In my May 2011 column, I rounded up the colourful spring items that have caught my eye. There were so many, I ran out of space! So here are a few others that I think are worth a mention.
This is the Fiona Mustard Green ceramic lamp from Arteriors. I love the shape and colour of the base, but I would swap the shade for something more classic to suit my house.
The Babi mirror from The Conran Shop would add a vibrant punch of colour. This ornate orange lacquer showstopper is typical of the Rococo period. It's outrageous and expensive, but wouldn't it look great paired with a more serious chest in black or bleached oak?
And finally, these graphic dish towels from John Robshaw Textiles are an easy way to add spring colour on the cheap.
1. Fiona Mustard Green ceramic lamp, Arteriors
2. Babi mirror, The Conran Shop
3a. Lenox dish towel, John Robshaw Textiles
3b. Clove dish towel, John Robshaw Textiles
3c. Poseidon dish towel, John Robshaw Textiles
Huge apologies for taking so long to post this second part to my first blog. As usual, life has been too busy.
As I post this, Japan has just suffered the effects of a devastating earthquake and tsunami. One thing I can tell you, now having been there, if there is one country in the world that can rebuild in record time, it is Japan. The Japanese people are so disciplined, devoted to their country, and technologically advanced that they will overcome this heartbreaking disaster.
After leaving the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, we landed in what felt like another time. Kyoto is a graceful, beautiful place full of temples, gardens and tales of the shoguns and warlords.
We stayed at Hiiragiya Ryokan, a traditional Japanese tatami-style hotel. Michel had been there years before and insisted we do this. Barry and I were skeptical, to say the least. Debra was cautiously optimistic. We checked in, through an ancient doorway where you remove your shoes and are asked to choose slippers from many well-worn pairs before entering a dark, creaky lobby. “Yuck,” I thought. Not a good beginning.
We went for a walk in search of lunch while our rooms were being prepared and our baggage unpacked. We walked into the Kyoto Osaka Hotel, looked around at the western-style grand lobby, and Barry said, “These people have real beds with legs!” He had read my mind. I wanted to check in, right then and there.
But Michel would have none of it, and he was so right. We ended up loving our ryokan and agreed that Kyoto would not have been the gracious experience it was without the fun of kimono-clad hostesses dressing us for our traditional Japanese meals, held in exquisite rooms while our beds were being unrolled and made up and our baths drawn. The second day, we discovered the new wing, hidden from view, cleverly designed to expand the space seamlessly in a dramatic contemporary style.
Barry does not like fish. So, being served raw or barely cooked fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner was not his fantasy vacation. But he was a good sport. The meals in the hotel were an interesting experience that I'm glad I had, but don’t need to repeat.
Two more things: a tatami mat is more than just a decorative floor covering. It’s also a unit of measurement in Japan. The size of a room is typically measured by the number of tatami mats. In the Kyoto area, tatami generally means 3 x 6 feet. Another thing I learned is to request that your bed be set up in the early afternoon. You'll be glad for a nap after a day of temple tours.
I won’t go into detail about our tours, other than that my favourite was Nijo Castle. There are too many to talk about and each one had something wonderful about it. Just get a great guide and the most comfortable shoes, no matter how ugly.
Ho Chi Minh City
Next stop was Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam or, as the locals still call it, Saigon. This is the country that I know I will return to. I think everyone felt the same way, as Vietnam is such a compelling and fascinating place. We are all history buffs, and Vietnam is like a living documentary on the war that shaped our generation.
Not to be missed are the war museums in both Saigon and Hanoi, the famous Cu Chi tunnels where the Viet Cong lived underground for years in an elaborate maze of hidden corridors. In places, the tunnels open up into rooms where parts of fallen aircraft were made into weapons and trap apparatuses. You have to see it to believe it!
We discovered true Vietnamese food in Saigon and we all fell in love. My favourite meal was the famous pho at Pho Hoa on Pasteur Street, a restaurant widely regarded by locals as serving the best pho in town. We were the only tourists that day and we liked that.
