For most of the spring and beginning of summer, my family has been consumed with the renovation of our kitchen. (Watch a video tour here and pick up our Kitchens & Baths special issue for before and after photos.) We just managed to wrap up the reno and have it photographed for the magazine before we flew out west on a holiday that we booked months prior to visit family (primarily my new adorable nephew Zachary). Between family visits, we were also able to book a little getaway up the Sunshine Coast.
We spent four nights at the Stillwater Beach House B&B, situated between Saltery Bay & Powell River. Despite cooler temperatures and a little (well, quite a bit of) rain, we had a fantastic time. It's hard not to with views like this:
The beach house is just steps to the water's edge, where, during the precious sunlit hours, my son splashed in the ocean and looked for starfish. When the clouds rolled in we snuggled up on the sofa, lit the wood burning fireplace and read books or watched one of the DVDs in the library.
The decor in the beach house was tasteful but relaxed, which was perfect for us. I can appreciate the posh decor of a boutique hotel when I'm travelling on my own but require something a little less fancy and more functional with my three year old, who is usually covered in sand, mud, or both.
All in all it was an amazing trip and I was very sad to leave, though coming home to a nicely renovated kitchen did help a little.
For more oceanside charm on the other coast, read about Suzanne Dimma's trip to Nova Scotia.
1-8. Kai Ethier
When we bought our current Toronto home, I swore I'd give the enclosed porch a makeover the weekend we moved in. I'd do away with the dated green paint, dreary brick and scuffed grey floor, transforming the space with glossy white paint and elbow grease.
That was seven years ago.
Somehow I got sidetracked on that move-in weekend. Perhaps it was the Toronto Maple Leafs wallpaper border that needed to be scraped off what would then become my son Cameron's nursery (no offense, Leafs fans!). Maybe it was because it was 35 degrees and we hadn't yet purchased any window air conditioners. But like many projects on the wish lists of homeowners, it just hasn't come to fruition.
While we do make use of the space — there's ample room for everyone's rain boots and umbrellas, and it's an amazing place to be during a rainstorm — it's become a bit of a dumping ground for scooters and soccer gear.
The room does have some redeeming qualities, though. There are original leaded windows, and the light is absolutely beautiful in the mornings. Some of the windows open, including one on each side of the porch, making for a nice cross breeze on hot days. Generous trim around the windows and doors give it plenty of period charm.
While the colour of the ceiling drives me crazy — as does this old fixture — the beadboard is pretty and should look great when it's painted white.
My hope is to give this little space a cottage-like feel. The plan is to paint everything out, including all that brown brick. (Cue the brick painting debate.) The floor boards will get a good sanding and a few coats of shiny, high-gloss porch paint. This inspiration shot really speaks to what I have in mind:
What's not to love, right? The smooth, shiny floors are inviting for bare feet in summertime. The crisp ceiling gives me hope that my green one can look even half as nice when the makeover is complete. And the furnishings are both low-profile and inviting.
Which brings me to one final thought about my current porch space.
There was a real lesson here for me in the true cost of furniture that "will do for now." The wicker seating is a bit mumsy for my taste today, and was even then. But we were having the hardwood floors refinished inside, and there was nowhere to sit until our furniture could arrive. I bought this set under a bit of duress, and wouldn't do it again.
When I purchased the cedar chest from a neighbour's yard sale, I intended to sand it down and paint over the folksy detail. Obviously, that hasn't happened either, but I'm glad to have somewhere to stow beach toys and baseball gloves. Looking at the black stool in the inspiration shot, I've renewed my resolve to paint the chest black as a visual counterpoint to all the white. And, like you see here, it'll be fun to punch up the space with seasonal colour using throws and pillows.
When I get around to it, that is.
I just returned from (what is happily becoming) our annual summer holiday in France, and I'm desperately trying to hold onto that relaxed feeling. I brought back some French walnut oil, good sea salt and a few treasures from one of the local brocantes (antique market) but of course it's impossible to recreate the experience of life in the French countryside — no matter how hard I try.
So that you know what I'm talking about, here's a taste of "la vie en France" and photos of our rental home in the southwestern part of the country. The owner has carefully renovated a centuries old farmhouse and barn, and rents it out when not living there in the summer. We find that renting a home is the best bet going — easy with kids, cost effective when shared with friends and just all around more relaxing than hotels.
Our must-haves include a decent kitchen and pool — and a tree-lined drive leading up to the house doesn't hurt either.
My own artsy shot of the gorgeous wrought iron gate that greeted us.
Our first view of the house.
There were various terraces and patios to take in the views from.
This was our view from the back of the house looking onto farmers' fields and a beautiful old church down the road. We were surrounded by orchards, sunflowers, lavender and rosemary bushes.
