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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.

Photo credits:
1-7. Sarah Hartill


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.

Photo credits:
1. The Travel Files blog
2. Remodelista blog
3. Belgian Pearls blog
4. Interior Design Files blog
5. Design fabulous blog


Wendy Jacob

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.

Photo credits:
1. Artist Kirra Jamison's home seen on
2. Jason Stickley
3. House & Home November 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon, styling by Stacey Smithers


 Reiko Caron


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.

Photo credits:
1. White Cabana blog
2a. A Spoonful of Sugar blog
2b. Migonis Home
4. Stylish Eve blog
6. Stylish Eve blog


Floriana Paonessa

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.

Photo credit:
1. Méchant Design


Reiko Caron

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.

Photo credits:
1-3. Joel Bray


Joel Bray

I'm hiding a dirty little secret behind this door below. This is the kitchen of my country house in Tweed, Ontario. The door leads from the kitchen to the mudroom, or at least what used to be the mudroom. It used to be an ugly room, with teal-painted plywood shelving and a rotting floor covered with indoor/outdoor carpet. Now it's gutted and ready for a new life.

But the project has been stalled for 2 years (!) due to reasons too numerous to even begin to explain. But I just got word from our contractor that as soon as he wraps work on Sarah Richardson's latest TV series (it's a small world), he will be ready to get to work at our place.

Of course having this long to plan the design means I've changed my mind a million times about specific finishes. But one thing is for sure — I'd like the mudroom to be harmonious with my kitchen, shown above. This shot is taken from the mudroom, you can see the door open on the left.

All along the process, reclaimed brick has been the floor of my dreams for this space. But I am tiring of the over-herringbonization of the world so would probably opt for a simple offset installation. That said, I am beginning to warm to the idea of a floor of rough reclaimed wood planks either left raw or with a coat of paint. A good hard-wearing entry carpet should be enough to protect it from the mud and snow that gets tracked in the back door. I'm pretty sure the final decision will come down to our budget.

The space is 12' by 12' and needs to be kitted out with several different storage options. Along the north wall I'd like to have very simple open shelving like this. I might put the ugly stuff like garden supplies and sports equipment in baskets.

Or I might sew up some simple curtains to conceal the shelf contents like this. I'd love to find an old reclaimed sink for this space, too. I'm keeping my eyes peeled. And keeping my eye on the budget to determine if plumbing is doable.

I'd also like to relocate some serving pieces from the kitchen to this room, specifically my collection of ironstone platters. I'm no carpenter, but I think I can manage making a plate rack like this one (at Tricia Foley's Long Island, N.Y. house) myself to add a note of pretty to the space.

For the counter I will either use Ikea's Numerär oak counters and stain them super dark or just plain lumber topped with zinc. Which do you like better?

The walls and ceiling will all be V-joint pine from Chisholm's, a local lumber supplier that has been in business since 1857 (warms my heart). I used the same product on the kitchen ceiling, so continuing it in the mudroom makes sense. On the walls I'll have it installed horizontally.

The V-joint panelling in the kitchen is painted with Farrow & Ball's Pointing (2003) (top). I'll probably do the same in the mudroom, though I am also thinking of using Down Pipe (26) (middle) or Calke Green (34) in some way to add a little indoor-outdoor grittiness.

Could this be the room where I finally get to use Colefax & Fowler's Bowood fabric? Perhaps for a roman blind, or the curtains in front of the shelves? We'll see. For more design ideas, follow my Mudroom Ideas board on Pinterest.

Photo credits:
1. Margot Austin
2. Donna Griffith via
3. The Girl is Craftee blog
4. Chalon UK
5. Light Locations via Remodelista
6. Tricia Foley via One Kings Lane
7. Stillwater Story
8. Fabulous Home blog
9. Donna Griffith via
10-12. Farrow & Ball
13. Lara Robby/Studio D via House Beautiful


Margot Austin

The interior of an artist's studio reveals an intimate glimpse into the creative process and can prove almost as beautiful as the work that's created inside it.

