I got a start on spring cleaning and de-cluttering over the weekend and it feels so great! I’m starting to love my place again now that every corner isn’t full of dust bunnies and the resulting clutter that accumulates from two busy lives.
In the living room (above), I re-arranged the mantel display, removed several accessories from the bookshelves, and culled about a dozen dated hardcovers from our collection. We sold the pair of chairs in this photo. I miss their pretty colour, but I am enjoying the more open feel that resulted when we replaced them with a single chair moved up from the basement family room. One thing I’ve always loved about my living room is the abundant natural light. ‘Tis the season when we can all use as much light in our lives as possible, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my six secrets to creating a light, bright, airy interior.
1. White paint. To quote the great decorator Elsie de Wolfe, one cannot go wrong with “plenty of optimism and white paint.” My entire main floor is painted Benjamin Moore’s classic Cloud White (CC-40), but I’ve lately even been thinking it could use an update with even whiter Oxford White (CC-30). Designer Lynn Morgan’s living room (above) and all the spaces shown here are also swathed in white paint. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Lynn has soaring 12-foot ceilings and windows almost as tall! Other go-to whites are: All White (2005) by Farrow & Ball, Snowfall (SR29) by Para Paints and Popped Corn (W-B-200) by Behr.
2. Add a mirror. A mirror placed on a wall adjacent to a window amplifies the natural light and reflects it into the room. Hang a mirror between windows to create the illusion of another window.
3. Dress windows minimally. My favourite options are shutters that cover only the bottom half of a window; a wall of white linen sheers; a roman blind that draws all the way open; white linen café curtains; or sometimes even no covering at all! Don’t forget: clean your windows!
4. Keep the floor quiet. Persian carpets and bold patterned flat-weaves may be all the rage these days, but they’re definitely busy and usually bossy — not what you want for a serene, lightened-up interior. Instead opt for no-pattern barefoot-friendly natural fibres like jute, seagrass, hemp or cotton. Or, better yet, embrace bare floors, if even just for the warmer months.
5. Choose a low-contrast palette. Try a modern take on quiet pastels; add a touch of pale sky blue to a neutral room; introduce fresh spring green or embrace blond wood or white-painted furniture to keep a sense of overall colour harmony. Use pattern in measured doses.
6. Bring nature home. Get your hands on a copy of Bringing Nature Home by Ngoc Minh Ngo and heed the advice of its title. If you need convincing check out this photo from the book above! Treat yourself and your rooms to something with magnificent blooms or leaves or both. Hint: if you have to spend more than five minutes arranging flowers you are doing it wrong. Keep it simple.
For more seasonal inspiration, see Margot's DIY spring flower ideas.
1. Virginia Macdonald, September 2012 House & Home
2. Photograph by Christopher Baker via House Beautiful. Room design by Lynn Morgan
3. Philip House, NYC. Room design by Victoria Hagan
5. Max Kim-Bee from Veranda April 2011. Design by Frank Babb Randolph via Splendid Sass blog
6. Muuto via Nalles House blog
7. Ngoc Minh Ngo
Known for his high-contrast interiors, Quebec designer Jean Stéphane Beauchamp regularly brings back inspiration — and treasures for his clients — from regular jaunts to Paris. It's not only one of his favourite destinations, the City of Lights is home to a number of splendid antique masterpieces. In France, treasures from each period stretching back to antiquity are especially well preserved. We asked Jean Stéphane to share some of his fave Parisian hangouts.
House & Home: Where do you like to stay?
Jean Stéphane Beauchamp: I prefer to rent an apartment in the 3rd arondissement on the Right Bank in Paris. From there I can go anywhere by foot or on the subway, and I can get my own breakfast.
H&H: It must be hard to choose in this city, but what are some of your favourite restaurants?
JSB: It depends on the budget. When splurging, I like to dine at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon; otherwise, it's Des gars dans la cuisine in the 3rd arondissement, the Train Bleu (shown below) at Gare de Lyon train station because it's gorgeous, and I like breakfast at Bon Marché.
H&H: Where do you like to shop?
JSB: On the Left Bank, at the Galeries Lafayette Maison (the wine library is shown below), and the whole 3rd arondissement. Les mille feuilles, Blanc d'Ivoire, and Entrée des fournisseurs, for fabrics and ribbons. And no trip to Paris is complete without a pilgrimage to Deyrolle on Rue du Bac.
Hungry for more historical design? Pick up a copy of Mario Praz's gorgeous book, An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration: From Pompeii to Art Nouveau.
1-2. Atout France/Style City
3. Atout France/Catherine Bibollet
4. Atout France/Fabian Charaffi
5. Atout France/Benoit Roland
6. Atout France/Cédric Helsly
7. An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration: From Pompeii to Art Nouveau, (2008 Thames & Hudson)
I'm writing to you from the Hudson Valley in New York State, where I spend as many weekends as I can in an early Dutch stone house built in 1750 that I love. This is the place to write, and cook, do DIY projects and just chill...