Inside, we kept cool thanks to thick stone walls, smooth concrete floors and shuttered windows. All of these brought a moody but tranquil quality to the interior. The rustic style of furnishings — heavy wooden tables, tall armoires and oversized pewter candelabras — fit in perfectly with the style of house. Even the leather club chairs and sofa worked well — large, comfy and lets face it, best for wet swimsuits. Sparse furnishings and no clutter makes a holiday rental super simple.
By days end, it became cooler outside. Here's a sunset and a view of the plum tree orchard.
Overall, it was such a gorgeous home to escape to. Stay tuned for my next blog posts about the trip! For more information on the house and surrounding area go to www.lagrivette.com.
See our French Inspired Interiors for more inspiration.
1-9. Hilary Smyth
H&H's latest Kitchens & Baths special issue hits newsstands today in Canada and August 21st in the U.S. (Find it at major retailers across Canada and click here for a list of American retailers.) Inside is scads of brilliant info about these two key rooms, including a look at the stylish kitchens currently inspiring us editors. I was thrilled when I discovered my choice had made the cover, because it truly represents my dream kitchen. (Pick up a copy of this issue to see the other editors' favourite kitchens.)
Here's what tops my kitchen wish list:
Lots of fresh white, gorgeous patterned tile, pops of red (the most delicious accent colour for kitchens, in my opinion), a nice big sink with a pull-down faucet, tons of big windows with a doorway to a garden, awesome appliances, plenty of storage, and good lighting — not a big useless bulb in the centre of the room that casts a shadow on every counter.
Designer Jessica Helgerson managed to fit all of these features and more into the kitchen she remodeled for a family of four living in a 1920s Mediterranean-style house in Portland.
Most striking is the encaustic concrete tile floor. These floors are pricey but stunning, and I'm seeing them more and more as people get increasingly daring with patterned tile. (A trend I enthusiastically applaud.)
What are encaustic tiles? Cement or clay tiles where the pattern on the surface is created with different colours of clay. The pattern is inlaid or moulded into the body of the tile millimetres thick so that the design remains as the tile is worn down. They are left to dry for two to three weeks, which gives them their durability.
I found a roundup of more envy-inducing examples of these tiles on The Marion House Book blog, including sources where you can buy these tiles. I also found this company in Australia, which specializes in rare antique versions.
Here's more of what you can see: Jessica put in that big wall of cabinets around the refrigerator (above) so she could forgo uppers above the sink and range.
Here's what you can't see: She also created this handy little mudroom (above) by reconfiguring a back entry. In the space between it and the kitchen, she designed a thick arched opening with shelves for cookbooks and a pull-out broom closet.
If you're wondering where you can buy that sweet table in the breakfast nook, let me save you fruitless hours of searching. Jessica found the reclaimed iron bases at a local salvage yard and had a slab of marble cut to fit, so it could serve as a tall table and additional counter space — a good tip to remember the next time you're scouring your local flea market.
Other thoughtful details: The counters are made of thick, solid walnut slabs from locally felled trees. The handmade ceramic pendant lights echo the purple-grey colour of the floor. And the white ceramic wall tiles are handmade locally.
What's not to love?
See our White Kitchens gallery for more inspiration.
1-4. Lincoln Barbour
The classy all-white event, Le Diner en Blanc (translates to "dinner in white"), popped up at historic Fort York last night, and I was lucky enough to be part of the chic picnic. In cities around the world, on various summer days, the location of the secret dinner party is disclosed to ticket holders a mere 30 minutes before the gathering. With folding tables and chairs in hand, and dressed all in white, guests gather for a mass yet elegant affair at an outdoor locale.
Started by Parisian François Pasquier and a few friends back in 1988, Diner en Blanc now draws impressive numbers: 30,000 people requested tickets for New York City's event last year (only 1,000 tickets were sold), 11,200 attended in Paris on June 14th, and 4,200 are expected in Montreal on August 16th. Organizers sold 1,500 tickets for last night's event in Toronto. Despite the rain, diners came out for an evening of wine, cheese, bread and good company.
Guests are bussed in from areas across the city, then led to the location with their own tables and chairs in tow. (Picnic baskets are provided to ticket-holders once they arrive.)
These oversized, glowing lanterns dotted the periphery of the event for some soft lighting.
There were certainly some gorgeous centerpieces guests brought along — some fresh, some faux, but all beautiful.
I loved this jar filled with sand, peach roses and a bit of sparkle.
Soft yellow roses in mason jars were the perfect complement to all the white linens.
Ikea's Skurar plant pot fit right in with the elegant displays.
Here's a more modern table setting. Did I mention no paper plates or beer are allowed at Diner en Blanc? I like it!
I was impressed with how prepared all the diners were. Many brought white and clear umbrellas, and some even lugged their patio umbrellas from home!
Some pink clouds peeked out eventually! A special thanks to hosts and coordinators Robert Morassutti, Jessica Tan and Nicholas Wong, and the many volunteers who helped the event run smoothly. Despite the weather, such a lovely party it was!
For more tabletop inspiration, see our Dining Design section.