One day, we asked our guide to take us to Café Nang, a 1956 landmark whose 75-year-old owner, Mrs. Thai, brews nearly every cup herself, served with condensed milk. Our guide could not believe we wanted to go to this tiny hole in the wall, but we insisted. They served an intense rich brew that gives new meaning to the words "caffeine high". No matter the neighbourhood, we were after the real experience.
Sometimes that got us into a little trouble. Like the evening we took a taxi to our dinner reservation at Cuc Gach Quan for a gourmet meal. The taxi pulled up in front of an old house. Not deterred by the lack of lights, signage or greeters at the door — and no indication that this was, in fact, a restaurant — we carried on anyway. “This must be what really authentic Vietnamese restaurants are like,” I thought.
Through the front door and up two flights of stairs to a living room where there were two girls eating soup and whispering, we sat down on the sofas and waited. A man came in who didn’t speak English. “Dinner?” we asked. He shook his head. “Eat,” we said. He shook his head again. “Food,” we said; he frowned. I pulled the address and phone number of the restaurant out of my purse. It was written up as an out-of-the-way place where chef Thai Tu-Tho and her architect husband, Tran Binh, had just renovated an old house to create a chic new restaurant where the food and presentation were great — a rare combo, it said.
I showed him the address in the article. He picked up his cellphone, dialed, spoke to someone in Vietnamese (probably said, “I have four nutcakes here who think this is your restaurant”) and handed us the phone.
“Don’t worry,” a reassuring voice told us, in beautiful English with a soft Parisian accent, “he will put you in a cab and you will be here soon.”
Here is the restaurant we finally arrived at — worth all the confusion!
To this day, we don’t know where we were. A home? Maybe, but something else was going on there — some kind of private club, maybe?? I suppose we should have been worried, but we weren't.
Sad to leave Saigon so quickly, we flew to Da Nang for a quick trip to the beach at Dien Duong Village. For us, this detour was an expensive waste of time. It was the rainy season and, as beautiful as the Nam Hai Hotel was, spending time at a western-style beach resort — that, frankly, we could have found in many places closer to home — was not worth the trouble.
Our rooms belonged in a movie — so exotic and designed to the nines, but not comfortable. You risked breaking your neck just getting out of bed in the middle of the night, navigating your descent from the slippery ebony platform, getting tangled in the miles of gauze draped around your bed. The desk was hysterical — no way was Michel going to sit in the tiny “pod” and get stuck for life! The lights over the bed were for those who can read in the dark — all form, no function. Designers take note!
Oh well, on to Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. Our stay was a memorable two days. Not enough. We stayed at the famous La Résidence, built in the 1930s. From the moment you walk into the red lacquered lobby bar, you can see that it has retained its Art Deco grandeur. Very Indochine!
Hue was two days of temples and the old imperial city. Again, too much to try to describe. Each one was so different, and all were beyond beautiful. I remember being in the temple of Bai Dau, the last emperor, and so grateful that the war did not destroy this magnificent building.
On the last day, we took a boat trip down the Perfume River, wearing our pink (disposable) plastic ponchos that Debra had so kindly provided, together with our umbrellas, rain hats and hoods, all of which did not keep us dry. We looked like drowned rats and Barry keeps reminding that he has a photo that I would pay good money to destroy. I can only imagine. When it came time to tip the lovely woman and her husband who worked so hard running their tourist boat, I pressed some bills into her hand. Later, I discovered I had given away all my Japenese yen — hundreds of dollars worth. It was a good way to spend it.
Our last stop in Vietnam was Hanoi. The 1,000th anniversary of the city was the following week, so things were ramping up and the crowds and parades were exciting to see.
We stayed at the Sofitel Legend Metropole — so grand and elegant. Ask for the Opera Wing. Vietnam is the place to go upmarket and book the best rooms in the best hotels. For about US $325, you will enjoy a stay that would cost three or four times as much here and even more in Europe.
I found our trip to the “Hanoi Hilton” fascinating. It’s the famous prison built by the French, and later used by the Vietnamese to imprison the American POWs. One side is devoted to the period of French rule where Vietnam’s prisoners were locked in chains in horrific dungeons. The other side shows the more humane conditions of American POWs, including Sen. John McCain — clearly their most famous prisoner — complete with posters, his uniforms in glass cases and a homemade movie of him and his fellow POWs playing ball in a grassy yard. This, like the other war museums, seemed like an attempt to be as objective as possible, for people who had suffered through war on their land for over 20 years. I wonder how objective we could be under those circumstances?
