Many people believe it’s harder to sell your home in winter than summer. But there are a number of real advantages to selling during the cooler months, says Kathy Monahan, an agent with Forest Hill Real Estate Inc. in Toronto.
For one thing, removed from the sometimes frenzied action of the spring market, sellers can take a little more time to consider offers, and with fewer homes on the market, there’s less competition. And don’t worry, says Kathy: the things that lead people to make new home purchases -- a new job, a growing family, up- or downsizing -- happen all year round, and there are still plenty of buyers out there. In fact, winter is a great time for playing up your home’s cosy, family-friendly charm.
Start with the exterior
As with any time of year, make sure that the house looks well maintained and cared for, with eavestroughs clean and minor repairs taken care of. While you can’t paint in winter, washing paintwork and siding with warm soapy water on a mild day can make a big difference. Make sure the windows are freshly washed as well; winter light has a way of highlighting grime.
Tend to foliage
Make sure that shrubs and tree-branches bent down with snow don’t obstruct walkways or entrances; brush the snow off or prune if necessary. (It won’t hurt them.) Ensure that the walkway is shovelled and ice-free before every showing; not only is this a courtesy and crucial to making the home look well maintained, but if a visitor slips and is hurt, you could be liable for damages.
Adorn the entryway
A wreath on the front door, Christmas lights and a garland hung on the doorframe or front porch present a welcoming entry. Plant urns with festive greenery, the fuller the better: along with cedar or pine boughs, tuck in sprigs of holy, dried berries, magnolia leaves, corkscrew hazel or red osier branches, with silver ball ornaments and perhaps gold wire ribbon woven through the arrangement.
Make a good first impression
Once a prospective buyer comes inside, remember that you may have only 10 to 15 minutes to make a lasting impression. (A small but crucial point for unoccupied homes: make sure the heat is turned on several hours before the showing. All the window-dressing and staging in the world won’t entice buyers to linger inside a home that’s freezing.)
Romance visitors’ sense of smell by lighting fragrant candles or placing bowls of potpourri in main rooms. A time-honoured but still effective trick, especially on a cold winter’s day, is to have a pot of cider simmering on the stove, or cookies or fresh bread baking.
Protect the floors
To protect your floors, put down rubber mats by the door for snowy boots; buy a few pairs of comfy one-size-fits-all slippers from a department or discount store for visitors to wear while they view your home.
Light a fire
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, light a fire and let it glow during the showing. Put big, colourful poinsettias in each main room, including the kitchen; consider more modest winter flower arrangements or amaryllis blooms in other rooms, such as the bath and master bedroom. Decorate banisters and mantels with pine garlands (natural ones impart a delicious, nostalgic fragrance); a decorated and lit Christmas tree or menorah enhances an image of home and family.
After the holidays, seasonal decorations can be taken down, but urn arrangements and even the front door wreath can stay up for the rest of the winter, if it isn’t too Christmasy in design. Make sure you continue to maintain walkways clear of ice and snow, and think warm thoughts!
The go-to paint colours designers' swear by
Find your perfect paint colour thanks to the expert advice of your favourite designers.
When you flip through the pages of your favourite design magazine or scroll through endless photos of gorgeous homes on Pinterest, chances are you’ll find yourself wondering about the paint colours on the walls. Finding the perfect shade of paint can be hard. There are so many colours to choose from so how do you distinguish a great grey from a dull one? How do you determine which shade of white will make your home look uber-chic and which will look like primer? The answer? Ask the experts! Designers know their way around a paint deck so we checked in with six of them, who each provided us with their top three go-to paint colours. Find out which shades are their favourites and where they use them.
I have been working closely with Cloverdale Paints and have three go-to off-whites that I LOVE. OW159 “Dream Nights” is a soft off white, that is the perfect neutral. It’s light enough to brighten a room, but has enough pigment to also provide depth.
CA187 “Silver” is cooler, with subdued blue tones. It’s clean, crisp, and a deep enough colour to contrast with white baseboards or crown moulding. Love it!
8436 “White Delight” is perfect for creating a warm tone on tone white space, a look that I love. Similar to my other two favourites, White Delight offers contrast, which is key to creating visual interest in all spaces.
For people who love dramatic colours (like me!), I recommend Krimson Lake by CIL. It's a deep, moody marine blue that I love to use in a flat paint finish.
