On Thursday, event planner Colin Cowie hosted a holiday party sponsored by Proctor & Gamble at Toronto's Thompson Hotel. Cowie filled a dreamy suite with sparkle and charmed us all with his South African accent and approachable personality. Having organized events for celebrities like Tom Cruise and Oprah Winfrey, he brings grand style to events with every detail covered. Colin's site says, "What you smell, touch, taste, feel and hear are carefully orchestrated to create the ultimate experience for Colin's clients." And that's exactly what he did for the event. Take a look at photos from the party and try some of his ideas when entertaining for an event that appeals to your guests' senses.
Fragrances Use unscented candles in the dining room and anywhere people are eating, and welcome guests with subtle scents in the entryway and living room.
Fresh Flowers Poor carnations have such a bad rep, but en masse in a solid colour they look stunning. (Am I the only one who likes to touch flowers that look so soft?) Create a piece like this with dome-shaped floral foam placed atop a vase. Stick an ornament or decoration inside for a festive touch. Don't stop at the tables — consider placing fresh flowers in your Christmas tree, too, for a consistent theme.
Soft Fabrics Lush upholstery, soft pillows and throws give the ultimate cosy feel. (Hello, winter decorating 101!)
Clean Surfaces Cowie focused on using P&G brands like Swiffer, Mr. Clean, Cascade, Dawn and more for all his holiday entertaining supplies — ensuring every surface was dusted, scrubbed and wiped before guests arrived for a polished look and squeaky-clean feel. And yes, he really did display dishwashing supplies in the kitchen. Great to have it on-hand as soon as you have a full load, or tucked away nearby.
Food Decorating for the season takes time — consider buying appetizers, baked goods and even pre-cut veggies to save time. Display snacks creatively on tiered trays and in glasses. This is a great time to use all those dishes you have locked away in your sideboard or hutch and buffet.
Drinks Have a delicious cocktail ready for guests once they're settled in to the house. For ease, stick to one signature drink and keep the recipe simple! Create a buffet table or food station equipped with plates, napkins and utensils so everyone can help themselves. Notice the lack of obstacles (like chairs) around this table — easy access and room for mingling is crucial.
Theme Keep your holiday decor consistent from room-to-room for a seamless transition. Colin focused on golds and silvers, right on-trend with the mixed metals look. "It doesn't tell a story," says Colin of homes where decor is mismatched throughout. He kept surfaces clutter-free as he says "Great style comes from ruthless editing."
Lighting Install a dimmer switch and light candles — it's flattering and creates the perfect ambience. (Honestly — we attended this event at 1:30 p.m. but it felt like 7 p.m. thanks to perfect lighting.) Cowie filled the space with candles — votives, pillars, tapers, you name it. To customize store-bought candles, he gave glass holders a gold leaf treatment. Crafty!
Sparkle Lay mirror tiles on a tablescape and top with votives and sparkling objects like bead garlands and ornaments. You can find mirror tiles at your local hardware store. Glittery pillow covers brought out for the season added extra glam to the living room, too.
Party Playlist Prevent holiday music fatigue and mix merry jingles between your usual tunes — create a playlist with 80% dedicated to your favourite songs and 20% to holiday hits. (There's only so many times I can listen to anyone crooning "Santa Baby.")
Hope these entertaining tips help you at your next soirée. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us, Colin! Here's to happy hosting.
While searching online for an upcoming story, I came across an extremely talented architecture group out of Brooklyn, New York, called CWB Architects. Their portfolio is impressive not only for the gorgeous homes they've built and restored, but the perfectly styled and totally realized interiors these homes feature.
I completely fell in love with this space. It's the living room of a restored Greek Revival rowhouse in Brooklyn. There isn't one thing I'd change about this space other than the fact that it's not my own!
The simple, yet elegant moldings are typical of the Greek Revival period and they work so well with the updated stone fireplace. I've always been a fan of matching drapery to the wall colour, and this is a perfect example of this. It's such a soft and sophisticated look, and the matching cornice takes it to the next level.
As for the furnishings, I just love the mix. The velvet-tufted sofa in navy blue is pretty much my dream sofa these days. Here's another option from Restoration Hardware. Although it's not tufted, it has the same classic appeal.
