If you read my previous basement blog post, you've already seen the before shots of the basement that used to be an apartment. Now we're renovating it into a proper home office. Things are already underway with gutting the space, but I thought I would show you a few of our inspiration photos for the final look.
To help get you oriented, here is the existing layout:
And here is the new layout that Arriz has been working on:
The basement has pretty decent ceiling height already, but in order to maximize head room as much as possible and to save costs involved in digging down further, we've relocated the furnace and ductwork to the outside walls. You can see how moving the furnace opens up the space. We probably saved about $30,000 in choosing not to dig down — and avoided creating a massive mess in the already landscaped backyard. My plan is to play up the low ceilings and cosiness with plenty of texture.
The thing I am most excited about is our new back entry. This is the floor plan and the elevation of that area. We've mapped out a herringbone-style slate floor, inspired by one of the bathrooms at last year's Princess Margaret Hospital showhome, using some slate that we have leftover from when we built our shower at the cottage, (Browse photos of our cottage here.)
The herringbone will resemble this photo.
I've been inspired by a super simple and clean Scandinavian-modern style for the overall look — think white oak floors, crisp white walls punctuated by black accents and modern iconic furniture. In a basement where light can be scarce, I think it's smart to go for an open, light look. I saved this inspiration photo from the book Timeless Architecture & Interiors (2008 Beta-Plus Publishing).
This is another inspiration shot I pulled — for the white built-ins and freestanding furniture paired with a bit of white oak on the shutters.
To add texture and elevate the look of the basement, we're installing vertical panelling like this on almost every wall and customizing the doors in a similar fashion for a bit of character — so much nicer than basic drywall.
Thom Filicia's American Beauty (2012 Potter Style) was a terrific source of inspiration as he works with panelling quite extensively throughout the book.
When I saw this staircase online (right), I did a double take because it's so similar in layout to our staircase from the back door landing (left). I'm hoping that ours will have a similar feel — including the custom railing.
We've ordered Moncer wide-plank flooring in white oak for the entire basement. It was a bit of a splurge but, with everything else being white, the floor had to be amazing. Plus the space will be taking some wear and tear and we wanted a top quality floor choice that could handle it.
We still want a kitchen in our basement — it's great to have additional storage space. Plus, I think it will add to the value of our house should we ever sell, since the new homeowners would have the flexibility of using the basement as a nanny's suite, a kid's play area, or turning it back into a rental unit.
We've designed the kitchen to run along one wall so it takes up very little visual space and blends neatly into the background. We're going for all-white cabinetry from Ikea. After all, we are going for a Scandi look!
I like the look of Ikea's Akurum horizontal cabinets with the matte finish Applåd doors. The narrow profile is perfect for the basement's lower ceiling and the matte finish has a sophisticated, contemporary look. We aren't installing butcherblock counters like in this photo, but I like the cabinets and seamless cooktop here. For countertops, we chose Ikea's white Staron so everything will blend together. We're also using Staron for all the long desk surfaces. It's a perfect material for a working area as the surface is super smooth and easy to clean.
Because the second phase of the reno involves turning the upstairs den into our principal bedroom, I'm planning on moving the Nelson Saucer Lamp that's there now down to the new mudroom. And I'm going to move the chandelier that's in the kitchen up to the bedroom. I'm actually doing major lamp, hardware, furniture and carpet shifts throughout the house so there isn't any waste on things I've already purchased — so much better to repurpose than discard!
These BestLite BL6 Wall Lamps are moving from our current bedroom (soon to be a walk-in closet!) down to the basement. The general idea is chrome in the basement and gold and brass upstairs.
We copied H&H art director Mandy Milks's bathroom reno with this wall-mounted sink from Duravit and Kohler faucet (but ours will be chrome). Our sink won't be floating, but this is a great trick to open up floor space in a small bathroom. (Take a video tour of Mandy's bathroom here.)
We're going to sit our sink on a floating vanity similar to these.
We're also using the black hex ceramic tile on the bathroom floor as a continuum from our upstairs hall. You may have seen this hall when we shot our house for Christmas a few years back.
In keeping with the overall look, we're going for a Scandi-modern style with our furniture choices. With so many built-ins, we'll need to work in some freestanding character pieces. But again, we are going to try to repurpose things we have. This sofa and chair from our upstairs den (this room has had a few incarnations!) will be moved down to the basement.
This is another incarnation of the same den. The vintage desk and the patterned carpet will also be repurposed in the basement.
I love the modern clock in Sally Armstrong's kitchen and have kept a wall blank to house the same one in our basement.
For the laundry area, we're upgrading to this state-of-the-art set of steam clean precision dispense front-loaders from Whirlpool. I love that they can stack, and then if we relocate or renovate again (god forbid), we have lots of flexibility with how they can be configured.
Stay tuned for my next blog about the demolition! It's hard to believe this space is going to look like the inspiration in this blog.
Don't miss Suzanne's basement before photos.
1-3. Arriz Hassam
4. Pinterest, unknown original source
5. Timeless Architecture & Interiors, Yearbook 2009 (2008 Beta-Plus Publishing)
6. Desire to Inspire, photography by Bieke Claessens
7. Pinterest, unknown original source
8. Thom Filicia's American Beauty (2012 Potter Style)
9a. Suzanne Dimma
9b. Esquisse blog
10. Remodelista, photography by Macdonald Wright Architects
11a. From Scandinavia With Love blog
11b. Akurum cabinets, Ikea
12. Nelson Saucer Lamp, Y Living
13. BestLite BL6 Wall Lamps, Nest
14. House & Home March 2013 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
15a. Metropolitan Home via Plush Palate blog
15b. Timeless Architecture & Interiors, Yearbook 2009 (2008 Beta-Plus Publishing)
16. House & Home November 2010 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
17. House & Home August 2009 issue, photography by Angus Fergusson
18. Houseandhome.com, photography by Michael Alberstat
19a. Charles Eames Style Chair, Chair Outlet
19b. Wegner Easy Chair, Design Within Reach
20. House & Home February 2013 issue, photography by Virginia Macdonald
21. Duet Steam Front Load Washer, Whirlpool
22. Suzanne Dimma
A few weekends ago, in anticipation of the stressful home renovations we're doing in the next few months, Arriz and I headed out to Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ontario, for a bit of pampering and R&R. After months of planning the drawings and shifting the contents of our house around, we were already in need of a mini break.
