Connect with H&H

I recently lived through the last serious renovation to my house. (Serious to me means using my Sicilians, the contractors I have been calling on and off since buying my little house in 2002.) Kitchen and bathroom — done! Living and dining room — finished! Basement — check! I thought I was finished with renovating forever (although, are you ever really done?) until some saggy beaming and an even saggier roof on my detached garage meant I would need to have one last reno in me. Considering the cost of parking in downtown Toronto, and the inconvenience of street parking, saving my garage was now a priority. (You can see the full before and after in our June 2015 issue, on stands now, plus watch a tour on Online TV.)

I was a little out of practice, but then I realized — like all my renos before — there was a process and I just had to get back at it. The first step is the easy part, a little like love at first sight. You see something you like the looks of and you're a goner. I had a lovely inspiration shot (above) of a kitchen that I kept looking back at (and couldn't replicate in my house), so my garage was the next best place to use it as inspiration. I love that it's painted white, has lots of character, Shaker cabinetry, crisp painted floors and an old banged-up work table. If my garage could end up looking anything like this, I'd be thrilled.

The second step is the hard one, less about inspiration and more about frustration. My dark and dismal garage had a long way to go. Not only would it need lots of construction work and several coats of white paint to become the bright, airy space I wanted, it also needed to be completely emptied of all its contents. My solution was a portable ShelterLogic garage (below) that I could set up in my backyard and fill with everything from the permanent garage. Just imagine a gigantic tent that fills your entire backyard. No backyard entertaining last summer. No grass this summer.

The last steps included planning and putting back together. I needed to keep my parking spot, natch. But also wanted the multi-est of multi-use spaces. Crafting, storage, recycling bins, tools, gardening supplies and ladders all had to look good enough that I could throw the doors open for laneway sales. (I have an online store called Found with fellow H&H editor Morgan Michener.) And if I wanted it to be attractive like my original inspiration shot, I needed to figure out some things not typically seen in garage systems (dare I use the dreaded term Man Cave, because that is what most garage systems look like). Thank goodness for Ikea. Here's a peek at some of the tricks I used.

Hooks are perfect for hanging ladders out of the way, but also come in handy for hanging throw blankets at our laneway sales.

The sliding barn door in front of the recycling and garbage not only hides the unsightly bins, but creates a long deep shelf for more storage and a separate seating area, great for displaying our cushions for sale.

Open shelving above the cabinets means items are on display and easy to access. But lower cabinets store everything from a sewing machine and mitre saw to craft and packing supplies, hardware and garden tools. Every drawer is filled.

Lastly, a great old drafting table (a gift from H&H style editor Stacey Smithers) provides another work surface solely dedicated to gardening and potting (and keeps my bigger crafting table clean). Plus, it folds down to save space when not in use.

So now that the pain of the reno is over, not only do I feel more organized than ever, but I'm back to loving the look — pleased that I got as close to the inspiration shot as I did.

Pick up our June 2015 issue for more photos and tips from my garage reno, and tour the finished space on May 15 on Online TV.

Photo credits:
1. Sköna Hem magazine
2. Meg Crossley
3-8. House & Home June 2015 issue, photography by Valerie Wilcox


Meg Crossley

Have a backyard in need of a makeover? We've got Before & After photos from Techo-Bloc to inspire your next patio design!

Techo-Bloc offers stones for everything from patios and driveaways to outdoor walls and the exterior of your home. Love the outdoor kitchen trend we featured in our May 2015 issue? Techo-Bloc also has outdoor pizza ovens, firepits and a grilling/barbecue island. (This blog post is sponsored by Techo-Bloc.)


In its previous state, this yard wasn’t very useful for the homeowners. The young couple wanted a bold, original space that would allow them to host large family gatherings, but would also be comfortable for a smaller group of friends. Do you #SeeThePotential?


The spacious backyard now functions as an incredible extension to their home!


1. Create Zones

By dividing the backyard into sections, they were able to create a clearly defined outdoor living room, dining room and lounge. When large groups visit, they can wander freely through the whole space, and smaller groups can stay in one area. The sunk-in design makes the firepit area feel cosy.