The rug is another key element to the space because of all the richness it adds. I love that it's traditional in colour, but slightly updated in terms of its pattern. The rug is a lot like this great option through The Rug Company.
The designers really started to mix things up with the Gustavian server and carved African stool. They are completely opposite but look amazing next to each other. I also really like that they've tucked a simple wicker chest under the server for a hit of natural texture. This desk through Chelsea Textiles and stool through Kiondo African Imports would work just as well as opposites.
The designers also added another classic piece, a William Birch armchair in a beautiful grey suiting fabric. A lot like the sofa, I am in love with this chair and would recommend it to just about anyone. It's a design staple and will stand the test of time. This version through Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams is a great example.
And finally, to top it all off, just like adding jewelry to the perfect outfit, the designers added an incredible Lindsey Adelman light fixture. This modern fixture is the perfect addition and plays so well with the graphic black and white art and overall airiness of the space. These fixtures come in a range of finishes and shade options including this version with milk glass.
Phew...after seeing this space I want to go home and start redecorating!
Last time we chatted I was on about what to do for shoe storage. In case you missed it, here are the cliff notes.
I have two of these Ikea shoe cabinets. They are functional but not my style, so I am looking at ways to jazz them up.
Angela Clarke suggested that I paint the cabinets Monaco Blue (one of Pantone's colours for 2013).
And then a lightbulb went off when I remembered this Editor's DIY from former design editor and all-around awesome gal, Stacy Begg. There's only one hitch with this DIY — it's a little heavy on the sewing. Which is a skill that I unfortunately lack. Luckily for me, the Internet exists, and I found an easy tutorial over at Little Green Notebook. Not sure how this one is going to turn out, folks, but I will keep you posted! Wish me luck!
Help! I need to choose a new colour for my front door. I've been looking around the internet (and my neighborhood) for a while now and it always amazes me how much the right paint colour can add to a home's curb appeal. I'd like to do something a bit different/unexpected this time. Something happy – to put a smile on our guests faces before they even come in the door.
My brick house is actually painted grey – lighter than this Miles Redd home. I love the smokey blue he paired with it though.
I love the hot pink number on the left, but not sure my husband would go for it! So pretty with the blossoms on the tree in front too. The blue door on the right is more along the lines of what I'm thinking. The colours I'm considering are:
Farrow & Ball's Stone Blue.
Farrow & Ball's Parma Gray.
And Benjamin Moore's Deep Ocean (2058-30).
Here's how my door currently looks. I have to make a decision soon or it'll be like this all winter! I'm leaning towards F&B's Chinese Blue (bottom right square on my door).
What do you think? Please tell me your favourite in the comments below.
It's so easy to slip over to the dark side this time of year. Macabre decor abounds in fall but the following seasonal accents will outlive October 31. Here are a few ideas that don't scream “Halloween” (and one that should probably be retired).
Horns and faux tortoiseshells (please don’t even contemplate using the real thing) convey organic, sculptural beauty.
Black candles are sophisticated, not spooky, especially when they are set in a warm metal candelabra.
Skulls and skeletons can go goth real quick, but as Damien Hirst proved with his diamond-encrusted skull, a touch of the macabre is hauntingly beautiful when it’s in a glam finish (the toad is 24K gold). We’ve spotted similar items in homes by high-profile designers: when a decorating doyenne like Sloan Mauran has a brass skull in her sumptuous Palm Beach home, you don’t need to shy away from them.
Foxed mercury glass has an antique, louche vibe that works for Halloween, but easily morphs into wintry holiday decorating later on.
Moody yet practical when the wine flows, black table linens provide a dramatic backdrop for flowers, and lets silver and crystal shine like stars.
Just say boo… to owls. Kitschy and cute, they have had their day.
Get more ideas in our Chic Halloween photo gallery.
1. Design by Melanie Davis Design, photography by Emily Jenkins Followill Photography.
2. Nate Berkus Collection for Target.
3. Society Bride.
4. DL Company.
5. Tony Duquette Collection for Baker.
6. Pottery Barn.
7. A Touch of Luxe.
8. Back Seat Bingo Vintage, Etsy.
This year's Princess Margaret Showhome has no shortage of design and decorating ideas for every part of your home. I've narrowed down eight of my favourites from Lynda Reeves and the design team:
1. Embrace the herringbone trend. Lay tiles in this classic pattern for eye-catching bathroom floors.
2. Consider wood-look tile floors in a basement. Practical and pretty.
3. Hang curtain rods high above window and door frames to make openings seem taller than they are.
4. Let stripes run horizontally on gathered curtains for the look of plaid.
5. Stain or paint the inside of a bookshelf or hutch with a dark hue, and display solid white tableware or objets against it. The contrast is stunning.
