Every light fixture in a magazine can be found online and in person at lighting stores, showrooms, small lighting studios and vintage sources. After a while, you’ll notice that the exact same fixtures crop up on dozens of different sites. Do the price comparison, check stock and beware of shipping, currency conversions, customs and other hidden charges. Be sure you can return your purchases for a full refund or credit. Expect to pay a restocking charge and find out in advance what that will be. Finally, see if it’s locally available, which it often is. I found the perfect barn-style exterior sconce for almost every spot where we need outdoor lighting. But at the front door, the projection was too big and the scale felt wrong, so I’m switching to a more discreet modern lantern in those spots. Barn lights were designed for actual barns and placed very high. Today, the style is to install them much lower in places that invite people to walk right into them. I also learned that there are 100-plus barn sconces out there, and the differences are subtle but important. Go for quality finishes. If the price seems too low, it probably is. With lighting, I find that you get what you pay for. Robinson, Prima Lighting, AllModern, Visual Comfort and The Urban Electric Co. are all good sources.
I want to see and touch my future bathtub. I remember the day the Kohler showroom reopened here. Gillian Atkins and I raced over to lounge in bathtubs and check out the latest designs and finishes of faucets. We ordered everything for several bathrooms in only a few hours. That was a great afternoon! But for some special, hard-to-find, unique fixtures, I searched websites and ordered with some success. It’s all about three things: style, finish and configuration.
It’s better to choose and buy your fixtures and vanities or design custom ones — before you design your bathroom. That way, you can allow for every fixture with exact dimensions and rough-in locations. Finishes are a matter of personal taste. Shiny brass faucets are everywhere now. Unlacquered brass that will age gracefully, or the newest “aged” or “raw” brass finish that already looks old is the one to consider. White metal faucets are timeless. Oil-rubbed bronze, matte black and the new matte white and ombré finishes are the latest options. It’s a lot to take in…. Buy what you think you will still love five years from now.
You need to get out there and see and touch your flooring options. For our bunkie, we used PurParket’s new vinyl plank that looks and feels like wire-brushed white oak. You can’t believe it: every time I get upset about Archie’s muddy paw prints, I start cleaning and realize it’s just a wipe! For the patching and extension of the house’s interior wood floors, I’ve returned to the simplicity of real hardwood planks in the same red oak as the original house. I think we’ll sand all the floors once and leave them pale to contrast with the old fir-panelled walls.
Sometimes though, you have to unearth a source any way you can. My search for flooring for the mudroom is still not over. This is the back door entrance everyone will use most of the time. My inspiration shots were of old French farmhouses with original brick floors laid in a herringbone pattern. Vintage bricks should be an easy find. After all, I live in a “brick province” of quarries and brickworks. We needed ¾-inch material, and you would think I’d be able to find a local source. Wrong. I turned to online vintage stone and tile sources. Now there’s a place to spend hours wishing…. Wouldn’t it be great to import beautiful old French limestone? Even if our budget did allow for it, it’s not what a Canadian lakehouse of this heritage should have. No, it had to be old bricks…. It was on one of those 2:30 a.m. searches that I discovered Brick Floor Tile in Iowa. This is a company that slices old bricks so you get the inside cut, which is then sealed after installation. The sample of sliced old bricks arrived. (Use your imagination!) Marek, our tile installer, will see the samples, groan and look at me sideways, then proceed to install them so beautifully with just the right amount of chunky grey grout, you’ll swear they’ve always been there. We requested the mix of brick colors that we want and now we’re waiting…. It seems that these old bricks are in HUGE demand, and I have to wait and hope that our 250 square feet of sliced bricks cross the border sometime, someday….
To paint or not to paint: that is the question. I’m passionate about paint. For years, I insisted on only oil-based paint in my rooms. Even after it was banned, I found a way to buy exterior oil bases, tinted to my favorite custom colors. Finally, I learned to give up oil for the sake of the environment, and to embrace water-based paints with gusto. I regret that it took me so long…. In this house, I’m using Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint. I’m mixing colors from the company’s architectural deck, with some of my favorite shades from the now-discontinued Century line. A good paint mixologist can color-match to anything. My first design office had lacquered burgundy walls that were color-matched to an old Cartier leather diary by a brilliant paint mixer at Paint Colours Unlimited, here in Toronto. I wish I remembered his name and could tell him that he was responsible for helping me impress those first clients with those walls “stained” in deep red “Sang de Boeuf.” I just need to figure out which rooms to paint and which to leave natural.
I was doing fine, working my way through the rooms, building a palette of dusky, no-color colors from my favorite Benjamin Moore neutrals, when I got a shock. I’ve been working with Bloomsbury Fine Cabinetry, the company that’s making the cabinets for our new kitchen, mudroom, and laundry and bar areas. (In the next chapters, I’ll tell you all about them.) A week ago, Candace Thompson and I were scheduled to go to Bloomsbury’s Toronto showroom to sign off on the shop drawings. Candace had been working with Jack Creasy, the design manager, on multiple versions of the cabinet designs, and we finally had every detail nailed. Jack casually mentioned that, by October 9, he would need all of my final paint colors, period. He had kindly pushed out the deadline especially for me to give me more time. EXCUSE ME??? Paint colors are chosen in an almost religious rite, while walking through a space, over time and with daily adjustments as required, I explained. “Yes, but if you want your kitchen installed the first week of December, we need your final paint colors next week,” Jack replied patiently. But I’m the client! “Well, I just have to warn you that, even if I give them to you, they could change as the room evolves, which we could address on site with some tweaking in the final hand-painting stage,” I mused aloud. “We need those colors by the 9th,” was his final offer. OMG. I did not sleep a wink that night. The morning of October 9, Candace and I went to see Jack. I presented my colors — under protest. I know there’s another stage coming when a sample door panel is painted in each of my color choices, in the 25 per cent sheen level I requested, with visible brush strokes…. Maybe then I can snag it, race to the lakehouse and breathe easy….
All in all, the project is going remarkably well. We feel so fortunate to have this wonderful property and the means to preserve it for another hundred years.
Happy New Year! May 2021 bring you good health and those longedfor reunions with friends and families, wherever they are.