Historically toiles (scenic patterns printed on light cotton) have featured romanticized pastoral scenes: gamboling sheep, rolling hills, cavorting shepherdesses. These toile wallpapers riff on themes that reflect a more modern experience: think strip malls, trash day collection, and even the odd crime and misdemeanor, and offer a hip spin on urban life.
Undoubtedly one of the most famous of the urban toiles (an inductee into the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum) is NYC designer Sheila Bridges' Harlem Toile, which lampoons cultural African American stereotypes. Viewed from afar, the look of this toile is traditional, but the social context is much more complex. "Eighteenth-century French toile depicted pastoral scenes with classical ruins, ladies in frilly dresses on swings," Bridges says. "I wanted to make my own pastoral countryside, and the countryside of America is the suburbs."
Timorous Beasties is known for their lush, striking and edgy wallpaper designs, and this London Toile is rife with contemporary social ills that plague urban centres: homelessness, solicitation, public intoxication and a gunpoint mugging.
A rusted Mercedes and creaking metal gate is part of the cityscape of Darling, on the coast of South Africa, which inspired the pattern for The Wren Design.
Jessica Smith's toile fabric on the left is an homage to the time-honoured ritual of trash day pick-up, while a Gaugin-esque sun worshipper lolls under the palms at one of South Beach's boutique hotel pools.
This Spying on China toile pattern, also by Jessica Smith, has political overtones, showing the after-effects of a 2001 collision between an American spy plane and a jet off the coast of Hainan Island.
Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys worked with Revolver New York to create his Brooklyn Toile that extolls life in the King's borough, sprinkled with images of the Coney Island roller coaster, Hasidic Jews, Notorious B.I.G. and elevated subway tracks.
The banalities we pass every day are present and accounted for in Groovy Q's Dirty Linen collection. Strip malls, shopping carts and gas pumps are elevated to new, poetic heights, even though the toile itself is discontinued.
See our photo gallery of Wallpapered Rooms for more inspiration.
1a. Sheila Bridges' Harlem Toile, Style Noir blog
1b. Sheila Bridges' Harlem Toile, Blu Label Bungalow blog
2. London Toile, Timorous Beasties
3. Darling Toile du Jouy, The Wren Design
4a. Jessica Smith's Trash Day Toile, Furniture Seen blog
4b. Jessica Smith's South Beach Toile, The Well-Appointed Catwalk blog
5. Jessica Smith's Spying on China, Design Salad blog
6. Mike Diamond's Brooklyn Toile, Revolver New York
7. Groovy Q, If It's Hip, It's Here blog
Maybe it's coincidence, but the past three stories I have worked on all incorporated some industrial barn lighting (one cottage used exterior lights picked up for a song at country hardware stores as sconces in a living room). The cage doesn't seem to rattle anyone, inside or out, and you can milk the industrial vibe and vintage charm anywhere. (No more corny farm references, promise.)
On working farms, the safety cages protected startled farm animals from smashing the lightbulbs with a swing of their heads. Both the gooseneck light and Demerara shutters on this Florida bungalow (left) can stand up to hazards of a different kind: high winds and blowing debris during hurricane season. Indoors, barn lights offer an industrial touch as a gritty alternative to picture lights, and match the mood of these battered leather club chairs perfectly.
Barn lights are a natural fit with homespun details like a beadboard ceiling and a simple medallion.
Unpainted steel versions have a nice patina, but these black pendants are distinctive and sharp.
Get more ideas in our Statement Lighting photo gallery.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine who's a real estate agent told me that if she saw one more tasteful grey living room, she was going to throw a can of hot pink paint at it. Thankfully, it didn't come to that. Not long after, the current trend for colour and pattern brought a welcome relief from the blah of all that beige, greige and grey.
I still cheer the era of wild florals, bold graphic prints and brave colours — alone or mixed, if you dare. But lately I find I'm also drawn to a simpler setting, although one that still takes some guts. More specifically, I can't get enough of vertical black and white stripes.
Their mod mood and stark palette offer a welcome relief from the richly layered boho look adopted by global nomads and armchair travellers alike (it's a virtual world after all). And the stripes slip seamlessly into every style of home, just as easily as they moved from Marc Jacob's runway (above) — always an arbiter of trends to come — to rooms.
Whether you take an all-or-nothing approach or introduce the look in small but mighty doses, its effect is the same: fashion forward without trying too hard — a cardinal sin of great style.