This weekend my to-do list included learning to bake the amazing sourdough country bread that I tasted last month at Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. I am right in the middle of making the "sponge" or culture. Next blog I will share my results and the recipe that I'm using. I'll also include the recipe for homemade flatbread or naan that is so easy you'll make it often.
But for now I want to share four favourite places to eat and shop in the town of Rhinebeck, New York. Every weekend I spend here, my first stop in Rhinebeck is to eat at Market St. I love their kale salad and in fact H&H got the recipe from their chef and published it in our February 2014 issue. It's amazing. I make it every few days and everyone I serve it to asks for the recipe.
1 bunch Lacinato kale (about 14 oz)
2 oz aged Tuscan Pecorino, shaved (or more!)
3 tbsp mild extra-virgin olive oil
1 1⁄2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1⁄3 cup pine nuts
1⁄4 cup dried currants, raisins or dried cherries
Step 1: Wash and spin-dry kale. Remove and discard ribs. Roll each leaf and chiffonade as thinly as possible. Place in a large mixing bowl with half of the cheese. Drizzle with oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Step 2: Toss and let stand for a few minutes.
Step 3: Add the remaining cheese, pinenuts and currents and toss.
My second stop is Hammertown Home. They do a good job of bringing in lines of furniture and bedding and accessories that are easy to mix and have a laid-back, classic charm.
This trip I saw a few new things that caught my eye.
Blue and white accent dishes were stacked high.
I spotted this leather-framed mirror and skinny steel bookcase (I measured them and went home to confirm the fit). I ended up buying both. They worked perfectly!
I loved this kit of slate placecards with chalk and dowels. The price was great at under $30.00 so I bought it.
I also bought these bottlestoppers with decorative wood finials — perfect for olive oils.
My third stop was Blue Cashew Kitchen Pharmacy, a cooking store that always has the latest cookbooks and a great selection of linens, cookware and tableware.
They carry a line of beautiful handmade candles from Ester & Erik that are displayed in the metal racks they are made in. When you buy them, the wicks are clipped to release the candles. Very cool!
Last stop this trip was Paper Trail, the card and gift shop with wonderful accessories including coverlets from John Robshaw, scarves and candles in the newest colours, decorative throw pillows, loads of stationary and clever gifty things.
That's all for this trip. Keep the Hudson Valley in mind the next time you're planning a weekend getaway!
All photos (except 2): Lynda Reeves
2. Keith Ferris
After a long winter, I'm getting ready to trade in my warm layers and dark colours in my wardrobe and my home for all things light and airy. I’m saying so long to heavy fabrics like velvet and wool, and hello to lightweight materials and plenty of sunshine — and I’m starting with my windows.
Changing up your window coverings is an easy way to give your home a sense of airiness.
While we're seeing a lot of naked windows lately, they might not be ideal for people requiring privacy. Many homeowners and condo-dwellers (like me) are looking for other options.
Shade Works is a Canadian online retailer specializing in custom-made, functional and stylish window coverings at every price point. (This blog post is sponsored by Shade Works.)
Shade Works' line of window dressings focuses on versatility and streamlined style, and features a variety of smart upgrades, such as cordless options and automation.
Choose A Style
The company’s most popular design is its line of sheer shades — perfect for summertime, as they offer plenty of privacy without sacrificing natural light or a view of the outdoors.
These lightweight blinds (such as the Sheer Horizontal Shades, picture above) come in different sizes and fabrics to help bring a more sophisticated look to your room.
The line of Sheer Elegance Shades uses overlapping fabric bands to filter the amount of light coming in and add style to a room.
Choose black for a more dramatic look.
Panel Track Shades are a great option for large windows or patio doors. For spaces that get a lot of midday sunlight, opt for a Solar Screen Fabric (shown above), as they filter out harmful UV rays, eliminate annoying glare, and help keep your home cool. Select your own “Openness Factor” to determine the percentage of light coming through the shade. All Panel Track Shade fabric options are also available in Roller and Roman Shades, which makes it easy to match with other window dressings throughout the home.
When it comes to smaller windows in the kitchen or bathroom, keep things simple with a basic wood blind. They're easy to clean and won't collect mildew in a damp environment. For a less expensive version with the same look, try Faux-Wood Horizontals. Choose from several shades of white for a fresh and timeless look.
When measuring the width and height of your window, measure in three spots (top, middle and bottom for vertical and left, centre and right for horizontal) and record the narrowest measurement.
The way you measure will depend on what kind of mount you've selected for your shades (inside mount or outside), and whether you've chosen a horizontal or vertical blind. Also, keep in mind that the headrail and valance will be slightly wider than your blinds, so account for some additional space.
For detailed measurement instructions, click here.
Don't trust your measuring skills? Shade Works can send someone to your home to take the measurements for you. See their website for more information.
In the April 2014 issue of House & Home, we show the Vancouver home of actress Kristin Lehman that she shares with her husband, filmmaker Adam Reid and their son. I met Kristin 10 years ago, before she was married. She was living in L.A. at the time but frequently came home to Toronto and needed a place to crash. In 2004, she asked me to help with decorating the small pied-à-terre she'd recently purchased. It was in the Massey building on King Steet that had been converted into condos by Cecconi Simone.