It was so elegant and lovely — I called it my Downton Abbey weekend! If you have never been to Langdon Hall, it is a lovely chateau in south western Ontario, and it's an amazingly relaxing experience — especially if you love food and spa services! It's now my new quick getaway destination. I can't believe I'd never been before!
Two of my favourite rooms at Langdon Hall are the sun porch (left) where they serve a traditional afternoon high tea and the bar lounge outside the main dining room. Arriz and I ate our dessert in front of that fireplace after dinner one night. With no one else in the room it felt very regal.
The staircase up to the guest rooms features charming details like 3/4 panelled walls and a plate rail filled with an array of plate styles. And I particularly liked the black Celtic-feeling newel post.
Arriz and I played a couple of rounds in the billiards room (he's a shark, I'm terrible). I love the green-on-green impact of the walls, lights and tabletop and even the coffered ceiling. Such an authentic English space made complete with the oil painting, extra large fireplace and panelled walls.
Wine tastings are held in the red dining room where there's yet another fireplace. Langdon Hall boasts 58 woodburning fireplaces, which makes it the perfect cosy winter retreat.
This is a private dining room for special occasions. I always get excited to see so much cutlery on a table and the diagonal rows of wine glasses. You know there are a myriad of flavours to come.
This is the dining room that overlooks the garden. It must be gorgeous in the summer time. While we were dining, I commented that the set-up was impeccable; just the right amount of space between the tables and the right overall number in the room, too. There's energy but you still have privacy. We had a fabulous meal here on Saturday night. Arriz had the tasting menu and the chef adjusted my meal to match his pacing. We ate for three hours!
After all that food, we wanted to sleep, and I think the highlight of our stay was our room. We had a recently renovated room in the main house on the second floor above the entry. It was lovely and serene in shades of taupe and pale blue-green.
Here is a close-up of the matelassé coverlet and linens. I cannot rave enough about this bedding — it was gloriously comfortable. I truly had the best sleep I've ever had in my life. Quite frankly, I would happily have stayed in bed my entire time there.
The two chairs at the end of the bed were a cosy spot to watch TV and have a glass of wine. I would love to know where this textured tone-on-tone stripe fabric came from. They're essentially open-armed wingbacks — such a perfect balance of open and closed design — comfortable without overwhelming the space.
This delicious tart with homemade honey was waiting for us in our room when we arrived. Arriz ate it while I was having my massage, so I didn't actually get to try it!
Our room featured a number of charming details including this antique demilune table topped with a looking glass on a pedestal and a quad of four green bird prints. And of course our room also had a fireplace. If you ask, they will light the fire for you before you head up to bed.
I'm a total bath person so I was elated to see the clawfoot tub in the bathroom. There was also a large glass shower for my hubby (a shower person!). The inset tile work carpet detail was exquisite, as was the Victoria & Albert French faucet.
The floating vanity kept the bathroom feeling open. It was kitted out with bath salts in apothecary jars, pretty soaps and towel bars along the front for easy access.
Our room featured this separate entry with a panelled closet door, marble-topped luggage area and this full cleaning and coffee station. So efficient!
Brass doorknobs and chunky curtain rods with full pinch-pleat silk drapes added to all the special touches.
In the morning we enjoyed more fantastic food. Our eggs came in an iron skillet served on an artist's palette.
And post-breakfast we attended a cooking class where we learned to prepare some of the dishes we ate the night before.
We spent Sunday exploring the grounds. A bowl of red apples is kept by the main door for a snack while you stroll.
I adored this Camperdown Elm tree with its wide canopy out back where I could envision people dining alfresco in the summer.
As we walked we spotted this massive pile of logs — presumably to keep all the fires burning in the rooms.
It was a hazy day but there was a quiet, stripped back beauty to the paths all around the property.
Just like Lord Grantham's yellow Lab on Downton Abbey, Langdon Hall has its own resident dog, a gorgeous Bernese mountain dog.
All in all, a much-needed weekend of relaxation. I definitely recommend booking a weekend this winter if you're in the area.
Stay tuned for my first blog post documenting the beginning of our reno stress, the basement demolition!
This winter, my husband Arriz (Arriz+co.) and I are diving into our basement renovation. After six years of living with a tenant down there, we decided to take over the space and turn it into a working home office that will also house our laundry and storage rooms. There will still be a 3-piece bathroom and a kitchenette, so that if we ever decide to sell, the space can also work as a nanny suite.
Here is what we're working with:
The entrance to the basement from our backyard. It is so uninspired and the green tumbled slate tiles and pine treads are entirely dated. To the left there will be a new 3-step stair case leading into the home's upper level.
In doing this we'll have to get rid of the built-in cat litter boxes and closet by our back door to create flow between floors. I can't tell you how excited we are to be able to keep the cat litter on the lower level of the house! And we'll finally have a proper mudroom. No more tramping snow and ice onto the hardwood when we come home.
This is the second "secret" staircase that leads to our laundry room at the other end of the basement. It is super narrow so I think we'll only use it on the odd occasion once the reno is complete. Our plan is to open things up in here a bit and get rid of the builder-basic doors and railings.
And this is the old laundry room. Totally boring! Yellowed vinyl tiles, leftover kitchen cabinets and no work surfaces. Not a happy place to do laundry.
My former tenant used this space as a living room. As you can see, it's fairly small and there are some unfortunate vents that make the room low and awkward. A huge portion of our reno involves moving the vents to maximize the ceiling height. The furnace sits behind the futon here and by moving it to an outside wall, this room will double in size.
