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.
I know you are probably tired of hearing about my cottage so this is my last entry on the topic. The photo shoot is done (see our October 2011 issue), and so is the video, so I'm going to take a break from doing anything up there for a bit. Well, aside from putting a new roof on the bunkie, finally painting the floor in there, and removing a few more trees to open up the view — just a teensy bit more. Maybe it will only be a short break.
Anyway, the photo shoot this past spring went well. (We shot half of the story in the fall last year and half this spring.) The spring portion was only one week after I brought up all of our furniture (in a rain storm, no less). Things hadn't even had a chance to settle in!
I thought I would share a few of the moments and details that didn't make it into the layout in our October issue. I also wanted to share a few snaps of what life up there is really like after the photographer leaves.
Here is photographer Michael Graydon setting up a shot in the living room. It was early June and he was eaten alive by mosquitos. They were drawn to the light from the computer screen so his head was always surrounded by bugs.
This is what our dining room table looks like most of the time — a mess of books, laptops, newspapers, crosswords and cups of coffee. I love this view that shows how the dining area relates to the living space. You can see that Arriz's giant speakers are in the shot here. We took them out during the photo shoot, but when I see them here I don't really mind the way they look and I have to tell you, they sound amazing.
I didn't have these pillows with their long ties in place on the day of the shoot, but I absolutely love them. I found them in Sweden about ten years ago and was thrilled to be able to finally use them.
This view shows even more of how the spaces relate to each other and you can clearly see the quarter sawn white oak dining table and benches that Arriz designed specifically for the space.
This is me trying to figure out if I can fashion a huge stretch of linen into a privacy screen for guests who might want to sleep on the daybed. Until the folding doors arrive (you can see the track in the floor), I'm hoping a linen curtain will do the trick.
Here is what the bedroom looks like in the morning as the sun comes in from the side window. Arriz has no idea I snapped this photo while he was still sleeping.
I have been talking around the office about how dream catchers are totally hip, and our deputy editor Hilary Smyth gave me a toy dream catcher kit as a joke. But I put it together a couple of weekends ago and actually kind of like it hanging on the painted Ikea closet!
This is a photo wall tucked around the corner in the bedroom so only Arriz and I can see it. It's a collection of images and mementos that share personal meaning for the two of us. I hung them up using the same Japanese tape from our March 2011 weekend decorating story.
I had to go in for a close up shot of these two industrial lamps. The one on the left is a really old Ikea lamp that Arriz had forever. I found it in the basement, gave it a fresh coat of paint and it fits perfectly on the West Elm round outdoor table. Last week at the Ikea exhibition on King Street, I noticed that they have just re-released it in grey.
This is Arriz and I making lunch for everyone on set for the photo shoot. The kitchen layout is really functional — easy for several people to prep and cook at the same time. Everyone had burgers, but I'm a vegetarian so I tried a Lick's veggie burger. My best friend's mom, Sandy Dunkelman, who is an amazing Toronto potter, made the gorgeous dishware.
Since there isn't a dishwasher, this is a common site: the Ikea wood dish rack next to our deep sink and gooseneck faucet.
Here's the butcher block waterfall surface on the island wrapping over the custom painted drawers. The artwork is by my friend George Whiteside, and the bench below offsets it perfectly.
A collection of old glass, pottery and a pair of binoculars sits on the sill of the interior window that looks into the screened-in porch (my favourite room!). Unfortunately, it was a bit overcast the day of the shoot, so I had to include some snaps that show just how gorgeous the light can be.
I added in a wee bit more colour to the porch with the pillows and throw. You can see the beginning of the screened walls at the right — in fact, two of the walls are full-height screens, so napping on that daybed feels like you're sleeping outdoors. I am still on the hunt for the right coffee table.
This shot of the far end of the deck gives you an idea of how much the space feels like a tree house. And the black folding mesh chairs by Fermob are the most comfortable outdoor chairs I have ever sat in.
Former H&H design editor Joel Bray helped me out immensely the day before the shoot putting up the last few rows of cable railing on the back barbecue deck. Joel, thank you so much!
I had to include a shot of our crokinole board — Arriz is a shark!
We removed these three wasp nests from the overhang right outside our living room door one day. We brought them inside and they became coffee table art!
Here is the back entryway into the breezeway, loaded up with sun hats, brooms and flip-flops.
The magazine shoot didn't capture the round carpet in the breezeway. I moved it there the day before the shoot and I kind of love the graphic hit there now.
Here it is again, and you can see the barbecue that sits on a dedicated balcony behind the kitchen.
And of course I had to include a shot of our composting toilet. Not the sexiest thing in the world but as far as composting toilets go, this is a pretty great-looking one. It's a Mulltoa from EcoEthic. I'm contemplating wrapping the white pipe in coir rope but I have to make sure it doesn't compromise functionality in any way.
And here is a look inside our toolshed underneath the house, outfitted with Ikea's utility tables and rod and hook system. The cloppers, handsaw and axe are the first tools I bought for the cottage.
Our builder, Michael Carty, spotted this mother deer (right) giving birth to her baby fawn right under the construction zone — he didn't disrupt them, of course! Pictured left, the fawn is taking his first wobbly steps. Cute!
