I love living in the heart of a big city. Great restaurants, galleries and concert venues are minutes away, and we don't even bother with a car anymore because we rarely leave Toronto. Yes, since moving here, my boyfriend and I have become one of those couples. (Mostly, I think, because we're not from Ontario so we don't have anyone to visit in the burbs.) But like most big urban centres, space comes at a premium here, so although we love the area we're living in, we're stuck with no backyard and a small balcony.
We just moved into our apartment last summer, so decorating the patio wasn't at the top of our to-do list, but I'm not going to miss out on coffee and toast al fresco this year. While doing some online furniture shopping I stumbled across some ideas that have made me rethink the traditional two-chairs-and-a-table option.
If you're planning to redecorate your balcony this season, have a look at these tips for maximizing a small space. Please also disregard the overabundance of pink — think ideas, not colour.
I like how this homeowner has fitted an L-shape bench snuggly into the corner of this patio, accommodating more people than a table and chairs would — and it just looks so cosy! They've placed a rug in front with a couple of small side tables to hold drinks.
Save space by opting for a couple of comfy lounge chairs, forgo a traditional table, and use a small side table instead.
Keep the little floor space that you have clear by creating a rack for plants that runs along the balcony ledge. A small bench with cushions serves as casual seating.
This homeowner pushed two crate boxes together to make a bench, covered them with pillows and a blanket, and layered colourful rugs in front for a homey feel.
If you do choose traditional patio furniture, make sure it's light and delicate. Nothing is worse than trying to jam a full-size patio set onto a small balcony.
If your patio is really itsy bitsy, you can always throw down a small woven rug, layer a sheepskin over a single chair and pull up a tiny side table to hold your breakfast.
Want a few more ideas? Have a look at our photo gallery of small patios, porches and balconies.
My fascination with the "leaning and layering" technique came about when I went from having too much space to not enough space. Now I have to crawl over my bed to get to the other side of the room. Of course getting rid of stuff wasn't an option.
The slanted ceilings in my new room made for very little hanging space and so, quite accidentally, I started leaning my art, prints and photos against the wall. My mother would call it laziness, but I ended up leaving them like that on purpose. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Some may think this uncoiffed look is a little messy, but there's a difference between clutter and styled layering. We often don't even notice layers because they are everywhere. Here are some of my favourite layered rooms.
The mirror, art and desk in this space layer nicely against graphic wallpaper. It's much more interesting than walls painted a solid colour.
I love layered art. Leaning your pieces against each other lends a studio-like feel.
On a mantel, begin with a mirror and work your way out with art and family tokens for a stunning effect.
Propping various types of wood cutting boards in a kitchen adds texture to a plain backsplash.
Piles of blankets in a cosy sitting area are so inviting.
A sofa placed in front of a door isn't practical — but it looks great!
I'm moving out next month and definitely taking my new-found love for leaning and layering with me.
Browse our photo gallery of Artful Homes for more inspiration on displaying art.
Right now, I'm thinking pink. Maybe it's because spring is in the air and it feels fresh and lively after the crazy winter weather. I'm noticing shades of pink in nature, taking inspiration from food and loving it in small hits as an accent colour for summer decorating (goodbye blue and white, hello pink).
In actress Lea Michele's home, the hits of pink feel feminine yet modern. Graphic pink and black cushions pop on a white slipcovered sofa, and nothing beats pink peonies or hydrangeas.
I love everything John Robshaw, but I'm particularly fond of these pink and white block prints from his fabric collection. So fun for drapes, cushions or table linens.
Pink and blue works for me but the shades need to be deep enough. Baby pastels are passé.
Nature's pinks are the best, and fruit tree blossoms like cherry and crab apple trees are so inspiring.
I love the dark pink colour of this mousse paired with the black of the berries — pink and black is a great colour combo. Think dark pink walls with a glossy black door.
See our Decorating With Pink photo gallery for more inspiration.
1-2. Domaine Home, photography by Justin Coit
3a. Shali Lotus linen, John Robshaw
3b. Gent's Stripe Lotus linen, John Robshaw
4. Linen Biarritz Pillow Cover, Flemish Linen
5. Latin Excursions, courtesy of Zapa Nature Photography
6. Bayaderka blog
On the weekend my husband, Kevin, got this new item in at Vintage Fine Objects, his antiques shop in Toronto. It's an old workbench with a painted base.
I read the blog post about it on his site while we road-tripped out of the city and we started imagining a million different ways to reinvent it.
Repurposing an old workbench as a kitchen island is a classic trick. It adds soul and history and is so much more interesting than a big block of cabinetry in the centre of the room. This stunning example is pure French farmhouse dreaminess.
