I've been working on a story for the magazine about coffee tables. At the same time I've been devouring every minute of the ITV/PBS costume drama Downton Abbey.
Of course you don't see any coffee tables at Downton Abbey. The drawing room (above), is devoid of the low monolith that acts as the central axis for virtually every furniture arrangement in a modern home.
Coffee tables were few and far between before the Great War. They didn't become a fixture in every home until well into the '20s. What you see instead are tea tables. So many tea tables. Every conversation worth anything on that show takes place over tea served by one of the faithful "downstairs" characters from a tea table. Most tea tables are oval or round and about 29 or 30 inches high. Some are small in diameter — about 24 inches — so that they can be moved around with ease. Some are larger in diameter and have a tilt-top table, so that when they're off duty, the top is tilted up and the table moved to the side of a room. I love a tea table and am happy to join the ranks of those heralding its revival.
Cora, the Countess of Grantham, takes tea in her boudoir served from a petite tea table by O'Brien, her scheming lady's maid.
At Crawley House, where Mrs. Crawley and Matthew Crawley live, the butler Molesley serves tea from a table that remains positioned along the wall.
Matthew, with his middle class uncouth ways, helps himself to tea. Molesley looks on, incredulous.
At Lady Grantham's, home tea service takes on a decidedly more formal character, with tablecloth and accoutrements to match.
One of the most ardent supporters of the tea table in contemporary interiors is Washington, DC, designer Darryl Carter. While I feel sure he'd get hives at the fusty remnants of Victoriana seen in Downton Abbey, he loves a tea table and regularly uses them either in concert with a coffee table (above) or in place of one.
I recently spied this 18th century American tea table (left) on 1st Dibs. It's a Chippendale carved walnut version with a pie crust top, 29" high by 29" in diameter, from Arader Galleries in New York. So pretty. And a contemporary version (right), The Hudson from Hickory Chair. This one is 30" high by 35" in diameter. I love its satiny finish and how the stripe detail punctuates the design.
I've experimented with a tea table as an alternative to a coffee table, too. Here's one in my Toronto living room. It's a small room so I like how the height makes the room seem less crowded with furniture than a lower coffee table does.
I'm in the process of decorating the living room at our weekend place in Tweed, Ontario (hence the lack of window coverings), so I'm not sure if this lovely antique tilt-top table will stay in place, but for now I love it here. It's fun to switch up the accessories on top. Usually I keep it simple — one large design book, a magnifying glass and a decorative box. In spring, summer and autumn I add flowers or branches from the garden.
For more table ideas, see our Traditional Living Rooms photo gallery.
I just finished shooting an incredible house for our upcoming March issue about colour. (Look for it on stands February 13th — I think you will love it.) While there was loads of fabulous colour throughout the house, I was most struck by an interior door painted bright blue. For colour shy people like myself, painting a single door is less of a commitment than walls. A fun colour brings so much personality and energy to a space, especially during these dreary winter months. A door with details like panels or applied moulding offers the possibility of more than one colour — double the fun! And of course it's a fairly quick and easy weekend DIY project that doesn't cost a bomb. No rollers required.
Here are some my favourites painted doors:
The perfect blue for a beachside abode or any place that's close to nature.
This may be my fave: a soft blue that still feels fresh. I love it with brass hardware. I'm thinking of doing this at home in my front hall (which is in desperate need of a makeover). I'll paint the stair banister black and re-carpet the stairs with sisal or a striped runner.
Any door style can benefit from a coat of colour. Sunny yellow bridges a bedroom to bath here.
Glossy yellow doors make this entryway.
And how about painting a pair of tall doors for pop?
A powder room is the perfect place to have fun. The pink door and trim reinforce the colour of the grasscloth wall covering and somehow it doesn't feel too feminine.
School house red feels hip and graphic.
Soft grey is subtle but effective, especially when punctuated with hits of black.
For more painted doors and trim, see our Painted Trim photo gallery.
