The Best Investments: Elite Designer Tips
Top Canadian designers, including James Davie, Julie Charbonneau and Fenwick Bonnell of Powell & Bonnell, share luxurious decorating ideas worth investing in for big impact. From sleek living room furniture to dramatic wall treatments to elegant hardware, these elements are sure to stand the test of time. Plus, watch our video with H&H’s Lynda Reeves and Beth Hitchcock as they reveal more wow-factor design investments.
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“The polished nickel or antique brass on a framed shower enclosure — which costs about 10 times the price of a frameless glass shower — adds sparkle to a bathroom. It’s like a jewel box,” says Toronto-based designer James Davie. “Single-slab marble floors also offer one of the most luxurious feelings underfoot.” In James’ bathroom, purple veining in the Breccia Capraia marble creates a sense of movement on the floor, while burgundy hand-glazed tiles provide a moody backdrop for a riveted freestanding tub.
“The nightstands in my bedroom are made from several pieces. I started with the bronze architectural grills, found at a salvage shop in Harlem, N.Y., on the morning of a wedding. I brought them to the wedding, then hauled them back to Toronto after lugging them all over Manhattan,” says James Davie. The worn look of the metal grates pairs well with his principal bedroom’s rich and enveloping palette. Take his cue and repurpose antiques and found objects to create your own one-of-a-kind furniture.
“Spend your money where it shows, on the things you touch every day,” says James Davie. “I recommend elevating doors with hardware from E.R. Butler or Hamilton Sinkler, for instance.” James’ guest bathroom illustrates this attention to detail, with deep, plaster crown mouldings, geometric floor tile, a tall lacquered burgundy door and articulated fixtures. “Treat every surface with extra embellishments,” he adds.
“High-end sculptures and antiques layer soul into a space,” says Fenwick Bonnell of Powell & Bonnell. “In this client’s living room, we showcased a collection of Jeff Goodman glass pieces on the fireplace.” A primarily neutral palette makes the art pop.
“The solid-wood rustic panelling in this office, which was rather knotty, was refinished in a stain that made it look like it had been coated in tar,” explains Fenwick Bonnell of Powell & Bonnell. “Some of the millwork flanking the new black marble fireplace surround was then removed and replaced with vermilion-lacquered display shelves. The carpet unites the colour scheme and lifts the mood.” The one-of-a-kind solid-brass desk adds a glamorous touch.
“Some of the most luxurious items we’ve purchased for a project include a pair of custom Hervé Van der Straeten consoles to set the tone of a foyer, along with hand-painted silk wallpaper,” says Julie Charbonneau of Julie Charbonneau Design. “Christian Liaigre chairs are also always pieces I recommend. These are statement pieces that take the room to another level of sophistication.”
Substantial millwork gives this dining room by Julie Charbonneau Design a sense of history. “Custom millwork, exotic wood species, slab stone and trimless, square recessed lights from Kreon all elevate a room,” says Julie. “Artwork also transforms a space. I hope one day one of my projects can include a mirror from artist Anish Kapoor.”
When H&H editor-in-chief Beth Hitchcock was renovating her kitchen, she debated using these hand-painted Walker Zanger tiles. “A focal wall of decorative tiles is a huge commitment — believe me, I know,” she says. “But it’s the one thing people remember most about my house.”
“I chose the IOS Volcanic Limestone tub by Victoria + Albert for my bathroom because the size and oval shape were perfectly in scale with the space,” says H&H’s Lynda Reeves. “I could centre the tub under the window and still leave room for art. It also had the least shiny finish that I could find. Sight lines in a bathroom are critical, and now the long view from our bedroom through to the tub is great!”
“For our bathroom vanity, I wanted something airy and handsome,” says Lynda Reeves. “I had the base made to my own design, including the shallow drawers that go around the sinks and are essential for everyday things like toothpaste.” Consider other embellishments, too. “These two Aerin Lauder sconces lend a fabulous hit of black and gold to the vanity wall, while the Restoration Hardware mirrors in a bronze finish are a good bridge with the matte-brass Kohler faucets.”
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