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Inspiration Board

The weather seems to be what everyone is talking about these days. When the temperature soars, there's nothing better than sitting outside under the protection of a balcony ceiling or patio canopy. I think outdoor rooms are such a treat, although they certainly don't have to be over-the-top. We recently installed a simple black awning over our outdoor dining area and love the instant privacy/cocoon feeling it adds when extended.

Here are some inspiring covered outdoor "rooms" — relaxed, comfortable and so inviting. I'd love to kick back and relax in any of these spaces!

Last but not least, the ultimate seat in the shade, this one from the Dedon Island Resort in the Philippines. Luxury!

For more inspiration, browse our photo gallery of Outdoor Rooms.

Photo credits:
2. Lonny
3., photography by Melanie Acevedo
4. Anne Hepfer Designs
5. Domino magazine via Decor8 blog, photography by Deborah Jaffe
6. Lonny
7. Lonny, photography by Paul Barbera


Sally Armstrong

Interiors say so much about their inhabitants, but sometimes a celebrity home shows a distinct lack of personality. See if you can match these spaces to their famous owners, or scroll to the end for the answers. I'll start by lobbing a creampuff...

The Frans Hals portrait over the mantel is impressive, but it's the original Andy Warhol silkscreen and lilac bouquet that are the telltale clinchers to the identity of this owner.

Here's the home of another Old Hollywood legend but don't bother checking the towel monogram, it's not a clue. This Spanish-style house in Palm Springs was the hideaway of one its most debonair stars for over 20 years. If he happened to be shaving his dimpled chin in front of that pedestal sink, even this bathroom would have looked gorgeous.

Kitchens are the new living rooms, according to Windsor Smith, who designed this $10 million showhome in L.A. We're sure the present chatelaine of the house, a multitasking actress/cookbook author/sometime-chanteuse, would agree.

The entire fourth floor of this Greenwich Village townhouse is devoted to a spectacular bath and multiple walk-in closets. It makes sense for the owners, a New York power couple with a penchant for live theatre, and in her case, fabulous shoes.

A very young ingénue on the '80s club scene, this model-actress was a friend of Keith Haring, whose heart painting is flanked by portraits of her own pretty babies.

All this wood must make this Canuck actor feel right at home. He sold the sleek mid-century home in the Loz Feliz hills after his split with his equally gorgeous wife and has since remarried another blonde stunner.

This Santa Monica ranch is owned by another stellar couple known for being "serial renovators" who seem to tire of their homes once they have finished decorating them. Their eye for great design is netting them some big fans: Ryan Seacrest snapped up their former Hollywood digs for a reported $37 million.

The owner of this fashionable Chelsea home in London once said: "If I lived in a one-room hut, every piece of grass that made the roof would be lined up in the right way." That kind of obsessive attention to detail has made everything this consummate tastemaker touches — whether it's a dress, lipstick or movie — turn to gold.

He's the creator of some of the hottest (and envelope-pushing) shows on prime time. This Spanish colonial was previously owned by Diane Keaton, and the present owner loved the furnishings so much he offered to buy the contents as well. Keaton declined, but said he could take photographs to replicate the items he really wanted, like the inverted shades over the kitchen table.

Browse our gallery of Celebrity Homes for more A-list style.

Photo credits:
1. Liz Taylor, Architectural Digest, photography by Firooz Zahedi
2. Cary Grant, Zillow blog
3. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin,
4. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Hooked on Houses blog
5. Brooke Shields, Architectural Digest, photography by William Waldron
6. Ryan Reynolds,
7. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Elle Decor, photography by William Abranowicz
8. Tom Ford, Hooked on Houses blog
9. Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, The Hollywood Reporter, photography by Douglas Friedman


Wendy Jacob

Years ago while I was working as a cub student reporter in Northern Ontario, my husband and I took a trip to Hancock Shaker village in Massachusetts. It inspired him to make several Shaker pieces of furniture (including the drawers behind me in my photo). We haven't gone back but I still am impressed by their progressive and practical approach to design (a round barn = pure genius).

Shakers sought perfection in everything that they made with their hands, no matter how humble. They invented hundreds of labour-saving devices, from the clothespin to the circular saw. They shared these innovations without patents, and didn't profit when the men who borrowed those designs became very wealthy.