1. Hooked on Houses blog
2. House Beautiful, designed by Christopher Maya
3. Victoria Dreste Designs blog
4. A Design Story blog
5. Apartment Therapy blog
6. Grant K. Gibson Interior Design
7. CIL blog
8. Little Green Notebook blog
I ended the post by predicting, "Don't be surprised if their wild west inspiration proves just as influential as their furniture designs. Navajo-print pillows anyone?" And almost immediately I started to notice First Nations-inspired design moments everywhere. Now, I'm ready to declare the look is a full-blown trend.
For the Proenza Schouler fall/winter 2011 collection, fashion designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez took pattern inspiration from Native American blankets they picked up on a road trip from Santa Fe to Wyoming. The collection, which reworked the prints for a contemporary look, was a critical hit, with Vogue's Hamish Bowles declaring it "a modern approach to couture — thoughtful, inventive, and desirable." The same can be said of the look at home if the approach is similarly modern.
Arrows in particular have emerged as a hip accent. Whether it's childhood nostalgia for summer camp days spent trying to hit a bull's-eye or the artisanal appeal of arrows and their colourful feather tips, stylemakers are eagerly exploring their decorative potential. In Blu Dot's Soho shop in New York, two arrows that echo (or inspired?) the colours of the Cant desk topped the walnut work surface during last spring's design week.
Fuzzco, a branding agency in South Carolina, recently designed new offices that they describe as "functional sculpture." A boardroom features a salvaged wood wall and two arrows that playfully shoot into the concrete floor.
And Partners & Spade, a knowing arbiter of all things cool (the studio/shop, located in New York's NoHo design district, is co-owned by Andy Spade, the husband half of Kate Spade), recently featured an installation of arrows among its artful objects.
When you have your own arrows in hand, a theme song might be just the thing to further spark some inspiration. In which case, cue up "Arrow" from the Sainthood album by Canadian indie band Tegan and Sara, and start redecorating.
For Suzanne Dimma's favourite Navajo-inspired accent, read her blog post.
Storage is one of the most important elements for an entry hall to make it as functional as possible. These spaces are also a great place to express yourself with punches of colour or bold statement wallpapers. Here are some of my favourite entryways:
This photo from the blog Small Place Style shows various types of storage — everything from the small and easy like loose keys to the last minute items like a purse or umbrella — all find a home in an uncluttered and organized entry.
This entryway boasts a large amount of storage behind very tall and sleek doors. This allows such a narrow space to remain tidy and uncluttered.
This gorgeous entry features another important element. A mirror helps to open up a narrow or small space, plus offers a last-minute hair and makeup check. There are so many beautiful features in this entry, from the stained glass to the bench and mouldings, but this mirror really makes the space.
This entryway has the seat, storage and a mirror. It's also a segue into the next theme of using loud paint or wallpaper in these small spaces.
This entrance pops with cheerful wallpaper and colours.
Small entryways are a perfect spot to let your creative side shine — you don't spend much time in them so they're less daunting.
For more inspiration, view our Editors' Favourite Entryways segment.
1. 7. Small Place Style blog
2, 3. Shelterness blog
4. Designed by Samantha Pynn, photography by Virginia Macdonald
6. Kristen F. Davis Designs
8. Arcadian Home blog
9. The Design Enthusiast blog
Gentle reader, if you are anything like me, the hustle and bustle of the holidays leave you spent. I have been over-stimulated for months — too much food, too much drink, too many do-dads all around the house, just too much of everything. January has become one of my three "clean up my life" times of year. Second to April's spring cleaning but somehow a little more involved than September's back-to-school organizing (let's admit, that is just a hold-over from school days so that the older I get, the less important it seems), January is my new get-it-done month. What needs to get done is for me to create a calm and serene surrounding in which I can relax and undo my Christmas season damage.
My first step typically involves finding some inspiration — something I can leave on my computer desktop, print off, or tape to my corkboard, as a way to keep me inspired and on track. Below are this year's offerings:
Notice how each relies on a limited colour palette, a few well-placed objects and one or two pieces hanging on the wall. They are the antithesis of holiday houses, and a welcome breather for me. Enjoy.