As we left Vietnam, I wished several things:
- That the whole world could see how commerce, including retail of luxury labels, seemed to be thriving in this Communist country. And that Communism does not necessarily mean suppression of beliefs. Many Vietnamese we met were either Catholic or Buddhist and had not given up their religion when Ho Chi Minh established a Communist regime.
- That we had hired guides who were history or political theory professors. Our guides were fine, but we had deeper questions and we knew we were getting the guidebook explanation of most things.
- And, most of all, that I would return.
On to Siem Reap in Cambodia for three nights in Angkor to see the famous temple of Angkor Wat and the jungle temple, Ta Prohm.
We stayed at the Amansara and I loved it. Michel, however, did not. He thought it was too programmed and far from authentic. Debra said what I knew to be true: this was the absolute best way to see Angkor. I loved our rooms, the shiny black rickshaws, the fabulous meals and the early 1960s vintage Mercedes that took us to the airport.
Angkor Wat is one of the most incredible structures made by man.
You just have to see Angkor Wat and also Ta Prohm (the jungle temple) (pictured above), where trees with massive roots have grown around and through the buildings. Rent Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and see for yourself.
I was the slug on our trip. Of the four of us, I was the one that, more than once, simply did not want to climb yet another ladder of steep steps, trudge through another temple when my feet were gone or walk under nets filled with bats and bat droppings just to see one more block of stone. By the time we left Siem Reap, I was ready to go home.
Unlike Vietnam, Cambodia was not a country where we felt we could talk about the history, like the unspeakable genocide of Pol Pot that led to the killing fields. It seems that everyone you meet is young.
Our trip was almost over. Michel and I flew to Bangkok, then home via one night at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. Barry and Debra went on for a quick trip to Beijing.
Michel surprised me with a real treat: Emirates air first class to Hong Kong. It’s everything you’ve heard it is. “Rooms” with private minibars, vanities with makeup mirrors, a desk, a bed, of course, and all the movies you could want on your own big-screen TV. The bathrooms are full size with real showers. Oh well, once in a lifetime!!
I returned home refreshed, inspired and filled with design ideas and, most of all, with a new perspective about parts of the world that I had read and heard about every day for most of my life. The Campbells were great travelling buddies in every way. Barry says that on a trip like that, everyone is allowed to be a total grump for one day. I didn’t see it, ever … but, then again, I don’t recall looking as bad as they claim I did. So the memory is selective.
All in all, a wonderful almost three weeks. Now we’re busy planning our 2012 adventure.
This is the first in of two blogs about our amazing trip to Southeast Asia this past fall. (For the more recent post, click here.) Michel and I and our great friends Barry and Debra Campbell went on what I think was the perfect three-week trip to Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia and then home via Bangkok and Hong Kong.
If you love design, architecture and food and have not done this trip, I hope this blog will be a keeper for you … and that you will get there.
I take zero credit for the planning of this trip. After agreeing to leave H&H for three whole weeks (first time ever), I just closed my eyes and left the details to the others and our travel agent, Marla. It was a hard decision for a control freak! But it was the only way I could agree to go for such a long time.
I did do three things before I left (all essential, I think):
I bought Michel and myself Rimowa luggage, based on Debra’s research.
Totally worth the price, these suitcases will make your life so much easier. The key is the interior mesh dividers that compress your clothes — and the wheels that are so fabulous they make wheeling a suitcase feel like walking your dog. Buy one carry-on that will hold all you need for an overnight stay, plus your computer. I also bought one large suitcase that held everything I needed for three weeks.
And I asked Jason Rees, our H&H tech guru, to get me an iPad and load it up with books and mags.
Plus, I bought comfy shoes and packed light layers, including a great raincoat with a big hood. You have to have one to do this trip.
I never expected it to be this fabulous. Our first stop was Tokyo. Michel chose his favourite hotels in Japan and restaurants that he knew from the many years he did business there.
