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.
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
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.
Stumped for small gift ideas that still pack some design punch? Indigo's home category has really stepped up. We polled our design department for their stylish selects.
Hilary Smyth: For gift giving this holiday season, I love the shagreen-style textured finish and deep jewel colours of these leather bound journals. Everybody can use a beautiful book to doodle in.
Hilary Smyth: For myself, this shimmering golden glass decanter adds a little luxe to the holiday table.
Morgan Michener: These napkins are made of a lovely washed linen and come in an assortment of colours (I just bought three sets of the dark grey for myself). They are perfect for holiday entertaining — especially with a sparkly napkin ring — and would make super gifts (don't just give one pack, be sure to give at least eight napkins to the lucky people on your holiday list).
Sally Armstrong: I love the gold cushion — just because I like anything gold these days. This glam pillow would be a happy addition to most sofas: a little bit of sunshine.
Sally Armstrong: It's always nice to have something handy to jot notes down in, and so much better when it's pretty to look at. Everyone can use this.
Margot Austin: I've been noticing the reappearance of the coupe cocktail glass and love the retro feel. I think this one would be best accessorized with rosé champagne, and a red taffeta dress with a crinoline-enhanced poufy skirt. Perfect for the holidays.
Margot Austin: I don't go in for theme-y plates but these are definitely on my wish list. They would add a festive note to my plain white everyday dishes or my bone china, which is white with a gold rim. Also, entertaining over dessert and champagne or liqueur is much more my style than the full fuss of a multi-course meal. These plates are elegant but with a sense of fun.
Margot Austin: This is the gift I would buy intending to give to someone else but would start nibbling on the way home from shopping! I met Mary MacLeod once when I featured her shortbread in a photo shoot and loved hearing her explain the Scottish tradition of holiday shortbread. The sound of her Scottish brogue saying "you put it on a doily" still rings in my head. This is the only shortbread that rivals my mom's. Highest praise.
Margot Austin: This lovely object and a jar of artisanal preserves (wild blueberry is my favourite, hint) would make the perfect host gift. Presenting jam or jelly in such a container adds a sense of occasion to the brunch table, but I also love that this is a pretty accessory even when it's off duty.
Joel Bray: I Love the smell of this candle! It's the perfect way to conjure up the smell of fresh-cut fir if you have an artificial Christmas tree.
Joel Bray: The peacock feather ornament would make a beautiful addition to any gift, tied to the bow.
Joel Bray: This bowl brings a hit of sparkle to any coffee table. Fill it with nuts or candies.
A designer I know recently tweeted that he loves things that don't look expensive but, in fact, are. I tweeted back that I like things that look expensive but, in fact, are not. Don't get me wrong, I understand his point — understated luxury is like a fabulous secret just for you. There is great pleasure in that. Fine materials and workmanship can set a piece apart and make its quality and value only discernible to those in the know.
But as someone who is surrounded by the best of the best on a daily basis, I admit it can be a little disappointing to have champagne tastes on a tap water budget. That's why I take such delight at finding pieces that have great design lines at very affordable prices. Here are my top 5 current faves.
The Portfolio stainless outdoor wall light, $37 at Lowe's, has a great nautical look but it doesn't have to stay outdoors. I recently suggested it for a friend's cottage bathroom and it looks great. In my research I came across many that look like it with price tags 10 times higher.
These 2" faux wood horizontal blinds have been a favourite of mine for many years. Prices start at about $30 for a small window. I have installed them or specified them for more than 30 windows. That includes the six I installed myself over the weekend at our place in Tweed, Ont. They can be custom cut at the store to the right width for your window. I prefer a snug inside-mount installation. I almost always pair them with fabric side panel drapes or a fabric valance and roman blind to soften the look. Here's an example of how I paired them with café curtains. Bonus: having the same blinds in every window boosts your home's curb appeal too.
I spotted these Carlisle Metal Barstools or Counter stools ($99/set of 2) at Target recently. What a fun pop of colour. I think the yellow is my favourite. You get two of these for half the price of what one reasonably priced stool usually costs. They come in several colours, but I have found stock to be low in many Target stores so you may have to hunt for them if you want them.
I used the Ikea Aina linen curtain panels, $60/set of two panels, as hangings for my four-poster bed, but I've been using them for years on windows too. For this same bedroom I had the panels lined with room-darkening lining and had French pleats added to the top for a semi-custom window treatment.