For more ideas for de-cluttering, browse our Home Organization Tricks photo gallery.
Just before the holidays, I spent two weeks traipsing around Thailand to recharge and rejuvenate. If you haven't been, you should go — it's perhaps the most beautiful country I've visited. Along with white sand beaches, soaring temples and bustling street markets, Thailand is full of inspirational design. I couldn't resist snapping a few shots to share with H&H readers. Take a cue from the east and splurge on an elaborate ceiling design, introduce some teak furniture or brighten up a shower with some ocean-coloured tiles. Each city we visited had its own unique style. Enjoy!
Stone walkways flanked by lily pads? Perhaps not conducive to Canadian winters, but beautiful nonetheless. I also loved these hanging planters made from slats of wood — definitely something you could try indoors or out.
Open-air hotel lobbies with water features were everywhere — gorgeous. And an intricate gold ceiling at a temple in Bangkok put our plain painted ceilings to shame. Why not paint your ceiling a bold colour or add some detailing?
This stone wall to the left towered over a fish pond in a hotel lobby. A grey stone wall like this would look sharp as a fireplace surround. In the same hotel, an outdoor shower on the rooftop had the same shade of grey lining the walls. The natural stone was left unfinished, and I love how it showed the watermarks.
Thailand clearly has a more temperate climate, but I love the idea of these sliding doors everywhere. The one to the right looked like it was woven from bamboo.
Wood furniture was everywhere, especially teak. These simple designs to the left would suit a more modern home — even brought in for indoor use. See how architect Natalie Dionne used a teak Ikea table as a sleek dining table. These hand-carved chairs to the right were all over the Santhiya Resort in Koh Phangan.
These two elaborate benches were also at the Santhiya.
The lobby at the Santhiya had a raised platform with loungers for guests to recline on. As soon as we entered this courtyard, we were overwhelmed by the take-it-easy atmosphere — the entire resort was so calming.
Even the check-in desk had an intricately carved wood mantel. And more carved wood furniture to the right.
Our gorgeous room offered views of the Gulf of Thailand, and more of the same carved chairs to take in the view. Even the handles on the sliding doors were carved wood.
Each of the five hotels we stayed at had detailed silk runners on the end of the bed. I wanted to take them all home! The ceiling in our room at the Santhiya (right) glowed with lights from recessed valances, illuminating a — no surprise here — wood ceiling.
Even the bed had intricate carvings — beautiful! And most hotels supplied Thai silk robes and precious umbrellas in case of rain. These small details are what really reinforced the Thai hospitality.
You may be familiar with my teal fetish, and so these tiles had me taking extra-long showers. Paired with the natural stone to the right, it was a stunning combination. And aren't these silver dispensers with bamboo labels so much prettier than tiny plastic bottles? Easier on Mother Nature, too.
Several hotel rooms also had views from the tubs to the outdoors. If this is feng shui, I'm on board.
We also noticed some interesting lighting on our travels. This pendant was made from a repurposed tree trunk — very Urban Tree Salvage.
A glam chandelier in the dining room at Santhiya, and the wood lanterns hung all over the resort grounds.
The ceramics also caught our eye. Vases like this accessorized every meal we had — filled with fresh exotic blooms, naturally. And I loved this studded silverware. Crate & Barrel has a similar line of silverware.
At the Impiana Resort in Koh Samui, we had the pleasure of dining with this tableware each morning. The cube salt and pepper shakers were my favourite. This shade of grey would look great in our kitchen, but I couldn't find them to purchase anywhere.
And lastly, these are a couple of photos I'm thinking of enlarging and framing. Ahhh the scenery — breathtaking.
I hope you found the Thai style as inspirational as I did — there's always so much to take from other countries. What are your favourite countries to visit for design inspiration?
Read Lynda Reeves' Asian Adventure for more ideas.