My go-to white is Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore (see on the ceiling). It's a crisp, clean white – not too much yellow – and I love it for trim and walls.
The colour I specify most during my one-hour interior design consultations is Zeppelin by CIL. It's a warm grey-beige and a reliable neutral. It's a perfect colour when one wants to stay neutral and works in modern or traditional aesthetics alike.
This has been a go-to colour for us for years. It's the perfect warm, yet bright white for any and all rooms in the house including trims and cabinetry. Often, when we use Simply White, it's on the walls, trims and ceiling to create a clean and modern backdrop.
This off-white/pale gray changes beautifully in the light and is often one we use in bedrooms for a soft glow. It has a creamy undertone however does not feel traditional. This is one of my all-time favourites.
Revere Pewter is a classic grey that pairs perfectly with white trims, providing definition and character in a space. It is excellent for living and dining rooms and can steer more towards a traditional feel.
This colour is our top go-to colour at TFI! It is an extremely versatile colour. Silver Satin is a light grey that almost reads white and works in virtually any space. This colour adds a certain freshness to walls without being too white or too grey. Whether it is used on the walls or for cabinetry, we just can’t enough of this subtle yet beautiful colour!
We love this colour as it works well when pulling together taupes and greys. It reads neutral and allows for a lot of flexibility with the rest of the colours in any room. In this kitchen, the colour sets the tone for the room allowing the cabinetry and furniture to stand out. Benjamin Moore’s Collingwood is a classic colour that never goes out of style.
We love Benjamin Moore’s Oxygen when we want to add some colour to our walls. It is a great powder blue which has a certain softness to it. In this girl’s room, we wanted to create a space that was playful and fun but not overwhelmingly girly. Painting the walls with this subdued blue as opposed to a light pink was the perfect way to achieve the type of look we wanted.
This off-white has a drop of cream, making it the perfect, versatile backdrop for any colour scheme or decorating style for those who like to change things up.
I love white rooms but I also like a vibrant pop of color. This cheerful blue brightens up grey days and complements the elaborate mix of patterns and the bold colours I injected into this living room.
Bedrooms are mainly for the evenings so it makes sense to use a darker hue that is soothing and calm. This warm taupe grey is an exact colour match to the grasscloth wallpaper I installed on the main wall, creating a seamless transition from wallpaper to paint. I also selected a high gloss finish so the paint also echoes the shimmers from the wallpaper.
This is a warm off-white that isn’t too creamy. Soft and sophisticated, it’s calming and has a depth that makes it suited for bedrooms and cozy spaces. It looks great with dark wood tones and bronze or black metals.
This grey-green is cool and modern and works beautifully in bedrooms or bathrooms where you’re craving a hint of subtle colour. It can make whatever it’s paired with feel updated and fresh. I especially love it in rooms that get cool northern light; it reads almost like a mint but without the iciness.
This is my go-to grey. Many greys can veer too brown or too blue but this one doesn’t have any strong undertones. It’s a livable colour that would be equally at home in a living room or bedroom. I love it paired with warm neutrals, creams and natural wood tones to create a tone-on-tone palette.
Food bloggers’ favourite holiday recipes
When it comes to Christmas dinner, it’s usually pretty standard – turkey, stuffing, potatoes. Maybe you switch up the main protein to a succulent holiday ham or tender roast beef, but we all know the main events (or dishes, if you will) are covered. To help spice things up this holiday season, we asked six food bloggers to share their favourite holiday recipes and they did not disappoint. Complete your menu with these savoury side dishes and oh so sweet desserts to inject festive flavour into your holiday meal this season.
Tender roasted cauliflowerin an aged white cheddar sauce that is baked until golden brown and bubbling with a crispy panko breadcrumb topping. Ingredients 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets 2 tablespoons oil salt and pepper to taste 3 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons flour (rice flour for gluten-free) 1-1/2 cups milk 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg Optional salt and pepper to taste 1 cup aged white cheddar cheese, shredded 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (gluten free for gluten free) Directions 1 Toss the cauliflower florets in the oil along with the salt and pepper and arrange them in a single layer on a large baking sheet. 2 Roast the cauliflower in a preheated 400F oven until lightly golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. 3 Bechamel sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, mix in the flour and let cook until it just starts to brown a little. 4 Mix in the milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cheese and heat until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens. 5 Mix cauliflower into the bechamel sauce, pour into a baking dish and top with the bread crumbs. 6 Bake in a preheated 350F oven until it is bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 15-20 minutes. Servings: Makes 4-8 servings Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 45 minutes Total Time: 55 minutes Kevin Lynch came to realize that his meals were boring and that he had been eating the same few dishes over and over again for years. It was time for a change! He now spends his free time searching for, creating and trying tasty new recipes in his closet-sized kitchen.
