One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.
One resourceful designer creates a cozy space for her family.Credits: Ashley Capp
A resourceful designer with a knack for all things DIY creates a cozy and contemporary space for her family of four.
For the design inclined, recognizing beautiful pieces is easy enough, but the real decorating challenge comes from knowing how to fit all the elements together in a harmonious way. Designer Sarah Walker has this down to a science. Last year, the reno expert transformed her Oakville, Ont., home’s uninspiring family room into a sophisticated space boasting symmetry and style. “I wanted a modern yet classic room that balances the masculine and feminine qualities of our family,” she says, referring to her husband, Graham, and two boys (Noah, 13, and Tate, 2). Having already installed the hardwood flooring and built-in wall unit with her husband five years prior, Sarah’s next order of business was the furniture layout. “I always pictured this space having a pair of sofas facing each other,” says the designer. “I love the conversational quality the set-up brings to a room.”
So she traded in her existing brown sectional for two handsome black velvet sofas and added a geometric-print rug to further delineate the sitting area. This design choice drew her toward a timeless marble herringbone tile treatment for the fireplace, which echoes the graphic quality of the rug but on a smaller scale (with budget top of mind, Sarah and Graham even installed the tile themselves). Other subtle additions to the fireplace like the contrasting white mantel and the curved screen enhance the unit’s bold and beautiful aesthetic. Next up was deciding what to make of an empty alcove set in the wall opposite the fireplace. In an act of creative daring, the deft DIYer transformed the space into a stylish office nook. Sarah began by making an elegant-meets-edgy pin board out of embossed reptile-patterned velvet fabric and then punctuated the look with antiqued brass nails before adding a floating desk and shelf. “The pin board blends in well with the room’s ikat wallpaper but still makes a visual statement that anchors the work area,” she says. After mastering the layout, the designer reinforced the room’s romantic and rustic feel with tasteful details like luxurious sheepskin pieces and natural wooden elements, ensuring each family member feels equally at home. “We spend just as much time here as we did before,” says Sarah, “but now we enjoy it 10 times as much.” That’s all the evidence we need that this master curator has done it again.
Since this family of four has a penchant for the outdoors, the designer incorporated nature-inspired finds, such as the large print depicting a foggy forest hanging above the fireplace. “The image reminds me of being in the woods and escaping the everyday,” says Sarah. She had the piece stretched onto canvas and then resined to deliver more of an ethereal effect.
Sarah and her husband upgraded their fireplace with a striking custom herringbone tile treatment.
The custom white oak coffee table lends an organic vibe to the family room and calls attention to the tall stack of logs tucked into the wall unit. “With a wood-burning fireplace, you want the logs to be close by so you’re not dragging bark everywhere,” says designer and homeowner Sarah Walker. “The display also has visual impact and adds warmth.”
For Sarah, a beautifully styled bookshelf relies on meaning just as much as placement and scale. “It’s important to tell your story through your space,” she says, referring to objects she added that were collected over time, from a sea urchin found in a quirky San Francisco shop to a sepia sketch purchased on the streets of Paris during her first trip there with her husband.
Playing with contrasting shapes, Sarah created a chic coffee table vignette using curved accents, including a vintage silver tray and a faceted black vase, to temper the sharp edges of the surface. “Bringing in round, soft elements is really important when you’re working with a room that has a lot of hard geometry,” says the designer.
Fashioning an inspiring and orderly work area came easily to Sarah thanks in part to location. “When a communal workspace is integrated into a kitchen, it winds up becoming a clutter collector,” she says. “But in the family room, it’s a bit more removed from that initial drop of mail and keys.”
This baked pasta dish with fresh tomatoes is perfect for a summer party!
Use fresh summer tomatoes for this tasty basked pasta dish from Béatrice Peltre's cookbook My French Family Table.
1 Place the toast and parsley in the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and combine with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan; set aside.
2 Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
3 Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the baking dish with olive oil; set aside.
4 In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, oregano and thyme; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, without browning. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the carrot and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and brown sugar and season with salt and pepper; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced. Discard the oregano, thyme and bay leaf.
5 Transfer the sauce to the bowl of a food processor, add the ricotta and purée until smooth.
6 In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the sauce, basil, pine nuts and remaining Parmesan.
7 Transfer to the prepared baking dish, scatter with the mozzarella and sliced tomato and top with the breadcrumb mixture; add a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with the nutmeg.