We stayed at the Okura Hotel, which is a perfectly preserved modernist building from the early '60s. Elegant, quiet and serene, which you appreciate after a day of noise and neon in the city centre.
Let’s start with the food, because every bite of this trip was memorable. First night munchies hit at 3 a.m., when you’re starving (14 hours ahead of Toronto). Michel ordered udon noodle soup infused with curry. I passed and then grabbed bites every time he ran to answer his Skype. This soup was so good that I ordered it every chance I got — until we left. The broth was creamy with curry and bits of roasted chicken. I am going to try to get the recipe for our website. It’s that good.
Our first dinner out was at Zakuro, a shabu-shabu restaurant that Michel had been telling me about for years. You would think that his memories of Tokyo food would be about sushi or Kobe beef — but no. He talked about their tomato salad so often that we had to go there and find out what the big deal was.
We all had it, and we all agreed. Best ever!! Three secrets to this salad. Good-quality tomatoes — cut in chunks. Serve it in a clear glass bowl that sits on a bed of crushed ice. And the DRESSING. Sesame oil, rice vinegar, miso, ponzu sauce and celery seed is my best guess. Maybe a hint of ginger...
You just want to drink it. It’s that good. Debra and I each asked to buy bottles of it from the kitchen to cart home. The recipe above produces a taste that’s pretty close. If you read Japanese, I can scan the label and send it to you — if you promise to share the ingredient list with me, okay? I will post it in the next blog.
We also had the shabu-shabu (like fondue, only with broth and very thin slices of raw beef, tofu and veggies). But it’s that salad that I dream of.
The next day we were guests for brunch at the residence of our ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Jonathan Fried and his wife, Paula. Barry and Debra are friends of theirs and we were lucky enough to be included.
The residence, called Marler House, is an amazing property right in the middle of Tokyo, with beautiful gardens, next door to our embassy, a modern building designed by Raymond Muryama. If you live in Toronto, you would know the Bata Shoe Museum, one of many important buildings he has designed here at home. Touring the library of our embassy and seeing H&H on display felt great!
One rainy day we went to Harajuku, home of the famous Harajuku girls. Our guide told us that high school girls arrive by subway to this downtown hub, stash their school uniforms in lockers and dress up in their bizarre (but cute) outfits with parasols and green hair.
The street was such a riot with crêpe stands on every corner. Barry bought one and we all had a bite.
Of course, we also saw Japan's famous anime shops and arcades. I'm afraid I didn't quite get it...
Our two best sushi meals were lunch at the restaurant Hototogisa and dinner at a private club.
We were the guests of Michel’s old friend Mr. Yagu. His assistant, Schiko Tsujimoto, took us to visit the small boutiques of young Japanese designers, then on to his club, where the most stunning collection of Le Corbusier paintings lines every wall. Our sushi was wonderful, but the art collection was one of the highlights of our trip.
At least one whole afternoon was spent in the boutiques of Ginza, a ritzy area of central Tokyo. All the top labels have their own buildings designed by the world's most famous architects, each one incredible, all in a row. Debra and I knew before we left that clothes and shoes would not be on our list anywhere in Asia. You have to wear a size 10 shoe to understand the looks you get when you ask for your size in the land of
size 4 feet. Sometimes the sales clerks would just point to our feet and start laughing. But purses? That was a different story.
Only, Tokyo is very expensive. The cab ride from the airport to our hotel was about $400 Canadian. You get the picture.
Besides shopping, there was the Mori Art Museum, with its fabulous installations by Japanese contemporary artists that made us rethink our whole concept of nature, and the glorious temples we toured with our guide were so inspirational.
At one temple we found ourselves in the middle of a traditional Japanese wedding. So beautiful. I looked at the bride and could not help but wonder what her life will be like...
The temples of Japan are glorious. The gardens are serene, magnificent works of art. Sometimes they include a wishing wall, with wishes written on cards by visiting tourists.
Our last night we dined at Ukai-tei, a traditional teppanyaki steak house in Ginza. If you love beef and you ever go to Tokyo, you must dine there. The whole “melt in your mouth” thing that is never true … is true there. The beef dissolves on your tongue because it’s so marbled, it’s mostly all fat. Once in my life is enough.
