Quartier Petit Champlain
Here's why you should put on your parka and visit Old Quebec this winter.
Style at Home managing editor Catherine Therrien braves the cold to get a taste of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in its element during the annual winter carnival.
To fully experience Quebec City’s rich history, you must stay at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac – even if only for one night. Located in the heart of Old Quebec atop Cape Diamond, the 123-year-old castle-like hotel exudes charm and character in every possible way. When you check in, take a few minutes to admire the stunningly designed lobby, with its ice blue coffered ceiling, numerous vintage chandeliers, intricate woodwork and brass detailing.
Once you’ve unpacked and geared up for the cold weather, head to the north end of the boardwalk just outside the hotel to enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River. Then take the Breakneck (Casse-Cou) Stairs or hop on the funicular to descend to the Quartier Petit Champlain in the lower town (Basse-Ville).
The pedestrian-only cobblestone main street is jam-packed with souvenir shops, one-of-a-kind boutiques – Amimoc sells the most beautiful handmade moccasins – and quaint restaurants. Stop for lunch at Le Lapin Saute, a delightful little eatery with a creative menu. Step out of your comfort zone and try their rabbit lasagna. Head to La Fudgerie to top off your meal. The boutique has 80 flavours of fudge, such as creme brulee and salted caramel, making it a challenge to pick just one. Don’t miss a cool trompe l’oeil mural during your stroll through the area.
If you happen to be in town between January 29 and February 14, enjoy a host of activities at the Quebec Winter Carnival, from snow tubing to night parades. Spend the afternoon at the Plains of Abraham taking in marvellous works of art made from giant blocks of snow for the International Snow Sculpture Competition – a carnival classic. While exploring, look for the sugar shack and indulge in maple taffy on a stick. Return to the hotel for a relaxing night in. Treat yourself to room service and dine at your own private table in the comfort of a plush robe and slippers.
Start your day by devouring perhaps the biggest crepe you’ve ever seen at Casse-Crepe Breton. It offers both savoury and sweet options – I opted for the strawberries with chocolate drizzle.
Walk off your breakfast with a jaunt to Quebec-based fashion retailer Simons. Check out the home collection on the mezzanine level for well-priced stylish wares.
For a spectacular winter scene, take a 20-minute drive east to picturesque Montmorency Falls Park. The 83-metre-high waterfall can be viewed from ground level, a cable car or the suspension bridge. The main attraction, though, is the famous sugarloaf (pain de sucre), a massive loaf-shaped ice cone that forms near the base of the falls.
Head back to town and have a bite to eat at Aux Anciens Canadiens – a tourist favourite for old-fashioned Quebec specialties. The tourtiere and maple syrup pie are must-haves. Then enjoy a few hours of outdoor ice skating (skates are available for rent) at Place d’Youville, a historic square. Finish off the evening at Fairmont’s 1608 bar and savour the best local cheeses and wines from around the world.
Stay warm and toasty while exploring this historic city in the Great White North. Cold weather coat - Shelburne parka in Red, Canada Goose, $775. Haute hat - Word Logo Pom-pom toque in True Black, Gap, $30. Stylish carryall - Saxby messenger bag in Marone, Brave Leather, $335. Cozy socks - Womens Pop Cabin socks in Lodge Red, Roots, $19 per pack of 2. Comfy skates - Cameo by Jackson CS112 Fleece figure skates, Canadian Tire, $70. Hand warmers - HBC Shearling mittens in Camel, Hudson’s Bay, $120.
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.
Black and white contrast create a classy and cosmopolitan look
Fresh, modern and fun, a revamped heritage home is the perfect place for one Montreal family.
Like the rest of the living room, the fireplace is striking in its lack of embellishment. “I wanted the whole space to be sleek,” says designer Sylvie Masse.
Sleek and modern as it may look, the kitchen is hard-working. Ample surface space makes prepping and cooking a cinch, and corralling clutter is easy thanks to the extra storage from the overhead and under-counter cabinetry. A TV integrated into the glass backsplash offers entertainment for cooks or those eating at the island. Visual interest is added through simple details like the pottery that appears to float on the ethereal glass shelving in front of the window in lieu of a blind.
A catch-all for cookbooks and culinary miscellany, the built-in oak unit along the kitchen’s back wall offers lots of extra storage and adds warm texture to the otherwise stark and minimalistic room.
High contrast black and white looks classy and cosmopolitan in the living room. Sylvie eschewed drapery for a barely-there roller shade to let the industrial-style window shine.
“With its bold black runner, the original white-painted staircase looks very old New York City,” says Sylvie.
Modern classics reign in the master bedroom, from the Eames rocker to the plush low-profile bed frame.
The clean-lined everything-in-its-place aesthetic took careful planning. By setting the wardrobe system within the wall and adding a lacquered MDF strip along the bottom, the contractor made the individual units appear built-in for a more refined look.
DIY project: Stylish storage cabinet