I'll admit, I'm an absolute stripes freak. I often gravitate toward clean-lined stripes when choosing drapery, wallpaper, paint or rugs. And I definitely prefer horizontal stripes — they lend a more contemporary, almost Japanese look and tend to elongate a wall or piece of furniture. Here are a few rooms with stripes that have caught my eye.
This is my own living room as it appeared in the now defunct Wish magazine a few years ago. I think striped drapes really are my trademark — I know my drapery sewer thinks so. I like how striped drapery creates a "wow" factor at eye level in a relatively neutral room. When we featured this room in the H&H November holiday issue last year, I took down the drapes and hung plain olive green velvet ones to work better with all of the blue and green Christmas decorations. Designer Tommy Smythe called me up and said, "Suzanne, what happened to your striped drapes?! I loved those!" Of course, I immediately put them right back up.
You can also see this room in our Readers Favourite Rooms photo gallery, so be sure to vote!
Here's another example of a striped treatment at the window. New York designer Steven Gambrel chose a double-stripe trim to great effect along the inside edge of a double set of drapes in this West Village townhouse. A bit of striped trim can have just as much impact as full curtains. Chairs upholstered in a dense horizontal pattern make them seem long and lean instead of bulky, and layer nicely with the rug and drapes. Everything is in shades of bold turquoise for a monochromatic look with guts.
I know we all flipped over J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyon's fantastic house in Brooklyn when it appeared in Domino and then in Living Etc several years ago. The black, white and yellow could have gone in a bad bumblebee direction, but instead it looks très chic. Painting a punchy graphic pattern on a nursery ceiling is always a great way to liven it up without going too cutesy.
New York designer Muriel Brandolini's Southampton weekend house was featured in an issue of Elle Decor way back when. Not just a feature wall, Muriel totally went for it here with a daring pink and orange combo and in pretty tight quarters too — not for the faint of heart! Painting the trim the same orange as the stripe lets the windows and doors blend into the pattern for an almost surreal effect. (As you know, I like this room so much I included it in my daring colour combos post, too!)
Architect Steven Learner covered his guest bathroom in a horizontal striped wallpaper from Clarence House, which adds a contemporary touch to the classic New York-style white washroom. I would have loved this look in black and white tiles, too — gorgeous and practical that way.
This jazzed-up mudroom in a 1960s Cape Cod barn conversion, featured in Lonny's March/April 2011 issue, makes a similar mark with black and white stripes. Spaces like dining rooms and powder rooms are also great spots to experiment with pattern and colour simply because you don't use them as frequently as other rooms in the house. Or, in the case of the powder rooms, you really aren't in there for too long, so why not have a bit of fun? The wire structure of the Nelson Saucer Pendant Lamp above the table continues the stripe theme while the antlers and trad settee offer a bit of quirky contrast.
Striped carpets have been hot for a few years now and I just can't get enough of them. They always look so good! Here designer Victoria Hagan perfects the trend in this Hamptons living room. The nautical colours are perfect for a cottage or beach house. And this antique dhurrie with varied stripes is anything but predictable.
Interior designer Nate Berkus chose this Madeline Weinrib cotton flatweave rug (now a classic) for the living room of his Chicago home. The green accent on the gold-framed chairs is the perfect pop of colour against the carpet. Everyone in the office flipped over this rug when it first came out, and Ikea actually released a similar version, which everyone and her uncle was quick to pick up.
I love this fun mix of stripes in shades of bright pink in a cottage bunkie. It just feels like a happy place. Breaking all the rules with aplomb!
Whoever set this up is a stripe fanatic — papers in rows of colour to make a stripe effect, contrasting boxes and lids, too. Make your own stripes using things around the house! Paired with that super cute striped lamp and chic wide striped chair, this is an eye-catching vignette.
I think I'll finish off with this vignette: a whole pile of cosy striped cushions with Navajo-style fringe. By the way, I really think western style is making a comeback. The cushions look lovely paired with the subtle stripe on the blanket and serene grey and blue on the vase.
Inspired yet? Try adding a few stripes to your decor for a bit of fresh summer style.
For more stripes, see our Cape Cod Style Finds.
1. Wish, photography by Rob Fiocca
2. Steven Gambrel
3. Ohdeedoh blog
4. Elle Decor, photography by Henry Bourne
5. Elle Decor, photography by Pieter Estersohn
6. Lonny March/April 2011 issue, photography by Patrick Cline
7. Elle Decor, photography by Michael Mundy
8. Elle Decor, photography by Pieter Estersohn
9. House & Home July 2010 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
10. Martha Stewart
11. Martha Stewart
This past March, I visited the gorgeous city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for the second time, and fell in love all over again. (If you missed my post from last spring, click here.) This time, we rented a Spanish Colonial home nestled in the mountains. It's actually a new-build, but has the aged patina and timeworn charm of an old Mexican home. We're actually eager to rent this home yearly as a winter getaway. Here are some of my favourite photos from the courtyard, interiors, rooftop and gardens:
This was the first area I saw when I walked into the building. A lush plant-filled courtyard complete with a koi pond. It was a heavenly welcome. All of the columns were brand new but felt like stone antiques and had soft hand-painted patterns in the arches.
This is the staircase to the second floor at the far end of the courtyard. The crisscross pebble detail added pattern and the honed stone was amazing to walk on. The recessed wall lighting illuminated the treads and looked simply beautiful as the sun started to set.
This space was like an indoor-outdoor area where the staircase met the second floor to the left. I remember when those tin star lamps were totally popular in Canada back in the '80s and here they were again — but you know, I totally loved it here. It made sense as they are made locally in Mexico. At night, this one illuminated the ceiling with twinkling stars. Heaven again!
And this is the view back to the hills of San Miguel on one part of the rooftop garden.
There was a stunning jacaranda tree up there on the roof.
The bougainvillea trees like this one clashed so beautifully with the terracotta walls.
And look how pretty the blooms look in a simple glass vase on a tray in the hallway.
