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.
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.
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
7. Land of Nod
9. Rockett St. George
10. Biscuit Scout via Etsy
11. Rachel Deny via Afflante
In my editor's letter for our February 2014 makeover issue, I talked about the importance of budgeting time and money for a weekend away to relieve the stress of living through a renovation. Our mid reno trip was to Tofino, B.C. Arriz and I headed there after attending 2013 IDSWest in Vancouver and it was the perfect end to our West Coast trip.
After I spoke at IDSWest in 2012 about the importance of connecting to nature when building our cottage, so many people recommended I make the trip to Tofino. Here I am just before boarding the plane to fly out from Vancouver. Arriz and I were the only ones on the plane that day, so it like we had chartered our own private plane.
It was actually a perfect day to fly, you could see everything: the waves, rocks and sparkly water. Here we are on Chesterman's Beach near our hotel, the iconic Wickininnish Inn (the Wik for short). We went for a walk right away, and it couldn't have been more perfect.
I even fell asleep inside the gentle grooves of this driftwood log, what better spot to soak up the sun?
There is a ton of hiking on Tofino. We took a short boat ride over across the inlet to Meares Island, where you can wander through the woods on the Big Tree Trail on well maintained boardwalks, it's so civilized. This park is home to trees as old as 1,800, and to the famous Hanging Garden Tree, with a circumference of 60 feet.
Here is Arriz shooting the massive redwood trunks, some of the oldest and largest living life forms on earth.
At another standout beach nearby, Long Beach, someone created this sculptural assemblage of wood and seaweed, and it reminded of the ephemeral work by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.
If you sail around Vancouver Island, you earn the right to get your boat's name's inscribed on a board on another series of boardwalks on another island which is home to Maquinna Provincial Marine Park. We walked over hundreds of names on the trip to the leading hot springs at the tip of the island
This waterfall leads down to a natural geothermal Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Provincial Marine Park. These hot springs are fed by a waterfall and five interconnected pools. Twice a day at high tide, a surge of cold ocean water washes into the hot springs pool, creating a blend of hot and cold for a really refreshing al fresco soak.
Along the way you to the hot springs you can spot whales and sea lions, like these ones basking on the rocks.
On our boat ride we stopped in front of this rock face that features an ancient bird carving (it’s near the bottom at the right). But the fascinating part was how these migratory birds gather here. I love how they look like paintings themselves — so beautiful.
The Wickaninnish Inn is family run: Dr. Howard McDiarmid converted the original Wickaninnish Inn to today's marine interpretive centre. The McDiarmid family opened the new Wik Inn and The Pointe Restaurant in 1996.
The cedar front doors of the Wik are carved by Henry Nolla, and I love the real Coast Salish feel of these birds. Many native carvings symbolize figures derived from ancestral history, and native art motifs are so hot right now. Nolla lived for over 20 years on the land adjacent to where the Wik now sits.
Storm watching is a spectacular pasttime at the Wik; settle in behind the lens of the telescope in the cosy library and watch the pounding surf. The McDiarmid family would visit the Wik's eventual site from their nearby cabin at the height of a storm. These memories were incorporated into the design of the inn so the Wik was planned to be the best storm watching destination on the coast of North America.
Nature plays a huge role in the Wik, from the contemplative views in this third-floor suite, to the signature handmade driftwood chair in each guestroom.
This intriguing sculpture is located near the Wik, and is custom-made by an artist to turn in the wind so it's constantly changing.
The Pointe Restaurant is a round room over the water. The waves come crashing right underneath while you're dining, so it's very dramatic.
Enjoying a bowl of seafood chowder with the most perfect view; just what I needed to tackle the next leg of our home transformation.
1., 3-4., 6., 11., 12. Arriz Hassam
2., 5., 7-10., 13-14. Suzanne Dimma
15-16. Wickininnish Inn
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.
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 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.
1-8. 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.
For some, the holiday season starts when the lilting tune of Jingle Bells rings through stores or Santa parades down their city's streets. For me, the Christmas calendar doesn't get underway until the doors open for the holiday edition of the Toronto One of a Kind Show. The show runs from November 28 to December 8th at the Direct Energy Centre and is full of fab finds. Here are some that caught my eye.
Ceramics that make you want clear your cupboards and start fresh.
Subtle details that make all the difference define the cups and containers turned out by Quebec ceramicist Marie-Claude Girard (below).
If the OOAKS was a Pixar movie, MGirard's butter dishes would be the adorable sidekicks to her gallant tea pot.
There's something very sweet and sophisticated about the collection.
I might buy a cottage on the sea just to trick it out with Montreal-based Hugo Didier's (seen below) nautical- and Canadian-themed kitchen wares.
This year's show had a strong Canadiana theme running through it, including poutine pots.
And patriotic mugs emblazoned with a map of Canada.
There's a vintage feel to the scalloped plates and botanical illustrations in Atelier Make's sorbet-coloured collection.
Jaimie Robson and Maya Ersan (above), are the duo behind Montreal's Atelier Make.
In fact, I think New York's Magnolia bakery should start selling the pretty flour scoops alongside its queue-inducing cupcakes. Genius product tie-in!
Platters in sugared-almond shades are made prettier with floral textures, made by pressing fabric into porcelain.
Say "Merry" the old fashion way.
You can't fill your mantel with e-cards. Flakes Paperie out of Cambridge, Ontario has lots of lovely screen-printed holiday cards to choose from.
Founder Ashley Coulson is adept at giving vintage-style graphics a sly, hip spin.
I especially like the ones with a home theme, natch.
But she offers a range of cards for any occasion (who wouldn't be thrilled to get this birthday card)?
Instagram isn't the only place to find great pictures.
Charlene Serdan Fine Art Photography
Breaking news: blank walls are boring.
Ontario photographer Charlene Serdan is offering her dreamy snapshots of landscapes, flowers and carnivals in prints that are pre-matted to fit a variety of standard-size frames.
For more great suggestions, stop by the House & Home booth to see style editor Stacey Smithers' favourites.
1-18. Kimberley Brown