Shakers (coined for their movements during religious fervor) fled to the New World in 1774 to escape persecution and attracted at least 20,000 converts in 20 settlements in the U.S. over the next century. Strict believers in celibacy, Shakers acquired members through the conversion and adoption of orphans. They were educators too: parents who couldn't afford to send children to school would leave them with a Shaker sect, returning years later to pick up them up. Once a child reached 21, they could remain Shakers, but typically only one in four adults did. As of 2010, there were three surviving members left in Maine.

This staircase in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky is meticulously constructed, yet simple. Ann Lee, a leading Shaker figure known as Mother, emphasized that assets should be functional and modest; grandiose objects made the heart fall prey to pride, vanity and lust. But they weren't cowed by progress: the New Hampshire Shakers owned one of the first cars in the state and had electricity while the state capital building was still burning gas.

Whether it was a broom, basket or bed, the Shakers made all their own furniture and furnishings. Their simple ladder-back chairs relied on lightweight woods like pine, so furniture could be easily picked up and moved around. Often a peg rail was hung at shoulder level for clothes and chairs (upside down, so any crumbs would fall), making sweeping easier. Ann Lee said: "good spirits will not live where there is dirt."

Any architect will tell you how difficult it is to build a round structure: but the real genius lies in the efficiency of the round barn at Hancock village, built in 1826. The four-ring structure inside spawned copycats across the Midwest for its "machine-like" efficiency.

The innermost ring was used for ventilation to keep the hay, stored in the second ring, from spontaneously combusting since the previous barn burnt to the ground. Ox wagons could enter, unload the hay and then exit the barn without ever having to back up. The third ring was where the Shakers would walk to distribute the hay and pick up milking buckets for the cows, standing in the fourth ring.

Shaker men and women lived separately — notice the two doors above, in some buildings there were also separate staircases — but were considered equal. Shakers pioneered the sale of seeds in paper packets: men would grow the crops and the women picked, sorted and packaged them, demonstrating the partnership between the genders.

The Shakers' forward-thinking beliefs in equality pre-date the emancipation of the slaves by 75 years and the vote for women by 150 years. Their numbers may have dwindled but their impact lives on: several Modernist furniture makers, including icons like craftsman George Nakashima and Danish designer Hans Wegner, were inspired by Shaker style.

See more timeless styles in our Iconic Furniture photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Dan & Sherree & Patrick blog
2. Retired Pal blog
3. Remodelista blog
4. The Spark Pool blog
5. Twin Travel Concepts
6. Slow Love Life blog
7. Pictures From Me blog
8. Eco Stylista blog


Wendy Jacob

Gallery walls can be tricky, especially when displaying art of varying sizes. Hanging multiple frames can be an art in itself (or a real pain, in most cases), so I was thrilled to stumble upon this room designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber, showcasing a stunning gallery wall that could not be easier to execute.

This solution is perfect for anyone who doesn't want to fuss over the layout: use the same frame, same mat, and stack all the artwork close together, avoiding any spacing between frames. It's a no-fail coordinated look with high-impact. I love it!

Photo credit:
Architectural Digest, photography by William Waldron


Reiko Caron

Infinity, zero- or negative-edge pools create a trompe l'oeil effect where water spills endlessly into the horizon. The overflow actually runs into a hidden trough where it's recycled back, but the effect is mesmerizing, and particularly spectacular when the pool is positioned in front of a large body of water. It can also look like you are about to swim into the trees, mountains or even the Singapore skyline. In some cases it feels freaky, but who is up for some fantasy? (Full disclosure: this isn't a particularly deep post, but if you're having a stressful day, it's just the thing to let your mind drift.)

It's no mystery why the aptly named Eagle's Nest pool overlooking the Bay of Islands is one of the most expensive rentals in New Zealand.

The origins of the infinity pool are contested, some say the inspiration was Bali's terraced rice paddies, or Turkey's Pammukale hot spring travertine pools (pictured above), while others point to the Stag fountain, built in the 17th century in the Garden of Versailles.

