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A confession: I've never read Love in the Time of Cholera. It was, apparently, everyone's favourite book in university, but I never got around to it. So while I didn't really get the reference to the novel in this week's listing in Cartagena, Colombia, I nevertheless fell in love with the house. Whether you're a Gabriel García Márquez fan or not, this $12.8 million colonial beauty in the heart of the port city is worth a look.

Imagine yourself in a warmer climate, with a Caribbean breeze wafting through the palms and the fountain burbling next to you. I'm crazy about the orange walls — and the vines climbing them — paired with the blue tile. On the second level, one side is shaded by a roof, the other by a leafy pergola.

Here's the vestibule beyond the fountain — possibly one of the most charming spaces I've ever seen while combing through listings for this blog. I can't resist a good beamed ceiling, especially with the wood chandelier and stone floor. And that juliet balcony! Let's take a moment to just sigh over it.

The roof deck not only has a view of the Caribbean Sea, but a hot tub as well. (Though, sadly, no sea view from the hot tub.) In an 11-bedroom mansion, getting food from the kitchen up to this al fresco dining spot is probably a long haul. Luckily, there's an elevator to lighten the load.

Instead of drapes, this dining room has romantic curtains of vines. (Let's just pretend never drop their leaves or wither.) The scale is clearly grand — this table seats 18, and you could probably squeeze a nineteeth onto the chandelier — but the covered arches make the space feel like a hidden surprise.

A TV lounge off the courtyard is open to both the entry and adjoining room, but warm lighting and a plush cluster of seating create an inviting little retreat. For further relaxing, there's a gym, sauna, and spa-like area with a loose stone floor.

Upstairs, each of the 11 bedrooms has an ensuite bath. If the floor space and two seating areas in this room are any indication, though, the place could easily sleep 40 or 50.

Want to know more about this Colombian manse? The listing bills it as a single-family home, but a little searching reveals that it's currently a luxury hotel. Take a look!

Photo credits:
1–6. Casa Pestagua 

For another dreamy South American home, read about this Uruguay villa.


Kristen Koch

I've been noticing a softer decorating palette for the holidays: candy-cane hues of red, white and bright green are taking a back seat to pinks, orange, forest, mint and gold. Delicious! Stationery company Rifle Paper Co. nails the mix in their holiday card collection. Here are my two favourite takes. Hopefully they inspire you!


Pale pink takes the spotlight, dressed up with ribbons of gold and sage with coral accents.

I'd love to see this pretty combination on a tall statement tree.


Minty blue and greens ground sugary pops of pink, and persimmon orange.

A house strung with evergreen garlands and lush wreaths would look great updated in these colours. Happy holidays everyone!

Photo credits:
1, 3. Kimberley Brown
2, 4. Justine Wong


Kimberley Brown

Recently I've been seeing a lot of street style photos like this pop up on blogs and Pinterest. They got me thinking. I have a sweater like that, I must dig it out.

And here it is. My mother knit my Aran sweater more than 20 years ago. It's now back in regular wardrobe rotation. This sweater is a testament to superiority of natural materials (pure wool) and handmade construction. Aran knits take their name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. The natural wicking, insulating qualities and water-repellency of the wool made these sweaters ideal protection for those spending their days fishing the fierce North Atlantic. The combinations of stitch patterns used were indicators of clan and livelihood. For example, moss stitch depicts the seaweed that was used to fertilize the fields; cable stitch represents fisherman's ropes. In fact, the distinctive patterns were often used to identify the bodies of fishermen whose bodies washed up on the shore following an accident at sea. Ah, bless the Irish and their grim tales! I'm pleased to report my sweater conjures much happier thoughts.

My newly rediscovered love of chunky, creamy cable knits has me wishing I could drape myself in them 24/7. Luckily, the trend has migrated over to home, so I have the option of doing just that.

I trace the rise of this trend to Christien Meindertsma. The Dutch-born artist's 2005 Flocks series and other knit creations are a whimsical overscale take on needle traditions and a commentary on sustainability. Hers is not your grandma's knitting basket!

This piece by Meindertsma is actually a rug knit from the wool of 18 merino sheep! I could never imagine walking on such a pretty thing. I'd use it as a wall-hanging like this. You can actually buy this through Thomas Eyck for about $10,600.

The good news is you can buy into this trend at a much more affordable price with a few great accessories like this pillow (Indigo, $40) or charming pendant light (Land of Nod, $50US).

If you are nimble with the needles there are many great online sources for knitting patterns. My favourite is this one for a Christmas stocking. If you are more of a buy it than make it type, this throw from Rockett St. George is the perfect accompaniment to a mug of tea and a good book.

My love of Aran knits, however, is not boundless, and doesn't extend to slipcovered chairs and sweatered trophy heads!

Browse a gallery of more cosy winter-inspired winter decorating ideas.

