We feature Sarah Bancroft's cool, modernist Palm Springs house in our August 2014 issue. The B.C.-based founder of Vitamin Daily — an online lifestyle magazine — recently renovated this winter escape with her husband. Sarah reflects on how the local hotels she stayed in during the reno ended up influencing her design decisions.
We've been going to Palm Springs for 9 years — first as tourists, then as house hunters, and most recently as home renovators, all of which required hotel stays. Even now we drop by these glam spots for drinks, spa visits, or just to walk the gardens.
The Parker Hotel
The very first time we walked in we ran into Will Ferrell at the front desk and French Marie Claire shooting in the pool. These days it's Leonardo DiCaprio (who just bought a house in Palm Springs) who you'll see on the patio during Coachella. The gardens are designed by Givenchy, the spa (Palm Springs Yacht Club) is amazing and the decor is designed by Jonathan Adler. Pretty much a Palm Springs masterpiece.
Takeaway: We would have done it anyway, but we have a pétanque court at our house too.
Definitely our favourite. Small and intimate with amazing modernist architecture, it was recently purchased by Tom Ford's interior designer who is going to revert to its original name, L'Horizon. We fully approve.
Takeaway: Our home's architect, William Krisel, stays here when he attends Palm Springs Modernism Week so it makes sense we would love it too. It also convinced us to keep our vintage pool ladder, just as they had.
The owners are an entrepreneur and former Calvin Klein model who have done several hotel and home projects in Palm Springs. We clicked with both their attitude and early modernist aesthetic, and drop by their bar for a glass of Lillet when we're in town.
Takeaway: It's hard to stop at just one (home reno that is.)
We go by their restaurant Citron for a chopped salad and glass of Rosé near the end of our trip and eavesdrop on the poolside conversations.
Takeaway: We were inspired by designer Kelly Wearstler's decorative mirrors when we designed our shield-shaped bathroom ones.
The Ace Hotel and Swim Club
We've never actually stayed here (too much of a party scene for us) but we go for the steak salad (to take on the plane) and the first time we went we sat beside the late Ace Hotel founder Alex Calderwood. Their Monday Sissy Bingo night is a must-do Palm Springs experience: trust us.
Takeaway: Our home's army green sunshade umbrella was an extra one from the Ace's renovation.
The Movie Colony Hotel
Our very first trip to Palm Springs we stayed here (I was 5 months pregnant, so an adults-only, cheap and cheerful environment was a babymoon must).
Takeaway: This trip was when we started photographing houses we loved and fantasizing about someday owning one.
We are underway with our upstairs reno and one thing we've already finished is the small guest bathroom.
This is what it looked like a few months ago. I still love the vintage sink that I got at a yard sale over 15 years ago but it was too low and rusted, so I had to get rid of it. Plus the trad shape really didn't work with the mix I have going on in the rest of the house. I wound up giving it to a friend of mine who's in the middle of a Victorian historic restoration so it will be right at home.
The other thing I had to get rid of was the glass-block window — way too '80s for me.
But the highlight for me is the new wallpaper, Ocelot from Farrow & Ball. That and the new sash window instantly transformed the room. I framed the window in 6"-wide lengths of marble for a polished look that tied in with the floor.
Only one thing left to decide and that is whether or not to paint the tub black. I'm on the fence... what do you think?
We have a small, raw pine table and matching pair of chairs on our front porch. They're dotted with glitter paint, marker smudges and stickers. The chairs are a wobbly (they're desperately in need of having all their screws tightened). And they just might be the most used pieces of furniture in my whole house. This morning, my girls dragged the chairs into the living room for eating breakfast at the coffee table. On Sunday evening, they were out on the front lawn — where the glitter paint was used to make Fathers' Day cards. Last weekend, they hosted a lemonade stand on the sidewalk. They've seen it all: puzzles, tea parties, colouring books, Grade 3 math workbooks.
The set cost me about $25 at Ikea 7 years ago — perhaps the best $25 I've ever spent on the kids. Here's a similar version, they seem to have discontinued the ones we have. Here are 15 other great ways to get your money's worth from children's play table and chairs.
1. Cover it with oilcloth
My colleague Jaimie Nathan spotted this idea on the Yvestown blog years ago and promptly had a sweet floral oilcloth cover stitched up for the play table in her living room. Hers is removable (because her little table was an expensive piece she didn't want to put holes in), but if you're not worried about that, staple the oilcloth in place so it will protect the tabletop from stains and spills and is easy to wipe down.
2. Use it to differentiate kid and adult spaces
This handsome version works as part of a shelving installation in the corner of a living space, with upper shelves displaying elegant, grown-up accessories — and keeping them away from little fingers — while offering plenty of interesting playthings to keep kids busy down below. Outfit play tables with an array of books, craft supplies and toys so they're extra-inviting to busy toddlers and preschoolers.