Closer to home, this is Toronto designer and retailer Viki Mansell's farmhouse kitchen. This is one of my top five favourite House & Home kitchens of all time. The play between the aged workbench island and the modernist pendants and stools is inspired. That workbench has so much character. And those budding magnolia branches are quite spectacular too!
What a great idea for a sink console. Not sure if this one was originally a workbench or just a rustic table. But you could totally get this look with a workbench. This is the home of Aussie decorator and blogger Anna Spiro, which ran in the May 2010 issue of House & Home. Amazing what a coat of white paint will do!
My favourite idea for the piece at Vintage Fine Objects is to style it as a bar at a cottage. This workbench bar at Thom Filicia's former Copake Lake House in New York State provides great inspiration. That is one party-ready bar!
See more Tables As Kitchen Islands in our photo gallery.
1. Vintage Fine Objects
2. From Maisons Cote Ouest via Aesthetically Thinking, photography by Patrice Gavand
3. House & Home December 2006 issue, photography by Mark Olson
4. House & Home May 2010 issue, photography by Simon Kenny
5. Thom Filicia, photography by Jonny Valiant
Yesterday I attended the 26th annual Through the Garden Gate Tour, hosted by the Toronto Botanical Garden. This year, the 19 privately owned gardens are scattered within Toronto's Forest Hill and South Hill neighbourhoods. As media, we had the opportunity to see five of the gardens ahead of the scheduled tour, which runs from June 8th to 9th. Visit the Toronto Botanical Garden website for advanced tickets.
The gardens were all stunning in their own way. I was particularly impressed with the mix of species within each garden. The peonies were absolutely gorgeous — some in full bloom and others ready to bloom any day. Irises were in full bloom too, and the Japanese maples added stunning spectrums of reds. The colours were endless!
I love the mix of tropical plants (Monstera) with more traditional plants, just like in this planter. The height of the Monstera plant and the jagged outline of the Coleus leaves gives the planter a edgy feel.
I also loved the walkway of Alliums in the same garden, mixed with grasses and Chinodoxa.
The garden with the greenhouse was exceptional. I didn't get a chance to speak to the owner, but I did overhear that it's not just for show — the owner is an avid gardener and starts all his plants with seeds. The greenhouse complemented the Arts & Crafts-styled house perfectly. It was obvious the owner took great pride in his garden — every aspect of the yard was attended to with care. I love that.
It must be my English roots, but I'm always drawn to Wisteria and Clematis. In the last garden we viewed, this Clematis was growing along the stone wall. It was beautifully pruned to trail along the wall just so. The soft pink was so delicate! Side note: If you're in Toronto, make a point of driving by the Korean Consulate at St. Clair and Avenue Road — the Wisteria along the iron fence is absolutely stunning.
If you don't already have plans for June 8th or 9th, call up a friend and spend a day touring these beautiful backyards. You will not be disappointed!
Browse our gallery of Gorgeous Gardens for more inspiration.
1-7. Sarah Hartill
Simultaneously spare but warm, the Belgian farmhouse look has been basking in the decor spotlight for quite some time. While interviewing a homeowner for an upcoming issue, she professed her love for the style, observing that her own swoon-worthy kitchen has no uppers, an authentic Belgian country kitchen detail. I wondered if Belgian designers themselves were tempted to buck tradition in an effort to contain all our modern kitchen conveniences.
Bluestone tile floor? Check. Raw wood and rough-hewn beams? Done. Serious black stove? Got it. The kitchen in this Belgian bed and breakfast is textbook.
Walda Pairon, a leading Belgian designer, skips uppers in favour of open storage in her own kitchen, which is designed for her husband, a chef. A black farmer's sink and French Lacanche stove are simpatico accents for a dark stone counter, and the rope drawer pulls are thrifty alternatives to hardware.
Another kitchen designed by Pairon, who incorporated shelving to show off the tiled walls. An impressive stove, copper pot collection and deep window wells add to the timeless feel: it doesn't get any more Euro than this.
In this kitchen designed by Brussels-based firm Baden Baden, putty cabinets (a warmer alternative to grey) and a wide-plank wood floor add a cosy feel. The low ceiling would make uppers look crammed in and obscure the exposed rafter detail, so better to do away with them anyway.
Uppers galore, but who is complaining? Glass-fronted cabinets are so airy, they almost seem invisible. A big island has multiple drawers and the corn crib-like detail above it adds to the essential rustic character of this kitchen.