Our last day in Tokyo we got up very early to go to the famed fish market. Hoping to see a tuna auction, we learned that the lineup for tickets made it impossible, but never mind because the market itself, many football fields large, is so incredible, you could get lost for days — unless, of course, you got run over first by one of the speed carts zooming along the aisles. Tourists have been run over more than once when they got in the way of the day’s important business.
I got carried away by my love of uni (sea urchin). I bought a whole wooden box of it so Michel and I could eat it with a spoon on the train ride to Kyoto later that day. And we did!! It was like ordering 100 orders of uni at a sushi bar — for the price of two orders. How could I resist? It made me realize just how many middlemen come between us and the fishermen...
We were sad to leave Tokyo so soon. Three days and nights was not long enough. By the way, Michel also told us that the french toast at the Okura is legendary. And it was. I think to make it you would need to coat your bread in cheese soufflé — and then grill it lightly. So good...
On the train to Kyoto, you have to see the ladies in their pink maid uniforms and face masks in the train station who line up and jump on the train when it stops to clean it before you get on. All through Japan we noticed people picking up garbage — caring about their cities and taking pride in their condition.
Next time, Kyoto and kimonos, then on to Vietnam and my new love affair with pho...
As promised in the November 2010 issue of H&H, here are a few notes and sources for the new country look that I just can’t get enough of. Take a look and be sure to comment with any sources of your own to share.
Beige is a fantastic resource for furniture, lighting and accessories. Natural finishes and linen upholstery are key elements in this shop — their selection is the perfect combination of dressy and casual. As I said in my November 2010 column, it’s this kind of contrast that gives a room attitude. Don’t forget, Beige also has a location in Ottawa.
Boo Boo & Lefty, Toronto
This store sells a variety of products, from furniture to lighting to must-have accessories for your dog (after all, their store was named after their own dogs). Their collection is quite tailored but maintains an element of comfort which effortlessly translates into the new country style. Make sure to stop in next time you’re strolling down what we like to call “the Yonge Street strip” of design stores — it’s a must-see.
Crate & Barrel, Toronto, Mississauga, Calgary
Although mainstream, Crate & Barrel is a very accessible and affordable source for a few new country-inspired pieces. The Pacifica Hutch would be a great alternative to upper cabinets and the Jack and Zak table lamps would add a touch of elegance to any space.
Liv by Au Lit, Toronto
This sister store to Au Lit Fine Linens is a good source for slipcovered furniture that completes the new country look so well. Take a look at their refurbished vintage pieces, like this settee, too. Incorporating antiques into your decor adds that stylish worn look to your home.
Sawkille, Rhinebeck, NY
Sawkille is a group of highly skilled artisans that run a studio in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Their work is refined and the craftsmanship is impeccable — definitely a source to check out for great investment pieces like these stump stools and side tables.
2. House & Home July 2010 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
3a. Pacifica Buffet With Hutch Top, Crate & Barrel
3b. Jack and Zak table lamps, Crate & Barrel
4. Settee, Liv by Au Lit
5. Stump Stools and Side Tables, Sawkille
Here are some of my favourite fabrics and websites for reference.
Ralph Lauren Home is a great source for classic prints. These three are examples of traditional toiles and one- and two-colour floral prints on muddy taupe backgrounds. I think a darker background feels more modern than a white background and gives weight to the print. From left: And They’re Off! Toile in Pink; Beaumont Blockprint in Ink; Cote d’Azure Floral in Poppy. Ralph Lauren Home.
Ralph also has wonderful paisley patterns. The top one, Waltham Paisley, is being used in this year’s Princess Margaret Home Lottery showhouse that we’re just finishing up — ready for you to tour this September! The middle print, Dovima, was used in last year’s showhouse on the ottoman in the living room (right). It’s very dramatic because it’s printed on linen, which gives the colours extra depth. From top: Waltham Paisley in Loden; Dovima Linen Paisley in Onyx; Traquaire Paisley in Bordeaux. Ralph Lauren Home.