6. Use one accent colour throughout your home for continuity. The showhome features bold hits of Lynda's favourite chartreuse.
7. Instead of ruffles or piping, opt for tailored slipcovers to show off furniture shaping and legs.
8. And lastly, wrap marble countertops up the wall to to create a shallow display shelf.
For those who want to see these details and more for themselves, come out to Oakville, Ont.! Last Saturday, Suzanne Dimma and designer Jenna Cadieux shared the latest in colour trends to showhome visitors. RSVP online to see Mark Challen and Maia Roffey as they discuss the dream kitchen tomorrow, Saturday, October 27th. Or, browse our photo gallery.
There are a few common things homeowners say when revealing the problems they have with their homes: “the entryway is too small,” “there isn't enough natural light,” “we need an extra bathroom.” The list can go on for miles, but there is one phrase that I have never heard uttered: “I have too much space and room for storage.” Yeah right! It seems that no matter how often we upsize or spring clean, storage is a constant issue.
If your home has stairs, you may have considered how to use the empty space below to maximize space. I certainly have, but must admit I have always been a little intimidated by this project. And the last thing I need is another cluttered-looking area. But recently, more and more images have come across my desk that have completely changed my opinion on staircase storage.
By transforming stairs into pull-out drawers, a cluttered aesthetic is completely avoided. What is left rather, are perfectly sleek looking stairs that function as a great place to organize clothes and linens.
Unfortunately, not all of our possessions can be folded up and neatly hidden away. For larger, bulky items, a secret storage unit in the flooring of the stairs is excellent.
Any avid reader can certainly tell you that a book collections is a big space stealer. Make use of otherwise wasted space by turning the stairwell into a home library.
Some entry spaces are simply too small and cramped to fit a console to display decorative pieces such as bowls and jars that also function as hideaway places for keys and mail. Building shelves under your stairwell to store these items is the perfect solution.
Do you think stairwell storage space is something you would try in your home? Comment below!
Like so many, I've been drawn into the world of Downton Abbey with their buzzing lives, elegant style and decor that takes your breath away. I love old English-style libraries and the one at Downton is exceptional.
Worn wood, classic binding, squishy leather chairs and oxblood accents sum up my idea of perfect library ambiance. Here are some other libraries I love:
Beautiful libraries are the result of beautiful books. In an attempt to grow an old book collection and acquire that charming atmosphere in my own library, I'm taking bits and pieces from a variety of sources.
My Golden Retriever's name is Mr. Darcy — a tribute to my favourite book, Pride and Prejudice. I buy it in every edition I can get my hands on — aside from the first one (above left). Last I inquired it went for circa $30,000 — a small price to pay for Jane's masterpiece? Maybe one day. A recent trip to St. Jacob's village near Waterloo landed me the classics on the right for $2 a piece. I love the frayed binding.
I found this gem on the left at Value Village; pricier than usual at $7. The look of timeworn hardcovers are becoming so popular, HomeSense even carries an assortment of trinket boxes made to look like a stack of old books (above right).
I currently have books stacked everywhere — a favourite decor trick. I'm on the hunt for a library cabinet to house my dusty collection. This one from Crate & Barrel would suit them just fine.
How do you display your books?
See our Amazing Libraries photo gallery for even more inspiration.
1. Los Angeles Times
2. Gâteau et Châteaux blog
4. Cindy's Book Club blog
5a. The Cataloguer's Desk
5b, 6. Floriana Paonessa
7. Faulkner Library Cabinet, Crate & Barrel
Where do you store your shoes? Shoe storage has been something I have struggled with in every place that I've lived in.
In my first few apartments, my shoe organizing system always looked a little like this.
If life were fair, I would have a wing of my closet dedicated to shoes à la Mariah Carey.
