I have a confession to make: last year I didn't decorate much for the holidays at all. Sometimes the weeks just slip away from me, and since my husband and I are more likely to travel than host, it seems silly to go crazy decking the halls. Add to that the fact that our Toronto home is quite tiny — it can be a challenge to add even more decorating on top of what's there. But I've been looking around for inspiration and I think I've come up with some plans for this year. I will keep it simple and focus on the natural. Here are some ideas I'm considering.
There just isn't enough floor space at our place for a tree (plus our wee dog has failing vision, so I fear a tree might be a danger to her). In the past I have done tabletop trees, but this year I am thinking of placing branches in large glass demijohns. I'll put three on the console in our front window and add tiny white lights on a timer since I love to see them twinkling inside when I come home from work.
I used some white feather cone trees for the vintage Christmas decorating story I styled for the December 2013 issue of the magazine (see Merry & Bright). I liked the effect and plan to make up a few of these faux fur versions and mix them in with flocked bottlebrush trees to decorate my mantel.
My neighbour Lindsay Stephenson recently posted holiday wrapping ideas on her site The Penny Paper Co. and it's like she read my mind. Her ideas are a wonderful mix of earthy with a touch of sparkly embellishment (think glitter washi tape and sparkly brooches).
And best of all, she sells everything you need for the look on her site. Order soon to make sure you get all your supplies in time for your wrapping.
Another confession: I'm not a fabulous cook. So when I am cooking I need to concentrate on the recipes and keep the table decor as simple as possible. I love using fruit for a centrepiece or sideboard. After the sweets course, I encourage guests to help themselves to some of the arrangement! I'll tuck bay leaves or rosemary sprigs amongst the fruit for a wonderful colour contrast and scent.
Red ilex berries say holiday loud and clear. Find them at flower markets and farmers' markets in December. The key to making an arrangement look great? Strip the stems of any berries or side branches from the top of the vase to the base. Then prune the branches so they form an even fan shape, just like this display by celeb NYC floral designer Michael George.
A length of garland, a lush wreath and a new plain coir welcome mat are all you need to spruce up an entryway for the season. Too bad it's already a bit too cold for me to repaint my front door this colour. Adding that to my spring to-do list.
I spotted this idea at the Club Monaco store on Bloor St. in Toronto and I think I'll do a scaled-down version in front of my house. The mix of evergreen varieties in different heights and planters is so casual and so pretty. Proof that nature truly needs no embellishment! Ok, fine, maybe some tiny white lights...
1. via Enjoy Your Home blog.
2-3. Project by My Sister's Suitcase via Tatertots & Jello blog.
4-5. Lindsay Stephenson, The Penny Paper Co.
6. Lissa at Keep It Simple Keep it Fresh blog.
7. via Michael George Flowers.
8. A Country Farmhouse blog.
9. Margot Austin
As a child, I always loved Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Swing,” from his A Child’s Garden of Verses. It spoke to me, even at a young age, about the joys of soaring through the air and of the unique perspective a swing offered otherwise-earthbound wee ones. Several decades later, the swings are the first thing my three-year-old wants to try when she hits the park — any park, in any part of the world. And last year, “The Swing” was the poem my seven-year-old memorized and recited the first time she participated in her school’s wildly popular Poetry Night.
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all,
Over the countryside —
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown —
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
As the weather gets chillier and after-school play moves at least partially indoors, it’s a great time to reassess interior play spaces and consider making a few changes. Like adding a swing! It won’t quite afford the same views as an outdoor swing, but swinging in and of itself is just plain fun — and it helps kids work on gross and fine motor skills (swinging engages abs, arms and legs, and develops hand and finger control and strength), as well as a host of other skills like cooperation, balance and confidence. I’ve added trapeze swings to my roundup, too; they offer the same kind of fun, and can be used as sit-upon swings by all but the smallest toddlers, too.
Adding a swing inside isn’t as out there as it may seem (but keep safety top of mind, see a list of tips at the bottom of this post). Plenty of parents have gone before, and even made the apparatuses look rather winsome in the process, coordinating with — or at least not clashing with — their decor.
Here are some of my favourites.
In our house, I'd consider something simple like this. A basic swing — a small plank and a couple lengths of rope, much like the one in our front yard — mounted in a wide doorway between the living and dining rooms. When ceilings are iffy (like our decades-old plaster ones that won’t even hold a screw), doorways can be a great alternative.
This swing is made with $17 worth of supplies from Ikea. (Basic directions are posted here.)
Fun at Home with Kids blogger Asia Citro went above and beyond when creating this no-holds-barred playroom for her two young kids at their Seattle, Wash., home. A trapeze swing with rings and a boat-shaped swing (the Ships See Saw swing by Haba) are complemented by a climbing wall, art centre, and loads of toys and storage.
Among other fantastical decorating and lifestyle options (I’m thinking of Tom Hanks’ character’s place in the film Big or Ally Sheedy’s in St. Elmo’s Fire), high, roomy converted lofts afford loads of space for a swing or even two. They give kids a coveted place to play near their parents — and exposed beams make it easy to install one.