Here is a shot back into the living room. The wall on the right is the furnace room that will be torn out — along with that old wall to wall carpet!
This tiny corner kitchen will be ripped out and the space will be opened up to the old living room.
There is a long hall (with more vinyl tile) that connects the bedroom to the living room and kitchen. The door on the left is the bathroom but it will have to move locations in the new plan. And as you can see, the basement has low foundation bench walls around the periphery, as it was never fully dug down. But we've decided not to dig down any further. For our needs, the extra cost (about $40,000!) is not worth it. Instead our goal is to move the vents to the side, minimize the foundation benches by hiding them behind built-ins and panelling, and then play up the cosiness and layer in some character.
This is the current bedroom that will also be opened up and all of those bookshelves have to go, not to mention the bad basement window in here.
This is the totally awkward bedroom closet that will be torn out.
The bathroom is a decent size but nondescript — pretty much builder-basic, especially the tub. In the new scheme, there will be a walk-in shower in place of the tub.
Stay tuned for my roundup of inspiration shots for the basement reno, coming soon! Plus, learn tips from H&H editors for renovating basements.
My family and I rented this amazing old house on the shores of Chester, Nova Scotia — my favourite summertime destination after my first love, France. If you're planning a trip out east this summer, check out the annual summer sailing regatta in Chester during the second week of every August — not to be missed! Summers on the East Coast are so relaxing — a bit of a throw back in time, if you will. The pace is a little slower, the people are friendly and the homes are full of charming details.
Here are a few snaps of the old house that, while slightly worse for years of loving wear, still maintained its laid back East Coast charm. It was a true testament to the beauty of imperfection.
Here is the view of the white clapboard home perched up high on a hill overlooking a quiet bay of the Atlantic ccean, complete with a double-decker front porch.
This was the view to the peninsula dotted with so many stunning homes. And what front deck isn't complete without an old wicker rocker? The extra-long painted bench framed the windows nicely.
This was the view in the other direction — you can see we were perched up high for spectacular views all around.
We often had dinner out on the porch at this tiny table with old-school fold up chairs so we could enjoy the sunset.
The glass sunroom, tiny covered veranda and sweeping green lawn added to the home's charm.
The beach was a bit of a downward hike, but well worth it once you got there. And check out the gorgeous boathouse!
This was one of the bedrooms on the second floor, complete with matelassé bedding, a pale dhurrie rug, cotton tieback curtains and spooled antique furniture. The pale blue walls reflected the East Coast light for a magical, serene effect. I never had trouble falling asleep in this room. This was the writing desk in my bedroom. I actually wrote one of my editor's letters from here!
One of the other bedrooms featured this floral wallpaper wrapped up over the attic ceiling and a pretty green ladder back chair.
The same sort of sparseness ruled in the dining room as well. The house was filled with antique hooked rugs, which added to the vintage charm of each room. And I'm a sucker for an original built-in corner cabinet — not to mention a display of blue and white china.
Simple wicker chairs were right at home in this sitting room.
I love the brick surround on the fireplace and the simple beauty of just a few found rocks on top of the mantel. And every East Coast home must have some sort of seagull reference!
They also had these vintage royal plates on display — I love how decrepit they are. And the house was filled with all sorts of lovely original hardware like this oval doorknob.
The original pantry was one of the home's highlights with its horizontal backsplash, luggage pulls and toggle locks. And as much as the kitchen sink was a bit too much of a throwback, I kind of loved how the blue and white ruffled curtains made it feel special.
See our Best Of The East photo gallery for more gorgeous East Coast style.
Last spring I spent a weekend getaway at the gorgeous Gansevoort beach resort in Turks and Caicos. It is essentially a boutique hotel with an condo ownership angle, where people interested in investing can buy a unit and the hotel takes care of renting it out to vacationers when you're not there. It's a great concept, but I was more taken with the beachy vibe and how to bring it back home. Unfortunately, my laptop broke down recently and I lost several of my personal photos of this trip — so frustrating! But I managed to retrieve a few, plus the Gansevoort website is pretty great, too.
For vacationers, the intimate resort feels more like your own private condo than a hotel experience, with the design centred around a gorgeous turquoise blue pool complete with floating decks and palm trees.
The pool and the view to the ocean beyond is the first thing you see as you walk into the lobby. I loved the open wicker chairs and the front desk wrapped in wood siding.
Here are a few of my favourite angles of the pool. The billowy white drapes that framed the openings of the arcade beautifully. As you walked by, the breeze would blow them softly for a lovely romantic effect.
At night, the pool was illuminated with soft candle light, turning it into an oasis of sorts.
There were two restaurants on site — one by the pool and one by the beach. Both offered my kind of food: super healthy, fresh, with plenty of seafood. You can see that all of the furniture is on the streamlined, contemporary side — lots of wood and all-weather wicker paired with crisp white, a fail-safe beach look. The key to this look is the hits of greenery in the palm trees that offered pops of colour and created cool shade.
Of course the highlight of any stay in Turks is the beach. I took this shot early in the morning before the sun came up fully and it was such a pretty combo of pale pink sky and light blue water.
And this was my room, a one bedroom suite complete with a kitchen (featuring Miele appliances), dining area, lounge, full patio accessed through large sliding glass doors, laundry facilities and a standout washroom all within a spacious open-concept floor plan. The designer did a great job of making the suites feel like an extension of the beach — as if you had never left when you went back to your room. The sand-coloured floor tile mirrored the white sand beach and the turquoise accents reflected the turquoise blue water. Of course the unencumbered view also helped to magnify the connection.
This is what one of the penthouse suites looked like — same idea only more square footage and an amazing view.
The spa with its indoor/outdoor setup offered amazing treatments, but to me the best feature was the open-air outdoor gym with its ipe wood floor where incredibly challenging core fusion and yoga classes were offered. I actually picked up a series of core fusion DVDs to do the classes at home. I am addicted!
