Simultaneously spare but warm, the Belgian farmhouse look has been basking in the decor spotlight for quite some time. While interviewing a homeowner for an upcoming issue, she professed her love for the style, observing that her own swoon-worthy kitchen has no uppers, an authentic Belgian country kitchen detail. I wondered if Belgian designers themselves were tempted to buck tradition in an effort to contain all our modern kitchen conveniences.
Bluestone tile floor? Check. Raw wood and rough-hewn beams? Done. Serious black stove? Got it. The kitchen in this Belgian bed and breakfast is textbook.
Walda Pairon, a leading Belgian designer, skips uppers in favour of open storage in her own kitchen, which is designed for her husband, a chef. A black farmer's sink and French Lacanche stove are simpatico accents for a dark stone counter, and the rope drawer pulls are thrifty alternatives to hardware.
Another kitchen designed by Pairon, who incorporated shelving to show off the tiled walls. An impressive stove, copper pot collection and deep window wells add to the timeless feel: it doesn't get any more Euro than this.
In this kitchen designed by Brussels-based firm Baden Baden, putty cabinets (a warmer alternative to grey) and a wide-plank wood floor add a cosy feel. The low ceiling would make uppers look crammed in and obscure the exposed rafter detail, so better to do away with them anyway.
Uppers galore, but who is complaining? Glass-fronted cabinets are so airy, they almost seem invisible. A big island has multiple drawers and the corn crib-like detail above it adds to the essential rustic character of this kitchen.
Leave it to the granddaddy of the Belgian farmhouse look, Axel Vervoordt, to figure out a storage solution that still looks authentic. The kitchen of his 50-room castle near Anvers contains a soaring built-in unit with a teal blue interior that embodies the grandeur of an antique armoire.
See more French farmhouse style in this video tour of a Montreal home.
When it comes to designing a room with contemporary furnishings, it can be difficult to strike a balance between achieving clean lines and creating a space that is still warm and inviting.
But modern designs don't have to sacrifice comfort; Mobilia has found a sweet spot between streamlined simplicity and the comforts of home with its European-inspired furniture and home accessories. (This blog post is sponsored by Mobilia.) The Canadian company's luxury collections are influenced by the latest trends from around the globe and are built to last with quality materials. Each piece offers a great way to amp up style in your living room, dining room or bedroom, whether you have an urban space, dream of a European lifestyle or love a more playful look. Plus, choose from all kinds of room accessories — from bedside stands and wall art to table ornaments and area rugs — and warm up any room with Mobilia's line of handmade gold leaf accessories.
The Albia collection is constructed with handpicked walnut veneer, and customers can customize the colour and finish. The tables and dressers feature painted glass tops, giving each classic wooden piece just the right modern touch. The best part? The entire Albia collection is made in Canada.
This line of living room furniture from Mobilia’s “Gen Y” collection is called “marshmallow” for a reason — its feather-filled seat and back are so comfortable, you’ll want to sink right in. The modular design makes it easy to create your own configuration, depending on the size of your living room.
Inspired by New York City living, this Times Square dining collection offers several options to customize each piece, from the wood and metal of the table and chairs right down to the leather or fabric of the seat coverings.
This Whistler line will make you feel like you’re living in a modern ski chalet. The sectional is made with premium leather and its seats and backs are filled with feathers. (Don’t like leather? There are several fabric options to choose from, too.)
Which modern look is your favourite?
On Tuesday night I got my Skinnygirl on with yummy cocktails and eats at the brand's summer party at the Rosewater Supper Club. Hosted by the original Skinnygirl, chef, author and reality TV star Bethenny Frankel, and eTalk's Traci Melchor, the evening benefited Dress For Success.
Skinnygirl Margarita was launched by Frankel in March 2011. The low-carb, low-cal drink became an instant success and the brand has now expanded to include seven ready-to-serve cocktails, a vodka collection and a wine collection.
Party-goers were greeted at the door with White Cranberry Cosmos, followed by the arrival of Bethenny and Traci, who treated guests to a fun Q&A about summer entertaining.
Ready-to-serve cocktails like the Skinnygirl Sangria, Peach Margarita and Mojito make summer entertaining easy. Frankel recommends sticking to classics with a twist for party food, like turkey burgers with wasabi mayo served alongside Mojito cocktails — her go-to for parties this season. The new White Cherry Vodka is a must-try, says Frankel, just add soda or serve over ice.
I'm partial to the Skinnygirl Mojito — my favourite summer drink! At only 90 calories a glass, it's a refreshing and guilt-free patio cocktail. I would still add some fresh mint to it for flavour and aroma, though.
Guests were given a tour of four cocktail tasting rooms featuring different summer entertaining tips. The White Peach Margarita room was all about home decor! Event stylist Marla Brown talked about outdoor decorating.
If you're throwing a patio party, Brown recommends setting the mood with torches, lanterns, votives, or hanging cafe lights, making sure to illuminate the walking path. Add bright colours like this turquoise and tangerine combo to your neutral furniture with vases and throw pillows, says Brown.
I could definitely spend some time lounging here with a glass of sangria! Brown also recommends bringing the indoors out. Don't be afraid to bring your indoor chairs and tables outside for your party, she says.
