and the bedroom. The UpCountry roll arm sofa is one of the best looking sleeper sofas I've seen. The mirrored table was as light as a feather so she could easily get it out of the way to make room for the pull out bed. Back then gold chandeliers were all the rage and I liked the yin and yang feel this one, from Sam the Chandelier Man, offered. I designed the striped low slipper chair based on a vintage chair design. It has no arms so it's perfect for a small space. I later entered a copy in an auction for the fundraiser Fashion Cares (they called it Fashion Chairs!), where it sold super fast for a great bid.
We included this table and chair set up on the other side of the living room to round out the sitting area and also act as a dining area. The high leg chairs and small bistro table covered off both needs and that chartreuse upholstery did wonders to brighten things up. Believe it or not the turquoise lamp was found in a neighbour's trash! It was the perfect finishing touch.
This was my favourite view in the space. We found the vintage modern credenza at Queen West Antiques and it gave all the feminine colours and more decorative accents a nice foil. I love that the apartment came with that high ledge on the long wall. It was perfect for displaying Kristin's art collection. I found the gold 'O' at Absolutely and loved how it added a splash of sparkle against the brick and stone. The tiny table at the end was perfect when Kristin needed an extra cocktail table or place to store her pretty coverlets.
We put up wood slat Hunter Douglas blinds with fabric tape to add warmth and also provide privacy and light control. I'm not really a fan of the plastic toggles that are standard on blind cords and Kristin came up with the brilliant idea of swapping them out with these gorgeous turquoise beads.
The kitchen was long and narrow but had nice looking cabinets and simple white appliances.
We simply painted the cabinet frames for a bit of contrast and included lots of colourful accessories on the open shelves. Kristin already had that gorgeous painting: its muddy tones paired perfectly with the stone wall so that the blue centre stood out beautifully. We painted the adjacent kitchen half wall in Mouse's Back by Farrow & Ball to tie in with the stone, but left the vertical parts white for contrast.
The bathroom was compact and contemporary. Like the kitchen, it had a strong design as a starting point including a floating Corian sink.
We simply added a few extra shelves for storage and went to town on the accessories. We also added a seamless medicine cabinet on the wall above the towel bar (not shown) to help out with some extra storage. While working on this project, Kristin and I became fast friends and after she sold this place, we went on to tackle the house that she moved into with Adam as well. Be sure to check out Kristin and Adam's website, This Fair Land — a moving peek into the lives of artful Canadians.
Read about Suzanne's trip to B.C. in this blog post.
Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and I wanted to compile a list of the things (some decor related, some not!) that make me happiest.
I am a water person and am happiest when I am near water and able to swim — whether it's in a pool or a natural body of water. If you haven't seen Kelly Klein's book, Pools, pick it up for some of the most inspiring pools in the world. This winter I was lucky enough to stay in the house with this San Miguel de Allende pool in Mexico, shot by Bruce Weber in 1990.
My family and I did some travelling in Europe two springs ago and we had the good luck to find two unbelievable waterside cafes. The first was perched high on a cliff in Dubrovnik and the other beachside in Taromina, Sicily. My sister, Arriz and I watched the waves for hours over lunch (and several glasses of wine!) from both spots.
To me, a home is not a home without some animal life. If a home can't take the wear and tear from paws and fur than it's probably a bit too perfect.
Here are a few shots of my own pet family getting cosy at home. All the cats (Z, Tomba, Acorn, Po) lined up in the window to check out the view when we first moved into our house. My cat Z loves to nap in the soft jute baskets I picked up at the White Company in the UK. Po has a thing for hanging off of the tables and is particularly fond of the teal Mexican blanket I use on the table by my back door.
Some people respond to wide-open spaces but I'm more of a cosy person. I love things that make you feel safe and protected like small spaces, canopy beds and window seats.
A fabric valance and floor to ceiling curtains can turn a basic bed into a room within a room: it makes this large bedroom, designed by Mark D. Sikes, feel more intimate and a small bedroom more architectural.
I spotted this dining nook washed in pink in a hotel in Mexico last year, what a perfect spot to have a morning coffee (keep an eye out for more on this place in an upcoming blog).