I'm thinking of introducing the look in my bathroom, which already has black and white tiles. Where would you adopt the trend in your home?
See our gallery of black rooms for more ideas.
Recently one of our design editors spied a tony Toronto residence with synthetic grass, and commented how odd it was to see an emerald green lawn in January. We admit, faux grass has come a long way since the first indoor/outdoor variety, when the "blades" were a blazing, toxic green and a uniform height.
It ended up sparking discussion about how real the new versions look (RyMar's Sequoia even has root tendrils), and whether it was a design faux pas.
Even on something as decidedly downscale as the Spadina streetcar island (above). The pluses of synthetic grass? It can be installed under a tree where real grass won't grow, or in punishing, full sun. It saves water and doesn't need fertilizing. No cutting, mud or bugs.
And dogs can't yellow it (pet turf, pictured above — and disinfectant sprays — are a category unto themselves in the world of faux lawns). We've even heard of designers installing it on their condo balcony so their dogs can use it in a pinch.
But for many, faux grass remains a "lawn toupee" and too lushly fake, especially in a northern climate. Would you say synthetic grass is wonderful, or just plain weird?
To see how faux grass can fit right into a backyard, watch this video tour of a lush urban oasis.
Black Swan may have put ballet back in the spotlight, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. I'm declaring 2013 the year of ballet. People are watching ballet sitcoms and doing ballet-inspired workouts. The New York City Ballet recently launched a street art series, Vivienne Westwood is rebranding the English National Ballet and fashion designers showed ballet-inspired collections for spring — everyone is stepping up to the barre.
Christian Siriano Spring 2013
Interiors are no exception to the trend. Soft, sun-washed shades of pink offer a look that's feminine but grown up. Just a whisper on walls or curtains will cater to your inner ballerina, while still looking sophisticated.
I dare you not to sashay your way from room to room.
I love the barely-there blush tones in this room.
Pair pink with cream and white for a dreamy, airy interior.
Isn't this plush bedroom heavenly?
Modern furniture with tan and taupe accents keeps pink curtains looking contemporary.
Add a hit of pink to any neutral room with this Moroccan pouf.
This vintage Louis XVI Gilt Armchair is fit for a princess — or a prima ballerina.
Subtle silver sequins add a glam touch to this velvet throw pillow.
2. House & Home June 2010 issue, photography by Pieter Estersohn
4. Crystal Gentilello
5. House & Home April 2011, photography by Virginia Mcdonald
6. Serena & Lily
7. The Cross Decor & Design
8. Chapters Indigo
9. Farrow & Ball
Talk about back-handed compliments. Upholstering chair backs in a contrasting fabric doubles the impact and is an easy way to stage a design surprise. It also solves the dilemma of having to choose between two favourite upholstery fabrics. Here's to having your cake and eating it, too.
Business in the front, pretty in the back.
An Asian-inspired print on the back of designer Laura Day's turquoise settee is like the portal to another world.
A marriage of serious stripes with a curvaceous boho pattern, for a layered effect.
A contrasting back tempers the bold hue on the cushions.
And there's no need to go hog wild with sharply different colours or patterns; the texture of burlap lends a subtle bump to canvas.
A splashy floral print is the equivalent of a permanent bouquet in this home office.
Read more about reupholstering chairs in this blog post.
Since seeing Juli Daoust and John Baker's (owners of Mjölk in Toronto) plywood cottage in our June 2011 issue and on Online TV, plywood's been all over my radar. Although the floor-to-ceiling look shown below is mighty eye-catching, I'd rather showcase it in a smaller fashion.
Here are some quirky ways to get into the plywood trend without committing to a wood-veneer-overhaul:
Plywood furniture and lighting are über-cool right now. The aesthetic is simple and minimalist, but most importantly, incredibly easy to make!
If the thought of mitre cuts and wood glue make you cringe, ask your local lumberyard to cut you a piece, and fit it as a headboard. Throw a few wooly blankets on your bed and you've achieved that cabin-cool look in your builder-basic condo. That was easy.
For additional texture, particle board does the trick. These cubbies scream "backyard shed!" but look perfect against the grittiness of this home's exposed brick and knotty pine floor.
No more space for furniture, you say? Don't fret — you can still be part of the cool clique with this plywood-print pillow by Swedish company How Are You.