Every season West Elm tempts me with something sumptuous for the bed. Last week when I popped in the store I fell for this collection. The Linen Cotton Blend Bedding (queen duvet cover, $165) has very simple unfussy styling and some very yummy colours. I like the idea of mixing the darker hues to cozy up the bedroom for autumn. And for the record, I would style them in all their wrinkled splendour — no steaming or ironing.
Before starting at House & Home, I was working on a two-year masters program in Toronto. With all the late nights spent reading and writing, I really benefitted from having an office in my apartment. It wasn't pretty, but it definitely provided enough work and storage space.
The spare room is a decent size, but once I had finally graduated it became wasted space. The room with great storage continued to be just that — a room to house all of my junk. That's when I had the brilliant — although admittedly self-indulgent — idea to transform the office/junk room into a walk-in closet. I wanted to create a lighthearted and unique room that allowed me to hang and see my clothes and shoes. The main difficulty of course, would be fitting it within my very limited budget.
Here are some of my inspiration shots of gorgeous walk-in closets:
Taking inspiration from these feminine, high-end dressing rooms, I attempted to translate the look of built-ins with a very skimpy budget.
I repurposed a shelf and desktop from Ikea into an island for the centre of the room by painting the shelf and wrapping the stainless steel tabletop in fabric.
To create hanging areas, I used four tall Expedit bookcases from Ikea with rods attached between. I secured each shelf to the wall with heavy-duty plugs, since the rods would be weighted down significantly. For the rods, I picked up some sturdy, non-extendable curtain rods in 1-1/8" widths from Designer Fabrics in Toronto.
I used side-mount brackets — also from Designer Fabrics — to secure the rods to the sides of the shelving units, and metal plugs specifically designed for hollow-core doors and walls — important considering the amount of weight distributed along the rods.
Here are some in-process shots for the project that was only supposed to take me two weeks, but ended up taking the whole summer.
Inexpensive Ikea shelves are sturdy enough for shoes, and keep the sightlines open.
And with a few more ingredients and finessing, here is the final product:
Now onto the next project — actually organizing my clothes!
For more ideas, see our Closets & Dressing Rooms photo gallery.
1, 8-12. Lauren Petroff
2. Reasons to Breathe blog
3. Reasons to Breathe blog
4. Reasons to Breathe blog
5. Expedit shelving unit, Ikea
6a. Expedit tall shelving unit, Ikea
6b, 7. Rod and bracket, Designer Fabrics
Now that I have a little mug-wumps running around the house, I fully understand the appeal of the slipcover. So, when this Loose Fit Urban line from BEMZ for IKEA furniture came across my desk, I was all over it!
They had me at 100% washed linen! I love the loose look, and the visible seaming!
What do you think? Tell me in the comments below. Then, see more slipcovered beauties in our decorating photos.
Photos 1-3, BEMZ
I recently took a trip to the Etobicoke Ikea to purchase my son's big boy bed (sniff sniff). I know some people that get stressed out or just plain lost in Ikea, but I love it. I really do! I love walking around the showrooms, checking out the market, and I love me some 75-cent hot dogs.
Anyway, like so many of my trips there, I came in for one thing and left with more than I expected. At first my husband was pleased to find that what I returned with was not a bag of 6,000 tealights or several Ribba frames that will sit empty because really, who has time to get photos developed? But I digress.
No, what my husband realized, much to his dismay, is that I came home with an idea. Scrap that. It's bigger than that, it's a dream. A dream and a plan for a new kitchen.
It just happened. I could see it all unfolding perfectly as I walked through the Ikea kitchen showroom.
My husband seemed, well, not psyched.
So, bloggy friends, I am going to share a few of my dreams with you and maybe you will understand. Or, maybe your eyes will glaze over like my husband's, but I won't be able to see you so it will be cool.
First, let's start with the inspiration. Here are a few images that have been on my computer and corkboard — or, inspiration board as we say in the biz — at work for a while now. I blame these images first and foremost.
Up next, the items I met at Ikea:
Hello, black-brown Nexus cabinet. I've seen you in a flyer and I have to say, you look even better in person.
I'm thinking a couple of high cabinets around the fridge and wall and base cabinets along the west wall (I have an "L" shaped kitchen). Connecting on the north wall will be the lower cabinets that meet up to the dishwasher and stove. Of course, those cabinets will be outfitted with all those terrific interior organizers that are going to change my life, but let's not go there right now.
Okay, while I would love to cover those base cabinets in something amazing like Carrara marble, I am a realist, even in my dreams. So butcher block countertops it is. What's up Numerär? Want to come live with us?
Here is the part of the dream where things get a little confusing for me. Do I go Domsjo double? I have white appliances and I think they might be into each other.