Muriel Brandolini's home has always been an inspiration. This small guest room is inviting because it's filled to the brim with colour, pattern, texture and layers and the daybed takes up most of the space. I could easily live in this room.
Just like a house without pets, a house without a fireplace doesn't work for me. I light a fire almost every single night in the wintertime. Needless to say, my fire has been going full tilt this winter.
This exotic tile motif puts all the attention on the fireplace wall. I love how the mirror is offset for a fresh spin.
This roaring fire in my own cottage isn't just the main source of heat, the flames are mesmerizing to watch.
It's far more exciting when the individual rooms in a house are approached with their own unique decorating personality. Of course you need flow, but not every room requires the exact same materials and palette.
Muriel Brandolini is a master of the mix, and her designs for this home, shown above and below, are always eclectic and expertly layered.
My personal pet peeve is when every bathroom in the house is a carbon copy of one another. In the end, when the entire house looks the same, it inevitably feels like a creative disappointment.
I love trees for privacy, softening the lines of a building and utlimately marrying it with the landscape. Well-considered foliage will also help with your heating and cooling.
Framing a view to the trees like this is always artful.
This curved stair wall also in Taromina, Sicily features built in planters for geraniums and dedicated spots for pots — so clever.
I scouted this gorgeous house designed by Nicholas Spencer Lewin in Chester, Nova Scotia last summer (keep an eye out for it in H&H soon!).
Not only was it beautiful architecturally, it was also surrounded in stunning landscaping including colourful vegetable gardens that felt simply magical.
7) Low Level Lighting
Every night I ask my hubby to turn off the overhead lighting in the house. I am far more a fan of table lamps and wall sconces for ambiance. And I can't say it enough, everyone looks better with the overhead lights on dimmers!
Here is an especially gorgeous antique wall sconce in the bedroom of stylist Sasha Seymour's chic Toronto home. The exposed cord adds to the impact.
8) Eat-in Kitchens
Who doesn't love eating in the kitchen where the food has been prepared? It's convenient, it's communal and it's comfortable.
I would far rather eat casually near the cook and watch or partake in the process than have it served formally in a dedicated dining room. It's much more fun for the cook too!
9) Secret Passages
There is something so magical about secret passages and doorways. This doorway built into a wall of panelled cupboards reminds me of a secret portal to another world, just like the one in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
In the home of architects Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan of Studio Junction the principal bedroom (and kids' jumping ground) connects to the children's bedroom through a sliding Japanese-style shoji screen. So much fun for kids.
10) Finds from Nature
Stumbling on surprise jewels in nature or urban settings always makes me smile.
Like this transparent dragon fly wing, tucked into the pine needles on the forest floor.
Or a conch shell worked into the plaster of a church wall in Mexico.
A leaf peeks through a tear in a sheet of birch bark.
And a charming homescape made of carefully placed rocks on the beach in Costa Rica seems to say "there's no place like home."
1. Pools by Kelly Klein, via Mark D. Sikes blog, photography by Bruce Weber
2-4. Suzanne Dimma
5. Room design by Mark D. Sikes, House Beautiful Dec/Jan 2011 issue
6. Suzanne Dimma
7. Design by Muriel Brandolini, House Beautiful October 1997 issue
8. Photography by Catherine Gratwicke
9. Interior design by Suzanne Dimma, architecture by Arriz & Co.; House & Home October 2011 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
10-12. Design by Muriel Brandolini; Elle Decor; photography by Eric Boman
13. Design by Anthony Todd
14-15. Suzanne Dimma, design by Nicholas Spencer Lewin Design
16. House & Home September 2011 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
17. Apartment Therapy via Emma's Design Blogg
18. No credit available
19. House & Home September 2011, photography by Michael Graydon
20-23. Suzanne Dimma
In my editor's letter for our February 2014 makeover issue, I talked about the importance of budgeting time and money for a weekend away to relieve the stress of living through a renovation. Our mid-reno trip was to Tofino, B.C. Arriz and I headed there after attending 2013 IDSWest in Vancouver and it was the perfect end to our West Coast trip.