Northern light is the best for painting. In Paul Cézanne's hilltop studio, Les Lauves in Aix-en-Provence, a gigantic north-facing window frames a view of fig and olive trees. Cézanne bought the property because it had the panoramic view of Mont Sainte-Victoire, a favourite subject of his works.

An array of pottery vessels displayed on a high shelf stand ready to be worked into Cézanne's still-life oeuvres. He lived 15 minutes away from his studio and was disciplined about making the uphill walk every morning to start painting at 6 a.m.

A well-worn sofa with slumped cushions is the centre of Claude Monet's huge Nympheas Studio in Giverny, France, all the best to contemplate the watery masterpieces depicting his lily pond that wrap all four walls of the room. Monet built this studio in the corner of his famous garden once he became successful — the pond and Japanese bridge were the subjects of some of his most popular paintings.

Here is Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in her Casa Azul studio, the childhood home built by her father in 1907. When Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera bought the house, they applied stucco to the French neoclassic design and filled it with Mexican artifacts and figurines.

Pablo Picasso gutted the salon of his Art Nouveau villa in Vallauris, France and turned it into a studio, where he hosted Brigitte Bardot in 1956. The villa was beside a yard where potters threw discarded metal and broken shards, and Picasso sifted through the debris to make this sculpture of a bronze goat.

The floor of Jackson Pollock's East Hampton studio tells the tale of an exuberant technique. Peggy Guggenheim loaned Pollack and his wife, artist Lee Krasner, $2,000 for the down payment on this home in exchange for artwork. Pollack used the barn as his studio, but the original oak floor suffered damage by powder post beetles. To save money, Pollack covered the floor with Masonite from a children's board game in 1953.

Abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning was a houseguest of Jackson Pollack, and decided to build his own East Hampton art studio in a wooded area not far away because the light reminded him of his native Holland. De Kooning designed the butterfly ceiling himself with found steel girders. His house was attached to the studio; an adjoining loft space let him view his lithographs in his studio from above.

His mobiles are precise and spare, but acclaimed American sculptor Alexander Calder took an eclectic approach to storing his materials in his Roxbury, Connecticut studio. He painted his old farmhouse flat black and his sculptures were scattered across the property.

Neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat was known to paint walls, refrigerators, clothes, anything he could get his hands on. A raw industrial loft studio in Manhattan, once owned by Andy Warhol, is the perfect backdrop for his graffiti-like works.

See more raw spaces in our Industrial-Chic Interiors photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Best Travel Store
2. Atelier Cézanne
4. Pick Pocket Design blog
5. The Guardian, photography by Jérôme Brièrre/Getty Images
6. Pollack Krasner House & Study Center
7. Architectural Digest, photography by Jaime Ardiles-Arce
8. Mondo Blogo blog, photography by Pedro Guerrero
9. Art Nectar


Wendy Jacob

"It's like being drunk or on a ship — I think it suits me," says Florence and the Machine's Florence Welch of her London home in a recent Vogue interview. A peek inside the fiery powerhouse's flat in the May issue reveals the space to be a direct extension of her persona: bohemian, ethereal, fierce.

I've always admired a fearless approach to decorating — even if I couldn't live with the look myself on a daily basis. Romantic, whimsical and daring, each room woos its visitors with a grand gesture.

Colourful, bold styling in the living room explores an avian theme, working with complementary colours and original artwork, including a Keith Haring family heirloom.

A gilt sleigh bed in the bedroom covered with a silk brocade coverlet and surrounded by rich tapestries and antiques is straight out of a Gypset dream.

The bathroom — her favourite room in the house — features a wood-panelled tub, glittering mosaic tile and baroque accents.

In honour of Ms. Welch, here are a few other beautiful bohemian spaces I think she'd feel right at home in:

I love the contrast of coral pillows against a sky-blue sofa.

A lively mix of patterns on the sofa and a gallery wall gives this room an ecelctic feel.

Go big or go home! Green damask wallpaper is paired with an array of floral pillows in this bold space.