The video was directed by Roman Polanski and stars Ben Kingsley and Helena Bonham Carter.
The story of therapist and patient is simple enough, but the decor — oh, the decor! The desk lamps, carpets, fainting sofa and sconces are classic and timeless — just like Prada. I love the lavender and crimson number on Helena, too.
See more runway to room trends in our photo gallery.
Video and photo credits:
Courtesy of YouTube
My parents have been living in the house I grew up in for more than 20 years now, and have spent about that much time making changes to suit their style. From large-scale renovations to simple paint colour changes, they've embraced the mentality of transforming a house into a home by making it their own. Everything, that is, except for the main bathroom. For so many years it wasn't a priority because they have their own ensuite and didn't have to endure the late '80s/early '90s time warp that was the "kids'" bathroom.
Stark navy and faux white marble tiles scaling the walls, generic chrome fixtures and mismatched cabinets desperately needed updating.
With a little (er, a lot) of coaxing from me, and the help of Toronto-based Splashworks Kitchen + Bath, they recently finished the overhaul. Although the floor plan and plumbing remained largely untouched, the introduction of different textures, shapes and cool monochromatic tones created a serene new space.
Marble, Caesarstone and ceramic surfaces lend a clean yet warm feel. The height of the ceiling was enhanced by painting the sloped peak the same colour as the walls and installing a statement pendant light to draw the eye up. The sculptural fixtures, all from the Axor Montreux line by Hansgrohe, have an old world feel and balance the modern space nicely.
The vanity and medicine cabinet, which was designed and manufactured in-house by Splashworks Kitchen + Bath, are both functional and substantial stand-alone pieces. The frosted door, from Bauhaus, created a few headaches, but allows light to spill into the hallway while still offering privacy.
Although I no longer live in this house with my family, I'm still happy that the puzzle feels more complete.
See more bathroom makeovers in our photo gallery.
There has been a lot of talk in the design world recently about "bringing the outdoors in."
I've spotted this trend in larger picture windows, for example, framing a slice of nature indoors, shown here in Suzanne Dimma's own cottage.
Furniture is also an easy way to bring natural elements inside our homes. Check out these tree stump side tables by West Elm. They would work in any room, whether industrial, contemporary or classic country.
I love this industrial looking cart from Restoration Hardware. Each cart is a vintage original, with variations in distressing, cracks, finish and wheel construction.
This salvaged barn wood headboard project from Design*Sponge adds an outdoorsy, camping feel to your slumber without roughing it in a tent.
Swedish magazine Hus & Hem featured this cheery room with a bright green carpet that looks a lot like freshly cut grass. The clean-lined white furniture allows the rug to take centre stage.
All these elements and ideas for natural decorating have been filling up blogs and retail stores, and I must say, I'm into it. What do you think? How have you brought a slice of the outdoors into your home?
To see the trend working the other way, browse our Outdoor Rooms gallery, full of ideas on bringing an indoor feel to outdoor spaces.
An inexpensive way to add big impact in a bathroom is to choose a great mirror. Here are a few beautiful designs that are sure to inspire:
This drool-worthy ornate gold mirror adds a perfect glitzy touch.
In this elegant black and white bathroom, white marble crawls up the backsplash and frames the mirror for a very luxe look.
Get creative with your mirror placement. If tiles or a wide ledge make hanging your mirror too big a task, let it rest on your vanity for a casual look. In this case, bigger is better.
I love that this designer didn't forgo a good mirror because of architectural restraints. Notice how this rustic mirror hovers a few inches away from the window thanks to thick cords hung from the ceiling.
Can't settle on just one mirror? Try an eclectic arrangement of mirrors mixed with art. It's also an easy solution for collectors and serial-decorators who like to change things up on a whim!
For more inspiration, see our Pinterest Bathroom board.
Each week on the Surreal Estate blog, I write about some of the world's most lavish properties — mansions and estates that cost tens of millions of dollars, and belong to Hollywood celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow or socialites like Rachel Mellon. So it was refreshing to stumble upon (via a friend's tweet) this teensy, utterly modest — but still beautifully decorated — Victorian cottage the other day. It's not that much bigger than a garden shed — 9 by 14 feet — yet looks like it would still be a great retreat. And given that it only cost $3,000 to renovate and furnish, it gives me hope that one day I will be able to afford a cottage, too!
The house — an old hunting cabin — is in New York's picturesque Catskills area.
Okay, so the space is too small for a kitchen or bathroom, and isn't winterized — minor issues! All the amenities are in a neighbouring trailer, which functions as the owner's main home, making this more of an occasional refuge or escape.
There is something really sweet and innocent about this place. It seems like the perfect setting to enjoy tea and scones. According to the New York Times, which originally published the cottage a couple of years ago, many of the decor elements came from garage sales and flea markets. Thrifty and gorgeous!
Get more small space inspiration in House & Home's September 2012 issue.