This dish is the ultimate reminder of the food I grew up eating in France. When baked, tomatoesbecome incredibly sweet. These are filled with breadcrumbs and herbs that complement the juicy tomato flesh. Ingredients 3 large plump tomatoes, halved 3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely diced 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley Salt and freshly ground pepper Extra virgin olive oil Directions 1 Preheat your oven to 375F. 2 Lay out the tomatoes seed side up, in a large oven-proof baking dish. 3 Scoop out some of the seeds to make more room for the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 4 In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley. 5 Using a small spoon, fill the tomatoes with the breadcrumbs mixture. 6 Drizzle with some olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serve immediately. Serves: 2-4. Jennifer Bartoli is a Toronto-based writer, photographer and recipe developer who grew up in Paris, France. Her longstanding passion for food took her to New York City, where she studied at the French Culinary Institute. For delicious recipes and more, check out Jennifer’s blog, Chocolate Shavings.
This lovely tart combines several of my favorite things: tart crust, frangipane, and fruit. When I first started baking, one of my goals was to master French tarts. It was this desire that led me to attend pastry school and conquer my fear of tart crust. I made this tart to celebrate my graduation from pastry school. The shortcrust in this recipe is everything I dream of for crust: buttery, tender, and crumbly. It's a perfect container for the frangipane, a heavenly almond-scented pastry cream. Almost any fruit would work on top of this tart, but for the fall season I love the subtle sweetness of pears. Every time I make this tart, I'm reminded of why I got into pastry. Ingredients Pate Sablee 1-1/2 cups flour 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt 9 tablespoon butter, very cold, cut into small pieces 1 egg yolk Poached Pears 3 ripe medium pears (I used Anjou) – you only need 2 pears but I suggest having an extra one just in case you mess up a pear 3 cups water 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 cinnamon stick 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/8 teaspoon salt Frangipane 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature 2/3 cup sugar 3/4 cup ground blanched almonds 2 teaspoons flour 1 teaspoon cornstarch 1 large egg 1 egg white 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons almond extract Directions For the pears 1 Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan large enough to hold all the pears and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. 2 Meanwhile, cut the pears in half, remove the seed core and fibrous cores at either end, then peel the pears. 3 Add the pear halves to the simmering syrup and reduce heat to low. Cover, and let pears poach for about 10 minutes, turning them halfway. The pears will become slightly translucent, very tender, and easily pierced with a knife or skewer. Let the pears cool in the liquid until room temperature before using. Or, you can store them in their liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For the tart shell 1 Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. 2 Add the pieces of cold butter and pulse until the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces. 3 Add the egg yolk and combine in several pulses until the dough starts to turn from dry to clumpy. Do not let the dough form one giant ball or it will be be overworked – just keep checking after every pulse and when the dough pieces looks like they will stick when you press them together, stop. 4 Butter a 9-inch tart tin with removable bottom. 5 Turn the dough out into the tin and press into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. You probably will not need all the dough – save the extra for patching the shell after you bake it. Do not press the dough too hard or it will become tough – just enough for it to form to the tin. 6 Freeze the tart shell for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To partially bake the tart shell, take a piece of foil and butter the shiny side, then press the buttered side tightly to the shell. You do not need pie weights. 7 Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, until the shell is dry and lightly colored. If any places have cracked, repair with the extra dough. 8 Let cool on a rack until room temperature. For the frangipane 1 Combine the butter and sugar in the food processor and combine until smooth. 2 Add the ground almonds and blend together. 3 Add the flour and cornstarch, and then the egg and egg white. 4 Process the mixture until it is very smooth. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts just to blend. 5 The frangipane can be used immediately or you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If it becomes too firm in the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for a while to soften before using. To finish the tart 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 2 Spread the frangipane evenly into the cooled tart shell (It should be liquid enough to smooth out on its own so you don’t need to work to much on it). 3 Take the poached pears out of their liquid and drain them on paper towels. You don’t want too much excess liquid or they will make the frangipane soggy. 4 Cut each pear half crosswise into 3/8 in thick slices. Do not separate the pear half yet. Slide a spatula or other flat utensil underneath the pear so you can transfer the entire half onto the tart. 5 Press on the pear to fan the slices toward the top narrow end of the pear. Slide the pear half onto the frangipane carefully – you can move the pear after you place it, but not much. 6 Repeat with three other pear halves until there are four halves on the tart, evenly spaced. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed, golden brown, and firm to the touch. 7 Cool the tart on a wire rack. Before serving, you can brush the pears with some warmed apple jelly to glaze, or dust confectioner’s sugar over the tart. Makes one 9-inch tart. (Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours.) Anita Chu, also known as pastrygirl, is the creator of Dessert First, an award-winning blog dedicated to all things sweet. Anita is also the author of sweet cookbooks, Field Guide to Cookies and Field Guide to Candy.