I like these stripes because they are random and restful. The bottom two are especially calm and could be used in place of solids. Clockwise from top left: Cap Ferrat Stripe in Azure; Maritime Linen Ticking in Riviera; Ice House Stripe in Barn; Driftwood Stripe in Squid Ink. Ralph Lauren Home.
Tribal prints from all cultures are a personal favourite. I think they lend a sense of history and soul to a room. The middle and right prints are both North American Aboriginal woven prints that I have used for throw pillows on a khaki sofa — they looked great! From left: Galapagos in Lapis; Shakopee Blanket in Canyon; Sacred Mountain Blanket in Churro. Ralph Lauren Home.
This one is a tone-on-tone damask that works well with other patterned fabrics. Bedford Crest in Coronation Red. Ralph Lauren Home.
John Robshaw prints are usually small, all-over patterns on soft cotton, perfect for bedding and table linens. These are some of my favourite examples. Clockwise from top left: Maansi Walnut; Champa Vista; Algiers Lotus; Vintage Stripe Kashmir; Diggi Lotus; Indigo Diamond Ikat. John Robshaw Textiles.
I love these three prints from Les Indiennes. The first one, Yvette, is actually a large 8"-long teardrop paisley pattern on a solid background that you can buy as a duvet cover. I have it on my bed (above). From left: Yvette; Timothee; Pippi. Les Indiennes.
Victoria Hagan is a great resource for graphic prints with fresh, dramatic patterns. Clockwise from top left: White Dove in Coral Red; White Dove in Citrus; White Dove in Espresso; Early Spring in Espresso; Early Spring in Sky; Early Spring in Lilac; Early Spring in Coral; White Dove in Indigo. Victoria Hagan Home.
David Hicks also produces strong graphic prints that I’m drawn to. This Domino cover shows a curved Chippendale-style love seat in a geometric print that I think is so unexpected and current. From top: La Florentina in Wine/Magenta, Blue and Aqua. David Hicks.
George Smith and Bennison Fabrics offer quiet, restful floral prints. The “tea-stained effect” lends a vintage look. From left: George Smith Gollut Number 15; Bennison Fabrics Roses in Regular Blue on Beige Linen.
London’s Andrew Martin is the source for English motifs like crests, flags and banners. The bottom left print, Magna Carta, is a classic that I have used on a small hall chair with great effect like in the photo above. From top: Fante Flags Red in Red; Magna Carta in Red. Andrew Martin Fabrics.
Decorating with prints is an easy way to bring character into a room. Please, send me your favourites — I would love to learn about any new resources.
Hope the rest of your summer is warm and lazy!
1. From left: And They’re Off! Toile in Pink (LCF18840F); Beaumont Blockprint in Ink (LFY64037F); Cote d’Azure Floral in Poppy (LFY64050F), Ralph Lauren Home
2. From top: Waltham Paisley in Loden (LFY63007F); Dovima Linen Paisley in Onyx (LFY40272F); Traquaire Paisley in Bordeaux (LFY63003F), Ralph Lauren Home
3. Clockwise from top left: Cap Ferrat Stripe in Azure (LFY64106F); Maritime Linen Ticking in Riviera (LFY64079F); Ice House Stripe in Barn (LFY60458F); Driftwood Stripe in Squid Ink (LFY50151F), Ralph Lauren Home
4. From left: Galapagos in Lapis (LFY50039F); Shakopee Blanket in Canyon (LFY64164F); Sacred Mountain Blanket in Churro (LFY64179F), Ralph Lauren Home
5. Bedford Crest in Coronation Red (LFY50465F), Ralph Lauren Home
6. Clockwise from top left: Maansi Walnut (JRCL 12-04); Champa Vista (JRL 02-04); Algiers Lotus (JRL 77-58); Vintage Stripe Kashmir (JRL 21-18); Diggi Lotus (JRL 41-58); Indigo Diamond Ikat (JRIK-03), John Robshaw Textiles
7. From left: Yvette (38); Timothee (76); Pippi (46), Les Indiennes
8. Clockwise from top left: White Dove in Coral Red (4002-03); White Dove in Citrus (4002-02); White Dove in Espresso (4002-05); Early Spring in Espresso (4001-05); Early Spring in Sky (4001-02); Early Spring in Lilac (4001-03); Early Spring in Coral (4001-06); White Dove in Indigo (4002-04), Victoria Hagan Home from Decorati
9. From top: La Florentina in Wine/Magenta (2430-GWF-97); La Florentina in Blue (2430-GWF-51); La Florentina in Aqua (2430-GWF-136), David Hicks from Kravet/Lee Jofa; Spring/Summer 2005 Domino cover from Flickr.com
10. From left: Gollut Number 15, George Smith; Roses in Regular Blue on Beige Linen, Bennison Fabrics
11. From top: Fante Flags Red in Red; Magna Carta in Red, Andrew Martin Fabrics
An avid blogger, with no time to blog. That’s been my story.