Photo credits:
1. Irina Lakicevic via A Portable Package blog
2. Margot Austin
3. Le Souk via The Style Files
4. via Les Carnets du Design
5. VT Wonen Inspiration House lifestyle fair via The Style Files
6. Indigo
7. Land of Nod
8. Simplicity
9. Rockett St. George
10. Biscuit Scout via Etsy
11. Rachel Deny via Afflante


Margot Austin

Let's get it straight from the start: even though this week's home has sweet cottage style, it's not really a cottage — unless a six-bedroom, 8,000-square-foot, price-on-request mansion is your idea of one. That said, it is an adorable getaway on St. Lucia, and well worth a look if you need a Monday escape.

The house's huge scale is pretty well disguised from this angle by greenery, and a blue and pink pastel paint job and gingerbread details lends it a grown-up dollhouse look.

On the other side, though, an infinity pool looks across the bay and out to the Caribbean Sea, and the stairs at right lead to beach access and a dock. According to the listing, the property is near the town of Gros Islet, at the island's northwestern tip, but the map puts it further down the west coast, near the city of Castries.

After a dip in the pool or the surf, rinse off in the outdoor shower and sit down to a meal in the open-air dining room. White louvers and cutouts conceal both a canvas that can be rolled down as a sun screen and a hurricane shutter system for windier weather.

I'm not sure if this is the 30' x 30' entertaining space the listing mentions, but interior designer Lane Pettigrew certainly filled the room with enough crisp white upholstery, dark wood floors, and curving palm branches for an authentic colonial look. If you don't have time to grab a book and put your feet up on that plush armchair, there's a separate home office.

What I love about this kitchen is that even though the bright light and palm fronds give it a tropical vibe, the design elements — pale stone countertops, white millwork, a fun, drippy chandelier and snappy black and white tile — would look fresh in any locale. A carved bracket under the shelves is quaint detail.

What do you think? Are you inspired by this Caribbean idyll?

For more real estate eye candy from St. Lucia, check out a previous post on the island's Belmont House.

Photo credits:
1–5. Savills


Kristen Koch

For 16 years, the H&H Trends Breakfast has forecasted the looks and products we will be coveting for our homes. 

This year, the event was held on December 4 at Toronto's Arcadian Court in the Hudson's Bay store in Toronto.

The annual breakfast represents not only an opportunity to thank the advertisers who support our publications (including Maison & Demeure, our Quebec edition), but offers a chance to talk about the way we live, and use our homes.

Publisher Lynda Reeves kicked the breakfast off with a compelling description of the new Super Cocooning trend. Now that homes can be equipped with every technological gadget, we're more connected than ever, but, she explains we still feel the need to congregate the old fashioned way.

She shared how she reluctantly joined a high-powered knitting circle, only to find she was thoroughly drawn in by the simple pleasure it offers. Gathering together to knit and gossip was something our mothers and grandmothers enjoyed, but they weren't surrounded by iPhones, iPads and flatscreen TVs. Even in a digital age, we still crave personal connection, and authentic, handmade goods. (FYI, knitting is a big trend among — surprise — the 25-34-year-old set. Lynda recommends newbies check out The Knit Cafe).

Then editor-in-chief Suzanne Dimma called out the big decor trends for 2014. (I'd hate to wreck the surprise, to see them all pick up the January Trends issue on Eastern newsstands Dec. 8 and in the West on Dec. 15). In it you'll find out the answers to: what's replacing the chandelier? What does this year's must-have coffee table look like? And what design trend is Suzanne most excited about? Here's a hint: it's groovy.

After the breakfast, Mark Challen announced the winner of the annual H&H Table Game. Each table was given the challenge of building their own inspiration board, complete with a fun write up.


Here's the winning entry (judged by editors Joel Bray and Stacey Smithers), which painted a vivid picture of the decor of fictitious young homeowners, Miley and Liam. Check out their furnishing choices — deemed suitable for the in-laws, and twerking.

Photo credits:
1-8. Wendy Jacob


Wendy Jacob

Since I started planning my wedding six months ago, it has been a whirlwind of DIY activity at my house — luxe velvet and pretty lace everywhere! The holiday season has forced me to put aside my planning and get my hands into some festive DIYs, which I happen to really enjoy. I like including handmade gifts whenever I can as I find a lot of people really appreciate them — I know I do.

For those who are not crafty but like the idea of handmade ornaments and gifts, Etsy has an endless supply of beautiful and unique items ready to ship. Check out a sample of what you can find:

I love how fresh and bright these rag baubles look; perfect for a beachy Christmas theme.

I am finding these felt ornaments everywhere but if you don't, Etsy has an endless supply in various colours. Fasten one to a gift box for a sweet touch.

Find unique Christmas stockings in every fabric and colour. I like the felt ones best.

Handmade Christmas linens are my favourite gift add-ons.

This fun garland is an easy alternative to intricate cut patterns, and looks great with minimal decor.

I find handmade stationery pricey so always convince myself to DIY instead. After getting carried away in the craft store, I usually come to the conclusion that I would have saved had I purchased cards like these: Etsy has a huge variety.

If you are a baker, these little tags add a nice touch to your treat giveaways.

Photo credits:
1. VelvetBean
2. Stitchcrafts
3. echoshop.
4. SimaPrints
5. CraftColorfully
6. EventPrintables


Floriana Paonessa

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