1-18. Gwen McAuley
After a year of trendy soft grey palettes and black-and-white rooms, it's time to break the mould (and the winter blues!) with some daring splashes of colour. Not sure where to start? Check out these cheerful spaces and take note of where and how colour has been used.
Take a look at designer and queen-of-textiles Kathryn M. Ireland's interiors. She balances bold prints and colours with crisp white walls.
This home featured on Design*Sponge dared to use colour in a very bold way. My favourite room is the homeowner's bedroom, which takes a softer approach with muted colours and plenty of texture.
This playful living room is from the home of Dutch designer Hellen van Berkel. She pulled her palette from the rug and coordinated the accessories for a bright yet cohesive look. I love the raw wood beams, they keep the space warm and homey.
Don't shy away from transforming your neutral space with a few punchy pieces. Make it your new year's resolution to revamp your home one room at a time!
It wasn't until a few years ago that I finally built my first gingerbread house. It was a messy affair with a number of cousins, nieces and nephews crowded around my grandparents' living room coffee table, eager to turn the standard kit into a work of art. The resulting house was far from classy, but it was kitschy and made with love.
When I spotted these chic table settings in House & Home's November 2010 issue, I realized that even gingerbread houses could be stylish. Homeowner Stephanie McPherson's sister crafted a house for each person at the dinner table, acting as a placecard, complete with trees and hood moulding, too! This Christmas Eve I hope to tackle another gingerbread house, this time inspired by the sophisticated creations I've seen.
A-frames and Swedish style houses are so adorable! A candy cane door frame and double bows create a cute façade. And how about that chimney on the right?
Simple white designs of dots and stripes can work wonders.
This one even has baked-in muntins.
Or get fancy with wide scrollwork patterns!
Need a bit of colour? Coordinate your candy colours with your holiday decor like designer Lindsay Mens did for her home on the left. Or pipe green icing for winter foliage, as was done on this home inspired by Toronto's Rosedale neighbourhood.
Still not enough colour? Use coloured icing and whimsical patterns for a kid-friendly look.
Whether you plan to make something small and cutesy or over-the-top, have fun building a gingerbread house (or two) with your family and friends!
I know I won't be whipping up anything close to this Brooklyn brownstone made by Renee, author of Kitchen Table Scraps. Even the "snow" has been pushed into the corners of the stairs...
But these mini houses that perch on a mug don't look so hard! Can't wait to try it with sugar cookie dough.
1. House & Home November 2010 issue, photography by Donna Griffith
2, 5b, 7b. Martha Stewart
3a. Cake Journal
4. Globetrotter Diaries
5a. House & Home November 2008 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
6a. Lollipops Sugar Shoppe
6b. Ladies' Home Journal
7a. Bon Appetit
8. Kitchen Table Scraps
9. Not Martha
Am I the only one getting dizzy from all the red, green and gold stripes as I wrap gifts late at night? Let's refocus with some simple gift wrap that doesn't overdo holiday colour schemes and patterns. Check out these two ideas I came across — organic, natural and oh-so-pretty:
Kraft paper is one of those timeless choices that leaves ribbon and accents open to creativity. Twine and a dried chive flower add a natural, yet colourful pop to this cute package.
So consider skipping the psychedelic patterns in favour of a more natural look this year — especially when wrapping late at night.
See more Christmas gift wrapping ideas.
Sometimes all you need to set the holiday mood at home is one big hit!
Bright red baubles suspended from the ceiling (somehow!) add mod Christmas drama to this all-white interior. Additional accessories in red pepper the white table and bookshelves.
I don't think it's actually a pendant light, but rather a unique holiday decoration created by clustering ornaments and suspending them from the ceiling with red ribbon or wire — very reminiscent of Bocci's 28 Series lights. (See our new photo gallery with this light and more designs from Omer Arbel.)
I love the look. Why not try it at home yourself?
A reminder that using just one colour of decoration throughout can be super effective and less busy.
For more holiday decorating ideas, see our photo gallery.
1-2. Roland Bello