Leave it to the granddaddy of the Belgian farmhouse look, Axel Vervoordt, to figure out a storage solution that still looks authentic. The kitchen of his 50-room castle near Anvers contains a soaring built-in unit with a teal blue interior that embodies the grandeur of an antique armoire.
See more French farmhouse style in this video tour of a Montreal home.
Here's the scenario: You have guests coming over and need to add a bit of wow to your space without too much effort. Here's an easy way to add an inviting touch: bring in a tree.
In the past year, we've seen the broad leaf ficus in almost every space. Although glorious and lush, I can't say that I know a single person who's managed to keep it alive for more than 8 months (including me... yikes!). My suggestion: try an outdoor tree that you can plant outside later.
The lilac in the bedroom above is absolutely stunning. I'm thinking it might be a branch (based on the narrow pot it's in), which also works, but won't last more than a couple of weeks.
For this porch makeover (watch the transformation on Online TV!), H&H Online TV's segment producer, Ryan Louis, suggested we make a trip to Plant World in Toronto's west end. We found this spectacular maple that brings the outdoors in — perfect for an enclosed porch. It elevates the space more than any house plant ever could. The best part is that the homeowner can plant it outdoors later in the season!
I couldn't write this blog post without showing this gem from 2009. Style editor Stacey Smithers threw a Japanese maple onto an entrance table and we're still talking about it.
Forget cut flowers — make a big impact with a small tree and create a focal point your guests won't soon forget.
I can't remember when my siblings and I stopped racing to be the first one up on Mother's Day, ready to take on the important task of setting the table. I believe it was the year my sister, Rebekah, cleverly did it the night before, putting the rest of us to shame.
Moms are a pretty big deal, and if you have not already planned a celebration for yours, I've rounded up some inspiration for setting a gorgeous table for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Table settings may not seem like a grand gesture, but since it's where many will flock to celebrate this important day, a bit of prep time could make all the difference.
A crisp green and white palette is a favourite of mine these days. Lush centerpieces in these soft colours are perfect for spring.
Pretty in pink — always a popular choice for Mother's Day.
We've been spoiled with such beautiful weather in Toronto this past week, so let's hope it holds so this weekend's festivities can be held outdoors. Tip: Downplay dishes and introduce colour with statement flowers.
Perky colours and personalized centerpieces are a fun way to involve the kids.
I'm just crazy about these tiny flower arrangements and tea biscuits wrapped in ribbon — the way to my Mom's heart.
Stumped on recipes? Check out our guide of delish ideas for Mother's Day.
I stumbled upon this Brazilian interior and couldn't help but share it.
There are so many eclectic elements in this space, but somehow they all work together effortlessly. The three styles of very different chairs, the mix of antique, vintage and contemporary pieces, the bulb clusters sitting in nets and the lived-in look of the not-so-curated bookcase are pulled together to create a fantastic, unique space. It's so refreshingly different — I love it. What do you think?
See our gallery of photos from Vintage Remix for more ideas.
1. Méchant Design
Only a short time ago, I was working away on the prop styling for the June 2013 cooking story. Unlike the photos in the magazine suggest, it was freezing cold outside with no sign of summer — or spring for that matter! To create the feeling of June, I went with an outdoorsy, easy-breezy palette of minty greens and soft pinks with lots of white. It reminded me of all the early summer flowers we have to look forward to, and worn picnic tables full of homemade cooked food. Hurray for summer!
As you can see, I always have lots of styling options on set. This great mix of tableware is from a number of different retailers, but they're all similar in style. Unfortunately, there are usually a few pieces that don't make the cut, but I keep them in mind for future photo shoots.
The same goes for linens and glassware. It's always good to be prepared with multiples. Sometimes we like to show recipes in a serving bowl, but other times we show the recipes plated and ready to eat. This means glassware, linens and cutlery are key. They also help to add a bit of decor to a photograph that's mostly about food. I fell in love with the rose coloured goblets from Pottery Barn and wine glasses from Crate & Barrel (both pictured above). They may be a little feminine for everyday use, but they're perfect for a special outdoor dinner party on a warm June evening!
Now this is where I'm giving away all my secrets! What looks like a pretty garden scene in the magazine actually looked like this in studio. Once stylist Ashley Denton adds the finishing touches and the talented Donna Griffith puts her lens on it, the result is a convincing outdoor location.
It's this fooling the eye that I sometimes love the most because of the challenge in capturing a location or feeling that might not be accessible when we're shooting. From the raised table and chair (on boxes and books!), to the faux beadboard wallpaper from NLXL, you can see we have a few unexpected tricks up our sleeves.
For more behind-the-scenes photo shoot tricks, see Morgan Michener's blog post.
1-3. Joel Bray