Either way, I am pretty into Elverdam and his extendible spout.
Above the sink and cabinets on the north wall, I thought a Värde wall shelf with hooks might be nice. I wonder if he could be stained? Hmmm...
And above the stove for pots and pans, a good ol' Grundtal, with hooks for utensils of course.
Finally, the trimmings. These will require a little more research, but are making their way into the dream. As for the hardware, I'm thinking polished or antiqued brass. I have long loved the glowing warmth of brass and I'm happy it's back.
The backsplash is another tricky one. Part of me would love to use wallpaper and maybe get some lucite or glass to protect it. I made my pal Cameron MacNeil schlep two rolls of this wallpaper from a friend's house in California where I had it delivered. Have I ever mentioned that Cameron is the best?
Then again, I do love a subway tile and I have a couple of boxes left from our bathroom reno.
And then there is the lighting! Oh, the decisions! Luckily or unluckily, depending on if you are a glass half full or empty type, I think I have a bit of time. My better half hasn't fallen into dreamland with me yet. His feet are still firmly planted in stone-cold reality. But one day people, it's gonna happen.
Are you still awake? Then I have just two more things to say to you:
1. I have to confess, I did also come home from Ikea with more than a bed and a dream. I also bought a milk frother and a frozen chocolate almond cake.
2. No, Ikea did not sponsor this blog post, though I wish very badly they had. Can you hear me Ingvar Kamprad?
Last week fellow style editor Morgan Michener and I set out to our local Ikea to scout about, and as usual, we spotted so many great things to pitch for upcoming stories. Some are new and some are just new favourites! Keep an eye out for these items in the February and March 2012 issues!
1. Ektorp Jennylund armchair, $249. This chair is the perfect scale for a small space, and with a cosy seat and such great price, you can't go wrong.
2. Ludde Sheepskin, $70. I could see this one layered up so loverly on the grey or white Jennylund chair.
3 & 4. Bislev rug (left), $30. This little flatweave is so darn cute. It looks like it has grosgrain ribbons running down it. Morgan had the great idea of sewing two of these guys together into a large floor cushion that would be almost kid-indestructible! She's in charge of our editor DIY for a reason. And the Andrup rug (right), $25. Okay, so I admit, I have a bit of a rug fetish! I would love to see this one tossed over the back of a neutral sofa or headboard.
5. Pokal tumbler, $2. I have been really into these glasses for a while — the design is so classic! I want a latte in this cup!
For more affordable finds, see our Fall Finds Under $90.
I recently decided to take on a couple of matching dressers straight out of the 1980s. They're solid wood, unlike a lot of the MDF out there these days, so I decided to work with them instead of leaving them on the curb. My boyfriend liked this idea, too, since he's had them since, well, the '80s.
Yup, that's blue and green paint, coated on thick and glossy.
I started with the hardware. For a traditional look that would complement my white iron bed, I wanted brass knobs, and I wanted them on a dime. Luckily, The Home Depot had tons of affordable knobs. These beauties were only 99 cents each! I needed to outfit two dressers, so I saved tons of money going with the cheapies. Pulls are usually quite a bit more, so I decided two knobs per drawer was going to be even cheaper than one pull per drawer.
Since there were single pulls on the old drawers, I had to fill holes (many, many, many holes) and drill new holes for the knobs. Pick up a wood filler for a project like this.
Because the blue and green paint was so glossy, I sanded them down with an electric sander. I could have done it by hand, but they needed a very thorough sanding. Roughing up the paint a bit also helps the new paint adhere to the wood. Here they are minus a few layers of the '80s.
And after! I went with a white-white paint to match the bed, and come on, is there anything better than crisp white? I think not. And the brass knobs really pop against the white.
Yes, this is the same room. The carpet was traded for bamboo, and the dressers really look at home now. I love the blue walls, too — very English country with the white furniture.
And because I just couldn't get enough DIY-ing, I decided to be really ambitious and wallpaper the insides of the drawers. Argh, I regret starting this, because it took about a month for me to actually finish this project. But it was worth it. The subtle beige paisley pattern looks great with the white and brass. Surprisingly, I just submerged the pre-glued wallpaper in water, just like you would for wallpapering a wall, and it adhered to the wood pretty well. I had to glue down a few corners with carpenter's glue, but I was impressed with how easy it was to wallpaper wood. Cutting each piece to size was the most tedious part.
There are a few gaps, of course, but I'm really happy with how they turned out. My socks are going to be so happy in these drawers!
For another inspiring DIY project, check out Stacey Smithers' dresser finds.