No matter where they began, infinity pools translate around the world. With the Aegean in the background, Villa Drakothea on the Greek island of Mykonos blends modern aquatic technology with centuries old traditional Cycladic design.

The architectural precision and seamless blue hue makes a modern pool even more alluring.

This perimeter overflow pool in Phuket, Thailand has a 360-degree vanishing edge. When viewed from above, the pool resembles a flat surface, until it's rippled by the breeze.

Lounge chairs sit like ships on this Rangali Island pool in the Maldives.

The infinity pool of the Moshe Safdie-designed Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore is set a staggering 55-storeys up for an incredible view of the city, however...

This scares me. A lot. The pool is three times the length of an Olympic pool, making it the largest outdoor pool in the world at this height.

Now this is more like it. Inevitably, when an infinity pool is positioned by the ocean I think: why not just jump in the ocean? When these pools are stuck in places far from the beach (like Tuscany), it makes them more incongruous and wonderful — a true oasis.

The perfect Rocky Mountain high.

And finally, a body of water floating above the clouds that looks like a slice of sky, from one of the birthplaces of the infinity pool, Bali.

See our Perfect Pools photo gallery for more refreshing inspiration.

Photo credits:
1. Eagle's Nest New Zealand, Elite Daily
2. Tourism on the Edge
3. Dust Jacket blog
4. Jack Anthony Pools
5, 7, 8. Bored Panda
6, 9. Twisted Sifter blog


Wendy Jacob

There's more than a touch of voyeurism involved in peeking into a celebrity's closet. But for those hardcore organizers, it's more about the systems they use, or eschew in some cases. Let's go in...

In Olivia Wilde's closet, an über-rococo glass vanity, black chandelier and flokati rug are contrasted by rustic cabin-style wood walls and industrial pipe fixtures.

Creative director of J.Crew and the high priestess of personal, livable style, Jenna Lyons can't be expected to have a run-of-the-mill closet. In her previous home, Lyons converted a bedroom in her Brooklyn townhouse into a fashion shrine, proving her ability to think outside the box.

Aerin Lauder rarely puts a foot wrong stylistically. Touches of gold, like the glam circa-1970 desk by Gabriella Crespi, are trademarks in her tastefully curated Manhattan boudoir. The silk curtains, hand-painted wallpaper and blue chandelier (a trademark Estée Lauder hue) are a persuasive case for creating lavish private spaces to recharge.

Known for her all-American looks, model Maggie Rizer adds a fresh touch with an open window (it helps to air out clothes) and a simple bouquet in her closet.

Open shoe storage and strips of hanging hats make it easy for Jessica Alba to morph into a fashion chameleon. Notice how she places the heels facing opposite directions — it takes up less space and makes them easier to identify.

Eclectic and a touch zany, the Manhattan closet of fashion designer Anna Sui is a perfect expression of her look. She's a fan of putting Polaroids on her shoeboxes to identify the contents.

Ok, let's talk accessories. When you're a fashionista like Rachel Zoe, every beyond major bauble has its place on multiple slide-out trays.

No surprise that Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon has one of the most enviable shoe closets known to man, or woman, and on those heels she's tall enough to reach the top shelf.

We couldn't forget the guys. Here is Nate Berkus' NYC closet, with grey Directoire-inspired millwork that's so handsome and functional, even he calls it "a fantasy."

See more Chic Closets & Dressing Rooms in our photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1., photography by William Waldron
2. When She Walks blog
3., photography by Anders Overgaard
4., photography by Molly DeCoudreaux
5. Design Time & Scene blog
6. Elle Decor, photography by Eric Boman
7. Bead Up blog
8. Dressed to Kill Austin blog
9. Decor Pad


Wendy Jacob

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.

Photo credits:
1, 4. Apartment F15 blog
2. Apartment Therapy

3. Haus Maus
5-6. Apartment Therapy


Chloe Berge

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.

Photo credits:
1. Decor Pad blog
2. The Decorista blog
3. Covetable Designs blog
4. Keltainen Talo Rannalla blog
5. The Road Less Traveled blog
6. Bijou and Boheme blog


Floriana Paonessa

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.

Photo credits:
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


Hilary Smyth

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.

Photo credits
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


Margot Austin

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