For more trends, check out our January 2013 issue.
1. Dwell magazine, photography by Simon Devitt, designed by Pattersons Architects
2. Wolfgang Behnken's home from Elle Decor Italia, photography by Mark Seelen
4. Plank by Frida Ottemo Fröberg & Marie-Louise Gustafsson, Northern Lighting
5. Design Hunter
6. Plywood print canvas pillow from How Are You
Lucite has a fantasy mystique about it. Maybe it's because it looks like a block of ice even on the hottest day in summer, or Lucite's space-age "nothingness" seems to magically levitate objects placed on top of it (including people, in the case of chairs). Lucite's a neat trick in any room.
Warm metal heats up icy backs and legs on Lucite chairs.
A lighter-than-air dining table floats off a white plank floor.
A glam coffee table lets a rug pattern peek through.
A clever use of Lucite, this clear shelving is thick enough to be substantial, yet almost invisible.
A Lucite console cuts the sweetness of a girly vanity ...
... and steps in as a sleek display in a foyer.
1st Dibs is a great spot to source vintage Lucite furnishings.
Browse our Iconic Furniture From A-Z for more classic furniture.
Am I the only person who is owled out? This season, the motif of the moment appears to be owls. In the past week alone, I've received a slew of press releases featuring owl this and owl that. Every website I browse also has some sort of owl ornament, accessory, ceramic piece or textile inspired by that cute nocturnal creature.
I wonder who decided the owl should be the "it" motif of 2012? What will we do in two years time with all the owl objets we've acquired? Will we still want to arrange our flowers in owl vases, drink our coffee from owl mugs or cosy up against owl cushions?
Portlandia's Put A Bird On It spoof illustrates my point quite effectively.
Don't get me wrong — as an editor of all things decor and design, I love the notion of bringing nature into the home and taking inspiration for our interiors from the great outdoors. But sometimes, a theme or motif just gets too darn gimmicky. At this point, I don't give a hoot about the owl.
With that said, there are some very compelling owls on the market right now, and I've rounded up a few of my faves below:
Glazed Tawny Owl from Anthropologie.
Nature Nursery Owl from Anthropologie.
Caviar Owl from Anthropologie.
Owl Pillow Cover from West Elm.
Owl Dessert Plates from West Elm.
Owl print from Natural Curiosities.
What do you think of the owl motif? Comment below! Any guesses as to the next big trend for 2013?
1. Glazed Tawny Owl, Anthropologie
2. Nature Nursery Owl, Anthropologie
3. Caviar Owl, Anthropologie
4. Owl Pillow Cover, West Elm
5. Owl Dessert Plates, West Elm
6. Banzanini Owl Studies 1, Natural Curiosities
Natural crystals and live-edge wood tables (edges are left un-milled, sometimes the bark is even left on) bring new life to interiors. Nature's energetic, unbridled forms shake up the polished perfection of hyper-sophisticated, urban pied-à-terres, or cohabit comfortably in rustic cabins.
Mineral lamps are a new breed of rock star. This crystal version by Brenda Houston steers clear of New-Age territory with an acrylic finial and base, and a crisp rectangular shade.
Dark and dramatic, this lamp — also from Brenda Houston — would glisten like an uncut gem on the desk of a den or home office.
It's easy to lose yourself in the complex map of veining in this lamp by Jan Showers.
Slabs of selenite (a milky mineral) have popped up on side tables in Courtney Cox's Malibu bedroom. Industrial-style metal bases accent the rough-hewn, substantial top. The striated layers are a strong design trend.
Live-edge tables are enjoying a renaissance — see our October 2012 cover for a front and centre example. This vintage table is by legendary mid-century American craftsman George Nakashima, whose signature was joining large wood slabs together with butterfly joints.
Nakashima appreciated the natural irregularity of the burl, occasionally picking slabs of wood that others rejected as too flawed.
For a new twist, Canadian company MTH Woodworks highlights the beauty of natural wood grain by casting salvaged Western red cedar stumps in resin to create one-of-a-kind tables.
Watch a video of MTH Woodworks' process here.
1. Brenda Houston Sharon lamp, HD Inspirations
2. Brenda Houston Angelina lamp, TheCoolist
3. Jan Showers Honeycomb lamp, Decur 8
4. Crystalline Phoenix
5. George Nakashima
7. Bloom Dining Table, MTH Woodworks