3. Paint it out to match the trim
Another way to make a play table work in a home's public spaces is to re-imagine it to suit its surroundings. To make a wee play table fit in in her rather traditional West Yorkshire, England, home, artist Anna Roberts painted it in a soft robin's-egg blue to match her elegant mouldings and built-ins.
4. Coordinate it with your child's style
In a pretty in pink-wallpapered girl's room, a quiet, vintage-y table set works well with the casually hung own illustrations and collections of wee Calico Critters, while graphic black chairs and a bold red table complement the aesthetic in the modern white and grey room.
5. ...Or make it suit your style
The play table in her children's bedroom has an authentic mid-century modern look that resonates with Charleston, S.C., interior designer Angie Hranowsky — and it's harmonious with the look she's carried through the entire house. The table is actually a new piece from Room & Board.
6. Stretch it out to fit a crowd
While my tiny Ikea table really can't accommodate more than my two girls, these ones — at least when they're pulled out from the wall — have space for at last four wee crafters. The cube stools with this console-style desk all tuck neatly away, saving space, and can be turned on their sides to fit smaller and larger kids.
7. Go for a vintage vibe
Old wooden gymnasium benches make great kid-level play spaces. Press one into service as a table to seat three or four kids — and pair with mismatched chairs for a quirky salvaged look.
8. Pair it with a chalkboard for a schoolroom feel
Coat a wall in chalkboard paint — like Swedish stylist Emma Persson Lagerberg did here — or the surface of the table itself, as Australian furniture designer Mark Tuckey did on his Kid's Chalkboard table.
9. Set it up to host a tea party ... and more
Somewhere along the way, my daughter Tessa shifted from holding tea parties (the most memorable was tea for 12 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee two summers ago) to playing restaurant. Either way, a play table is indispensable — as it is in a play kitchen, where it can be pressed into use as counterspace when it's not set up for dining
10. Top it with a dollhouse
Every time the early-childhood educators set up one of the four tables in my 3-year-old daughter's daycare room with dolls, a dollhouse and tiny furniture, the table is swarmed. Why not steal a page from the experts! (The mod A-frame here reminds me of the dollhouse I had as a child in the '70s; it's available through All Modern.
11. Turn it into a Lego table
Transforming a surface into a mecca for Lego is as easy as adding a couple Lego baseplates ; a 25 cm x 25 cm sheet is $8.
12. Supersize it
When blogger Trina McNeilly of La La Lovely Things turned her dining room into a playroom for her four young kids, she plunked a big play table in the middle of it. I can't think of a more inviting centrepiece! While her space (which was photographed, above, for the Land of Nod catalog) has residual elegance from its time as a dining room, the other room here feels more utilitarian: ready to house a crowd for puzzles or painting without decorative flourishes to distract from the task at hand.
13. Get serious about arts and crafts
My kids would go nuts for this craft table, which puts all supplies right at their fingertips. If only our small house had an inch of extra space! (It's by Guidecraft, and I've also seen it available through DwellStudio and Sunny Street Toys.)
14. Let it inspire you to reuse or recycle other pieces
Flip sweet little garbage cans and add seat cushions and cut down old worktables (watch for them at flea markets and garage sales).
15. Make use of an empty corner
This little play table — chairs included — takes up perhaps eight square feet in the corner of a Malmö, Sweden, apartment, but offers space for two to colour, read or play with tabletop toys. Layers of lighting makes it inviting and usable.
1.(Left) The Haystack Needle. Photography by John Granen; (right) Oilcloth Addict
2. Revel! blog
3. La Petite Magazine blog
4. (Left) via Ideiacor blog; (right) Kidsmopolitan blog
5. Photograph by Julia Lynn via Lonny
6. (Left) via Mommo Design blog; (right) Tyler Dawson Design
7. (Left): via Anne Sage blog; (right) via Nietylkodzieciaki blog
8. (Left) Photograph by Petra Bindel, Elle Decor. Photograph by Mikkel Vang. (Right) via Pure Green Design
9. (Left) via Kotivinkki blog; (right) Kidsomania blog
10. (Left) via Sofiajon Tumblr blog; (right) Apartment Therapy
11. Photograph by Asia Citro via Fun At Home With Kids; (right) via My Ideal Home blog
12. (Left) Images courtesy of Land of Nod, via La La Lovely Things ; (right) Kidsomania blog
14. via Pastelowo blog
15. via Revedecor blog. Photograph by Bolaget
These are the befores of the kitchen in our new condominium suite in Toronto. At first glance it's not too offensive: white cabinets, tile floors, gleaming stainless steel appliances and in-suite laundry right there too. And yet I found offense. In fact, I liked exactly two things about this space: the fact that it is a galley (the most efficient kitchen layout) and the existing Bosch laundry machines. Everything else had to go.