You can’t imagine the conversations I have had with you — in my mind.
So, please forgive the delays and let me start fresh.
Last year was such a rough year, with all media under huge pressure from the troubled economy. But we weathered the storm thanks to the support of all of you, our readers and viewers, designers, homeowners, retailers — and advertisers.
Thank you so much.
And then this spring, as if by magic, it has turned around, and things are good again.
Our magazine issues are getting fatter and House & Home TV is rolling again — this time online which is so convenient. Curled up in bed with my laptop and my headphones has become my favourite way to watch TV. Don’t you agree?
There have been plenty of changes at our magazine. You might have noticed a new, fresh energy on our pages. I hope so. I certainly see the difference, and I like it a lot. The mail has been great! Your feedback and suggestions to our editors and TV and website teams have been so helpful. Please keep them coming!
Personally, I have never been busier. This past winter, I renewed my determination to exercise and eat a more healthy diet. I’m lucky to have a great trainer, Stacey, who has been preaching the importance of fuelling — all day long — with lots of small meals that start with vegetables and fruit and low-fat protein. In February, I went to the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa for a week of extreme discipline — and I mean extreme!!
It was a huge eye-opener. Never a breakfast person, now I start my day with steel-cut Irish oatmeal. Lunch is a big salad topped with chicken or tuna, and dinner is meat or fish. Sometimes it's brown pasta and veg — and lots of berries and non-fat yogurt. I learned that if I can do this for five to six days a week, then it's okay to eat just about anything on that seventh day, along with a glass or two of wine.
Not so bad.
Most of all, I have so much more energy, which I need because life is hectic. Besides the day-to-day at the magazine and taping online TV shows, there are events throughout the week — plus the biggest project — the fourth showhouse we are building and decorating.
It’s once again on a great lot in Oakville, Ont., but the big news is our dream team — led by architect Gordon Ridgely and landscape architect Ronald Holbrook, with Coivic Contracting doing the stone work and planting and PCM (Project and Construction Management) building the house. So much amazing talent!!
Of course, the H&H in-house design team is on the job again.
This year’s theme is “A House in the Hamptons,” inspired by the famous beach house in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. It has the big front porch, the wood-shingled exterior walls with big windows, plantation shutters and a gorgeous, classic interior featuring a great room and separate eat-in kitchen. I think you'll love it. You'll recognize Diane Keaton's dream home from this shot of the exterior.
Here's the famous kitchen from the movie. Ours will be very different!
Here are a few snaps of the construction underway — even though you can’t tell much, you can at least see the amazing great room space and some of the many french doors in every room.
There’s even a sunroom with full walls of windows on two sides, slate floors and a painted tongue-and-groove wood ceiling. Very romantic.
I went looking for inspiration in NYC — and saw the decorated rooms at the Ralph Lauren Mansion on Madison Ave.
Back home, we're busy finding inspiration from the great stores in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Like this sofa from Restoration Hardware, for the living room of the showhouse.
This month, we’ll be out every day looking for furniture, rugs and accessories. Only eight weeks until the finish line!
Almost forgot to tell you about the most exciting thing that happened at our house this past spring. Michel’s daughter, Aria, married her prince charming, Elie Deshe, in a wonderful three-day wedding weekend at the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas — right next to the new Aria Casino, which was a fun touch.
Here are some snaps of the beautiful couple, Elie's parents, and us, having so much fun.
Michel and I and our great friend, Rodney Birrell.
