Two styles combine to create this gorgeous farmhouse retreat.
Two styles combine to create this gorgeous farmhouse retreat.
Designer Viki Mansell blends contemporary and rustic styles with tons of texture and original artwork to create a fabulous farmhouse retreat.
Viki Mansell has an indisputable take on artwork in the home: “You can have beautiful design, but if you have a ghastly piece of art, that’s all anyone will look at.” It’s a conviction reflected in her two Toronto home furnishing stores, Absolutely and Absolutely North, which, in addition to offering furniture and decorative accessories, feature a range of artwork, from photographs and paintings to lithographs and drawings. “Most people are confident when picking out paint colours and furniture,” says Viki, “but few train their eyes for buying art – especially when it’s for a farmhouse.” The farmhouse referred to here belongs to one of Viki’s clients, an avid art collector, who enlisted the designer to transform a turn-of-the-century rural property into a picture-perfect retreat.
Situated north of Toronto, the 3,600-square-foot brick house was definitely in need of some serious loving care, but fortunately, its original floor plan required little finessing. So while the space was gutted to remedy old electrical, insufficient insulation and dated finishes, the staircase remained in its original position, and wherever possible, other features – such as the hardwood flooring upstairs, all the interior doors and the tongue-and-groove ceilings in the kitchen and dining room – were kept intact. Viki replaced the downstairs flooring, which couldn’t be saved, with butternut planks sourced and prepared by an arborist. The only structural changes were the addition of a fireplace flanked by French doors in the living room and the repositioning of an upstairs wall. “We siphoned off square footage from one of the three bedrooms to increase the size of the second-floor bathroom,” says Viki.
Once renovated, the house was ready to receive its artistic flourishes. “My vision was to maintain the farmhouse’s structural integrity while infusing it with a modern rustic overlay,” says Viki. This vision was inspired by the home’s setting. “The palette was drawn from the surrounding countryside, so we highlighted the neutral walls with furnishings in caramel, burnt orange and maple red.”
Viki’s choice of furniture amplifies the contemporary mood. “Comfort was a priority, but the furniture is tailored – there’s no overstuffing or rolled arms, just the simplicity of the lines,” she says. It’s a simplicity that extends to the windows on the main level, which were purposely left unadorned. “The homeowner didn’t want window coverings to distract from the beautiful views outside and the artwork on the walls.” It’s apparent that art is an essential design element, as it’s displayed everywhere from the dining and living rooms to less expected spots like above the bathtub and in the mud room. “While the artwork would look great anywhere, it truly complements this space,” says Viki. “It belongs here.” There’s no debating that.
“In the living room, I wanted to create a convivial sitting area focused on the fireplace,” says designer Viki Mansell.
The bucolic surroundings inspired Viki’s approach to the farmhouse’s palette and design.
Custom made from butternut, the living room sideboard features a black powder-coated steel base that ties in with the TV and the interior door, which Viki had painted black.
A 19th-century carpenter’s bench is used as a console and styled with modern pieces like a Tizio task lamp and Rothko poster in the mud room.
The kitchen, featuring rift-cut oak veneer-fronted cabinets, limestone countertops and a hand-applied plaster backsplash, has a simple charm belying its luxury.
In the dining room, a wooden trestle table combined with Italian leather chairs and a graphic light fixture capture the contemporary farmhouse aesthetic.
The living room’s slate-fronted fireplace encapsulates Viki’s take on turn of the century meets contemporary. “The mantel has a pared-back design, yet it’s crafted from 19th-century pilasters,” she says. The lithograph above the fireplace is by Spanish artist Antoni Tàpies.
A bathtub surround and vanity made of 150-year-old pine warm up the all-white second-floor bathroom.
The antique rug was the jumping-off point for the master bedroom. “I wanted the room to be cozy, so I chose a warm red fabric for the headboard and bedskirt,” says Viki.
A mix of textures lends interest to the upstairs hallway; the art by Ian Gray adds colour.
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Blending pretty and practical style
Vancouver designer Chrissy Cottrell shares her tips to creating a home that's both fabulous and functional.
Follow designer Chrissy Cottrell's 10 tips to creating a home that appeals to both genders.
A whimsical print by Paule Marrot adds a pretty touch to the dining room and balances out the handsome dark accents. “My husband, Corey, and I wanted to honour both the masculine and feminine in our home,” says homeowner and designer Chrissy Cottrell of Chrissy & Co. Design Savvy.
Minimalist furnishings ensure this small dining area doesn’t feel cramped. A sleek oval Saarinen-style dining table, paired with iconic Eames chairs, seats six without taking up too much visual space. Stemware and bottles stay neatly tucked away in the narrow built-in bar but can be put on display when the couple entertains.