2. Choose Great Materials

Key to this look: The smart stone choices. Travertina slabs were used for the main pathways. The matte ivory-coloured limestone features subtle markings atop which add texture and character. To make the look less formal, they spaced out smaller slabs and filled the gaps with rocks.

Low walls — which double as benches — in the Manchester stone contrast with the lighter stone floors. In this sunk-in lounge and dining area, they went with complementary Blu polished slabs in Chestnut Brown and a band of the smaller Antika stone in Chocolate Brown to highlight the firepit. Speaking of firepits...

3. Consider An Outdoor Firepit

Stay warm by the fire on cooler nights — outdoors! The family chose a gas-burning Valencia firepit and surrounded it by Techo-Bloc stone benches. Here at H&H we've seen the firepit trend grow and featured it in our upcoming June issue.

See more inspiring photos and get ideas on ways to improve your backyard, front yard, driveway and more on, or call 1 877-832-4625 to find a retailer or Techo-Pro installer in your area.

Concept, GreenArt Landscape Design. Installation, Lakeridge Contracting.


Seema Persaud

Lately, whenever I find myself swooning over a room, it turns out to be the gorgeous work of a single firm, Commune Design. Based out of L.A., it was founded in 2004 by four designers — Roman Alonso, Steven Johanknecht, Pamela Shamshiri and Ramin Shamshiri — and has been responsible for millions of Pins since thanks to its imagining of spaces for Ace Hotel Downtown L.A. and Palm Springs, Heath Ceramics showrooms, Opening Ceremony's boutique in Tokyo and the Irene Neuwirth boutique in L.A. The list goes on and includes residential clients that are just as eclectic.

How happy was I, then, when a lush photography book all about Commune (2014 Abrams Books) showed up on my desk last October. Every project I've ever drooled over had been pulled together and organized, with extra photos and commentary from the designers adding the proverbial cherry on top.

Of course, the book itself deserves pride of place on your coffee table. Housed in a graphic black and white box, it slides out like a gift you have the fun of unwrapping again and again.

Now that spring is finally warming up, I find myself turning to Commune's cool California vibe more than ever. Here are a few photos of their work to inspire your own summer style. Bring on the sun!

Photo credits:
1-8. From Commune: Designed In California (2014 Abrams Books)
2-3, 8. Photography by François Halard
4-5. Photography by Amy Neunsinger
6. Photography by Mariko Reed
7. Photography by Spencer Lowell


Kimberley Brown

I know it's been ages since I've blogged. I was swamped with the Interior Design Show at the start of the year and I never seem to be able to catch up after that! And I've been travelling quite a bit for work. The good news is that I've come back armed with lots of great design stories. One of my favourite experiences was the Kravet Canada trip to the U.K. for London Design Week a few weeks ago.

London was as inspiring as always, and my visit to the townhouse of jewelry designer to the stars Jessica McCormack was a definite highlight. Her jewelry designs are totally unique and she showcases them in her stellar house in Mayfair, giving clients a unique shopping experience as they browse amongst her fascinating collection of artwork and furniture. Here are some of my favourite photos from her gorgeous live/work townhouse:

These are a few of the designers I was travelling with pulling up in front of Jessica's gorgeous Edwardian home. That's Richard Ouelette from Les Ensembliers snapping a shot of the building at the same time as me while sporting a snappy green bag from Want Les Essentiels de la Vie that I coveted the entire trip!

The front entry featured stunning panelling in a matte finish that complemented the olive green runner beautifully. Jessica worked with the Haas Brothers to create the dramatic candelabra. Its polished gold finish and slumped fused glass shades have a Dr. Suess-like impact in the stairwell, adding playful contrast to the more serious panelling.

Here's a detail of the intricate tile work on the floor.

I posted this shot on Instagram while I was there. The David Wiseman-designed ceiling fixture (made of bronze, porcelain and crystal components) hangs from a giant medallion in the front room. It was total whimsy — light and feminine, like woodland magic.

