Kitchens and bathrooms are such important spaces in our homes. We spend a lot of time in them and they’re highly functional spaces, so if they don’t work well, we quickly notice — there’s a reason why they’re among the most renovated rooms in a home!
If you’re thinking about completely redoing your kitchen or bathroom, or just want to go from bland to beautiful with some quick finishing touches and a little character, head to the newsstand for a copy of Kitchens & Baths 2011 (on sale until August 14). You can also order a copy online or check out a digital version! Whichever way you decide to look at it, our latest special issue is full of fabulous stories:
- Before-and-after kitchen makeovers, plus designer tips on how to survive a renovation
- 15 kitchens with colour, from a little to a whole lot
- Buying guide: countertop essentials
- A showcase of custom vanities in four key styles, plus matching faucets
- On-trend bathrooms — bringing fashionable looks home
- Bathroom accessories perfect for adding panache to your space
Be sure to enter our annual Kitchens & Baths contest, too, for prizes worth over $5,000!
Of course, you’ll also find stories by some of your favourite House & Home personalities. Editor-in-chief Suzanne Dimma transformed her tiny second kitchen into a gorgeous French pied-à-terre–style space (pictured above). Michael Penney went hunting for fabulous finds with one goal in mind: they all had to be quick and beautiful ways to add colour to kitchens. Test your design savvy by guessing which chairs go with Cameron MacNeil’s top kitchen table picks, plus check out how he adds personality to a boring builder’s beige bathroom in this special installment of his Ask A Designer™ column. Personality — now that’s something every room could use!
1. Cover kitchen, Patrick Cline
2-3. Angus Fergusson
I guess I’m known as a preppy guy most of the time. I’m a big fan of stripes, argyle socks, and fresh, punchy colour mixed with traditional furnishings and antiques. Well if you’re a prepster like me, you’ll know all about Sister Parish, the great American decorator famous for decorating the White House for the Kennedys.
Sister Parish was never afraid to mix high with low, serious with fun, and always made her spaces feel interesting and full of tension and balance. Here’s a shot of her own lacquered living room layered with chintz.
Modern decorating enthusiasts have embraced her retro style and her work has been featured in many a decor mag, including Domino.
Sister Parish’s descendents now sell her famous fabrics and even a new line of accessories that capture the preppy spirit of this classic design firm. Here is a sampling of some of my favourites. How about some graphic and colourful cushions?
And I love the fabric used on this lampshade. Or what about this ice bucket, platter and stationery? Delish!!
Pens, pencils, and notepads never looked so good, thanks to Sister Parish!
And here’s the fabric collection used in an outdoor grouping.
Or, how about a little cottage study?
I just love how bold and vibrant these items are. Not bad for such a classy looking lady, huh?
Sister Parish’s design influence is still being felt today in rooms like this one from House Beautiful.
To learn more about Sister Parish, her design, and her modern-day
devotees, check out this book. Full of beautiful watercolour illustrations, it's a must-read for any preppy decor-holic like me.
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.
Monday was the first official day of spring and stores across Canada have been preparing for the new season with plenty of colourful products. It's easy to add a touch of spring cheer if you have an unlimited budget, but for the rest of us, here are a few products from big-box stores that are sure to please your wallet.
Good ol' Ikea never disappoints! These seasonally-hued planters are perfect for indoors, too. Use a tray for a pretty display on your table or console, and the plant pots for holding utensils or office supplies. Socker planting tray $7; Socker plant pot, $3, Ikea.
I love the fabrics at Ikea, too. These contemporary floral prints are good for any crafty project you have in mind: drapes, pillows, aprons, lampshade DIYs, reupholstery, you name it. Cecilia fabric (pink and orange print), $3/metre; Grönska Blom fabric (blue print), $4/metre, Ikea.
Home Outfitters has plenty of affordable spring items: candy-coloured plastic accessories for your patio, Moroccan-inspired pieces for your living room or bedroom, and even a teeny-tiny apple-green barbecue! Clockwise: pink plastic Adirondack chair, $20; Bodum Fyrkat portable charcoal grill, $60; Living Colours serving tray, $20; GlucksteinHome lantern, $30; GlucksteinHome 6-piece tealight set, $50, Home Outfitters.
I love this bushel basket (on sale!) from Pottery Barn. It's big and rustic and would look great indoors as towel or magazine storage. Try it outdoors filled with a potted plant or branches. The faux coral is also lovely. Let it stand on its own on a bookcase or place it under a nice glass cloche. Wire bushel basket, $23-$40; faux red coral branch, $12-$24, Pottery Barn.
Spring is in the air at Crate & Barrel with lovely items like this glass bell jar and these vintage-style milk bottles. Use either (or both!) to display colourful seasonal flowers. Bell jar and saucer, $10-$20; milk bottles, $7-$13, Crate & Barrel.