I loved this grouping of Italian-style cypress trees that provided privacy and framed the structure of the patio.
This was the staircase to the rooftop patio on the next level. Notice how the bougainvillea from the courtyard below spills over the railing — gorgeous! The tilework on the steps is quintessential Mexican design and the whimsical stone mermaid up at the top seemed to keep watch over the house from above.
Locally-made patterned iron gates provided security between the indoor and outdoor areas but still let the air and light flow in.
This was the view through the main living room which featured a wood beamed ceiling at a soaring 15 feet high, a large archway to mark the dining area, plenty of large scale wood furniture and, of course, iron chandeliers. Every room in the house had french doors leading to an outdoor area of some sort.
The highlight of the kitchen was the massive hood over the stove and all of the gorgeous terracotta or hand-painted tiles and dark wood cabinetry.
Special touches included an antique leather saddle displayed as a piece of art in the front courtyard's arcade, highlighted by a gorgeous iron sconce. An oxidized tiered lantern set against a brick arched ceiling created ambiance in the backyard's arcade.
This was my bedroom looking toward the french doors that opened to the garden. The panels over the screened bottom section of the doors was a practical detail — they could be opened at night for amazing air flow without the bugs.
I loved the intricate metal work on the headboard.
And the elegant lines on the stone fireplace across from the bed — plus even more french doors!
The bathrooms each featured bath tubs like this one with gorgeous blue and green tilework and gracious steps.
The sinks were hand-painted with floral motifs. I wouldn't even consider putting a sink like this in my house here, but it was gorgeous there.
I nearly fainted when I saw the size of the walk-in closet.
For me, though, the highlight of the property was all of the water features like this tiered pond that was tucked in at the side of the house with orange trees that we used to make fresh orange juice.
And of course the backyard's stunning dark-bottom pool with a stone clad hot tub at one end.
This photo was taken from a patio behind the hot tub. The tall grasses added privacy.
Here you can a second patio arcade with loads of seating built around the pool.
That's me sitting in the shade by the pool.
For bird watchers, the backyard was paradise. Local birds would visit daily, like this sweet yellow bird perched on a frond over the waterfall from the hot tub.
Most remarkable was that this Spanish Colonial gem was neatly hidden behind a wall much like this one so that no one would ever know it was there.
Having just put our June issue to bed, I was inspired by the numerous creative family spaces we featured on our pages, like the modern home of designer Ashley Botten and photographer Chris Wahl on page 64. (The issue will be on newsstands on May 9th.) I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley for our Online TV show, too (check back for it May 9th). There's an interactive and playful quality to their home, which you know her two kids enjoy, and yet they didn't sacrifice style in the least. Fun for everyone!
Here are a few more creative family spaces and clever kid-friendly ideas:
I worked with photographer Ted Yarwood on capturing this screened-in porch at a Georgian Bay cottage many, many years ago and it still looks sharp. With 270 degree views of the outside, it is a perfect summer playroom. White painted floors and furniture always look great — plus, who doesn't love an exposed vaulted ceiling? But the standout is those mix-and-match traditional armchairs covered in the same upbeat turquoise vinyl that stands out against all that white. Practical and striking.
My dear friend John Tong, who is one of the partners (with my hubby and their other partner Paul Syme) at the Toronto design firm 3rd Uncle, is a master of playful spaces. He's a bit of a kid himself, and he and his wife Anne have three super kids: Uma, Luca and Maeyel. This is the courtyard space he created by purchasing two industrial buildings and transforming the old driveway between them into this mod, private space, totally tucked away from the urban life on the other side of the high walls.
He painted the entire north wall Mediterranean blue for a big blast of upbeat colour. The ten foot long dining table is actually two side-by-side Ikea picnic sets (sadly discontinued) broken up by a pair of original Eames fiberglass bucket chairs at each end and vintage turquoise vinyl office chairs on the far side — all practical outdoor and kid-friendly choices. The dining area sits under the old rafters — vestiges from when the building used to operate as a warehouse. It's this deconstructed structure that makes this space so intriguing, especially with kids' swings suspended from the I-beams. The raised platform at the back of the space gives the courtyard some dimension and a place for the kids to put on plays and performances. Who said city living isn't kid-friendly?
When I was a kid, I loved the idea of secret doorways and passages — they could transform a regular house into a magical treasure hunt. Architects Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan of Studio Junction designed their modern Toronto home with their two kids in mind by including a few of these special passages. This is the home's principal bedroom (and kids' jumping ground), but it connects to the children's bedroom to the right through a sliding Japanese-style shoji screen (where Abbe is running through) so that the parents can keep an eye on the baby. Once the kids are big enough, the screen will stay shut and the room that the kids share will be divided with pre-planned sliding doors on a ceiling and floor track. Drawers and cupboards faced in Douglas fir hide a multitude of toys, clothing and clutter and lend the space an almost boat-like feel, like sleeping in the hull of a ship.
If you haven't seen Mary Randolph Carter's book, A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life (2010 Rizzoli), run out and get a copy. If nothing else, it will help you relax about having everything in its place so you can enjoy your home more. One of my favourite ideas in the book was this muslin Biedermeier-style sofa covered in kids' scribbles and doodles in indelible ink. It's totally interactive and the result resembles a graffiti art installation. And that branch and Christmas lights chandelier is superb as well.
Also from Mary Randolph Carter's book, this photo shows how easy it is to designate a space for kids' art. It's so important to have an area where children's creations are on display. Stagger simple narrow shelves like they did here and combine a variety of objects for added interest. Place single pieces low where kids have a good view, and more delicate groupings higher up.
Pillows are always fun for kids to play among. This pillow-filled reading nook (from the same book), looks super cosy and it has been personalized with a piece of foolscap school paper enlarged as art. I love how they've even replicated the hole punch down the left side.