Everywhere you turned there was a spectacular vignette. I love how designer Rick Owens used a single antler as a backrest on this bench, called Tomb, Stag, Bench. The painting is by Axel Geis.

There were several fireplaces in the house and each one was spectacularly appointed. The one in Jessica's office featured a pinkish marble and the painting, Amazon Lily by Valérie Belin, played off of it beautifully. With all the colour and layers in the artwork, fewer things are needed on the mantel.

Look at the scale of this oval mirror. It was like looking through a doorway.

Moving from light and airy to dark and cosy, the second floor drawing room was a complete contrast from downstairs. It's a perfect example of how you can play with different styles and palettes in a single space.

The deep blue walls looked like Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue (30), ideal for rich, luxurious impact. I love how the French walnut console in the corner looks perfectly at home with the prototype leather chair and the Anne Hardy print over the fireplace.

The chevron floors were to die for. The highlight in here was the custom electric player piano by Based Upon. Its cool '70s vibe had a vintage yet contemporary feel. You can see the keys are working their magic. Apparently it plays customizable playlists from your iPhone. The Brazilian hardwood barstools are by Joaquim Tenreiro, the top left painting is by Susanne Johansson, the bottom left by Axel Geis, and the painting over mantle is by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Here's a quick panorama of the room:

This dramatic curved bentwood olive ash shelf filled one of the corners. It's Irish designer Joseph Walsh's Enignum Shelf V1.

Here's another Instagram photo I posted, a simple grouping at one end of another fireplace. I love how the posie looks like it's about to make the terracotta head (by artist Charles Weddepohl) sneeze.

The secret jewel in the entire place was the powder room wrapped in a stunning olive-green fauna wallpaper and paired with coordinating fabric, crisp marble and brass accents. The dark wood toilet seat, with a concealed space-saving cistern, felt so new (even though it's anything but).

The leaded glass window behind the vanity added more pattern and privacy.

The antique faucets made the vanity.

And the pineapple 'welcome symbol' sconces were the perfect finishing touch. The whole room renewed my passion for coordinating fabrics and wallpaper.

Stay tuned for other highlights from my travels in upcoming H&H issues and blog posts!

Photo credits:
1c. Marlow 35 blog
2-18. Suzanne Dimma


Suzanne Dimma

As we celebrate 400 years of French presence in Canada, the influence of settlers who came from Normandy can be seen in La Belle Province's architecture and lifestyle. Norman heritage is also very apparent in Quebec City, where historical buildings mirror century-old originals found in La Manche, a seafaring region dear to my heart.

Known for its fine arts and craftsmanship (think copperware and lace-making workshops in Villedieu-les-Poêles, or illuminated manuscripts in Lisieux), this region is home to a jewel listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay. With a stunning abbey typical of medieval architecture, shops specialized in handmade products, museums and fine restaurants, the "Rock" attracts millions of tourists each year — including nature lovers who come to admire picturesque views of the great tides.

The ever-changing appearance of the Bay never ceased to amaze me ever since we used to vacation there as a family. I remember fondly walking on the beach, wrapped in the comfort of an authentic seaman's sweater by Saint James. I love the romantic-yet-robust feel of this iconic, high-quality apparel brand; it personifies relaxed nautical fashion, French clothing know-how, and the beauty of Mont Saint-Michel's Bay. Let's explore this must-see travel destination via Jacqueline Petipas, director of collection at Saint James.

Corinne Cécilia: What does the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel represent for you?
Jacqueline Petipas: Calm and serenity; I'm immersed in it daily. Recently, the great tides were a most remarkable scene! We are fortunate enough to witness shades of red and pink when the sun rises. Spring has arrived, and the lush green colour of wheat-sprouts fields intersects with pale green meadows, while a steel-blues palette creates a vivid backdrop. And because I'm originally from here, this area is closely linked to my fondest childhood memories.