Gorgeous wood doors with hand-carved filigree lend an exotic edge.

A turquoise bead chandelier and colourful suzani bring this bohemian space to life.

Are you a fan of bohemian style? See more of Florence Welch's home here.

Photo credits:
1-4. Vogue May 2013 issue via Coup de Main magazine, photography by Angelo Pennetta
5. Interior Design Sense blog
6. Elle Decor via Dishfunctional Designs blog
7. This is Glamorous blog
8. From Bali With Love blog
9. House & Home Makeovers 2009 special issue, photography by George Whiteside


Chloe Berge

As a fabric hound, I'd be hard-pressed to choose a favourite. It seems every visit to the fabric showrooms kindles a new textile flame. But the top contenders remain Colefax & Fowler's Bowood, any given tartan or ticking stripe and this one below, Fig Leaf by Peter Dunham.

You may recognize Dunham from his cameo appearances on the TV show Million Dollar Decorators. Kathryn Ireland, Mary McDonald, Nathan Turner and Dunham are all running around in the same L.A. design circles. He's an ex-pat Brit and the proprietor of Hollywood at Home, in addition to being the principal of his own interior design business.

I'm a big fan of his aesthetic and in particular his hand-printed textiles, which include lots of paisley and leafy motifs. But Fig Leaf is by far my favourite of his collection.

Here it is in a bathroom Dunham designed for a showhouse. I assume the wallcovering is the fabric with a paper backing, since I'm not aware of this print available as wallpaper. I covet the matching robe!

This is a corner of Dunham's own home. His Fig Leaf fabric on a wicker chair is a match made in heaven. The mix of colours and textiles and artwork make this room look so relaxed and inviting, don't you think?

This living room appeared in House Beautiful a while back. It's been pinned to my office inspiration board for months, and during that time about three other H&H staffers have nabbed it to make photocopies for their own boards. I've never taken the plunge and done drapes in a print before — neutral linen is more my style, but this room makes a very good case for the power of a great print that makes a room. The other aspect I like in this room is the rush matting on the floor. It's so English but next to impossible to find in Canada — so frustrating!

San Francisco designer Caitlin Moran added a few splashes of Fig Leaf — the Roman blind and pendant shade — to enliven this kitchen banquette. I've always said that green is the very best kitchen accent colour because it echoes the colours of fresh produce.

This corner has so much to love. It's probably the dreamiest window seat I have ever seen. It's another design showhouse project, this one by Virginia designer Lauren Liess. You'll spy a few pillows done up in Fig Leaf mixed in with several textiles from Lauren's own line, Pure Style Home, which is also full of paisley block prints to swoon over.

This is my all-time favourite Fig Leaf room. This one is an East Hampton interior by Tom Scheerer. The print really makes a statement here alongside pure white and natural textures — there's that rush matting again! And if you are a Tom Scheerer fan, get your credit card ready to pre-order, he has a book coming out in September, Tom Scheerer Decorates (2013 Vendome Press).

And finally here's how I worked a little Fig Leaf into my own home — a single 24" pillow in my dressing room, as seen on Online TV and in the September 2012 issue of House & Home. I love how it mixes with the awning stripe pillow I sewed up from an Ikea fabric. A perfect high-low mix! And here's one last Fig Leaf tidbit — the print is inspired by a curtains and a sofa fabric Dunham saw in Salvador Dalì's house!

Find Fig Leaf in Canada at Y&Co showrooms. Or go straight to Etsy to order some accent cushions. This one above is from Spark Modern and might just be all you need to perk up your living room for spring.

See more floral finds in our photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1-3. Peter Dunham
4. House Beautiful, photography by Victoria Pearson
5. Moj Moly Azyl blog, photography by Laure Joliet
6. Pure Style Home blog, design by Lauren Liess, photography by Helen Norman
7. Tom Scheerer, photography by Simon Upton
8. House & Home September 2012 issue, photography by Virginia Macdonald
9. Spark Modern shop, Etsy


Margot Austin

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