This unique and colourful entryway is from the home of jewelry designer, teacher and mother of three, Liz Kingstone, whom I mentioned in my June editor's letter. Her entire house is filled with creative and kid-friendly decorating ideas. These front hall stair treads painted in bubble gum pink give a wow first impression. It looks super funky and works because of the unifying white walls and warm wood floorboards.
Liz also cleverly created an extra wide daybed for her boys' room (that they like to use as a trampoline) by placing two Ikea platform beds back-to-back. They fit perfectly along an entire wall so they look built-in. And she personalized them by painting each of the drawers a different colour and adding mix and match bedding (plus a striped carpet) for a relaxed, eclectic look.
This photo is from the book Children's Spaces from Zero to Ten (2008 Ryland Peters & Small) by Judith Wilson. Vintage finds — like this industrial storage unit reminiscent of school lockers — are perfect for adding character to a room full of standard children's furniture. Of course you can't go wrong with a pair of framed Tintin posters for European flavour and a big splash of colour. And a plate rail running around the top of the room is perfect for turning kids' books into art and displaying family photos in colourful frames.
1. House & Home December 2006 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
2. House & Home June 2010 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
3. House & Home January 2009 issue, photography by Rob Fiocca
4-6. From A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life (2010 Rizzoli) by Mary Randolph Carter, photography by Mary Randolph Carter
7-8. Wish Winter 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
9. From Children's Spaces from Zero to Ten (2008 Ryland Peters & Small) by Judith Wilson, photography by Debi Treloar
Most design principles work indoors and out. Whether you have a sprawling backyard, tiny side patio, front porch, or condo balcony, there are plenty of ways to make your outdoor space seem like an extension of your home. Take a cue from the inspirations below where there are some definite parallels between indoors and outdoors.
This is designer Sharon Mimran’s private yard from our May 2010 issue, and a Tom Scheerer-designed hallway. Both showcase a formal yet welcoming approach to a space based on the classic centre hall plan. The round pedestal table is the key focal point that leads you into the space, and on the left, the fountain directs flow through to the spaces beyond. In Scheerer’s case, the pedestal is covered in that striking high-contrast pleated tablecloth, and in Mimran’s yard it is a large urn-style bird bath. I love how the trellis patterned block wallpaper mirrors the trellis fencing in Mimran’s yard in the same way that the arched clerestory window over the door reminds us of the circular mirror in the mansard roof of the storage shed.
Whether it’s inside or outside, I love it when you can find or create useable space where you never knew it existed. I transformed this neglected area (left) at the side of a house into a pretty dining area several years ago for my old TV show, the Style Dept. on HGTV. A little tree trimming, some limestone tilework, a few lanterns, a striking bench and table set-up and an overhead light hung from a nearby tree and it became a romantic dining area. To me, that always makes an outdoor dining area feel complete.
The space on the right, also by Tom Scheerer, works for the same reasons with benches instead of chairs for a more casual, contemporary vibe indoors. Where the side patio uses individual cushions upholstered in indoor/outdoor fabric, the dining room uses sleek, leather-covered benches.
For an alternate dining room approach, here are two examples of a classic round table set-up. The patio, by John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross, even looks like it could be an outdoor extension of the home on the right, by Erin Martin. Both showcase a breezy, slightly exotic feel as well as a pale monochromatic grey-beige colour scheme. Plus, the wrought iron furniture at the left could work as an indoor dining set while the causal dining chairs on the right could work just as well on a patio. The key to this patio, though, is how the potted plants and hedging soften and frame the furniture groupings.
Symmetrical floor plans are failsafe, and flanking a fireplace with two identical sofas to create an intimate conversation area is a classic living room set-up. In both examples above, the fireplace is the undisputed focal point, especially in the outdoor space where the concrete structure stands out against the lush foliage. Here designer Eric Hughes introduced interior accessories like large throw cushions as well as bright colours to warm up the concrete. In a very different style, the living room on the right has a low coffee table and grounding area rug to define the space in the same way that the large-scale concrete slabs on the left do. But both spaces are perfectly balanced and invoke a sense of calm.
Here are two great examples of how a tight nook can be turned into something special. On the left, Toronto designer and TV host Andrew Pike created a built-in bench in a corner of his urban back yard and added loads of cushions for a big hit of pattern. And on the right, designer Healing Barsanti also used every available square foot to create this cosy built-in window seat with the pattern hit coming from the seat cushion. I love the timberwork framing, which lends a cottage vibe. Both spaces incorporate horizontal wood siding, small-scale accent tables and a bull’s eye focal point (the mirror on the left and the window on the right).
Both Karen von Hahn’s backyard from the August 2010 issue of H&H and this kitchen dinette designed by Steven Gambrel showcase a comfy sectional set-up. Both are loaded up with cushions and wrap into a corner for a casual and inviting living space.
The untreated and greyed ipe wood planks to the left have a raw, unfinished feel like the wide plank floorboards to the right. I love the casing of rusting Cor-Ten steel that 3rd Uncle used for Karen von Hahn’s addition and the contemporary textural backdrop it creates. And if you look closely at the bench, you can see that it’s composed of one built-in and a separate outdoor wicker lounge for loads of flexibility. The room on the right, with its floral fabrics, mullioned windows and wrought iron fixtures, is more of a traditional take, but just as cosy.
1a. House & Home May 2010 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
1b. House Beautiful, photography by Christopher Baker
2a. Wish Summer 2008, photography by George Whiteside
2b. Design by Tom Scheerer, House & Home December 2009 issue, photography by Pieter Estersohn
3a. Elle Decor January 2006 issue, photography by William Waldron
3b. Tin Roof Not Rusted, Erin Martin Design
4a. Elle Decor January 2008 issue, photography by Roger Davies
4b. House & Home March 2008 issue, photography by Kim Christie
5a. House & Home March 2009 issue, photography by Laura Arsie
5b. House Beautiful, photography by Douglas Freidman
6a. House & Home August 2010 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
6b. Linden NY, Steven Gambrel
Whether it comes easily or not, everyone craves a little organization in their lives. I’m a bit of an organization junkie, but I draw plenty of inspiration from designers, blogs and other magazines. Different people have different ways of organizing, and that’s just it — make your organizing style work for you.