In 2012 after speaking at IDSWest on how to design a home that connects you to nature, so many people recommended I make the trip to Tofino. I got loads of recommendations on where to say and what to do, and this year I decided to take them up on it! Here I am just before boarding the plane to fly out from Vancouver. Arriz and I were the only ones flying that day, so it felt like we had chartered our own private plane.
It was a perfect day to fly. It was so clear you could see everything: the waves, rocks and sparkling water. This is a shot of Chesterman Beach. This view is the first thing we saw when we walked down to the beach from the Relais and Chateaux where we stayed, the iconic Wickaninnish Inn (better known as 'the Wik'). We went for a long walk right away, and on a sunny day like this it felt like summer.
I even took a nap inside the gentle grooves of this driftwood log, what better spot to soak up the sun?
Here is the view back to the Wik. The Pointe Restaurant, the highlight of the inn, is the octagonal-shaped glass structure perched on the rocky shoreline and is an incredible setting to dine in.
Not only is the food stellar but the Pointe Restaurant was designed so that every table in the room has a view to the crashing waves below.
And on a stormy day like this one that we experienced later in the trip…
... it’s both exciting and comforting to be indoors watching the chaos outside.
There is a ton of hiking on Tofino and most of the trails feature these impressive boardwalk structures that let you hike without getting your feet wet or mucky. On our first full day there we took a short boat ride across the inlet to Meares Island, where you can wander through the woods on the Big Tree Trail and see 1,800 year-old trees, including the famous Hanging Garden Tree with a circumference of 60 feet.
Here is Arriz shooting the giant redwood trunks, some of the oldest and largest living life forms on earth. He was entirely dwarfed by their massive scale.
Long Beach is another standout beach on Tofino where I spotted this cool outdoor assemblage that someone created out of wood and seaweed. It reminded me a bit of the ephemeral work of sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. I am a big fan of his work.
We booked a full day with Remote Passages at sea for whale watching and spotted these basking sea lions.
If you sail around Vancouver Island, you earn the right to get your boat's name inscribed on a board on another series of boardwalks in the north end of Clayoquot Sound, which is home to Maquinna Provincial Marine Park. We walked over hundreds of names on the trip leading to the hot springs at the tip of the island.
This waterfall leads down to the natural geothermal Hot Springs Cove where there are five interconnected pools set close to the shoreline. If you arrive at high tide you can soak in the hot pools and experience a surge of cold ocean water washing into the hot pools as the waves crash over the edge. It creates an alternating sensation of hot and cold for a refreshing al fresco soak; like a natural outdoor spa! It was totally invigorating.
On the boat ride back we stopped in front of this rock face that features an ancient bird carving (near the bottom at the right). But the fascinating part was how these migratory birds gather here. I love how they look like silhouette paintings against the cliff — so beautiful.
Each day, after hiking and exploring, we would return to the inn to be greeted by the stunning cedar front doors carved by Henry Nolla. There are numerous examples of Coast Salish artwork, which is becoming more and more popular, sprinkled throughout the inn. And as you can see the entire inn has a distinctly rustic vibe — think redwood walls, rustic wood chairs, granite counters and Hudson’s Bay Point blankets.
One of the best places to storm watch at the inn is from the second floor library, which is equipped with a telescope.
But the inn’s rooms feature oversized glass windows so you can experience the view from the comfort of your bed too.
Even the bathrooms have fantastic views.
Of course, you can’t talk about Tofino without mentioning the incredible surfing, which gets even better during the storms. Personally, I was more enthralled with the trails in the sand caused by the changing tides. But my entire long weekend in Tofino was the perfect remedy to any reno stress.
1., 3., 7-9., 12., 15., Arriz Hassam
2., 4-6., 10-11., 13-14., 16., 19-20., Suzanne Dimma
18., Wickaninnish Inn
This year we are really seeing the demise of boring drywall in favour of walls clad with textures to offer more visual interest. Here are some standout examples that have caught my eye.
I love the look of painted brick, whether it's the real thing or a veneer (seen above). You get a clean look and the texture of brick, it's such a fresh combo.
For traditionalists, the decorative detail of raised paneling always lends distinction and a historic elegance (the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball French Gray).