I was super excited because I had been a huge fan of Felicity and The L Word — both TV shows that Kristin had starred in. Since then she had taken on a more headlining role in the hit series The Killing, and currently plays detective Angie Flynn in the ABC series Motive.
As you can see from this before shot, Kristin's space was a lower level unit and it was a blank slate. But it was blessed with large windows and gorgeous exposed stone foundation walls, which provided loads of character.
Since it was a studio apartment, the main living area had to act as both the living room and the bedroom. The UpCountry roll arm sofa is one of the best looking sleeper sofas I've seen. The mirrored table was as light as a feather so she could easily get it out of the way to make room for the pull out bed. Back then gold chandeliers were all the rage and I liked the yin and yang feel this one, from Sam the Chandelier Man, offered. I designed the striped low slipper chair based on a vintage chair design. It has no arms so it's perfect for a small space. I later entered a copy in an auction for the fundraiser Fashion Cares (they called it Fashion Chairs!), where it sold super fast for a great bid.
We included this table and chair set up on the other side of the living room to round out the sitting area and also act as a dining area. The high leg chairs and small bistro table covered off both needs and that chartreuse upholstery did wonders to brighten things up. Believe it or not the turquoise lamp was found in a neighbour's trash! It was the perfect finishing touch.
This was my favourite view in the space. We found the vintage modern credenza at Queen West Antiques and it gave all the feminine colours and more decorative accents a nice foil. I love that the apartment came with that high ledge on the long wall. It was perfect for displaying Kristin's art collection. I found the gold 'O' at Absolutely and loved how it added a splash of sparkle against the brick and stone. The tiny table at the end was perfect when Kristin needed an extra cocktail table or place to store her pretty coverlets.
We put up wood slat Hunter Douglas blinds with fabric tape to add warmth and also provide privacy and light control. I'm not really a fan of the plastic toggles that are standard on blind cords and Kristin came up with the brilliant idea of swapping them out with these gorgeous turquoise beads.
The kitchen was long and narrow but had nice looking cabinets and simple white appliances.
We simply painted the cabinet frames for a bit of contrast and included lots of colourful accessories on the open shelves. Kristin already had that gorgeous painting: its muddy tones paired perfectly with the stone wall so that the blue centre stood out beautifully. We painted the adjacent kitchen half wall in Mouse's Back by Farrow & Ball to tie in with the stone, but left the vertical parts white for contrast.
The bathroom was compact and contemporary. Like the kitchen, it had a strong design as a starting point including a floating Corian sink.
We simply added a few extra shelves for storage and went to town on the accessories. We also added a seamless medicine cabinet on the wall above the towel bar (not shown) to help out with some extra storage. While working on this project, Kristin and I became fast friends and after she sold this place, we went on to tackle the house that she moved into with Adam as well. Be sure to check out Kristin and Adam's website, This Fair Land — a moving peek into the lives of artful Canadians.
Read about Suzanne's trip to B.C. in this blog post.
The flood last summer knocked out our power for four days but we were lucky; while some friends were knee-deep in brackish water, we had minimal leakage in our basement. Until the latest round of thawing snow did us in. It was obvious our basement carpet couldn't survive another soaking, so my husband tore it up only to reveal this:
Horrified? So were we.
The only thing more disturbing than the satanic red-and-black linoleum tile is the possibility that the builder thought it was a great idea to install the same tile in a number of houses in our post-war neighbourhood (our neighbour has it in his bathroom).
With the carpet gone it was time to take a good look at the honey-brown pine wainscotting, trim and mantel that I felt zero love for.
Inspired by a new gallery of our design editors' own basement renos, I gathered the meaningful finds that I wanted to keep in the basement as a source for the palette. These included my grandmother's skating trophy.
A vintage photo of my hometown.
And a chair I found in an antique mall while visiting a friend in Ohio. (She's a frequent visitor to the Maumee Antique Mall, a great source of quilts and vintage fabrics.)
The elements seemed to have a bit of Belgian farmhouse aesthetic so I looked for a greyed, weathered (water-resistant!) barn-style vinyl plank floor and a greige to paint out the wainscotting and trim.
After lots of close calls that were too green or cold, I found the perfect warm putty from Benjamin Moore: Edgecomb Grey.
This colour works with the tones in the stone fireplace, and has a hit of black for the right amount of gravitas.
Belgian farmhouses typically have lots of linen, but I wanted something a less dour than a tone-on-tone solid. I had this pastoral linen print made into pinch-pleat, lined drapes by Tonic Living (the price was really good, they turned the sewing around quickly and the drapes were well made).
The terracotta tiles on the hearth didn't work with the colour scheme, or the custom-made English firescreen that served as a headboard for several years.
But these 18" x 18" grey marble slabs for the hearth from Lowe's are appropriately rustic, and wallet-friendly.
For a bit of colour and graphic impact, this rug from HomeSense fit the bill for under $150.
We hope to get this room whipped into shape fairly quickly so stay tuned for the final reveal of what I call our budget Belgian basement blitz.
See budget basement decorating tips in this gallery.