Here are a few tricks I love, tricks I’ve tried, and tricks that work for me. Please send me your comments and tell me some of your favourite storage and organizing tips.
I found this photo of San Francisco photographer Heidi Lender’s kitchen on Remodelista. I love the natural materials and open storage that displays all of those gorgeous kitchen accessories. A box-like structure that includes a back, like the top shelf here, is a far better option then cantilevered shelves simply because it’s sturdier. No need to worry about all of those gorgeous dishes crashing down off the shelves. Ikea has several upright units that you can mount horizontally to create a similar effect. You can even add a door or two to combine open and closed storage.
These cabinets are the polar opposite of the first kitchen, but I think they’re just as effective. Designer Steven Gambrel used every inch of wall space with ceiling-high, paned glass cabinetry. The drama comes from how weighty the uppers are relative to the lower cabinets. The panes remind me of old-school library shelves, and just like with books, this is a great way to display your tableware. Collections like this usually look best if they’re all one colour, or all neutrals. And be sure to reserve the shoulder-height shelves for items you use most often. I also like the fun shade of pistachio green on the beadboard walls, which is unexpected in this classic pantry.
I absolutely flipped over the dramatic black-on-black Ikea kitchen at this year’s Interior Design Show in Toronto — a totally new look for Ikea. The hand-hewn look of the tile is right on trend, but it’s the full height pot storage on either side of the stove that gives this kitchen its character. I personally think this look works best when all the pots are from the same line so that it’s totally cohesive.
I met the amazing Darryl Carter at this year’s IDS. He was so lovely! So naturally I’m including a few examples of his work. The minimalistic shelving in this kitchen hits just the right note. The bold black lines of the shelving unit sharply contrast the all-white tableware and oyster-coloured walls. Darryl picks up on the black again in the trim on the roman blind. The open unit is wider than most of the ones you see in stores, and I love how it offers extra depth on the bottom shelves. And nothing beats the simple beauty of all-white dishes on display.
Not long ago, my husband Arriz and I were over at John Tong’s house for dinner. (They’re partners at their design firm 3rd Uncle.) While I was there, I couldn’t resist snapping some photos of his clever storage solutions.
Like the Steven Gambrel kitchen above, he brought the kitchen shelving right up to the ceiling, but recessed the shelving into the wall for a seamless look. And instead of porcelain untouchables, he’s piled the shelves high with everyday dishes, kitchen gadgets, and a few quirky toys for loads of character. He included an extra ledge just above counter height for oft-used items — a totally smart way to keep counter space clear of clutter.
The ledge on the right doubles as a railing for the stairs, and also acts as hallway storage. The kids’ bedrooms are to the right directly across from this shelf, so these cupboards make up for the lack of storage in the bedrooms. John has mirrored the waterfall design of his kitchen’s concrete counter here, but in clear plywood.
This is the second floor den/home office in my home. Mostly Arriz uses it for when he works from home, so it is definitely masculine in style. He designed this wall storage unit based on the simple idea of attaching and staggering ten individual cabinets. It’s a great combination of open and closed storage, complete with nooks for displaying sculptures, closed cabinets for hiding messy office items, as well as a few spots up top for stacked books. The wire clip running along the bottom is a fun alternative to an inspiration board. And I love that the house came with a few idiosyncrasies like the secret bookshelf tucked in behind the wood fireplace mantle (to the right).
This is my home office on our third floor. I’ve been dying to paint these floors white, but can’t decide if I will miss the warmth of the old pine boards … but that’s beside the point. The filing cabinet to the left is an affordable find from Grand & Toy. I bought two of them ages ago and ordered them in a custom white. I placed them side-to-side, then built an MDF cover with waterfall sides to unify the two units and create a more polished look.
I also designed this custom daybed to sit under the window on the other side of the room. It’s a super cosy place to read and doubles as a guest bed in a pinch. We have piles and piles of books, so we try to fit in storage wherever we can. Under the bed seemed like a natural spot.
Eventually I would like a massive wall of shelves like this. Open bookshelves stacked high with bright spines are always an easy way to add colour to a room. And if you have a gorgeous piece of art, work it into the display and arrange shelves around it. I love the open display of gorgeous fabrics down below, too.
A great trick for storing books in a bedroom is to flank the bed with shelving. These tall shelves make this bed set-up feel totally cosy and inviting. Without them, this bedroom — also by Darryl Carter — wouldn’t be the same.
If hiding things away is more your style, this dressing room by Steven Gambrel offers up some inspiration. I’m a sucker for a polished walk-in closet, and I’m currently dreaming about turning one of my bedrooms into a full walk-in. Wallpaper or fabric panels are a simple touch that create a totally luxurious look. If you have the space, it’s a huge bonus to have an island in a walk-in closet — you gain so much extra storage and create a boutique feel.
Storage is always essential in bathrooms, and here are a few ways I’ve added storage to mine.
To the left is the bathroom in my old house. I installed custom vertical storage next to the sink for tall, bulky bottles and products that never seem to fit neatly on smaller shelves (ladies, you know what I’m talking about). I love how the single doors open up to display everything I use regularly in plain sight. And as you can see, I choose hooks over towel bars every time — towels dry quicker on hooks, and I totally hate folding. I also just prefer the look of white towels hung in a row — they fill a wall so nicely.
To the right is my current bathroom. This time, because I had the space, I went for an extra-long vanity with room to display my vintage apothecary cabinet. The benefit here is loads of room to spread out. And the built-in ledge behind the tub stores plenty of bath products.
Adding custom cabinetry isn’t the only option for bathroom storage. If you can swing it, a freestanding piece like this gorgeous secretary makes a unique, outside-the-box statement in a bathroom. And how about the his and hers tubs?!?
Even a tiny bathroom with a small sink tucked into a recess can have added storage. Here the Carrara counter wraps in front of the adjacent wall to create a small ledge for display and a little bit of extra storage for the tub below.
