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When I got the go-ahead that our little Toronto house would be shot for the September issue of House & Home, I started to hatch a plan for a refresh that snowballed into something a bit more comprehensive than I had anticipated. The fact is, I had been planning most of the changes for a while — but the photo shoot deadline is the reason I got it all done — in just over two weeks! I can't help it. Without a tight deadline I can barely get anything accomplished — I attribute it to years working at magazines. Here's a peek behind the scenes at the process for readying the living and dining spaces for their close-up.

Here's how our living room was looking in the scouting shots. I submitted the shots with a few caveats.

The chandelier:
I knew I wanted to change the light fixture to a George Nelson saucer pendant. I was totally over the previous chandelier — a bit of big box cheapy plastic number. I could never keep up with dusting it. We donated it. I couldn't get the real Nelson saucer shipped in time for the shoot so settled for a repro. Sometimes deadlines do require compromise.

The sofa in the window:
It's a green mohair beauty but was residing here temporarily until I could move it to our weekend place in Tweed, Ontario. It was time for it to go. Besides, the combo of a full-size sofa with a loveseat opposite was overwhelming the space.

The white love seat:
A friend had expressed interest in purchasing it if we ever decided to get rid of it. Um, sold!

The bookcases:
Our book collection had outgrown the stumpy shelves we'd had since our first home together. It was time for some tall ones — more room for books and accessories.

The coffee table:
I still liked it but thought the combo of it with the saucer pendant above would be entirely too Jetsons for our sensibilities. We switched it for a simple square Parsons style. Better.

Soon after we decided to oust our existing sofa and love seat, my husband Kevin lucked into this dreamy sofa. He has been in the antiques biz for 18 years (his latest venture, Vintage Fine Objects is launching soon) and can conjure the most beautiful pieces out of nowhere. He's good to have on the design team! The sofa was the perfect apartment size for our window and is in the classic William Birch style, with down-filled back and seat cushions. Actually, it's our first proper, good quality, grown-up sofa. We should not have waited so long! The existing upholstery fabric was in pristine condition. I snapped this photo of Kevin one morning when I noted how he was matching the fabric. He loved the pink ribbon chintz pattern (!). I wanted a slipcover. I won, but now of course we have the best of both worlds and can switch back and forth as we like. Lisa Buchner and her team at Potato Skins in Toronto worked to our tight shoot deadline. Thanks Lisa!

My first stop on any decorating journey is fabric stores and showrooms. I pulled tons and tons of samples. I carried them around for days. I edited and re-edited. I love fabric editing. A tiny swatch of cloth can launch a million decorating plans in my head (I'm a broken record on this). My eureka moment came at the Robert Allen showroom when I found the watercolour landscape linen in the photo above. As is so often my modus operandi, it became the jumping off point for every decorating decision that would follow. Funny thing is, in the final room I used it only on three pillows. But to me it is the most important element. I didn't want any competitors to that print, so instead chose solids in colours pulled from the print. The yellow block-print Pierre Frey wallpaper was destined for the dining room and the small print fabric from Tonic Living was set for the kitchen window, which is visible from the living room.

My genius husband found these stunning French Empire chairs in the nick of time. The original blue velvet upholstery was much shabbier than it looks in the photo, plus I really wanted to keep green and yellow as the key colour statements. We happened to already have a bolt of green velvet that was a great coordinate for our signature print. Off the chairs went to the upholsterer.

Our fireplace bench got a fresh facelift with a blush coloured Beacon Hill mohair. I did this upholstery job myself to save a few bucks. I still need to add a row of brass nail heads along the bottom... someday.

I've wanted a piece of fully upholstered furniture for a year or so. We spotted this bench at Frontier Sales consignment shop and I knew it was the right scale to tuck under our console table. To be honest, I like the fabric that was on it — it had a certain Kelly Wearstler feel. But the neutral colour was a snore. I wanted zing, so it was recovered in sunny yellow linen.

Our quick turnaround time and tight budget meant built-in bookshelves around the fireplace were not an option. Luckily I found this tall bookcase at Scandinavian big box chain Jysk for just $120. The only downside — the "espresso" finish was all wrong for our space. I wanted the pair I bought to disappear against the wall, allowing the books and accessories to be the interest. No worries, I just painted them in Benjamin Moore's Simply White (OC-117), the colour used on the trim in our place.

The dining room was also treated to a few quick fixes before photo shoot day. I switched out the fussy pleated chandelier shades for crisp new parchment ones from Lowe's. The yellow block-print wallpaper in my collection of samples above replaced this sepia-toned dogwood blossom paper and is like a breath of fresh air.

Kevin also found a set of four of these fun metal chairs with caning and faux bamboo details. I like their Palm Beach vibe. We had new seats made for them using more remnant fabrics we already had on hand: white Sunbrella fabric for the cushions with a bit of yellow for piping.

Check out the September issue of House & Home (hits stands on Monday) and the video on Online TV to see the finished living and dining room. Plus, check back for future blog posts about more behind-the-scenes photo shoot prep.

Photo credits:
1-6, 8-9. Margot Austin
7. Laura Bookcase Wide, Jysk

Author: 

Margot Austin

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