I’m not certain how one gets up onto the higher swing here... but it sure looks like fun!
For younger kids, consider a swing with a back and handlebars — like this one at journalist-stylist-designer Jennifer Jansch’s home in Stockholm — and hang it close to the ground so it’s easy to get on and off.
It might be tough to keep kids at the table during meals with a swing in the kitchen — but I give these Helsinki parents (Mom is Finnish fashion designer Tuula Pöyhönen) bonus points for style: the crafty swing is an old tire cut and styled to look like a horse.
Then again, installing a baby swing in the kitchen may be just the ticket for cooking dinner and keeping baby happy simultaneously.
A standard tire swing has an authentic 1970s playground aesthetic. In a black and white bedroom, this one looks graphic and bold.
Live in an old Victorian or farmhouse with big rooms and high ceilings? Then you’ve got space for a trapeze, as A Cup of Jo blogger Joanna Goddard’s friend Sophie Demenge (of children’s furniture and clothing company Oeuf) did in her Brooklyn, N.Y., homes. It’ll be especially popular with kids who want to keep their skills brushed up between summers at Circus Camp.
Of course little ones embracing their inner princesses (like my two) may want to put their own personal touches on a swing or trapeze — ribbons, bows or glitter, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the workings or pose any dangers to kids — to zhoozh it up a little bit!
Exposed beams are a natural spot for a simple swing bar in a nine-year-old boy’s room in Copenhagen. (I love how the beams also act as a display spot for favourite outgrown toys!) Be sure to mount swings and trapezes nice and low for younger children.
Like trapeze bars, busy preschoolers and grade-schoolers can have no end of fun with a basic set of rings — especially when paired with an ad hoc climbing wall and partially hidden built-in bunk beds. Call it a private playground!
A swinging bed at golfer Greg Norman’s house in Hobe Sound, Fla., is an over-the-top take on the indoor swing. Obviously, construction would entail an engineer and load test as opposed to just a screwdriver and a couple screws — but your child will undoubtedly have the best room in the house!
You’re the best judge of what’s safe for your children, but here are a few things to consider.
• Use sturdy rope and screws or hooks to mount swings; consult hardware-store staff for suggestions.
• Give a swing a wide berth: leave enough space on all sides so that kids won’t bump walls or furniture.
• With smaller kids, set rules about not using the swing when you’re not around. Consider a detachable swing that fastens to hooks high up on the ropes so you can detach it when you’re not in the room.
• If you’re worried about spills, add a plush carpet or gymnastics mat underneath, and don’t hang a swing near stairwells or areas where kids could have long falls to the ground.
• If you’re uncertain about where your ceiling studs/beams are or whether aging plaster or drywall can stand to have anything mounted on it (ours certainly can't!), sturdy door frames can be a great option.
2. Real Simple
3. Fun at Home with Kids
4. This is Glamorous
5. Rafa Kids
6. Photography by Lena Granefelt from Sköna Hem
7. French by Design
8. Photograph by Mikkel Adsbol from KML Design
9. The Boo and the Boy
10. Coming Kids
11. Photo by Stephanie Deleau from A Cup of Jo; Photo by K.Balas from Milk magazine
13. Architecture Art Design
14. Adore Your Place
Every year around this time, I suddenly notice that gosh, it’s dark out. The bare trees and dropping temperatures don’t bother me, but when the sun disappears at 4:30, it hits me that we’re in for a long, dark winter. So, with the solstice still over a month away, I’ve been looking to the real estate listings for my sunlight fix. This condo in Miami caught my eye for its mix of clean, tropical light-filled spaces and restrained hits of big-city glitz. And at only $1.5 million, it’s in the realm of “unlikely” dreams but not “utterly impossible in this lifetime” fantasies. Let’s take a look.
The 3-bedroom, 3-bath unit is on the 19th floor and has a gorgeous view of the water and a nearby park. The highway connecting the city to Miami Beach isn’t quite so scenic in this photo, but I’d imagine that the causeway and skyline beyond are actually quite pretty when lit up at night.
Judging by this floor plan, you enter the "new" kitchen through two foyers off your private elevator (considering the building was finished in early 2013, everything is pretty much spanking new). Glossy white cupboards and stainless steel appliances are sleek and restrained, making the room’s one indulgence — that beautifully veined waterfall Calacatta marble island — all the more gorgeous.
White walls, millwork and floors and Lucite chairs let the sunlight bounce around the kitchen and dining area. The living room lies to the left, with a floor-to-ceiling window at the end and the terrace beyond. Lots of shiny white can feel cold, but here, an industrial-chic table and metallic vases keep the vibe warm and inviting.
Each of the three bedrooms has its own bath and ample closet space, and two of the three have exits to two separate balconies. The third bedroom is currently outfitted as an office in the same calm, monochromatic palette. I’d move that desk to face the window, even if the view is inland on this side of the building.
The principal bedroom, with its wooden bed, gold accent table, and wiry chandelier, sticks to the white-with-warmth idea. Here, the ensuite bath really is en suite — that sparkly wall to the right is the glass-enclosed shower, and the double vanity is visible at the back of the room. I like the idea of watching the sun rise over the ocean from the shower; less appealing is the idea of lounging in bed and listening to tooth-brushing just a few feet away.