If shelves and cabinets aren’t in your budget, temporary storage solutions like baskets are always an affordable option. I’m a big fan of baskets, so when I came across these lovely Washed-Wood Linear Baskets at West Elm, I pictured them full of towels in the bathroom, books by the bed, knitting by the sofa…
For more ideas, check out our Chic Organization Products photo gallery.
2. Linden NY home, Steven Gambrel
3. Michael Graydon
4. Milk & Honey Home
5. Suzanne Dimma
6. Michael Alberstat
7. Suzanne Dimma
8. Unknown source: Help! Does anyone know where this shot comes from?
9. Darryl Carter’s bedroom, Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton
10. Lower Fifth NY home, Steven Gambrel
11a. Per Kristiansen
11b. Michael Alberstat
12. Darryl Carter’s bathroom, Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton
14. Washed-Wood Baskets, West Elm
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of letters from readers who say they are tired of seeing white walls and are longing for more colour. In white’s defense, it is the most versatile backdrop and so easy to live with. I call white the big neutralizer, because everything goes with it. White walls will unify a mishmash of colours into a cohesive look. Colour, on the other hand, can create big impact and instantly evoke a mood. I’m not talking about watered down shades or a single accent wall, I mean rooms that are full of colour where the combinations somewhat clash but still work together, such as kelly green and fuchsia, mustard and seafoam green, or khaki and crimson. So this blog is dedicated to colourful rooms — which really aren’t that easy to find. Most of us aren’t quite so adventurous.
I’ve always admired Muriel Brandolini’s daring use of colour. The hallway in her Southampton weekend home is simple but bold with its painted pink and orange striped walls and bright ceiling. The analogous colours soften the severity of the crisp stripes so that they're soothing, not jarring. It’s simultaneously graphic and exotic — turning an uneventful hallway into the main attraction.
Designer and author Tricia Guild is the master of unexpected colour combos. This photo is from her book On Colour: Decoration, Furnishing, Display (1992 Abe Books). When paired with sunny yellow walls, the duck-egg blue trim highlights architectural details like the coved windows, chair rail and deep baseboards. Combined with the checkered floor, this room is upbeat and ultra-dynamic.
Here’s a monochromatic approach to colour by Martha Stewart (no one is better at finding soothing colour combinations than the people at her company). Shades of mint green are used to accentuate wall panelling — even the demilune is painted the same shade of green. The white painted floor keeps the space feeling fresh and new. But it’s the contrasting blue glass hurricane and glass vase collection that really make this room special.
Another monochromatic treatment I love is this peacock blue dining room by Suzanne Kasler. Especially interesting is the high-gloss trim in the same blue shade. Simply shifting the sheen adds so much dimension and drama to the room. In such a classically symmetrical room, the blue is so unexpected, but remains a perfect complement to the warm wood double doors. My favourite part is how the doors perfectly frame that standout chair in the middle of the table.
It’s surprising to find a modern room with deep saturated colour. But in this living room by U.K. designer Abigail Ahern, the almost black-blue walls allow the hot pink coffee table to stand out and create a cosy, modern experience.
Here’s a pretty and unexpected pairing, again from Martha Stewart. Light tangerine walls with a steel-blue ceiling and bottom panel are sophisticated paired with white trim and a Gustavian style armoire. The contrasting white really holds the clashing colours together, but it’s Philippe Starck’s orange Kartell La Marie Chairs that make the look edgy, not fussy.
This hallway is from Amy Butler’s book Found Style (2003 Chronicle Books). It reminds me of some of the spaces I photographed last year on a trip to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The pretty pistachio walls freshen up this old world entryway, and I love how the wide black baseboards ground the colour and connect it to the tumbled stone floorwork.
I always paint one room in my house seafoam green. It’s a colour that is both pretty and chic, with an almost historical feel. To make this colour come alive, I pair it with hits of gold, like on the demilune table in this hallway, for a bit of sparkle. Here, the patterned brown and white runner, chocolate brown floors and, of course, that awesome bulldog give the colour confidence.
Although this is by no means a news-breaking combo, I had to include this photo from Martha Stewart because it’s gorgeous. Seafoam green or the softest pale blue paired with clean white trim (and floor) is one of the most serene colour combinations and perfect for a bedroom. You will sleep like a baby with these hues!
1. Elle Decor, photography by Henry Bourne
2. From Tricia Guild’s On Colour: Decoration, Furnishing, Display (1992 Abe Books), photography by Richard Bryant
3. Martha Stewart
4. From Coco + Kelley Favourites photo gallery on Houseandhome.com, room design by Suzanne Kasler
5. Private Residence, Leigh on Sea, Abigail Ahern, photography by Graham Atkins-Hughes
6. Martha Stewart
7. The City Sage, February 10, 2009
8. High-Heeled Foot In The Door, June 8, 2010
9. Martha Stewart
If you’ve picked up a copy of our January Trends issue (currently on newsstands), you probably couldn’t help but notice the fantastic home of NH Design's creative director Colette Van Den Thillart on page 78. I went over to London for the photo shoot and when the film came in, all of the design editors flipped over her rich teal walls, gorgeous antiques, stunning fabrics and interesting art collection. I travelled with Gluckstein designer Michelle Hanna and over the course of my stay there, became fast friends with both of them.
And who better to show Michelle and I the ins and outs of home decor shopping in London than Colette, who works with the famed Nicky Haslam? Here is a list of my favourite stores — use it as a mini travel guide the next time you’re on the other side of the pond, or just live vicariously through the photos and be inspired by the design and style this vibrant city has to offer.
One of my favourite shops was also one of the first places I visited: Daylesford Organic Farmshop & Café. There are actually a few locations, including one in Notting Hill, but we visited the one on Pimlico Road near Sloane Square and the NH Design offices. (This is the main floor/downstairs pictured.) The lower level of the store is entirely swathed in Carrara marble, including all of the shelving units, giving it a clean, elegant, and very impressive look.