As much as large sweeping spaces offer the luxury of breathing room, I am a big fan of small spaces because they offer a sense of intimacy and comfort. In many ways, a well-designed compact space can make your life so much easier than a big space can — less to take care of, less expense to furnish, everything in arms reach and no wasted space. Here are a few of my all-time fave small spaces and clever small space planning tricks.
When this space ran in Domino I flipped over the olive coloured walls and how utterly stylish this multipurpose room is. Lining a white Ikea Malm bed up with the extra tall window and facing it outwards so that the headboard acts as a backdrop for the living area is pure genius. Layers and contrast are key decorating moves, and who doesn't love a bedside lamp set on top of a tall stack of coffee table books?
Interior window walls like these are fantastic for creating an instant vestibule around the doorway into a small house. You get a big graphic hit, loads of light spilling in, and a layer of colour contrast.
Fabric covered tables are an age-old trick for turning an inexpensive table into something chic and hiding storage underneath. In a small space, every piece has to work extra hard. A piece of glass on top keeps the surface even for a pretty display.
We featured my good friend Mazen El-Abdallah's house in our September 2010 issue. Each time I visit, I'm always more and more impressed with what he did to make the space work for him. His double-duty home office and dining room works perfectly for each function. I love how the recess in the shelves creates the impression that the table can fold up out of the way and how the equality of the measurements between the two elements is so pleasing to the eye. Of course maxing out a space with as much full height storage as possible is always smart.
In his galley kitchen, Mazen worked in a wine rack and cleverly camouflaged a vertical vent at the same time. He examined his lifestyle and decided that he really only needed a cooktop, which opened up more space for storage below. In a small space, analyze the most important functions to get the most out of it.
Low narrow storage running the full length of a room offers easy access shelving and loads of display space. I think of them as the 'great unifiers', creating links between the various functions of a space. A large coffee table filled with books works because it is super low. Small space doesn't mean you're limited to small furniture. In fact, exercising some push and pull with scale always creates visual interest.
For my old TV show, The Style Dept., we made over my friend Sandy Kim's one-room space. Her kitchen, living room and bedroom all occupy the first floor of a house, which is divided into apartments. I still can't believe how insanely fast the turnaround on television makeovers is — too fast in my opinion! All things considered, this one turned out fairly well. We used Ikea's sliding screens to somewhat separate her bedroom from the living room. They're a great studio solution because the light can still spill through them and they stack out of the way when you want to open things up.
This is a space I worked on years ago for my client, Kristin, who used this basement condo as a pied-à-terre. At 400 square feet with no bedroom, it was the smallest space I had ever worked on. The original stone walls had loads of character, we just needed to add a few colour hits to keep it cheery. A sofa bed was a must so she could sleep as well as kick back somewhere and this classic William Birch-style sofa from UpCountry is one of my favourites. The rest of the furniture had to be lightweight and compact so she could easily move it out of the way to open up the sofa.
This was another H&H small space feature, from our September 2009 issue — an old school apartment with tons of character. I had never seen this Murphy bed idea, designed to look like a hutch when the bed is closed. The stowed bed ate up lower space in the adjacent kitchen and closet, which were designed around this unusual function with the same sort of charming details.
Wall-to-wall mirror is the oldest trick in the book for making a space feel bigger. Trimmed in wood and paired with a marble tub and floor, the mirrors in this compact bathroom look classic and elegant.
A standard 3-piece bathroom looks amazing with a simple black board-and-batten feature wall. The oversized driftwood mirror is effective on several levels — reflecting light and playing with scale for added drama.
You don't have to spend a fortune to achieve big impact. Here, a fairly standard New York City apartment hits the mark with black walls, a turquoise french door (perfect for keeping sight lines clear), a collection of pretty blue and white pottery up top and a striking chandelier. If it were me, I would have painted out what is probably a fold-out ironing board the same black so that it disappeared more.
One of the most clever small space tricks was this pullout table top that Powell & Bonnell designed into a wall of storage. Pull up a bench from an adjacent wall and you have an instant dining room.
Pocket doors are another oldie but goody space saving trick that creates distinct areas without sacrificing flow. Well-designed rad covers are also great for creating extra surface space and adding dimension and character. If there's a rad crammed in a corner, have a matching unit built on the other side for balance and extra storage.
Corner banquettes are perfect for creating a dining area that can fit between four and six people without a mass of chair legs creating visual clutter.
Sometimes sacrificing a rarely-used doorway space can amp up the functionality of a room. Running a wall-mounted desk over a closed door means two people can work at the same time. Leaving the door in place and designing the desk in separate sections offers flexibility for opening the space up again if needed.
For more tips, including photos and videos, check out our Small Space Decorating & Design Guide.
1, 10-11. Domino: The Book of Decorating, photography by Paul Costello
2, 6. Domino: The Book of Decorating, photography by Jacques Dirand
3. Domino: The Book of Decorating, photography by James Waddell
4-5. House & Home September 2010 issue, photography by Angus Fergusson
7. Wish September 2008 issue, photography by David Bagosy
8. Wish Winter 2005/2006 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
9. House & Home September 2009 issue, photography by Heather Ross
12. Domino: The Book of Decorating, photography by Melanie Acevedo
13. House & Home August 2008 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
14. House & Home September 2007 issue, photography by Mark Burstyn
15. Domino: The Book of Decorating, photography by Douglas Friedman
16. Domino: The Book of Decorating
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 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