These cookies are a new holiday favourite of mine. They combine the fresh cranberries, the perfect tart (and pretty!) bite with the comforting familiarity of brown butter and chocolate. They are great for a cookie exchange, holiday parties and as a treat for Santa. I will definitely be making this cookie for the holidays for years to come. Ingredients 4 ounces (1/2 cup / 1 stick) unsalted butter softened 1-7/8 ounces (1/4 cup) granulated sugar 5 1/2 ounces (2/3 cup) packed light brown sugar 1 extra-large egg at room temperature 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 7 ounces (1-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 ounces (1 cup) dark chocolate chunks 3 ounces (3/4 cup) fresh cranberries, washed and dried Directions 1 Brown the butter: Heat butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, when butter turns to an amber/light brown colour, remove from heat immediately (You should be able to smell the deeper more caramel flavour of the butter) 2 Pour browned butter immediately into a small bowl and set aside to cool. 3 Once butter has cooled, place in the large bowl of an electric mixer with sugars; beat on high speed until well combined. 4 Add egg and vanilla, mix on medium speed until well mixed. 5 In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; slowly add to wet ingredients with mixer on low speed; do not over mix. 6 Slowly stir in chocolate chunks and cranberries. 7 Chill dough for 24 hours for best results (minimum of 2 hours) before baking. 8 When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 325 degrees; line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside?. 9 Scoop cookie dough with large (4 tablespoons) cookie dough scoop on to prepared baking sheets (note it is normal for cookie dough to be very hard, you can let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes prior to scooping). 10 Bake cookies until firm: 17-19 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cranberries have popped. 11 Allow to cool before serving. Makes 15 large cookies. Lauren Lilling is the owner and baker behind Keep It Sweet Desserts, an online bakery specializing in delectable cookies and special event catering. It has been noted for its exceptional desserts by The TODAY Show, Fox and Friends, Star Magazine, and more.
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite holiday treats was eggnog. Mom would pour a tiny amount into little glasses for us to savour. Now I can make it from scratch without all the funky ingredients in most store-bought varieties. My husband says I can make it year-round. Ingredients 12 large eggs 1-½ cup pure maple syrup (or granulated dugar) ½ teaspoons salt 2 quarts (8 cups) whole milk 2 tablespoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg + more for garnish 2 cups heavy whipping cream + more for garnish Directions 1 In a heavy 4 quart saucepan, with the heat off, whisk the eggs, maple syrup, and salt until well blended. Gradually stir in half of the milk. 2 Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 25 minutes. (Mixture should be about 170 – 175 degrees F). Do not boil. 3 Pour custard into a large bowl. Stir in vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and the remaining milk. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours. 4 Just before serving, in a medium bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form. With wire whisk, gently fold whipped cream into custard mixture. 5 Serve with extra whipped cream on top and a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg. Tip: Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Erica is a wife and new-mom-in-training with a desire to cook delicious food for her husband Reuben (AKA. Love of her life). She loves to experiment and adapt recipes to be a tad healthier and shares her culinary successes on her blog, Buttered Side Up.