Daylesford grows all of their own produce, makes their own cheeses and raises their own livestock on a stunning farm located outside of London in Gloucestershire. H&H will be running a food story in our April 2011 issue about the farm, so keep an eye out for that!
You can imagine how fantastic the food was! They also have a café where you can have lunch or dinner. I ate there a few times!
The upstairs is dedicated to cooking classes and their home collection, which includes beautiful ceramics, wooden utensils and simple, organic linens. I loved the window seats loaded up with gorgeous linen pillows and the stunning creamy grey paint — so on trend.
Just down the street is their garden shop with even more inspiring ideas. That’s Michelle and Colette at the entrance. And the big elephant off to the right is part of a huge London outdoor exhibit called Elephant Parade, in which various artists donate their time to paint an elephant (kind of like the moose that Toronto had a few years back). It’s to raise money for Elephant Family, an organization dedicated to saving endangered Asian elephants. Goldie Hawn is one of their spokespeople.
Highlights inside included the horizontal slatted walls and checkerboard tiled floor.
Just down the street from Daylesford is Howe, probably my fave shop, which I stumbled upon when I was on my own. I recognized the sign from seeing their advertisements in British House & Garden magazine.
Whoever sets up the store is fantastic at the art of display. This vignette in a back corner of the shop feels very much on par with the vintage trend we referenced in our January issue: stacks of books, distressed antiques, painted floors, deconstructed chairs, and an edgy industrial vibe.
I loved the elegant legs on the wooden table in the front window — a perfect mix of modern and trad lines. And if I could have stuffed that stunning grey sofa with the patterned seat cushion into my suitcase, I would have!
Also in Sloane Square is the aptly named Soane. (FYI, Lynda Reeves also loves this store). They have a great mix of antiques, including this amazing wicker swan baby bed, and new designs. We featured one of their gorgeous leather chairs on our Trendwatch page in the January 2011 issue.
I was particularly impressed with their hardware collection and especially the large, centre-style doorknobs.
Of course you can’t go to London and not stop at the The Conran Shop. I checked out the flagship store in Chelsea. At this location you enter through this flower market and café, which of course was gorgeous and smelled amazing.
Inside, nothing really stopped me in my tracks this time — just the usual classics and great design. I did snap a photo of this giant wine glass used as a dramatic centerpiece. I love the greenery paired with the bright green Thonet chairs.
One thing that Conran’s carries that I’m dying to bring back home is this classic (and totally affordable) outdoor folding chair. Every time I’m in Europe I try to figure out how to get a whack of them back home without spending a fortune on shipping. The Conran Shop in New York carries them, but they are a summer item so they come out in the spring and sell out quickly, as you can imagine. For the life of me, I can’t find anything like them in Canada. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!
Later on in my trip, I had brunch with an old friend at a Conran Café, on the ground floor of his Boundary Hotel, one of several restaurant hotels that exist under the Conran name. It was fantastic to experience the Conran’s brand in a complete space, and not just the store display. This is the front of the café where there is a bakery counter and to-go section.
One of Colette’s favourite shops is Talisman (it’s more of a showroom than a store), located in Westminster. It is massive! There are four floors of unbelievable furniture and a huge mix of styles: Deco mixed with mid-century modern, French country and a myriad of unusual artwork and collectibles.
They carry a lot of large-scale pieces, like these massive blue and white urns...
…plus some unexpected sculptural artifacts. I love these purple and chrome lounge chairs.
Of course, Colette had to take us to Selfridges, the famed U.K. chain owned by Canadian Galen Weston (of the Westons who own Holt Renfrew). There is a substantial home section in their basement and a strong vintage, industrial vibe going on.
The great thing about Selfridges is that they carry a ton of great lines and have a few "store within the store" displays like this one for Pedlars.
The White Company is on the top floor of Selfridges and is known for a clean, classic and slightly French country vibe. I loved it there — I stocked up on white, fringed towels, and gorgeous soft baskets that I squished into my suitcase.
At the end of the day, Colette took me over to the NH offices for a sneak peek of their new fabric line set to launch this spring. Stay tuned for the March 2011 issue when we will give them a proper introduction and feature an interview with Nicky Haslam himself.
After the shoot at Colette’s and shopping at her top spots, I did some shopping of my own with my old friend and chef extraordinaire, Andrea Stewart. She shared one her fave shops with me: Ben Pentreath Ltd. (they have a great blog too, check it out on their website). It is super tiny but superbly styled and they have a great art gallery next door.
I think my favourite part of the trip was hitting the open food markets on the weekend with Andrea. In certain neighbourhoods, the roads are closed off to cars and stall after stall of gorgeous food is set out in the middle of the road. It was the perfect end to my London shopping experience.
I tweeted about it when I was boarding my plane to Paris, but my phone died soon after, so naturally I had to blog about my glorious week with Hermès. The French company invited me to attend the opening of their new flagship store on the left bank, which features their expanded home collection. As always, I was fully impressed by Hermès’ exquisite presentation and attention to every last detail. Everything was exceptional.
We stayed at the Hôtel Pont Royal in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Près. This gorgeous invitation for the party (above) was set out in the room when I arrived, along with our itinerary and a specially printed booklet with information on things to do in the area. All of the elements carried the same blue and white colour scheme, with a hint of Hermès orange, and a wave pattern motif — a nod to the fact that the new store is housed in what used to be a traditional public pool, complete with a grand staircase and three-storey arcade. These are just a few components in their holistic approach to the brand. All part of a lovely welcome.
We also received a customized Hermès newspaper, fittingly geared to journalists, with more details and background on the store’s design and architecture — a refreshing change from the usual press kit.
The bathroom vanity included a set of customized Hermès soapboxes with logo-stamped perfume soaps. Of course I brought them home with me!