The built-in stainless steel peninsula gives guests a great view of what’s cooking in the galley kitchen. Tucked into the cabinetry, the dishwasher drawer – perfect for a household of two – can handle a lot of dishes while taking up minimal space.
The cognac stain of the vintage-look schoolhouse stools contrasts with the contemporary kitchen’s stainless steel peninsula. The stools also complement the warm-toned hardwood floors and rich colours found in the artwork (a wall-mounted glass platter), pulling the whole space together.
The regal bust adds sophistication on the living room window ledge. “There’s so much natural light by the window, and it’s always changing, so I keep it simple with pieces that won’t detract from the view,” says Chrissy. “It’s more about the silhouette and texture.”
A living room corner gets the full decorative treament with a mix of pieces that have a Neo-Victorian vibe. The art wall – a standout feature – includes a vintage mirror, golden buffalo head and playful painted portrait of the couple’s toy poodle, Buttons.
The white Italian leather sofa provides negative space underneath the artwork, allowing it to shine. The large-scale piece by David Burdeny makes the narrow living room seem bigger than it actually is. “I really love art that pulls you into it,” says Chrissy. “It’s like a window into another room.”
When it comes to artwork and interesting accessories, people often neglect the bathroom, says Chrissy, who hung some of her favourite pieces on the charcoal wall. “Let’s face it: you spend several minutes in there, so it’s nice to have something interesting to look at.”
Upholstered in grey linen with brushed-brass nailhead trim, the tufted headboard takes centre stage in the otherwise sedate master bedroom. A sleek black and gold pendant light adds drama and helps draw the eye upward.
The master bedroom gallery wall showcases the couple’s history, with sentimental pieces that reflect their time and travels together. “I’m a big believer in buying what you love and then making it work,” says Chrissy, who splurged on custom framing in a mix of complementary shades and sizes.
9 ways to revamp your bathroom without undergoing a large-scale renovation.
According to designer Robin Siegerman, principal of Sieguzi Kitchen & Home Inc. and author of Renovation Bootcamp: Kitchens, bathroom renovations can be surprisingly expensive for the (generally) smaller size of the room, because so much of the expense is hidden in the walls, such as electrical and plumbing. But if your bathroom is in relatively good shape but uninspired from a design standpoint – often the case with condo units, for example – there’s much you can do to give it a spiffier look, with little or no professional help. Here are a few tips.
Replacing an ugly bathroom faucet with a pretty one has become a relatively simple do-it-yourself task, with many faucets now sold in kits that include all the fittings and complete instructions. Make sure you have the right type for the number of hole openings in the sink.
There are companies that will come in and reface your countertop with a ¼-inch veneer of granite, for the look of solid granite at a fraction of the cost. Alternatively, you can have a boring or worn laminate counter refaced with new laminate—there are ones on the market now that closely mimic stone, wood or other natural finishes, or go for something more fanciful if you like.
Replace a boring plate-glass mirror with a framed version you can hang like art. Scoop up an ornate frame at an antique store (or pick out a nice one at a framer’s) and have the framer make it into a mirror for you. Attractive framed mirrors in every style from Victorian to modern can also be found at thrift stores, antique markets and home stores.
If your bathtub or shower is tiled inside the enclosure but stops at the edge, and you can find matching tile, have it extended (or do it yourself, with new ceramic tile mounting kits available at box stores) the rest of the way around the bathroom to the 48” mark, like wainscoting. The advantage to doing this is more than aesthetic; it makes your bathroom much easier to clean, since you can wash the walls at the same time you do the floors.
Many bathrooms are cursed with a single light fixture directly above the mirror, which creates unflattering shadows. If you don’t want to have side sconces wired in, look for a fixture with two lights side by side, which will at least direct the light a little more to either side of your face.
If your bathroom floor is ugly, cover it with a small pure-wool area rug. Unlike synthetics, wool is moisture and mildew resistant, resists dirt (and can be cleaned relatively easily), and if you choose an Oriental or Persian style, adds a touch of class. If it gets very wet, hang it up to dry.
It’s amazing what a beautiful bathroom wall colour will do to add interest to the plainest room, and a small room takes only a day or so to paint. Be careful choosing colour, though: some blues and greens can be cold and unkind to skin tones, while too bright a colour may be overwhelming in a small room like a bath. At the very worst, if you choose a colour and don’t like the effect, it’s easy to paint over again.
Making your own shower curtain is an easy job, even if you’re not a sewer. Measure the shower opening and purchase a few yards of beautiful fabric from a fabric outlet store. Finish the edges with iron-on hemming tape and sew curtain rings along the top. Buy a plastic curtain liner from a bath shop, and hang.
Think scale with bath accessories, but don’t think you have to display only small things. One beautiful vase or piece of artwork (a sealed print is best if your bath gets very steamy) can have fabulous impact in a small space.