Ingredients 4 medium-sized yams, skin removed 2 heads garlic 2 tbsp fresh thyme Sea salt and pepper to taste ¼ cup olive oil Directions 1Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 2 Cut the top off of each head of garlic. Place in a large ramekin and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. 3 Cover dish with foil. Pierce yams several times with a knife. Place yams on baking tray and roast for one hour. 4 After 15-20 minutes, turn heat down to 400 degrees and add the garlic for the remaining amount of time. 5 Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Add yams, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper to a food processor. 6 Add ¼ cup olive oil or butter. Process until smooth, or consistency you desire. 7 You can prepare this dish ahead of time and reheat it in the oven just before serving. Koko Brill blogs from Koko's Kitchen where she loves to prepare healthy food. She is currently starting a company called Koko Raw selling raw granola and fresh pressed juices. She enjoys travelling, music, fashion and fitness.
You'll love this eclectic and exotic home in Toronto.
Style at Home design editor Jessica Waks pulls out all the stops and transforms a diamond in the rough into her forever family home.
As a decorator searching for a fixer-upper to put my own stamp on, house hunting was a true exercise in imagination. Not everyone is able to visualize the hidden potential in a space that hasn't been touched in more than 60 years, but I was convinced I had found my forever family home after stepping through the front door of this 1,900-square-foot red-brick charmer in midtown Toronto. One-and-a-half years and a major renovation later, my husband, David Goodman, and I moved in just in time to prepare for the arrival of our twin boys, Jack and Charlie.
The house had beautiful bones typical of the 1930s, but it needed a serious facelift and a complete overhaul of the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. I reconfigured the floor plan for optimal entertaining and family living, including a 1,000-square-foot two-storey addition to house an open-concept kitchen and family room on the main floor, and a master suite on the second. I also lengthened the dining room to accommodate a bigger crowd, added a main floor powder room, and opened up and extended the foyer for better flow. I put in closets wherever possible, too; coming from a family of five women, I know you can never have enough storage!
In the foyer, a marble harlequin floor, high-gloss black banister and crystal light fixture set the vintage glam vibe of the rest of the house. The white wainscotting also add to the classic appeal.
The living room's focal point is a hand-carved marble fireplace flanked by vintage crystal sconces and contemporary black and white prints. The herringbone pattern on the inside of the firebox is repeated in the flooring as well as in the custom cowhide rug.
"The living room contains some of my favourite decorating elements, such as black and white stripes, exotic cat prints, chinoiserie accents and tufted upholstery," says Jessica. "I return to them time and time again."
The doorway connecting the living and dining rooms was opened up, and conceals French-style pocket doors. A Mid-Century Modern Aldo Tura bar cart is tucked into the corner so guests can help themselves to a pre-dinner cocktail.
Colourful accents, such as the lavender mohair chair, enliven the eclectic assortment of black and white furniture in the living room, including the antique settee Jessica had refurbished for her first apartment.
Visual tension creates interest and can be achieved by combining modern moments with pieces from the past. In this living room vignette, contemporary artwork hangs above an ormolu-encrusted furniture chest filled with treasured porcelain that belonged to Jessica's grandparents.
The dining room feels like a jewel box thanks to the gold-leafed ceiling and ethereal hand-painted Chinese wallpaper. Pairing painted antiqued cream dining chairs with the rich wood of a Duncan Phyfe-style dining table and antique hutch helps keep the room from feeling too heavy. "Aubergine is one of my favourite colours, and I love how the deep, glossy sheen of the leatherette pops against the warm white finish of the chair frames," says Jessica.
The powder room is known as a space where decorators can
go a little wild, and this adventurous mix of black and cream leopard, malachite and brass is no exception. The pattern in the neutral wallpaper is small enough to let the mirror's malachite frame shine, while the brass washstand, plumbing and vintage sconces enhance the luxe effect.
Jessica loves white master bedrooms but wanted a jolt of colour to keep it interesting. So she worked with Toronto luxury home store Elte on a custom wool ikat rug in daring blue and purple hues, and left the big items neutral for a calming and restful retreat. The drapery and bedding are trimmed in navy to tie everything together. The brass Chiavari vanity chair, a vintage find from Miami, turned out to be the perfect shade of purple so Jessica didn't have to change a thing.
Jessica found this chair on a Style at Home trip to the Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts. "I love its elaborate carvings and patina. It's like a sculpture that can hold its own in any room in the house."
The upstairs den is a little refuge off the master bedroom for Jessica and her husband to curl up with a book or watch TV. The pastel palette isn't too saccharine thanks to a heavy dose of grounding black and white. "I snapped up the lavender area rug at a sample sale without knowing where it would go," says Jessica. "It looks like it was tailor-made for this room, a testament to the fact that when you buy things you love, you can always make them work."