This is what the space looks like today. A blank (but not so clean) slate. My vision is a sleek white-on-white high-efficiency space. I actually designed and priced out the whole thing before we even submitted our offer so that we had a ballpark idea of how much we'd need to mentally add to the offer price to get it to what we wanted (er, what I wanted). Here's the scoop on some of my plans.
My first source of inspiration for the new design was my own current kitchen in our mid-century bungalow. I love the Ikea Applåd cabinets and knew immediately I would choose the same style again. The flat panel door style is modern and easy to keep clean. I have found in the past that grease and nastiness can gather on raised panel doors so I've sworn off them. I also love the low-sheen finish of the Applåd as opposed to the high-gloss surfaces of many flat-panel doors. I'm so much more a matte girl than a high-gloss girl.
Because our new space has bulkheads, I'm taking inspiration from the kitchen in Suzanne Dimma's basement and opting for horizontal uppers in a neat row. I seriously toyed with the idea of not having uppers at all, but then decided that was pure madness in a kitchen this tiny. It really only works when there's room for a tall pantry cupboard. Suzanne's kitchen also happens to be IKEA Applåd, which she chose after asking me about my kitchen and then the two of us waxing on together about gloss vs matte. Just another day at the H&H office!
When I was researching tiny white kitchens I also fell for this one in Spain. So simple, so sleek and with a dishwasher (left of sink) and fridge (foreground) that disappear behind custom panels. These became musts for me.
And here's my design. This is the umpteenth kitchen I have designed and every time I do it the same old-school way — graph paper and pencil. I do use the Ikea kitchen planning tool on the website — but mostly because I love that it automatically generates a shopping list I can take into the store. Total time-saver! Someday I vow to learn how to do perspective renderings, but for now these flat elevations work just fine.
And here it is, my kitchen (and the dishwasher is in there too) ready to be assembled and installed tomorrow and Friday. My excitement level is off the charts. Partly, of course, because I'm entrusting the job to Ikea installation services. Now, don't get me wrong, you know I love some DIY and I know how to work an Allen key, but the guys who do this stuff everyday — man, they are good! So fast and so good with the finessing of the details. I say this as someone who has actually done kitchen install the DIY way (our first kitchen) and who has entrusted the job to a contractor who was not an Ikea specialist. I've lived, I've learned and I'm not doing either of those things again.
A little while back I crowd-sourced my countertop choice on Instagram. I have HanStone quartz now and love it, so I thought I'd get that same colour, which is called Aurora Snow (seen at bottom left in this photo). But then I grabbed a few more samples and got thinking the choice wasn't quite so easy. I posted this pic knowing the top one was my fave and my husband's fave. It was the winner of the social media survey and even earned a vote from Sarah Richardson. It's not everyday you get free design advice from a world-famous designer, but when you get it, take it!
The other day I also posted the three tiles that made the short list for our backsplash. On the left is an Applåd drawer front, and the small square is the winning counter sample, HanStone in Royale Blanc. On the right from top:
3" ceramic hex tiles in a random mix of matte and glossy finishes from CeraGres; 3" Calacatta marble hex in polished finish from Saltillo; 2" x 4" Calacatta marble brick tile in honed finish from Saltillo.
We're going with the Calacatta hex to add a fun, slightly retro shape to the space. Also, the bathroom shower has hex tile so now the two rooms will relate.
This month I'm on the hunt for great outdoor pots. Walking by the Club Monaco store on Bloor Street in Toronto, I was inspired by the huge assortment of pots they had assembled all planted with green and white, exactly as I hope to do in the country.
All the pots were some shade of grey or black with a few terracotta ones tucked into the mix. So now I'm on the hunt for great pots. After years of trying to lug heavy stone pots even just a few feet I've given up on anything that I can't easily move — at least when they're empty.
The new man-made faux stone pots are great looking, real terracotta is always a classic choice, and real or faux zinc and tin are a good addition to the mix.
I checked out these pots carefully. The jet black pots are painted terracotta. It was a reminder that I have a collection of painted pots in my courtyard that are in need of help. They suffered over the winter, plus it's time to add some new, freshly painted ones before I plant them with herbs.
The trick to painting your terracotta pots in matte black is to seal them first with a silicon sealer so the moisture doesn't cause the paint to peel. Then finish by painting them with enamel paint.
Here are a few pot options with a similar look.
1) The lightweight galvanized Ikea Husön planter, (13" h. x 15", $25), won’t rust.