These supersized logs are the origin of the species when it comes to textured walls. This isn't a typical, old-fashioned cabin in the woods, it's modern and masculine with a weighty quality.
I am a big fan of Brussels' design firm Vlassak Verhulst. They are known for using vertical paneling in their interiors, it's such a crisp counterpoint to the rough-hewn beams in this kitchen.
In this dining room, the paneling runs horizontally to subtly expand this feel of this space. There's almost a zen quality to this room; the black is an unexpected change from typical Scandi white and makes the space feel cosier.
This is one of my favourite kitchens of all time. Creating a feature wall like this in patterned tile is an affordable way to create real design impact, and of course it's super practical in a kitchen.
A mod power room's undulating wall tiles create a mind-boggling effect in a small space; the walls almost feel alive.
Ok I probably would have never have thought of this, but you have to admit New Wall's Velcro wallpaper is arresting. The ghostly lamb face image certainly kicks homespun plaid up a notch. In a kid's room, it turns a wall into a piece of art (and can support items affixed with Velcro tape weighing up to 10 lbs., so the wall becomes a playful rotating gallery of stuffed animals and other toys). In addition to looking and feeling like flocked wallpaper, it's a great illustration of how fashion technology is being applied to home decor.
This wood wall by Area Designs goes a step further than surface cladding and is both geometric and organic at the same time. Sculptural and completely stunning, this wall feels special. How could you resist touching these blocks?
1. House & Home, September 2012, Angus Fergusson.
2. Farrow & Ball.
3. Maison & Demeure, Dec/Jan 2012/13, Jean Longpré.
4. Vlassak Verhulst.
5. House & Home, January 2013.
6. House & Home, February 2012, Michael Graydon.
7. Ceramic Design Studios.
8. New Wall.
9. Area Designs.
I recently headed out to Vancouver to attend IDSwest 2013, and shoot Kristin Lehman's home (she's the star of CTV's Motive, watch for it in our April 2014 issue). I saw some great examples of design inspiration while I visited some favourite shopping destinations with Nancy Riesco (she designed Kristin's apartment), and discovered new restos.
Firepits have become a real trend, and there were two at IDSwest that captured that cosy, communal campfire vibe — indoors!
The Monogram Dinner by Design at IDSwest featured some gorgeous tablescapes by West Coast designers (look for Kelly Deck's entry in my January editor's letter). This table by Sophie Burke looks pulled from a fairy tale and has a rustic Scandinavian look that's both modern and whimsical.
Robert Blaney Design gave a more raw, masculine rustic take on the forest theme with chunky tree trunk chargers and stump stools, but is also romantic.
Provide was a phenomenal source for propping, we pulled plenty of items from their well-edited shelves.
I so wanted this painting of Vancouver seen from Bowen Sound by David Burns, but at over $6,300, it's a misty fantasy, for now....
Of course I had to visit The Cross, a staple in the pages of H&H. I love this oversized white leather pouf.
Which designer Nancy Riesco of Riesco & Lapres Interior Design couldn't resist posing on! We had so much fun hitting the shops together.
Here is another Vancouver shopping must-see, Örling & Wu. It's pretty and colourful, and just made me feel happy.
I adore Heather's Ross's store, which recently moved to a new location near South Granville and The Armoury. She has a great eye for finds, and I am really keen on her vintage West German and Blue Mountain pottery in watery shades (I ended buying the brown and blue vase on the second shelf).
Heather has a way of merchandising that makes me want to buy everything in sight.
Just look at this vignette of a geode, linen and rustic twine.
I had a memorable meal in the new Homer St. Café and Bar. Patterned floors are a huge trend and they really played it up, the space is stunning.
Here is a shot of their yummy ginger cookies served with a melted chocolate dipping sauce. Simple but so delicious.
As a pescatarian, I am always excited to find a vegetarian restaurant with a great look: Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant in Vancouver has a really pretty, pared-back design.
I loved how they mounted a wall of garden utensils to look like art, it's fitting for a restaurant that's all about garden-fresh fare.
Find out 10 more things Suzanne loves in this blog post.
1-11. Suzanne Dimma
12. Arriz Hassam
13-15. Heirloom Vegetarian Restaurant