Summer is around the corner. Our garden is almost planted, and this weekend I'll be filling my pots with herb plants, getting ready to make basil pesto — my favourite.
Speak to you soon!
Last week I visited the SIDIM (Salon International du Design Intérieur de Montréal) design show and I found a few gems:
1. From DuRoy comes Vinyl flooring that I swear looks so much like real plank flooring that I was fooled. They even have the new greyed oak colour that we love.
2. At Dismo International I saw the new Tototo chair in crayon colours including this bright citron.
4. There were interesting glass shower stalls with doors that slide across instead of opening on a hinge. The tracking system was smooth and allowed for different shapes and configurations of stalls. The company was called Kinetik. Go to Fleurco to see more.
5. For the kitchen there were spigot taps, or "pot fillers," in the newest oil rubbed bronze finish that I had not seen before, from Moen. We’re just figuring out the kitchen in the Showhouse we are building in support of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. The theme of this year’s house is "modern farmhouse" and I can see this tap working perfectly along with the matching sink faucet and sprayer.
6. Have you heard about Fatboy? These big square, flat pillows are light as a feather and can be molded to fit your body, offereing amazing support and comfort. It’s the old bean bag concept using modern technology.
Here I’m relaxing with Kirby Miller from HH Media and the two “Fat Boys” Denis Dumas and Michel Abitbol. I won’t be putting these chairs in my living room any time soon, but I could see them in a dorm room, a playroom, kid's bedroom or first apartment.
7. This tracking system for hanging art is discreet and modern looking. The company is called AS Hanging, and they carry many designs ranging from simple, industrial-looking systems to more refined residential syles in many different finishes.
8. This good-looking upholstered chair is from Montreal-based DIB Design. They have this classic tufted slipper chair in a wonderful generous scale, and their claim to fame is a simple Parson's-style dining chair that is engineered so it does not need any cross supports between the legs — and yet it’s super strong.
9. Finally, I was inspired by the concept room at this year’s show. Called "Canoe House", it was designed by canühome to look like an inverted canoe with beautiful blond wood ribs forming the curved roofline.
Inside was a complete "house" with a kitchen, dining area, great room and a bedroom that included stackable laundry appliances and closet hanging and storage. Of course everything was made of sustainable materials, and the whole house was eco, portable, convertible, economical and energy-efficient.
The kitchen was outstanding, designed and built by AYA Kitchens and Baths.
To read more about the house, visit canühome.
It was not a big show, but there were some great finds, and best of all, I could walk the whole show in a few hours
and my feet were not killing me at the end!
I've saved a few kitchen finds for my page in House & Home Magazine. It's all about my passion — kitchen design.
Look for it in the September issue, on sale August 4th.
Just picked up the May 2009 issue of Town & Country...annual spring home issue. Thin, yes, but still inspiring. (They say the bottom of this crappy economy is in sight, and by next year at this time all of us mags will be fat again. Fingers crossed...)
I like the story on page 100, "Safe Harbour," and especially the rooms on page 100 and 103.
With all the retro, boho, mod mixing going on in design, it can be hard to find a grown-up room that still stays true to its classical roots, and yet is fresh and current, like this one above.
I am torn between the super-cool rooms I see in our magazine — with the vintage postmodern furniture and '70s palette — and my desire to have rooms that are calm, sleek and serene, with hits of colour like the pillows on the sofa shown above.
There's nothing serene about an eye-popping mix of unexpected elements, is there?
I think these rooms hit a great note because they are dramatic, have classic elements, but they've brought in bits of trendy furniture, like the raw wood bench/coffee table and this wonderful metal etagere (above). Essentially all neutrals, these rooms glow with different tones and shades and are anything but bland. Shows that with lots of texture, great shapes and interesting pieces, neutrals can be exciting.
Love the natural oak doors and striped rug in the study. Has me dreaming about some updates to my house. I'm almost ready to share some snaps of rooms in progress.
P.S. Speaking of progress, I'm off to see the progress of the next Showhouse we are building for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. It's in Oakville, Ontario, and it's so amazing it keeps me up at night. Stay tuned for details!
Room design: Sharone Einhorn, Honey Wolters, Ruby Beets Design