Since we were only on the island for three nights, we pretty much hunkered down at the Gansevoort. We did go down the beach one night to eat at the famous Conch Shack, where the island vibe was totally old-school authentic right down to the white painted picnic benches and conch-lined wooden walkways.
Tropical Style at Home
After my weekend getaway, I was inspired to recreate the beach look at home (and find ways to do it well). Here are a few gorgeous examples that I was able to find in the H&H archives and online:
Toronto designer Michelle Lloyd is a master of casual, beachy style. She created a tropical vibe with a white backdrop and wicker accents at her weekend home on Lake Simcoe. I love the hula skirt-style raffia umbrellas.
And here's a peek inside the cottage, where a mid-century daybed blends seamlessly with a wicker elephant table.
Lloyd cleverly used tatami-style mats on the walls in the bathroom to create a chair-rail effect — fun, affordable and stylish. The Greek key in turquoise at the top of the curtain introduces another hit of blue in an unexpectedly urban pattern.
Somehow the beach conjures up the idea of sleeping in the sand, so the lower the bed, the better! Lloyd covered her bed in crisp, all-white linens for a fresh feel.
Turquoise Pucci towels on matching chaises make this all-white rooftop deck seem more like a mini spa — this time with a Miami vibe. I love the round mirror to conjure up a sense of the sun. Designed by Michelle Lloyd from our 2007 Bedrooms special issue.
Designer Lisa Rogers' spacious deck with streamlined furnishings and view to the water almost feels like you're on a tropical getaway. Can you believe it's actually in Etobicoke on Lake Ontario's shoreline? The palm to the left and tall lanterns on dedicated ottomans add to the tropical vibe.
A bunkie or lakeside shed is the perfect spot for beach style. Here blue and white bamboo-patterned fabric and raffia fringed pillows add to the look. But it's the giant marlin and the branch support that packs the most impact.
New York designer Brad Ford created a subtle beachy look with this all-white sun porch complete with suspended sofas. This reminds me of the swings you might have found on the front porches of the original plantation homes in the south, but updated with a modern spin — so much fun for kids!
Of course collections of seashells and rocks are a must.
If all else fails, paint your walls in a soft grey-blue and bring an ocean palette inside like the owners of this seaside Nova Scotia home did. Then drive it home with a blue carpet. A bit of coral goes a long way, too.
See our Seaside-Inspired Interiors photo gallery for even more beachy inspiration.
1, 2, 3 (centre), 4, 5 (left), 6 (left), 10-13. Courtesy of Gansevoort Turks and Caicos
3 (left, right), 5 (right), 6 (right), 7-9. Suzanne Dimma
14-15. Courtesy of Da Conch Shack
16. House & Home Bedrooms 2007 special issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
17. House & Home January 2007 issue, photography by James Tse
18-21. House & Home July 2007 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
22. House & Home January 2007 issue, photography by Mark Burstyn
23. Designed by Brad Ford, via Matilda Rose Interiors
24 (left). House & Home July 2008 issue, photography by Andrew Waller
24 (right). House & Home October 2008 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
25. House & Home June 2009 issue, photography by Janet Kimber
Because spring is a season of renewal it often comes with a frenzy of organizing, tossing and storing. In step with our April organizing issue — on stands until April 2nd — I've rounded up some inspiration photos to get you excited about spring cleaning. Check out these innovative ideas for solving your organizing dilemmas in kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and more.
In the Kitchen:
I love the simple pot hanging hooks in this industrial/contemporary kitchen. They're right where you need them within easy reach above the stove and the pots themselves add to the deconstructed flair of this kitchen. This display idea works particularly well if you have a cohesive pot collection — think all black or copper. I love the simple matte black hood and streamlined cabinets here as well.
Adding lights to the inside of cabinets adds so much warmth to this white kitchen. This is a gorgeous way to showcase your wares while still having them tucked away behind doors. Again, this approach works with well-edited collections. I love how the designer has worked in bits of black in the tilework on the counter, backsplash and floor, and in the artwork beyond to create some contrast.
A large jar of wooden spoons kept near the stove is always handy and chic. This glass container turns a large collection into a wooden countertop sculpture.
I always get excited by new and innovative storage ideas. This bread compartment recessed into an island counter is brilliant for keeping counter clutter and crumbs at bay.
I am a big fan of open storage in the kitchen because it makes cooking so much easier. Here are two different but effective approaches to open storage. On the left, simple white painted shelves with classic L-brackets work well in a kitchen with a touch of country style. Ikea sells brackets like this for next to nothing.
On the right, long rectangular boxes — also readily available from Ikea — are a modern alternative that don't require any brackets. I love this box idea because the back panel can be drilled into the wall, making them super sturdy. That's a plus when you are storing heavy dishes. Plus, you can easily add doors to them down the line if you tire of your dish displays.
It's always intriguing when designers make use of every square inch or highlight unusual details. These shallow built-in shelves are perfect for storing and displaying a tight collection of objects, as long as the shelf isn't in a high traffic area.
Sometimes a freestanding piece of furniture adds so much more character than a built-in unit. This handy cart adds extra counter space for utensils and jars of cooking ingredients, and it's so easy to access. Plus, I am simply crazy about those giant dark grey tiles with chunky grout behind the stove.
I recently added two expandable bamboo drawer dividers from Kitchen Stuff Plus to the inside of one of my kitchen drawers. Such a simple move that made a big difference — no more scrambling to find the spatula! The bamboo blends perfectly with my drawer's maple interior so they look built-in, and the expandable system means that it can work with various drawer sizes. I love these kinds of brilliant problem solvers.
In the Bathroom:
I'm a big advocate of vertical storage in a bathroom, since much of what we use is too tall for standard medicine cabinets and under-counter drawers. I also love the idea of bringing in antiques like this stunning secretary for a bit of character. It would be a great spot for storing towels and hiding a mish mash of bath products. I think most of us would be afraid to pull it out of the living room, but this proves that a piece like this can work in a bathroom.