Here are some contemporary bath towels from Crate & Barrel, available in blue, green and purple. If you like these, you can also get the matching shower curtain and bed linens! They are all on sale too, so move fast. Marimekko Samovaari surf bath towels, $4-$30, Crate & Barrel.
For a quick spring update, just change up your throw pillows. These colourful cushions are from Structube, and at $19 each, they're as affordable as HomeSense. Cushion 8-381 (green) $19; Cushion C-2564-C (pink), $19, Structube.
For more decorating finds, see Kathryn Bala's blog post on Crate & Barrel's sister store, CB2.
In addition to being both glamorous and successful, Christiane is also an unflappable host: while greeting guests and signing books, she still found the time to tend to her kids, who gleefully ran about the party getting the signatures of attendees. This pic was snapped at the end of the night and she still looks amazing! I, on the other hand…
The celebration took place at the trendy Ace Hotel, where magazine editors, book publishers, TV personalities, designers and design devotees descended the stairs to the hotel’s edgy bunker-style Liberty Hall.
In case you missed it, H&H ran an excerpt of the book in the March 2011 issue, along with a Q&A I did with Christiane. Molly Peterson, standing with me, above, is Christiane’s right-hand gal and helped produce the book at every step.
Undecorate pays homage to the intimate, home-grown style of everyday people.
Christiane thought up the book when she noticed she was taking less and less inspiration from the design establishment and more from the somewhat informal but just as fashionable looks popping up on blogs around the world.
Judging from the turnout at the launch party, her encouragement of a more personal approach to decorating is right on trend. Erin Swift, Architectural Digest’s market editor, was there getting a copy signed for her mom.
I was interviewed about Canadian style by The Editor at Large. Of course they chopped the first part of my quote, where I waxed poetic about Canadian style; how we tend to embrace classic or traditional looks with a twist, rather than trends. Oh well. This is me with Julia and Sophie from the well-known design website. They were both so nice, I’m inclined to make them honourary Canadians.
Last but far from least, I got to chat up photographer Melanie Acevedo, who shot all the images in the book. She used to do tons of work for Domino magazine (R.I.P.), including the trendsetting shoot of J.Crew honcho Jenna Lyon’s house, the pics from which are still bouncing around the blogosphere like kids on a sugar high. Check out her work, including that famous shoot, here.
For more on Christiane’s style, browse the photos from her New York loft.
When we asked readers for their spring decorating tips, many of them recommended organizing and decluttering before decorating. I've been so keen on revamping my bedroom that I hadn't really given that part much thought. So, while I wait for the weather to warm up, I’m eliminating junk from my dresser and night table to see what furniture I actually need, and to give myself more space. To stay motivated, I've gathered photos of my favourite refined retreats.
Grown-up pink isn’t overdone in this room. The ikat bolster and graphic-print curtains are both very on-trend. A deep brown chandelier adds a glamorous touch.
Ah, chinoiserie wallpaper. I can’t get enough of it! I am constantly looking back at the bold and exotic new traditional design photo in our January 2011 issue wondering if I could attempt to paint such a masterpiece. (I have no real painting skills, so I may have to stick with wallpaper...) Ruffled curtains only add to the charm, and I've been seeing ruffles everywhere in stores — on pillows, lampshades and duvet covers. Here, designer Miles Redd proves that a small space can still be beautiful.
Though this wallpaper print is really busy, the neutral colours keep it from being distracting. The tufted bench adds a punch of colour, as do the outdoor ceramic tables. I don’t have room for sofa, but it would be a nice touch!
Exposed brick walls add warmth and texture to a bedroom. Rustic furniture, a crystal chandelier and soft green and pink create a shabby-chic look.
I’m not usually a fan of all-white spaces, but the gold accents here add a graceful vintage vibe.
This bedroom isn't as delicate as the other ones, but I like how airy and fuss-free it is. Simple splashes of chartreuse give it a little punch, too. For me it's the lacy white bedding with fringe, ruffle-trim pendant light and branches on the desk that give it feminine charm.
Talk about a statement headboard! A black-and-white colour scheme doesn't seem so cold when paired with this giant textured flower.
All of these bedrooms effectively use colour through accents like pillows, throws and lamps, while keeping the main bedding neutral, making it super budget-friendly. You only really have to change accessories to get a new look. I can't wait to get started! But now to finish decluttering... See more inspiring bedrooms in this photo gallery.
1. Renovation Style, photography by Susan Gilmore
2. Miles Redd
3. Country Living, photography by Keith Scott Morton
4. Country Living, photography by Keith Scott Morton
5. Kemble Interiors
6. Living Etc, from Decor8 blog
7. Living Etc, from Style Files blog