What do you think? Does this apartment satisfy your cravings for sunshine?
1–5. Douglas Elliman Real Estate
I only buy one or two special ornaments a year to tell a story or represent a memory. As the holidays approach I look for ways to accent them, rather than buying new ones en masse. This year I decided to set aside my dependable metal hooks and string my ornaments with ribbon for a fresh look. But pretty ribbons can be used for more than hanging decorations on the tree: it's relatively inexpensive, versatile and comes in a variety of hues so you can personalize a colour scheme. Here are some inspiration shots I would love to implement in my own home.
These vintage tin birds, strung on black and white striped grosgrain ribbon, add a touch of whimsy to a bare branch with lichen.
I was inspired by a stunning home we featured in our November 2013 issue to add some fuchsia to my wreaths this year so I had to share this pretty-in-pink advent calendar made from mini stockings. Note: hanging stockings on a beautiful strip of ribbon is a great alternative for homes without a mantle.
Tying flatware with a piece of velvet ribbon adds that extra touch of luxe to a simple table setting. Knot a piece of rolled linen and voilà: an inexpensive napkin ring.
I love this shot because it evokes memories of baking ornaments with my mom. She is rather thrifty so I'm pretty sure we strung the cinnamon cookies with scraps of yarn rather than elegant strips of ribbon, but they were lovely all the same.
Baker's twine in an array of colours is all the rage these days but I still love the look of simple brown string layered over Swiss dot lace. How do you use ribbon in your holiday trimmings?
As readers of H&H know, wallpaper and murals are no longer just a passing trend. They’re a great way to cover your walls with dramatic impact, and they’re here to stay.
What I find intriguing about the new generation of wallpaper patterns from Walls Republic is not only their range of style (there really is a pattern for every person or home), but also how they so beautifully echo various other wall applications like faux finishes or art installations. (This blog is sponsored by Walls Republic.)
Introducing wallpaper into a space is a great way to achieve maximum impact with a minimal budget. Thanks to their innovative non-woven backing, these wallpapers and murals are also incredibly easy to install and take down, making for a quick and affordable DIY project.
I’ve compiled some of my favourite examples of how wallpaper can totally transform the look and feel of a room. It can be used on a feature wall or to cover an entire room, so whether you prefer a subtle pattern or a high-impact print, don’t be afraid to inject a little bit (or a lot!) of personality into your space.
Here are some styles that are catching my eye:
Modern Rustic Style
With the modern farmhouse trend that’s so popular now, many people are considering putting up wood beams on their ceiling and adding cabin-like details throughout their home. Wallpaper can help you achieve this look. I love how this textured wallpaper, above, combines the feel of pieced-together wood with modern geometric lines.
Damask and Deco-inspired patterns have been all the rage recently, especially on fabrics, like drapes and upholstery. The only problem is, they can be hard to track down — not to mention pricey. A convenient and easy solution for walls is this style of paper, which replicates the delicate texture of an aged fabric.
Use it to inject old world charm to a feminine sitting room, above.
For a pattern that whispers rather than shouts, this monochromatic stylized floral is on-trend and fashion-forward with just the right amount of visual punch. The pattern itself is formed with glass beads, adding a glamorous and feminine feel while still maintaining an element of neutrality with its tone-on-tone colour scheme.
This one feels like a high-end installation screen circa a 1960s Palm Springs bungalo. This pattern, above, has just the right combination of whimsy and sharp minimalist sense — perfect for lovers of graphic art.
We’re seeing murals move from grand houses and estates to smaller, more humble spaces like single family homes (and my apartment!), where wallpaper is used on one wall to create a dramatic focal point. This one looks as though it could be a photograph from a high-end gallery which, blown out in large scale, adds playful dimension to a space. I’d love to someday implement a striking feature wall like this, above, in a small breakfast nook.
For people looking to cover larger walls — like a loft, for instance — a dramatic abstract mural like this cold provide inspiration.
I hope these examples have inspired you to look at wallpaper in a new light. I can’t wait to take on a wallpaper project in my own home!
For more information and to see the full selection of wallpapers available, visit Walls Republic’s website.
At this time of year I am always looking for fast decor fixes before the holiday crush starts and my money is earmarked for gifts and entertaining. I found these items on recent Ikea visit: they add a little décor lift and won’t empty out the Christmas coffer.
This super fun and colourful steel number has an almost futuristic vibe. It will lend a playful energy to your kitchen and it's much more interesting to look at than your standard wood bowl.
This clamping spotlight is a very cool mix of modern and industrial. The matte white shade perfectly contrasts the metal accents, and the light itself is really versatile, so it can adjust it to suit your needs.
Get the kiddies started early on their appreciation of good design. This simple wood stool is just the right height for a proper dining table, but because it's simple and black, it doesn't scream "childrens' furniture!".
Who doesn't love a good woven basket? This striped one has a cute nautical look to it. It's also big enough to store a load of toys, laundry or fresh towels.