The party was scheduled for the following night. We arrived at the dimly-lit store where guests were gathered in the upper arcade portion of the space, while below, a group of children in blue bathing suits and white bathing caps frolicked in 'pool-deck' area, led by a lifeguard with a whistle. Keeping with the theme, an amplified dripping water sound set a dramatic and surreal mood. It was breathtaking — theatrical and whimsical, in tune with the Hermès brand.
When the lower level was ready to be opened, the children donned terrycloth robes and lined each side of the grand staircase. As guests descended they clapped and called out “Bonsoir Madame, Bonsoir Monsieur” as we went by. I felt like I was playing a part in a piece of performance art.
Projected on the three-storey wall above us were gigantic video projections of underwater swimmers — again with the pool and water theme. Stunning!
The highlight of the space was the three massive pods made of crisscrossing bentwood situated in the middle of the space. They housed most of the new home accessories and divided the main floor space into intimate vignettes. They reminded me of the giant twig pod in Where the Wild Things Are. But according to the architect, Denis Montel of RDAI, they were inspired by the rib cages of whales.
Here is a floor level perspective of the pods. The blue and white floor tiles were exquisite, and in certain areas were laid out in a wave-like pattern with sparkling tiles worked into the blue and white. The floors glimmered slightly like water in sunlight.
From inside the pods, the clever design created a cocoon effect that beautifully offset the merchandise.
The drapery was perhaps my favourite addition to the new home collection — especially the bold stripes. The drapes appeared to be hand-loomed and were super chic. They also have an equally stunning line of wallpaper.
The bedding was all about elegant simplicity, with a distinctly organic and modern feel.
These cashmere throws and blankets in neutral shades were quite possibly the softest things I’ve ever felt.
Of course some mainstay home items were also on display with the new accessories and furniture. This silver tray with leather straps and gold and white patterned Mosaique china, for instance, is quintessential Hermès.
The entire fashion line, including their signature scarves, is also available in the store, and was on display in the areas outside the pods. I love how this cashmere and silk scarf (on my Christmas wish list!) was suspended and backlit like a work of art.
The new left bank flagship store also includes a café, bookshop, florist and, of course, any Hermès item you’ve ever dreamed of owning. At the end of one of the press events, we were sent away with this lovely little bouquet of white flowers that brightened up my hotel room for the rest of the trip.
The day before the party we were treated to an exclusive tour of the Hermès museum. It houses an array of artifacts that serve as inspiration for many of their current designs. Hermès looks to the leatherwork and tooling of horse straps and buckles as well as the detailed consideration in travel items and campaign style pieces from the turn of the century. A standout was this antique travel case (left), with everything needed to replicate the comforts of home on a long journey — everything from nail clippers to sewing supplies to a full tea service — and everything slips into its own fitted slot. I also spotted this patio drinks and game set (right) with the same sense of compartmentalization, but in a striking Mediterranean blue leather.
I have always been a big fan of Hermès, and seeing the company’s attention to detail and incredible vision only impressed me more.
The new spring home collection will be rolled out into Canadian stores starting in January. And keep an eye out for our April 2011 issue, which will showcase even more of the Hermès home line — the furniture, wallpaper, and more — with better photography than mine, I promise!
For our Torontonian readers, check out the Hermes silk pop-up shop that’s open on Yonge Street until this Sunday, December 5th. 1099 Yonge Street, just north of Rosedale.
I’m an avid animal lover and I can’t imagine living in my home without my beautiful cats (from left to right) Z, Tomba, Acorn and Po. Here are all of them checking out the new yard after having just moved into our current home. With four cats (believe it or not, I once had five + a Westie!), I’ve had to deal with every kind of mess, furniture damage and pet issue you can imagine. Here are some of my tried and true tricks for designing a home to work for you and your pets.
If you are set to renovate, work your pet’s storage and behavioural needs into the design for a seamless look. If you have the space, consider a dedicated dog-washing station by the back door, like the one in this year’s Princess Margaret Welcome Home Sweepstakes showhome. Or design a dedicated pet room like the one featured in our October 2010 issue (above). Either will make it far easier when you bring your pooch home from the park with dirty feet.
My signature design move for clients with cats is this litter box cubby configured into built-ins by a front or back door (I did the same in my own place). The cats love to use them and it’s a great way to keep an unsightly litter box out of sight. And if they track any litter from their paws, at least it’s by the door. Keep in mind you should always have one litter box more than the number of cats you have to keep everyone happy.
I don’t believe in de-clawing cats — ever. Instead, I’ve become a pro at trimming my cats’ claws and I am careful in my fabric and carpet choices. I usually skip silks and velvets and stick to cottons and wools. Carpet-wise, natural fibres like seagrass and sisal actually stand up really well to cat claws. The chunkier the seagrass, the less noticeable your cat’s handiwork will be. I have the diamond-patterned seagrass shown in this room, from The Red Carpet & Rug Co., and it was well worth the investment because it’s so durable. Plus, natural wool carpets are especially easy to clean. Be sure to have your carpets fibre protected — it makes such a difference when it comes to cleaning them.
I loved this idea of working a dedicated spot for your dog or cat into the bottom portion of a window seat design to sidestep any messy pet beds eating up valuable floor space. This photo is from the book Animal House Style (2001 Bulfinch Press) by Julie Szabo. It’s full of great tips and inspiring photography of pets at home.
Of course you can’t build in everything (especially where space is an issue), so your pet’s loose accessories have to work with the look of your home. I loved this DIY cat scratching post that is basically a flat painted block with a coir-wrapped pole mounted vertically in the centre (I actually made one myself a few years ago and all of my cats loved it). It has a clean, modern look — so much better than the store-bought carpet-wrapped versions.
Normally I wouldn’t suggest going out and spending a ton of money on pet-specific products, because they far prefer sleeping on your stuff anyway, but if you’re in the market for a dog bed, I love this cool acrylic one. And I feel the same about this raised pedestal cat bed, which feels like a sculpture. Place an Ikea Rens Sheepskin in it and you will have one happy cat. And it might keep them from sleeping in the salad bowl or bathroom sink.