On the plus side, I don't really need that much space (though one could argue that I have a lot of shoes, I am nowhere near the 1000 mark that Mimi is at) — and truth be told, I prefer to have my shoes close to the front door. I'm practical like that. So what's a gal to do?
I love this antique glass cabinet turned fancy house for your shoes (found in Michael Hainey and Brooke Cundoff's New York pad via The Selby), but I have a couple of problems with doing this in my own place. Problem one: I have a rather narrow hallway. Problem two: the price tag of one of these. Those fancy pants antiques aren't cheap!
Alrighty, moving on.
I found this budget-friendly DIY project from Martha Stewart a while back, using simple trim along a wall to secure heels. It may not be great for a front hall though? It seems weird to walk into someone's house and be at eye-level with a pair of shoes — possibly less than pristine shoes. Also, while it might be a good idea considering I'm a measly 5'1", not all my shoes have heels. And then there are my husband's and son's shoes to consider. Right.
So, any guesses what I have going on at the moment? If someone can cue the drumroll I'll show you...
Behold, the Ikea Brissa cabinet. I picked up two of them for $30 each. They're narrow enough for my hallway, hold a decent amount of shoes and they are cheap! And it's possible they would look nice in some stylist's place but they are, really, umm, utilitarian in mine. I'm thinking about jazzing them up. What do you think? Comment below with all your amazing ideas!
Read about my ideas for covering these Ikea cabinets in fabric for a hit of colour and pattern.
One of the fringe benefits of getting out to scout in the design shops regularly is coming away with ideas you didn't know you were looking for.
It happened the other day in the Toronto shop Angus & Company. I was inspired by this styling trick of draping a flat woven wool carpet, or kilim, over a jute tablecloth with bullion fringe. I felt like rushing home and draping carpets over everything! It looks so warm and just right for this time of year. It got me thinking of ways to layer up with kilims.
I was reminded of this living room I've had in my Favourite Rooms folder forever. It's a cosy den by Gil Schafer with pumpkin-coloured walls and lots of navy and wood and gilt. The carpet layered over the white slipcovered sofa gives the room a worn English country feel.
Kilim carpets are an extremely durable choice for upholstery and they look even better as they wear and show their age. These chairs mixed with a tufted sofa and tribal table bring character to the rather pared-down architecture of this Harlem brownstone by designer Christina Azario.
This glorious sofa by English maker George Smith sold in September at Christie's auction house for $2,639 — a complete steal if you ask me. Retail value is probably closer to $10,000!
This beautiful photo landed in my inbox recently announcing a new furniture line by fabric house Lee Jofa. The sofa is upholstered in a fabric called Kekoua, which is part of the Malika collection, inspired by traditional rugs and textiles of Turkey, Uzbekistan and Northern Africa. Yum and yum. I kind of love everything about this photo — from the artwork to the furniture, and the lamp to that ingenious little column accent table. Pass me a glass of port and some cashmere slippers and I could be quite content here.
And you can always count on Remodelista to have an inspirational image or six. This one shows a very different take on kilim upholstery. I imagine this to be a loft somewhere in the Marais district of Paris. Could be, since it is the work of Parisian designer Pierre Yovanovitch.
Poring over these photos has me hatching plans for how to warm up my own rooms for the colder months. I've added a matelassé throw over my white sofa and would love to switch out one of my pale-coloured linen pillow covers for a kilim cover. The Etsy shop Sukan Handmade Design is a treasure trove of beautiful examples I have my eye on.
At our weekend home, I've been planning some fix-ups for quite some time. Among these is the addition of a generous ottoman just like this one in Ben Pentreath's Dorset house.
For the upholstery, I'd love to use one of these kilims I spotted on a recent scouting trip to Ikea. I could build a whole room around the colours in any of these. I especially like the old faded pinky-reds and ochre tones.
Take a video tour of Karen Cole's bohemian-chic home for more uses for kilims.
1. Margot Austin
2. Upper West Side Apartment, Gil Schafer
3. Elle Decor, photography by Björn Wallander
4. George Smith Kilim-Upholstered Sofa, Christie's
5. Lee Jofa
6. Remodelista, designed by Pierre Yovanovitch
7. Sukan Handmade Design, Etsy
8. Ben Pentreath, photography by Jan Baldwin, via English Decoration (2012 Cico Books) by Ben Pentreath
9-10. Margot Austin