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
We gave a sneak peek of Tiffany's glittering new Art Nouveau store on Bloor Street in Toronto in our November 2013 issue, but I was lucky enough to attend the opening on September 18.
The new design made me feel like I had just walked into a jewelry box. Just inside the front doors is a stunning installation hanging from the ceiling that resembles floating leaves by Japanese artist Nami Sawada.
Here I am wearing a favourite Tiffany necklace with fine jewelry sales manager Liz St. Louis (left photo), and Chrissie Rejman, supervising producer of CityLine.
This model is adorned with some gorgeous rocks, but I was equally impressed by the stair runner — the Art Nouveau-style magnolia motif runs throughout the store, and obviously extends to the food presentation. A tray of white macarons are almost too pretty to eat.
It's hard not to be impressed by the double-height foyer's 25-foot ceilings and carved stone walls. The metal balustrade resembles wheatsheaves, another recurring Tiffany motif, symbolizing golden fields and the harvest.
A striking hand-forged chandelier by New York-based artist Michelle Oka Doner dominates the salon, which is enveloped by powder-blue lacquer walls.
It's no surprise that Tiffany blue plays a starring role in this private area used for selecting wedding rings. Fully-leafed glass panels by John Opella act as a backdrop for the consultation desk.
And of course, I love what comes inside a blue Tiffany box, too. Some of my favourite designs include my Elsa Peretti Sevillana ring in sterling silver. I am obsessed with the graphic look of circles.
See? Obsessed. Ditto for the Elsa Peretti Padova teaspoon.
I was given Breakfast at Tiffany's sunglasses as a gift and think they are so glamorous, you feel like Audrey wearing them.
Here's another classic: the Elsa Peretti Bone cuff is one of my go-to pieces of jewelry.
The contrast of the silver bean with the rustic leather on this Peretti Bean keychain is so chic.
And the Thumbprint bowl by Peretti is just as sculptural as her jewellery.
Here's stack of Tiffany invites I keep as beautifully designed mementos.
The best day of our basement renovation was when Ikea delivered all of the components for the built-ins and the kitchen. It all fit in the newly opened up front room so the installation team could work in the other half of the space comfortably. You've got to love the flat pack!
They were meticulous about making sure everything was perfectly aligned, and in a house that's over 150 years old, this can be tough.
We opted for wood cabinet interiors. I like seeing a wood finish when you open a cupboard door, it just feels more polished.
The outside of the cabinets is a white painted finish. We designed the upper cabinets to tuck in neatly under the newly moved heating vents and included a surrounding fridge that sits just a bit proud from the cabinets — a simple detail that added a custom feel to the kitchen. It's actually great to have a second kitchen downstairs for caterers when we host parties and for storing extra bottles of wine.
Here Ikea's Staron counter is being installed. Amazingly, they brought most of the counters — which were each about 12 feet long — down in single pieces and they went in perfectly! In fact, I had no idea that they had been there that morning — that is how quietly they went in and out.
There were a few seams to blend but they were so meticulous that you can't see a single line.
We tried out a few faucets before committing to the Hovskär by Ikea. The black finish is sharp and modern, and ties in with the other black accents that will be included in the decor.
Here are the work stations with the Staron counters and custom powder-coated metal legs just after they were installed. They effectively hide the basement foundation walls out of sight.
Check out the finished basement in H&H's December 2013 issue, plus an Online TV tour in November.
1-9. Arriz Hassam