I always opt for hooks instead of towel bars. I like the look of a few in a row instead of one long bar, and you can say goodbye to all that folding.
Toronto blogger Emma Reddington hung a vintage storage rack on a charcoal grey wall in her own bathroom. The rack adds so much character and works perfectly with the Turkish towels.
I picked up this bamboo towel bar in a Parisian flea market years ago and I still love it.
There are so many freestanding tubs on the market these days, but I have to be honest, I prefer built-in tubs with a wide surround that can act as a storage ledge for vases, soap dishes and candles — anything you want close by while you bathe.
If you do opt for a freestanding tub then be sure to include a built in shelf behind it so you can reach your stuff. And I know it sounds crazy but I seriously think about the packaging on all of my shampoos and soaps. I only select products that I know will look good out in the open or repackage any unsightly products into pretty bottles or glass jars with metal lids. It makes a big difference!
Here's a great idea for maximizing storage space above a toilet. Simply add some custom shelves — totally affordable but loaded with character.
I had to include a shot of this clever built-in bathtub storage system I came across on Apartment Therapy from GW International. They're pull-down panels fitted with chrome baskets that you add to your existing tub. Genius!
In the Dining Room:
If you can afford it, full height built-in bookcases will forever change your organizing life, plus they add so much visual interest to a room. And they don't need to be just basic white. The rich glossy grey-brown finish on these shelves paired with a rust backing is totally striking, especially with all of the blue books and those blue leather chairs. Designer Steven Gambrel has simply worked with the basic principle of complementary hues for stand out effect.
In Small Spaces:
Shelving on either side of a built-in day bed frames a stunning view and transforms a landing into the best seat in the house. And what a place to escape to with all that foliage beyond!
Talk about double duty. The architect who designed this staircase has worked the multifunctional angle so well, using the wall behind the stairs as additional storage and the space under the stairs for extra seating. The combined elements work together beautifully for maximum impact.
Effective double-duty rooms like this home office/guest room usually hinge on clever built-ins to make both functions work. Here, the corner shelves open up to frame a built-in day bed that's prefect for single guests (or home office clients) with storage for bedding in the drawers below. The result is neither too bedroom nor too home office — a perfect blend.
1. Emmas Designblogg
2. Gamla Skolan
3. La Maison Boheme
4. Viola Park
5a. Color Outside the Lines
6. Solo Thais
7. Style for Living
8. Suzanne Dimma
9. Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton
11. The Marion House Book
12. Suzanne Dimma
13. Simple Dwellings
15. This & That
16. Apartment Therapy
17. Mrs. Blandings
19. The Pursuit Aesthetic
20. First Home
If you haven't heard already, on February 25th, designer Tommy Smythe, H&H's Mark Challen and myself are organizing and co-chairing the annual Snowball benefit event for Casey House, a special hospice providing healthcare support and service to people living with HIV/AIDS. I'm so honoured to be part of it and it has been loads of fun to work on conceptualizing this year's event.
We've called the party "Elemental" as a tribute to nature and the elements, and it's being held in the stunning three-storey Avenue Road (above) in Toronto. The night will consist of a sit-down dinner catered by Langdon Hall's Jonathan Gushue, a live auction, and an after party with DJ Ticky Ty. There will be a video component and some amazing live performances as well. It's sure to be an event to remember, and all proceeds are going to a terrific cause.
Since Tommy, Mark and I are decor obsessed, the table settings and ambience have been top of mind. Here are a few of the inspiration photos that we've been emailing to each other over the past few months trying to get it just right. Some might even inspire if you're planning a wedding or big event of your own.
Be sure to buy a ticket to join in the fun. The dinner tickets have sold out — close to 300! — but lounge party tickets are still available: $150 each — just click here and we'll see you there!
This is one of the photos that Tommy sent me early on. I think it was after our first meeting! Here's what he said: "I'm not a fan of the ghost chairs, but I'm loving this garland idea for long tables." I agreed, but you need a ton of space and a huge budget (flowers add up really fast).
Mark sent me this photo in reference to the simple strings of lights crisscrossing overhead — so simple and yet so effective. I flipped out over the canopy of trees, too. Eating al fresco is always great inspiration. I would be thrilled if our guest felt like they were dining under a starry sky!
Of course I found a lot of inspiration in Martha Stewart's most recent book, Martha's Entertaining (2011 Clarkson Potter). How gorgeous is this over-the-top centerpiece? Way too big for our long narrow harvest tables and you would have to take it away when you sit down to eat, wouldn't you? But I love the totally natural wild flower look, especially paired with the rustic table and benches.
I've always loved the idea of moving your formal dining table outside to dine as Martha did here. The gigantic peonies in large glass urns are unbelievable. This time the oversized scale works perfectly on a buffet — they just create a lush backdrop. And the sideways pink runners create a nice rhythm and drape this backyard in festive pink.
Mark sent me this note when he forwarded this photo of the ferns under glass: "This tablescape with glass cloches covering little pots of maidenhair ferns is beautiful! You could jazz it up with some moss, maybe even a few candles. I saw something like this on a TV show recently and it totally caught my eye — elegant but not fussy. The organic feel ties into our whole theme of elemental + snowglobe."
Personally, I also loved the slabs of wood (almost like raw-edge cutting boards) in the photo on the left and the hemp runner in the photo on the right — both work to ground the arrangements on the table.
Here, designer Brad Ford created a stunning centerpiece with parrot tulips in simple vases that create a lovely sculptural effect. We also like the birch bark candles (very Canadiana) and the pinch pots of salt and pepper.
Simple potted plants in a row don't have quite the same impact but they are still so pretty and your guests can take home a plant that will last longer than flowers.
I love the quirkiness of craspedia and they are so perfect to tuck into a napkin roll with a bit of twine as a special detail.