2) The Home Depot’s classic New England terracotta pot, (20" h. x 20" w., $50), can be left au naturel to develop a patina over time, or painted matte black.
3) The environmentally friendly Kobo planter by Hauser, (22" h. x 19.5" d., $98), won’t fade.
4)The square Harmony planter (24" h.) in black resin from Canadian Tire is a bargain at $30.
Here is Renée Mitchell of Reneevations who started assembling the pots — a mix of vintage and new — in our country home in the Hudson Valley. It's a beginning!
Over Easter at our country place we tried out the new Crate & Barrel Pronto pizza oven. It's amazing! It works off a propane tank, and it heats up quickly to over 800°F!
It comes with its own pizza stone, all you need to buy is a wooden pizza paddle, corn meal, and the ingredients to make your own dough and toppings.
You'll find the recipe for GREAT pizza dough here on our website. You'll see it calls for 00 flour. I've had quite a few people ask where to buy it and what it looks like.
Here are three brands carried by Fiesta Farms in Toronto: Caputo, Riscossa and Molisana. Look for them wherever Italian imported foods are sold. It really makes all the difference — you can produce thin, crispy, pizza if you use this flour.
New Les Indiennes Outlet
Now for a really great new shopping source!! The first and only Les Indiennes outlet store has opened in Hudson, New York. It's amazing: it's big and full of their best selling linens, fabrics and accessories. You'll recognize many classic patterns. The prices are so good, you'll be thrilled. Worth the visit!!
Browse a gallery of more pots, urns, boxes and planters for spring here.
Our basement makeover is finally complete and has resulted in a home office/den that is neat, clean (somewhat), water resilient, all for under $4,000. Here are some things I learned after my husband and I revamped our basement.
Lesson 1: A basement is a great place to experiment with a new look.
Suzanne Dimma pointed out in a recent blog that it's far more exciting when the individual rooms in a house are approached with their own unique decorating personality: not every room requires the exact same materials and palette. This Belgian-farmhouse look is a bit austere for a heavily used room, but it's practical in a basement. I took a chance with the floor and it's turned out to be my favourite thing. I was worried about the frank fakeness — it's vinyl — but this can stand up to future flooding and looks real (it is cold though, so a rug was a necessity.)
A giant bookcase lines one side of the room (not surprising for two journalism grads). I loved Morgan Michener's April 2014 DIY which involved backing bookshelves in fabric. So I combined that with something I had seen in an earlier version of House & Home: Colette van den Thillart's dining room from the December 2012 issue.
Colette's laser-printed, photo-realism quartz wallpaper on velvet turned her Toronto dining room into an exotic grotto, and I was completely slayed. I thought why not use a combo of Morgan and Colette's ideas for the back of bookshelf?
I found this geo-stone look wallpaper that was in a neutral colourway and pasted it to a sample board. The results? It makes everything in front of it look epic. Too bad it made the maple bookcases look anemic.
Lesson 2: Test a trend.
I am not a grey person. I wasn't sure whether I loved the grey paint I chose for the bookshelves, or just the fact that it's a big trend colour and I had been seeing it in the magazine (Rona Collection's Taupe, an almost exact match, was called out as one of our trend colours in the January 2014 issue). To find out whether I could live with it, a sample board was crucial so I could see the shade against the floors, wainscotting and stone of the fireplace. The warm neutral added the right amount of richness, and the glossy finish looks freshly painted, I love that.
Of course I keep an exhaustive library of back issues of House & Home (doesn't everybody?). It's the original source of inspiration, long before Pinterest popped up.
Lesson 3: Don't let a room become a dumping ground for memorabilia.
Take the time to reevaluate what's on your bookshelves — not everything stands the test of time, while some items are still a joy to behold (I didn't even know we owned a rare 1936 issue of Alice in Wonderland, look how pretty it is).
Lesson 4: No one wants to spend time in a neglected room.
In addition to my home office, there was an antique desk that could be used for some (bad) sewing projects, and even a spot to do yoga, but I didn't want to spend time in an outdated space filled with odds and ends doing those activities. The busy woodwork and clutter just wasn't conducive to concentrating, but here's how the honey-pine corner of my office was transformed with paint.
The linen sheep-print fabric adds some life to the neutral scheme and makes a home office a bit fun, while concealing glass doors to a workshop behind. I just wish my desk always looked like this...
A textured basket for, ahem, fitness equipment that doesn't see the light of day, and an earthy pouf add a warm, handmade touch that's inviting.
I've decided that flood was the best thing that could have happened to this room. It made me take a hard look at the things I was saving, and created a soothing space to unwind... or work, or maybe even, work out.
See a gallery of editors' basement renos here.