Chef Lauren Mozer, founder of Toronto's Elle Cuisine, passed on tips for summer entertaining with recipes that are big on flavour and small on prep time. Keep it simple and light, always use fresh ingredients and pay attention to presentation, which accounts for 75% of any food experience, says Mozer.
These chicken satays were marinated in Skinnygirl White Wine and served with a red pepper chimichurri — yum!
I'll be lounging on a patio in Vancouver this weekend, Skinnygirl Mojito in hand, if anyone asks. Cheers!
1-8. Chloe Berge
Here's the scenario: You have guests coming over and need to add a bit of wow to your space without too much effort. Here's an easy way to add an inviting touch: bring in a tree.
In the past year, we've seen the broad leaf ficus in almost every space. Although glorious and lush, I can't say that I know a single person who's managed to keep it alive for more than 8 months (including me... yikes!). My suggestion: try an outdoor tree that you can plant outside later.
The lilac in the bedroom above is absolutely stunning. I'm thinking it might be a branch (based on the narrow pot it's in), which also works, but won't last more than a couple of weeks.
For this porch makeover (watch the transformation on Online TV!), H&H Online TV's segment producer, Ryan Louis, suggested we make a trip to Plant World in Toronto's west end. We found this spectacular maple that brings the outdoors in — perfect for an enclosed porch. It elevates the space more than any house plant ever could. The best part is that the homeowner can plant it outdoors later in the season!
I couldn't write this blog post without showing this gem from 2009. Style editor Stacey Smithers threw a Japanese maple onto an entrance table and we're still talking about it.
Forget cut flowers — make a big impact with a small tree and create a focal point your guests won't soon forget.
I've been dreaming about tubs lately. I've never lived in a home with a bathroom large enough to have a freestanding tub and walk-in shower. But I firmly believe in the notion of collecting ideas for the time when I might live in such a place. Always good to be prepared, I say.
I Instagrammed this copper beauty last January — a showpiece of the Ikea bathroom installation at the Interior Design Show in Toronto. No, you can't buy this at Ikea, but the clever team there was showing how you can save a bundle by designing a bathroom with Ikea cabinetry and fittings, then splurge on a stunner like this. It was a very brave marketing move that helps spark the imagination. Job well done, Ikea. And just last week I spotted this tub again at Addison's, a vintage plumbing emporium, presided over by soft-spoken Scot and utter font of plumbing knowledge, Jim Addison, and his adorable St. Bernard, Morag. Such a beaut (the tub and Morag)!
On the weekend I found this handsome set-up on Bathsofdistinction.com, a goldmine of tubs on the web. This design combines the best features of a big open shower and a deep tub all in one spot. The key here is that all water splash and overflow find their way into an in-floor drain. No shower curtain assaults. It's history-meets-modern-wet-room. Love it.
Here are some other dreamy tubs spotted on the site:
This one has a bit of an ocean liner vibe, but I think it's definitely more Billy Zane than Leo. I'm okay with that. The brass rivets make it.
Copper is coming on strong in kitchens and bathrooms. This is an interesting design, since it succeeds in looking vintage and contemporary at the same time.
One thing I'll always love about a clawfoot tub is that it offers an opportunity to up the decorating ante in a way other tubs don't. This one delivers a pop of Sherwin-Williams Oceanside Blue (SW-6496). So perfect for a waterside home.
Permit me to digress from the topic of bathtubs for a moment to share this — holy amazing! I would love to do a setup like this for the outdoor shower I'm planning for my cottage. Only three more sleeps until I'm headed there for the first visit of the season. Can't wait.
See our Spa-Like Bathrooms gallery for more freestanding tubs.
1. Margot Austin
2-6. Baths of Distinction
Want to escape on a Monday morning? Make yourself a cup of tea (or coffee), grab a little snack and follow me to an absolutely stunning home in upstate New York.
Here's the Gil Schafer-designed Greek Revival masterpiece in its Warren Byrd-landscaped setting, complete with views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. The young trees in front are the only sign this home was built in 2006, instead of centuries ago.
And here are the interiors by Miles Redd. Take a sip of your warm beverage of choice, then, take a moment to savour not just the curve of this entry staircase, but that slender gold key sticking out of the lock.
The kitchen is a little more farmhouse than formal, with a weather-beaten table, beadboard panelling and rough-hewn exposed ceiling beams. A white subway tile backsplash is a nice modern hit, but I like that it's confined to the stove area, so its shininess doesn't take over the room.
Opposite the kitchen is this cosy family room, where plaid curtains and a live-edge side table remind us that this is upstate New York.
Teal drapes and mustard leather are carried in from the foyer, but a leafy green takes over in the living room. The fireplace is matched by one at the other end of the room; the tiger-stripe and ikat pillows are, in my opinion, matchless.
I wish this shot was angled just a little to the right, so we could get a better view of that window seat right next to the built-in bookcase. The heavy maroon valances are a little too trad for my taste, but I'd still happily be a guest in this bedroom — or any of the other four.
What do you think? If you had $10 million, would you pack your things and head for the Hudson Valley?
For more on Miles Redd, view a gallery of his interiors.
1-6. Houlihan Lawrence