Of course tarnished silver cups or trophies make perfect vases, especially with a bit of timeworn patina and just green and white flowers. The rough-hewn plank of wood running the length of the table helps define the vases and adds texture to the table.
Bird motifs are fitting for nature-inspired settings.
Here is a tabletop setting that the H&H team produced using a collection of ceramic vases as a centerpiece. If you have a great-looking collection, a party is the perfect place to show it off. I actually like that the branches are off to the side, adding impact and drama without taking up space on the table.
River rocks have this inherent simple beauty and weight that is nice to bring to a table setting. Run them down the middle of the table with votives or place them in the centre of a plate with a stenciled number to mark a place setting. Super simple and effective.
Take a cue from your wall colour and go monochromatic like this deep blue-on-blue-on-blue look. It really packs drama — especially for an evening event.
If you have the space, create a cross formation with your tables — it allows for a tall, dramatic centerpiece in the middle of two tables. This black-on-black scheme is perfect for an evening event, and the gold plates really pop.
And here is my own dining room set for a food shoot we did back in 2009. H&H style editor Stacey Smithers set up the shot and completely changed the room — in a good way! It may not be as grand as most of these inspiration shots, but I love how the graffiti artwork fills things in to create an intimate but edgy space. Plus all of the tabletop items pull from the colours in the art for a cohesive look. Stacey also did a great job with a creating a variety of heights down the middle of the table.
1. Avenue Road, photography by Evan Dion
2. Coco + Kelley blog
3. Brennan Wesley blog
4, 5, 8, 15. Martha's Entertaining (2011 Clarkson Potter) by Martha Stewart, photography by Frédéric Lagrange
6. Love Olio blog
7. Brad Ford
9. Triple Max Tons blog, photography by Kristina Lynn
10. Casa Bella blog
11. Two Shades of Pink blog
12. House & Home April 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
13. Martha Stewart
14. House & Home September 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
16. House & Home March 2009 issue, photography by Virginia Macdonald
As I mentioned in my February 2012 editor's letter, I'm about to dive into a mid-life reno of my Toronto home this spring. It's a two-phase renovation with some minor updates happening in March, and the bigger moves happening later in the spring. In phase one, we will be freshening up the ensuite bathroom and kitchen. In phase two, we will be opening up the second floor of the house between our current den and principal bedroom.
It's hard to picture, but the update will effectively convert the second floor into a totally open master suite and allow us to move our bedroom to the front of the house where the current den is. Plus, we will finally have a fireplace in the bedroom! The existing bedroom will then be tuned into a walk-in closet, which I have always dreamed of. No more tiptoeing around the bed in the morning with the lights off trying not to wake Arriz. Because I'm trying to map out this reno while having a pretty demanding job, you never know exactly how long it will take. And I will probably change my mind a billion times. But I'll be sure to keep you posted along the way. Here are some of my plans and inspiration photos:
Here is my staircase as it looked after I made it over on my old TV show, The Style Dept.
Since then we've added this gorgeous front hall console that so many of you have asked about — it's actually a custom design.
But the sisal carpeting is almost eight years old, pretty tired and stained. I'd love to update the space with a bold, colourful runner like this one from Roger Oates.
My budget may not allow for this choice, so I'm also looking at having a custom carpet made based on this Italian linen runner from Elle Decor. (I've had this photo in my inspiration files for years now.) I'd swap the rust colour for a deep blue though.
We're replacing all of the existing doors in the house with panelled doors based on this photo.
And we're changing all of the black wrought-iron doorknobs to antique tarnished brass knobs along with unique lock details like this.
We are considering replacing the main floor hardwood with a dark herringbone pattern like this one to work with the old world feel of the new doors.
We are also updating the kitchen — here is how it looked a few years ago (we have since painted the cabinetry).
The plan is to redesign the fridge and counter area (not pictured) and update the sink, counters and cabinetry finish. I'm leaning towards a softer palette with smaller knobs like this putty coloured kitchen from the U.K.'s Plain English. Possibly even a statuario countertop with an undermount stainless steel sink. And I love this faucet from Rocky Mountain Hardware, although I would prefer to find an option with a pull out spray nozzle in the faucet.
And I've always been inspired by this kitchen by David Netto.
However, Arriz is pretty intent on keeping the cherry finish on the cupboards, so I may have to forgo the light cupboards and settle for a few hits of lightness on the new fridge side of the room. Kind of like this shot, also from Plain English ... we will see.
I've already repainted the chartreuse accent wall on the back staircase landing in Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue (#30). I'm really happy with how it turned out!
The ensuite bathroom will stay where it is, but also undergo some changes. Here it is now. It's a gorgeous room to shower in but the tile and grout work is tired.
The flooring in this bathroom really caught my eye. I've narrowed my choice down to this mosaic pattern from Saltillo and this time I will opt for grey grout so that it wears better. I can't wait to see how it transforms the space.
This is the second floor den as it looked a few years ago. It will undergo the biggest transformation — in the spring — to become our bedroom. The king size bed will sit in the window.
I might do something similar to this gorgeous draped four-poster bed from House Beautiful.
The den also has a fireplace, so our newly relocated bedroom will have one, too. This stone mantle is the inspiration for the look and feel of the fireplace.
I'm also planning on adding panel moulding to the walls in the den for a traditional look.
And here is our bedroom as it is now, which will eventually be the walk-in closet. As you can tell from these two photos, one side of the room has white cabinetry and the other is wrapped in walnut cabinetry. It is going to make the perfect walk-in! After the reno, that section with the bookshelf is going to be a doorway through to the new bedroom on the other side.
My inspiration is of course J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons' closet. She has used every inch of space, although I don't have half as many shoes or clothes as she does.
We are also converting the third floor into a proper home office, but more on that later... we're doing one floor at a time. But it might look something like this one from Domino.
For more, take a virtual tour through our cottage.