8 Bake the gratin for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden and crispy.
9 Serve immediately.
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Excerpted from My French Family Table by Béatrice Peltre. Recipes Copyright © 2016 Béatrice Peltre, Photography copyright © 2016 Béatrice Peltre. Excerpted by permission of Roost Books. All rights reserved.
Whimsical holiday living room with a nod to Scandinavian design
Living rooms of all sizes and styles are decked out for the holidays to help inspire your own festive makeover.
"The living room, with its wood-burning fireplace, is the perfect cozy spot for gathering in the winter. The spruce Christmas tree is courtesy of a friend who lives on a former tree farm." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"The living room exemplifies the snowy, sophisticated colour scheme – white and silver with hits of green – used throughout for the Christmas decorations. The bay window provides a perfect spot to place the tree." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"The huge tree in the library is decked out with ornaments collected over many years. 'There’s no point in having a precious Christmas tree that the kids can’t help with,' says homeowner Michele Leighton Symons. However, they pitch in after their mum has hung all of the Murano glass balls." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"When the holidays hit, homeowner Tara Ballantyne elevates her simple white, grey, brown and black palette with metallics like silver and gold. “I’m always trying new looks and trends for my work as a stylist, and because I think in colour so much for my job, I like to come home to a muted environment,” says Tara." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"Stacy reveals that there’s always a fire crackling during the winter season. The original brick fireplace is embellished with a simple garland, matching wreath and, of course, a pair of stockings hung by the chimney with care." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"Throughout the home, interior walls are clad in horizontal pine planks, modernized with glossy white paint, and the ceiling beams are exposed for a loft-like feel. The living room fireplace, with its floor-to-ceiling surround, features the same bricks used on the floor and outdoor patio." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"The living room’s neutral, modern aesthetic is warmed up with natural materials, such as silk and linen, and colourful accessories. Alison created an ultra-modern Christmas tree by cementing apple tree branches (from a friend’s farm in Hockley Valley, Ont.) in a pot and trimming them with a neutral mix of gold, silver and off-white ornaments." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"A mix of modern and vintage-look Christmas ornaments suits the condo’s contemporary classic style and grey, warm white and chartreuse colour scheme. A couple of faux sheepskins act as a sophisticated Christmas tree skirt. “I’ve never liked the way a traditional tree skirt looks, so this is an inexpensive solution, and it adds a lot of texture and interest,” says Emma." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"Don’t be afraid to switch out your everyday decor for the seasonal stuff, says Annie. Here, she simply removed a piece of artwork from her gallery wall and replaced it with a gold metal wreath hung from a pretty blue ribbon. She didn’t need to make a new hole in her wall, and her holiday decorations seem to seamlessly blend in with what’s always been there, for a look that’s festive but far from over the top." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"'Christmas is frenetic enough without adding bright red and green,' says Jennifer, who opts instead for a gentler palette. Holiday ornaments, some made from felt, appear in the same stormy greys, icy blues and warm whites you’ll find in this living room year-round. The muted colours and the simplicity of the decor are a nod to Scandinavian design, which Jennifer loves." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"During the holidays, the living room is the ultimate place to lounge. "I made sure to include enough seating so everyone has a good spot," says Christine "And there are a lot of throws around, because it gets a little bit drafty."" To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"The festive palette fits in nicely with the family room’s existing decor. The boxwood wreath and paperwhites add natural warmth." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"'The colour scheme here is subdued, with soft whites, warm mauves and natural linen tones, says designer Stacy McLennan. 'By keeping the walls and furniture neutral, the homeowners have a lot of flexibility. They can add colour with decor accessories or stick to a more sophisticated look.' In this open-concept layout, custom ottomans visually separate the family room from the dining area and offer flexible seating options." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"The clean and simple living room is cozily furnished in a warm white-on-white palette with hits of natural greenery." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"Designer Jennifer Brouwer says the living room is the epitome of her less-is-more philosophy. She used cleanlined, elegant furnishings to offset the space’s grand architectural features." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
"Matching chaises designed by Jessica make a welcoming spot for guests to cozy up to the fireplace with drinks and nibbles in the living room; the barnboard-clad console (made from wood found at Jessica’s parents’ farm) adds a hint of rusticity. The cowhide rug with hits of shimmer livens up the neutral palette, as do the bold bursts of fuchsia in the accessories and holiday decorations." To see the rest of the holiday home click here.
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.