Drab kitchen goes bold in black and white
A Toronto couple with a shared vision cooks up an ambitious renovation plan for their outdated kitchen and backyard.
They say a renovation can lead to a separation, but that couldn’t be further from the truth for this Toronto couple. “We agree on absolutely everything design-wise,” says Melissa Evans-Lee, marketing director of Bayview Village Shopping Centre, about her media CEO hubby, John Lee. “Sometimes I think we share a brain.” The pair’s united vision for the three-bedroom Victorian fixer-upper they purchased in the city’s west end in 2006 was clear – and ambitious.
Over the course of a decade, every room was redone, but it all began with the kitchen, a priority for these foodies and skilled home chefs. A total gut job liberated the 135-square-foot pass-through cooking space from its decrepit pale yellow-painted wooden cabinetry, dark green linoleum flooring and outdated basic appliances. The original window and radiator were left intact, lending old-world character to newly installed budget-friendly modern finishes in white. Oh, and the walls were painted black. When asked about the bold choice, Melissa laughs. “Is it? We didn’t get the memo,” adding that nearly every wall in the house was painted a dark colour, from charcoal to navy. Black also spills out to the backyard for an extra dose of drama.
Thanks to a generous helping of black paint and a good dose of stainless steel, Melissa Evans-Lee and John Lee’s Toronto kitchen oozes sophistication. Tidy open storage and the large original window mask its modest proportions.
“I’m a very visual person, so I like to have everything on display,” says Melissa with regard to the plenitude of open storage. But she does admit that keeping everything orderly requires a certain personality type (“Can you say OCD?” she says with a laugh). Everyday dishes and oft-used ingredients are kept in sight on floating shelves and in the island’s open base, while overflow is hidden away in a small pantry. Black and white accessories throughout look fancy and offer function.
“I think saying dark walls make a room feel dim or small is a complete fallacy,” says Melissa. “Black adds something really amazing to the mix: drama.” Case in point is this group of picture ledges she uses to display her best-loved cookbooks, which rivals some of the most affecting art walls.
Potted herbs enliven the kitchen’s dramatic black and white scheme and also add a nature-inspired feel that helps create a connection between the indoors and out.
Whether dining on buffet-style tacos or a four-course meal, guests enjoy interior-calibre comfort on vintage Bertoia chairs and the newly built-in banquette, which Melissa cleverly cushioned using dog beds and indoor toss cushions. “Everything is movable,” she says. “These chairs can easily go in the dining room, the toss cushions in the den.”
Choice furnishings and accessories (in a chic black and white scheme that matches the interior) create an integrated outdoor dining space – “it’s oven to patio table in about five steps,” says Melissa – that plays host to dinners à deux and mingling guests alike.
Tucked into a corner of the backyard, this stone patio outfitted with vintage metal seating and a hand-me-down coffee table is a serene spot for lazing around with a book under the pleasant shade of two mature trees. Low-maintenance potted ferns add fluffy texture.
Tour the set: Grace and Frankie
One of the showstopper rooms of the series, the kitchen in Grace and Frankie’s beach house is a space that dreams are made of. With a giant butcher’s block island, industrial lights and dusty navy hues contrasted against rich creams, it’s the perfect kitchen for a seaside getaway.
Moving into the beach house living room, the set designers have brought together the best of the show’s two design styles. Slipcovered chairs and wicker furniture give the space a beachy, relaxed vibe, whilst the cream panelled walls and rich wood flooring speak to the traditional style of the Hanson’s San Diego home.
Grabbing inspiration from California’s natural landscape, the beach house dining room combines the blues of the ocean, the whites of the sand and the rustic look of raw driftwood. Recreate a tranquil space in your own home by mixing earthy tones with creamy neutrals and sourcing reclaimed furniture.
The den just off the beach house’s kitchen and dining space continues with the muted, natural hues and beachy decor, adding a pop of colour and pattern in the chair fabric. A rope-coiled orb chandelier and netted glass lamp add a nautical touch, whilst the California shutters and French doors blur the lines between indoors and out.
One look at the Hanson dining room and you know this is where many a stylish dinner party goes down. With rich jewel tones in the wallpaper and dining chairs, contrasting cream wainscoting, beautiful brass sconces and an oriental rug underfoot, this dining room is the perfect example of a traditional space with a classic edge.
Robert and Sol’s well-designed bedroom is proof that masculine decor doesn’t have to equal dark and drab. Whilst the coffee-coloured leather headboard is a staple of masculine decor, the bronze wall sconces offer a sophisticated bedside lighting solution and the graphic wallpaper introduces pattern without adding femininity.
The kitchen off the living room in the Hanson’s San Diego pad is another example of how the set designers of Grace and Frankie marry the beach house look with a more traditional decor. Monochrome walls that bleed into the raftered ceiling and farmhouse cabinetry are contrasted against the Hollywood Regency styleof the living room, with its brass ‘n’ glass furniture, velvety fabrics and classic wingback chair.
Turn a large landscape print into a pleasing collection of smaller prints.
Style at Home managing editor and resident crafter Catherine Therrien shows you how to create an easy yet stylish gallery wall.
• Landscape print
• Picture frames
• Spray paint
• Cutting mat
• X-acto knife
• Masking tape
• Picture-hanging hardware
1 Find an oversized print of a landscape scene in a monochromatic colour scheme.
2 Collect frames of different sizes (for a 58" x 38" print, I used 10 frames).
3 Prep the frames by removing any existing artwork, glass, staples, wiring, etc. Spray-paint the frames in a single colour that complements the print. Let completely dry.
4 Place the print on a flat surface and lay the frames over it. Play around with the placement of the frames, making sure to capture the most important segments of the print.
5 Once you’re pleased with the arrangement, take a pencil and trace around the inside of each frame. Remove the frames.
6 Slide a cutting mat under one of the traced segments. Using a ruler and an X-acto knife, cut out the image. Repeat.
7 Take each cut-out image and place it in its corresponding frame. Secure all four edges of each print to the frame using masking tape.
8 Attach picture-hanging hardware to the top of each frame.
9 Anchor the frames to the wall in roughly the same sequence as the original print. Start with the centre frames and then slowly work the other pieces around them.
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.