1. Photography by Michael Alberstat
2. House & Home November 2010 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
3. Roger Oates
4. Elle Decor
5. Casa Tia blog
6. Photography by Stacey Brandford
7. Everything Fabulous blog
8. Photography by Rob Fiocca
9a. Plain English
9b. Deck Mount Faucet, Rocky Mountain Hardware
9c. Kitchen Side Spray, Rocky Mountain Hardware
10. David Netto kitchen, Free House Interior Design Ideas
11. Plain English
12. Photography by Rob Fiocca
13. Photography by Angus Fergusson
14a. Happenstance blog
14b. Suzanne Dimma
15. Photography by Michael Alberstat
16. House Beautiful via Kerrisdale Design blog
17. Designed by Haynes-Roberts Inc.
18. Designed by Borja Azcarate
19. Photography by Rob Fiocca
21. Domino via Chateau de Lu blog
When it comes to holiday decorating, I tend to take a less is more attitude. Don't get me wrong, I love the season and the holidays but I tend to think that we all spend so much time perfecting our homes throughout the year, so it's important that the original design intention still shines through. Lots of candlelight, natural boughs and branches, twinkly lights and a roaring fire are my favourite holiday additions.
Here a few ideas I stumbled on that struck a chord for me:
A small faux white tree set on a rusty painted cart is a perfect addition to an artistic, all-white small space. No ornaments needed!
A white stoneware jug filled with snowberries and encircled with pine cones makes a pretty centerpiece in paired-back white dining room.
This shot of the stunning stone fireplace in the bedroom at designer Jill Kantelberg's country home was one of our bestselling holiday covers ever. It's such a stunning room that all it needs is a roaring fire, lush greenery lining the mantel and a red throw that plays off of the warm red colour in the gingham wing chairs.
I'll be honest, I am not a big fan of e-cards (they're way too forgettable). I am way more excited to open up a gorgeous Christmas card from my mailbox, and a painted bulletin board is an easy way to show them off. I love this idea for a family home. Paired with sparkly accessories like a crystal ball, silver candlesticks, and a three-dimensional star, it creates a simple but pretty holiday vignette.
A small gold cup full of faux silver dollar branches makes a perfect table setting accent. Sometimes just a bit of sparkly gold is all you need. Small and delicate goes a long way.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is this massive holiday centerpiece seen in a modern home. Organic is always the way to go in a neutral space, although, I'll admit, this is a tad too big as a centerpiece on a dining table. The guests wouldn't be able to see each other while dining! But it would be impressive in the middle of a buffet table.
Lighting is the best way to create a magical holiday effect. I love that Sarah Richardson hung these glowing wicker balls in the trees surrounding her country home when we shot it last winter. Set amongst the snowy landscape, it looked totally ethereal. Martha Stewart did the same thing at Turkey Hill, too.
Candles and soft lighting also go a long way in a small city backyard. Here, in our November 2010 issue, Morgan Michener nestled an old-fashioned glass lantern into a windowbox to welcome guests with a warm flicker. And to the right, ice lanterns made by pouring water into buckets create a soft glow with tealights placed inside. They would look gorgeous on an outdoor table surrounded with freshly fallen snow. If you have a clear view to a backyard or balcony, you can dress up the outside of your house in holiday decor — big impact without overtaking the inside of your house.
A classic birdbath takes on a whole new life in the wintertime wrapped in dried vines and twinkly lights.
Even simple tin lanterns paired with a bucket full of branches and an urn full of boughs creates a gorgeous effect on a rooftop balcony.
I love the simplicity of this giant wreath set atop a stack of wood for a relaxed and rustic decorating hit.
For more festive ideas, see our Designers' Holiday Decorating Tips photo gallery.
1. Kim Davies' home, Gap Interiors, photography by Robin Stubbert
2. Heather Shaw's home, House & Home November 2009 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
3. Jill Kantelberg's home, House & Home November 2003 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
4. House & Home November 2007 issue, photography by Nina Teixeira
5. House & Home December 2008 issue, photography by Tracy Shumate
6. House & Home November 1997 issue, photography by George Whiteside
7. House & Home November 2010 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
8. House & Home November 2010 issue, photography by Donna Griffith
9. House & Home December/January 2001 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
10. House & Home November 1999 issue, photography by Rob Fiocca
11. House & Home November 2005 issue, photography by Michael Alberstat
I have worked at House & Home (on and off) for about 15 of its 25-year history. I've seen trends come and go on our pages and I've also seen some cutting edge designs that set the stage for some long-lasting movements. Looking back, it's amazing how beautiful some of these homes still look. Here are a few of my favourite spaces that have graced our pages — plus a few fads we wish we could forget. Enjoy!
We always love to peek inside a celeb's home, and shoe designer Patrick Cox's home in London had all of us dreaming about moving overseas to live a glamorous new life. So many elements in this space still hold strong — like that marquetry floor and showstopping trumeau mirror and fireplace, plus the tufted sofa and blue velvet chaise.
Everyone in the office was loving these oversized striped cushions in Elizabeth Hartley's living room, including me. I bought a bunch of them and sprinkled them throughout my first apartment.
This was only our second year and look how good this Ralph Lauren-designed New England home still looks! We could run this space now and it would still hold its own. Ralph at his best!
I scouted this 600-square-foot apartment by Thomas Wiggins when I was a design editor and I remember thinking that the built-in console with the caning and crisscross detail running across the window wall was a brilliant way to introduce extra storage in a tiny space. I recreated the same design in my parents' den.
This is when we first met Michelle Lloyd and David Bermann. Again, we all flipped out over this space. Michelle and David brought together classic French details like those tied slipcovers, the marble fireplace and pale herringbone floors, but put their own stamp on the classic look with custom plaster walls and artistic vignettes. It was a totally holistic approach.
Here is their stunning kitchen. This was the first time I had seen the chicken-wire cabinet done well, probably because Michelle cleverly recessed it into the wall so it looked like it had been there forever. Plus, there is that red and taupe varied stripe fabric draped over the powder room door. Another thing that people responded to here were those mini chalkboards — brilliant!