Another must-have with pets is slipcovers. I have them fibre-protected or Scotchgarded as well. The beauty of slipcovers is that you can throw them into the washing machine in a flash for any doggy or kitty accidents.
My cats love to perch up high and look out over the action. No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep Po off my island.
If you have a kitchen like this one by Steven Gambrel with tons of gorgeous marble, bear in mind that perching cats also have a habit of throwing up now and again, so treat your counters with a triple seal to protect them from acid damage. You can get it from any stone supplier.
Hanging art low over food dishes is a cute way to bring your furry roommates into your decor.
I share my love of design and animals with Martha Stewart. She even put her pet chow on the back cover of her current issue! I recently visited her offices in New York (right) to meet her and see her new kitchen line carried at The Home Depot (they are beautiful by the way!).
While I was there, this lovely poodle hopped into a dog bed next to a laundry room set-up, and I thought what a great idea it would be to work a dog station into your laundry room or kitchen. And FYI, I swear by these glass jars for storing pet food — so much better looking than leaving it in the bag.
You want to do things that are fun for your pets but also work with your house (by the way, they also love radiant heat flooring!). And really, your pets want to cuddle up next to you more than anything. This is me with my cat Diego on the bed in my old house ...
... and my cat Cali on the daybed in the same house. These photos were taken years ago and both of them have since passed away.
Nothing makes me happier than finding Po lounging on my best Hermes blanket or Z tucked into the sheets enjoying them as much as I do. If you feel the same way, you will also love this Japanese website, or Desire to Inpsire's weekly Monday post on pets. I'll finish off with one of their adorable photos ...
For more stylish pet beds, check out editor Catherine MacIntosh’s blog post.
1. Suzanne Dimma
2. House & Home October 2010 issue, photography by Virginia Macdonald
3. House & Home Condos, Lofts & Apartments 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
4. House & Home April 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
5a. Julie Szabo’s Animal House Style (2001 Bulfinch Press)
5b. From High Fashion Home blog, as seen in Julie Szabo’s Animal House Style (2001 Bulfinch Press)
6-8. All from Julie Szabo’s Animal House Style (2001 Bulfinch Press)
9. Suzanne Dimma
10. S.R. Gambrel
11. House & Home June 2007 issue, photography by Joanne Tsakos
12a. Cover of Martha Stewart Living, photography by Leslie Williams
12b-13. Suzanne Dimma
14. Per Kristiansen
15-17. Suzanne Dimma
18. Desire to Inspire
To train for this weekend’s Walk To End Women’s Cancers, I ditched the car and my bike and walked to work as much as possible. What I found most interesting about it was how different the same streets and sidewalks can be when you can take the time to notice things you wouldn’t otherwise. I started taking a camera with me to capture some of these moments that were truly inspiring, which got me thinking about inspiration boards. It seems there is always a new way to use technology for filing and organizing, but there is something about the old-fashioned, tactile method of tacking images and mementos on a board that makes it like an ever-changing work of personal art.
I was recently in London visiting Colette van den Thillart, who is a principal in Nicky Haslam’s design office and one of the most stylish people I know. (Look out for her amazing house in the January 2011 issue, and be sure to watch this video tour of her cottage.) Her inspiration wall is in her office, and I love that she hung framed room renderings of Nicky’s from the 1970s on top of it. His renderings are so beautifully detailed; I just learned he was Princess Diana’s cousin!
Part of what makes Colette’s inspiration wall unique is that she has a section dedicated to silhouette cutouts of inspiring people. She includes design and life inspiration, plus things that make her smile — there are tons of shots of her kids. Check out the Queen in a McDonald’s uniform in the top left corner!
Another pretty inspiration board is Rachel Ashwell’s in her Shabby Chic store on Mercer Street in New York. She’s a pioneer of the comfortable, flea-markety design aesthetic, characterized by chipped wood furniture, drippy crystal chandeliers, simple but luxurious linens and tea-stained florals. I love the mix of written words with 3D bits and bobs — everything from dried flowers and prize ribbons to lace hankies and paint chips.
Designer Thomas O’Brien’s bulletin board in his New York apartment is anchored by a teak bookcase and makes a wonderful vignette. He has a knack for beautifully displaying his collections. I love the underlying inky blue colourway that holds it all together. The mix of loose casual pictures, valuable framed prints, a Javier Marin bronze sculpture and a Gio Ponti two-spout vase, along with other objets, makes this inspiration wall part of the decor.
Toronto stylist Sabrina Linn (her condo was featured in the August 2009 issue — see the tour here) also made her inspiration corkboard part of the decor by using it in place of a giant piece of art in her entryway. It becomes a design catch-all for all the bits you need to keep in one spot, making it a good cure for clutter, too!
Inspiration collages are also a great way to fill empty wall space, like the one featured in our October 2010 issue. It goes to show that you don’t need an actual board and pushpins — your wall and a little bit of glue goop works just as well. I love the free-form pattern here that can easily be added on to as you collect new things.
This is design editor Joel Bray’s own DIY inspiration board in his office. He built the frame and painted it grey to dress up a simple piece of corkboard. I like how he’s used grosgrain ribbon to create different sections. (Joel demonstrates how to make it in this video.)
I love the cool grey of this mood board and the mix of pendants and mementos hung from ribbons, letters and business cards, along with photos and paint chips. Continuing the display around the outside of the board adds to the effect.
I tend to use the frame of this oval mirror in my bedroom to stick pictures and mementos. It’s not really a proper inspiration board, but it’s a good example that just about anything can become a place for your keepsakes. And it adds a sense of personality and intimacy to your decor.Photo credits: 1-3. Suzanne Dimma 4. Martyn Thompson via Aero Studios, as seen in House & Garden November 2007 5. House & Home August 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon 6. House & Home October 2010 issue, photography by John Cullen 7. House & Home March 2010 issue, photography by Leslie Williams
8. Jeltje Fotografie, from the Style Files 9. Rob Fiocca