CC: Where do you like to eat out in the region?
JP: Hard to give you a specific place, there are a lot of great restaurants in our region. A specific cultural trait stands out, though: we love to entertain at home. I often have people over, and because the Bay lies between the mainland and the ocean, I buy directly from local producers for seafood (oysters, mussels, scallops, lobsters from Chausey etc.) and fish, as well as for fresh vegetables and farm products.

CC: Where do you like to drink?
JP: Well, here is another local tradition I invite you to try out: at low tide, go for a walk with a group of friends, stop at one of the islands or historical forts along the Bay to indulge your picnic with some wine, and wait for the sunset; then come back at night, at high tide, on a boat.

CC: Where do you like to shop, for interior decorating in particular?
JP: At seasonal antique fairs that take place on the shore, from Granville to Saint-Malo. I also enjoy strolling on beach and bringing back things washed up by the sea. Like Robinson Crusoe.

CC: Where do you go to relax?
JP: Along the Couesnon River, which flows into the Bay, with the Mont Saint-Michel in the background and always accompanying me like a benevolent presence. It's a sandy, grey land, with fields that run along the shore, dotted with flocks of sheep — I feel good when I am there.

CC: What are some of your favourite places?
JP: I like taking walks around the Mont Saint-Michel in winter, and indulging in the stunning mix of Gothic and Roman styles. You can never get enough of it: the abbey, the garden, the cloister, the esplanade — they all create powerful emotions. By the way, it's best to visit the Rock during the week.

CC: What aspects of the Bay inspire you most in terms of style and fashion?
JP: The Bay has a rich palette of colours that inspires me in any season and any time of the day. Incredibly beautiful blues, emerald and other greens, steel-greys and deeper greys, pink hues at dawn in the east, etc. People from here inspire me, too. Our collections are "elements of the Bay" that contribute to the cycle of fashion.

Corinne's travel tip: Each season has its own charm in the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, but it's less crowded during the spring and fall. If you have a chance, visit the eco-museum where the whole family can have fun learning about the flora, fauna and local artisan traditions in the Bay.

I dedicate this article to Raymond Clouet, who was an accomplished athlete, entrepreneur and respected community leader in the city of Avranches (Manche).

Photo credits:
1. Photo Atout France/Pierre Torset
2a. Musées de Villedieu-les-Poeles
2b. Artwork by Benoit Cazelles
2c. Musées de Villedieu-les-Poeles
2d. Marcel Laurent, cabinetmaker/artist, photo courtesy of Saint James tourism board
3, 7b, 8a, 8c. Saint James
4, 8b, 8d, 9. Alexandre Lamoureux, photos courtesy of Saint James tourism board
5a. Maison de la baie
5b. Photo Atout France/CDT Calvados
5c. Alexandre Lamoureux, photo courtesy of Saint James tourism board
5d. Protected label of origin 'Mont Saint-Michel salt-meadows'
6. Leon Folia
7a. Saint Jean le Thomas tourism board
7c. Photo courtesy of Saint James tourism board


Corinne Cécilia

Next Thursday, April 16, join @houseandhome and SICO on Twitter at noon EST as we talk about decorating with colour! We'll share paint colour ideas and interiors we're loving now, inspired by our latest special issue. Participants will have a chance to win 5 gallons of SICO Muse paint, too!

Here's how to join the conversation:

1. Follow @HouseandHome to participate.

2. Tweet @HouseandHome using the hashtag #HHdecorating.

3. Follow along at #HHdecorating on Thursday, April 16, from noon to 1 p.m. EST.

You can find Decorating With Colour on newsstands only, and on the App Store, Google Play and Nook.


Contest prize available to residents of Canada only, excluding Quebec. See full rules and regulations.


Seema Persaud

Comment Guidelines

We welcome your feedback on H&H reserves the right to remove any unsuitable personal remarks made about the bloggers, hosts, homeowners and/or guests we feature. Please keep your comments focused on decorating, design, cooking and other lifestyle topics. Adopt a tone you would be willing to use in person and do not make slanderous remarks or use denigrating language. If you see a comment that you believe violates any of the guidelines outlined above, please click “Flag as inappropriate.” Thank you.