When we ran this shot of Jeanette Hlinka's living room, we received tons of letters from people upset about the idea of kids jumping up and down on a Mies chaise. I actually art directed this shoot, and thought it was totally cool to see the kids enjoying the living room, putting a family spin on such an iconic piece of furniture.
Sharon Mimran's house also struck a cord with people. I remember this cover shot with its totally symmetrical look and black and white photography. I was desperate to find a trellis table like this one... I still am. And that landing with the bold black and white gingham daybed is still so bold and graphic. Every time I visited Sharon's house (we shot there a lot!) I would want to redo my entire house. This was when everyone was using sisal and seagrass for carpeting and area rugs. Colour or pattern on the floor was out of the question.
Theresa Casey's home was filled with creative ideas to make a space your own — from the relaxed curtain on the timeworn rings and rod to the fabric-wrapped console table. Everything had a patina and warmth that evoked such a comforting mood. She made her un-renovated, '50s style kitchen look super cool.
We shot this view through a doorway — so Martha-esque in its styling. I see these plate racks painted grey and I think of Martha on Turkey Hill. And while Madonna hates them, I love hydrangeas. I'll happily take all of the ones meant for her! You can't go wrong with a giant coach lamp over the dining table, either.
This was the home of London-based designer Eleanora Cunietti, shot back in 1999. This place struck a cord thanks to the timeworn beauty of that leather sofa, and the art rail. This was the year that no one wanted to commit to hanging up their art. Everyone was installing these simple rails to layer up everything at once. I still love them.
This was photographer Colin Faulkner's live/work loft that he shot for us back in 1997. It was an authentic loft that he lived in well before developers started calling condos lofts. I remember attending a dinner party here one night where Colin had set up his dining table in the middle of the massive shooting portion of the space. He surrounded the room in candles and it was magical. But this shot, with its shades of grey and simplicity of forms, is a stunner. This was when the barn-style door became a 'thing' in design, especially as a space saving solution in the new condo lofts.
Viki Mansell's weekend home is one of my personal faves with its organic shapes and textures pulling from nature in a soothing, monochromatic palette. This was one of the first times we had seen outdoor furniture brought indoors in a contemporary way.
The same cottage, from our Summer 1994 issue (before the reno above), was also memorable. It was the Shaker-style rack loaded up with wicker that made this corner come to life.
Designer Zuzana Wilemova's 3rd floor apartment is still one of the most unique spaces I have ever encountered. She actually lived in a house across the street from where I live now and I remember getting lost trying to find the place back in 1993. I had never been to that part of Toronto before. When I discovered the beautiful tree-lined street with its super deep front lawns right in the heart of downtown, I thought, "Where am I?" Then I went into her place and really felt like I had stepped through a looking glass. It was pure magic and no detail was overlooked.
Wilemova created this incredibly realistic plaster effect on the walls, and she was one of the first people to flip her books around to showcase the parchment shade of the paper rather than the spines.
Tim Tanz's sophisticated home from 1993 is another favourite. For me it's all about that '70s-inspired upholstered daybed, a style that is making a big comeback this year. And the layering in this space is exquisite.
This kitchen by Karen Cole and Melody Duron was part of the Junior League Showhouse in 2000 — our version of New York's Kips Bay — and it was the talk of the show. They paid attention to every detail and truly styled the space. Check out that tiled floor laid herringbone-style!
And here are a couple of the scarier H&H moments:
April 1988/October 1988
Santa Fe overload on the left, and trompe l'oeil (all the rage at the time) on the right.
Authentic country without a twist — a bit too old-fashioned for me.
And chintz explosion, oh dear.
And here are a few of my first styling jobs for H&H:
This was the first shoot I ever assisted on back in 1992. I was helping stylist Shelley Tauber, who I later became friends with, and Lynda Reeves was there, too. I was terrified and nervous, and I think I repositioned a wooden spoon a hundred times. It made the cover though, which was pretty exciting for me. We certainly filled that wooden trug to the brim with tomatoes!
I created this set for a Minwax ad — the first shoot on my own. We must have built that gigantic combination bench and storage unit right in the house, otherwise I don't know how we would have fit it through the door! My philosophy back then seemed to be 'load her up!' — apples, picnic baskets, paddles, fishing rods... the homeowner must certainly have led an active life! I still have that straw hat, by the way.
This was my first makeover of a Toronto townhouse in 1996. We worked entirely with Laura Ashley so it was very pretty, but also a bit of a one note.
This mirror shoot was memorable for me because I brought my cat Tomba to set. He was a bit scared, especially when I placed him in front of all of those awful mirrors. We would get a few shots and then he would run and hide under a couch and I would have to get him out to do it all over again. I think he knew that all the mirrors I chose were ugly and wanted out!
We used to have a column called Weekend Workshop that featured some hardcore DIY ideas. I loved this story that I did on headboard ideas back in 1999. This is around the time that styling became more subtle and realistic.
We shot this Weekend Workshop in my first house. I installed these Plexiglas shutters on my back window and removed my existing cupboard doors to install these sliding plastic ones. I actually love the shutters! And what do you know, there is one of those chalkboards like Michelle Lloyd had on the window in the background.
I have personally been on our covers twice:
February/March 1998/June 2004
The first time it was my behind standing on the rolling ladder in Lynda Reeves' house. I was rearranging her china in the top part of her cabinets and Ted Yarwood took a photo... I never would have guessed that it would wind up on the cover! The second time was for the June 2004 issue when I was art directing the shoot at my friend Stephen Caldwell's cottage. The shot looked empty, so I hopped into the bed and posed reading a book. It was one of our bestselling covers. I recently saw Stephen in Vancouver at IDS West and he told me that, sadly, the cabin was blown apart in a freak windstorm and had to be entirely rebuilt.